Chapter 1 Suffering & Harmony
Suffering & Harmony
Whoever you are, wherever you may be, if you can read these words and appreciate the pictures within these pages you are inescapably a member of the most gifted species ever to have inhabited our diversely wondrous planet.
Our species is, in fact, so gifted that we have come to control and dominate not only our physical being and immediate environment, but are also developing the skills and knowledge to venture beyond and into the outer realms of the universe and the unknown.
Does it not seem strange that for such a successful, multi-talented creature we should also deliberately create so much unnecessary destruction and suffering to the world and our fellow human beings? As our understanding of the very building blocks of life unfolds before our incessant thirst for knowledge, power and ultimate control over our environment, destiny and even our own ageing and mortality, we are still unable to come to terms with and manage our inherent self-destructive tendencies.
No longer constrained by the earth’s climate and extremes, we populate many of the most hostile regions imaginable, even survive against the odds in polar temperatures of minus-fifty degrees centigrade and below. We build cities in deserts with vast oases of verdant golf courses; we create man-made islands grouped in the shape of palm trees or maps of the world that miraculously rise out of the sea; we even have scientific laboratories orbiting the globe with specialists and supplies coming and going. It is also on the agenda that space tourism, for those with sufficient funds, will offer the opportunity to view our planet in its entirety as it rotates once every twenty-four hours on its three-hundred-and-sixty-five-day journey around our life-giving star.
We all accept this as normal. Indeed, we accept that our potential is literally boundless and within a short space of time we will even create a synthetic logic, a thinking computer that will out perform the functions of the human brain and have an infinite capacity.
However, just as great empires, seemingly invincible, were eventually crushed under their own weight of excessive desires and greed, man’s disregard for the negative aspects of human nature and lack of respect for the planet, his own moral and physical well-being, and that of his fellow beings could eventually destroy the very environment upon which we depend and, ultimately, each other.
In nature, the word suffering does not exist. Suffering is a state of mind, it is a feeling we experience and which our brains interpret as suffering. When we need food, our brains tell us we are hungry. If we do not satisfy that feeling we suffer the feeling of hunger, and if we continue to ignore the suffering of hunger due to lack of available food or through deliberate self-starvation we will die. When we are sick or injured, our brain receives signals from the affected nerves and senses and our mind interprets these signals into the suffering of pain or sickness.
Sufferings such as these are very important and ensure that we eat enough, or if we are injured or sick we tend to the problem and respond appropriately. But there are also sufferings that stem not from the physical; they stem from the mind itself. A “broken heart”, for example, cannot be mechanically repaired, monitored on a machine, or miraculously overcome with a transplant. Man’s greatest collective sufferings are self-inflicted, coming from deep within us, yet they are partially if not totally avoidable.
With global warming, diminishing natural food and energy resources, plus an ever-growing population and rising sea levels that are reducing the amount of inhabitable land space, the pressures on man’s instinct for survival create ever-greater tensions between communities, countries and regions of the world. In this sense, our world is a world destined to be for ever at war with itself.
The international news is dominated daily with human conflicts and atrocities. There seems to be no end in sight to the relentless contests to prove who is the strongest or the most righteous, with each combatant justifying their cause to their followers or subjects. In reality, the divisions between nations, within nations and even among local communities is entirely fashioned and conditioned by the powerful, leaders driven by ego and greed.
We place ourselves into categories and classes, we look to our leaders for guidance, praise and raise them above our shoulders when things go well, and then we castigate, blame and ridicule them when things go wrong. Few of us are born to be leaders and choose instead to take the easy option and simply follow. But just maybe that is no longer the easy option as the deteriorating condition of an over-crowded, over-exploited planet may well develop into an irreversible spiral leading to the demise of the entire human race.
Never before in our history has it been more important for us a species to get along with each other in a peaceful and cooperative manner, working together to protect our home, the one global home that we all share. Working together to help each other, offering moral and practical support where and when needed, unifying in a common desire to improve the lives of others and thereby our own. Only with peace and unity can we achieve this goal.
