BE HERE NOW (PART II)
by Bhikkhu Dhammadharo
Q.: Awareness is anatta, not self, but can we do anything to make it arise?
Is all we can do just listening and studying?
Bhikkhu Dhammadharo: Can “we” listen, can “we” study? Can you in
reality force yourself to study or to understand what is being said now?
We are here in an environment now where Dhamma is being discussed,
but aren't there moments when there is distraction, when we are
misunderstanding what we have heard anyway? We may take it the way
we want to take it, or we may want to make it fit with what we think is
the right way.
You can't even say “we” can listen, because there will be listening in the
right way as much as conditions will allow. There will be studying of
Dhamma in the right way as much as conditions will allow, no more.
It is not self. Hearing now is not self. Studying is not self Right attention is
not self. So, if we think that we can study and we can listen we are
misleading ourselves. We can be aware while studying and listening, in
order to learn that such moments are not self. The more we listen in the
right way, if there are conditions for it, the more will we understand the
difference between just thinking and being aware. We will understand the
difference between trying to control realities and just letting awareness
arise naturally and being aware of what appears for one brief moment.
Right understanding only develops little by little. Some of us have been
here with this Dhamma group for two or three years. But this is nothing
compared with the number of lives we might have to carry on. Because
we could die today and we don't know where we will be born, and we
don't know whether there will be any conditions for a Dhamma group in a
next life. Look how many years it has taken us to find out what we are
finding out now. Who knows how long we will live. We may worry that
understanding develops so slowly. What is the use of worrying and
thinking, I did not find out soon enough “, or “I am not going to have long
enough to study”, or, “I have got to find out faster.” That is all attachment.
We are not developing detachment. In a next life conditions may be better
or worse, we do not know. Why not develop understanding in this life?
We should listen more and study realities more. We may be clinging to the
image of a self who should not be like this or like that. We cannot face up
to the realities which are really us. We wish to deny that we have wrong
understanding, that we are selfish or jealous. How can we know jealousy
as it really is if we are struggling and trying to pretend that there isn't any?
We may try to hide from it, to push it away, to give it another name, but
that is useless. Do we consider ourselves as “somebody”? We may refrain
from unwholesome deeds because we want to be “the nice person”, the
“holy person”, and receive all the nice compliments we are so attached to.
Or do we refrain from akusala because there is right understanding which
truly sees akusala as akusala?
Why do we want to be with what we are doing? Doesn't it make us f eel
comfortable and secure when we feel that we are with what we are
doing? It is all attachment. It is not awareness, it is not detachment, it is
not wisdom. It causes us more suffering. We go on trying to be attached.
If we are not attached to what appears through the ears we are attached
to what appears through the eyes. If there is the development of right
understanding we are not searching for... comfort or security, we are not
upset, not looking for something that has not appeared. We are not
searching for an object to be aware of, we are just aware of whatever
Q.: I don't think that it is possible to be aware without being with what you
Bhikkhu: We certainly cannot be aware of the past. We cannot be aware
of the future. So, it is only the present, that which appears right now, that
can be the object of awareness. But if you call that “being here now”, or
“being with what you are doing”, we have to clarify that. We have to
explain how to be here now with awareness, this is very different from
being here now with any form of attachment, no matter how subtle.
What are we attached to now? When we look around here, can we avoid
being attached to what we see here? We are attached immediately to
colour appearing through the eyedoor. That is being here now with
attachment. We have attachment time and again, we have no need to
practise it. It arises because there are conditions for its arising.
Be here now with awareness, and this means that we do not try to have a
feeling of comfort or security. There can be awareness just for a moment
and then after that who knows which reality arises, it can be attachment,
aversion or ignorance again.
The nama and rupa which arise right now we mistake for something that
can stay, that can continue. That illusion can be destroyed through
awareness and right understanding. When there is no awareness there is
the illusion of things carrying on, because there are conditions which make
things appear as they are not. How can we destroy the illusion when there
are conditions for wrong understanding, and not for right understanding?
When we want to be here now with attachment it is very hard to know
what is going on in reality, and we don't see the characteristic of
awareness at all. It is mixed up in our own idea of a self who wants to be
here now and who wants to be aware.
We have conditions for the arising of attachment and to be with it without
having to do much about it. We want to enjoy colour, sound, smell, taste
and touch. That is the second noble Truth, tanha, clinging or thirst. We
have a thirst for sights, sounds, odours, flavours and touches. What does
it do for us? It brings us misery. It brings as result unpleasant sights,
sounds or touches. It separates us from touches that are pleasant. It
causes us to be ill and to experience pain. In trying to be here now with
attachment one could perform unwholesome deeds. One may kill or steal.
One may do all sorts of things in order to have pleasant experiences. What
does ones kill for? For sights, sounds, smells, flavours and touches that
one can enjoy. What concern is there at such moments for other people's
happiness? There is thorough forgetfulness on all levels. There is no
generosity, no restraint, there is no helping of other people. Let alone
awareness. We are thoroughly distracted by colour or sound.
We are attached to nature, to hearing birds. One may think that there is
no attachment if one does not want to get something for oneself. There
are many degrees of attachment, it can be coarse or more subtle. As soon
as we like nature or the sound of birds there is attachment. If one is
aware of sound and realizes it as just a kind of rupa appearing through
the ears, there is no bird in the sound. There are many kinds of sounds,
loud or soft, high or low, but sound can be known as just sound. This is
the way to develop understanding which will lead to detachment.
When one sees realities as they are who would want to be here now.
Realities arise and fall away, they are dukkha, suffering. We have a thirst
for nature, for this or for that. Even for a certain kind of practice which is
“having awareness now”. Instead of being aware of whatever appears we
are trying to make something come which we don't even fully understand.
One may perhaps think that understanding will make one enjoy life more.
One does not see how much attachment one has and how one is actually
trying to get more.
When there is the idea of a person, the whole body, a thing, thus, a
“whole” there is an idea of “self" or “mine”. When there is awareness of
now this element then that element, there will be the disintegration of the
self. Now this element, now that. Not a dog, a man, a woman, a house or
a place. Not a whole body. Not nature. Nature is odour, sound, smell,
visible object and touch. Different rupas through different sense-doors.
There is no nature which is a whole, which is desirable. Dukkha,
unsatisfactory is not sukha, pleasant. Different elements can be known one
at a time through the six doorways. This will lead to detachment. Things
are not as we would like them to be and they never will. They are as they
are. They arise and then fall away again. We should see the truth of
disintegration. There are moments of consciousness, citta, and
accompanying mental factors, cetasikas, which arise and fall away, no