A Sermon by Phra Siri Wattana Wisut (now Phra Brahmavajirakorn) at
Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Hertfordshire, England on the 72nd Birthday
of Venerable Chah Subhaddo 17 June 1990
Key Issues in This Sermon:
1. What does it mean to call oneself a disciple of the Buddha?
2. What makes us a true disciple?
3. How do we cultivate righteousness, mindfulness, and wisdom; what are the requisites?
4. How can we transform our body, speech, and thought into the Triple Gem (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha)?
              Now I shall deliver a sermon about disciples of the Buddha who are endowed with sati-panna (awareness/mindfulness-wisdom) to enable all of you who are gathered here at Amaravati cultivate that quality. You are here to mindfully listen to dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), so the doctrine can be used as principles to guide your conduct, speech, and thought. Through mindful listening, you will come to attain right knowledge and right view in line with Buddhist teachings. Today, I will address two key topics: becoming a person endowed with panna (wisdom/insight). This will be the first issue. The second: Who can call themselves true disciples of the Buddha? Internalizing these two points is a way to demonstrate reverence toward the Buddha.
Why the Buddha Emerged
              Why did Buddhism originate? The Buddha emerged into the world to relieve our suffering/discontentment (dukha). He showed us the principles, means, and practices that can help us rise above suffering and dis-ease. First, the Lord freed himself from dukha, and then he used what he realized through enlightenment to teach us, in hopes that we--the listeners--can come to gain the same knowledge and insights that he acquired: dukha, the origin/cause of dukha, the path to eliminating dukha, and the extinguishment of dukha. In short, these things are known as the Four Noble Truths. Whoever realized them is called Buddha. Those who acquired the Truths on their own without ever being taught are called Samma Sam Buddha. Those who follow the Buddha are known as Anu Buddha or Sawok Buddha (disciples of the Buddha). Both the disciples and Samma Sam Buddha share the same status: They are Buddho; that is, they are awakened individuals. The co-existence of these two enlightened beings, Samma Sam Buddha and disciples, signifies the emergence of Buddhism. Thus, the world can now encounter light. Teachings that derive from the Buddha’s enlightenment resemble the light from sunrise; it extinguishes darkness in the world. The Buddha emerged to give light to earth, and those who work to garner the benefit of the light are called his disciples.
The Duties of Disciples
              Their duty is unitary: to listen to the Lord’s teachings and to apply them. The study of the Buddha’s teachings to gain knowledge and comprehension is called pariyatti or learning. Applying what one learned to life is called dharma practice. The result of that application is called pathiwet. To garner the benefit of studying Buddhism, we must utilize what we learned to improve our lives and, in the process, acquire true insights. That way we can become a follower of the Buddha and benefit from his guiding light. Like those with good eyesight, they can see and follow the light well.
Requisites of Wisdom
              Those who are called disciples of the Buddha thus have another duty: to develop wisdom and ultimate realization for themselves. Wisdom depends on sati as the foundation. Sati means recollection or mindfulness. Sati should be exercised before one acts, speaks, and thinks. In conjunction, panna (wisdom, insight, discernment or intelligence) is used to help us introspect whether our corporeal actions, speech, and thought are right or wrong, proper or improper. Sati must function alongside sampajanna (clear comprehension, clarity of consciousness, self-alertness). Sampajanna and panna are mutually significant. Sati must be actualized first, panna second.
              There are several types of sati. Sati that leads one to recollect the Buddha is called Buddhanusati. Sati that leads one to contemplate the body is called guykatanusati. The Buddha taught the newly ordained to exercise guykatanusati or physical contemplation: to consider what comprises the body. At the first level, they shall contemplate five aspects or what is known as five contemplations: meditating about the hair on the head, the hair on the body, nails, teeth, and skin. Those who contemplate these five aspects shall realize that the body is not beautiful. For instance, if we don’t consistently wash or clean our hair, nails, teeth and skin, they will accumulate ugly residues.
