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All of Us
Ayya Khema, 1987
"The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded,
to be seen here and now, not a matter of time."
The first line of this chant proclaims real faith in the Dhamma. Not believing everything without inquiring, but an inner relationship of trust. When one is faithful to someone, then one also trusts that person, one gives oneself into his or her hands, has a deep connection and an inner opening. How much more is this true of the faith in the teaching of the Buddha. Those aspects of the Dhamma which we don't understand yet can be left in abeyance. Yet that doesn't shake our faith and trust.
If we feel that it is "perfectly expounded," then we are very fortunate, for we know one thing in this universe which is perfect. There's nothing else to be found that's without blemish, nor is there anything that is becoming perfect. If we have that trust, faithfulness and love towards the Dhamma and believe it to be perfectly expounded, then we have found something beyond compare. We are blessed with an inner wealth.
"To be seen here and now," is up to each of us. the Dhamma has been made clear by the Enlightened One who taught it out of compassion, but we have to see it ourselves with an inner vision.
"Here and now," needs to be stressed, because it means not forgetting but being aware of the Dhamma in each moment. This awareness helps us to watch our reactions before they result in unskilful words or actions. Seeing the positive within us and cultivating it, seeing the negative and substituting it. When we believe all our thoughts and claim justification for them, we're not seeing the Dhamma. There are no justifications, there are only arising phenomena which cease again.
"Not a matter of time," means that we are not dependent upon a Buddha being alive in order to practice the Dhamma; though this is a wide-spread belief, it is quite possible to practice now. Some people think there has to be a perfect situation or a perfect teacher or perfect meditation. None of that is true. Mental and physical phenomena (//dhammas//) are constantly coming and going, changing without pause. When we hang onto them and consider them ours, then we will believe any story our mind will tell us, without discrimination. We consist of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, which we grip tightly and believe them to be "me" and "mine." We need to take a step back and be a neutral observer of the whole process.
"Inviting one to come and see, leading inwards." The understanding of the Dhamma leads us into our inner depth. We are not invited to come and see a meditation hall or a Buddha statue, a dagoba or a shrine. We are invited to come and see the phenomena (//dhammas//) arising within us. The defilements as well as the purifications are to be found inside one's own heart and mind.
Our minds are very busy, always remembering, planning, hoping or judging. This body could also be very busy picking up little stones and throwing them into the water all day long. But we would consider that a foolish expenditure of energy, and we direct the body towards something useful. We need to do the same with the mind. Instead of thinking about this and that, allowing the defilements to arise, we could also direct the mind towards something beneficial such as investigating our likes and dislikes, our desires and rejections, our ideas and views.
When the mind inquires, it doesn't get involved in its own creations. It can't do both at the same time. As it becomes more and more observant, it remains objective for longer periods of time. That's why the Buddha taught that mindfulness is the one way for the purification of beings. The clear and lucid observation of all arising phenomena eventually shows that there are only phenomena manifesting as mind and body, which are constantly expanding and contracting in the same way as the universe does. Unless we become very diligent observers, we will not see that aspect of mind and body and will not know the Dhamma "here and now," even though we have been "invited to come and see."
"To be known by the wise, each for themselves." No one can know the Dhamma for another. We can chant, read, discuss and listen, but unless we watch all that arises, we will not know the Dhamma by ourselves. There's only one place where Dhamma can be known, in one's own heart and mind. It has to be a personal experience which comes about through constant observation of oneself. Meditation helps. Unless one inquires into one's own reactions and knows why one wants one thing and rejects another, one hasn't seen Dhamma. Then the mind will also get a clear perception of impermanence (//anicca//) because our desires and dislikes are constantly changing. We'll see that the mind which is thinking and the body which is breathing are both painful (//dukkha//).
When the mind doesn't operate with an uplifted, transcending awareness, it creates suffering (//dukkha//). Only a measureless, illumined mind is free from that. The body certainly produces //dukkha// in many ways through its inability to remain steady. Seeing this clearly will give us a strong determination to know Dhamma by ourselves.
