Be Here Now [ VII ]

Q.: Can one be enjoying something and be aware at the same time?

Bhikkhu: These are different moments. Visible object can be seen, and

when right understanding is being developed we will know that there is no

“it” to be enjoyed. Visible object is not something, not a flower. We may

say, “I know that it is not a flower, only visible object or colour”. We may

say that, but there may still be an idea of “something”. We may believe

that colour is something lasting. You can't really enjoy it, because it falls

away. If you were to see that visible object falls away there would be

detachment eventually. Do we really want detachment? We should be

honest with ourselves. If we realize that what we mainly want is

enjoyment, happiness, there is understanding at that moment. We are

facing up to the truth that we are not people who are full of awareness

and right understanding all day long. It is better to know that than not to

know that.

Detachment should be sobering. I like the word sobering as a description

of the development of the eightfold Path. Are we really interested in this?

Don't we prefer to be intoxicated with colour, sound, smell, flavour and

tangible object? However, awareness and right understanding of what

appears now should sober us up really. It is the purpose of the

development of the eightfold Path. Arahats are incapable of any kind of

laughter that would make their bodies shake, they could not make loud,

unpleasant sounds. They can only smile in a refined manner, in a sober


When we are enjoying ourselves why should we not be aware, or learn to

begin to be aware? In order to know pleasant feeling as it is there has to

be awareness of it. Sooner or later we have to be aware of visible object.

We should not worry about its pleasantness or unpleasantness, we should

not be so interested in that. We should just see it as that which appears

through the eyes, not a thing or a person. Through awareness one will be

less concerned about the objects which are experienced.

Do we know sound and hearing as they really are? They appear at this

moment. Hearing is not sound, and sound is not hearing, they are different

realities. At the moment of seeing, there can't be hearing or thinking. One

cannot see and hear at the same time. Seeing experiences an object

different from hearing. Although cittas arise and fall away so fast that it

seems that there can be seeing and hearing at the same time, in reality

they are different moments of citta. We can distinguish seeing from

hearing, we know that they are different experiences, but we know this

through intellectual understanding. when direct understanding has been

developed their different characteristics can be realized more clearly.

Hearing is different from thinking of the meaning of the sound. Thinking

can only arise because hearing has fallen away. Hearing falls away and

then there are other realities to follow in its train. There can be

awareness of one reality at a time, either a nama or rupa.

Although we cannot have awareness because of our wish, awareness can

arise now, depending on conditions. It does not depend on us, not on

intention, but on many conditions the chief of which is right understanding.

Through listening to the Dhamma and studying it, considering it carefully,

intellectual understanding is being accumulated. In this way conditions are

being built up for the arising of right awareness of one reality at a time.

We cannot induce the arising of right awareness, it all depends on the

understanding which has been accumulated. At the moment of awareness

of a nama or rupa understanding of its true characteristic can gradually be

developed. This is a kind of study, not the study of the level of intellectual

understanding, but study of realities while there is awareness.

There cannot be awareness all the time of every object, there cannot be

many moments in succession. Nobody knows in advance of what object

there will be awareness and when there will be awareness. This can be

very conducive to detachment. Studying and listening is an essential

condition for awareness. One should consider what one hears and apply it,

and be aware.

Topic 53