I came back from Parivasa (the Probation), where I saw many Buddhist
monks undergoing the Probation. That reminds me of our four habits, Nissaya ,which
means shelter - i.e. staying at the foot of the tree, going out for alms gathering,
taking medicine pickled in stale urine, and wearing discarded cloth. All these
are basically the four necessities of life. We depend on these things for our
physical being : But one thing we don't understand and naturally forget is
"Refuge of the mind". We don't understand the refuge of the mind.
The refuge of the mind maintains our mind or what our mind adheres to, which
enable us to live a strong life, not wavering because of restraints, pushes and
pulls of anything.
As a matter of fact, the shelter of the body differ from that of the
mind. We depend on shelter for our body from day to day, or temporarily.
But the refuge of the mind enables us to stand firmly, physically and
spiritually. Refuge for Buddhist monks is the Dhamma. Do we ever ask
ourselves, since we became Buddhist monks, whether we have the Dhamma
in our mind ? What is the Dhamma that keeps us up, what is the Dhamma
we have in mind ? If not, it means that we do not have any refuge. Without
a refuge, the mind does not differ from a piece of wood, driven in on buffalo
dung or soft soil which make it sway and finally collapse. It does not differ
from a ceiba fluff which floats along the wind. It does not differ from dust
flying in the air. Due to the lack of refuge we are unable to stand up firmly
like a mountain which can defend itself from the wind, the storm, the snow,
the dust, the thunder, the flood. These things cannot bother mountains.
The one ruled with the Dhamma in his heart, will be firm and stable in any
The refuge is possessed by wise men, graduates with degrees, monks and the
Buddha who preached. These refuges are the Dhamma or teaching of the Buddha or
nature, the truth of all creatures, nature of the spirit. If we say that refuge means
nature, the Dhamma can be of different meanings. If we say the Dhamma is what
maintains existing situation, natural conditions or phenomenon, which occurs and
extincts every instance. Truth endures eternal proofs. Everything in this world
comes into existence in the beginning, in the middle; it is unstable and finally goes
to pieces. Phenomenon occurs from mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, righteousness,
honesty to the appearance of truth, the processes of keeping all things, all creatures, all
objects in balance, and finally to carry out one's duties without any mistakes.
The Dhamma is the teaching of the Buddha. It has a systematic
pattern, custom, forbidding and permitting rules which are the principles of truth,
in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Nobody can go against the rules,
or destroy the teachings in the past, present and future.
If we have to divide up the principles of teachings called the Dhamma, it may be
divided up into two - the body and the soul, shelter of the body and refuge of the soul.
The Dhamma is divided up into 84,000 categories.
Nature can mean truths of things, which have to live together, to help one another.
The truth which cannot be denied is that all lives were born in the beginning, change
in the middle and dissolve at the end. These happen to all including the world and the solar
system. All fall under this rule, the Buddha or ourselves. If we understand all these, it can be
said that we understand nature.
When we know nature, outside in and inside out, it means that
we understand ourselves. We accept what ourselves are, by feeling satisfied
with ourselves, under such conditions of life, in each situation, which is not
going against the principles of nature, but harmonizes them along the rules
of nature. Thus it can be said that we do not endanger nature and that we are
dwelling with nature.
When Luang Poo was newly ordained, he tried hard to search
for a refuge. He finally obtained a skeleton for a refuge. He was searching for
himself, where his soul abides. Finally it becomes his own skeleton which
was taken for his refuge. Is this a Dhamma ? It is not itemized. The
Dhamma is itemized, put into paragraphs and sections.
Anyhow, Luang Poo holds nature as his refuge; in other words,
his refuge is nature. We are unified with nature and become one. Thus we
have no fear. We are unmoved by our likes and dislikes, our acceptances and refusals.
These things do not make our being lose its balance. Living in society, we behave
as we are a part of it. The proverb says "In Rome, do as the Romans do".
We are not blind, our sight is normal.
At the same time, no matter what great storm or Satan pushes and pulls us, we trust
in what we have. That is our refuge. You may observe whether Luang Poo is a cook, an
administrator, a developer, a preacher, a teacher or an actor, he has his own say and he
is himself. He has a refuge. Therefore, he is free, having freedom of his own.
He does not allow himself to play any role without stopping. This is because
he knows himself.
Thus the meanings of shelter and refuge differ. Refuge in this case
means stability and honesty to one's mind and thinking. Whoever has a refuge
is stable in his ideals, in the ways he spends his life, in his own nature. He is
satisfied with what he is.
On the contrary, those without any refuge will roam around everyday.
He struggles in his search. He leads his life on conditions that he may get what he likes
without any certainty. These are the conditions of those without any refuge for his soul.
He has no firm standpoint of his own. He relies on the words perhaps or may be all the time.
Therefore Luang Poo would like to point out the refuge of our soul.
Have we searched and found it ? Are you satisfied with the Dhamma ?
