These interview in full length can be download at
www.Dhammapada.Buddhistnetwork.com due to not yet uploaded at
June 19, 2006 "Reclaiming the Buddha's Words: An Opening Interview",
with Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi, Annapolis, Missouri, Ozark
Mountains. Jeta's Grove & Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center
Interviewer: What was the main discovery the Buddha made that was
different from other teachings at that time?
Interviewer: As a teacher, what are your main sources for teaching
Bhante V: My main sources for teaching come from the Suttas and the
Books of Discipline (Vinaya) which brings me to a point that many
people misunderstand (especially in the West). The Vinaya is usually
thought to be only the ``Rules of Discipline'' for the monks, but
actually there is a great deal of wisdom and practical advice one
can gain by reading the suttas in the Vinaya. When I give Dhamma
talks I read a Sutta and explain how it is relevant to one's daily
meditation practice. I mainly use the Majjhima Nikaya, the Samyutta
Nikaya (the Bhikkhu Bodhi Translations from Wisdom Publications) and
occasionally take some Suttas from the Vinaya. If you want to get a
sample of a Dhamma talk go to our website
Interviewer: Why are so many people having trouble achieving full
liberation from the taints and fetters, through meditation today?
Interviewer: What are the qualities and teachings that we should
look for in a teacher when we are ready to practice meditation?
Bhante V: One of the most important things to look for in the
teacher and his guidance is, whether that teacher understands and
teaches their students Dependent Origination as seen through the
eyes of the 4 Noble Truths. This is the core teaching that the
Buddha spent 45 years showing us. In the Samyutta Nikaya there is
one sutta that talks about this very thing. This is from The Book of
Causation 82 (1) it says:
At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, one who does not know and see as it really
is, aging-and-death, its origin, its cessation, and the way leading
to the cessation, (this is the Four Noble Truths) should search for
a teacher in order to know this is as it really is. "Bhikkhus, one
who does not know and see as it really is birth ... existence ...
clinging ... craving ... feeling ... contact ... the six sense
bases ... mentality/ materiality ... consciousness ... volitional
formations, their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to
their cessation, should search for a teacher in order to know this
as it really is."
This pretty much sums up what one should look for in a teacher.
There is the next sutta [83 (2)] that explains How one should
approach their training. It says: "Bhikkhus, one who does not know
and see as it actually is, aging-and-death... birth... existence...
clinging... craving... feeling... contact... the six sense bases...
mentality/materiality... consciousness... volitional formations,
their origin, their cessation and the way leading to their
cessation, should practice the training in order to know this as it
So this gives a sincere meditator, who wants to get off of this
birth-death cycle, the way to truly practice meditation. Also,
please notice that there is no mention of the three Characteristics
of existence (that is impermanence, suffering, and the impersonal
nature of all existence) in this description. Why do you suppose
this is? The answer can be found in the Maha-Vagga of the Vinaya it
says: "The meditator can see, one or all of the `Three
Characteristics of Existence' (impermanence, suffering and the
impersonal nature of all existence), without seeing Dependent
Origination, but when one sees Dependent Origination directly they
will always see all of the `Three Characteristics'." This is very
interesting because when people practice straight Vipassana
meditation, they are taught that seeing the ``Three
Characteristics'' is the main goal of straight vipassana, as it is
being taught today!
Interviewer: Exactly, how is Nibbana experienced according to the
suttas and what is the genuine experience of the freedom, that the
Buddha spent so much time showing us?
Interviewer: What are the two different types of ``Jhana'' that you
talk about in your Dhamma talks from the suttas?
Interviewer: What are some of the terms used in Buddhist meditation
where the present day definitions appear to be confusing one's clear
understanding and progress for the meditators in the West?
Bhante V: Well actually, there are a lot of terms that have very
specific definitions in Buddhist terminology and meditation that
need to be defined as to their deeper meaning. These are words that
everybody knows and uses but not many people can give a concise
definition for them. So I will try to give a precise set
of ``working definitions'' for commonly misunderstood words
according to the way they are meant in the Buddhist texts.
When I question some people about the word ``Meditation''
(Bhavana), for example, I seem to get a very vague and confusing
definition. Like "being one with the universe". What in the world is
that supposed to mean? A good ``working definition'' of the
word ``Meditation'' (Bhavana) is "watching how mind's attention
moves (anicca) moment-to-moment in order to see clearly the Four
Noble Truths and the true impersonal nature of HOW the pattern of
Dependent Origination occurs."
