What a talk

Samana Johann

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(currently in) Cambodia
May person thought of introducing a thread which should be dedicated for talk which are usefull to correct common misunderstandings.

If possible, maybe there is also a will from the moderators here, to sacrify some effort, please don't lead specific discussions here. When ever there arises the feeling to talk about a certain matter, it would be good to open a new topic, sharing a link to the targed of attention here.

Since all of them are gifts of Dhamma, not dedicated to be sold or used to gain something from them, my person needs to say that he assuses that such will not be done and is in that way welcome here. Otherwise, is the conditions of given content are otherwise, it proper to delete them, since they are not given for such.
Aside of this, you may share and reproduce all of them where and in what kind of format you may wish for all you good undertakings. Just put a link to any of the sources of origin. Details you may find on the source page.

If posting a story, its good when you prove if your "gift" carries the same conditions of generosity.

Much joy with the topic.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/justicevsskill_en.html said:
Justice vs. Skillfulness
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

d 2017
Alternate format:

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

Eveningtalk given at Wat Metta, July 31st 2016.

When we develop the brahamaviharas—attitudes of goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity—we try to make them unlimited. In other words, we develop goodwill for all beings, compassion for all, empathetic joy for all, and we have to learn how to apply thoughts of equanimity to all when necessary.

The problem is that although our attitudes may be unlimited, our resources for actually helping people and improving the world are not. This is why we need a clear set of priorities as to what can we do, what we cannot do, what things are worth doing, worth improving, what things are not—because if you spread yourself too thin, you end up not accomplishing much at all. Or, if you focus on solving the wrong problems, you end up regretting it later.

For example, sometimes we’re told that the Buddha’s main purpose in teaching was to put an end to all suffering. Well, yes, but his approach to accomplishing that end was very specific. Instead of running around trying to right all the sufferings caused by the injustices of the world, he focused on one type of suffering: the suffering we each cause ourselves, through our own craving, through our own clinging, through our own ignorance. When we put an end to that suffering, we don’t suffer from anything outside at all. But the problem has to be solved from within, which is why he never said that the whole world, or half the world, or whatever, would put an end to suffering. He simply taught the way. It’s up to each of us to follow it. And none of us can follow it for anyone else.

As for the suffering that comes from the three characteristics, that’s something that can’t be stopped. Those characteristics are still going to keep on manifesting themselves in the world. The question is: Do you have to suffer from them, does your mind have to suffer from them? And the answer is No.

So the focus is specifically on how the way you engage with the world is causing suffering through your engagement, through clinging and craving and ignorance. So that’s what we work on as we meditate.

As for helping other people, that’s a matter of generosity. The Buddha set out duties only in terms of the four noble truths. As for the issue of helping other people, he didn’t place a duty on anyone. He pointed out the advantages of being generous, but he didn’t try to force anyone in that direction. He simply pointed out that certain things are skillful and certain things are unskillful in your engagement with other people, and it’s up to you to choose.

And it’s important to note that the main emphasis is on what’s skillful and not. This is indicated in the set of questions that the Buddha says lies at beginning of discernment: What when I do it will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness, what is skillful, what is blameless? That’s the question on the positive side. Then on the negative side: What when I do it will lead to my long-term harm and suffering, what is unskillful, what is blameworthy?

Notice the terms of the questions. There’s never a question of what is justice. The question is, what is skillful. When you look at the world around you, you see a lot of injustices. You see a lot of mistreatment of people and animals. But are we going to deal with it primarily as an issue of injustice or as an instance something that’s unskillful?

Our idea of justice is based on the idea that there’s a beginning point to a story. From that point, you figure out who did what first, and then who did what second, and then at the end of the story you figure out how things should be apportioned in terms of guilt or lack of guilt, based on which actions were justified by what went before and which ones weren’t, so as to bring things into a proper balance.

But in the Buddha’s vision of time, there’s no beginning. As he said, you could trace back, back and back and back, and not find a coneivable beginning. The beginning point, he said, was inconceivable. Not just unknowable, inconceivable. You can’t even think it. And we’ve been through the ups and downs of time so many times, through so many universes, that, as he said, it’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t been your mother or your father or your brother or your sister or your son or your daughter in all that time. The stories are very long. So if you’re going to start apportioning blame and trying bring things into balance, where do you start?

There’s a famous story concerning Somdet Toh. A young monk once came to him to complain that another monk had hit him, and Somdet Toh said, “Well, you hit him first.” The monk replied, “No, no, he just came up and hit me over the head and I hadn’t done anything at all.” Somdet Toh said, “No, you hit him first.”Back and forth like this for a while and then the young monk got upset and went to see another senior monk to complain about Somdet Toh. So the other senior monk came and asked Somdet Toh what was up, and Somdet Toh said, “Well obviously it’s his karma from some previous lifetime. He had hit the other monk first at some point in time.” And of course that might have been after the other monk had hit the first monk first—so it goes back and forth, back and forth like this.

So when you see mistreatment around you, the first question isn’t “Is this just or unjust?” The question is, is the person dishing out the mistreatment behaving in a skillful way or unskillful way, and what can I do behaving skillfully to put a stop to unskillful behavior?

Now there’s some unskillful behavior you can stop and other unskillful behavior that you can’t. The kinds you can’t stop are where someone’s karma—your own or others’—gets in the way. But the basic question is this: When is it skillful to interfere, when is it skillful to get involved, and what kind of interference would be skillful? Sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes it’s not. If you have the energy and the wherewithal and it’s not too dangerous, you try to help. Then, if you see that it’s not working, you pull back.

But a lot of this also has to do with your priorities. There are some unskillful things happening in the world that really are worth banding together with other people, getting your energies together, and seeing if you can put a stop to those things. But you have to do it in a skillful way.

There’s never a case in the Dhamma where good ends justify unskillful means. The means have to be good—in fact it’s all means. After all, where would you put the ends? You settle one issue and there’s another issue. You settle that issue, then everyone dies, they get reborn, and things start up again. We don’t have the closure of a final judgment.

The only real closure in the Buddha’s teachings is nibbāna, and that’s a closure that each of us has to find within ourselves. We’re not going to find closure out in the world, because the world just keeps on going around and around and around. Even at the beginning of each cycle in the universe, there’s not just one beginning. The Buddha has several ways of describing how the universe starts to evolve. There’s no one person behind the evolution, no one plan behind the evolution. There are just lots of individuals with lots of plans, and they’re driven mainly by craving and ignorance. And that’s what keeps the whole thing going.

As long as you’re trying to straighten things out outside, your attempts are dealing in craving and ignorance. Sometimes it’s other people’s craving and ignorance, sometimes it’s yours. Your ideas of a just resolution, their ideas of a just resolution, contain a lot of ignorance. In fact, most of the problems of the world come when people’s ideas of justice conflict. So you have to be very careful around this issue.

This is why we work on the mind, because only in the mind can closure come. Meanwhile, the main question is not an issue of justice or injustice. The issue is, is this particualar action I’m contemplating doing skillful or unskillful?

The Buddha never tries to justify, say, oppression by saying that the oppressed people deserved it. The word “deserve” also doesn’t appear in the Buddha’s teachings, aside that the statement that arahants are deserving of offerings. In fact, that’s what “arahant” means.

Until we reach that point, there are simply skillful actions with good results and unskillful actions with bad results, and we all have a big mix of both. So when you see somebody suffering, you don’t know which part of their mix is showing, and how much good stuff, say, is not showing. The part that’s not showing is what gives the potential for you to help them.

In other cases, it’s clear that you can’t help, like the squirrel I saw yesterday. Something was obviously wrong with one of its legs—or maybe two of its legs—but the closer I got to it to see what was wrong, the more it tried to struggle and struggle to get away. I realized that my concern was causing it a lot of suffering. So I backed off.

That’s the kind of situation where you can’t help. But other situations are not quite so easy to see. The important thing is to remember the categories. It’s not about ends. It’s about means. It’s not about just or unjust ends. It’s about skillful or unskillful means. When there’s unskillful behavior outside, at the very least you don’t condone it.

You don’t encourage people to engage in that behavior. And if you can think up some skillful way to stop it, you try. But your primary responsibility is what you’re genuinely responsible for, i.e., your own choices, what you do and what you choose to tell other people to do. Make sure that those choices are skillful. If everybody looked after this one issue, the world would settle down. Our problem is we’re trying to straighten everybody else out without straightening ourselves out first.

This is why we develop equanimity in addition to goodwill, because there are cases where, because of karmic obstacles, past or present, we can’t help. After all, for people to be happy they have to create the causes for happiness.

You can help them by encouraging them to be skillful, but the choice of whether or not to follow your advice and example is theirs. As for the unclear cases where you’re not sure whether you can help, you have to keep your priorities straight. What are the most important things for you to do? Where do you want to focus your energies to make a difference in the world? In other words, where do you want to choose to be generous?

As the Buddha said with generosity, there are no shoulds. He simply recommended that you give where you feel inspired, where you feel the gift would be well-used. That applies not only to material gifts but also to gifts of your time, gifts of your energy to improve things in the world. It’s up to you to decide where you want to make your mark, who you want to help, realizing that once you’ve chosen that, there are other things you’re going to have to put aside. If your energies get too scattered, the Thai phrase is that you take a container of pepper sauce and pour it into the sea. There’ s so much water in the sea that the pepper sauce makes no difference at all.

So this is why we have to practice equanimity. We have goodwill for all but we have to realize that we can be helpful only in certain circumstances and you have to be very careful about when your efforts at help are skillful and when they’re not. Make sure that those are the terms of your analysis. Once you keep that point straight in your mind, then it clears up a lot of other difficulties.

Now, our society doesn’t think in these ways. Most people think in the terms of a story with a beginning and an end, where it’s clear to them who’s right and who’s wrong. We argue over the details—that’s why there’s so much conflict—but everybody seems to have the idea that there’s a beginning point and an end point and a plan to all this—and that there’s somebody up there who’s got an idea about a just way to arrange things, and assigns us duties. But that’s not in the Buddha’s universe at all. There’s no clear end, no clear beginning, and there’s no one in charge. As that passage goes on to say, the world is swept away. You just want to make sure you don’t get swept away with it. Try to be clear about what you’re doing, clear about doing it skillfully.

That’s how you come to closure. That’s how you get out.This is what the practice is all about, getting out. We try to leave some good things behind as we get out—in fact you can’t get out without leaving some good things behind—but sometimes the best gift you can give to other people is simply to show them there is a way out that they can follow, too.

Try to keep that way open as much as you can through being skillful in your thoughts and your words and your deeds. Look at the Buddha: He gave the greatest gift of all. He gave us the Dhamma, showed us the path, and then he left. Now it’s up to us to give that gift to ourselves and to the people around us as best we can.
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http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/bettertogive_en.html said:
Better to Give than to Consume
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2011-2015
Alternate format:

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
In the Novice’s Questions, the most interesting question is the very first: What is one? And the answer is: All beings subsist on food. This is what defines us as beings: the fact that we need food to maintain our existence. And for most of us that’s pretty much all our lives. What we consume is the big issue.

Years back, there was a TV series, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and they didn’t show any rich and famous people making their own things or showing off things that they had produced themselves. It was all about what they had bought, what they were consuming. Our culture is obsessed with consuming. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a couple sitting in a living room, talking to some friends, and the husband is saying, "Of course, it’s had its ups and downs, but by and large Margaret and I have found the consumer experience to be a rewarding one."

That’s the attitude many of us bring when we come to the Dhamma. We’re used to consuming not only things but also experiences. There’s a huge industry - the experience industry - where they’ll create experiences for you to buy. Remember back a while when they advertized the Ford experience? They weren’t selling you Fords; they were selling you the experience of having a Ford. Park rangers talked about maintaining the Yosemite experience or the Zion experience for people to come and consume. So it’s understandable that when people come to the meditation, they think of the meditation experience as something they can consume as well. We want the bliss; we want the pleasure, the sense of freedom that we’ve heard that will come from mindfulness and concentration. But in order to consume those things, we first have to produce them.

This is why, when the Buddha starts his teachings on the most basic levels, he starts with generosity. It’s the first of the perfections, the first of his teachings in the gradual discourse, when he’s leading people step-by-step up to the four noble truths. He starts with generosity and then moves on to virtue, the rewards of virtue in heaven, then the drawbacks of those rewards, and then finally the value of renunciation. Once the mind can see that renunciation would be a good thing, then it’s ready for the four noble truths. In many ways, renunciation is a continuation of the principle of generosity. You learn that you have to give something away or give it up in order to get something of greater value in return. So instead of encouraging us to come to the meditation as consumers, the Buddha encourages us to come as givers. What are you going to give to the practice?

