By Nhat Quan
Once you do anything, it requires you to put in a lot of effort and time, or in professional terms, it is called diligence or hard work. However, such training should not be thought of as something imposed on you from the outside. Rather, it is what you set for yourself, for you realize that once you have overcome your bad instincts and negative impulses, you will gradually overcome all the illusions that create suffering for you.
That is why each of the teachings of Buddha's teachings is designed to bring you closer to the goal of enlightenment and liberation. Knowing that you have not done anything wrong, you do not feel guilty and do not feel inadequate or degraded, so your mind feels very comfortable and free. Therefore, the maintenance or preservation of roots is one of the basic practices of Buddhism, which has the ability to help stabilize the mind, not to let the mind be stimulated to change and follow the external environment for the inner not growth of greed, hatred, and delusion.
Ordinarily, the mind does not stand still but is like an ape passing a tree. It jumps from one object to another in the world of fluctuating ideas and feelings. Due to the contact between the roots: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, and surrounding circumstances such as:
- Visible objects
- Sounds
- Smell
- Taste
- Touch
- Idea thought, or mental objects
Because the roots come into contact with the six sense objects, the mind begins to arise and change according to the object it feels pleased or disliked. What it is interested in, it clings to, chases, and tries to get it. What it does not like, it tries to avoid, repel or fall into an angry reaction. Therefore, it makes you constantly whirl in the world of opposites, joyfully seeking what is pleasing, and frustratingly trying to avoid what is displeasing. It pushes you to drift from one pole to another in the world of conflict, making you always feel tired and stressed, from joy to sadness, from happiness to suffering. This is because you do not pay attention to their own minds and do not know how to take care of the five organs of the senses.
To talk about safety when you know how to keep the senses, the Buddha gave a metaphor:
- Like a Khattiya who has given empowerment, has subdued the enemy, and no longer feels fear from anywhere in terms of the enemy. In the same way, Potthapada, that bhikkhu, due to his complete precepts, does not feel any fear from any point of view in terms of upholding the precepts. He, by full fulfillment of this noble precept, enjoys a faultless inner life...
This is also repeated for the other roots:
- When the ear hears sounds, ... when the nose smells odors ... when the tongue tastes flavors ... body emotions ... mind perceives dharmas, he does not hold general signs, does not hold particular signs ... You know how to protect carefully those roots, then you will enjoy a happy life, without errors in your heart.
Regarding the preservation of the five organs of the senses, this is often misunderstood, and thus misrepresented. You usually understand not to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. How can that be done? You have all the senses, so you have to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Your mind still has to think, awake you know this very well when you sit in meditation. Yet this method is often taught in practice.
Of course, if you don't look at something, you won't be dominated by it. But how can you avoid looking away, especially in everyday life? Therefore, it is very important to understand what this passage says, which is very important, especially when you want to live according to the precepts. Those who do not hold general signs, do not hold particular signs, that person will be peaceful and happy.
Talk about general and specific symbols, such as when your eyes see a piece of chocolate candy. The eye sees only the brown shape, then your mind will say:
- Ah, chocolate! This is so delicious, I want to have a bite!
To not hold the general sign, not to hold the particular sign, is to make your mind stop right away, not to do it. You can practice this pretty easily at any time, any place, and anything you either really like or hate. The two most powerful senses are the eyes and the ears, so you need to choose between the two and observe how the mind reacts, being aware of what your inner self is telling you. The eye or the ear cannot decide what it must see or hear. For example, listen to the engine sound of a car. Your mind says it's the sound of the car's engine. Then your mind says it's very noisy, it's so annoying. No wonder I can't meditate.
All these things come from the mind, it has nothing to do with the sound itself, for a sound is just a sound. Color is just color. The shape just shapes. When you vow to keep the precepts, celibacy is sometimes advised by the Venerables not to look at the opposite sex. But how can you do that? You've met monks who practice this, but it leads to uncomfortable, rigid relationships. How can you talk to someone without intentionally looking at them? That is not what the restraint of the senses means. Rather, when the eye sees the form, the mind says Man or woman, and you stop right there. You should not care more or less about anything. Anything that can be added or subtracted will give rise to greed or hatred, depending on the circumstances. Most of you are capable of doing this, and indeed if you do, it can make your life easier.
If you are easily carried away by what you see, then it is best for you to recognize the contact of the senses and the sense objects and stop the mind at perception, at naming. No need to do anything more than that. That is the way to control the senses.
