leading up to very high mystic attainments
the power of concentration is essential for any kind of deep
understanding, penetration, insight into the nature of things,
including the realization of Nirvana.
Apart from all this, this exercise on breathing gives you
immediate results. It is good for your physical health, for relaxa-
tion, sound sleep, and for efficiency in your daily work. It makes
you calm and tranquil. Eve n at moments when you are nervous or
excited, if you practise this for a couple of minutes, you will see
for yourself that you become immediately quiet and at peace. Yo u
feel as if you have awakened after a good rest.
Another very important, practical, and useful form of 'medita-
tion' (mental development) is to be aware and mindful of what-
ever you do, physically or verbally, during the daily routine of
work in your life, private, public or professional. Whether you
walk, stand, sit, lie down, or sleep, whether you stretch or bend
your limbs, whether you look around, whether you put on your
clothes, whether you talk or keep silence, whether you eat or
drink, even whether you answer the calls of nature—in these and
other activities, you should be fully aware and mindful of the act
you perform at the moment. That is to say, that you should live
in the present moment, in the present action. This does not mean
that you should not think of the past or the future at all. On the
contrary, you think of them in relation to the present moment,
the present action, when and where it is relevant.
People do not generally live in their actions, in the present
moment. They live in the past or in the future. Though they seem
to be doing something now, here, they live somewhere else in their
thoughts, in their imaginary problems and worries, usually in the
memories of the past or in desires and speculations about the
future. Therefore they do not live in, nor do they enjoy, what they
do at the moment. So they are unhappy and discontented with the
present moment, with the work at hand, and naturally they cannot
give themselves fully to what they appear to be doing.
Sometimes you see a man in a restaurant reading while eating—
a very common sight. He gives you the impression of being a very
busy man, with no time even for eating. You wonder whether
he eats or reads. One may say that he does both. In fact, he does
neither, he enjoys neither. He is strained, and disturbed in mind,
and he does not enjoy what he does at the moment, does not live
his life in the present moment, but unconsciously and foolishly
tries to escape from life. (This does not mean, however, that one
should not talk with a friend while having lunch or dinner.)
Yo u cannot escape life however you may try. As long as you
live, whether in a town or in a cave, you have to face it and live it.
Real life is the present moment—not the memories of the past
which is dead and gone, nor the dreams of the future which is not
yet born. One who lives in the present moment lives the real life,
and he is happiest.
When asked why his disciples, wh o lived a simple and quiet
life with only one meal a day, were so radiant, the Buddha
replied: 'They do not repent the past, nor do they brood over the
future. They live in the present. Therefore they are radiant. By
brooding over the future and repenting the past, fools dry up
like green reeds cut down (in the sun).'
Mindfulness, or awareness, does not mean that you should
think and be conscious 'I am doing this' or 'I am doing that'. No.
Just the contrary. The moment you think 'I am doing this', you
become self-conscious, and then you do not live in the action, but
you live in the idea 'I am', and consequently your work too is
spoilt. Y ou should forget yourself completely, and lose yourself in
what you do. The moment a speaker becomes self-conscious and
thinks 'I am addressing an audience', his speech is disturbed and
his trend of thought broken. B ut when he forgets himself in his
speech, in his subject, then he is at his best, he speaks well and
explains things clearly. All great work—artistic, poetic, intellec-
tual or spiritual—is produced at those moments when its creators
are lost completely in their actions, when they forget themselves
altogether, and are free from self-consciousness.
This mindfulness or awareness with regard to our activities,
taught by the Buddha, is to live in the present moment, to live in
the present action. (This is also the Zen way which is based pri-
marily on this teaching.) Here in this form of meditation, you
haven't got to perform any particular action in order to develop
mindfulness, but you have only to be mindful and aware of
whatever you may do. You haven't got to spend one second of
your precious time on this particular 'meditation': you have
only to cultivate mindfulness and awareness always, day and night,
with regard to all activities in your usual daily life. These two
forms of'meditation' discussed above are connected with our body.
Then there is a way of practising mental development ('medita-
tion') with regard to all our sensations or feelings, whether happy,
unhappy or neutral. Let us take only one example. Yo u experience
an unhappy, sorrowful sensation. In this state your mind is
cloudy, hazy, not clear, it is depressed. In some cases, you do not
even see clearly why you have that unhappy feeling. First of all,
you should learn not to be unhappy about your unhappy feeling,
not to be worried about your worries. But try to see clearly why
there is a sensation or a feeling of unhappiness, or worry, or sorrow.
