Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms
Talk No. 5
September 9, 2000
By Ajahn Suchart (Abhijato Bhikkhu)
Translated by Chantaporn Gomutputra
Edited by June Gibb
we come to the temple to give alms to the monastic order, to keep the moral
precepts and to cultivate mental development, we are in effect creating
happiness for ourselves. There are
two kinds of happiness namely, physical and mental. To feel good physically is not hard to do, all we need are
the four requisites of life such as food, clothing, shelter and medicine to
prevent the body from getting sick, go hungry or thirsty. But the happiness of the body is insignificant when compared
to that of the mind both in strength and intensity. Though the body may be well and fit, the mind could still be
afflicted with sorrow and pain that could adversely affect the body.
On the other hand when the body is not well, has aches and pains here and
there, a happy mind could diminish or eliminate them entirely. Taking good care
of the mind has therefore become the central theme of the Buddha’s teaching.
the body gets sick it doesn’t hurt so much if the mind is happy. A happy mind
could rise above the physical pain. But
when the mind is unhappy, it could cause the physical fitness or well-being to
diminish or disappear entirely. For this reason the Buddha kept stressing the
importance of taking good care of the mind, more than taking care of the body.
The mind needs the Dhamma, meritorious and wholesome kamma to make it
happy. Otherwise it could never be happy. What we are doing here today is installing the Dhamma inside
our heart and mind because the Dhamma is like medicine that could cure the
sorrow and pain caused by the mental defilement or kilesa that have been
embedded inside our heart and mind since time immemorial and accompanied us
through countless rounds of rebirth. We
have to use the Dhamma, wholesome, skillful, good and meritorious kamma to
cleanse our heart and mind of the kilesa in order to eliminate all of our sorrow
Buddha’s enlightenment is cause for rejoicing and celebration because of the
invaluable assistance he could offer to all sentient beings, as he is the only
person in the entire universe who has discovered the secret to true happiness or
supreme bliss that results from the elimination of the kilesa from the mind by
the good and wholesome kamma. The
kilesa are like germs and viruses inside the body that could cause sickness and
death such as the HIV virus that causes aids, an incurable disease.
While the kilesa are not eradicated from the mind, stress and suffering
can still afflict all of us.
are fortunate because we have the Buddha to help us cure our mental illness.
He is like a physician who has discovered the Dhamma medicine to heal our
mind. Unfortunately no one has yet found a cure for Aids and, for
those afflicted, death seems to be the only outcome.
Before the Buddha became enlightened no one in this world knew how to
make the mind stay happy all the time. Now
we know by his teaching that bliss and contentment can only be realized through
the eradication of the kilesa, namely greed, anger and delusion from our mind by
the cultivation of Dhamma, good and meritorious kamma, a message he had been
propagating for forty-five years.
purpose of our coming to the temple is to cultivate the various levels of Dhamma,
skillful and wholesome kamma as much as we can. Some of us could only cultivate
dana, the giving of the four requisites such as food, clothing, medicine and
shelter to the monastic order. Others could do more, like keeping the five or
eight precepts depending on the strength of our indiriya or mental faculties
like saddha (conviction), viriya (persistence), sati (mindfulness), samadhi (concentration),
and panna (discernment) that we have developed thus far.
If they are highly developed we would be able to practice bhavana or
mental development in order to lift the mind up to higher planes of bliss,
tranquility and purity by eliminating the various kinds of kilesa.
Buddha exhorts us to calm our mind as the first priority because when the mind
is restless and agitated it is confused, it can’t tell north from south, cause
from effect, right from wrong, good from bad, pain from pleasure; it is deluded,
not seeing things clearly as they are, such as seeing pleasure in sensual
gratification when in fact it’s miserable and painful. When we are addicted to
sensual pleasure we are subjected to stress and discontent like a drinker or a
drug user, whereas a non-drinker or a non-user of drugs would know the
difference, that it’s better not to be addicted to alcohol or drugs.
we are possessed by the kilesa or delusion we would not be able to see clearly.
It is therefore imperative that we should first make the mind calm in
order to clear up the clouds of defilement blinding the mind like purifying
water of pollutants. Once the water
is separated from the pollutants it would become clear and transparent and would
enable us to see what’s in the water. It
is the same with the mind, when it’s defiled it would become murky, couldn’t
see clearly, not knowing what is obscuring its vision.
But once the mind has calmed down it would temporarily be cleared of the
defilement of greed, anger and delusion, enabling it to experience a brief
moment of joy and peace, long enough to let it know what true happiness is and
where to find it.
we must use discernment (panna) to separate good from bad, right from wrong,
wholesome from unwholesome, etc., just like separating the pollutants from the
water. With a mind calm and content
we would see that the defilement (kilesa) such as greed, anger and delusion are
really a threat to our happiness and contentment because when the mind is calm
and tranquil, it would render the kilesa temporarily inactive, creating peace
and contentment as a result, but as soon as the mind emerged from repose (samadhi)
the kilesa would become active again by inciting greed, anger and delusion into
action causing it to become restless and agitated. We would be able to see the harmful effect caused by the
kilesa very clearly if we have already developed samadhi even if we haven’t
heard of the kilesa before, we would know them by their destructive impact on
our peace of mind and mental well being.
we realize this, we must apply panna (insight) based on the four noble truths (ariya-sacca)
and the three characteristics of existence (ti-lakkhana) inherent in all
conditioned phenomena namely, being inconstant (anicca), stressful (dukkha), and
anatta (not-self) to eliminate them. If we cling to anything in this world we would be consumed by
stress, sorrow and pain because they are impermanent, subject to change and
dissolution and are not ours or ourselves such as our body for example, which we
can see clearly will get old, get sick and die one day, sooner or later.
