Back to Words of the Buddha index page


                                                   Word of the Buddha


Today we are on page 48, the second factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. We have only finished the first factor which is Right Understanding. ‘Right Understanding’ means understanding the Four Noble Truths, understanding merit and demerit, understanding the three characteristics, wise consideration or wise reflection, and then understanding Dependent Origination. Right Understanding is twofold, mundane and supramundane. Mundane Right Understanding is that which accompanies sense-sphere consciousness, form-sphere consciousness, and formless-sphere consciousness. Actually it is that which accompanies vipassanÈ consciousness. Supramundane Right Understanding is that which accompanies Path consciousness at the moment of enlightenment.


Today we come to the second factor. The second factor is translated as Right Thought. The PÈÄi word is SammÈ Sankappa. Normally ‘sankappa’ just means thinking or thought. So it is difficult to avoid this translation of Right Thought for the word ‘SammÈ Sankappa’.


“What, now, is Right Thought? 1. Thought free from lust, 2. Thought free from ill will, 3. Thought free from cruelty. This is called Right Thought.” The PÈÄi words are nekkhamma sankappa, avyÈpÈda sankappa and avihimsÈ sankappa. Here ‘thought’ really means initial application (vitakka), vitakka accompanied by alobha, vitakka accompanied by adosa and vitakka again accompanied by adosa. These are called respectively ‘nekkhamma sankappa’, ‘avyÈpÈda sankappa’, and ‘avihimsÈ sankappa’. The opposite of these three are not called ‘sankappa’, but are called ‘vitakka’. It is interesting. On the good side they are called ‘sankappa’, but on the bad side they are called ‘vitakka’. The opposite of #1 (nekkhamma sankappa) is kÈma vitakka. The second is vyÈpÈda vitakka. The third is vihimsÈ vitakka. They are the opposites. When we say vitakka not accompanied by lobha and so on, we mean consciousness also because vitakka always arises with consciousness. So in fact vitakka arising with consciousness and alobha is meant by the first one and so on. Here we are talking about the factors of Path, so we have to be specific. We have to take the mental factor as the second factor in the Noble Eightfold Path.


“Now, Right Thought, I tell you, is of two kinds: 1. Thought free from lust, from ill will, and from cruelty - this is called ‘Mundane Right Thought’ (Lokiya SammÈ Sankappa), which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.” It is especially thought accompanied by other good mental states. It is kÈmÈvacara kusala, r|pÈvacara kusala, and ar|pÈvacara kusala. They are called here ‘Lokiya SammÈ Sankappa’. Especially Mundane Right Thought is that which arises with vipassanÈ consciousness.


“2. But, whatsoever there is of thinking, considering, reasoning, thought, ratiocination, application - the mind being holy, being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the Path, the Holy Path being pursued; these ‘verbal operations of the mind’ (vacÊ sa~khÈrÈ) are called the ‘Supermundane Right Thought’ (Lokuttara SammÈ Sankappa).” Now here we have to make a correction. In the original for vacÊ sa~khÈrÈ the singular number is used, not the plural number. VacÊ Sa~khÈra as it stands is plural. It should be vacÊ sa~khÈra or maybe vacÊ sa~khÈro. There are two mental factors which are called vacÊ  sa~khÈra. They are vitakka and vicÈra. Here only vitakka is meant, not vicÈra. So we have to change plural to singular. “This ‘verbal operation of the mind’ (vacÊ sa~khÈra) is called the ‘Supermundane Right Thought’ (Lokuttara SammÈ Sankappa).”


Here it has vacÊ sa~khÈra as verbal operation. Here the word ‘sa~khÈra’ means ‘that which makes’. The word ‘sa~khÈra’ has at least two meanings, an active meaning and a passive meaning. So in the word ‘vacÊ sa~khÈra’ the active meaning is meant. ‘VacÊ sa~khÈra’ means ‘that which brings about or which makes speech, which causes speech’. Before we say anything, we think of it, although it may not be evident. First we think and then we articulate words. That thinking is vitakka and vicÈra. So vitakka and vicÈra are called ‘vacÊ sa~khÈrÈ’. But in this particular case only vitakka is meant. So it should be this verbal operation of the mind. Now verbal operation - although it is not too wrong, it is not the translation of the word ‘vacÊ sa~khÈra’. ‘VacÊ sa~khÈra’ directly translated means speech-maker.


