From the archive…
Dhamma reflections from Luang Por Sumedho about living peacefully in a world of chaos.
Doom, Destruction, Death, Decay
This journey is involved with pain, with loss, as well as with pleasure and with gain. This realm isn’t a realm that we create out of our fantasy life; this realm is the way it is — it’s all about birth and death, about coming together and about separating, about arriving and departing, about having good health and losing it, about being young, attractive and so forth and then then losing it. Separation, loss is the experience of a human lifetime.
These are messengers. This is not a grim description of life, but it’s pointing to the realities that we have to deal with and how to respond, how to learn from this state. When we see it as a passage, as a kind of tunnel that we’re going through toward the light, then we began to recognize that it’s the light we’re aiming for, rather than the distractions on the way. In modern life, it’s the distractions on the way that take us over. We can fill our lives with all kinds of trivialities — with carrying resentments from the past because life hasn’t been particularly fair or just to us, or just feeling caught and kind of lost in various habits, attitudes, emotional habits that we’ve acquired, and not knowing how to get out of those traps, not how to free ourselves from those kind of limitations.
The spiritual inspiration is that energy in us, an intuitive kind of knowledge that there’s more to it than just the way it appears, the way we’re culturally conditioned to perceive or to regard life.A Sunday Talk given by Luang Por Sumedho on 16 August 1998.
Peace in a World of Conflict
When we start looking at fear, recognizing it, then it’s not going to become obsessive if we begin to reflect on it. Because that which reflects on fear is not fear. And this is what we call mindfulness. Your ability to observe fear, terror, anxiety, paranoia, whatever form it takes, whether it’s strong or weak, justified or not — it’s like this. This is what we call mindfulness meditation: just beginning to know when I feel fear or anxiety — it’s like this.
Fear is a condition; it’s not a permanent state. You’re not always afraid — even though you might think you are, you’re not. But it’s not the ultimate reality. And this realm that we’re living in as human beings is a temporary realm. This isn’t the permanent place you want to be in. You don’t want to petrify the planet — no matter how perfect you might be able to make it — petrify it so that it doesn’t change. Then it’s nothing, isn’t it? It’s just empty, nothing. You’d never learn anything from it. So this human realm is considered a very fortunate one in Buddhist circles because we have this ability to observe and reflect. This is what we call the Buddha mind — awakened consciousness.A Sunday Talk given by Luang Por Sumedho on 24 August 2008.
An Awakened Response to Violence: The Natural Purity of the Mind
Those who live in awakened awareness see the suffering of others but do not create additional sorrow around it. We acknowledge the contact with this human experience of life’s inevitable suffering and the questions that immediately arise: what can we do about it? How should we regard this? The answer of course is mindfulness. With mindfulness, we feel what is impinging on our mind as unpleasant or unfair because that is simply the way it is – but we have the opportunity to choose how to respond. Usually, we just react; we hear bad news about the persecution of innocent people and we feel indignant or outraged. We want to punish those perpetuating these indignities on others. This is our conditioned reaction – when we hear bad news, we feel angry; when we hear good news, we feel happy. But when we are mindful, we can respond instead of reacting.
With an awakened mind, based in right understanding or right view, we can liberate ourselves from the momentum of habit and reactivity. When we are mindful we enter the natural state of the mind, pure and unconditioned, and we can respond to life with wisdom and compassion. The simple act of awakened awareness is a way of transcending all our ethnic and cultural conditioning, our biases, prejudices and our kammic tendencies. When we’re in a state of awakened awareness we’re touching into a universal reality, a natural purity that connects us to all beings everywhere. Each one of us has the power to pay attention, to wake up, listen and be receptive. That much we can do, right now.
This is important to realize; otherwise, we might sit here thinking we can’t do anything, or we might worry about it, hating and blaming in anguish and despair, doubting our ability to help in any way. We may even begin to think that sitting on a cushion meditating is just indulgent and not for the welfare of anybody. It can look like we’re shutting down – and it is possible that some of us might be shutting down. But what I’m recommending, and how I experience meditation, is as an opening up of the heart and mind. As we open, we move beyond our personal kamma and the sense of self-importance that goes along with it, learning to relax and surrender into the state of pure, attentive awareness. We enter into a universal reality rather than living out of our personal habits. From this state, we can spread loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.Collected in the Ajahn Sumedho Anthology Volume 5 – The Wheel of Truth
Personal Responsibility and the Nuclear Age
There is tremendous depression and loneliness in people’s lives now because many people no longer know how to unite, how to have communion with another human being. We get introverted, isolated in our own self-view. One can be living in a society of abundance, surrounded by friends and relatives with endless opportunities and options for self-fulfilment and freedom; yet the more one indulges in all that and locks into the self-view, the more isolated and desperate one begins to feel.
However, taking individualism to an extreme can also take us back to something else – to an identity on a grander scale, a sense of communion with all beings. From one extreme – from being totally isolated in this wretched body, with these boring old thoughts and emotions that just keep bashing away inside, the bleak, dried-up mental state and the hopelessness of that – from there one can find the way to the grandeur of feeling in communion with all beings. This is through opening the mind, through mind-full-ness, to where the universe is in the mind. The mind can embrace the whole universe, rather than my mind, with my little thoughts, my opinions and views, what I think, what I want for me. That small, wretched little self is released and allowed to fade out in this wholeness.A Sunday Talk given by Luang Por Sumedho in 1986.
Collected in the Ajahn Sumedho Anthology Volume 5 – The Wheel of Truth