Another word that is often used is the word "Mindfulness" (Sati)
this word is often defined by using the words ``Just Be Mindful ``.
I just read an article that defined Mindfulness as "to remember, to
remember, to remember"! (which seems to be another case of "Diluted
Dhamma" which sounds great but has no real explanation). If that
isn't confusing, I don't know what is! A better working definition
is - "Mindfulness is remembering to recognize and release any
distraction that pulls one's attention away from their meditation
object". Notice how closely ``Meditation'' (Bhavana)
and ``Mindfulness'' (Sati) are interlinked? The function
of "Mindfulness" (Sati) is to remember. The question is to remember
what? To remember to see everything that arises (Anicca) as being a
part of an impersonal process (Anatta), to remember to observe how
the 4 Noble Truths and Dependent Origination interact with each
other. This infers, that we have to learn "HOW" to be observant with
everything that arises all of the time. Not just while we are
sitting in ``Meditation'' (Bhavana), but all of the time!
Another interesting word for consideration is the
word ``Craving'' (Tanha). The common definition means ``to want or
desire'', but there is much more to this word. According to the
Buddha there is a definite pattern with everything that arises. For
instance, in order "to see" there is a set way things happen. First,
there must be a functioning sense door such as the eye. Next there
must be color and form. When the eye hits color and form then eye-
consciousness arises. The meeting of these three things is called
eye-contact. With eye-contact as condition eye-feeling arises
(Feeling [Vedana] is pleasant, painful or neither painful nor
pleasant and this is either physical or mental feeling.) With eye-
feeling as condition, then eye-craving arises.
Now ``Craving'' (Tanha) in all of its many different forms
(seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, bodily sensations, and
thoughts) always arises as being a tightness or tension in both mind
and body. ``Craving'' (Tanha) always manifests as the "I like it or
I don't like it" mind and can be recognized as tension or tightness
in both one's mind and body. This is where we come to understand the
importance of the Buddha's instructions about consciously
tranquilizing one's mind and body. When the meditator has any kind
of distraction arising, that pulls their attention away from their
object of meditation, then a feeling immediately arises, and next,
right after that the "I like it, I don't like it" [craving-Tanha]
mind arises. This is seen sometimes as a big gross tightness and
sometimes as a very subtle tightness or tension in mind and body.
As ``Craving'' (Tanha) is the cause of suffering (the Second
Noble Truth) what the meditator must do is softly let go of that
tension or tightness (i.e. relax, and this must consciously be done
it doesn't happen automatically as it is shown in the meditation
instruction given to us by the Buddha) then gently redirect mind's
attention back to the object of meditation (this step is the Third
Noble Truth or the cessation of craving or suffering, this is also
called `pure mind' because there is no craving in it at all). In
practical terms this relaxing is the most important and major step
that the Buddha discovered, this and the Fourth Noble Truth- that
is ``the way'' leading to the Cessation of Suffering.
The Buddha saw that when ``Craving'' (Tanha) was let go of, mind
became clear, open, and very observant. He saw that the thinking
mind did not arise. The thinking mind in Buddhism is
called ``Clinging'' (Upadana). So, when a teacher says something
like "Cling To Nothing" they are actually saying to ``stop thinking
about things and just observe''. which is good advice as far as it
goes. Actually it would be better to say "Crave Nothing" but that
would be misunderstood because how are we supposed to do
that? "Crave Nothing" means ``to notice and let go of the tightness
or tension in one's mind and body before it arises''. How does one
do this? When one sees a ``Feeling'' arise, if they relax at that
very moment, then the ``Craving'' (Tanha) won't arise. ``Craving''
(Tanha) is the weak link in the cycle or process of Dependent
Origination. It CAN be recognized and let go of, and when it is
released then the ``Clinging'' (Upadana) won't arise.