The Buddha is a talented teacher, he has seen that the senses: Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind have their own separate food, the corresponding realms such as Form, sound, smell, taste, etc. touch ... and they often compete with each other in search of familiar realms with suitable food. If you just let them run free to follow their pleasurable realms, your body and mind will be manipulated by them and eventually become a slave to their lust and insatiable instincts. In other words, it is difficult to avoid fatigue and trouble if you let go of the roots, and do not know how to preserve and control the excessive desires of the senses.
Images of wild animals caught in the traps of hunters, luring cultivators who do not protect the senses, and who are attached to the five desires and must depend on demons are very common in the scriptures. As a Buddhist student, everyone knows it, but it's not easy when you live in the Human world and want to go out of the Human world. Because, when you practice, you also need the minimum means to live and have healthy practice. Four basic items such as:
- Meals,
- Dress,
- House,
- Medicines
All these things must be stable in order to progress in cultivation, but if you lack awareness of them, you will immediately fall into craving when the senses:
- Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind
Exposure to the outside:
- Visible objects, sounds, smells, touches, Idea thought, or mental objects.
If you do not know how to preserve or protect, if you are not aware, the mind will easily give rise to greed first. So you are advised to be righteous and aware to protect the senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind by doing what you know you are doing, then that is dharma prevention protects the best six senses of Buddhism that Buddha's disciples must practice. Thus, the preservation and maintenance of the senses is the practice of mindfulness, so the mind is not attached to the six sense objects. You should remember to practice. Most people in the world, especially young people today, do not practice guarding the senses, so their minds are often distracted and chase after the six-worldly dust, so they often fall into poverty. If you want to know the method of dissolving roots and worldly dust without attachment, listen to Master Ananda ask Buddha:
- Dear World Honored One! We are young monks, what should we do when we meet a woman?
Buddha replied:
- Should not meet.
Teacher Ananda's question above means that when the eyes see the general appearance of form, how can the eyes not be attached to form?
Buddha replied:
- Should not meet.
That means keeping the eye not showing its general appearance because once you see it, it is very difficult to let go. That is the first defense of the Buddha's disciples, which means that prevention is better than cure. Therefore, as a cultivator, if you want to protect the six roots to avoid contact with the six sense objects, when walking, standing, lying down, and sitting, your eyes must be looking down, not looking over, looking back, not glancing back or forth. The ear, too, tries to listen to all the activities in the body, not listening to outside sounds. Therefore, the Buddha taught you to practice mindfulness of the body internally or externally, also for the purpose of protecting your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body, and mind from being attached to the six sense objects.
Teacher Ananda continued:
- Dear World Honored One! If we meet, what should we do to keep our eyes from getting sharp?"
Buddha replied:
- Stop talking.
This is the second way of protection. It means that when you see the general appearance of the object, you must quickly avoid it. Don't talk, that means don't get close, get close means you can see the specifics, which are the details because the individual signs are harder to get rid of than the general ones.
The above are two methods of prevention. Students on the path of liberation must know that using these two methods of prevention is the best in protecting the six roots. The first prevention, as Master Ananda asked the Buddha above, is that if you don't show the general signs, how can you get attached if you don't see the general signs? The second is the method of preventing from showing the private sign, without seeing the private sign, how can one be attached? Master Ananda continued to ask the Buddha:
- What if we talk?
Buddha replied:
- You have to treat that person as a younger sister, old sister, like a mother.
Teacher Ananda asked again:
- What if you visualize yourself as a younger sister, or older sister, like a mother without success?
Buddha replied:
- Then you must contemplate impurity.
Impure contemplation is the contemplation of things going from formation to destruction, from young to old... Thus, when the six roots come into contact with the six sense objects that do not hold their own general signs, you should practice Anasrava-samapatti, i.e., destroy the evil dharmas and renounce desire in you. Such a practice is called protection, keeping the senses not holding their own general and particular signs
Reading through this passage, many people misunderstood that the Buddha looked down on women, but in fact, this is a great way to neutralize the roots when in contact with the six senses.
In addition, in order to be able to carry out the preservation of the senses, you must first know how to rely on the power of the masses, and firmly hold the middle path. Especially to be determined to protect the senses and often be close to good and knowledgeable people. Those who have an upper mind towards good will certainly go far and high on the path. In addition, always be on the lookout for:
- The evil outside with delicious bait traps is always lurking, the malice inside constantly urges you to do things that create karma.
