The Natural Way of Development - Just as in the case of the knifehandle

Questioner: I do not know yet the characteristic of satipatthana. When I listen intently to your lecture, I understand the subject matter, the theory. There is also awareness while I have theoretical understanding, but I do not consider nama and rupa at that moment. I am not sure whether that is satipatthana or not.
Sujin: If we do not know that our life is only nama and rupa, we are bound to take realities for self. We are full of the concept of self and this can only be eradicated completely by satipatthana. Sati can be aware and begin to investigate the characteristics of nama and rupa that appear. In the beginning, when sati is aware, there cannot yet be clear understanding of the realities that appear as nama and as rupa. The understanding may be so weak that it is hardly noticeable. Understanding develops only gradually, it can eliminate ignorance stage by stage; ignorance cannot be immediately eradicated. It is just as in the case of the knifehandle someone holds each day and which wears off only a little at a time.
We read in the Kindred Sayings (III, Middle Fifty, Ch V, § 101, Adze-handle) that the Buddha, while he was in Savatthi, said to the monks that defilements can be eradicated by realizing the arising and falling away of the five khandhas. This cannot be achieved “by not knowing, by not seeing.” If someone would just wish for the eradication of defilements and he would be neglectful of the development of understanding, defilements cannot be eradicated. Only by the development of understanding, defilements can gradually be eliminated. We read:

Just as if, monks, when a carpenter or carpenter’s apprentice

looks upon his adze-handle

and sees thereon his thumb-mark and his finger-marks

he does not thereby know:

“Thus and thus much of my adze-handle has been worn away today,

thus much yesterday,

thus much at other times.”

But he knows the wearing away of it just by its wearing away.

Even so, monks, the monk who dwells attentive to self-training

has not this knowledge:

“Thus much and thus much of the asavas has been worn away today,

thus much yesterday,

and thus much at other times.”

But he knows the wearing away of them just by their wearing away.


Understanding has to be developed for an endlessly long time. Some people

dislike it that sati and panna develop only very gradually, but there is no other

way. If someone is impatient and tries to combine different ways of practice in

order to hasten the development of panna, he makes his life very complicated.


Topic 198