The Dhamma is nature, any chapter of the Dhamma is. As I have said, the Dhamma is the
rules, a pattern of customs, which both forbidding and permitting as our Lord Buddha has
demonstrated; it is the conditions of things in 84,000 categories. We may use these as our
refuge, any item which we deem appropriate for us. The Dhamma is the truth, which
stands all the proofs, eternally, conditions arising from mindfulness, concentration and
wisdom to maintain the balance of all creatures, all materials, including right and justice,
and not to fail any duties carried out to maintain our lives. Nature is our real self.
We know our real look and understand what we need to be, to go, to gain, to lose
and to live.
The understanding of our lives is the conditions of nature. The understanding
of one's ways of life is to own nature as a refuge. Understanding the ways of living,
the status of a human being, satisfaction in the conditions and status are to understand
nature as a refuge of our souls. Therefore, make an attempt to search for our own refuge,
so that we know exactly what we are satisfied with. Hence we can play our different roles
without being afraid that the roles will destroy us. We can play the roles of a
normal man, a father, a husband, a wife, a mother, a child, a monk, an administrator or any
role if we have a refuge for our souls.
Those with a refuge for the soul will feel calm when facing any cries and
sufferings of others. We will feel peaceful when others are disturbed. One without
a refuge is an inappropriate person for any role because if he plays a bad role,
he will be bad until the end of his life. Therefore, he who has no refuge is not fit to
play any role.
I say this to make you understand the real meaning of living one's own life;
how we should lead our lives, to make us feel free, more or less. Work hard to
search for our own refuge so that we will not feel sorry to live. In the future our lives
will be totally ours. We need not be afraid of storms, mad sea or huge fish, awaiting to
swallow us or pull us to the bottom of the ocean.
I would like to explain 'life with a refuge'. It is like having an
armour to protect us from evils, so that we have no greedy feeling or regret and
do not commit sins till the last day of our lives. Those with 'a refuge for the
soul' are free people. They will have their own rules and standards to tell them
when one role is sufficient, when to play a new role. Those without a refuge will play
numerous roles with greeds and ambitions until he becomes Satan who deceives
others so that he gets what he wants. Thus he is not able to identify himself.
Therefore, search for your own refuge and the best refuge will
help to save you from falling down. Live and know the nature of yourself.
Know the Dhamma which will save us. I want you to understand this much.
Remember one thing, do not try to imitate Luang Poo. It is difficult.
Be what you are. Do as you think what you can do and that you are willing to do.
Commit yourself in the task. Do not try to change others. It is easier to change yourself.
We may not be able to change social conditions. We cannot change
the world or animals, but we can change ourselves. Changing yourselves does not mean
following what rich people do. Make them see that we are a part of them, but remain
ourselves. Try to find your own way.
You eat rice, so does Luang Poo. You sleep, Luang Poo also has to sleep.
Your capability is as great as that of Luang Poo. The difference may be our
sincerity in that we are brave enough to train ourselves. You have a right to
depend on yourself and be helpful to others. We have a right to protect yourself
as well as to protect others. If this is your way of thinking, try hard to search for
knowledge, become capable, and build up experiences, so that you do not save only
yourself but others, as well as being strong, ready to be a leader. This can
happen and it will not make us indifferent to the attempt to develop ourselves.
If we lead narrow lives, limit our thoughts, we will learn in a narrow way,
and only think of saving ourselves, paying no attention to what soever happens to
others. This is to train mindfulness, concentration and wisdom in a narrow way.
It is like imprisoning yourself in a dark world, in a narrow frame, in a dull room.
The feeling that it is not our business is narrow mindedness. Such is the life of
a fool, a blind, a handicapped or one who is close to death. It is a meaningless and
If we would only think we do things only for our friends, we give things only
to our relatives, or we want only our beloved to get things from us, we are building
a cage to put ourselves in. Our ability to learn is becoming narrow.
Therefore, open yourself, open your heart, open your mind for knowledge.
Learn widely, train yourself to become a giver, a sharer, a kind person to other
creatures. This will help us to know how to be a giver and what we have to give.
As long as we are foolish and narrow minded, we cannot depend on ourselves,
as I have said "Dear son, what is the use of giving the blind a lit candle ?"
The meaning of this sentence is short, but actually it has a wide connotation;
the person does not only lose his sight, his mind, his soul, his feeling, his brain,
his common sense and thoughts, but also becomes blind.
Train yourself so that there is light in your soul, so that you know
that every minute of a giver is valuable. This is not easy. Be proud to be a giver.
If we are frugal we will be narrow, and become confused and finally will
not know anything which appears to our lives.
Recently, I told people who came to see me "If we do not think
of getting anything from others, we will gain more than what we expect.
But if we are greedy and want other people's things, nobody will think of us".
Therefore learn to be a giver. Give out our soul and blood. This will make
our lives more valuable. Don't give only to friends and relatives. The meaning
of the word "giver" is great. It is compared to Buddha. The word receiver is
disdainful. It is compared with Satan. Therefore, make your choice,
whether you want to be the Buddha or Satan.