by Principal Teacher S. N. Goenka
WORDS OF DHAMMA
Uṭṭhānavato satīmato sucikammassa nisammakārino; saññatassa dhammajīvino appamattassa yasobhivaḍḍhati.
The good repute of someone who is energetic, mindful, of pure deeds, considerate, self-controlled, heedful and living according to the Dhamma increases
～ Dhammapada 24, Appamādvaggo
January 4, 2004, Delhi
Two things are very important for you to truly bring meditation practice (sadhana) into your lives. One point is to have learnt this practice in a Vipassana course, or to have ripened in practice over a number of Vipassana courses, along with not missing your morning and evening daily sittings once you return home. If you miss them, you will not get the desired benefit from these courses. Otherwise, these ten-days here will turn into just a mere ritual.
In the same way as you give food to the body two or three times a day to sustain it and keep it healthy, so also the mind needs its sustenance. These morning and evening sittings are the food which keeps the mind healthy and strong. Without this, the mind will grow weak and unhealthy and you will be deprived of the benefit that accrues from the practice.
The second important point to remember is that even though you may sit for Vipassana meditation daily in the morning and evening, you must also check whether it is manifesting in your daily life. Keep checking repeatedly. For instance, a meditator (sadhak) sees that previously he used to get angry in a certain situation; but now in a similar situation, when he becomes aware that anger has arisen, he sees that it is not as strong, not as intense. In addition, it does not remain for as long as it did previously. This is an improvement.
You must keep observing yourself repeatedly whether there is any improvement or not. In addition to anger observe the other defilements. For example, previously you may have become agitated in certain situations, and now agitation has indeed arisen again in a similar situation. But has it come with the same intensity, or is it less? Is there any improvement? In this way, keep checking yourself.
Perhaps ill will has arisen towards someone. It used to arise in the past, and now once again it has arisen. But does it remain in your mind for as long as it did previously, or does it dissolve more rapidly? Keep checking. How soon did you become aware of it? First of all, how soon did you become aware that you did something wrong; you became angry and generated ill will and hatred? Secondly, and of equal importance, how soon did you start generating a feeling of loving-kindness (metta) and goodwill towards the person to whom the ill will, anger and animosity had arisen? Having wounded someone with your harshness, anger, ill feeling and hatred, now it is important that you apply a healing balm. How soon did you start giving that same person metta from your heart; ‘may you be happy, may you be peaceful’. You will now come to know how strong this metta within has become.
If you are boiling in anger and you utter the words, ‘May you be happy’, it will not generate any goodwill. Calm the mind, quieten it, then metta can arise. Once the anger has gone and the mind is calm, then you can remember this person towards whom you expressed anger, spoke harsh words, generated ill will and as you remember him, you can generate goodwill and a loving feeling: ‘May you be happy, may you be at peace’. If this happens, then you are indeed developing Dhamma in your life.
On the one hand, if you sit for a 10-day course but do not practice Vipassana daily in the morning and in the evening when you return home, then it will not give the proper benefit that it should. On the other hand, certainly it is good if you are practicing daily in the morning and evening, but if you are not checking whether Dhamma is manifesting in your live or not, then still your practice is incomplete.
Dhamma must develop in our lives, it must become alive, it must become an indivisible part of our lives; only then it truly starts giving benefit. Each individual must know if this change is taking place in himself or herself. No other person can make an apt evaluation and judgment.
You may have an associate with whom your relations are not very harmonious. That person may expect that because you have just returned from a meditation camp then you will likely behave according to his desires – as if the practice was undertaken just to make this person happy. Now, if you do not behave as that person wishes then perhaps he will ask you, ‘What is the use of your practice? It is useless and you are useless as well’. If this does happen then just smile and tolerate this poor fellow as he has not understood Dhamma properly.
However, if this person has pointed out a shortcoming that truly exists, then thank him. Thank him for reminding you of a fault that needs to be rectified and say, ‘Now I shall work to remove it’. However, if the criticism is baseless, if someone ridicules and falsely accuses you of something you have not done, then generate metta towards him.
In this way, see how Dhamma can become an indivisible part of you, how it manifests in your life, how it becomes your second nature. Then Vipassana gives us its full benefit. It becomes a tool of growth.
You have to be very aware. You have to examine yourself. Others too may observe you and say, ‘Yes, certainly you are improving’. That is good. Nevertheless, remember that another person’s evaluation of you may or may not be accurate. You have to evaluate yourself very dispassionately, very objectively. Check to see if the defilement within is just as strong as it was before, or if it has decreased. And if it has decreased then by how much? If you are continuing your practice, and there is no improvement in your behaviour and your nature, then it means that the practice is not being followed properly. It is not possible that you are practicing Vipassana mediation properly without there being some improvement in your behaviour and nature. There must be a shortcoming somewhere. If so, then meet with your teacher and take guidance once again. Make corrections in your practice. Remain aware and keep yourself mentally healthy. As soon as you see yourself becoming unhealthy, double your efforts and see how you can come out of it. We must live a Dhammically healthy life. If this commitment, this perseverance remains unbroken then certainly you will make progress.
You are walking on the path of Dhamma. It will lead to your highest welfare in this life as well as in future lives. Progress must take place here and now, in this life. If there is no improvement in this life, then we cannot hope that there will be improvement in future lives. If life in this realm is improving then certainly life beyond this realm will improve also. We do not have to worry about what will happen when we get there. The future is the child of the present. If the present changes for the better, then the future will also be better.
So, taking one-step at a time understand the laws of Dhamma well. Step by step become free from your defilements, become free from your miseries. May you be happy and peaceful, may all who walk on the path of Dhamma achieve their highest welfare.
May you all be happy!