Today I will give a teaching particularly for you as monks and novices, so please determine your hearts and minds to listen. There is nothing else for us to talk about other than the practice of the Dhamma Vinaya (Truth and Discipline).
Every one of you should clearly understand that now you have been ordained as Buddhist monks and novices and should be conducting yourselves appropriately. We have all experienced the lay life, which is characterised by confusion and a lack of formal Dhamma practice; now, having taken up the form of a Buddhist samana, [see footnote] some fundamental changes have to take place in our minds so that we differ from lay people in the way we think. We must try to make all of our speech and actions – eating and drinking, moving around, coming and going – befitting for one who has been ordained as a spiritual seeker, who the Buddha referred to as a samana. What he meant was someone who is calm and restrained. Formerly, as lay people, we didn"t understand what it meant to be a samana, that sense of peacefulness and restraint. We gave full license to our bodies and minds to have fun and games under the influence of craving and defilement. When we experienced pleasant arammana [see footnote] (mind objects), these would put us into a good mood, unpleasant mind objects would put us into a bad one – this is the way it is when we are caught in the power of mind objects. The Buddha said that those who are still under the sway of mind objects aren"t looking after themselves. They are without a refuge, a true abiding place, and so they let their minds follow moods of sensual indulgence and pleasure seeking and get caught into suffering, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. They don"t know how or when to stop and reflect upon their experience.
In Buddhism, once we have received ordination and taken up the life of the samana, we have to adjust our physical appearance in accordance with the external form of the samana: we shave our heads, trim our nails and don the brown bhikkhus" [see footnote] robes – the banner of the Noble Ones, the Buddha and the Arahants. [see footnote] We are indebted to the Buddha for the wholesome foundations he established and handed down to us, which allow us to live as monks and find adequate support. Our lodgings were built and offered as a result of the wholesome actions of those with faith in the Buddha and His teachings. We do not have to prepare our food because we are benefiting from the roots laid down by the Buddha. Similarly, we have inherited the medicines, robes and all the other requisites that we use from the Buddha. Once ordained as Buddhist monastics, on the conventional level we are called monks and given the title "Venerable" [see footnote]; but simply having taken on the external appearance of monks does not make us truly venerable. Being monks on the conventional level means we are monks as far as our physical appearance goes. Simply by shaving our heads and putting on brown robes we are called "Venerable", but that which is truly worthy of veneration has not yet arisen within us – we are still only "Venerable" in name. It"s the same as when they mould cement or cast brass into a Buddha image: they call it a Buddha, but it isn"t really that. It"s just metal, wood, wax or stone. That"s the way conventional reality is.
It"s the same for us. Once we have been ordained, we are given the title Venerable Bhikkhu, but that alone doesn"t make us venerable. On the level of ultimate reality – in other words, in the mind – the term still doesn"t apply. Our minds and hearts have still not been fully perfected through the practice with such qualities as metta (kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity). We haven"t reached full purity within. Greed, hatred and delusion are still barring the way, not allowing that which is worthy of veneration to arise.
Our practice is to begin destroying greed, hatred and delusion – defilements which for the most part can be found within each and every one of us. These are what hold us in the round of becoming and birth and prevent us from achieving peace of mind. Greed, hatred and delusion prevent the samana – peacefulness – from arising within us. As long as this peace does not arise, we are still not samana; in other words, our hearts have not experienced the peace that is free from the influence of greed, hatred and delusion. This is why we practise – with the intention of expunging greed, hatred and delusion from our hearts. It is only when these defilements have been removed that we can reach purity, that which is truly venerable.
Internalising that which is venerable within your heart doesn"t involve working only with the mind, but your body and speech as well. They have to work together. Before you can practise with your body and speech, you must be practising with your mind. However, if you simply practise with the mind, neglecting body and speech, that won"t work either. They are inseparable. Practising with the mind until it"s smooth, refined and beautiful is similar to producing a finished wooden pillar or plank: before you can obtain a pillar that is smooth, varnished and attractive, you must first go and cut a tree down. Then you must cut off the rough parts – the roots and branches – before you split it, saw it and work it. Practising with the mind is the same as working with the tree, you have to work with the coarse things first. You have to destroy the rough parts: destroy the roots, destroy the bark and everything which is unattractive, in order to obtain that which is attractive and pleasing to the eye. You have to work through the rough to reach the smooth. Dhamma practice is just the same. You aim to pacify and purify the mind, but it"s difficult to do. You have to begin practising with externals – body and speech – working your way inwards until you reach that which is smooth, shining and beautiful. You can compare it with a finished piece of furniture, such as these tables and chairs. They may be attractive now, but once they were just rough bits of wood with branches and leaves, which had to be planed and worked with. This is the way you obtain furniture that is beautiful or a mind that is perfect and pure.