Therefore, after the first stage of bravery, most of you are always struggling, sometimes facing difficulties whenever there is a problem. Therefore, in order for your practice to progress forever, you must always be close to gurus and friends who have a mind to learn. It is the best choice. In the tendency to choose wisely, I would like to quote a passage from the Sutra for you to contemplate:
At one time, the Buddha was living in the Bamboo Garden, the Kalanda area where the city of Savatthi was. At that time, the Blessed One said to the bhikkhus:
- In the big snowy mountain, in a dangerous and icy place, monkeys and apes can't survive, let alone humans. Or there are mountains with monkeys, and apes live without people. Or there are mountains where humans and animals live together. On the path of apes, hunters apply glue to the grass. The wise apes stay away. Those stupid little apes who don't know how to stay away, touch them a little with their hands, and they get stuck in their hands. It used the other hand to remove it, immediately sticking both hands. It used its feet to remove it, and its legs were also glued. It used its mouth to bite the grass, which was also glued to its mouth. All five places were glued and had to lie curled up on the ground. The hunter came and quickly put his staff in and carried him away.
The bhikkhus should know that foolish apes leave their own realm, leave their parent's residence, and go out to play in other's realms, so they suffer. In the same way, foolish monks, who live in villages, put on robes early in the morning, bring bowls to the village for alms, do not protect the body well, and do not protect the senses. When the eye sees form, the mind of defilement arises. Ear and sound, nose and smell, tongue and taste, body and contact all give rise to the defilement of mind and greed. The bhikkhu is ignorant, after the internal senses and external objects are bound in five places, he becomes subject to the wishes of ghosts. Therefore, bhikkhus should learn thus:
- Just show where you go, where your parents live, don't go to another place and be wary of others.
What is his commuting place, the residence of the monk's parents? This is just for the four foundations of mindfulness: Living with mindfulness, contemplating the body over the body, living contemplating feelings, mind, and dharma over dharmas.
After the Buddha taught this sutra, the bhikkhus heard what the Buddha said and happily accepted it.
You and the image of the stupid baby apes. The five places were all glued and had to lie curled up on the ground. The hunter came and quickly put the stick in to carry it, there were many similarities. Because you don't know how to guard against the sensations of any organ of sense, attachment is bound and carried away. However, for those who, with regard to the five sensual pleasures, well guard the senses, awareness is not affected.
Another important thing is that you need to go to the right place where you travel, need to stay in the right place with your parents. This Buddha wants to show you to do three main things:
- Meditation,
- Alms,
- Preach.
If you want to do more, that's fine. But no matter what you do, it's not outside of the three elements of meditation, almsgiving, and preaching. If you are so absorbed in doing side things that you forget the main thing, think again.
Buddha, the Sangha, and the ancestor are the parents. What did your parents do in the past and what do you do today? Parents' place is the Fourfold stage of mindfulness, don't leave this place. To leave the Fourfold stage of mindfulness is to lose the core part of a monastic career. Therefore, mindfulness, awareness, protection of the senses, and living in the Fourfold stage of mindfulness meditation are the basic foundation for overcoming attachment and achieving noble results.
As you know, the senses are your survival system. For people who can see, can hear, life will be easier than for those who are blind or deaf. However, most people think that the senses are there to help them find pleasure. You use them like that and when they don't, you get angry. Then you blame some agitated object for causing it. So when someone upsets you, you blame that person. But actually, they have nothing to do with it, because like you, they are made up of seven elements, have the same senses, and limbs, and are also searching for happiness like you. There is nothing in that person that causes discomfort. It's all in your own mind. There is no reason why you should rely on them for happiness or blame them for not bringing you happiness. All you need to do is see a person as you are. Nothing more than that. There are so many people in this world, why would you let one special person control your happiness?
If you know how to control the senses and control your desires, then you can live with a more equanimous mind. You are no longer in a state of happiness when you get what you want, or pain when you are disappointed, but it leads to an inner state of longing, wanting what is not within your reach. Nothing in this world, anywhere, under any conditions, can bring you satisfaction. All that this world can give you are the physical senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and thinking. All is passing and must be recreated, without end. So don't waste your time expecting things to satisfy you. But it was your mind that did it. The most important thing you can do is control your senses, if you want to live a peaceful and harmonious life, free of the afflictions of wanting what you don't have, or not wanting what you have. These are the two causes of suffering; nothing more. If you know how to observe, maintain the senses, and not go beyond naming, you can easily live peacefully and freely.
          In short, the mind is a magician, it can always perform magic tricks. As soon as the five faculties come into contact with the six sense objects, it is enough for them to work, causing you to be drawn into a state of liking and disliking. The Buddha mentioned Mara, which is a demon of temptation. Mára is always inside of you, waiting for your chance to strike. You should not create opportunities for the demon Mara to have a chance to tempt. Where they are present, you need to tame them, but it is best not to create them. You can stop before they appear, and that means you have to control the senses.
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