Some of the famous Ajaans in Thailand talk about how the practice is one thing clear through. In other words, it starts with one principle and just works out the implications of that principle all the way through to the end. And the one thing is this principle of giving. This is what raises us up beyond and above the level of just being beings that have to consume and feed. Remember, the arahant is someone who is no longer defined by any desire and so is no longer defined as a being. Because arahants have fully comprehended food, their path can’t be traced. Even their consuming of food is a gift. Those who give to the arahant get rewarded many times over. That’s why the arahant is the only person who can eat the alms of the countryside and not incur a debt.

So the practice is one of giving from the very beginning. All too often we encounter talks about dana as thinly disguised requests for money, which is why some people have a real aversion to the topic. But the Buddha had an etiquette around this. There’s a story in the Canon of some monks who were building huts. T hey started getting into a contest with one another as to who could build the nicest hut. They were constantly asking for materials and workmen, and the householders were getting harassed with all the begging and requests. When they’d see a monk, they’d turn away, run away, close the door. As the story says, sometimes in the evening they might see a cow coming in the distance and, assuming that it was a monk, they’d run away. Things got that bad.

So the Buddha called the monks together and gave them a series of stories about how people don’t like to be begged from. One story told of two hermits, an older brother and a younger brother, living near a river. A naga, a very beautiful naga, would come up out of the river every day and just show itself to the younger brother. This frightened the younger brother, as he had no idea what the naga’s intentions were, and who knows what the naga might try to do to him. So he went to the older brother and asked him, "What can I do to keep this naga from coming?" So the older brother said, "Does the naga have anything of value?" The younger brother said, "Yes, he’s got a beautiful jewel on his chest." So the older brother said, "Well, the next time you see the naga, ask for the jewel."

So the next day the naga came and as the naga was in front of the younger hermit, the hermit asked for the jewel. So the naga went away. The following day, as the naga was halfway up from the river to the hermit’s cave, the hermit asked for the jewel. So the naga went away. And the third day, as soon as the naga came out of the river, the younger hermit asked for the jewel, and the naga said, "Okay, enough. I’m not coming back. You’re asking for too much." And then of course, after the naga stopped coming back, the younger brother missed him. It was kind of cool seeing a naga in your meditation like that. But by that time he’d driven him away.

So when generosity is presented as part of a begging talk - that’s what those "dana talks" are; they’re begging talks - it’s not really welcome. As a result, we miss the meaning of generosity, and we miss a lot of the other aspects of the practice, too, because the practice has to start with generosity. Generosity is not just a matter of giving things. You learn how to give of your time, to give of your energy, to give of your knowledge, and in doing so you’re changing your whole relationship to the world around you. You’re not just a being who’s eating and eating and consuming things and experiences. You’re finding that you’ve got things inside that you can share, things you can give, and there’s a sense of wealth that comes with that. If all you’re thinking about is consuming - "What can I get out of this? What can I get out of that?" - you’re poor. No matter how much you have, you’re poor - because there’s always a big lack. But if you come to every situation with the question, "What can I give?" you’re coming from a position of wealth. And you find that you do have reserves of energy and knowledge that you can share, and in sharing you gain a lot in return, a lot with more value.

Both generosity and renunciation are forms of trade. There’s a passage where a monk says, "I will trade what dies for the deathless. I’ll trade what is limited for unbinding." You’re trading up. You can’t get the better thing without giving up the lesser thing. When you understand that, you realize that whatever you’re doing in the practice, you want to come with the attitude of What Can I Give. If you don’t have material things to give, how about your time? How about your energy, your knowledge, your skills? When you’re dealing with other people, the question is not so much, "How much are they entertaining me?" or "What can I get out of them?" It’s: "What can I give? What can I give to the situation?" There are times, for instance, when there’s a lot of tension in the room. Can you give some peace? Can you give some humor? Something to make it better.

Virtue is also a gift. As the Buddha said, when you make up your mind not to harm anyone under any circumstances - no killing, no stealing, no illicit sex, no lying, no taking of intoxicants - you’re giving limitless protection to all beings. In other words, at the very least, from your quarter, they have nothing to fear. As you give them limitless protection, you gain a share in that limitless protection as well. So virtue, too, is a gift.

Meditation is a gift. You have to give your energy, you have to give your attention, to develop your mindfulness. When you’re focused on the breath, it’s good not to hold anything back. Just think of yourself plunging into the breath and the body, totally. The reward is that you develop an all-around experience of ease and refreshment. If part of you is pulled back, there’s a part of you that’s not sharing in this, that’s not gaining anything of real value.

So try to come to the practice with the attitude that it’s all about giving. Ultimately, you’ll be giving up your greed, aversion, and delusion, giving up even your sense of self or your many senses of self. First you give up your unskillful selves as you develop the skillful ones, but then after you’ve worked so hard on developing the skillful ones, the Buddha said you’ve got to give those up, too, for the sake of your long-term welfare and happiness. There’s a reward that comes from not hanging on.

You’re always trading up - but you can’t trade up unless you start giving to begin with. Otherwise, if you’re just in consuming mode, you’re living off your old goodness.

One of the Buddha’s foremost disciples was a woman Visakha, whose nickname was Migara’s mother. It wasn’t because she had a son named Migara. Her father was named Migara. The reason she was called his mother was because she saw that he was just living off his old merit. He was just in consuming mode all the time, and she made him realize this. She’d learned the Dhamma from the Buddha and so she taught him, "You’re just living off all your old merit and if you don’t create any new goodness, you’re going to run out." T hat was the teaching that convinced him to change his ways. Because she was his teacher, she was called his mother. She had given him the gift of Dhamma.

So remember, we’re here to go beyond ourselves, to go beyond just being beings that are consuming all the time. We try to redefine ourselves, not by what we eat or what we own or what we consume, but by what we produce, what we can give. Making this switch in the mind changes everything. Difficult patches come up in the meditation and you ask yourself not, "Why is this so bad? Does this mean I’m a miserable meditator?" You say, "No, what can I give to this situation so that it doesn’t snowball? What resources do I still have? What can I draw on to give to the situation to turn it into a different kind of situation?" When things are going well, again, what do you give to make sure that they continue to go well? You don’t just sit there slurping up the pleasure and the rapture. You look after them. You give your energy to protect them - so that as you get more and more into the giving mood, when you finally do have your taste of the deathless, instead of trying to grab onto it or hold onto it, which places a separation between you and the experience, you give up any clinging you might have around it. That’s how you reach the deathless.

So in giving up you’re not being left adrift. You’re giving up things of lesser value for things of greater value. But remember the only way you can trade up is to be willing to give something in the first place. Otherwise there’s no exchange.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/adultdhamma_en.html said:
Adult Dhamma vs. Special Dhamma
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2015
Alternate format:

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
I was reading a review of short-story collection recently, and the reviewer was noting that although the author wasn’t experimental in the way she structured her stories, she was revolutionary or radical in that she treated her characters like adults, and her readers like adults. Unfortunately, that’s pretty rare.

The same observation applies to the different religions of the world.

The Buddha is one of the few religious leaders who actually treated his followers like adults. There’s very little in his teachings to baby you or to please your defilements or pander to your desires.They point to the fact that there is a really important problem in life and that, if we train ourselves to be responsible, we are capable of solving it. That problem, of course, is the suffering that the mind creates. And the solution is a skill. It requires a lot. You have to sort out a lot of things inside yourself and shed a lot of your childish expectations.

So the question is, do you want to be an adult? If you do, this is what you have to do. Look at yourself very carefully. Sort things out inside. Accept the fact that there is a right path and a wrong path,and you’re responsible for making the right choice.

This point was driven home for me recently by something else I was reading. A modern Dhamma teacher was talking about how important it is to have a sense of flexibility on the spiritual path, saying that there are many, many different ways of getting to the goal, there’s no one right way, and none of the ways, he said, are actually wrong. So you have to learn how to adjust and play with your practice.

Now, even though it is true that there’s an element of play in the practice, it’s not true that there are lots and lots of right paths up to the top of the mountain. If you’ve ever been on a mountain, you’ve probably noticed that some paths go to the top, some go other places, some of them lead you over the edge of a cliff.

It’s the same with the rivers in the world: They don’t all flow into the ocean. Some of them flow into the Great Basin, some into Lake Eyre in the middle of Australia. They just disappear into the sand.

Two things were especially disturbing about this particular teacher’s observation that all paths are correct and that we have to be mature enough and have a broad enough vision to embrace the mall. The first was his saying that the path is basically a matter of learning to embrace our sufferings together with our pleasures in the world, to realize that you can’t have the pleasures without the sufferings—which is pretty much saying that there is no real end to suffering.

The other disturbing point was that he illustrated his principle with a story about a high school basketball coach who’d been hired to coach a team of specially handicapped kids. Originally, the coach had had all kinds of plans for how he was going to whip the kids into shape in spite of their handicaps. But in the first day’s session, he realized that he was going to have to scrap his plans. It took him 45minutes just to get the kids to line up on one side of the room, facing in the same direction. This made him come to the conclusion that they were not there to win; they were there to have a good time. So he fostered an environment in which they had a good time. Everybody got hot dogs; everybody got prizes; you could stop the game at any time to dance. You could push the score button any time you felt like it. There was one game in which one kid really got into pushing the score button, and they ended up with a million points.

On the surface it’s a nice story. But when you think about it a bit, it’s pretty disturbing. This is spiritual practice? Throwing out the rules, giving prizes to everybody? To say nothing as to whether the coach’s treatment of the kids was really the most skillful thing he could do for them, there’s still the question of what the Dhamma teacher was saying about the basic spiritual problem when he used this story as a parable for spiritual practice.

If suffering weren’t a real problem, and there weren’t a real solution to it, then maybe the compassionate thing would be not to place burdens on people, not to set high standards for them, not to try to force them to develop any special skills. Or even to tell them that they should or could develop special skills. But the thing is, suffering really is a problem. It really squeezes the heart, and keeps on squeezing.

That, in fact, was Ajaan Maha Boowa’s definition of stress: what ever puts a squeeze on the heart. It forces its demands on you. So if there’s a path to put an end to those demands, to free the heart from those demands, then regardless of what it requires or how stringent it might be or how much effort it takes, to encourage people to take that path and to see it as the path, is actually an act of compassion.

Now, the idea that anything goes in spiritual life actually dates back to the Romantics. Their idea was that you’re trying to embrace the whole world, the infinitude of the world, and that that requires you to step back and look at yourself from an infinite perspective. From that perspective, you realize that whatever you might think, no matter how sincerely you might think it, can be only one possibility among all the infinite possibilities in the world. This is supposed to open you up to being more creative in your expression of your spiritual feelings and not be bound by things that you or anyone else has expressed in the past.

Religious truths, for them, were simply works of art, expressive art, expressing your feelings on the subject of infinity. And as when you’re making any new work of art, you don’t have to be consistent with the works of art you did before. After all, you’re not expected to give a true description of infinity, because no finite being can do such a thing. The only truth that’s asked of you is that you’re true in how you express your feelings about infinity as you feel them right now.

It all sounds very large minded: an art expressing infinity. And because it’s art, it sounds like it’s something higher than a craft. But what the Buddha taught was a craft. Instead of trying to be an artist, he took on the role of a master craftsman. He had mastered this skill and he wanted to pass it on to us. It’s a very focused skill, focusing in on your mind and seeing what in the mind causes you to create suffering.

It’s also a battle. There’s winning and losing. There’s doing the skill well and there’s doing it poorly.

Now, there’s a frame of mind that thinks that this sort of dualistic thinking is narrow. A craft focused on the issue of suffering sounds less exalted than an art focused on infinity. But when you look at the results, you realize, in this case, that the craft is better than the art.

Instead of leaving you tow allow around in the expression of your feelings, it actually accomplishes something. It takes you out of suffering entirely, to a dimension beyond the world. And it honors you by saying that you’re capable of doing this.

So, the Buddha’s not handing out hot dogs to everybody. But he is doing something much better, something much more compassionate: treating us like adults—and asking us, do we want to be adults too? If we do, this is how we do it. And even though it’s “just a craft” and not a creative, expressive art, it takes us a lot further than just learning to be expressive. And the results are a lot larger, more encompassing, and far more worthwhile.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/fearofothers_en.html said:
Fear of others
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2011-2015
Alternate format:
- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
Years back, a woman brought a friend of hers to meditate here. The friend had never meditated before. And at the end of the hour, she turned to the woman who brought her here and said, »I've never suffered so much in my life.« Which just goes to show that the mind can create a lot of suffering for itself. In fact, as the Buddha pointed out, it's the suffering we create for ourselves that really weighs down the mind, much more than the suffering that comes from outside, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations from other people. And the fears we have are often misdirected. The Buddha never says that fear is in and of itself unskillful. Many times, I've had some psychotherapists ask me about this, »Why doesn't the Buddha list fear as one of the roots for unskillful behavior?« And it's because there are some things that are actually worthy of fear. The fear becomes unskillful when it's tied up in greed, aversion, delusion. And that's the kind of fear you want to get past. The fear that comes from knowing that your mind has unskillful habits, and that conditions could come about where those unskillful habits take over: that's something to be feared.