With peace also comes a harmony of understanding and compassion. These traits cannot be separated from one another, and if any one aspect is weak then the others cannot be sustained. We have survived this far because as individuals we each make a contribution that is far more important than we can imagine. Without the poor farmer, knee-deep in mud under a blistering tropical sun planting rice shoots stem by stem, there can be no source of food to feed the army of labourers that toil to build the towering glass-clad banks and financial institutions that operate on a global scale and power the economic machinery of the world. What use is a king without any subjects, what power would a president wield without any citizens? As individuals, if global peace is to be achieved, we have to unite regardless of creed, religion or social status. Our very survival depends on this.
In a world filled with conflict, it may seem hopeless to aim for world peace when there are so many negative factors hell-bent on destabilizing our fragile co-existence with our neighbours. However, it is a fact that all humans share the same sense of harmony and inner peace in many similar ways, wherever they may be and under whatever economic or physical circumstances they may be subjected to. We are all filled with a sense of awe and wonderment when we witness a full-moon on a clear still night, we all smile at the sight of a new-born baby or litter of suckling puppies, and even the most hardened of us grieve when we lose someone close to us.
This is only the tip of a commonly shared mountain of human traits that bind us all inseparably together. With this in mind, our potential for attaining world peace and a universal harmony, when we all have so much in common, may not seem as unattainable as it may have appeared on first inspection.
We all want an easy life, a peaceful life without suffering, an existence where we may live in harmony with the people around us and the environment upon which we depend. We want to feel secure and also fulfilled, to be happy and live as healthily and pleasurably as we can.
So, why, when as humans it would seem that we all want the same things in life, should we not consolidate our uniqueness and similarities of human desires and needs into a peaceful and harmonious outcome? The answer is that there is no logical reason, only our own lack of commitment and effort stands in our way of finding inner peace and sharing this powerful experience with those around us.
There are few places on earth that we have not inhabited, and finding a place to be alone and at one with nature is becoming more and more difficult. Many of the most tranquil and beautiful locations and environments have also become the most popular, putting immense pressure on the sustainability of these natural oases where man can confront his inner link with the forces, both physical and aesthetic, around him and thus experience a sense of his place in the greater being of all things.
Our busy lifestyles, pressure from our peers, and the trappings of a consumer society also stand in the way, obscuring the very factors that contribute to inhibiting our clear understanding and vision as to what is the correct and appropriate path for us to follow if we are to find a true and lasting inner happiness.
This modern day conflict phenomenon of what is the best course of action and what action actually occurs due to the pressures of our current global situation, with regard to environmental, financial and political pressures, is a condition that not only affects the individual, but also impacts on entire groups of people, communities, countries, and even continents. The divisions within the human race are born of mind- conditioning through distorted interpretations and justifications. We have to find a way to rejoice in our diversities of culture, religions and racial characteristics and look to a common unifying bond that we all share.
Where can we find this elusive human link?
Chapter 2 Searching for Answers
The clock ticks relentlessly and the countdown is well underway. Already the scientists’ predictions of the damage we are inflicting on our planet are being confirmed daily by catastrophic weather patterns and changes that are occurring at an unprecedented pace. Wars are no longer fought face to face with sticks and stones, but are conducted in a distanced and previously unimaginable ruthless and destructive manner. Whether it is nuclear, biological, or more subtly but equally destructive and detestable on a psychological and economic plane, the destruction and conflict within our species continues unabated despite our advanced technology and acquired understanding of ourselves and how we interact with each other and our environment.
Fortunately within the human blueprint there is an instinctive recognition of what is right and what is wrong when conducting our lives and interacting with our fellow man. Also, because of our inherent desire to know why we have a conscious sense and an inbuilt fear of our own mortality for which we need to seek solace, mankind since the beginning of time has looked to a spiritual source for guidance or divine intervention.
The way we have approached this through the ages has taken many forms, some more extreme than others. These forms of adoration or practices have ranged from the simple worshiping of the sun and making sacrificial offerings, to more complicated and involved ceremonial tributes and acts of worship to man-made or imagined deities. What is striking is the fact that man is set apart from other living creatures in this aspect. Indeed, almost without exception in every part of the world, man has exhibited the need to have a religion, a practice or ceremonial recognition of something or some force far greater and far beyond the limitations of his logical ability and understanding.
