Know and Let Go
A talk given by the Venerable Phra Sangwahn Khemmako
(Translation Brigitte Schrottenbacher)
May those who listen to these Dhamma-talk progress in their meditation-practice. May the Dhamma that you hear now, fill your heart with happiness and satisfaction about the Buddha’s teaching.
The Buddha is in the mind, the Dhamma is in the mind and the Sangha of the Noble Ones is in the mind. The three treasures are in you own mind, so do not let your mind wander anywhere else outside yourself but stay within yourself. Know what goes on in your mind right now. If you think good, know, it if you think bad, know it. Know you think good, know you think bad. The heart knows. In your heart you know, you are mindful and fresh. This makes you, your mind, good. You know, your heart knows, is mindful and fresh. The heart knows what is going on in the mind. If the mind is thinking the heart knows it. If you practice like that, you can see and understand the Dhamma. The heart knows the Dhamma. It knows what goes on in the mind.
This is what we call cittanupassana. Dhammanupassana is the knowing of the present Dhamma. It lets you know what the Buddha taught. If you do not yet know, practice now, know and let go. Practice knowing and letting go. Know, if you think good. If you think bad, you know it. Know it in the present moment. You can also know while breathing in “Bud-“, while breathing out “-dho”. “Bud-“ “-dho”, “Bud-“ “-dho”, “Bud-“ “-dho”.
Think “Bud-“ while breathing in and you know, think “-dho” while breathing out and know. You know the breathing in, and you know the breathing out. If you know like that, if you really know like that, then it’s like the Buddha himself is here, to know the breathing in and the breathing out. The Buddha reached enlightenment by watching the breathing in and the breathing out.
Make up your mind, that you would like to know, what the Buddha knew. You want to see old age, sickness and death. You want to see it and know it. You want to know it by eyes and ears. Those of you who have entered the order of the Sangha, remember that your preceptor who gave you the precepts, wanted you to know old age, sickness and death. To get a deeper understanding of these truths, the preceptor gave you in the ordination ceremony the five “outer” meditation objects (panca kammatthana): hair of the head (kesa), hair that grows all over the body (loma), nails of fingers and toes (nakha), teeth (danta), and skin (tacco).
It is his first meditation instruction, a monk receives. If then the monk doesn’t strive, recollect and practice these five objects, if he does not strive for liberation, then the question comes up – why did he ordain? You really should reflect on these five objects: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails of fingers and toes, teeth in your mouth and the skin. Reflect on these five objects of contemplation, which the preceptor gave you in the ordination ceremony. And not just monks but every person who ordains should see and contemplate these five objects.
Now I give you instruction to contemplate on the hair of the head, hair of the body, nails of fingers and toes, teeth and the skin. Go through these objects again and again. Repeat: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth and skin, try to see them – know them.
The monk who leads the ordination procedure also says: “Kinamosi” and the initiate answers: “Ama bhante.” I do translate the meaning of this as: take “Namo” to yourself, or drink the Dhamma. You should pay respect to the Buddha. Repeat “Namo tassa Bhagavato, Arahato, Samma Sambuddhassa”. (Homage to the Blessed One, who is far from all defilements, the One - fully Enlightened through Himself).
When I instruct you today I want you to “Kinamosi - Dhamma” – take “Namo” to yourself, and pay respect to the Buddha, by practicing his instructions. This is really paying respect to the Buddha. Consider the hair on the top of your head, hair that grows all over your body, the nails of your fingers and toes, the teeth in your mouth and the skin in which your body is wrapped in. Know and contemplate your body. Close your eyes and see as if your eyes are opened. Know and reflect. Let this practice become the power of your mind.
A monk is someone who meditates and sharpens his concentration. If you practice, you act like a monk. Someone who is sitting in meditation, and sharpens his concentration, can be called a monk. Practice as if you polish a Buddha statue. Polish your mind, so that it is respectfully following the Buddha’s teaching. First you have to apply some cleaning liquid and then rub diligently with some pieces of cloth, to remove all the dirt from the Buddha statue. After doing this, the Buddha statue looks shiny and bright - like new. Your mind will be delighted. While doing the work, you feel happiness and when you’ve finished the work your mind will be filled with delight and satisfaction.
If you want to practice meditation, then it’s important that you know your body. Know, you sit like a Buddha statue. Let the mind dwell within the body and do not allow it to go anywhere else – outside of your body. Imagine that you clean a Buddha statue. See the Buddha statue and think that the Buddha is in your mind, the Dhamma is in your mind and the Sangha of the Noble Ones is in your mind.