Wisdom arises within and comes from an understood experience. Neither knowledge nor listening can bring it about. Wisdom also means maturity, which has nothing to do with age. Sometimes ageing may help, but it doesn't always do that either. Wisdom is an inner knowing which creates self-confidence. We need not look for somebody else's confirmation and good-will, we know with certainty.
When we chant anything at all, it is vital that we know the meaning of the words and inquire whether they have any connection to ourselves.
Pamadamulako lobho, lobho vivadamulako, dasabyakarako lobho, lobho paramhi petiko, tam lobham parijanantam vande'ham vitalobhakam
Greed's the root of negligence, greed's the root of strife, Greed enslavement brings about, and in the future ghostly birth; That One who's known greed to the end, I honour Him who's free of greed.
Vihannamulako doso, doso virupakarako. vinasakarako doso, doso paramhi nerayo, tam dosam parijanantam vande'ham vitadosakam
Hate's the root of turbulence, of ugliness the cause, Hate causes much destruction and in the future hellish birth; That One who's known hate to the end, I honour Him who's free of hate.
Sabbaghamulako moho, moho sabbitikarako, sabbandhakarako moho, moho paramhi svadiko tam moham parijanantam vande'ham vitamohakam
Delusion's root of every ill, delusion's a troublemaker, All blinding from delusion comes and in the future birth as beast; That One who's known delusion's end, I honour Him, delusion-free.
The Buddha said:
"Though a thousand speeches are made of meaningless lines, better the single meaningful line by hearing which one is at peace." -- Dhp. 100 (Trans. by Ven. Khantipalo)
If we can practice one line of Dhamma, it's so much more valuable than knowing the whole chanting book by heart.
The arising and ceasing phenomena, which are our teachers, never take a rest. Dhamma is being taught to us constantly. All our waking moments are Dhamma teachers, if we make them so. The Dhamma is the truth expounded by the Enlightened One, which is the law of nature surrounding us and imbedded within us.
Once the Buddha said: "Ananda, it is owing to my being a good friend to them that living beings subject to birth are freed from birth." (S. III, 18, XLV, 2).
Everyone needs a good friend, who has enough selflessness, not only to be helpful, but also to point out when one is slipping. Treading the Dhamma path is like walking a tightrope. It leads along one straight line and every time one slips, one hurts. If we have a painful feeling inside, we're no longer on the tightrope of the Dhamma. Our good friend (//kalyana mitta//) might say to us then: "You stepped too far to the right, or to the left, (whatever the case may be). You weren't careful, that's why you fell into depression and pain. I'll point out to you when you're slipping next time." We can only accept this from someone whom we trust and have confidence in.
One can be fooled by a person's beautiful words or splendid appearance. The character of a person is shown not only in words, but in the small day-to-day activities. One of the very important guidelines to a person's character is how they react when things go wrong. It's easy to be loving, helpful and friendly when everything goes well, but when difficulties arise our endurance and patience are being tested as well as our equanimity and determination. The less ego-consciousness one has, the easier one can handle all situations.
At first, when one starts to walk on the tightrope of the Dhamma path, it may feel uncomfortable. One isn't used to balancing oneself, but rather to swaying all over the place, going in all directions, wherever it's most comfortable. One may feel restricted and coerced, not being allowed to live according to one's natural instincts. Yet in order to walk on a tightrope, one has to restrict oneself in many ways with mindfulness. These restrictions may at first feel irksome, like fetters or bonds, later they turn out to be the liberating factors.
To have this perfect jewel of the Dhamma in our hearts, we need to be awake and aware. Then we can prove by our own watchfulness that "the Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded." There is no worldly jewel that can match the value of the Dhamma. Each one of us can become the owner of this priceless gem. We can call ourselves most fortunate to have such an opportunity. When we wake up in the morning, let that be our first thought: "What good fortune it is for me to practice the Dhamma."
DharmaNet Edition 1994
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Transcribed for DharmaNet by Maureen Riordan
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