These interview in full length can be download at  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 
the Dhamma? 


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 
at ............................................................ . 



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 
really is. 


   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 
his teaching. 


   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 
ecstatic ``concentration''. 


   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 
to meditation. 


   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 
something momentarily.


   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 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  Vihara Buddha Gotama




-         The recorded Dhamma Talks (and Q & As too) are hereby 
reproduced for both days (27~28 May) .... 

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> 
Great things are happening at Yahoo! Groups.  See the new email design.

Current Book Discussion: any Zen book that you recently have read or are 
reading! Talk about it today! 
Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

Reply via email to