Tr y to examine how it arises, its cause, how it disappears, its
cessation. Try to examine it as if you are observing it from outside,
without any subjective reaction, as a scientist observes some
object. Here, too, you should not look at it as 'my feeling' or 'my
sensation' subjectively, but only look at it as 'a feeling' or 'a
sensation' objectively. You should forget again the false idea of
T. When you see its nature, how it arises and disappears, your
mind grows dispassionate towards that sensation, and becomes
detached and free. It is the same with regard to all sensations or
No w let us discuss the form of 'meditation' with regard to our
minds. Y ou should be fully aware of the fact whenever your mind
is passionate or detached, whenever it is overpowered by hatred,
ill-will, jealousy, or is full of love, compassion, whenever it is
deluded or has a clear and right understanding, and so on and so
forth. We must admit that very often we are afraid or ashamed to
look at our own minds. So we prefer to avoid it. One should be
bold and sincere and look at one's own mind as one looks at
one's face in a mirror.
Here is no attitude of criticizing or judging, or discriminating
between right and wrong, or good and bad. It is simply observing,
watching, examining. Y ou are not a judge, but a scientist. When
you observe your mind, and see its true nature clearly, you become
dispassionate with regard to its emotions, sentiments and states.
M I (PTS), p. 1oo.
Thus you become detached and free, so that you may see things as
Let us take one example. Say you are really angry, overpowered
by anger, ill-will, hatred. It is curious, and paradoxical, that the
man who is in anger is not really aware, not mindful that he is
angry. The moment he becomes aware and mindful of that state of
his mind, the moment he sees his anger, it becomes, as if it were,
shy and ashamed, and begins to subside. Y ou should examine its
nature, how it arises, how it disappears. Here again it should be
remembered that you should not think 'I am angry', or of 'my
anger'. You should only be aware and mindful of the state of an
angry mind. Y ou are only observing and examining an angry
mind objectively. This should be the attitude with regard to all
sentiments, emotions, and states of mind.
Then there is a form of 'meditation' on ethical, spiritual and
intellectual subjects. All our studies, reading, discussions, conver-
sation and deliberations on such subjects are included in this
'meditation'. To read this book, and to think deeply about the
subjects discussed in it, is a form of meditation. We have seen
that the conversation between Khemaka and the group
of monks was a form of meditation which led to the realization of
So, according to this form of meditation, you may study, think,
and deliberate on the Five Hindrances
1. lustful desires
2. ill-will, hatred or anger
3. torpor and languor
4. restlessness and worry
5. sceptical doubts
These five are considered as hindrances to any kind of clear
understanding, as a matter of fact, to any kind of progress. When
one is over-powered by them and when one does not know how to
get rid of them, then one cannot understand right and wrong, or
good and bad.
One may also 'meditate' on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment
See above p. 65.
i.e., to be aware and mindful in all
activities and movements both physical and mental, as we
2. Investigation and research into the various problems of
Included here are all our
religious, ethical and philosophical studies, reading,
researches, discussions, conversation, even attending
lectures relating to such doctrinal subjects.
to work with determination till the end.
4. Joy (piti), the quality quite contrary to the pessimistic,
gloomy or melancholic attitude of mind.
Of both body and mind. One should
not be stiff physically or mentally.
as discussed above.
i.e., to be able to face life in all its
vicissitudes with calm of mind, tranquillity, without
To cultivate these qualities the most essential thing is a genuine
wish, will, or inclination. Many other material and spiritual con-
ditions conducive to the development of each quality are des-
cribed in the texts.
