” The idea of becoming Buddha is based on conditions – you think you’re someone who isn’t Buddha right now, and in order to become Buddha, you have to read books to find out how to become one. Of course, this means that you have to work really hard to get rid of those qualities which are not Buddha-like; you are far from perfect, you get angry, greedy, doubtful and frightened, and of course, Buddhas don’t have this – because Buddha is that which knows, so they know better. Then, in order to become Buddha you have to get rid of these unBuddha-like things and try to get Buddha-like qualities such as compassion and all these kinds of things. And all these are creations of the mind! So we create ‘Buddhas’ because we believe in the creations of the mind. But they aren’t real Buddhas. They’re only false Buddhas. They’re not wisdom Buddhas, they’re just conditions of our mind.
As long as you conceive of yourself as being somebody who has to do something in order to become something else, you still get caught in a trap, a condition of mind as being a self, and you never quite understand anything properly. No matter how many years you meditation, you never really understand the teaching; it will always be just off the mark. The direct way of seeing things now – that whatever arises passes away – doesn’t mean that you are throwing anything away. It means that you’re looking from a perspective of what’s here and now rather than looking for something that’s not here. So if you come into the Shrine Room thinking, ‘I’ve got to spend this hour looking for the Buddha, trying to become something, trying to get rid of these bad thoughts, to sit and practise hard, try to become what I should become – so I’ll sit here and try getting rid of things, try to get things, try to hold onto things’ . . . with that attitude, meditation is a really strenuous effort and always a failure.
But if instead, you […] are just aware of the conditions of mind, you see in perspective the desire to become, to get rid of, to do something or the feeling that you can’t do it; or that you’re an expert, whatever – you begin to see that whatever you’re experiencing is a changing condition and not ‘self’. You’re seeing a perspective of being Buddha, rather than doing something in order to become Buddha. When we talk about sati, mindfulness, this is what we mean. I am really shocked and amazed at many religious people – Christians or Buddhists or whatever – who seem to be ignorant regarding the practice of their religion. Few people seem to have any perspective on religious doctrine and belief and disbelief. They don’t bother to find out. They are still trying to describe the indescribable, limit the unlimited, know the unknowable, and not many look at the way they are. They believe what somebody else has told them.
Gotama the Buddha was one whose wisdom came from observing Nature, the conditions of mind and body. Now that’s not impossible for any of us to do. We have minds and bodies; all we have to do is to watch them. It’s not as if we have to have special powers to do that or that somehow this time is different from that of Gotama the Buddha. Time is an illusion caused by ignorance. People in the time of Gotama the Buddha were not any different from the way then are now – they had greed, hatred and delusion, egos, conceits and fears just like people nowadays. If you start thinking about Buddhist doctrines and different levels of attainment, you’ll just get into a state of doubting. You don’t have to check yourself with a list in a book – know for yourself until no condition of body or mind deludes you.
People say to me, ‘I can’t do all that. I’m just an ordinary person, a layman; when I think of doing all that, I realize I can’t do it, it’s too much for me.’ I say, ‘IF you think about it, you can’t do it’; that’s all. Don’t think about it, just do it. When you get depressed, learn from depression; when you get sick, learn from sickness; when you’re happy, learn from happiness – these are all opportunities to learn in the world. Keep silently listening and watching as a way of life . . . then you begin to understand conditions. There’s nothing to fear. There’s nothing you have to get that you don’t have. There’s nothing to get rid of.”
One thought on “From ‘The Way it Is’, by Ajahn Sumedho”
This is such a great quote. We can get so wrapped up in striving even for enlightenment. I’ve just discovered your website, it’s wonderful. Thank you for creating it.