              How might contemplating those five components be beneficial to the contemplator, specifically to their sati-panna? They won’t suffer from love, anger, hatred; they will not fall for things that entice them toward those qualities; and they will not fall for things that entice them to love, hate, or succumb. When our heart-mind is not conditioned by love, greed, anger, temptation, we will realize: The body, that which is a source of temptation and praise, is neither beautiful nor adorable. Those who gain this insight can be called disciples of the Buddha. Their understanding is a manifestation of sati, specifically, a form of sati called satinaypakka or self-protective sati. This type of sati allows us to remain safe from various conditions. Those who can cultivate various forms of sati are considered those with panna (intelligence, insight or wisdom). Panna that is truly wholesome requires sati as the foundation. When the foundation is solid, panna and knowledge will emerge and flourish. Of which there are four kinds:
                  1.Knowing that which is beneficial: satthaka sampajanna
                  2.Knowing whether our thought and heart shall progress: kojorn sampajanna
                  3.Knowing that which is suitable and favorable to mental cultivation: sappaya sampajanna
                  4.Knowing whether what we are doing is right or wrong: amoha sampajanna These are the four manifestations of sati and panna.
              Sati and panna are distinct but complementary. Sati offers protection; panna enables problem solving and insights. To elaborate, the two qualities are about using mindfulness and wisdom to protect one’s self and resolve a condition or situation. Those who can achieve those characteristics deserve to be called disciples of the Buddha. The two dharma concepts--sati and panna--are helpful qualities in our daily life. In Buddhism, these two qualities are considered practical, beneficial dharma doctrines.
Sati as a Protector
              To develop sati, maintain a tranquil mind-heart so that we can circumvent pleasures and displeasures from tempting our soul. They manifest in our mind-heart through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and heart. The state of being mindful of the senses so that they don’t become a path to pleasure and displeasure is called sati sangworn. Sati serves to deter defilements from emerging. As the Buddha said: “Sati tae sang niwaranung.” Sati or mindful awareness/recollection is the barricade--the lid--against currents of tanha or ambitious cravings, which derive from our five senses and the heart. These receptors are tanha’s pathways. Those who possess sati shall guard against the emergence of defilements via those receptors, such as sight or hearing. It is the role of sati to guard. In conjunction, panna enables us to see through the actuality of a given situation, allowing us to resolve it. Once we can garner sati-panna, we shall not be taken back by obstacles or problems in life; we shall live a problem-free life because sati-sampajanna is our guard.
              The way to cultivate wisdom is fourfold. These four elements are the heart of a bundit (a wise, well learned individual):
Or, in short, su, ji, pu, li: Hear, think, inquire, and inscribe. Those who cultivate these four actions are called bundit. In other words, they are those who are able to reap the fruits of panna. Those who possess panna shall be able to know suffering/discontentment in their heart and what conditioned it to emerge.
Causes of Dukha: Cravings and the Senses
              In Buddhism, suffering/discontentment originates from tanha, from our cravings for physical form, taste, scent, sound, and touch. How do we rid cravings that erupt in our heart? Extinguish them at their source. If a craving originates through sight, mind the eyes so they aren’t the origin of defilement. If a craving arises through taste, heed the tongue. If a craving comes from corporeal sensation, end it by being mindful of the body. If a craving emerges in the heart, stop it in the heart. The word “extinguish” here means to end or put out cravings/desires. If we don’t crave, we won’t experience suffering/discontentment. Whenever we crave, we suffer. We become discontent. Thus, shall cravings emerge during the day, we shall become discontent during the day. Shall they erupt at night, we shall become discontent at night. If we crave something for a month, we shall be discontent for a month. If we crave something for a year, we shall be discontent for a year. If we crave something our whole lifetime, we shall be discontent our entire life, and after we die, if we still have cravings, we will continue to undergo rebirth, which will lead to suffering/discontentment over and over. Therefore, whenever a craving arises, extinguish it quickly.