One may also 'meditate' on such subjects as the Five Aggre-
gates investigating the question 'What is a being ?' or 'What is it
that is called 1 ?', or on the F our Noble Truths, as we discussed
above. Study and investigation of those subjects constitute this
fourth form of meditation, which leads to the realization of
Apart from those we have discussed here, there are many other
subjects of meditation, traditionally forty in number, among which
mention should be made particularly of the four Sublime States:
(1) extending unlimited, universal love and
to all living beings without any kind of discri-
mination, 'just as a mother loves her only child'; (2) compassion
for all living beings who are suffering, in trouble and
affliction; (3) sympathetic joy
in others' success, welfare
and happiness; and (4) equanimity
in all vicissitudes of
W H A T T H E B U D D H A T A U G H T A N D
TH E W O R L D T O D A Y
There are some wh o believe that Buddhism is so lofty and sublime
a system that it cannot be practised by ordinary men and women in
this workaday world of ours, and that one has to retire from it to a
monastery, or to some quiet place, if one desires to be a true
This is a sad misconception, due evidently to a lack of under-
standing of the teaching of the Buddha. People run to such hasty
and wrong conclusions as a result of their hearing, or reading
casually, something about Buddhism written by someone, who,
as he has not understood the subject in all its aspects, gives only
a partial and lopsided view of it. The Buddha's teaching is meant
not only for monks in monasteries, but also for ordinary men and
women living at home with their families. The Noble Eightfold
Path, which is the Buddhist way of life, is meant for all, without
distinction of any kind.
The vast majority of people in the world cannot turn monk,
or retire into caves or forests. However noble and pure Buddhism
may be, it would be useless to the masses of mankind if they could
not follow it in their daily life in the world of today. But if you
understand the spirit of Buddhism correctly (and not only its
letter), you can surely follow and practise it while living the life
of an ordinary man.
There may be some who find it easier and more convenient to
accept Buddhism, if they do live in a remote place, cut off from the
society of others. Others may find that that kind of retirement
dulls and depresses their whole being both physically and mentally,
and that it may not therefore be conducive to the development of
their spiritual and intellectual life.
True renunciation does not mean running away physically
from the world. Sariputta, the chief disciple of the Buddha, said
that one man might live in a forest devoting himself to ascetic
practices, but might be full of impure thoughts and 'defilements';
another might live in a village or a town, practising no ascetic
discipline, but his mind might be pure, and free from 'defilements'.
Of these two, said Sariputta, the one who lives a pure life in the
village or town is definitely far superior to, and greater than, the
one who lives in the forest.
The common belief that to follow the Buddha's teaching one
has to retire from life is a misconception. It is really an uncon-
scious defence against practising it. There are numerous references
in Buddhist literature to men and women living ordinary, normal
family fives who successfully practised what the Buddha taught,
and realized Nirvana. Vacchagotta the Wanderer, (whom we met
earlier in the chapter on Anatta), once asked the Buddha straight-
forwardly whether there were laymen and women leading the
family life, who followed his teaching successfully and attained
to high spiritual states. The Buddha categorically stated that there
were not one or two, not a hundred or two hundred or five hun-
dred, but many more laymen and women leading the family life
wh o followed his teaching successfully and attained to high
It may be agreeable for certain people to live a retired life in a
quiet place away from noise and disturbance. But it is certainly
more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism living
among your fellow beings, helping them and being of service to
them. It may perhaps be useful in some cases for a man to live in
retirement for a time in order to improve his mind and character,
as preliminary moral, spiritual and intellectual training, to be
strong enough to come out later and help others. B ut if a man
lives all his life in solitude, thinking only of his own happiness and
'salvation', without caring for his fellows, this surely is not in
keeping with the Buddha's teaching which is based on love,
compassion, and service to others.
One might now ask: If a man can follow Buddhism while
living the life of an ordinary layman, why was the Sangha, the
Order of monks, established by the Buddha ? The Order provides
opportunity for those who are willing to devote their lives not
Ibid., pp. 490 ff.
only to their own spiritual and intellectual development, but also
to the service of others. An ordinary layman with a family cannot
be expected to devote his whole life to the service of others,
whereas a monk, who has no family responsibilities or any other
worldly ties, is in a position to devote his whole life 'for the good of
the many, for the happiness of the many' according to the Buddha's
advice. That is how in the course of history, the Buddhist
monastery became not only a spiritual centre, but also a centre of
learning and culture.
(N o. 31 of the
shows with what
great respect the layman's life, his family and social relations are
regarded by the Buddha.
A young man named Sigala used to worship the six cardinal
points of the heavens—east, south, west, north, nadir and zenith—
in obeying and observing the last advice given him by his dying
father. The Buddha told the young man that in the 'noble
of his teaching the six directions were
different. According to his 'noble discipline' the six directions
were: east: parents; south: teachers; west: wife and children;
north: friends, relatives and neighbours; nadir: servants, workers
and employees; zenith: religious men.