You want to train your mind so that it is not influenced into doing unskillful things by any kind of conditions. And until the mind has reached that point, you've got something to fear. So the important thing as we practice is learning which fears are useless, and which fears are useful.

Particularly fears of other people's opinions. Other people can hurt you, yes. And we see so much of it in the world, people are harming one another all the time. But you can't let that potential dissuade you from doing what you know is right. That kind of fear, the Buddha says, is a cause of what they call »agati,« something that takes you off course. There are four kinds of agati altogether. You go off course because of things you desire, you want a reward of some kind from somebody, or you want a certain kind of pleasure that you think is going to come from doing something unskillful, so that desire pulls you off. Then there's agati that comes from aversion. When you're not willing to do something simply because you just don't like it, even though it may be the right thing to do, you don't like it, and that gets in the way. There's agati that comes from delusion, when you simply don't know what's the right and the wrong thing to do. And finally, there's agati that comes from fear.

These are all biases, and the word agati basically means »that takes you to a bad destination, takes you off course.« So you have to look at the fears that take you off course. The fears that someone will not like you or someone will punish you for doing something that you know is right, or that someone will create difficulties for you. You have to learn to be impervious to that. The fact that some people may not like you – well, as Ajahn Fuang once said, it's the people who like you that you are most beholden to. As he once said, if people hate you, then you can come and go as you like, you don't have to ask their permission, you don't have to be worried about what they're going to do while you're away. So there are times when you know the right thing to do is going to displease other people and there's no way around it. You have to be willing to put up with that, put up with their displeasure. If there are ways that you can smoothe things over, so much the better. But there come times when you can't. We have to stand up for what's right. And in that case, you can't let conflict or the fear of conflict dissuade you. I think I told you about the time when I gave my first Dharma talk. Ajahn Fuang said, »Imagine that you have a sword in your hand. Anybody out there in the audience who doesn't like what you have to say, you just cut off their head.« It's a shocking image, but it was effective. It made me reflect back on how much my own fears were actually the problem. Who knows what those other people were thinking? But it was my anticipation that they might not like it, or that they might disapprove, or that they may look down on me, or whatever, that was getting in the way. And that kind of fear is an agati: something that pulls you off course. If people are kind enough to tell you that you've done something wrong, or even if they let you know in not such a kind way that you've done something wrong, at least then you can look at it and see: well, was that wrong or was that not.

But these floating nameless fears that they just may not like you, or they may do something that is confrontational: you have to realize you're hobbling yourself with those fears. And those are the kind of fears you want to get over. You have to learn how to look past them. Well, what exactly would be so horrible about their disliking you, or their looking down on you? Which part of the mind is injured? Well, learn how not to identify with that part of the mind. Which part of the mind feels threatened? Again, learn how not to identify with it. That's the Buddha's prime tactic in learning how not to suffer: anything that is subject to harm leaves you open to danger, leaves you open to suffering. Why identify with it? And if you can think in this way, you'll find yourself shedding all kinds of unskillful forms of pride, and the pride that masks as an extreme shame. A lot of unskillful things hide around these things that we're afraid of. These things where we feel threatened. And so it's good to look into those.

This is why we meditate: to give ourselves a good, solid position inside so we can look at these other things that we've identified with for so long, habits, fears, the things that can pull us off course. All four of these things are desires that are unskillful, our aversions, our delusions, our unskillful fears. So this is where the real dangers lie: these habits we have. These are the real things that you should fear, and fortunately, there's something you can do about them, you're not stuck with them. You've been carrying them around, but you don't have to keep carrying them around.

Sometimes it takes time to learn how to let go and to live with the fact that there are people out there who will never like you no matter what, no matter how well you behave, no matter how intelligent you are, no matter how much you do for the world, there are going to be people who dislike you for some reason, some old karmic thing, or they themselves don't like living in the world where they feel threatened by someone else doing better than they did. So there are all kinds of reasons that people would decide that they would dislike you or wish you harm. You can't let that stop you. The Buddha himself was cursed by people. As Ajahn Lee once said, people can curse you and their mouths can open a whole yard, but they never actually reach you. You're the one who is pulling in their criticism. And that refers to the words they actually say to you. And here we are afraid of what other people will think! We are the ones who are stabbing ourselves with this. So that's the habit you want to fear, and that's the habit you can learn to let go of. And fortunately, because it is something you are doing yourself, you also have the power not to do it. So try to sort through your fears and see which ones are actually useful and which ones are hobbling you from doing the skillful thing. And to realize that you're hobbling yourself. You can take off those shackles and walk with a lighter step.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/faithinawakening_en.html said:
Faith In Awakening
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2006-2014
Alternate format:
A printed copy is included in the book Purity of Heart.
- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone's faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one's faith, this is one of Buddhism's most attractive features. We read his famous instructions to the Kalamas, in which he advises testing things for oneself, and we see it as an invitation to believe, or not, whatever we like. Some people go so far as to say that faith has no place in the Buddhist tradition, that the proper Buddhist attitude is one of skepticism.

But even though the Buddha recommends tolerance and a healthy skepticism toward matters of faith, he also makes a conditional request about faith: If you sincerely want to put an end to suffering — that's the condition — you should take certain things on faith, as working hypotheses, and then test them through following his path of practice.

There's a hint of this need for faith even in the discourse to the Kalamas:

"Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These mental qualities are skillful; these mental qualities are blameless; these mental qualities are praised by the wise; these mental qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them."​

AN 3.65

The first few phrases in this passage, refuting the authority of scripture and tradition, are so strikingly empirical that it's easy to miss the phrase buried further on, asserting that you have to take into account what's praised by the wise. That phrase is important, for it helps to make sense of the Buddha's teachings as a whole. If he had simply wanted you to trust your own unaided sense of right and wrong, why would he have left so many other teachings?

So the Buddha's advice to the Kalamas is balanced: Just as you shouldn't give unreserved trust to outside authority, you can't give unreserved trust to your own logic and feelings if they go against the genuine wisdom of others. As other early discourses make clear, wise people can be recognized by their words and behavior, but the standards for wisdom are clearly measured against the Buddha and his noble disciples, people who've already touched awakening. And the proper attitude toward those who meet these standards is faith.

"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I'... For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this: 'Gladly would I let the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if I have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing my persistence.'"​

MN 70

Repeatedly the Buddha stated that faith in a teacher is what leads you to learn from that teacher. Faith in the Buddha's own Awakening is a requisite strength for anyone else who wants to attain Awakening. As it fosters persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, this faith can take you all the way to the deathless.

So there's a tension in the Buddha's recommendations about faith and empiricism. I've discussed this point with many Asian Buddhists, and few of them find the tension uncomfortable. But Western Buddhists, raised in a culture where religion and faith have long been at war with science and empiricism, find the tension very disconcerting. In discussing the issue with them over the past several years, I've noticed that they often try to resolve it in the same ways that, historically, the tension between Christian faith and scientific empiricism has been resolved in our own culture. Three general positions stand out, not only because they are the most common but also because they are so clearly Western. Consciously or not, they attempt to understand the Buddha's position on faith and empiricism in a way that can be easily mapped onto the modern Western battle lines between religion and science.

The first interpretation has its roots in the side of Western culture that totally rejects the legitimacy of faith. In this view, the Buddha was an embodiment of the Victorian ideal of the heroic agnostic, one who eschewed the childish consolations of faith and instead advocated a purely scientific method for training and strengthening one's own mind. Because his method focused entirely on the present moment, questions of past and future were totally irrelevant to his message. Thus any references to faith in such issues as past karma, future rebirth, or an unconditioned happiness separate from the immediate input of the senses are later interpolations in the texts, which Buddhist agnostics, following the Buddha's example, should do their best to reject.

The second interpretation has roots in the side of Western culture that has rejected either the specifics of Christian faith or the authority of any organized religion, but has appreciated the emotion of faith as an essential requirement for mental health. This view presents the Buddha as a Romantic hero who appreciated the subjective value of faith in establishing a sense of wholeness within and interconnectedness without. Tolerant and opposed to dogmatism, he saw the psychological fact of a living faith as more important than its object. In other words, it doesn't matter where faith is directed, as long as it's deeply felt and personally nourishing. Faith in the Buddha's Awakening means simply believing that he found what worked for himself. This carries no implications for what will work for you. If you find the teaching on karma and rebirth comforting, fine: Believe it. If not, don't. If you want to include an all-powerful God or a Goddess in your worldview, the Buddha wouldn't object. What's important is that you relate to your faith in a way that's emotionally healing, nourishing, and empowering.

Because this second interpretation tends to be all-embracing, it sometimes leads to a third one that encompasses the first two. This interpretation presents the Buddha as trapped in his historical situation. Much like us, he was faced with the issue of finding a meaningful life in light of the worldview of his day. His views on karma and rebirth were simply assumptions picked up from the crude science of ancient India, while his path of practice was an attempt to negotiate a satisfying life within those assumptions. If he were alive today, he would try to reconcile his values with the discoveries of modern science, in the same way that some Westerners have done with their faith in monotheism.

The underlying assumption of this position is that science is concerned with facts, religion with values. Science provides the hard data to which religion should provide meaning. Thus each Buddhist would be performing the work of a Buddha by accepting the hard facts that have been scientifically proven for our generation and then searching the Buddhist tradition — as well as other traditions, where appropriate — for myths and values to give meaning to those facts, and in the process forging a new Buddhism for our times.

Each of these three interpretations may make eminent sense from a Western point of view, but none of them do justice to what we know of the Buddha or of his teaching on the role of faith and empiricism on the path. All three are correct in emphasizing the Buddha's unwillingness to force his teachings on other people, but — by forcing our own assumptions onto his teachings and actions — they misread what that unwillingness means. He wasn't an agnostic; he had strong reasons for declaring some ideas as worthy of faith and others as not; and his teachings on karma, rebirth, and nirvana broke radically with the dominant worldview of his time. He was neither a Victorian nor a Romantic hero, nor was he a victim of his times. He was a hero who, among other things, mastered the issue of faith and empiricism in his own way. But to appreciate that way, we first have to step back from the Western cultural battlefield and look at faith and empiricism in a more basic context, simply as processes within the individual mind.

There, they play their major roles in the psychology of how we decide to act. Although we like to think that we base our decisions on hard facts, we actually use both faith and empiricism in every decision we make. Even in our most empirically based decisions, our vision is hampered by our position in time. As Kierkegaard noted, we live forwards but understand backwards. Any hard-headed business entrepreneur will tell you that the future has to be taken on faith, no matter how much we know of the past. What's more, we're often forced into decisions where there's no time or opportunity to gather enough past facts for an informed choice. At other times we have too many facts — as when a doctor is faced with many conflicting tests on a patient's condition — and we have to go on faith in deciding which facts to focus on and which ones to ignore.

However, faith also plays a deeper role in many of our decisions. As William James once observed, there are two kinds of truths in life: those whose validity has nothing to do with our actions, and those whose reality depends on what we do. Truths of the first sort — truths of the observer — include facts about the behavior of the physical world: how atoms form molecules, how stars explode. Truths of the second sort — truths of the will — include skills, relationships, business ventures, anything that requires your effort to make it real. With truths of the observer, it's best to stay skeptical until reasonable evidence is in. With truths of the will, though, the truth won't happen without your faith in it, often in the face of unpromising odds. If you don't believe that democracy will work in your nation, it won't. If you don't believe that becoming a pianist is worthwhile, or that you have the makings of a good pianist, it won't happen. Truths of the will are the ones most relevant to our pursuit of true happiness. Many of the most inspiring stories in life are of people who create truths of this sort when a mountain of empirical evidence is against them. In cases like this, the truth requires that faith actively discount the immediate facts.

If we dig even deeper into the psychology of decision-making, we run into an area for which no scientific evidence can offer any proof: Do we actually act, or are actions an illusion? Are our acts already predetermined by physical laws or an external intelligence, or do we have free will? Are the results of our acts illusory? Are causal relationships real, or only a fiction? Even the most carefully planned scientific experiment could never settle any of these issues, and yet once we become aware of them we have to take a stand on them if we want to continue putting any energy into our thoughts, words, and deeds.

These were the areas where the Buddha focused his teachings on empiricism and faith. Although his first noble truth requires that we observe suffering until we comprehend it, we have to take on faith his assertion that the facts we observe about suffering are the most important guide for making decisions, moment by moment, throughout life. Because his third noble truth, the cessation of suffering, is a truth of the will, we have to take it on faith that it's a possible goal, a worthwhile goal, and that we're capable of attaining it. And because the fourth noble truth — the path to the cessation of suffering — is a path of action and skill, we have to take it on faith that our actions are real, that we have free will, and yet that there's a causal pattern to the workings of the mind from which we can learn in mastering that skill. As the Buddha said, the path will lead to a direct experience of these truths, but only if you bring faith to the practice will you know this for yourself. In other words, "faith" in the Buddhist context means faith in the ability of your actions to lead to a direct experience of the end of suffering.