If you prepare your mind like that, then concentration will arise and you will feel joy. What you did not know before - now, this knowledge can arise, what you never saw before, now you can see it. The meditator knows if the mind is calm and he knows if it is not calm. He should know everything. He should know and see. If the mind thinks about this and that, he just knows. He knows and let go of it. If the mind changes quickly, he knows that. See that the mind is all the time changing – just know that and let go. Think: I sit here and try to develop concentration, I sit and develop the mind as a monk does.
Then imagine again that you sit there like a Buddha statue, knowing that the Buddha is in your heart, know that the Dhamma is in your heart, and know that the Sangha is in your heart. If you see it like that, then the five hindrances will disappear, and you can become a Noble One. You should practice like that, before you die. Practice to become free from death. “Paramatta” – the absolute, is deathless. But first you have to see and know death and dying. You have to see reality.
Know that the Buddha has developed his mind to the highest state – keep this in your mind while meditating. Know, that the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha are very precious and high developed. Think of that. But if the Sangha doesn’t practice meditation then there can’t be any development of the mind. The Sangha, the students of the Buddha, have to practice mediation, without lethargy, today and tomorrow. It’s like eating. You have to eat today and you have to eat tomorrow. You cannot stop eating and so it is with the meditation. You have to do it every day. Practice daily and you will be someone who progresses in Dhamma.
If you sit here and practice, you do something for your progress, what your eyes couldn’t see, now you can see it, what your mind didn’t know – now can you know it. This will show your progress. Your heart will be filled with faith in the Dhamma that the Buddha taught. You will know by yourself that what the Buddha taught is the truth. You will know it through your own experience and that’s the way to become a Noble One (ariya). So you can become an Arahant – an Enlightened One, by practicing in this way, you can realize the four steps of enlightenment viz. stream-winner (sotapanna), once-returner (sakadagami), non-returner (anagami) and the highest step - the fully enlightened one (arahant).
Practice as much as you can. Laziness destroys and avoids your progress. Know, when the breath comes in, and know when the breath goes out. Rapture will appear when you breathe in, and there will be rapture when you breathe out. If the mind of a meditator reaches this level, then he is able to overcome the five hindrances. Sloth and torpor, restlessness, doubts, anger and greed – the five hindrances - cannot bother him anymore.
If you overcome these hindrances then you are someone who really progresses in Dhamma. If you sit and practice like that, you will see the truth of Dhamma by yourself. Then you don’t have to ask anyone anymore. You will know and see the Dhamma by yourself, through your own experience. I want you to make up your mind and practice, what the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha has taught.
If you keep five or eight precepts, you can reach the state of a stream-winner (sotapanna), but you really have to keep these precepts. You don’t know when, it’s like planting a seed and diligently watering it, then one day the plant will flower. Happiness arises in your mind and you might want to offer the flower to the Buddha. That is what happens to the mind of a meditator. His mind will be filled with joy.
One flower is not as beautiful as many flowers put together to a flower arrangement. A meditator develops morality, concentration and wisdom. This is arranging the flowers. Your heart is a beautiful flower, like a lotus in a pond. But if there is only one lotus it’s not as beautiful as if there are many of them. Therefore water them diligently and it will become like the beautiful flower arrangements here in this Meditation hall.
Different flowers have different colors and the leaves have yet another color. But everything together makes these arrangements so beautiful. Flowers change their color, by reflecting on this, you can see impermanence (anicca). Know that it is the same with your body. It has to whither like these flowers. When you pay respect to the Buddha, you might burn incense and candles. The incense burn down and then they are gone and the candle slowly burns down until it extinguishes. Watching this and reflecting on it, will show you the truth of impermanence. Your are someone who sees and knows.
As a meditator you should develop mindfulness in everything you do and you will know and see the truth in everything. You will see the truth of impermanence in everything. Try to practice as much as you can. It’s important to develop concentration and to see the true nature of things, to see impermanence. That is what the Buddha taught.
So, practice a lot, don’t let up and stay “on the ball”. Practice “Bud-“ while breathing in, “-dho” while breathing out, have mindfulness by breathing in and have mindfulness by breathing out. If you do that, rapture and joy will arise in the mind and the hindrances will disappear. No more sloth and torpor will come up. Rapture will increase your concentration. The hindrances avoid that you see Dhamma. Rapture will help you to cut these hindrances and you will see the truth of Dhamma, you will see impermanence. If you see impermanence, go on and practice even more, do as much as you can. Increase your experience. See and know what the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught us to see our body and mind and to see that they are impermanent and this is really suffering.
