“Verify for yourself,” the Buddha said to his followers, “whether what I teach corresponds with the truth.” He condensed this into one word: Ehipassiko – ‘Come and see’.
Things are not ‘true’ because the Buddha says so. They are ‘true’ because they correspond with the truth. With Dhamma. And they correspond with the truth if they correlate with natural law, with the such-ness of things.
Dhamma is the truth about how things really are (yathā bhūta). It is the reality of the arising and decay of all things, seen as experiential experience (paccanubhoti).[i] The words and concepts of the Pali Canon describe and represent this reality, but they are not this reality itself. They are just ‘signposts’. Fingers pointing to this reality, but reality itself they are not. They are tools (upayas).
Dhamma transcends every Buddhist movement, every tradition, every origin. Dhamma is not bound by words and concepts. Nor by opinions, ideas, points of view. Dhamma spontaneously reveals itself at any moment “in the ten thousand things that present themselves” (Ehei Dogen). To those who ‘look’.
Dhamma does not need an external authority to establish itself. Dhamma has no need for structures, for hierarchy, for external legitimations and reinforcements. Neither for lineages, nor for transmissions, nor for traditions.
Verify yourself whether something contributes to your liberation from dukkha. Whether it is a skilled tool or useless ballast. See for yourself. You decide. You alone. No one else can do this in your place. Protect yourself.
According to the words of the Master himself in the Dhammapada, Verse 160: “Atta hi attano natho – Each is his own protector.”
Waking up – Awakening – is a personal task. Something that must be cultivated by the practitioner himself. As the word indicates, self-realization is something that you may not/cannot leave to others.
The words of others alone cannot bring the dhammanuvatti to Nibbāna. Dhamma cannot be realized solely by what others say. The words and teachings of others are only meant to show the practitioner the way.
Let this be clear: ‘hearsay’ (anītiha) is only knowledge; it is not deep wisdom, not insight. Knowledge and wisdom are not synonyms. Always keep in mind that ‘hearsay’ should never or can never be an argument.
Dhamma can only be realized by the practitioner himself. By himself. By herself. By themselves. Through personal experience. The Buddha, despite his immense wisdom and insight, is ‘only’ a signpost. Realize that even the teaching of a Sammasambuddha does not pave the way of self-realization for the practitioner.
Ajahn Chah once compared this in one of his dhamma talks to a salesman selling a plow to a farmer to work the field. It is an illusion to think that the seller is going to plow for the farmer. That is part of the farmer’s job. The farmer cannot expect the seller to do this for him. Once the sale is closed, the seller collects the money and leaves. On to the next customer. In an analogous way, the Buddha shows the practitioner the way. But he is not the one who does the realization for him/her/them. That is the work of the practitioner himself.
Ajahn Chah paraphrased this as follows:
“The Buddha said that he only shows the way. He teaches you how to swim. But he doesn’t swim for you. If you want the Buddha to swim for you, you can only drown. “
Consider the Buddha’s words as signposts. Word after word. But don’t put them in dogmas. Don’t make it a doctrinal hassle. Don’t build structures around it. Give them room to breathe. Look for meanings that make sense. And useful for practice. Adapted to this moment of time (after all, Dhamma is timeless).
In other words, look through them ethereally and recognize with growing curiosity and penetrating mindfulness the underlying truth they represent. Like lighthouses. As beacons of light. On your path to self-realization. Your path. Every step you take yourself makes everything clearer…
Waking up is a verb. Something the dhammanuvatti does not just acquires. It’s something you have to do yourself. Merely wishing for things to happen, doesn’t make them happen. Just talking about Dhamma or listening to dhamma talks doesn’t end your defilements. Awakening is a path of action. Waking up – Awakening – is a task that the practitioner must perform personally. With perseverance (adhiṭṭhāna).[ii] It is his life’s task. Self-realization should be taken literally: realizing oneself. Walking the ascending path of morality, meditation and wisdom itself.
Consequently, in order to wake up, the practitioner must look for himself, hear himself, smell himself, taste himself, feel himself and think for himself. He has to ‘use’ his senses in a special way. Spontaneous. Unconditioned. Clearly mindful. With deep insight into the true nature of things. With sampajañña. Without adding personal stories and dramas[iii]. Pure. There is nothing to covet or reject. After all, things just ‘happen’. With or without ‘his’ approval or disapproval.
Only when the practitioner perceives things without reacting to them, as a witness, do the impurities in his mind lose their power and can no longer guide and overwhelm him.
Only when he accepts the phenomena – both pleasant and unpleasant – that present themselves to him equanimously, without desire and without disgust, free of attachment, will he realize himself.
In other words, your practice does not end with the Buddha showing you the path and saying, “Here is the way to liberation. Walk this path.” The Buddha does not help you walk. You have to do that yourself. Only when you walk the path yourself and practice Dhamma will you see the Dhamma and realize it within yourself. Will you gain an insight – seeing and knowing (janami passami) – that goes far beyond what you can imagine at this moment.
Individual responsibility for personal liberation is a central principle for the Buddha. As a dhammanuvatti, you have to gain insight into the real nature of things. Yathā bhūta ñāṇa dassana. This is only possible when there is no head above your head. When you are your own master. And as a master, you must examine the correctness of things before you make them yours. This way you will go beyond all doubt. Only masters enter the stream.
[i] paccanubhoti → wife + Anu + bhu + a: experience, realize, experiential, i.c. ‘seeing’, ‘direct seeing’.
[ii] adhiṭṭhāna: perseverance; determination; firmness. Adhiṭṭhāna pāramitā: the perfection of determination. It is the beneficial quality of decisiveness; it is one of the 37 factors leading to enlightenment (bodhipakkhiya dhamma).
[iii] sampajañña → sam+pa+jañña: sam = in its entirety, complete, all-encompassing, but ‘sam’ also has a more profound meaning: correct, pure; pa = preposition used in Pali to express the intensity of an action; jañña = knowing, understanding. The term ‘sampajañña’ is widely used in relation to ‘sati’ (mindfulness) and even combined in the word ‘sati-sampajañña’. I translate sampajañña as ‘clearly aware of the origin and decay of the phenomena, i.c. a profound understanding of transience (in the first place of the ‘I’).’
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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the wayBuddha, Dhp 276