Be Here Now [ IV ]

Q: We know that it is not a skillful state.

Bhikkhu: But at what level do we realize that? What about the state that
is distracted by distraction? That is equally unskillful and we don't even
know we have it. Instead of learning to be aware of whatever appears we
are being choosey. We don't want to be aware of distraction. We want to
get on with being aware of breath, of body, of feeling, of citta
(consciousness), or of this or that. What about distraction? Is distraction
not included in the four satipatthanas, the objects of mindfulness? The
Buddha did not say, whatever you do, don't be aware of distraction. What
choice do you have? You can't be aware of seeing at the moment of
distraction, because then there is no seeing, there is distraction. You can't
be aware of calm at the moment of distraction, because there is no calm.
Ask yourself, do you really want to be aware or do you just want calm?
Just get rid of the distraction and get on with whatever we are doing. But
what is the point of getting on with whatever we are doing when it is
“we” who are doing it all the time?  There is no awareness, no
What is the point? We are just perpetuating the illusion of a self who has
got a job to do, who wants to do it and does not like distraction which gets
in the way of doing the job. Then there is no right understanding at all. If
there really is awareness, you are not upset by distraction, because it has
just arisen because of conditions, it is not self. You are aware of it and
then you can be aware of whatever appears next. There can be
awareness and right understanding of what has already appeared because
of conditions, only for one moment though. And then there may be a
whole lot of distraction. You can't do anything about it, anatta. If there is
awareness at that moment something has been done already. Anatta.
You can't stop awareness from arising - it has already arisen.
Developing awareness. I don't think it is what we really want to do at all.
We don't have the intention deep down. We are not really interested very
often. Only at a moment of right understanding is there any interest, right
interest in the object which appears, to see it as it really is. We are always
looking for some other object, trying to change it or make it last. That is
attachment, not detachment.
We may be worried, because we have not got enough awareness.
We are comparing ourselves with others, because they know more than
us, they are always aware, always calm. Then there is no awareness, no
detachment. There is just an idea of self at the center of the world. We
may think of what different teachers say, about ways and methods to
develop the path, but then there is no awareness. Because at the moment
of awareness there is no teacher, no person, no name, no address.
There is just the characteristic of nama (mental phenomena) or the
characteristic of rupa (material phenomena). Nama is not a person, a
teacher, a method, a way. Rupa is not a name or address, a date, a self.
So, if we realize that perhaps we have not had very much awareness yet,
that is good, that is right understanding, if it is true. And that is the way to
develop more of it. That is the right way. But we may find it depressing
when we are attached to wanting to be further ahead than we are.
One moment there can be attachment, the next moment, if we have got
enough right understanding accumulated, there can be awareness. The
next moment there can be depression or aversion, because there is not as
much awareness as we wanted, or it did not last as long as we thought it
should, or we had doubt about what we were aware of. We have to be
honest, we have to know the truth. If we don't have much understanding
we should realize that, and then, if we realize that, there is some
understanding, and we can start.
It: is hard to admit our lack of awareness and understanding. It is hard to
be honest and face the truth. Even if one has some amount of right
understanding that does not mean that one doesn't ever have any wrong
understanding. One may, for example, mistake thinking about a reality for
awareness. There may be wholesome thinking, but that is different from
awareness of realities. We may, for example, be angry and realise that
anger is unwholesome. That is different from awareness and
understanding of anger as just a reality, not “my unwholesomeness”.
Anger is a type of nama which arises and then falls away, it is not self.
Even if one has a basic theoretical understanding one may still practice in
the wrong way.
Q: The difficulty seems to me that awareness is just being aware, and
that there is not any directing. Should one not start by directing?

Bhikkhu: That is not satipatthana, that is someone, a self who wants to
direct. The only way to develop satipatthana is to start satipatthana, and
that is not someone directing something. When you say start,
what do you mean by starting? Do you mean understanding nama and
rupa now, is that starting?  Panna may be so weak, so ephemeral, so
fleeting, that you have no idea whether you understand anything or not.
That is beginning.
Beginning is to be overwhelmed with all sorts of doubts, misgivings and
wrong ideas. When you have been practising in the wrong way and have
been trying to direct sati you cannot suddenly change. It is not so that you
can start at once to practise in the right way and then immediately realize
different characteristics of nama and rupa. Let us talk about beginning. I
think we have a rather odd idea of what a beginning is like. In the
beginning, one cannot be full of confidence. One cannot expect natural
awareness and one cannot expect that there will be no directing. That can
only be when awareness has already been developed.
When satipatthana has been developed it can arise anywhere and at any
time. It can also arise when you are with friends and are having a good
time. But if one is a beginner one cannot expect sati to arise very often.
You cannot force yourself not to have a good time, and, when you are
alone, will there be more awareness? Sati can arise when right
understanding of nama and rupa has been accumulated. It arises because
of conditions, it is beyond control.

Topic 50