If we cling to it we would then wish it to live for as long as possible
which is a form of greed or craving that runs contrary to the truth of the
Buddha’s teaching that says all bodies are impermanent, cause stress and
anguish, and not a self.
we have the Dhamma teaching residing in our mind to remind us of the truth of
the ti-lakkhana we would be able to eliminate our attachment to our body because
it’s like a lump of burning coal that would burn our hands if we scoop it up. But
if we merely look, it would not cause us any pain, because the body is just a
lump of the four physical elements namely, earth (solidity), water (liquidity),
wind (gas) and fire (heat) that our deluded mind happens to take possession of.
If we know this and let go of our clinging, it would then not cause us
any pain or anguish. It’s similar to taking possession of a plot of land that
doesn’t belong to anybody and claims it to be our property. If someone should snatch it away from us we would be sorry
because we were attached to something that doesn’t really belong to us in the
first place and would not permanently remain with us anyway. Our body is like
this plot of land that we stake our claim to by considering it to be ours and
ourselves. When it becomes old,
sick and dies, we would be consumed by sorrow and pain because we lack panna or
insight into its true nature.
we continually contemplate on the truth of the three characteristics of
existence such as anicca (impermanence), dukkha (stress) and anatta (not-self),
we would not dare to cling to anything or wish for things to be as we would like
them to be, but instead we’d let them be as they are and will be, and be ready
to see them depart even if they are our possessions.
If we could really do it, then we wouldn’t be consumed by pain and
sorrow because we have panna (wisdom) and vipassana (insight) to eliminate the
kilesa from our mind leaving it peaceful, content and blissful.
We’d have achieved the supreme bliss that the Buddha had pointed out to
us by declaring that the happiness of this world can never equal or surpass the
supreme bliss that arises out of a mind permanently subdued by the total removal
of the kilesa from the mind.
bliss that results from the development of samadhi (concentration) is not this
supreme bliss because of its temporary nature.
Once the mind emerges from this samadhi, the kilesa which were also
subdued by the power of samadhi would also emerge to wreak havoc on the mind
again, which is not the same as the supreme bliss that results from the work of
panna (wisdom) that has completely eradicated the kilesa from the mind, not
allowing them to ever return again, like the minds of the Buddha and his noble
disciples. If we truly aspire to this supreme bliss, we must develop both
samadhi and panna. Do not be
content with just samadhi because it’s like a piece of rock sitting on a patch
of grass preventing the grass from growing.
But when the rock is removed the grass would eventually grow again,
because it was not uprooted, just like the kilesa, which can’t be uprooted by
samadhi alone. We need panna (wisdom) or vipassana (insight) to do the job.
after we have developed samadhi we must then turn to the development of panna or
vipassana by continually contemplating on the characteristics of all conditioned
phenomena such as the five khandha or the five physical and mental components of
our existence namely, rupa (body), vedana (feeling), sanna (memory or perception),
sankhara (thought), and vinnana (sensory awareness) as being impermanent,
stressful and not-self. By
continually contemplating on these three characteristics of conditioned
phenomena panna (wisdom) would gradually transform from conceptual to practical.
Conceptual wisdom is contemplation of the truth while practical wisdom is
the application of the truth in our daily life like when we get sick and become
anxious. We must let go of our
attachment to the body if we want to eliminate our anxiety.
We should always be vigilant by constantly developing panna and vipassana
after we emerge from samadhi.
contemplating for a while, the mind gets tired.
We must then return to samadhi for a rest, after having rested we would
then do more contemplation. This is
the way to develop samadhi and panna - they go together like the left and right
foot we use for walking, taking turns stepping.
Don’t listen to those who say skip samadhi, develop panna straight away,
or those who say once you have developed samadhi, panna would automatically
appear. These views are not correct. In
fact both of them have to be cultivated and developed, one at a time
alternatively. They perform
different duties. Samadhi is for resting and recharging the mental energy, while
panna is like a knife for cutting our attachment to things that agitate and vex
must watch what we are getting into in our practice.
If we are devoting all our time to samadhi even after we have already
mastered it, we should turn to developing panna or vipassana by contemplating on
the three characteristics of all conditioned phenomena such as our body, feeling,
memory, thought and sensory awareness. But if we are engaging entirely in
contemplating without the support of samadhi, we could become more deluded by
our contemplation, by thinking that we have become enlightened when no such
thing has actually occurred. We
should therefore rest and recharge the mind from time to time to keep it in
balance. Samadhi and panna are
interdependent; they support and assist each other.
Cultivating both would make our journey toward nibbana smooth and trouble-free.