The Buddha offered these teachings to people seeking advice on how to find true happiness. That's why he was able to avoid any coercion of others: His teachings assumed that his listeners were already involved in a search. When we understand his views on what it means to search — why people search, and what they're searching for — we can understand his advice on how to use faith and empiricism in a successful search. The best way to do this is to examine five of his similes illustrating how a search should be conducted.

The first simile illustrates search in its most raw and unfocused form:

Two strong men have grabbed another man by the arms and are dragging him to a pit of burning embers. The Buddha notes, "Wouldn't the man twist his body this way and that?"

The twisting of his body stands for the way we react to suffering. We don't bother to ask if our suffering is predetermined or our actions have any hope of success. We simply put up a struggle and do what we can to escape. It's our natural reaction.

The Buddha taught that this reaction is twofold: We're bewildered — "Why is this happening to me?" — and we search for a way to put an end to the suffering. When he stated that all he taught was suffering and the end of suffering, he was responding to these two reactions, providing an explanation of suffering and its end so as to do away with our bewilderment, at the same time showing the way to the end of suffering as a way of satisfying our search. He had no use for the idea — often advanced by later writers in the Buddhist tradition — that our suffering comes from our struggle to resist suffering; that the search for an end to suffering is precisely what keeps us from seeing the peace already there. In the light of the above simile, simply relaxing into a total acceptance of the moment means relaxing into the prospect of being burned alive. The present keeps morphing into the future, and you can't turn a blind eye to where it's taking you.

This simile also explains why the idea of a Buddhism without faith holds little appeal for people suffering from serious illness, oppression, poverty, or racism: Their experience has shown that the only way to overcome these obstacles is to pursue truths of the will, which require faith as their rock-solid foundation.

The second simile:

A man searching for fruit climbs a tree to eat his fill and to stuff his garments with fruit to take home. While he is there, another man searching for fruit comes along. The second man can't climb the tree but he has an axe, so he chops the tree down. If the first man doesn't quickly get out of the tree, he may break an arm or a leg, or even die.

This simile shows the perils of looking for true happiness in the wrong place: in sensual pleasures. If your happiness depends on anything other people can take away from you, you're putting yourself in danger. As the Buddha notes, we hope for happiness in sensual pleasures not because they've ever really satisfied us but because we can't imagine any other escape from pain and suffering. If we allowed ourselves to believe that there is another alternative, we'd be more willing to question our strong faith in our cravings and attachments, more willing to look for that alternative and give it a try. And, as the third simile argues, if we look in the right way, we'll find it.

A person searching for milk tries to get milk out of a cow by twisting its horn. Another person searching for milk tries to get milk out of the cow by pulling at its udder.

The Buddha taught this simile in response to an assertion that there is nothing a human being can do to attain release from suffering. We can attain it, he said, as long as we follow the right method, like the person pulling at the udder of the cow.

The right method starts with right understanding, and this is where faith in the Buddha's Awakening comes in. As the Buddha once stated, he didn't tell us everything he awakened to. What he told was like a handful of leaves; what he learned was like the leaves in the forest. Still, the leaves in the handful contained all the lessons that would help others to awaken; right understanding begins with learning what those specific lessons are.

The most important lesson, and the most important item of faith, is simply the fact of the Awakening itself. The Buddha achieved it through his own efforts, and he did so, not because he was more than human, but because he developed mental qualities that we each have the potential to develop. To have faith in his Awakening thus means having faith in your own potential for Awakening.

However, the specifics of what he learned in his Awakening are important as well. It's not simply the case that he found what worked for him, while what works for you may be something else entirely. No matter how much you twist a cow's horn, it'll never produce milk. The Buddha's insights penetrated into how things work, what it means for them to work. These insights apply to everyone throughout time.

When summarizing his Awakening in the most condensed form, the Buddha focused on a principle of causality that explains how we live in a world where patterns of causality fashion events, and yet those events are not totally predetermined by the past.

The principle is actually a dual one, for there are two kinds of causality interweaving in our lives. The first is that of a cause giving results in the immediate present: When this is, that is; when this isn't, that isn't. When you turn on a stereo, for example, the noise comes out; when you turn it off, the noise stops. The second type of causality is that of a cause giving results over time: From the arising of this comes the arising of that; from the cessation of this comes the cessation of that. If you study now, you'll have knowledge long into the future. If you damage your brain, the negative effects will be long-term as well.

Applied to karma, or intention, the dual principle means this: Any moment of experience consists of three things: (1) pleasures and pains resulting from past intentions, (2) present intentions, and (3) pleasures and pains resulting from present intentions. Thus the present is not totally shaped by the past. In fact, the most important element shaping your present experience of pleasure or pain is how you fashion, with your present intentions, the raw material provided by past intentions. And your present intentions can be totally free.

This is how there's free will in the midst of causality. At the same time, the pattern in the way intentions lead to results allows us to learn from past mistakes. This freedom within a pattern opens the way to a path of mental training that can lead to the end of suffering. We practice generosity, virtue, and meditation to learn the power of our intentions and in particular to see what happens as our intentions grow more skillful, so skillful that present intentions actually stop. Only when they stop can you prove for yourself how powerful they've been. And the spot where they stop is where the unconditioned — the end of suffering — is found. From there you can return to intentions, but you're no longer their captive or slave.

In presenting his teachings on karma and suffering to his listeners, the Buddha would offer empirical evidence to corroborate them — noting, for instance, how your reaction to another person's misery depends on how attached you are to that person — but he never attempted to back these teachings with full-scale empirical proof. In fact, he heaped ridicule on his contemporaries, the Jains, who attempted to prove their more deterministic teaching on karma by claiming that all those who kill, steal, lie, or engage in illicit sex will suffer from their actions here and now. "Haven't you seen the case," the Buddha asked, "where a man is rewarded by a king for killing the king's enemy, for stealing from the king's enemy, for amusing the king with a clever lie, for seducing the king's enemy's wife?" Even though the basic principle of karma is simple enough — skillful intentions lead to pleasure, unskillful intentions to pain — the dual principle of causality through which karma operates is so complex, like a Mandelbrot set, that you would go crazy trying to nail the whole thing down empirically.

So instead of an empirical proof for his teaching on karma, the Buddha offered a pragmatic proof: If you believe in his teachings on causality, karma, rebirth, and the four noble truths, how will you act? What kind of life will you lead? Won't you tend to be more responsible and compassionate? If, on the other hand, you were to believe in any of the alternatives — such as a doctrine of an impersonal fate or a deity who determined the course of your pleasure and pain, or a doctrine that all things were coincidental and without cause — what would those beliefs lead you to do? Would they allow you to put an end to suffering through your own efforts? Would they allow any purpose for knowledge at all? If, on the other hand, you refused to commit to a coherent idea of what human action can do, would you be likely to see a demanding path of practice all the way through to the end?

This was the kind of reasoning that the Buddha used to inspire faith in his Awakening and in its relevance to our own search for true happiness.

The fourth simile stresses the importance of not settling for anything less than the genuine thing:

A man searching for heartwood goes into a forest and comes to a tree containing heartwood, but instead of taking the heartwood, he takes home some sapwood, branches, or bark.

Faith in the possibility of nirvana — the heartwood of the path — is what keeps you from getting waylaid by the pleasures of the sapwood and bark: the gratification that comes from being generous and virtuous, the sense of peace, interconnectedness, and oneness that comes with strong concentration. Yet, surprisingly, modern discussions of the role of faith in the Buddha's teachings rarely mention this point, and focus on faith in karma and rebirth instead. This is surprising because nirvana is much less related to our everyday experience than either karma or rebirth. We see the fruits of our actions all around us; we see people being born with distinct personalities and differing strengths, and it's only a short leap to the idea that there's some connection between these things. Nirvana, however, isn't connected to anything we've experienced at all. It's already there, but hidden by all our desires for physical and mental activity. To touch it, we have to abandon our habitual attachment to activity. To believe that such a thing is possible, and that it's the ultimate happiness, is to take a major leap.

Many in the Buddha's time were willing to take the leap, while many others were not, preferring to content themselves with the branches and sapwood, wanting simply to learn how to live happily with their families in this life and go to heaven in the next. Nirvana, they said, could wait. Faced with this honest and gentle resistance to his teaching on nirvana, the Buddha was happy to comply.

But he was less tolerant of the stronger resistance he received from brahmas, heavenly deities who complacently felt that their experience of limitless oneness and compassion in the midst of samsara — their sapwood — was superior to the heartwood of nirvana. In cases like this he used all the psychic and intellectual powers at his disposal to humble their pride, because he realized that their views totally closed the door to Awakening. If you think that your sapwood is actually heartwood, you won't look for anything better. When your sapwood breaks, you'll decide that heartwood is a lie. But if you realize that you're using bark and sapwood, you leave open the possibility that someday you'll go back and give the heartwood a try.

Of course, it's even better if you can take the Buddha's teachings on nirvana as a direct challenge in this lifetime — as if he were saying, "Here's your chance. Can you prove me wrong?"

The fifth simile:

An experienced elephant hunter, searching for a big bull elephant, comes across a large elephant footprint in the forest. However, he doesn't jump to the conclusion that it's the footprint of a big bull elephant. Why? Because there are dwarf female elephants with big feet. It might be one of theirs. He follows along and sees some scratch marks and tusk marks high up on the trees, but still doesn't jump to the conclusion that he's on the trail of a big bull elephant. Why? Because there are tall female elephants with tusks. The marks might be theirs. He follows along and finally sees a big bull elephant under a tree or in a clearing. That's when he concludes that he's found his bull elephant.

In explaining this simile, the Buddha said that all the preliminary steps of the practice — going into the wilderness as a monastic; adhering to the precepts; developing restraint, contentment, and strong concentration; seeing past lives and gaining vision of the beings of the cosmos dying and being reborn in line with their karma — are simply footprints and scratch marks of the Buddha's Awakening. Only when you have your own first taste of Awakening, having followed his path, do you really know that your faith in his Awakening was well placed. Touching the dimension where suffering ends, you realize that the Buddha's teachings about it were not only true but also useful: He knew what he was talking about and was able to point you there as well.

What's interesting about this simile is the way it combines healthy faith with honest skepticism. To act on this faith is to test it, the way you'd test a working hypothesis. You need faith to keep following the footprints, but you also need the honesty to recognize where faith ends and knowledge begins. This is why, in the Buddhist context, faith and empiricism are inseparable. Unlike a monotheistic religion — where faith centers on the power of another — faith in the Buddha's Awakening keeps pointing back to the power of your own actions: Do you have enough power over your intentions to make them harmless? Do harmless intentions then give you the freedom to drop intention entirely? The only way you can answer these questions is by being scrupulously honest about your intentions, to detect even the slightest traces of harm, even the slightest movement of intention itself. Only then will you know the deathless, totally unconditioned by intention, for sure. But if you claim to know things that you don't, how can you trust yourself to detect any of these things? You need to make your honesty worthy of your faith, testing its assumptions until you find true knowledge in the test.

This is why science will never be able to pass valid judgment on the truths of Awakening, for the path deals in matters that outside experimenters can't reach. Although others may sympathize with your suffering, the suffering itself is an experience you can share with no one else. The honesty and skillfulness of your intentions is an affair of your internal dialogue, something that is also purely your own. Scientists can measure the neurological data indicating pain or intentional activity, but there's no external measurement for how the pain feels, or how honest your intentional dialogue may be. And as for the deathless, it has no physical correlates at all. The closest that outside empirical measurement can get is to pictures of the footprints on the ground and the marks in the trees.

To get to the bull elephant, you have to do what the Buddha's disciple Sariputta did. He kept following the path, without jumping to dishonest conclusions, until he saw the elephant within. Then, when the Buddha asked him, "Do you take it on faith that these five strengths — faith, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment — lead to the deathless," Sariputta could answer honestly, "No, I don't take it on faith. I know."

As Sariputta stated in another discourse, his proof was experiential but so inward that it touched a dimension where not only the external senses but even the sense of the functioning of the mind can't reach. If you want to confirm his knowledge you have to touch that dimension in the only place you can access it, inside yourself. This is one of two ways in which the Buddha's method differs from that of modern empiricism.

The other has to do with the integrity of the person attempting the proof.

As in science, faith in the Buddha's Awakening acts like a working hypothesis, but the test of that hypothesis requires an honesty deeper and more radical than anything science requires. You have to commit yourself — every variation on who you feel you are — totally to the test. Only when you take apart all clinging to your inner and outer senses can you prove whether the activity of clinging is what hides the deathless. The Buddha never forced anyone to commit to this test, both because you can't coerce people to be honest with themselves, and because he saw that the pit of burning embers was coercion enough.
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http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/thai/chah/living_en.html#living said:
Living Dhamma
Venerable Ajahn Chah


translated from the Thai by
The Sangha at Wat Pah Nanachat
d 1994-2014

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

Living in the World with Dhamma

Most people still don't know the essence of meditation practice. They think that walking meditation, sitting meditation and listening to Dhamma talks are the practice. That's true too, but these are only the outer forms of practice. The real practice takes place when the mind encounters a sense object. That's the place to practice, where sense contact occurs. When people say things we don't like there is resentment, if they say things we like we experience pleasure. Now this is the place to practice. How are we going to practice with these things? This is the crucial point. If we just run around chasing after happiness and away from suffering all the time we can practice until the day we die and never see the Dhamma. This is useless. When pleasure and pain arise how are we going to use the Dhamma to be free of them? This is the point of practice.

Usually when people encounter something disagreeable to them they don't open up to it. Such as when people are criticized: "Don't bother me! Why blame me?" This is someone who's closed himself off. Right there is the place to practice. When people criticize us we should listen. Are they speaking the truth? We should be open and consider what they say. Maybe there is a point to what they say, perhaps there is something blame-worthy within us. They may be right and yet we immediately take offense. If people point out our faults we should strive to be rid of them and improve ourselves. This is how intelligent people will practice.

Where there is confusion is where peace can arise. When confusion is penetrated with understanding what remains is peace. Some people can't accept criticism, they're arrogant. Instead they turn around and argue. This is especially so when adults deal with children. Actually children may say some intelligent things sometimes but if you happen to be their mother, for instance, you can't give in to them. If you are a teacher your students may sometimes tell you something you didn't know, but because you are the teacher you can't listen. This is not right thinking.

In the Buddha's time there was one disciple who was very astute. At one time, as the Buddha was expounding the Dhamma, he turned to this monk and asked, "Sariputta, do you believe this?" Venerable Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet believe it." The Buddha praised his answer. "That's very good, Sariputta, you are one who us endowed with wisdom. One who is wise doesn't readily believe, he listens with an open mind and then weighs up the truth of that matter before believing or disbelieving."

Now the Buddha here has set a fine example for a teacher. What Venerable Sariputta said was true, he simply spoke his true feelings. Some people would think that to say you didn't believe that teaching would be like questioning the teacher's authority, they'd be afraid to say such a thing. They'd just go ahead and agree. This is how the worldly way goes. But the Buddha didn't take offense. He said that you needn't be ashamed of those things which aren't wrong or bad. It's not wrong to say that you don't believe if you don't believe. That's why Venerable Sariputta said, "I don't yet believe it." The Buddha praised him. "This monk has much wisdom. He carefully considers before believing anything." The Buddha's actions here are a good example for one who is a teacher of others. Sometimes you can learn things even from small children; don't cling blindly to positions of authority.

Whether you are standing, sitting, or walking around in various places, you can always study the things around you. We study in the natural way, receptive to all things, be they sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings or thoughts. The wise person considers them all. In the real practice, we come to the point where there are no longer any concerns weighing on the mind.

If we still don't know like and dislike as they arise, there is still some concern in our minds. If we know the truth of these things, we reflect, "Oh, there is nothing to this feeling of liking here. It's just a feeling that arises and passes away. Dislike is nothing more, just a feeling that arises and passes away. Why make anything out of them?" If we think that pleasure and pain are personal possessions, then we're in for trouble, we never get beyond the point of having some concern or other in an endless chain. This is how things are for most people.

But these days they don't often talk about the mind when teaching the Dhamma, they don't talk about the truth. If you talk the truth people even take exception. They say things like, "He doesn't know time and place, he doesn't know how to speak nicely." But people should listen to the truth. A true teacher doesn't just talk from memory, he speaks the truth. People in society usually speak from memory, he speaks the truth. People in the society usually speak from memory, and what's more they usually speak in such a way as to exalt themselves. The true monk doesn't talk like that, he talks the truth, the way things are.

No matter how much he explains the truth it's difficult for people to understand. It's hard to understand the Dhamma. If you understand the Dhamma you should practice accordingly. It may not be necessary to become a monk, although the monk's life is the ideal form for practice. To really practice, you have to forsake the confusion of the world, give up family and possessions, and take to the forests. These are the ideal places to practice.

But if we still have family and responsibilities how are we to practice? Some people say it's impossible to practice Dhamma as a layperson. Consider, which group is larger, monks or laypeople? There are far more laypeople. Now if only the monks practice and laypeople don't, then that means there's going to be a lot of confusion. This is wrong understanding. "I can't become a monk..." Becoming a monk isn't the point! Being a monk doesn't mean anything if you don't practice. If you really understand the practice of dhamma then no matter what position or profession you hold in life, be it a teacher, doctor, civil servant or whatever, you can practice the Dhamma every minute of the day.

To think you can't practice as a layman is to lose track of the path completely. Why is it people can find the incentive to do other things? If they feel they are lacking something they make an effort to obtain it. If there is sufficient desire people can do anything. some say, "I haven't got time to practice the Dhamma." I say, "Then how come you've got time to breathe?" Breathing is vital to people's lives. If they saw Dhamma practice as vital to their lives they would see it as important as their breathing.

The practice of dhamma isn't something you have to go running around for or exhaust yourself over. Just look at the feelings which arise in your mind. When the eye sees form, ear hears sounds, nose smells odors and so on, they all come to this one mind, "the one who knows." Now when the mind perceives these things what happens? If we like that object we experience pleasure, if we dislike it we experience displeasure. That's all there is to it.

So where are you going to find happiness in this world? Do you expect everybody to say only pleasant things to you all your life? Is that possible? No, it's not. If it's not possible then where are you going to go? The world is simply like this, we must know the world — Lokavidu — know the truth of this world. The world is something we should clearly understand. The Buddha lived in this world, he didn't live anywhere else. He experienced family life, but he saw its limitations and detached himself from them. Now how are you as laypeople going to practice? If you want to practice you must make an effort to follow the path. If you persevere with the practice you too will see the limitations of this world and be able to let go.

People who drink alcohol sometimes say, "I just can't give it up." Why can't they give it up? Because they don't yet see the liability in it. If they clearly saw the liability of it they wouldn't have to wait to be told to give it up. If you don't see the liability of something that means you also can't see the benefit of giving it up. Your practice becomes fruitless, you are just playing at practice. If you clearly see the liability and the benefit of something you won't have to wait for others to tell you about it. Consider the story of the fisherman who finds something in his fish-trap. He knows something is in there, he can hear it flapping about inside. Thinking it's a fish, he reaches his hand into the trap, only to find a different kind of animal. He can't yet see it, so he's in two minds about it. On one hand it could be an eel, [13] but then again it could be a snake. If he throws it away he may regret it... it could be an eel. On the other hand, if he keeps holding on to it and it turns out to be a snake it may bite him. He's caught in a state of doubt. His desire is so strong he holds on, just in case it's an eel, but the minute he brings it and sees the striped skin he throws it down straight away. He doesn't have to wait for someone to call out, "It's a snake, it's a snake, let go!" The sight of the snake tells him what to do much more clearly than words could do. Why? Because he sees the danger — snakes can bite! Who has to tell him about it? In the same way, if we practice till we see things as they are we won't meddle with things that are harmful.

People don't usually practice in this way, they usually practice for other things. They don't contemplate things, they don't reflect on old age, sickness and death. They only talk about non-aging and non-death, so they never develop the right feeling for Dhamma practice. They go and listen to Dhamma talks but they don't really listen. Sometimes I get invited to give talks at important functions, but it's a nuisance for me to go. Why so? Because when I look at the people gathered there I can see that they haven't come to listen to the Dhamma. Some are smelling of alcohol, some are smoking cigarettes, some are chatting... they don't look at all like people who have come out of faith in the Dhamma. Giving talks at such places is of little fruit. People who are sunk in heedlessness tend to think things like, "When he's ever going to stop talking?... Can't do this, can't do that..." and their minds just wander all over the place.

Sometimes they even invite me to give a talk just for the sake of formality: "Please give us just a small Dhamma talk, Venerable Sir." They don't want me to talk too much, it might annoy them! As soon as I hear people say this I know what they're about. These people don't like listening to Dhamma. It annoys them. If I just give a small talk they won't understand. If you take only a little food, is it enough? Of course not.

Sometimes I'm giving a talk, just warming up to the subject, and some drunkard will call out, "Okay, make way, make way for the Venerable Sir, he's coming out now!" — trying to drive me away! If I meet this kind of person I get a lot of food for reflection, I get an insight into human nature. It's like a person having a bottle full of water and then asking for more. There's nowhere to put it. It isn't worth the time and energy to teach them, because their minds are already full. Pour any more in and it just overflows uselessly. If their bottle was empty there would be somewhere to put the water, and both the giver and the receiver would benefit.

In this way, when people are really interested in Dhamma and sit quietly, listening carefully, I feel more inspired to teach. If people don't pay attention it's just like the man with the bottle full of water... there's no room to put anymore. It's hardly worth my while talking to them. In situations like this I just don't get any energy arising to teach. You can't put much energy into giving when no-one's putting much energy into receiving.

These days giving talks tends to be like this, and it's getting worse all the time. People don't search for truth, they study simply to find the necessary knowledge to make a living, raise families and look after themselves. They study for a livelihood. There may be some study of Dhamma, but not much. Students nowadays have much more knowledge than students of previous times. They have all the requisites at their disposal, everything is more convenient. But they also have a lot more confusion and suffering than before. Why is this? Because they only look for the kind of knowledge used to make a living.

Even the monks are like this. Sometimes I hear them say, "I didn't become a monk to practice the Dhamma, I only ordained to study." These are the words of someone who has completely cut off the path of practice. There's no way ahead, it's a dead end. When these monks teach it's only from memory. They may teach one thing but their minds are in completely different place. Such teachings aren't true.

This is how the world is. If you try to live simply, practicing the Dhamma and living peacefully, they say you are weird and anti-social. They say you're obstructing progress in society. They even intimidate you. Eventually you might even start to believe them and revert to the worldly ways, sinking deeper and deeper into the world until it's impossible to get out. Some people say, "I can't get out now, I've gone in to deeply." This is how society tends to be. It doesn't appreciate the value of Dhamma.

The value of Dhamma isn't to be found in books. those are just the external appearances of Dhamma, they're not the realization of Dhamma as a personal experience. If you realize the Dhamma you realize your own mind, you see the truth there. When the truth becomes apparent it cuts off the stream of delusion.

The teaching of the Buddha is the unchanging truth, whether in the present or in any other time. The Buddha revealed this truth 2,500 years ago and it's been the truth ever since. This teaching should not be added to or taken away from. The Buddha said, "What the Tathagata has laid down should not be discarded, what has not been laid down by the Tathagata should not be added on to the teachings." He "sealed off" the Teachings. Why did the Buddha seal them off? Because these Teachings are the words of one who has no defilements. No matter how the world may change these Teachings are unaffected, they don't change with it. If something is wrong, even if people say it's right doesn't make it any the less wrong. If something is right, it doesn't change any just because people say it's not. Generation after generation may come and go but these things don't change, because these Teachings are the truth.

Now who created this truth? The truth itself created the truth! Did the Buddha create it? No, he didn't. The Buddha only discovered the truth, the way things are, and then he set out to declare it. The truth is constantly true, whether a Buddha arises in the world or not. The Buddha only "owns" the Dhamma in this sense, he didn't actually create it. It's been here all the time. However, previously no-one had searched for and found the Deathless, then taught it as the Dhamma. He didn't invent it, it was already there.

At some point in time the truth is illuminated and the practice of Dhamma flourishes. As time goes on and generations pass away the practice degenerates until the Teaching fades away completely. After a time the Teaching is re-founded and flourishes once more. As time goes on the adherents of the Dhamma multiply, prosperity sets in, and once more the Teaching begins to follow the darkness of the world. And so once more it degenerates until such a time as it can no longer hold ground. Confusion reigns once more. Then it is time to re-establish the truth. In fact the truth doesn't go anywhere. When Buddhas pass away the Dhamma doesn't disappear with them.

The world revolves like this. It's something like a mango tree. The tree matures, blossoms, and fruits appear and grow to ripeness. They become rotten and the seed goes back into the ground to become a new mango tree. The cycle starts once more. Eventually there are more ripe fruits which proceed to fall, rot, sink into the ground as seeds and grow once more into trees. This is how the world is. It doesn't go very far, it just revolves around the same old things.

Our lives these days are the same. Today we are simply doing the same old things we've always done. People think too much. There are so many things for them to get interested in, but none of them leads to completion. There are the sciences like mathematics, physics, psychology and so on. You can delve into any number of them but you can only finalize things with the truth.

Suppose there was a cart being pulled by an ox. The wheels aren't long, but the tracks are. As long as the ox pulls the cart the tracks will follow. The wheels are round yet the tracks are long; the tracks are long yet the wheels are merely circles. Just looking at a stationary cart you can't see anything long about it, but once the ox starts moving you see the tracks stretching out behind you. As long as the ox pulls, the wheels keep on turning... but there comes a day when the ox tires and throws off its harness. The ox walks off and leaves the empty cart sitting there. The wheels no longer turn. In time the cart falls apart, its components go back into the four elements — earth, water, wind and fire.

Searching for peace within the world you stretch the cart wheel tracks endlessly behind you. As long as you follow the world there is no stopping, no rest. If you simply stop following it, the cart comes to rest, the wheels no longer turn. Following the world turns the wheels ceaselessly. Creating bad kamma is like this. As long as you follow the old ways there is no stopping. If you stop there is stopping. This is how we practice the Dhamma.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/parents_en.html said:
Parents: Two short Talks on Gratitude
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2013-2016

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

"Gratitude to Parents"
— May 8, 2013

Focus on your breath. Settle in from the activity of the morning, and remind yourself you're doing this not only for yourself but also for the people around you.

There's a passage where the Buddha says that all good teachings are alike in that they teach gratitude to parents. It's good to think about that when the mind settles down.

I used to ask Thai people what they would identify as the most basic Buddhist virtue, and they'd always say gratitude. But as the Buddha himself pointed out, it's not just a Buddhist value. It’s universal, it's everywhere. Particularly the virtue of gratitude for your parents.

Back when you were small and weak, they were strong. They looked after you. The time's going to come when you're strong and they're weak. So, you owe it to them to help them, because after all they had the choice when you were defenseless: They didn't have to raise you. They didn't even have to give birth to you. They could have aborted you. But they chose to give birth to you, they chose to raise you, they went through all kinds of difficulties. And so regardless of whether you feel that they were skillful parents or not, at least you’re indebted to them for that much: that they enabled you to survive.

If they did teach you right and wrong, and did teach you good things about what it means to be a good person, you owe them that much more. So how do you repay them? Part of it is by actually becoming a good person yourself.

There's an old Thai verse, it's in Pali but I can't find it in the Canon anywhere. A Thai monk apparently wrote a verse in Pali, saying that the sign of a good person is gratitude. The fact that you’re grateful for the goodness done for you shows that you recognize goodness when you see it. That’s a sign that you’ll be more likely to appreciate the effort that goes into goodness, and to go through the effort of doing good things yourself. So this is one of the ways in which you show your gratitude: by training your mind so that you’re a good, reliable person—reliable to yourself, reliable to the people around you.

Then, when the time comes to repay any karmic debts you have to the people who’ve helped you, you're in a position where you can. You’ve strengthened your mind through the practice. As the Buddha said, the best way to repay your parents, if they’re are not generous, is to give them the example of being generous so that they might become inspired to be generous, too. If they're not virtuous, give them the example of being virtuous so they might be inspired to become virtuous. That’s how to repay your debt to your parents.

In cases where it's difficult to deal with your parents, use the strength of mind that comes from concentration and from developing your discernment to support you in behaving skillfully around them. That makes your dealings with them a lot easier, and puts you in a position where you can trust yourself not to harm them or yourself.

So work on these qualities. They're good for you; they're good for the people around you. A lot of the good things in the world—like status, wealth, praise, and material pleasures—are the sorts of things that, when you gain, other people have to lose. Or if they gain, you might have to lose. There's always somebody gaining, somebody losing. Those “goods” create a lot of divisions in the world. That's why we see so much divisiveness in our society right now. It's because everybody seems to be focused on the types of goods and the types of happiness that create divisiveness. So those things aren't really good. The happiness they give is not really happy.

So look instead for the kinds of happiness where the boundaries get erased. When you're generous, that erases boundaries. When you're virtuous and are careful about other people's well-being, that erases boundaries. When you develop qualities of goodwill in your heart, that erases boundaries. Those are the kinds of goods that you really want to work on because everybody benefits—which means that the goodness of those goods is genuinely good.

So keep these thoughts in mind.

"Repaying Our Parents""
December 2, 2014

There’s a daily practice we have of dedicating the merit of our meditation, of our practice, to those who have passed away, to people who have been good to us. And it should be something we do every day. Of course, our parents had some wonderful qualities, but they also had some very human foibles.

In spite of their foibles, we have to appreciate them for the good they did, because that helps us to appreciate goodness within ourselves — and then to think about what we can do we can repay them. If they’re alive, we try to repay them in our dealings with them.

If they’ve passed away, we dedicate the merit of our practice to them. That was one of the things that really struck me when I first went to see Ajaan Fuang: how much he stressed the importance of dedicating the merit of my meditation to my parents. That’s something we should think about every day.

Not all of our parents are Buddhists; not all of them are even favorably disposed towards Buddhism. But we shouldn’t let that make a difference. There’s goodness in the world — Ajaan Lee talked about this quite a lot — there’s goodness in the world that has nothing to do specifically with the Buddha. In many cases, he simply pointed out things that everybody had known before: that killing is bad, stealing is bad, illicit sex, false dealings, intoxication are bad.

We owe a lot to our parents. They let us be born. They provided us with food, clothing, shelter, medicine. They taught us how to walk and how to speak. They may not have been perfect human beings, but they did their best. Without them we wouldn’t be here. So we dedicate our goodness to them, in hopes that something gets through, something gets back to them wherever they may be.

A lot of people had already seen that. Many of us have learned these things from our parents. Even if we didn’t, we can repay our parents by setting a good example for them in avoiding these unskillful forms of behavior. Because we live in this world, we live through our dependency on other people. I think I’ve told you the story about the young boy in Thailand whose parents had scraped together money to send him in to a private Christian school in Bangkok. The boy started picking up Christian ideas at school, and one night he came home, saying that he wanted to ask grace at the table.

So the parents let him. He started his grace by thanking God for putting food on the table. The father immediately cuffed the boy up against the head and said, “What kind of ingrate are you? I’m the one who put the food on the table. If it were up to God, there’d be nothing on the table at all.”

Remember that we’re part of a long line of human beings, each generation depending on previous generations, and each setting an example for the following ones. We repay our debt to the previous ones by setting a good example for those who come after.

It’s in this way that goodness gets passed down from generation to generation and stays alive in the world. Often, the generations before us have come back and they’re going to be reborn as generations after us, so we want to make sure that we haven’t dropped anything good in the meantime as we pass it along and hand it back to them. If we can improve what gets passed along, so much the better.

See also: The Lessons of Gratitude, by Ven. Ajahn Thanissaro, The Right Angle: It’s Never Wrong, by Venerable Luang Por Liam Thitadhammo and Gratitude, by Ven. Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/fear_en.html said:
Freedom From Fear
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
d 2002-2014
Alternate format:
A printed copy is included in the book The Karma of Questions
- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -
An anthropologist once questioned an Alaskan shaman about his tribe's belief system. After putting up with the anthropologist's questions for a while, the shaman finally told him: "Look. We don't believe. We fear."

His words have intrigued me ever since I first heard them. I've also been intrigued by the responses I get when I share his words with my friends. Some say that the shaman unconsciously put his finger on the line separating primitive religion from civilized religion: primitive religion is founded on childish fear; civilized religion, on love, trust, and joy. Others maintain that the shaman cut through the pretensions and denials of civilized religion and pointed to the true source of all serious religious life.

If we dig down to the assumptions underlying these two responses, we find that the first response views fear itself as our greatest weakness. If we can simply overcome fear, we put ourselves in a position of strength. The second sees fear as the most honest response to our greater weakness in the face of aging, illness, and death — a weakness that can't be overcome with a simple change in attitude. If we're not in touch with our honest fears, we won't feel motivated to do what's needed to protect ourselves from genuine dangers.

So — which attitude toward fear is childish, and which is mature? Is there an element of truth in both? If so, how can those elements best be combined? These questions are best answered by rephrasing them: To what extent is fear a useful emotion? To what extent is it not? Does it have a role in the practice that puts an end to fear?

The Buddhist answer to these questions is complex. This is due partly to Buddhism's dual roots — both as a civilized and as a wilderness tradition — and also to the complexity of fear itself, even in its most primal forms. Think of a deer at night suddenly caught in a hunter's headlights. It's confused. Angry. It senses danger, and that it's weak in the face of the danger. It wants to escape. These five elements — confusion, aversion, a sense of danger, a sense of weakness, and a desire to escape — are present, to a greater or lesser extent, in every fear. The confusion and aversion are the unskillful elements. Even if the deer has many openings to escape from the hunter, its confusion and aversion might cause it to miss them. The same holds true for human beings. The mistakes and evils we commit when finding ourselves weak in the face of danger come from confusion and aversion.

Maddeningly, however, there are also evils that we commit out of complacency, when oblivious to actual dangers: the callous things we do when we feel we can get away with them. Thus the last three elements of fear — the perception of weakness, the perception of danger, and the desire to escape it — are needed to avoid the evils coming from complacency. If stripped of confusion and aversion, these three elements become a positive quality, heedfulness — something so essential to the practice that the Buddha devoted his last words to it. The dangers of life are real. Our weaknesses are real. If we don't see them clearly, don't take them to heart, and don't try to find a way out, there's no way we can put an end to the causes of our fears. Just like the deer: if it's complacent about the hunter's headlights, it's going to end up strapped to the fender for sure.

So to genuinely free the mind from fear, we can't simply deny that there's any reason for fear. We have to overcome the cause of fear: the mind's weaknesses in the face of very real dangers. The elegance of the Buddha's approach to this problem, though, lies in his insight into the confusion — or to use the standard Buddhist term, the delusion — that makes fear unskillful. Despite the complexity of fear, delusion is the single factor that, in itself, is both the mind's prime weakness and its greatest danger. Thus the Buddha approaches the problem of fear by focusing on delusion, and he attacks delusion in two ways: getting us to think about its dangerous role in making fear unskillful, and getting us to develop inner strengths leading to the insights that free the mind from the delusions that make it weak. In this way we not only overcome the factor that makes fear unskillful. We ultimately put the mind in a position where it has no need for fear.

When we think about how delusion infects fear and incites us to do unskillful things, we see that it can act in two ways. First, the delusions surrounding our fears can cause us to misapprehend the dangers we face, seeing danger where there is none, and no danger where there is. If we obsess over non-existent or trivial dangers, we'll squander time and energy building up useless defenses, diverting our attention from genuine threats. If, on the other hand, we put the genuine dangers of aging, illness, and death out of our minds, we grow complacent in our actions. We let ourselves cling to things — our bodies, our loved ones, our possessions, our views — that leave us exposed to aging, illness, separation, and death in the first place. We allow our cravings to take charge of the mind, sometimes to the point of doing evil with impunity, thinking we're immune to the results of our evil, that those results will never return to harm us.

The more complacent we are about the genuine dangers lying in wait all around us, the more shocked and confused we become when they actually hit. This leads to the second way in which the delusions surrounding our fears promote unskillful actions: we react to genuine dangers in ways that, instead of ending the dangers, actually create new ones. We amass wealth to provide security, but wealth creates a high profile that excites jealousy in others. We build walls to keep out dangerous people, but those walls become our prisons. We stockpile weapons, but they can easily be turned against us.

The most unskillful response to fear is when, perceiving dangers to our own life or property, we believe that we can gain strength and security by destroying the lives and property of others. The delusion pervading our fear makes us lose perspective. If other people were to act in this way, we would know they were wrong. But somehow, when we feel threatened, our standards change, our perspective warps, so that wrong seems right as long as we're the ones doing it.

This is probably the most disconcerting human weakness of all: our inability to trust ourselves to do the right thing when the chips are down. If standards of right and wrong are meaningful only when we find them convenient, they have no real meaning at all.

Fortunately, though, the area of life posing the most danger and insecurity is the area where, through training, we can make the most changes and exercise the most control. Although aging, illness, and death follow inevitably on birth, delusion doesn't. It can be prevented. If, through thought and contemplation, we become heedful of the dangers it poses, we can feel motivated to overcome it. However, the insights coming from simple thought and contemplation aren't enough to fully understand and overthrow delusion. It's the same as with any revolution: no matter how much you may think about the matter, you don't really know the tricks and strengths of entrenched powers until you amass your own troops and do battle with them. And only when your own troops develop their own tricks and strengths can they come out on top. So it is with delusion: only when you develop mental strengths can you see through the delusions that give fear its power. Beyond that, these strengths can put you in a position where you are no longer exposed to dangers ever again.

The Canon lists these mental strengths at five: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. It also emphasizes the role that heedfulness plays in developing each, for heedfulness is what enables each strength to counteract a particular delusion that makes fear unskillful, and the mind weak in the face of its fears. What this means is that none of these strengths are mere brute forces. Each contains an element of wisdom and discernment, which gets more penetrating as you progress along the list.

Of the five strengths, conviction requires the longest explanation, both because it's one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated factors in the Buddhist path, and because of the multiple delusions it has to counteract.