“..which is not of the world, but is supermundane, and conjoined with the Path.” What is meant here is vitakka. Vitakka accompanying Path consciousness at the moment of enlightenment is called ‘Lokuttara SammÈ Sankappa’ (Supermundane Right Thought). So we have two kinds of Right Thought, mundane and supramundane. When we practice vipassanÈ meditation, we have the Mundane Right Thought arising in us again and again.


Without this mental factor mind cannot be on the object. Mind cannot go to the object. You know vitakka is compared to a person who lives in the city and citta is compared to a person who lives in the country. A man from the country comes to the city and his friend takes him to different places. In the books it says that he takes him to the king. The man who lives in the city is like vitakka. Vitakka takes the mind to the object. Without vitakka taking the mind to the object it is very difficult for the ordinary mind to be on the object. I say the ‘ordinary mind’ because there is no vitakka in second jhÈna and so on. But jhÈnas have the power of meditation, the power of mental development. That is why they can take the object without vitakka. The sense-sphere consciousnesses always need vitakka to take an object. There are many things involved. I say one thing and then I have to tell you another thing also. Seeing consciousness, hearing consciousness, and so on (these five or ten). Do they need vitakka? Does vitakka arise with them? No. These ten cittas do not need vitakka because the impact of the object is so great. The impact of the objects on the sensitivities such as eye sensitivity and so on is so strong that they don’t need vitakka to take them to the object. But the other consciousnesses need vitakka. Vitakka accompanying kÈmÈvacara kusala consciousness is called ‘Mundane SammÈ Sankappa’. That which accompanies Path consciousness at the moment of enlightenment is called ‘Supramundane Right Thought’ (Lokuttara SammÈ Sankappa).


When it arises, it does not arise alone, but it arises with other factors. “Now, in understanding wrong thought as wrong, and right thought as right, one practices Right Understanding (1st factor); and in making efforts to overcome evil thought and to arouse right thought, one practices Right Effort (6th factor); and in overcoming evil thought with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of right thought, one practices Right Mindfulness (7th factor). Hence there are three things that accompany and follow upon Right Thought, namely: Right Understanding, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness.” These mental factors arise with SammÈ Sankappa. They arise at the same time, but each does its own function. Their functions are not mixed. They have their own well defined functions, but they arise together at the same moment and take the same object. If it is a mundane Right Thought, it takes the formations as object. If it is supramundane, it takes NibbÈna as object.


Student: So vitakka is not exactly thought.


Teacher: Yes, not exactly thought. Thought comes after vitakka. Vitakka is the mental factor that takes the mind to the object. After arriving at the object, we think of the object or we contemplate on the object. Although vitakka accompanies those moments, but there thinking is more prominent. In thinking there is vitakka. So viÒÒÈÓa is the man from the country and vitakka is the man in the city who takes that man to the king or to some place.


Student: So the Supramundane Path is a very specific mental operation that is understood here from its Abhidhamma definition. It’s not thought as diffuse as it is in English.


Teacher: Yes. That’s right.


Student: The distinction between Right Thought and Right Understanding had never been clear to me. Here it is a very concrete definition in terms of Abhidhamma.


Teacher: That’s right.


Student: Is there a non-Abhidhamma understanding of the second step in the scriptures?


Teacher: No. But the word ‘sankappa’ can be understood as thought in a wider sense if it is just sankappa. But if we say that it is SammÈ Sankappa, then we mean the mental factor which is vitakka. When you practice meditation, you are not thinking of anything. You are being mindful of the object at the present moment. For mindfulness to be on the object or for your consciousness to be on the object or to go to the object, you need SammÈ Sankappa. SammÈ Sankappa takes you to the object and lets your mind be there and see the true nature of things. That is why SammÈ Sankappa is grouped with SammÈ DiÔÔhi, both of which belong to the paÒÒÈ group. When we divide the eight factors into three groups, Right Understanding and Right Thought belong to the group of wisdom or understanding.  


Student: In this case here Right Thought is something like a subject, but the way it is written here it is like an object. I don’t have a good understanding of that. Inaudible.


