Apply Dhamma in Life

by S. N. Goenka

The following has been adapted from Goenkaji’s discourse on Day 30 of the 30-day course.


The most important thing is to apply Dhamma in life. If you merely take courses after courses—ten-day courses or long courses—and do not apply it in life, Dhamma will become a lifeless rite or ritual. Different religions and sects have their own rites, rituals, and ceremonies. It would be very unfortunate if Vipassana courses also become a rite or ritual for a meditator.

Whenever you join a ten-day course or a longer course, you are eradicating your weaknesses and developing your strength. You have to use this strength in your day-to-day life. In a course, you work at the deeper level of your mind, eradicating layer after layer of complexes. After the course, if you again start accumulating the same complexes, the same impurities, the same defilements, then the purpose is not served. One has not understood what one is doing. The entire life pattern must change. Dhamma must manifest itself in day-to-day life.

One has to keep trying to apply Dhamma in life. “Whatever strength I have gained in a course like this, I will use it to ensure that my life becomes a Dhamma life. I will perfect my sīla, gain mastery over my mind and purify my mind. While facing different situations in life, I will practice Dhamma instead of generating unwholesome saṅkhārā (mental reactions).” In this way, you must keep watch over yourself.

You have a human life and have come in contact with the wonderful Dhamma. You have developed confidence in Vipassana. Now you must make best use of it. Gaining a human life, coming in contact with Dhamma, and learning how to practise Dhamma—this is a rare opportunity indeed.

The goal is clear: to come out of all misery. This is possible only when one eradicates all the defilements. The aim: at least to reach the goal to become an ariya, a sotāpanna. Then Dhamma will take care because one is liberated from the four lower fields.

Before one becomes sotāpanna, one has to develop oneself to becomes a cūḷa-sotāpanna, a minor sotāpanna. A sotāpanna starts flowing in the stream of liberation, and is bound to reach the final goal of full liberation. A cūḷa-sotāpanna starts flowing in the stream of Dhamma and is bound to become a sotāpanna.

There are three important qualities in the life of a sotāpanna:

The first important quality: total liberation from all doubts and scepticism about Dhamma (vicikicchā). How can there be any doubt about Dhamma, about the path after one has directly experienced Dhamma, directly experienced the path, has walked on the path, and experienced the benefits. If one has doubts about Dhamma, about the path, about the technique, and feels that one has become a sotāpanna, it is a big delusion.

The second important quality: total liberation from attachment to all rites and rituals (sīla-vata parāmasa). Every sect, every organized religion has some rites, rituals, and ceremonies. Some people develop tremendous attachment towards these rites, rituals and ceremonies, and feel that they will get liberated by practising them. A sotāpanna is liberated from this kind of delusion and understands that attachment to these rites and rituals cannot take one to the final goal. If one still has attachment towards them and feels that “I am a sotāpanna,” it is a big illusion, a big delusion.

The third important quality: total liberation from the belief of some essence in this mind-matter phenomena (sakkāyadiṭṭhi). For conventional purposes, to deal with people, one has to use these words—“I” and “mine”. However in reality neither the physical structure nor the mental structure nor the combination of the two is “I” or “mine” or “my soul”.

That becomes clear to a sotāpanna not by listening to discourses or by reading scriptures but by direct personal experience. Having divided, dissected, disintegrated, and dissolved the entire physical and mental structure, it becomes clear how the mind and matter interaction is going on constantly, how the illusion of “I” and “mine” is being created.

These three qualities become established in a sotāpanna. A cūḷa-sotāpanna develops these very qualities, because unless these qualities are developed, the goal of sotāpanna is far away.

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A rare and wonderful opportunity has come in your life. Make full use of this opportunity for your own liberation.

Buddhuppādo dullabho lokasmiṃ.

One is fortunate to be born in an aeon in which twenty-five centuries back someone became fully enlightened. It is so rare for someone to become fully enlightened, a sammāsambuddha. One has to accumulate and perfect pāramīs for countless kappas (aeons); it takes a very long time. So many kappas are empty; there is no Buddha at all. We are fortunate that in this present kappa, Gotama became sammāsambuddha and even after twenty-five centuries, his sāsana, his teaching, the Dhamma, Vipassana, is still alive.

Manussa-bhāvo dullabho.

It is so rare to get a human life—such a valuable life. Nature has given such wonderful capability to human beings—to observe the truth within themselves. One observes the mind-matter interaction: how due to this reason, this happens; how if this is not there, this does not happen. The Dhamma becomes so clear to a human being because of the capability to objectively observe the reality within oneself.

People say that someone is fortunate if he or she dies as a human being and is born in the celestial world. But the Buddha says somebody in the celestial world who dies and is born as a human being is really fortunate.

A human life is a wonderful life. The faculty of a human being to be able to look within is so wonderful. This is the life when one can observe the reality as it is, go beyond the apparent truth and move towards the ultimate truth. We are fortunate, we have got this rare opportunity now; we are human beings.

Dullabhaṃ saddhammasavanaṃ.

However if a human being does not come across the truth, the law, the Dhamma; if he or she does not even get an opportunity to hear the Dhamma, one does not make any use of human life. One spends the whole life like any other being—an animal, a bird or a reptile. Just to listen to the truth about the Dhamma— this itself is so rare.

Dullabhā saddhā sampattiṃ.

Even if one has heard about Dhamma, listened to the words of Dhamma, it is so rare to develop confidence, devotion, faith in Dhamma.

Pabbajita bhāvo dullabho.

Even if one develops faith in Dhamma, it is so difficult to leave all the multifarious responsibilities of the householder’s life and live like a monk or a nun.

All these rare things have been attained. Now what remains is—establish yourself in Dhamma, strengthen yourself in Dhamma.

Handadāni, bhikkhave, āmantayāmi vo,

invites his disciples, just before he passes away to heed his last words.

All his words are so wonderful. But his last words are like an invaluable heritage, an invaluable gift:

Vaya-dhammā saakhārā, appamādena sampādetha.

All saṅkhārās are vaya-dhammā, anicca. Whatever gets composed is bound to get decomposed, whatever arises is bound to pass away. This is the truth; this is the reality; this is the law; this is the nature; this is the Dhamma. Keep on realizing this reality diligently, appamādena—remaining alert, remaining attentive.

It is a wonderful opportunity to be a human being; to come in contact with the Buddha’s teaching; to hear the beautiful truth of the Dhamma; to develop faith in the Dhamma; and to practise Vipassana, living the life of a monk or a nun.

Make use of all these in your day-to-day life. Dhamma is not just for ten days; Dhamma is not just for thirty days; Dhamma is for the whole life. Every moment is so precious. Every moment for a human being who knows about Dhamma, who has realized the truth of Dhamma even a little, who knows how to practise Dhamma, becomes so precious. You can’t afford to lose this opportunity.

Make use of it for your own good, for your own benefit, for your own liberation and for the good and benefit of so many others. There is so much suffering all around. There is no other way to come out of suffering.

May Dhamma spread for the good of many, for the happiness of many, for the liberation of many.

Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ!