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Dhamma in Thailand

Dhamma in Thailand

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Published by Alan Weller
Letter on buddhism by Nina van Gorkom
Letter on buddhism by Nina van Gorkom

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Alan Weller on Apr 06, 2009
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06/19/2011

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#November-December 2002Abhidhamma in Kraeng Kacang.PrefaceThe quiet surroundings for our Dhamma discussions could not have been better: theKraeng Kacang Country Club and Khun Duangduenís house further up in the hills.Everything had been beautifully arranged and organized by Mom Betty BongkojpriyaYugala. We enjoyed the warm hospitality of Acharn Sujin, her sister Khun Jid and KhunDuangduen. They treated us on one delicious meal after another, also high up at the lake.At sunset we walked down the lane, looking at the stars and listening to the voices of theforest, just relaxing or again discussing points of the Dhamma. It was all very peaceful andinspiring. We are most grateful for all the hospitality.Later on I attended Dhamma discussions in Thai at the Foundation, the building of theìDhamma Study and Support Foundationî. There were discussions on the SatipaììhånaSutta, for two hours and after that, I attended the meeting of the Board of the Foundation.Here was discussed whether only the first hour of the discussions on the Satipaììhåna Suttashould be spent with questions and after that the second hour with the text. It was fearedthat the time spent on the discussions could become longer so that there would be less timefor the text itself. Acharn Sujin said: the questions are most important, because if peopledo not understand satipaììhåna pertaining to this moment, they cannot understand the text.It does not matter whether the second part of the time dedicated to the text becomesshorter and it would take even a year to deal with only a few parts of the texts. This was along discussion but it brought home to me the importance of the principles that werediscussed. We should not understand just the names of realities, but the characteristicswhich appear now. Without right understanding of satipaììhåna, we cannot grasp themeaning of the texts of the Tipiìaka.Many of my Thai friends have become very skilled at Pali (the Pali lesson starts at eighton Sunday morning at the Foundation) but they also realize that it is the understanding ofthe reality now that matters, not theoretical understanding. I was greatly impressed by thededication and enthusiasm of the teachers who assisted Acharn Sujin in the explanation ofthe Dhamma. I really had píti (rapture) and paamojja.m (delight) being with them, itbolstered my confidence in the teachings.********Chapter 1
 
Theory and PracticeIn Kraeng Kacang we were reminded time and again that we cannot understand theTipiìaka without developing awareness and understanding of this very moment. We haveheard many times that there are three levels of understanding: understanding stemmingfrom listening and reading, pariyatti;understanding that is developed through awareness of nåma and rúpa, paìipatti or practice;understanding that is the direct realization of the truth, paìivedha.While we are reading texts we may become absorbed in them without any awareness ofnåma and rúpa. Realities, nåma and rúpa, appear all the time, but mostly we are onlythinking about them. We were reminded by Acharn Sujin that we should know that there isdhamma at this moment, a reality with its own characteristic. If we have merely theoreticalknowledge, we know only the names of realities. When sati-sampajañña arises realitiescan be studied with direct awareness of them.Sampajañña, another term for paññå (understanding) is often translated as clearcomprehension. We should remember that this is not theoretical understanding. The termsati-sampajañña (mindfulness and understanding), is also used in samatha (tranquilmeditation), and there it denotes sati and pañña of the degree of discerning betweenakusala citta and kusala citta right at the present moment; sati-sampajañña knows whetherthere is attachment to calm, and it knows how to subdue defilements by means of ameditation subject.In the development of insight, sati-sampajañña is awareness and direct understanding ofthe characteristic of nåma or rúpa appearing at the present moment. The conditions forsati-sampajañña are the study of realities as taught in the Tipiìaka and carefulconsideration of what one has learnt. Acharn Sujin said that without the understanding ofthe Abhidhamma satipaììhåna cannot be developed. By Abhidhamma she did not meantheoretical knowledge of all the details of the Abhidhamma, but a basic understanding ofnåma, mental phenomena, and rúpa, physical phenomena. We should know that nåma isthe reality that experiences an object and rúpa is the reality that does not experienceanything. People may doubt whether rúpa is real, they believe that only nåma is real. If wehave doubt about the existence of rúpa, a reality that does not know anything, how can wedevelop right understanding of the difference between nåma and rúpa? Insight isdeveloped in different stages and the first stage is knowing the difference between thecharacteristic of nåma and of rúpa. If one has not reached this stage, the impermanence ofnåma and rúpa can never be realized. The three levels of understanding, pariyatti, paìipattiand paìivedha follow one upon the other and they must be in conformity with each other.Study, practice and realization of the truth must refer to the same basic realities.At this moment a dhamma appears and it has a characteristic that can be known inaccordance with what we learnt through the theoretical knowledge of realities. Citta,consciousness, is nåma and it is accompanied by several mental factors, cetasikas whichare also nåma. Cetasikas experience the same object as the citta they accompany, but theyperform each their own function. We were reminded time and again: ìPeople study citta,but they do not know the citta that is appearing now.î Seeing is a citta, it is nåma that experiences visible object. Visible object is rúpa thatappears through the eyes. Hearing is another citta, different from seeing.I said to Acharn Sujin that I am forgetful of seeing that appears now, and hearing thatappears now. She answered that I should listen again to the Dhamma, that I should listenand consider realities very often. Paññå does not know something other than what
 