Teacher: What is meant by thought is that vitakka. Even if it is to be taken as thought, it is the subject. It is not the object. The mental factor initial application accompanied by alobha, the first one -


Student: It is not very clear here. I don’t know what would be a better way. If you just read through that -


Teacher: That’s right.  


Student: what is confusing is the other steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are all macro-mental events. I know when my speech is right. I know when my view is right. This sounds like it is a micro-mental event that I am incapable of perceiving. I am not aware of Right Thought because it occurs too quickly.


Teacher: That is true that it is difficult to perceive, difficult to see. However, when you practice meditation and you are in good concentration, you may be able to see in your mind vitakka taking your consciousness to the object. Sometimes yogis describe vitakka’s taking the consciousness to the object as being like turning pages. You turn from one page to another. Vitakka is something like turning from this page to the next page, and to the next page. They are discernible through meditation practice. Just by thinking of them or just by speculation all these factors cannot be seen. So SammÈ Sankappa is the mental factor called ‘vitakka’ or ‘initial application’. It is the first arrival of consciousness to the object.


Student: So if we just have the thing before the thought that brings the thought and the mental factors, isn’t there something missing from the factors?


Teacher: No. These factors arise simultaneously, not one after the other.


Student: But we say there is thought, speech and deed and so there is thought before them. If that something arises before thought and then we have speech, then we don’t have the thought in between.


Teacher: There is thought or what is called ‘vitakka’ and ‘vicÈra’. Then there is speech. When you talk first you think. Then you articulate the words.


Student: So it cannot be thought really. It is something before the thought.


Teacher: Not before thought. The word ‘thought’ is not exact.


Student: In most English explanations of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Understanding is considered like a mental framework where one appreciates that it is better to meditate than not to meditate, that one has an orientation that is appropriate. Then Right Thought is a more careful cultivation of appreciating, let us say, that cultivating a thought of living-kindness is more appropriate than hatred. It is explained as distinguishing viewpoint from thought. Viewpoint is made up of many thoughts.


Teacher: To be specific these factors mean the mental factors. They have to be present simultaneously. It is not that you think of something; this is right, this is wrong; then you understand; then you make effort. These factors arise at the same time, simultaneously, each doing its own function. That is why if you do not understand Abhidhamma, you will explain the Noble Eightfold Path in another way. But when one explains the Noble Eightfold Path with reference to actual meditation practice, then one cannot avoid referring to these mental factors. That is why in paragraph #2 (page 48) it is expressly said ‘verbal operation (vacÊ sa~khÈra) of the mind’. That just means vitakka. This vitakka is accompanied by Right Understanding,  Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness.


Now, the next one is SammÈ VÈcÈ. SammÈ VÈcÈ is translated as Right Speech. The PÈÄi word ‘SammÈ VÈcÈ’ just means Right Speech. In the explanation you will find abstaining from lying, tale-bearing and so on. Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, these three factors in the middle, are called ‘abstinences’ or ‘virati’. Abstention from lying, etc., is what is meant by SammÈ VÈcÈ (Right Speech), Right Action and Right Livelihood. Or you may say that there are two aspects, the negative aspect and the positive aspect. Refraining from lying and so on may be the negative aspect of SammÈ VÈcÈ and saying what is true may be explained as the positive aspect of SammÈ VÈcÈ. Since they are called ‘abstinences’, only when you abstain from lying is there Right Speech in your mind.


“Herein someone avoids lying and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, not a deceiver of men. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king’s court, and called upon and asked as witness to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: ‘I know nothing’, and if he knows, he answers: ‘I know’; if he has seen nothing, he answers: ‘I have seen nothing’, and if he has seen, he answers: ‘I have seen’.” So he always tells the truth.


“Thus he never knowingly speaks a lie, either for the sake of his own advantage, or for the sake of another person’s advantage, or for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.” We find the words here in other passages where lying, tale-bearing and so on are explained. The words used in the last phrase, ‘for the sake of any advantage whatsoever’, are ‘even for the sake of a small bribe’. He tells the truth even if there is a small bribe. So there is a little difference in the translation. When we talk about abstaining from lying we may say for a bribe. The bribe may be small or great. So it is not ‘for the sake of any advantage whatsoever’. Here what is meant is that if a person is given a bribe, still he won’t tell a lie.


Next is abstaining from tale-bearing. These are not difficult. “He avoids tale-bearing, and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided; and those that are united , he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words.” This is abstaining from tale-bearing.


Next is abstaining from harsh language. “He avoids harsh language, and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.”


“In Majjhima NikÈya, Sutta #21, the Buddha says: ‘Even, O monks, should robbers and murderers saw through your limbs and joints, whosoever should give way to anger thereat would not be following my advice. For thus ought you to train yourselves: Undisturbed shall our mind remain, no evil words shall escape our lips; friendly and full of sympathy shall we remain, with heart full of love, and free from any hidden malice; and that person shall we penetrate with loving thoughts, wide, deep, boundless, freed from anger and hatred’.” This is taken from a very famous Sutta, The Simile of the Saw. In this Sutta the Buddha advised that even though your enemies are cutting you with a saw, if you have anger towards those persons, you are not following my advice. Instead you should be calm and even penetrate them with loving-kindness.


Student: That’s a tall order.


Teacher: It is like Jesus Christ saying to give the other cheek. That’s why I think that Jesus was influenced by the teachings of the Buddha. There may be some truth in those that say that Jesus went to India and studied Buddha’s teachings from monks there. There may be some truth in that.


Student: About 200 years after Jesus there were stories that accumulated in Christian literature about Jehosaphat which are from the JÈtaka Tales. Jehosaphat is the translation of Bodhisattva.


Teacher: It’s possible, but Christians may not want to accept that Jesus may have gone to India and learned Buddha’s teachings from monks there. His teachings and the teachings in the Old Testament are actually opposites. In the Old Testament it says “an  eye for an eye”. Revenge is taught. In the New Testament it is just the opposite.


Student: The thought of the Rabbis, several generations before Jesus, had turned away from the more vindictive aspects of the Old Testament. A teacher before Jesus used the Golden Rule with negatives. He said that it was too hard to be always loving. So he said don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do to you. He felt making it negative would make it a little bit easier to live with. So Jesus came from that tradition of very strong ethical teaching that was very far removed from the Old Testament.


Teacher: Next is abstaining from vain talk. “He avoids vain talk, and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the law and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate and full of sense.”


You know that there are four wrongdoings by speech. They were mentioned before on page 29. Right Speech is of two kind. “Abstaining from lying, from tale-bearing, from harsh language, and from vain talk; this is called ‘Mundane Right Speech’ (Lokiya SammÈ VÈcÈ), which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.”


“But the avoidance of the practice of this fourfold wrong speech, the abstaining, desisting, refraining there-from - the mind being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the Path, the holy Path being pursued; this is called ‘Supermundane Right Speech’ (Lokuttara SammÈ VÈcÈ), which is not of the world, but it is supermundane, and conjoined with the Path.” With regard to this factor also, the mundane is that which accompanies vipassanÈ consciousness and the supramundane is that which accompanies Path consciousness at the moment of enlightenment.


It is also conjoined with other factors. “Now, in understanding wrong speech as wrong, and right speech as right, one practices Right Understanding; and in making efforts to overcome evil speech and to arouse right speech, one practices Right Effort; and in overcoming wrong speech with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of right speech, one practices Right Mindfulness. Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon Right Speech, namely: Right Understanding, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness.” They arise together.


Now we have Right Action. “What, now is Right Action? Herein someone avoids the killing of living beings and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is desirous of the welfare of all living beings.” So he abstains from killing.


Student: On the preceding page why does it say that there are three things that accompany and follow upon (?) Right Speech?


Teacher: It is just the English translation. Actually I don’t know what ‘follow upon’ means. ‘That accompany’ is enough. Let me see the PÈÄi. It says ‘goes together with’. That is just accompanying. 


Next is abstaining from stealing. “He avoids stealing, and abstains from it; what another person possesses of goods and chattels in the village or in the wood, that he does not take away with thievish intent.” If there is no intent to steal, then it is not stealing.


Student: In the one above what is the PÈÄi for ‘desirous of the welfare of all living beings’?


Teacher: It’s a long word - sabba pÈÓa bh|ta hita anukampin.


Student: Sorry I asked.


Teacher: ‘Sabba pÈÓa bh|ta hita anukampin’ means ‘all beings’. ‘Hita’ means ‘welfare’. ‘Anukampin’ means wishing or something like that, so wishing for the welfare of all living beings or desirous of their welfare.


Now the third one, abstaining from unlawful sexual intercourse. “He avoids unlawful sexual intercourse, and abstains from it. He has no intercourse with such persons as are still under the protection of father, mother, brother, sister or relatives, nor with married women, nor female convicts, nor lastly betrothed girls.” ‘Nor female convicts’ - I don’t know why these authors make a mistake here. It is taken from the A~guttara NikÈya. The original PÈÄi word is saparidaÓÉa. We find different translations in different books. This word appears in Vinaya too. In the translation for Vinaya it says ‘protected by a stick’. It is translated as a woman protected by a stick. It is very funny. There is an explanation in the Vinaya Pitaka itself. There I. B. Horner translates as “the stick is put by some people and whoever goes to such and such a woman says ‘What a stick’.” Do you understand that? I wonder if she understood it. It means that the stick is put by some people and whoever goes to such and such a woman says ‘What a stick’.


Student: It’s a Zen koan.


Teacher: This word appears in the AtthasÈlinÊ too, a Commentary to the Abhidhamma. So I picked up the Expositor and I found another incorrect translation. There is says ‘a woman undergoing punishment’. I cannot forgive him. He was a Burmese. He had recourse to Burmese translations and he can ask any Burmese monk about this. Yet U Pe Maung Tin makes this mistake. The PÈÄi word ‘daÓÉa’ means ‘stick’ or ‘rod’. Maybe its secondary meaning is punishment. Maybe when they give out punishment, they strike with sticks or something like that. The PÈÄi word ‘saparidaÓÉa’ means a woman that was taken by someone. If you go to that woman, you must be punished, you will get this punishment, or you will have to pay a fine. Such a woman is called ‘saparidaÓÉa’. So it can be translated as a woman protected under pain of punishment or under pain of fine. It is something like that.


Student: So it is like a forbidden woman.


Teacher: Yes. A person who is very rich may pick up a girl. Then anyone who has a relationship with this girl must be fined or must be punished. Such a woman is called ‘saparidaÓÉa’. It is not a female convict or someone who is undergoing punishment.


Student: It sounds like it would apply to courtesans or women who are under the control of powerful people. If you go to the king’s ministers’ girlfriends, then you would be punished and that is not a good idea.


Teacher: That’s right. I think it is like she already has a protector. So it is a female protected on pain of punishment.


Student: In the PÈÔimokkha there are prohibitions against homosexuality, anything with animals, and by one’s own self-actions, but that is not implied here.


Teacher: No, but I think it is because - it is difficult to talk about this here in San Francisco. Normally men and women have intercourse, not men with men or men and animals. That is why only women are mentioned here. In the PÈÔimokkha it is not sexual misconduct but sexual intercourse. Here it is sexual misconduct. ‘Sexual misconduct’ means having sex unlawfully or something like that.


Student: So for one who is not a bhikkhu, for lay people it is sufficient to keep these rules alone?


Teacher: I think that I gave you a handout with a list of the women who are not to be approached by men. There are twenty kinds of women.


Student: What about the other side of the coin? What kind of men should the ladies not approach?


Teacher: That is married men.


Student: What if someone who is homosexual comes and asks a Buddhist, does Right Action prohibit me from my lifestyle? The answer is no or is it?


Teacher: It’s difficult to say. Here the real meaning is not female convicts or females undergoing punishment, but women who are protected by someone under pain of punishment or fine.


Once the Buddha went to a place. There were some people who said among themselves if you do not go and greet the Buddha, you will be fined. The word ‘daÓÉa’ is used there. The translator got it right there. “Whoever does not go out to meet the Lord will be fined 500.” In this translation the word ‘fine’ is used. That is correct. It can mean fine or punishment here, but not a stick or a rod. It is too literal. Sometimes the translators want to be too literal.


In the Gradual Sayings in the footnote the translator said with a question mark in front of the phrase: “Guarded by a stick - according to the PÈÄi Dictionary and the Commentary, but daÓÉa may be taken in the sense of penalty.” So in the translation of the Gradual Sayings it is not so bad, but in the translation itself he said ‘guarded by a stick’ or actually ‘guarded by a rod’, ‘girls protected by a rod’. That’s why sometimes I almost lost hope because there are so many mistakes in the books written in English. So people may not understand the real teachings of the Buddha.


Student: Bhante, what you should do is write down some study guides.


Teacher: It means a lot of work.


Student: You could make a list of your 100 favorite mistakes.


Teacher: There are more than 100. The other day also I wanted to talk about something in the Vinaya. I started to read it and then I found a mistake there. So I was very  frustrated. OK.


There are two kinds of Right Action also, mundane and supramundane. Mundane is that which accompanies sense-sphere (kÈmÈvacara) consciousness and supramundane is that which accompanies Path consciousness. It is also conjoined with other factors - Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Mindfulness. Here it is understanding wrong action as wrong and right action as right.


The next one, the fifth factor, is SammÈ ŒjÊva (Right Livelihood). “What, now, is Right Livelihood? When the noble disciple, avoiding a wrong way of living, gets his livelihood by a right way of living, this is called Right Livelihood.”


“In the Majjhima NikÈya, Sutta #117, it is said: To practice deceit, treachery, soothsaying, trickery, usury: this is wrong livelihood.” It is a very loose translation. I would like you to read the Visuddhi Magga for the explanation of this - deceit, treachery, soothsaying, trickery, usury. There you will find the original PÈÄi words and the explanations. You should read The Path of Purification, chapter one, beginning with paragraph #61 and so on.


Actually these have to do with monks. A monk’s livelihood must be very, very pure. So a monk cannot use deceit, or a trick, or something to get what he wants. So there are many ways of deceiving or tricking people into giving to the monk. If you want to know what tricks monks know, you read the Visuddhi Magga.


Student: Right Livelihood is supposed to be just for monks?


Teacher: No. But these are for monks. If you use deceit, treachery, soothsaying - soothsaying is not right here. The PÈÄi word is ‘nimittikatÈ’. ‘Nimitta’ means some kind of sign. He took this to mean some omens or something. So he translated it as soothsaying. The real translation is not that. It is something like hinting or making signs. For example I want something. I will not tell you directly, but indirectly I will let you know that I want something. Venerable ©ÈÓamoli translated it as hinting.


Student: How could a monk practice usury? Is that a correct translation?


Teacher: No. I don’t think it is a correct translation. Venerable ©ÈÓamoli has scheming for the first one. For the second he has talking. For the third he has hinting. For the fourth he has belittling. He belittles other people so that things are given to him. He may say you are not a generous person. Then in order to show that you are generous, you will give him something. By belittling someone he can get something he wants from him. Then the last one here is usury. What is usury?


Student: It is charging excessive interest for loans.


Teacher: Oh, no. No. Here it is translated as pursuing gain with gain. That means that I will give you a little thing so that you will give me a big thing. That is pursuing gain with gain, like fishing. You give the fish something and then you catch him. Sometime you will come to the monastery and I will give you a very inexpensive thing. The next time you are grateful and so you want to donate something expensive. It is something like that. That is what is meant here. So there are many tricks. If you read the Visuddhi Magga, you will know that.


There is a story of hinting. I don’t remember the whole story. A monk went to a house. The lady of the house didn’t want to give him anything. The monk was sitting in the house. She said: “Oh, I have no rice to cook. So I am going to fetch some rice.” So she went out of the house. She didn’t want to give anything to the monk. When she went out, the monk looked all around. Then the lady came back and said: “Oh, I didn’t get anything for cooking. I cannot give you anything.” Then the monk said: “Yes, I saw signs of not getting food today before I came here. I saw a sugarcane which was like a snake. I picked up stones which looked like pieces of sugar. When I struck the snake with sugar, it spreads its cobra hood which is like a dry fish.” The lady has all these things there. “And when the snake opened its mouth, I saw its teeth which were like rice. Then the snake bit the stone or rock. The saliva or poison came out of its mouth like butter or ghee.” Then the lady thought: “I cannot hoodwink this shaveling.” So she offered food to the monk. So he did not say that he saw these things directly, but he said that he saw things that looked like dried fish, butter and so on. So do not do this. That is why the best thing for a monk is to go on almsround. He does not have to say anything and he accepts what is given to him. He just takes it. If you want to learn more about this, please read the Visuddhi Magga, the first chapter.


“In the A~guttara NikÈya, the Book of Fives, Sutta #177, it is said: ‘Five trades should be avoided by a disciple - trading in arms, in living beings, in flesh, in intoxicating drinks, and in poison’. These five kinds of trade are to be avoided by those who are the disciples of the Buddha. The first one is trading in arms. Here the Commentary explains that it is selling them after having made them. But in the Sub-Commentary it is said whether you had the arms made, or you make them yourself, or you got those which are already made, if you sell these, your livelihood is not pure. ‘trading living beings’ means human beings, so selling human beings. ‘In flesh’ means raising animals and selling them, not butchering. You raise animals for food and you sell them. For intoxicating drinks also whether it is made by others or you make them yourself and you sell them, your livelihood is not pure. Then there is poison.


Trading in arms involves injury to others, so that is not to be followed. Trading in human beings is to be avoided because it involves deprivation of freedom. Trading in flesh and in poison is to be avoided because it is the cause for killing. The last one, trading in intoxicants, is to be avoided because it causes heedlessness. These are the five trades a disciple of the Buddha should avoid.


Student: How did kings like Asoka reconcile this with maintaining armies with soldiers? Isn’t there a contradiction there?


Teacher: I think there is. Leaving aside Asoka, there were King BimbisÈra, King Kosala and other kings contemporary with the Buddha who had armies and sometimes they had to pacify rebellions. And King BimbisÈra became a SotÈpanna after meeting the Buddha, but he still maintained an army. It is said that when there was a rebellion and he wanted his generals to go and suppress them, he said make that place suitable to live or something like that. He didn’t say go and suppress the rebels, but make that place fit for people to live.


Student: With regard to poison would that include professions like a chemist or a pharmacist?


Teacher: Yes, if it is for killing living beings.


Student: If it is for that purpose.


Teacher: Yes. But you know people use poisons in medicine. Right? Even in native medicines. There is a medicine in our country which you take when you have fever. It is a native medicine. There are about thirty ingredients. Every one of them is poison. Just a little bit of each poison is mixed together. They become a medicine. If you eat each one of them separately, you will die. So intention is very important.


“Included are the professions of a soldier, a fisherman, a hunter, etc.”


Student: I can understand how this would apply in a culture like ours. But in some cultures the main form of subsistence is hunting. If they choose not to plant, they cannot exist. I guess he didn’t go to visit them.


Teacher: That’s right. I think killing is killing everywhere whether it is killing because one has to or because one wants to. Killing is killing. The solution would be to leave their place and go to some other place where they don’t have to do that.


Students: The same problem arose in Tibet where the climate would not allow vegetarianism. You cannot raise vegetables ten months out of the year. It is important to have the nomadic life with the herds. There are people who are not on the Path for whatever reason who are the herdsmen and the butchers. The society lives on and buys their meat. It is the hierarchy in their society. The others eat their meat. The others eat their meat to survive. The world is not fair.


Teacher: OK. “Now, Right Livelihood, I tell you, is of two kinds.” It is the same. There is Lokiya SammÈ ŒjÊva and Lokuttara SammÈ ŒjÊva. It is conjoined with other factors - Right Understanding, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness.


These three (Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood) as I said are called ‘abstinences’. When you abstain from verbal misconduct, there is SammÈ VÈcÈ. When you abstain from bodily misconduct, there is SammÈ Kammanta. When you refrain from what, is there SammÈ ŒjÊva? Suppose you are a fisherman and you refrain from killing fish. When you refrain from killing fish, since you are a fisherman, it is Right Livelihood. If you are not a fisherman by profession but sometimes you go fishing, and then you give up fishing, that is Right Action. That is the difference between Right Action and Right Livelihood. If it is your livelihood and you refrain from it, there is Right Livelihood. If it is not your livelihood but you do it as a hobby or a pastime and you refrain from it, then that is Right Action or Right Speech. That is the difference between Right Speech and Right Action on the one hand and Right Livelihood on the other.


Since refraining from misconduct is SammÈ VÈcÈ  and so on, do they arise when we practice meditation? You are not refraining from anything when you practice meditation. ‘Refraining from’ means when the occasion arises, then you refrain from it. There is Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. But there is no occasion for you to refrain from anything when you practice meditation. So these three factors are strictly speaking not present when you practice meditation. They have been accomplished before meditation when you take the precepts. The real factors working at every moment of meditation are the remaining five factors. That is why these remaining five factors are called ‘working factors’ or ‘worker factors’. They are active factors, the first two and the last three. The three in the middle are said to be accomplished before the actual practice of meditation. In the actual practice of meditation when you are saying ‘rising, falling’ or ‘in, out’, these three factors are said not to be present at that moment.


Student: These are the foundations of sÊla.


Teacher: They are sÊla, right.


Student: SÊla is the prerequisite to meditation.


Teacher: That’s right. Next we have SammÈ VÈyÈma (Right Effort). There are four great efforts - the effort to avoid, the effort to overcome, the effort to develop, the effort to maintain. These four are given in detail.


“What, now is the effort to Avoid? Herein the disciple rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil, unwholesome things that have not yet arisen; and he makes efforts, stirs up his energy; exerts his mind and strives.” He tries to avoid the arising of akusala which has not yet arisen.


“Thus, when he perceives a form with the eye, a sound with the ear, and an odor with the nose, a taste with the tongue, an impression with the body, or an object with the mind, he neither adheres to the whole, nor to its parts.” This passage appears many times in the Suttas. “He neither adheres to the whole, nor to its parts.” The PÈÄi word used here is ‘nimitta’. That means that he does not take the sign of a man, or a woman, or a beautiful thing, or whatever. He does not take the parts. That means he does not concentrate on different parts of beings or different parts of things like the hair is beautiful, the nose is beautiful, the eyes are beautiful, and so on. When you look at a person and concentrate on these various parts, you are said to be taking the parts. Sometimes you do not take the parts, but you say that is a man, this is a woman. Then you are said to be taking the whole. You are not to take the whole or its parts in order to avoid evil and unwholesome mental states.


Student: Bhante, this is so difficult to distinguish from the mental activities of repression and aversion.


Teacher: It is done by mindfulness. You pay attention. You try to take the object as it is. Mindfulness is the means to try to achieve this kind of avoidance.


“And he strives to ward off that through which evil and unwholesome things, greed and sorrow, would arise, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses.” ‘Restraining of senses’ does not mean keeping your eyes closed or keeping your ears closed. That is not restraint of the senses. ‘Restraining of the senses’ means avoiding akusala through eye, ear and so on.


Student: Because ‘avoid’ has such a negative connotation, could one translate it a ‘not to be engaged’? To recognize things as they are and not to engage in the thoughts or associations which lead to akusala. It does not have so much value judgment as avoidance. ‘Avoidance’ to my mind has a lot of psychological qualities to it - aversion, repression and tremendous effort not to be with things the way they are, to avoid them, to escape them. This is really penetrating them, seeing them for what they are.


Teacher: Yes. But ‘not to engage’ is also a negative. It sounds better than avoiding.


The next one is the effort to overcome. “There the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil unwholesome things that have already arisen (This is for the akusala that has already arisen.); and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.”


“He does not retain any thought of sensual lust, ill will or grief.” ‘Grief’ is not a good word here. I would say ‘cruelty’ because it is the same as the word we met at the beginning of today’s class on page 48, “thoughts free from cruelty.” It is the same as that. So “He does not retain any thought of sensual lust, ill will, or cruelty, or any other evil and unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.”


Then five methods of expelling evil thoughts are given. This is very important. Actually this is one Sutta. I talked about this at our meditation class. I will stop here. I want you to read something. If you have books, that is good because when you have two books, you get two translations. When you have three books, you get three translations. This is taken from a Sutta in the Majjhima NikÈya. This is called ‘The VittakasaÓÔhÈna Sutta’, Sutta #20. There are three translations as far as I know - one made by I. B. Horner, one by Venerable ©ÈÓamoli and the third perhaps by Venerable Soma Thera. I am not sure. It is in the BPS series, in the Wheel Series. I think the name is Removal of Thoughts or something like that. If you have that book, I want you to read that book too. We will discuss this Sutta next time. In this Sutta the Buddha gave five methods of avoiding distracting thoughts especially when you practice meditation. Even when you are practicing meditation, thoughts of lust, thoughts of anger and hatred may come to you. Sometimes they persist. So the Buddha gave us five methods on how to get rid of them or how to deal with them. They are important and some of them are not easy to understand. I want you to read those translations first and also this book. Then we will discuss next week.


                                     SÈdhu!               SÈdhu!              SÈdhu!