'One should worship these six directions' said the Buddha. Here
the word 'worship'
is very significant, for one
worships something sacred, something worthy of honour and
respect. These six family and social groups mentioned above are
treated in Buddhism as sacred, worthy of respect and worship.
But how is one to 'worship' them? The Buddha says that one
could 'worship' them only by performing one's duties towards
them. These duties are explained in his discourse to Sigala.
First: Parents are sacred to their children. The Buddha says:
'Parents are called Brahma'
denotes the highest and most sacred conception in Indian thought,
and in it the Buddha includes parents. So in good Buddhist
families at the present time children literally 'worship' their
parents every day, morning and evening. They have to perform
certain duties towards their parents according to the 'noble
discipline': they should look after their parents in their old age;
should do whatever they have to do on their behalf; should maintain
the honour of the family and continue the family tradition;
should protect the wealth earned by their parents; and perform
their funeral rites after their death. Parents, in their turn, have
certain responsibilities towards their children: they should keep
their children away from evil courses; should engage them in good
and profitable activities; should give them a good education;
should marry them into good families; and should hand over the
property to them in due course.
Second: Th e relation between teacher and pupil: a pupil should
respect and be obedient to his teacher; should attend to his
needs if any; should study earnestly. And the teacher, in his
turn, should train and shape his pupil properly; should teach him
well; should introduce him to his friends; and should try to
procure him security or employment when his education is over.
Third: The relation between husband and wife: love between
husband and wife is considered almost religious or sacred. It is
'sacred family life'. Here, too, the
significance of the term
should be noted: the highest
respect is given to this relationship. Wives and husbands should be
faithful, respectful and devoted to each other, and they have
certain duties towards each other: the husband should always
honour his wife and never be wanting in respect to her; he should
love her and be faithful to her; should secure her position and
comfort; and should please her by presenting her with clothing
and jewellery. (The fact that the Buddha did not forget to mention
even such a thing as the gifts a husband should make to his wife
shows how understanding and sympathetic were his humane
feelings towards ordinary human emotions.) The wife, in her
turn, should supervise and look after household affairs; should
entertain guests, visitors, friends, relatives and employees;
should love and be faithful to her husband; should protect his
earnings; should be clever and energetic in all activities.
Fourth: The relation between friends, relatives and neighbours:
they should be hospitable and charitable to one another; should
speak pleasantly and agreeably; should work for each other's
welfare; should be on equal terms with one another; should not
quarrel among themselves; should help each other in need;
and should not forsake each other in difficulty.
Fifth: The relation between master and servant: the master or
the employer has several obligations towards his servant or his
employee: work should be assigned according to ability and
capacity; adequate wages should be paid; medical needs should
be provided; occasional donations or bonuses should be granted.
Th e servant or employee, in his turn, should be diligent and not
lazy; honest and obedient and not cheat his master; he should be
earnest in his work.
Sixth: The relation between the religious (lit. recluses and
brahmanas) and the laity: lay people should look after the
material needs of the religious with love and respect; the religious
with a loving heart should impart knowledge and learning to the
laity, and lead them along the good path away from evil.
We see then that the lay life, with its family and social relations,
is included in the 'noble discipline', and is within the framework
of the Buddhist way of life, as the Buddha envisaged it.
So in the
one of the oldest Pali texts, Sakka,
the king of the gods
declares that he worships not only the
monks who live a virtuous holy life, but also 'lay disciples
wh o perform meritorious deeds, who are virtuous, and maintain
their families righteously'.
If one desires to become a Buddhist, there is no initiation
ceremony (or baptism) which one has to undergo. (But to become
a member of the Order of the
one has to undergo
a long process of disciplinary training and education.) If one
understands the Buddha's teaching, and if one is convinced that
his teaching is the right Path and if one tries to follow it, then
one is a Buddhist. But according to the unbroken age-old
tradition in Buddhist countries, one is considered a Buddhist if
one takes the Buddha, the
(the Teaching) and the
(the Order of Monks)—generally called 'the Triple-Gem'—as
one's refuges, and undertakes to observe the Five Precepts
minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist—
(i) not to destroy life, (2) not to steal, (3) not to commit adultery,
(4) not to tell lies, (5) not to take intoxicating drinks—reciting
the formulas given in the ancient texts. On religious occasions
Buddhists in congregation usually recite these formulas, following
the lead of a Buddhist monk.
There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has
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