In his search, man has all too often looked outside himself for someone or something to take responsibility for his happiness and good fortune. Man has looked for someone to comfort him in his ignorance and to forgive him of his misdeeds and lax moral commitment and application. The common link between all men is the compelling desire to find answers to the unanswerable questions that disturb and trouble his peace of mind.
What is it that we are really looking for, what is it that we want the answers to? No matter how we try to deceive ourselves or others, what we actually desire to know is the truth of our existence, the reality of our incomplete and imperfect perception of life. We can indeed change the world, turn wastelands into fertile irrigated plains or, equally, turn verdant forests into arid deserts. But we cannot change the truth and the reality of what makes us human and why we are born with a conscience and inherent understanding of right and wrong, and with the ability to feel and rationalize the love we have for life and of all the wondrous things around us.
A mother loves her child not because she has been taught to love, the mother was born with the ability to experience and act on this powerful and at times overriding emotional state of mind, just as we are all born with the powerful and at times overriding state of mind we call anger. We can all identify with anger and love; they are both present in us at birth and not collected along the way after birth from some other place that we could have avoided or consciously endeavoured to visit.
Depending on the fortunes of where we were born and the family into which we were born, we are influenced and often directed to follow trends, cultural practices, religions, or alternative options in a never-ending endeavour to find some degree of solace and answers to the universal questions of life.
Some approaches start in early childhood and are based on a moral or even an institutional approach to achieving a degree of peace of mind. These are integrated into our schooling as we undergo our basic education and social guidance, and are designed to prepare us to play a useful role in society. Others may experience a more open-minded route, encouraging self-motivation to seek the truth through research, study and applying basic routines, following a disciplined, ethical way of conducting their daily lives.
Many people as they develop their own sense of awareness also develop a sense of responsibility, especially if they exert a moral discipline in their lives. This inevitably leads them to become members or supporters of worthy causes and organizations that have gained their respect and approval for the effects they have on their own and other people’s lives, either directly or environmentally. Some may choose to join or even become active members of their local church, mosque, Buddhist temple, synagogue, etc. Others may choose to support with monetary contributions world organizations and charities that they see as being wholesome and beneficial. Then we come to the people who fall into the more motivated category and will take an active, or even leading role in their chosen endeavour to make the world a better place, and thereby attain an inner happiness and sense of purpose and fulfilment in their own lives.
There are the few amongst us who decide that, in order to comply with their sense of responsibility and desire to fulfil their role in this lifetime, they must take the ultimate step and dedicate their lives completely to reaching a high level of moral or spiritual attainment. For these special people the trappings and temptations of our material world are totally disregarded, and they choose a life of commitment to what they regard as the noble and selfless path. Some may become nurses or doctors, placing themselves in the most inhospitable and dangerous of places to serve the physical needs of the sick and dying, while others may become nuns or monks, again selflessly serving the moral, more spiritual needs of the community.
The paths these special people choose may take many different forms, but each is an undeniable testimonial of the love and goodness that is inherent in human nature. Some experience such joy from the discovery of this well of love and goodness within them that they are self-empowered by their own nature to be compelled to act accordingly. However, the great majority of us need to find some catalyst to enable and motivate us, first to find a tool to locate the source of love and goodness that lies somewhere within us, and then to be able to apply it in a practical way in our own lives.
If we are able to access the truth and reality of the cause-and-effect aspect of the way we behave, then we also become mindful in all that we do and think. This in turn brings untold benefits to all aspects of our life. We are not only happier and at peace within ourselves, but we are also better at studying and in becoming more successful in business and personal relationships. It is as if an inner light is lit, releasing us from the darkness and fear of the unknown and the human sufferings that we face. We are no longer imprisoned by our circumstances, and even the everyday sufferings of fear, grief, anger, rage, depression and despondency become powerless against our realization of the means to access the truth that lies within us.
Since we are all human and respond to the same feelings, aspirations and fears, what kind of universal key do we all have to bridge racial, religious, social and economic boundaries? Is there, in fact, such a key, or is this all just whimsical fantasizing about a state of utopia on earth that does not or could never in reality exist?