One thing that has become popular today is the putting together
of these two words, ``Craving/Clinging'' and I think it helps to
cause even more confusion. ``Craving'' is the "I like it, I don't
like it" mind and ``Clinging'' is all of the thoughts, ideas,
opinions, and concepts why mind likes or dislikes a feeling when it
arises. They are two very different and separate parts to the
process of how things work. So putting them together just makes
one's understanding of this process, even more cloudy. Some teachers
today are trying to say the ``Craving and Clinging'' can be best
defined as ``Grasping''. And as I just explained that moves away
from the more precise definitions that the Buddha shows us within
Also, there is the word ``delusion'' (Moha). In some Buddhist
traditions the word "delusion" (Moha) is linked up with two other
words which are ``Lust'' (lobha) and ``Hatred'' (dosa). Together
these three words are sometimes called "the three poisons". This
actually is a reasonable way to look at them. But there is some
confusion about what "delusion" (Moha) actually means. Let's see
what the Buddha was talking about, every time he used this word.
According to the suttas the word ``Delusion'' (Moha) means to see
whatever arises as being a personal self (Atta). Or we can say
that ``Delusion'' (Moha) is seeing things through the false
(Deluded) idea of a self (Atta). In other words, one takes all
feelings or sensations to be a part of the "I", "Me", "Mine" (Atta)
Anytime one takes a feeling as being theirs personally, they have
the tendency to try and control it with their own personal (Atta)
thoughts, emotions, opinions, concepts, or ideas (Upadana or
Clinging). And this is a big cause of suffering (Dukkha)! Let us
quickly go back to the Five Aggregates (Pan~ca Khandha). Again they
are body (Contact), feeling, perception, formations (which includes
thoughts) and consciousness.
When a feeling (Vedana) arises (as described earlier) whether it
is a pleasant feeling or a painful feeling the natural tendency for
one's mind is to try to "think" the "feeling" and control it. In
this way, one begins to see those feelings and thoughts as being
theirs personally (Atta). This is a mind full of delusion (Moha).
Anytime one takes anything that arises as being personally theirs,
(Atta) instead of seeing that this is an impersonal process (Anatta)
to be let go of, there is delusion (Moha). Delusion of what?
Delusion that all thoughts and feelings are ours to take personally
(Atta) and then attempt to control them by sheer will-power. Which
the Buddha said is the cause of immense suffering (Dukkha).
So what is a meditator to do about this? The first thing that one
can do is see all of these thoughts, concepts and opinions as they
truly are. That is just thoughts, concepts and opinions that arose
because conditions were right for them to arise. Then to let them go
and relax the tightness or tension caused by that distraction. Next
the meditator will notice that there is a tight mental fist wrapped
around the feeling. This tight mental fist is aversion and craving.
The truth is when a feeling arises it is there (that is the Dhamma
of the present moment). Anytime one tries to fight with the truth,
anytime one tries to control the truth, anytime one tries to make
the truth be what they want it to be, that person is causing
themselves huge amounts of pain and suffering! The more they try to
control the truth with their thoughts the bigger and more intense
the suffering becomes.
It is like someone picks up a red hot piece of charcoal, they
say "OW! That's hot!", so then they start to squeeze that coal and
they "Say, boy! This is really painful!" and the more pain they feel
and try to think it away, the worse the pain becomes. What would you
do in this kind of a situation? Of course, you would open up your
hand and let the red hot piece of charcoal go! Whenever a meditator
has a feeling arise, it is very like picking up that hot coal and
they have the choice of what to do with it. They can either let it
go or not! When a meditator sees a tight mental fist wrapped around
a feeling they can let it go and allow that feeling to be there by
itself, then they can see clearly that there is a need to relax the
tightness caused by that feeling and then redirect their mind back
to the meditation object (the breath and relaxing on the in and out
When a meditator handles a painful feeling in this way, they will
begin to see that this is just a part of an impersonal process
(Anatta) to be observed and let go of, instead of an enemy to fight
with or try to control. Seeing this process as being impersonal
(Anatta) with an undeluded mind (Amoha) is what the Buddha teaches
us. If the meditator sees and takes the feeling personally (Atta)
they are said to be caught in the "Mire of Delusion".
Another word that we are all supposed to automatically know what
the meaning is, this word is ``Wisdom''. This word is often defined
by using the words ``To Be Wise''. In the Buddhist
teaching, ``Wisdom'', means that one sees and understands (in the
texts this is described as knowledge and vision [sampajjana])
exactly how the Four Noble Truths and the process of Dependent
Origination are yoked together, also how they arise and pass away
(Anicca). Anytime the words ``Wise Attention'' or ``Wisdom'' is seen
in the suttas they are referring to the understanding of the Four
Noble Truths and the process of Dependent Origination.