Sitting for a long time lets suffering arise in the body. Pain arises and this pain is hard to endure. We have to know and let go. But bodily pain is really hard to endure. The Buddha himself practiced very hard. He ate so little, that he wasn’t able to walk anymore. His body became so thin and the blood almost dried out. There were only bones and skin left and he was near to death. Then he realized that this is not the right way. He will die before he reaches enlightenment and freedom from defilements. He understood that this is the wrong way to practice. By practicing like that, the mind will not be properly trained. It’s the mind that is important and not the body.
If you do not eat enough you can’t be successful and if you eat too much, the hindrances will appear and you won’t be able to practice either. Eat and then sleep – so you can’t reach Nibbana. A farmer has to plough his field. He eats and then he goes and does his work. However the climate may be, if there is rain or heat – he has to go and do his job. As meditator you have to do it like that. Nothing should keep you away from practicing. To eat too much and then go to sleep – so you won’t reach Nibbana. Eat and be aware, when you feel it is enough, drink water to fill up the stomach. That’s what the Buddha recommended. So you will be able to overcome the hindrances.
In the Buddha’s time there was a rich man, who was very fat. He had the habit to come to the temple on Uposatha day. One day he was approaching the Buddha and asked: “Venerable Sir, what can I do, I always eat too much and then I feel very uncomfortable. The only thing I can do is go to sleep.” The Buddha recommended, that he should tell one of his servants to count each spoonful he was eating and then to find out with how many spoonful he would feel well. Then he should stop eating and fill his stomach with some more water. After eight days, on the following Uposatha day the rich man came again and told the Buddha, that he feels very happy now, his stomach doesn’t feel that full anymore.
As a meditator you have to be aware and know what is the right amount for you to eat, so that you are still able to meditate. Sometimes it tastes very delicious and you eat too much, then when you drink water you are too full. When trying to meditate, it doesn’t work because the hindrances are too strong and you go to sleep. You have no clearness of mind. The five hindrances avoid that you enter concentration and you are not able to reach Nibbana. Sloth and torpor avoid that you enter concentration. They avoid that the knowledge of remembering past existences (pubbenivasanussati-nana) appears and you will not be able to know what the Buddha taught.
As meditator you should check yourself all the time. You should not be foolish but know by yourself why the hindrances arise and how to overcome them. Then you will progress in the Dhamma. In this way, you can become a noble one. Citta-vimangsa is the name of this virtue. Consider how to overcome these hindrances when they appear in the mind. The hindrances obstruct our progress in many ways. They lead to negligence in keeping the moral principles, we cannot enter concentration and no knowledge can arise. All these happens because of the five hindrances.
If a boxer is not strong and quick enough to fight his opponent in the ring, then he will be knocked out. If concentration mindfulness and energy are well developed you will be able to knock out the hindrances. That’s sure. You have to be very careful and defend yourself with hands and feet until you knock out the hindrances completely. If you cannot do it while sitting, then stand up and do some standing meditation, if this doesn’t work, do walking meditation. These are a useful methods to overcome the hindrances. Absorption and Nibbana can happen in these postures as well. If you walk, do it slowly and mindfully.
One good example is the venerable Ananda. The first Buddhist council was arranged three months after the final Nibbana (Parinibbana) of the Buddha and only full enlightened ones (arahants) were allowed to join the council. It was very important that the venerable monk Ananda, who was the secretary of the Buddha, would join the council, because he had the most knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings, but he had only reached the first step on the way to Nibbana (stream-entry) by that time. The Buddha himself stated that the venerable Ananda would reach Arahantship before the council should happen. So his fellow monks encouraged him to practice hard these three months to be able to reach enlightenment and join the council. The venerable Ananda, practiced very intensively for three months. The night before the council took place, he had still not reached enlightenment and felt very upset. He decided to do all night long meditation. Towards dawn he felt exhausted and his mind was restless thinking. So he thought – I give up and have a little rest before I continue. While he was mindfully lying down – his head had not yet reached the pillow – he attained enlightenment, and gained lots of supernatural powers. The next day at the Sangha-meeting some monks saw him coming out of the earth, some saw him coming through the air.
This shows, that as a meditator you have to practice mindfulness even while lying on. All four postures are important. Sitting, walking, standing and lying on. For the venerable Ananda it was the moment he could let go of all the pressure and all the expectations he had build up in his mind. He let go and reached enlightenment.
When you lay down know while breathe in “Bud-“, breathe out “-dho”. “Bud-dho”, until you sleep away. The moment you wake up, start immediately with “Bud-“ while breathing in and “-dho” while breathing out. When you wake up the mind is still pure – it’s not occupied by thoughts and so it can easily enter concentration. Some could see Dhamma the moment they woke up. Wisdom arose in that very moment. If you see the Dhamma you do not have to ask anyone anymore, the Dhamma will teach you. You are on the way to become a noble one.