If you are happy with this conclusion you need not continue reading this book as ahead is the explanation and extraordinarily simple key to a millennia-old method that has provided the very catalyst, turning turmoil and suffering into peace and happiness. Countless people who have encountered its power have changed their lives for the better, and you can join this rapidly and globally expanding group of people from all walks of life and all religious and ethnic backgrounds, coming together unified in a single mission to make our world a happier and more peaceful place to live. You do not need any special qualifications, only a little patience and the desire to be true to, and at peace within yourself.
Chapter 3 Achieving Mindfulness
Never before has it been more important for man to be mindful of the consequences of his actions. If people were truly mindful there would be no conflicts, we would love and respect our neighbours and our planet, caring for both. In the process we would come to respect and love ourselves as well.
We all strive to teach our children mindfulness and self-awareness, although this may come from our subconscious sense of right and wrong. It is apparent in the simple everyday things that we do. For example, we encourage our children to do such positive deeds as picking up discarded litter and placing it in a suitable container for appropriate disposal, this may take place in the home or at school in the playground. Sounds simple, yet these simple actions are the very building blocks upon which we develop a sense of responsibility for ourselves and our environment.
In fact, each simple lesson that we learn is an act of thinking, and when we think about something that is an act of meditation about the cause and effect of our own action or inaction. If we leave litter lying around, our world will become sullied and we have to suffer and live among the consequences.
As a teenager or adult we may become involved in the replanting of mangroves or the establishment of national parks and environmental protected areas. These are all responses to our thinking or meditating processes and our awareness of the consequences of our actions or inaction, and display the degree to which we have developed our mindfulness and sense of responsibility.
The most indisputably effective way to achieve mindfulness is by meditation, and meditation is something that we all do instinctively from birth and continue to learn and develop from a very early age. Some of our meditation skills are innate, while others are acquired through guidance, study, self-discipline and practice.
Meditation is practicing being in a peaceful state of mind and body, and the more we practice, the more at peace we become within ourselves. Additionally, meditation has a medicinal benefit on our body by calming and bringing about a state of equilibrium between our intellect and our emotions.
Most problems that we face are caused by our inability to separate material progress from quality of life. Therefore, merely by meditating we improve not only our spiritual buoyancy, but also our physical condition by alleviating our stress-related ailments and sufferings. With each successive session of meditation we move on to higher ground in an ever growing life-enhancing spiral. For followers of the Buddhist practice of meditation this is termed the “Path to Enlightenment”. You may wish to consider it as the path to understanding and developing our perception of the true nature of all things we encounter in this life.
Even without any intellectual analysis of the meditation process, merely by practicing meditation people often express, with some surprise, an unexpected emotion of joy and happiness that they had not previously known. It is surprising mainly because it required so little effort and the resulting happiness had a longer shelf life compared with an activity of a more frivolous or energetic nature.
When we feel calm and happy it is obvious that we are in a better condition to achieve the goals and targets that we set ourselves from day to day. We will perform far better at our work or study because our mind will be content and focused. Likewise, we will more fully enjoy our social and recreation time, inevitably extending our inner happiness into all aspects of our lives. We will not only become a better and happier person on an individual basis, we will also have a more positive impact on all around us. This will also lead us to appreciate truly our position as the most gifted and intellectually privileged species on earth.
For some, meditation is a way of enhancing a particular aspect of their life. For example, a sportsperson may meditate to achieve the right mental and physical attitude to enhance and maximise his or her performance and potential prior to a competition. Others may just wish to enrich their lives and their feeling of wellbeing.
There are others still for whom the practice of meditation goes beyond achieving personal happiness and inner peace. These people choose to follow a spiritual vocation to learn more about themselves and about the eternal questions in seeking the secrets and truth of life in its entirety.
It was because of one such person, who took his level of meditation to the deepest and most profound point, the point of enlightenment, that we owe the basic technique explained in this book that enables all human beings to attain peace and happiness in their own lives. This man who gave up his princely background in the pursuit of enlightenment became known as the Lord Buddha, but what he discovered was not something just for the followers of Buddhism, but something that works for all human beings as a fact of life. Just as we eat to end our sufferings of hunger and sleep to dispel the fatigue of our physical labours, when we meditate we remove the sufferings of our own humanity, whoever and wherever we are.