The conviction here is conviction in the principle of karma: that the pleasure and pain we experience depends on the quality of the intentions on which we act. This conviction counteracts the delusion that "It's not in my best interest to stick to moral principles in the face of danger," and it attacks this delusion in three ways.

First, it insists on what might be called the "boomerang" or "spitting into the wind" principle of karmic cause and effect. If you act on harmful intentions, regardless of the situation, the harm will come back to you. Even if unskillful actions such as killing, stealing, or lying might bring short-term advantages, these are more than offset by the long-term harm to which they leave you exposed.

Conversely, this same principle can make us brave in doing good. If we're convinced that the results of skillful intentions will have to return to us even if death intervenes, we can more easily make the sacrifices demanded by long-term endeavors for our own good and that of others. Whether or not we live to see the results in this lifetime, we're convinced that the good we do is never lost. In this way, we develop the courage needed to build a store of skillful actions — generous and virtuous — that forms our first line of defense against dangers and fear.

Second, conviction insists on giving priority to your state of mind above all else, for that's what shapes your intentions. This counteracts the corollary to the first delusion: "What if sticking to my principles makes it easier for people to do me harm?" This question is based ultimately on the delusion that life is our most precious possession. If that were true, it would be a pretty miserable possession, for it heads inexorably to death. Conviction views our life as precious only to the extent that it's used to develop the mind, for the mind — when developed — is something that no one, not even death, can harm. "Quality of life" is measured by the quality and integrity of the intentions on which we act, just as "quality time" is time devoted to the practice. Or, in the Buddha's words:

Better than a hundred years
lived without virtue, uncentered, is
one day
lived by a virtuous person
absorbed in jhana.

Dhp 110

Third, conviction insists that the need for integrity is unconditional. Even though other people may throw away their most valuable possession — their integrity — it's no excuse for us to throw away ours. The principle of karma isn't a traffic ordinance in effect only on certain hours of the day or certain days of the week. It's a law operating around the clock, around the cycles of the cosmos.

Some people have argued that, because the Buddha recognized the principle of conditionality, he would have no problem with the idea that our virtues should depend on conditions as well. This is a misunderstanding of the principle. To begin with, conditionality doesn't simply mean that everything is changeable and contingent. It's like the theory of relativity. Relativity doesn't mean that all things are relative. It simply replaces mass and time — which long were considered constants — with another, unexpected constant: the speed of light. Mass and time may be relative to a particular inertial frame, as the frame relates to the speed of light, but the laws of physics are constant for all inertial frames, regardless of speed.

In the same way, conditionality means that there are certain unchanging patterns to contingency and change — one of those patterns being that unskillful intentions, based on craving and delusion, invariably lead to unpleasant results.

If we learn to accept this pattern, rather than our feelings and opinions, as absolute, it requires us to become more ingenious in dealing with danger. Instead of following our unskillful knee-jerk reactions, we learn to think outside the box to find responses that best prevent harm of any kind. This gives our actions added precision and grace.

At the same time, we have to note that the Buddha didn't teach conditionality simply to encourage acceptance for the inevitability of change. He taught it to show how the patterns underlying change can be mastered to create an opening that leads beyond conditionality and change. If we want to reach the unconditioned — the truest security — our integrity has to be unconditional, a gift of temporal security not only to those who treat us well, but to everyone, without exception. As the texts say, when you abstain absolutely from doing harm, you give a great gift — freedom from danger to limitless beings — and you yourself find a share in that limitless freedom as well.

Conviction and integrity of this sort make great demands on us. Until we gain our first taste of the unconditioned, they can easily be shaken. This is why they have to be augmented with other mental strengths. The three middle strengths — persistence, mindfulness, and concentration — act in concert. Persistence, in the form of right effort, counteracts the delusion that we're no match for our fears, that once they arise we have to give into them. Right effort gives us practice in eliminating milder unskillful qualities and developing skillful ones in their place, so that when stronger unskillful qualities arise, we can use our skillful qualities as allies in fending them off. The strength of mindfulness assists this process in two ways. (1) It reminds us of the danger of giving in to fear. (2) It teaches us to focus our attention, not on the object of our fear, but on the fear in and of itself as a mental event, something we can watch from the outside rather jumping in and going along for a ride. The strength of concentration, in providing the mind with a still center of wellbeing, puts us in a solid position where we don't feel compelled to identify with fears as they come, and where the comings and goings of internal and external dangers are less and less threatening to the mind.

Even then, though, the mind can't reach ultimate security until it uproots the causes of these comings and goings, which is why the first four strengths require the strength of discernment to make them fully secure. Discernment is what sees that these comings and goings are ultimately rooted in our sense of "I" and "mine," and that "I" and "mine" are not built into experience. They come from the repeated processes of I-making and my-making, in which we impose these notions on experience and identify with things subject to aging, illness, and death. Furthermore, discernment sees through our inner traitors and weaknesses: the cravings that want us to make an "I" and "mine"; the delusions that make us believe in them once they're made. It realizes that this level of delusion is precisely the factor that makes aging, illness, and death dangerous to begin with. If we didn't identify with things that age, grow ill, and die, their aging, illness, and death wouldn't threaten the mind. Totally unthreatened, the mind would have no reason to do anything unskillful ever again.

When this level of discernment matures and bears the fruit of release, our greatest insecurity — our inability to trust ourselves — has been eliminated. Freed from the attachments of "I" and "mine," we find that the component factors of fear — both skillful and unskillful — are gone. There's no remaining confusion or aversion; the mind is no longer weak in the face of danger; and so there's nothing from which we need to escape.

This is where the questions raised by the shaman's remarks find their answers. We fear because we believe in "we." We believe in "we" because of the delusion in our fear. Paradoxically, though, if we love ourselves enough to fear the suffering that comes from unskillful actions and attachments, and learn to believe in the way out, we'll develop the strengths that allow us to cut through our cravings, delusions, and attachments. That way, the entire complex — the "we," the fear, the beliefs, the attachments — dissolves away. The freedom remaining is the only true security there is.

This teaching may offer cold comfort to anyone who wants the impossible: security for his or her attachments. But in trading away the hope for an impossible security, you gain the reality of a happiness totally independent and condition-free. Once you've made this trade, you know that the pay-off is more than worth the price. As one of the Buddha's students once reported, "Before, when I was a householder, maintaining the bliss of kingship, I had guards posted within and without the royal apartments, within and without the city, within and without the countryside. But even though I was thus guarded, thus protected, I dwelled in fear — agitated, distrustful, and afraid. But now, on going alone to a forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, I dwell without fear, unagitated, confident, and unafraid — unconcerned, unruffled, my wants satisfied, with my mind like a wild deer. This is the meaning I have in mind that I repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'"

His deer is obviously not the deer in the headlights. It's a deer safe in the wilderness, at its ease wherever it goes. What makes it more than a deer is that, free from attachment, it's called a "consciousness without surface." Light goes right through it. The hunter can't shoot it, for it can't be seen.
http://zugangzureinsicht.org/html/lib/authors/thanissaro/beyond_en.html said:
Refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha

from: Beyond All Directions
Essays on the Buddhist Path
Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
d 2013-2016
Alternate formats:
To request a printed copy of this book, please write to: Mettā Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082, USA.​

If you'd had the opportunity to approach the Buddha and ask to be his student, he would have expected a few things of you: to be honest and observant, to show him respect, to pay him careful attention, and to try your best to master the skills he taught. When you met these conditions, he in turn would have felt some obligations to you: to give you thorough instructions, to test you to make sure you understood the instructions, and — most interestingly — to provide what he called, "protection in all directions."

The idea that teachers should offer protection to their students was apparently common in ancient India. This is one of the reasons why people would seek out teachers. It also explains why many people, on becoming convinced that the Buddha was the teacher they wanted, would take refuge in him, in his Dhamma (his teachings), and in his Saṅgha of monks. They wanted the protection offered by him, his teachings, and those who also lived by those teachings.

The type of protection offered by different teachers in ancient India would depend on the skills they taught and the dangers from which they felt those skills would offer protection. This was not simply a cultural oddity from the Buddha's time. Researchers have found that people are most likely to master skills when they have a keen sense of the dangers that come from not mastering those skills, and of the safety that comes when the skills are thoroughly mastered.

In the Buddha's case, the skill he taught led to the safety of nibbāna, free from the dangers of aging, illness, and death. In fact, although we think of nibbāna as the name for the final goal of his teachings, it was only one of many names he gave to that goal. Some of those names — shelter, island, harbor, security, and refuge itself — make the point that his teaching is aimed at safety. Others — the ageless, the undecaying, the beyond, the deathless, the ultimate — indicate that this safety is of an extraordinary sort: the ultimate protection from any and all dangers, the ultimate refuge to which anyone might go. Once you've reached this refuge, the Buddha has more than fulfilled his responsibility to protect you in all directions, for he's pointed you to a refuge that goes beyond all directions, a protection transcending the confines of space and time.

However, the Buddha also saw two types of dangers within space and time that can stand in the way of your achieving this refuge: outside dangers and inside ones. The world around you is a dangerous place; and your mind, a dangerous mind. Outside dangers come in the form of other people's examples and teachings that might discourage you from making the effort to follow the path to nibbāna. Inside dangers come from your own greed, aversion, and delusion, which can totally block any desire to follow the path.

In fact, these inside dangers are what leave you susceptible to unskillful outside influences to begin with. If you were innately trustworthy and good, bad outside influences would have no power over you. But, as the Buddha pointed out, the mind is capable of anything. And although he was a master of finding apt analogies, he had to admit that he could find none to adequately describe how quickly the mind can reverse itself. Love can turn to hate, good qualities to vicious ones, and even "the flash of an eye" is slow by comparison. Only when trained can the mind become its own refuge, and only when gaining a sense of heedfulness — the realization that its actions can cause harm, but that the harm can be avoided through careful effort — will it willingly undergo training. Only when it sees the dangers it's capable of producing will it look for external refuges under which to train.

This is why, in his capacity as a responsible teacher, the Buddha recommended that his students — after gaining a sense of heedfulness — take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha as a first step in overcoming both the outside and inside dangers that stand in the way of the ultimate refuge of nibbāna.

When, having gone to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Saṅgha for refuge, you see with right discernment the four noble truths — stress, the cause of stress, the transcending of stress, & the noble eightfold path, the way to the stilling of stress: that’s the secure refuge, that, the supreme refuge, that is the refuge, having gone to which, you gain release from all suffering & stress.
Dhp 190–192

To offer protection against outside dangers to that supreme refuge, the Buddha offered himself as what he called an "admirable friend." Through the example of his life and the content of his teachings, he made it possible for others to realize that nibbāna is an attainable and desirable goal. In a famous exchange, when his disciple Ānanda thought it was generous to say that having admirable friends is half of the holy life, the Buddha replied No: It's the whole. Of course, given the nature of the path to nibbāna, the Buddha couldn't tread the path for his students. He wasn't a sufficient cause for their awakening, but he was a necessary one. Only by having his example and his teachings would his students possess a reliable touchstone against which they might measure other examples and teachings as to what human beings can and should attain. Without that touchstone, they could easily fall prey to teachings that would lower their sights — and to their own internal qualities that would be happy to keep their sights low. Having that touchstone would allow them to expand their horizons and raise their aspirations to a higher level.

Because he wouldn't live forever, the Buddha also trained his students so that they could be admirable friends for succeeding generations. This is why the Saṅgha — in both its traditional forms, monastic and noble — is counted as one of the three refuges. The monastic Saṅgha has kept the teachings alive; and the noble Saṅgha — the Saṅgha of the Buddha's awakened disciples, both lay and ordained — have kept his example alive to the present day. (The modern sense of Saṅgha, as any group that meditates, cannot provide these sorts of refuge, which is why a wise policy would be to revive the traditional name for such a group — parisā — to avoid confusion.) It's because of both types of Saṅgha that admirable friends on the path are still with us.

As for the Dhamma, it offers external protection in making clear what should and shouldn't be done if you want to follow the path to nibbāna. The basic operating principle of the Dhamma is that your actions — thoughts, words, and deeds — make a difference, and that the difference can range from long-term suffering through long-term happiness, and on to the happiness of nibbāna, which, because it's beyond space and time, is beyond long-term.

This is why the teachings on action, or karma, are so central to the Buddha's message. Contrary to popular belief, the Buddha did not teach fatalism. In fact, he was extremely critical of fatalism — the belief that your experiences are already determined from causes in the past — because fatalism denies that your present actions can make a difference. In one of his discourses, he notes that fatalism leaves you without protection, for it allows no foundation for even the idea of what should and shouldn't be done. If everything is predetermined, there's no way of saying that one action is good and another bad. Everything is just the way it has to be.

The Buddha's teaching on karma, however, focuses on the fact that while your experiences are influenced to some extent by actions from the past, the way you experience those influences depends on what you do with them in the present. In fact, without the karma of your present actions, you wouldn't experience anything at all.

