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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 43 |spring 2006 eat them, they’re drinking liquor and beer too. This isn’t ordinary eating. It’s the way of ghosts and demons mired in sen- sual craving. It’s eating coals, eating fire, eating everything everywhere. This sort of desire is what is called tanha. There is no moderation. Speaking, thinking, dress- ing – everything such people do goes to excess. If our eating, sleeping, and other necessary activities are done in modera- tion, then there is no harm in them. You should be aware of yourselves in regard to these things, then they won’t become a source of suffering. If we know how to be moderate and thrifty in our needs, we can be comfortable. Practicing meditation and creating merit and virtue are not really such diffi- cult things to do, provided we understand them well. What is wrongdoing? What is merit? Merit is what is good and beau- tiful, not harming ourselves or others with our thinking, speaking, and acting. Then there is happiness. Nothing nega- tive is being created. Merit is like this. Skillfulness is like this. It’s the same with making offerings and giving charity. When we give, what is it that we are trying to give away? Giving is for the purpose of destroying self-cher- ishing, the belief in a self along with self- ishness. Selfishness is powerful, extreme suffering. Selfish people always want to be better than others and to get more than others. A simple example is how, after they eat, they don’t want to wash their dishes. They let someone else do it. If they eat in a group, they will leave it to the group. After they eat, they take off. This is selfishness, not being responsible, and it puts a bur- den on others. What it really amounts to is someone who doesn’t care about himself, who doesn’t help himself, and who really doesn’t love himself. In practicing gener- osity, we are trying to cleanse our hearts of this attitude in order to have a mind of compassion and caring toward all living beings without exception. This is called creating merit through giving. If we people can be free of just this one thing – selfishness – then we will be like the Lord Buddha. He wasn’t out for himself, but sought the good of all. If we people have the path and fruit arising in our hearts like this, we can certainly progress. With this freedom from selfish- ness, all the activities of virtuous deeds, generosity, and meditation will lead to liberation. Whoever practices like this will become free and go beyond – beyond all convention and appearance. The basic principles of practice are not beyond our understanding. In practicing generosity, for example, if we lack wis- dom, there won’t be any merit. Without understanding, we think that generosity merely means giving things. “When I feel like giving, I’ll give. If I feel like stealing something, I’ll steal it. Then if I feel gen- erous, I’ll give something.” It’s like having a barrel full of water. You scoop out a bucketful, and then you pour back in a bucketful. Scoop it out again, pour it in again, scoop it out and pour it in – like this. When will you empty the barrel? Can you see an end to it? Can you see such practice becoming a cause for real- izing nibbana? Will the barrel become empty? One scoop out, one scoop in – can you see when it will be finished? Going back and forth like this is vatta, the cycle itself. If we’re talking about really letting go, giving up good as well as evil, then there’s only scooping out. Even if there’s only a little bit, you scoop it out. You don’t put in anything more, and you keep scooping out. Even if you only have a small scoop to use, you do what you can, and in this way, the time will come when the barrel is empty. If you’re scooping out a bucket and pouring back a bucket, scooping out and then pouring back – well, think about it. When will you see an empty barrel? This dhamma isn’t something distant. It’s right here in the barrel. You can do it at home. Try it. Can you empty a water barrel like that? Do it all day tomorrow and see what happens. Give up all evil, practice what is good, and purify the mind. Giving up wrong- doing first, we then start to develop the good. What is the good and meritorious? Where is it? It’s like fish in the water. If we scoop all the water out, we’ll get the fish – that’s a simple way to put it. If we scoop out and pour back in, the fish remain in the barrel. If we don’t remove all forms of wrongdoing, we won’t see merit, and we won’t see what is true and right. Scooping out and pouring back, scooping out and pouring back, we only remain as we are. Going back and forth like this, we only waste our time and whatever we do is meaningless: listen- ing to teachings is meaningless; making offerings is meaningless; all our efforts to practice are in vain. We don’t understand the principles of the Buddha’s way, so our actions don’t bear the desired fruit. When the Buddha taught about practice, he wasn’t only talking about something for ordained people. He was talking about practicing well, practicing correctly. Supatipanno means those who practice well. Ujupatipanno means those who practice directly. Nayapatipanno means those who practice for the real- ization of path, fruition, and nibbana. Samicipatipanno means those whose practice is inclined toward truth. It could be anyone. These are the sangha of true disciples (savaka) of the Lord Buddha. Laywomen living at home can be savaka. Laymen can be savaka. Bringing these qualities to fulfillment is what makes one a savaka. One can be a true disciple of the Buddha and realize enlightenment. Most of us in the Buddhist fold don’t have such complete understanding. Our knowledge doesn’t go this far. We do our various activities thinking that we will get some kind of merit from them. We think that listening to teachings or making offerings is meritorious. That’s what we’re told. But someone who gives offerings to “get” merit is making bad kamma. You can’t quite understand this. Someone who gives in order to get merit has instantly accumulated bad kamma. If you give in order to let go and free the mind, that brings you merit. If you do it to get something, that’s bad kamma. Listening to teachings to really under- stand the Buddha’s way is difficult. The dhamma becomes hard to understand when the practices that people do – keep- ing precepts, sitting in meditation, giv- ing – are done in order to get something in return. We want merit, we want some- thing. Well, if something can be gotten, then who gets it? We get it. When that is lost, whose thing is it that is lost? The person who doesn’t have something doesn’t lose anything. And when it’s lost, who suffers over it? Don’t you think that living your life to get things brings you suffering? Otherwise, you could just go on as before trying to get everything. And yet, if we make the mind empty, we gain every- thing. Higher realms, nibbana, and all their accomplishments – we gain all of it. In making offerings, we don’t have any attachment or aim; the mind is empty