naturally appears at this moment. When a reality appears one at a time, nothing else canappear at that moment.It is true that only one dhamma appears at a time, and that the next moment anotherdhamma appears. We can verify that when seeing arises, there cannot be hearing at thesame time. These two types of cittas arise because of different conditions: they experiencea different object and they are dependent on a different base. We think about the dhammathat appears and we cling to it. However, this prevents us from being aware of otherdhammas that appear afterwards. Acharn Sujin said to me: îNever forget that at thismoment a reality is appearing, and that one characteristic appears at a time.î Realities are appearing all the time, but they are not objects of sati, because we areforgetful. I was reminded that we only think of the story, the subject matter of nåma andrúpa. We have to be very sincere as to our own understanding. We may read a great dealabout nåma and rúpa, but this is only theoretical understanding, different from sati-sampajañña arising at the present moment.Understanding of the difference between thinking of realities and direct understanding ofthem is essential. I find that this was the most important lesson I learnt when I was inThailand this time. I remarked that each time I come to Thailand, I realize more how littleI know. Jonothan answered: ìWhen you realize this, does that not mean that there is moreunderstanding? That is encouraging.î It is true: when we realize our deeply engrainedignorance and wrong view, it helps us not to have vain expectations about the growth ofpaññå. The Buddha taught people to develop right understanding of what appears at thepresent moment, and this is satipaììhåna. The Abhidhamma explains in detail all realitiesof our daily life, and therefore it is very meaningful that he taught in the Heaven of theThirtythree Abhidhamma in alternation with satipaììhåna.We read in the Commentary to the ìMiddle Length Sayingsî (III, 134, Baddhekaratta Sutta,Discourse on ìA Single Excellent Nightî), that the Buddha, in the Heaven of Thirtythree,taught the Abhidhamma in alternation with the Baddhekaratta Sutta to the devas whocould not penetrate the profound and detailed teaching of the Abhidhamma on rúpa andarúpa (nåma) that have the three characteristics (of dukkha, impermanence and non-self).We read in the ìBhaddekaratta Sutta of Lomasakaògiyaî that the deva Candana approachedthe venerable Lomasakaògiya and asked him whether he remembered the exposition andanalysis of the Baddhekaratta Sutta. It appeared that both of them could not remember this,but Candana remembered the verse. He related that the Buddhahad taught these when he dwellt in the Heaven of the Thirtythree.We read in the ìBhaddekaratta Suttaî, ìA Single Excellent Nightî(Middle LengthSayings,131, translated by the Ven. Bhikkhus Nyanamoli and Bodhi):"Let not a person revive the pastOr on the future build his hopes;For the past has been left behindAnd the future has not been reached.Instead with insight let him seeEach presently arisen state;Let him know that and be sure of it,Invincibly, unshakeably.Today the effort must be made;Tomorrow Death may come, who knows?No bargain with Mortality

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