While lying down, you think of the Buddha, while sitting, you think of the Buddha, while standing, you think of the Buddha and while walking, you think of the Buddha – “Buddho”. If the mind is prepared like that, then it is likely that you may reach Nibbana. So, try to keep up your mindfulness – while sitting, walking, standing and while lying on. Make the effort to follow these instructions. Then you will able to reach Nibbana like many before you. Don’t waste your time anymore with useless things. Know what comes and then let it go. Know and let go. Whatever thoughts may appear, you know them and let them go. Don’t care further about them. Know and let go. That’s the way to build up equanimity in the mind. If equanimity is not strong yet, continue, go on – know and let go.
If you could pass the hindrances – know it, if rapture and joy arise – know it, if you are able to let go – know it. Try to practice as much as possible. Know if the body feels light. If the body feels light, then the mind feels light too and you are on the noble path. Body and mind feel light, the noble path arises. If these factors come together, then the mind starts to know and see. You are someone who progresses in meditation.
If the hindrances appear – know it, if they disappear - know it. Know and let go. Follow these instructions and you will progress in Dhamma. Know and let go. These are only a few words, but their essence is deep. Never forget that you have to practice by yourself. You have to do it. No one can do it for you.
If you cannot see the breath anymore, you don’t have to look for it. Just sit still, know and let go. Know and let go with calm mind. If the breath wants to come in again – just know it. If it enters again you know it. Does it cease again – know it. Know and let go. Practice like that and wisdom will arise. For sure.
Don’t think that laziness and anger are yours, don’t think desire is yours. That’s why you should know and let go. If your mindfulness and contemplation is getting better then anger and desire, laziness and all the other obstacles will disappear naturally, by themselves. You don’t have to do anything. Just watch how the mind is changing. See how these things arise in the mind, see them change and see how they disappear. This is seeing the Dhamma and you know that the hindrances have ceased.
Today we do an official funeral and you might see, what you never saw before, you might know, what you never knew before. Just watch carefully. How is the mind now before the funeral. What goes on in the mind, when the fire burns. I want you to watch yourself, your mind, carefully. You are meditators, and in such moments it is possible to get a deep insight into the true nature of things. So watch carefully. If the hindrances cease, it is possible to see Dhamma and even to reach Nibbana. To see the full truth. That’s what I want to prepare you for. The mediation should lead you to that goal.
Once there where monks meditating in the forest. A tiger came and caught one of them. He cried out loudly: “help, help.” – the other monks seeing the situation shouted out: ”we cannot help you, you have to help yourself now, think of morality, concentration and wisdom, patience and endurance – help yourself”. The monk, hearing this, started to apply mindfulness and contemplated, he knew he wasn’t enlightened yet and he could not escape the tiger anymore. So he was only thinking in terms of the Dhamma. He had great fear and a lot of pain, because he wasn’t enlightened yet. He took refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. The tiger bit him here and there and the monk just watched the feelings. The tiger didn’t reach the heart yet, when the monk attained full enlightenment, through his contemplation of feelings – in the mouth of the tiger.
This story is taking from the Tripitaka. My teacher Acharn Maha Tong told me this story and I kept it in my mind all the time. When I was a newly ordained monk, practicing on the graveyard in Wat Batueng, I experienced a lot of fear. This graveyard was famous for its fierce ghosts. I was meditating while walking, standing and sitting and I was awake most of the time, because I could hear every little sound and fear arose easily. I was there completely alone and there was no one else who could help me. I sat straight like a candle and did not fall asleep. Soon concentration and with it calmness arose. I only watched my own mind. I applied concentration, mindfulness and contemplation. If I wouldn’t have had concentration, I wouldn’t have been able to see things as they really are. But if the mind is concentrated, then fear cannot bother you. It will not even arise anymore. The knowledge of past existences won’t arise if you are still bothered by the five hindrances.
That’s why I really wish you, that you practice diligently and that you may overcome the hindrances. If you are not successful yet, invite the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha into your heart. These three treasures have been successful before you. They know. So invite their wisdom into your heart.
This is what I want to teach you. May you all have moral principles (sila), develop concentration (samadhi) and gain wisdom (panna). May you practice with diligence, patience and endurance. May you have the energy to do it and may all of you progress in your meditation. Morality, concentration and wisdom are only words but if you do meditate and develop them, then you will know. You will know this is concentration, you will know this is wisdom. You do not just know their names, but you experience them. Then you start to see Dhamma and you will understand.
May all of you be able to reach the four paths and the four fruitions and the One – Nibbana. For this I wish you good luck.
May all beings be happy!!!