For example, in ``The Anupada Sutta'', that I referred to
earlier, the words used to describe Venerable Sariputta's experience
of attaining Nibbana are: "And his taints were destroyed by his
seeing with wisdom". The question that needs to be asked is ``seeing
what'' and ``how did he see it''? The answer is he saw, understood
and realized exactly how the Four Noble Truths occur by seeing the
impersonal (Anatta) process of Dependent Origination (Paticca
Only by seeing, understanding and realizing this did he finally
let go of all of the taints. So every time the words ``Wise
Attention'', or ``Wisdom'' show up in the suttas this is what these
words refer to. The phrase ``the taints are destroyed by seeing with
wisdom'' implies, that the way to experience Nibbana is through our
own understanding of how the Four Noble Truths and the process of
Dependent Origination occurs, in all situations. This is a very
important thing to realize!
Too many people think that attaining Nibbana is some mystical-
magical experience that occurs where all of a sudden "Bingo, I am
enlightened!" , but unfortunately it doesn't work this way.
Actually, the experience of Nibbana only comes through the deep
understanding and direct experience of the process mentioned above.
This is why when I talked about what ``Jhana States'' are and the
differences, I gave an example of one kind of jhana where mind was
fixed on only one thing versus the Samatha/Vipassana Jhana that is
used for exploring how the process of mind's attention actually
The definition of each ``Samatha/Vipassana Jhana meditation
stage'' is where one sees and understands the impersonal process
(anatta) of the way things really are. This is what was taught and
practiced by the Buddha. Each `Samatha/Vipassana Jhana stage'' is a
deeper level of the understanding of just how mind's attention
arises and shifts, that is how the Four Noble Truths and the "seeing
of this impersonal process (Anatta) of Dependent Origination"
(Paticca Samupada) is in everything that occurs.
Another word is ``Insight'' (Vipassana). This word has a surface
meaning which is ``seeing things as they truly are''. But according
to the Buddha's definition it goes much deeper than
that. ``Insight'' or understanding into what? Realizing the
impersonal nature and deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths
and ``HOW'' Dependent Origination actually occurs with everything
that arises (Anicca) in one's mind and body.
In other words, one gains a deeper and deeper understanding (in
each stage of Jhana) of the impersonal process of "HOW'' mind and
body arises through truly seeing and understanding (knowledge and
vision) of the Four Noble Truths interconnection with the ongoing
processes of Dependent Origination.
When one can see clearly these processes in all of existence,
they will experience an unshakable knowledge that this is the right
path to follow. Mind begins to see clearly that whatever arises
(Anicca) is a part of a definite process and this leads to a deep
understanding that everything going on is a part of an impersonal
pattern (anatta). These ``Insights'' can occur at anytime whether
one is sitting in meditation or doing their daily activities. They
are quite profound when they occur. ``Insights'' are like finding a
lost part to a puzzle and this is where the true "aha!" experiences
Here again is another word to look at. In Pali the word
is ``Samatha''. The meaning of ``Samatha'' is tranquility, serenity,
peacefulness, or stillness. And the common popular definition is a
strongly one-pointed type of concentration, absorption
concentration, or ecstatic concentration. This specific definition
of serenity or tranquility certainly implies a different type
of "collectedness" than the deeper types of absorption or
The goal of absorption or ecstatic concentration is to have mind
stay on only one thing as if it were glued to it (to the exclusion
of anything else), the ``Samatha Collectedness'' implies to have a
mind that is still, serene, and calm, but alert to whatever shifting
or moving mind does moment-to-moment. Of course Samatha/Vipassana
(which is the standard way it is described in the suttas) leads to
the total liberation of mind by seeing and recognizing how the 4
Noble Truths interact with Dependent Origination. Samatha/Vipassana
leads directly to the end-result of Nibbana and absorption or
ecstatic concentration does not, as the Bodhisatta found out first
Interviewer: Why do you choose to change the commonly used
word ``Concentration'', to ``Collectedness''?