So the Buddha's teaching on karma is one of the ways in which the Dhamma offers external protection: It emphasizes the importance of your present actions — providing for the possibility of "should be done" and "shouldn't be done" — at the same time offering clear guidelines for figuring out, in any situation, where the shoulds and shouldn'ts lie. This is one of the ways in which the Buddha's Dhamma offers external protection in all directions. It gives you tools to discern, regardless of time or place, which actions always lead to long-term suffering, which ones always lead to long-term happiness, and then lets you decide for yourself which path you want to follow.

In choosing to follow the Buddha's path to happiness — both long-term and beyond long-term — which you've learned from the external level, you begin to take refuge on the internal level. In other words, you internalize the examples provided by the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, developing them in your own thoughts, words, and deeds. This is a form of refuge in that you protect yourself from the dangers that would come from following unskillful actions and habits of mind.

Internalizing the refuge of the Buddha means developing the three main qualities he embodied: discernment, compassion, and purity. To do this, you look to the Dhamma for advice on how to foster these qualities within yourself. Discernment, it says, comes from trying to find an answer to the question, "What, when I do it, will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?" Compassion comes from realizing that other beings love themselves as much as you love yourself, and so your happiness should never depend on causing them harm. Otherwise, it won't last. Purity comes from examining the actual results of each action — before, during, and after the action — to see if it will cause, is causing, or has caused anyone any affliction. If it will cause affliction, you don't do it. If it is causing affliction, you stop. If it has caused affliction, you talk it over with a reliable friend and then resolve never to repeat that mistake. If it didn't cause any affliction, you take joy in being harmless and continue with your training in skillful actions.

The beauty of these basic instructions for cultivating discernment, compassion, and purity is that they harness our desire for genuine happiness. From the Buddha's point of view, the pursuit of happiness doesn't have to be narrow or selfish. When conducted intelligently, it can lead to noble, expansive qualities of mind. At the same time, these instructions show that the virtues of the Buddha grow within you, not by denying your desire for happiness, but by training it to be truly effective. Although this training requires doing battle with the greed, aversion, and delusion within you, it doesn't require that you deny what, deep down inside, you really want: a happiness you can trust. This is what helps to make your inner refuge secure.

Internalizing the refuge of the Saṅgha means developing these same three qualities of discernment, compassion, and purity, for these are the qualities that the noble Saṅgha have developed as they themselves have internalized the refuge of the Buddha. The noble Saṅgha also provide the added dimension of showing the advantages of practicing the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma as the Buddha taught it, and not in line with their own preconceived notions. In other words, instead of revising the Dhamma to fit in with their preferences, they put their preferences aside and adjust themselves to fit with the Dhamma. When you follow this example, you gain an internal refuge of reliable conduct.

You're also internalizing the refuge of the Dhamma. All the good qualities taught by the Dhamma, when you develop them in your thoughts, words, and deeds, provide protection on the internal level. But most interesting in this regard are the teachings that the Buddha specifically cited as offering protection. In one discourse (AN 7:63), he compares the qualities of mind developed in the practice to the requisites of a well-defended frontier fortress. In another (AN 10:17), he lists ten external habits and inner qualities, calling each of them a "protector." In yet another (Sn 2:4), he answers a question about protective charms by citing 38 habits and qualities — from avoiding fools to attaining nibbāna — as genuinely effective protective charms.

These three discourses, which follow this article, describe in detail the principles to internalize to give yourself protection. But as an overview, it's important to note that protection touches on all aspects of your thoughts, words, and deeds — the way you engage with other people, the way you look after your livelihood, and the qualities you develop within yourself in dealing with your own mind. You avoid causing harm while, at the same time, mastering skills that allow you to be truly helpful to others and to look after yourself with ease. As you do this, you — through your thoughts, words, and deeds — become Dhamma. Taking refuge in the Dhamma on the internal level allows you to begin to rely on yourself.

Your own self is your own mainstay, for who else could your mainstay be? With you yourself well-trained you obtain the mainstay hard to obtain.
Dhp 160

Only when you've thoroughly trained yourself to practice the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma can you reliably act as your own refuge. Your mind becomes less quick to reverse itself, and less inclined to cause harm. This is why, in the Buddha's injunction to be your own refuge, he equates it with taking the Dhamma as refuge, defining both in internal terms: the practice of the four types of right mindfulness, which in turn function as the themes of right concentration, the culminating factor of the path.

"And how does a monk live with himself as his island, himself as his refuge, with no other as his refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, with no other as his refuge? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. … For those who, now or when I am gone, live with themselves as their island, themselves as their refuge, with no other as their refuge; with the Dhamma as their island, the Dhamma as their refuge, not with another as their refuge, will be my foremost monks: those who are desirous of training."

DN 16

Once the path is completely internalized and developed, it opens to the ultimate refuge of the deathless. The path doesn't cause the deathless — if the deathless were caused, it wouldn't be deathless, for it would die when its causes ran out — but the practice of the path leads to the deathless, in the same way that a road leading to the Grand Canyon doesn't cause the Grand Canyon to be, but following it can take you there. That's why the path is called the path: It takes you to where you want to go.

So, all in all, the act of going for refuge occurs on three levels: external, internal, and — beyond external and internal — the level of nibbāna. These three levels can be summarized in two different ways: in terms of what they protect you from, and in terms of what they depend on to protect you.

In terms of what they protect you from: The first level protects you from the unskillful actions of others; the second level, from your own unskillful actions; and the third level, from the results of all actions, skillful and not. After all, even skillful actions don't last forever. They can provide long-term happiness, but long-term isn't forever. Only when you've reached the dimension beyond time are you totally free from the vagaries of time. Only then is your happiness totally secure.

In terms of what the three levels depend on: In the first level, you learn to choose others you can reliably depend on. In the second level, you learn to make yourself reliable so you can depend on yourself. In the third level you abandon both "self" and "others, " for you've found something that, because it's unconditioned, doesn't need to depend on anyone or anything at all.

Once your happiness is secure in this way, you can engage in the world without being exposed to its dangers — for your mind is free from the dangers it used to pose for itself. And you pose no dangers to the world. Because you don't need others for your happiness, your relationships with them can be pure.

In fact, now that you are a member of the noble Saṅgha, you can offer them an external refuge as well, in the example of your thoughts, words, and deeds.

In this way, the act of going for refuge is a gift not only to yourself. It's a gift — an offering of safety and protection — that extends to everyone in every direction.

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has a foundation post — deeply rooted, well embedded, immovable, & unshakable — for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathāgata's [Buddha's] Awakening: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge &conduct, well-gone, a knower of the cosmos, an unexcelled trainer of those persons ready to be tamed, teacher of human & divine beings, awakened, blessed.' With conviction as his foundation post, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has a moat, both deep & wide, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way, the disciple of the noble ones has a sense of shame. He feels shame at [the thought of engaging in] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. He feels shame at falling into evil, unskillful actions. With shame as his moat, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has an encircling road, both high & wide, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way, the disciple of the noble ones has compunction. He feels compunction about [the suffering that would result from] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. He feels compunction about falling into evil, unskillful actions. With compunction as his encircling road, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has many weapons stored, both arrows &things to be hurled, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way, the disciple of the noble ones has heard much, has retained what he has heard, has stored what he has heard. Whatever teachings are admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end, that — in their meaning & expression — proclaim the holy life that is entirely complete & pure: those he has listened to often, retained, discussed, accumulated, examined with his mind, and well-penetrated in terms of his views. With learning as his weapons, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has a large army stationed within — elephant soldiers, cavalry, charioteers, bowmen, standard-bearers, billeting officers, soldiers of the supply corps, noted princes, commando heroes, infantry, & slaves — for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones keeps his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful mental qualities and taking on skillful mental qualities, is steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful mental qualities. With persistence as his army, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has a gatekeeper — wise, experienced, intelligent — to keep out those he doesn't know and to let in those he does, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, endowed with excellent proficiency in mindfulness, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done &said long ago. With mindfulness as his gatekeeper, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"Just as the royal frontier fortress has ramparts — high & thick &completely covered with plaster — for the protection of those within and toward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising & passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. With discernment as his covering of plaster, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskillful, develops what is skillful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity. …

"These are the seven true qualities with which he is endowed.

"And which are the four jhānas — heightened mental states that provide a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now — that he can obtain at will, without difficulty, without trouble?

"Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of grass, timber, & water for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhāna — rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought &evaluation — for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on Unbinding.

"Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of rice & barley for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhāna — rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance — for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on Unbinding.

"Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of sesame, green gram, &other beans for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and toward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones, with the fading of rapture, remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna — of which the noble ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding' — for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on Unbinding.

"Just as a royal frontier fortress has large stores of tonics — ghee, fresh butter, oil, honey, molasses, & salt — for the delight, convenience, & comfort of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way the disciple of the noble ones, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain, as with the earlier disappearance of joy & distress, enters & remains in the fourth jhāna — purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither-pleasure-nor-pain — for his own delight, convenience, & comfort, and to alight on Unbinding.

"These are the four jhānas — heightened mental states that provide a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now — that he can obtain at will, without difficulty, without trouble.

"When a disciple of the noble ones is endowed with these seven true qualities and can obtain at will — without difficulty, without trouble — these four jhānas, heightened mental states that provide a pleasant abiding in the here-&-now, he is said to be a disciple of the noble ones who can't be undone by Mara, can't be undone by the Evil One."

AN 7:63

"Live with a protector, monks, and not without a protector. He suffers, one who lives without a protector. And these ten are qualities creating a protector. Which ten?

"There is the case where a monk is virtuous. He dwells restrained in accordance with the Pāṭimokkha [the basic code of monastic rules], consummate in his behavior & sphere of activity. He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults. And the fact that he is virtuous… seeing danger in the slightest faults, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk has heard much, has retained what he has heard, has stored what he has heard. Whatever teachings are admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end, that — in their meaning and expression — proclaim the holy life that is entirely complete and pure: those he has listened to often, retained, discussed, accumulated, examined with his mind, & well-penetrated in terms of his views. And the fact that he has heard much… well-penetrated in terms of his views, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk has admirable friends, admirable comrades, admirable companions. And the fact that he has admirable friends, admirable comrades, admirable companions is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is easy to speak to, endowed with qualities that make him easy to speak to, patient, respectful to instruction. And the fact that he is easy to speak to … respectful to instruction, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is adept at the various affairs involving his fellows in the holy life; is vigorous, quick-witted in the techniques involved in them, is up to doing them or arranging to get them done. And the fact that he is adept at… doing them or arranging to get them done is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is one who desires the Dhamma, endearing in his conversation, greatly rejoicing in the higher Dhamma & higher Discipline. And the fact that he is one who desires the Dhamma, endearing in his conversation, greatly rejoicing in the higher Dhamma & higher Discipline, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk keeps his persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful qualities and for taking on skillful qualities. He is steadfast, solid in his effort, not shirking his duties with regard to skillful qualities. And the fact that he keeps his persistence aroused… not shirking his duties with regard to skillful qualities, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is content with any old robe cloth at all, any old alms food, any old lodging, any old medicinal requisites for curing sickness at all. And the fact that he is content with any old robe cloth at all, any old alms food, any old lodging, any old medicinal requisites for curing sickness at all, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is mindful, endowed with excellent proficiency in mindfulness, remembering & recollecting what was done and said a long time ago. And the fact that he is mindful, endowed with excellent proficiency in mindfulness, remembering & recollecting what was done and said a long time ago, is a quality creating a protector.

"Then again, the monk is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising& passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. And the fact that the monk is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising &passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress, is a quality creating a protector.

"Live with a protector, monks, and not without a protector. He suffers, one who lives without a protector. These are the ten qualities creating a protector."

AN 10:17

"Not consorting with fools, consorting with the wise, homage to those deserving of homage: This is the highest protective charm. Living in a civilized land, having made merit in the past, directing oneself rightly: This is the highest protective charm. Broad knowledge, skill, well-mastered discipline, well-spoken words: This is the highest protective charm. Support for one's parents, assistance to one's wife and children, consistency in one's work: This is the highest protective charm. Generosity, living in rectitude, assistance to one's relatives, deeds that are blameless: This is the highest protective charm. Avoiding, abstaining from evil; refraining from intoxicants, being heedful of the qualities of the mind: This is the highest protective charm. Respect, humility, contentment, gratitude, hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions: This is the highest protective charm. Patience, composure, seeing contemplatives, is cussing the Dhamma on timely occasions: This is the highest protective charm. Austerity, celibacy, seeing the noble truths, realizing Unbinding: This is the highest protective charm. A mind that, when touched by the ways of the world, is unshaken, sorrow less, dustless, secure: This is the highest protective charm. Everywhere undefeated when acting in this way, people go everywhere in well-being: This is their highest protective charm."
Sn 2:4