In the Theragatha (Canto 43) we read about the Thera Sumangala who was born in a poor family of farmers. He went forth and, after a meditation subject was given to him, he was sent to the woods. He found it too difficult to live in solitude and therefore he departed to his village again. There he saw the peasants ploughing the fields in soiled garments, covered with dust, blown by hot winds. We read in the commentary to this Canto:
“And he thought: ‘Truly these fellows earn their living in great misery!’ and feeling anxious, his insight approaching maturity, he set himself to do exercises that had been given him, going to the roots of a tree, and biding in seclusion... After he had seen the farmers he realized with insight that life is dukkha. His wisdom reached maturity and he finally attained arahatship. He spoke the following verse which gives expression to his freedom from dukkha:
Well rid, well rid, O excellently rid
Am I from these three crooked tasks and tools,
Rid of my reaping with your sickles, rid
Of trudging after ploughs, and rid is my back
Of bending over these wretched little spades.
Though they be ever here, ay, ever here,
Enough of them, I say, for me, enough!
Go meditate, Sumangala, ay go
And meditate, Sumangala, and bide
Earnest and diligent, Sumangala!”
While Sumangala looked at the farmers he developed right understanding of the
nama and rupa appearing at that moment. He had developed understanding
during countless previous lives, otherwise he could not have attained arahatship.
We do not have to look for a particular object in order to develop insight, we do
not have to avoid looking at people, talking to them or laughing, because any
object in daily life can be the object of insight. Our aim should be to have more
understanding of what is real so that the notion of self and other defilements can
be eradicated. In this way the perfection of wisdom can develop.