Short and Sharp Four Noble Truths

While paradoxical Zen masters are cool, and Tibetan refugee Bodhisattva monks warm nations, there has always been a steady stream of really great Thai masters right here in the towns and forests of Thailand. One of them was Luang Phor Doon (also spelt ‘Dun’), a close follower of Luang Phor Mun who reinvigorated the Thai Forest tradition.

If you have ever studied the concept of Buddha-nature the following teaching of Luang Phor Doon shows that Theravada has all the same discoveries:

The true Dhamma is the mind. The mind of each and everyone of us is the highest Dhamma, which is already there in our minds. Apart from this there is no other Dhamma principle. Abandon your thoughts and explanations all together. Then the mind in the mind will be pure, which is the primordial nature already there in all of us

Luang Phor Doon’s teachings were always short and sharp. His explanation of the foour Noble Truths is a prime example – just four lines, but runs deep:

The mind that is sent outside is the cause of suffering;

The result of the mind that is sent outside is the suffering;

The mind that sees the mind is the way toward cessation of suffering;

The result of the mind that sees the mind is the cessation of suffering.

Put these two teachings together and you have a very good description of Buddha-nature in Theravada – the mind is inherently pure of nature, but by looking outside of itself for happiness, it loses its bliss.

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9 Responses to Short and Sharp Four Noble Truths

  1. Richard says:

    I’ve never thought of the 4 N Ts is such a simple way – brilliant… The whole ‘mind seeing the mind’ bit is where things begin to become very difficult to understand unless experienced through meditation! but I guess that’s why they refer to this type of meditation as Insight meditation 🙂

  2. Cittasamvaro says:

    I will post more from LP Doon. The mind seeing itself is a controversial issue in the lineage of Luang Phor Mun. They said you experience the citta which is permanent and not-dukkha, inside the body as a bright sphere. Opponents claim this violates ‘anatta’, but of course they do so based on text, where the LP Mun meditators were basing their teaching on direct experience.

  3. Richard says:

    Yes, well, I gyuess that the mind seeing itself is the whole point of Vipassana meditation – the mind (sati) watches the thoughts; when we can control the sati, we can control the thoughts etc. With regards to the whole sphere thing, I suppose it is just a visualisation technique akin to that of the Dhammakaya schools. Not that there is anyhthing wrong in that type of thing, but I can understand that dimension (seeing things as images etc. Buddha taught us to ingnore those visual images during meditationetc.) of interpretation/understanding to be contentious. Again, I would say that any kind of academic debate about it is meaningless, as we can only realise these things truly through meditation (which is where we gain Insight [as long as we focus on Vippasanna, not Samatha!]).

  4. Marcus says:

    “Opponents claim this violates ‘anatta’”

    As if Buddhism were a set of theological statements to be analysed and debated and defended rather than a set of methods, some of which may connect with some people, others with other people.

    Yes, direct experience is the point, isn’t it.

    As for the Vipassana/Samatha thing, of course again it all depends on how it works for each individual meditator, but persoanlly I’ve always loved A.Brahm’s teachings about how they are basically one and the same (plus metta too!).

    With palms together,

    Marcus

    • Richard says:

      Hi Marcus,

      Yes, Anapannasati, the form where both are practised simultaniously. As far as I know, it is the only form that the Buddha advocated. However, they are not the same when separated, but can be amalgamated. I guess it depends on whether you want to become more ‘mystical’ (i.e. develop the ability to do ‘miracles’ etc., such as read others’ minds, make solid objects appear from nothing etc. – some do not even agree that this is possible) via the ‘Samatha’ route, or become more ‘wise’ and ‘insightful’ via Vipassana. I would say that Vipassana is much more helpful in our everyday lives, as we are taught to watch the mind all the time (i.e. be mindful and in the persent moment), but Samatha is a good way to become more relaxed and tranquil. Someone once explained to me that Samatha is only useful to a degree, really only when you are in a meditative state, as it supresses the mind and makes the spirit/mind (jid) still and tranquil; however, life is not always still and tranquil, therefore when one come sout of the meditative state, the mind goes back to its usual state. They used the analogy of a tiger to explain this: using the ‘samatha’ method is akin to caging a tiger – once the cage is opened again (when one comes out of the meditative state) the tiger goes back to its prowling dangerous and potentially destructive state. In short, Vipassana trains the tiger, and Samatha cages it!

      It’s a shame what happened to Ajarn Brahm – I’m not sure that I fully understand it all… I have also enjoyed listening to his teachings (being an Englishman, too, I like the poor quality of his jokes!).

  5. Marcus says:

    Thank you Richard!

  6. Sara says:

    Thaks for this interesting discussion…

    Richard, while understanding and agreeing int he main part with your comments, I am not sure what you mean by “the only form”:

    “Anapannasati, the form where both [Vipassana – insight and Samatha – concentration] are practised simultaniously. As far as I know, it is the only form that the Buddha advocated.”

    Do you think it’s only form of formal meditative technique to develop insight into the 3 characteristics or four noble truths which the Buddha Expounded?

    The Satipatthana Sutta lists many areas to investigate…

  7. Cittasamvaro says:

    The whole Samatha (or Samadhi) vs Vipassana issue is a complex one, and a duality not found in the suttas. There we find jhana practised and recommended endlessly. The Dhammakaya schools have a valid Samadhi/Vipassana technique, albeit a rather difficult one. Pretty much all schools of Buddhism (and other yoga approaches) actually mix concentration and insight aspects.

    Regarding the ‘direct experience’ or sutta accounts, we find another balancing act. Sometimes ones own experiences might be misguided, trapped or heading off in the wrong direction – this is expecially so with some people who have jhana or jhana-like experiences. So measuring ones experience up against the suttas accounts is worthwhile. Of course, being human, this becomes somewhat dogmatic at times.

  8. Richard says:

    Hi Sara,

    Satthipatthana is another word for Annapannasati! They are interchangeable terms – and you are right, there are many differing types of meditation which incorporate both dimensions of this type of practice… 🙂

    The Buddha was simply the first person (well, not the first, but the first for a very, very long period of time – there have been Buddhas before him, of course, as there will be afterwards) to develop real insight via Vippassana; others at the time were simply practising Samatha (e.g. yogis). Therefore, he expounded ths form as the most superior, and the only form which will help attain Nirvana… I hope that this doesn’t sound like too much rambling – and you probably know all this already. I’ll be quiet now…!

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