              The Buddha once taught bhikkhus (monks) by asking: “Behold, bhikkhus, if your head is on fire, what are you going to do?” They replied that they should extinguish the fire first. However, the Buddha countered that their approach isn’t correct. They should put out desire in their heart first, before dying from the fire. Why? Because the flame can only cause death in this lifetime; with death, troubles end. Any lingering craving in the heart, however, will cause us to undergo additional cycles of rebirth. The extinguishing of cravings is called nirodha (cessation, disbanding, stopping). When desire is eliminated, hereby yielding nirodha (the extinction of suffering), we are on the path the Buddha and his earlier disciples traversed: The Noble Eightfold Path. This path consists of embodying right understanding or samma ditthi, right intention or samma sankappa, right speech or samma vacca, right livelihood or summa ajiva, right effort or summa vayama, right mindfulness or summa sati, and right concentration or summa samadhi. Collectively, the Eightfold Path can be encapsulated in the word righteous, which is, in turn, related to the word appropriate. If we can accomplish that which is appropriate, we will fully fulfill our life’s purpose. Anyone who can achieve that fulfillment is called Buddho: one who is aware and awake (another name of the Buddha).
Where is the Buddha?
              Where is Buddho? It can be found in our heart/mind. Let the heart/mind be the knower, the awakened, the blissful. Where there is Buddho there is Dhammo (the teachings of the Buddha). Buddho and Dhammo are unitary. The Buddha once said: “Those who see dharma see me.” That is, those who encounter the Buddha will also encounter dharma. They are called phra sangha (Sangho or monks). If you wonder: Where is Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho? Buddho lies in our heart/mind, Dhammo in our speech, and Sangho in our body. Our body, speech and heart/mind can reflect Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho. Our heart/mind can be joyful and awake. Our speech can exemplify Dhammo. That is, we do not utter deceptive, rousing, impolite discourse. Our speech will remain pristine; it will reflect dharma. To make our body congruent with phra sangha means to avoid corrupting our corporeal action by refraining from killing, stealing, and sexual impropriety. Collectively, our body, speech and heart/mind can form and represent the Triple Gem.
              A female devotee once asked a senior monk: What are the characteristics of a person who can be called a disciple of the Buddha? To which the monk replied: Buddhist monks with pure conduct, speech, and thought. Those possessing these three characteristics can be called samana in the Buddhist religion--that is, they have become one with the Buddha, dharma and sangha.
Our Body, Speech, and Thought as the Triple Gem
              How can we compare their body, speech and heart/mind to sila (morality), samadhi (concentration/state of tranquility from mindfulness), and panna (wisdom)? The monk’s body and conduct shall exemplify sila (precepts), his speech dharma, and his heart/mind samadhi. His panna shall demonstrate that the Buddha lies in his heart. That is, sila, samadhi, panna represent the Buddha, dharma, sangha--or our cultivated body, speech, and heart/mind. All dharma--its categories and topics--shall be embodied. Those who can cultivate their body, speech and heart/mind to reflect the Buddha, dharma, sangha are individuals who have truly encountered Buddhism. They have seen the Buddha.
The (Re)Emergence of the Buddha
              Thus, it can be said that the Buddha has emerged once more: He is in our heart/mind. Holding the Buddha at the core of our heart/mind will motivate us to become charitable, to observe the precepts, as well as to pursue self-cultivation; all of which is the foundation of every virtuous deed.
              Thus, all of us who have been born into this world should embody the Buddha, dharma, sangha in our heart/mind. We should monitor our body, speech, heart/mind to become one with the wise, the enlightened, the blissful--or the Buddha. This will, in turn, yield sila, samadhi, panna. We will then come to reap the benefits of Buddhism. Thus, may the Buddhist religion always remain in your heart. May all of you encounter the ultimate bliss through Buddhism.
              I have preached for an adequate amount of time. Thanks to Ajahn Sumedho, the Abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, for giving me the honor and opportunity to be a part of the merit making ceremony for Ajahn Chah Subhaddo (Phra Bodhinanathera), on the occasion of his seventy-second birthday. May the power of our collective merit help Ajahn Chah Subhaddo live a long life, so he can continue to be a refuge and inspiration for all of us. Thanks to Ajahn Jagaro for being the language interpreter, and may all of the Buddhist followers who gathered to listen to the sermon today benefit from the talk, and may they attain bliss.
All parentheses and headings are the translator’s addition.