Bhante V: I much prefer the word ``Collectedness'' to the
word ``Concentration''. Here in the West people take the
word ``Concentration'' to mean a kind of deep one-pointedness of
mind or an absorbed mind and this is not what the Buddha was trying
to get across. Before the time of the Buddha there were many words
that described deep absorption or one-pointedness of mind.
But the Buddha made up a new word "Samadhi" to describe a
completely different way of seeing and experiencing the Jhana. After
the Buddha's paranibbana, because this word was very popular, the
Brahmins of that time changed the definition of ``Samadhi'' back to
mean - ``strong one-pointedness''. But, the Buddha was showing that
there is a difference between a ``Collected Mind'' and a strongly
absorbed or ``Concentrated Mind''``.
The words ``Collected Mind''` (Samadhi) gives us the idea of a
mind that is composed, calm, still, and very alert. This kind of
mind observes whenever mind's attention shifts from one thing to
another. A ``Concentrated' mind", means that mind is stuck on one
thing to the exclusion of anything else that may try to arise.
A ``Concentrated' Mind'' by this definition loses full awareness
(Sampajjana) and mindfulness (Sati) of what is happening in the
present moment, because it is only seeing the one thing it is
pointing at. This statement also refers to "access or neighborhood
concentration" (Upacara Samadhi) and "moment-to-moment
concentration" (Khanika Samadhi). Why? The simple answer is, there
is no tranquilizing of mind and body before the meditator brings
their attention back to the object of meditation. Because of this,
there is no seeing of how the Four Noble Truths and Dependent
Origination actually work and how craving (tightness) is brought
back to the meditation object.
This is why when the teachers of straight ``Vipassana'' tell
their students that ``Absorption Concentration'' won't ever lead to
Nibbana, they are 100% correct. Any kind of practice which
divides ``Samatha Meditation'' and ``Vipassana Meditation'' into two
different practices, can't possibly lead one to Nibbana. Why?
Because mind has the need to be calm, composed, and clear, while it
is in a jhana, in order to see the interconnectedness of the 4 Noble
Truths and Dependent Origination, fully. This is why the practice of
straight vipassana has led to so much disappointment after so many
years of hard work for some students. The Buddha taught us to
practice ``Samatha/ Vipassana'' together and this is the difference
between commentary based meditation practices and the Sutta approach
The results of these two practices are different. One-
pointed ``Concentration'" is not the same kind of mental development
that the Buddha shows us. The Buddha taught us to tranquilize our
mind and body every time mind's attention shifts from one thing to
another. The ``Collected Mind'`` is not so deeply one-pointed that
the force of one's ``Concentration" causes mind to stay on one
object of meditation, even if that attention ``Concentrates'' on
The ``Collected Mind'' is able to observe how mind's attention
goes from one thing to another, very precisely. There is much more
full awareness of both mind and body here than with a
deeply ``Concentrated'' one- pointed mind or absorbed mind''. This
is why I choose to use the word ``Collected'' rather
than ``Concentrated''` mind. By using the word "Collected" there is
less confusion about the kind of meditation that the Buddha is
referring to and it is easier to understand the descriptions given
in the suttas.
Interviewer: Would you please talk about the importance of keeping
one's precepts, how hindrances arise and their connection to the
Interviewer: So do the precepts and hindrances directly effect your
Interviewer: How often should a person take their precepts?
Interviewer: So are the hindrances to be considered valuable in the
Interviewer: When the hindrances do arise what should the meditator
do to lessen their hold, so the meditator can progress in their
Interviewer: Is the actual Practice to learn to see HOW this works
and where to let go?
Interviewer: Is there a danger of attachment of this joy here?
Interviewer: Is what you are teaching a new method of teaching
For more information about meditation retreats and the Buddha's
Teachings according to the Suttas and Vinaya, please go to our
website at www.dhammasukha.org or contact Bhante Vimalaramsi at
Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center, RR1 Box 100, Annapolis, MO. 63620,
U.S.A. or write an email to [EMAIL PROTECTED] or
[EMAIL PROTECTED] May all beings always be happy and may you
attain Nibbana quickly and easily, in this very life!
MP3 Dhamma Talks By Ven Dhammavuddho Maha Thera
http://www.vbgnet.org Vihara Buddha Gotama
KUCHING DHAMMA TOUR
- The recorded Dhamma Talks (and Q & As too) are hereby
reproduced for both days (27~28 May) ....
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