By its very nature the mind is constantly wandering far outside the body, detaching itself from and disregarding the needs and requirements for a healthy harmony with the body. Often the mind wanders, drifting out of control, influenced by materialism and the superficial distractions of the modern world. We clumsily and without considered direction go about providing for ourselves and our families to survive or succeed, while recklessly indulging in mindless self-destructive thoughts, activities and pastimes.
With such a relentless barrage of obstacles constantly arising to prevent us from achieving mindfulness, it is obvious that we need to make a formal effort to bring our mind under our own influence and control. When we can do this we clearly see how to bring about our own happiness and discover an unshakable inner peace.
In the practice of meditation we endeavour to bring the mind to rest, not constantly jumping from one thought to another as it does during our normal conscious state. Just try thinking about your favourite colour and nothing else for as long as possible. If your favourite colour is blue, barely before you can finish reading and visualising the word your mind has already moved on to something else, then something else again. It never seems to stop, so how can you fully concentrate on anything to the extent of revealing its true nature?
In trying to stop and take one thought or story at a time, our thoughts become mixed, we lack concentration and become confused, which leads to obsessive tendencies. The more we think the more we are confused. We become less productive and the brightness of the mind’s perception fades. Trying to work faster we often think of the wrong things, and this becomes a habit that is very difficult to change. The solution lies in developing the technique of keeping the mind within the body, bringing it back to a focal point each time it tries to wonder.
This may at first seem to be an impossible task, but there are many things in life that on first encounter appear to be impossible. Just like when you first try to ride a bicycle, it seems impossible to stay upright, although with each successive try you discover and develop your cycling skills and confidence until you can ride without having to think about balance and staying upright at all. You may use your bicycle on a journey of discovery, taking in the scenery, navigating obstacles along the way, and interact with your companions in a harmonious and enjoyable state of mind.
As you practice meditation and your skills develop, eventually your mind will become balanced and still, and you will not have to consciously think at all. Life without meditation is like owning a bicycle that you cannot ride, it may be a brilliant bicycle, but if you cannot ride it, it will be wasted and meaningless and your journey of discovery may never come about.
Obviously from what has already been said, to achieve maximum benefit and progression we should practice meditation regularly to develop the skills and technique to a level that will have a practical and lasting impact on our lives. However, if we make the practice too demanding and difficult we will grow weary and despondent, so try to take it step by step.
If meditation is new to you, then approach the practice with moderation and seek good guidance from a reputable source, closely monitoring the positive affects you experience. No one can meditate on your behalf, it is something that you have to do for yourself. Meditation is not a religion; if you experience a miracle then it is of your own creation and not some divine intervention. Meditation empowers you to take control of your own body and mind, ultimately leading you to lasting happiness.
To quote the revered monk Dattajeevo, an eminent and internationally recognised academic on the subject of meditation: “You do not have to be a Buddhist to meditate; it works for all people and requires no faith in any religion or belief. Meditation is a simple human ability to see one’s own mind and the consequences of one’s own thoughts, actions and emotions. When we can see the truth in our own lives we can see how to achieve peace and happiness within our own lifetime and come to realize that peace truly lies within each and every one of us”.
Among the many methods of meditation, one of the most effective and simplest is Dhammakaya meditation. Although this method is explained in a limited fashion in this book, please bear in mind that it is always far better to be in the trusted hands of a knowledgeable and experienced teacher if you wish to avoid misinterpretations, enhance the results of meditation and receive answers to your questions as they arise. Under such guidance and encouragement, your progress and positive experience will be far greater than by just following the instructions here, or the methods and instructions covering other meditation techniques that you may come across in any other book or document on the subject.
The key to succeeding in Dhammakaya meditation is to relax and to let go of all kinds of thoughts, worries or whatever is bothering you at the time. Your mind works almost non-stop, sometimes even while you’re sleeping. It needs a rest. There’s no better place to rest your mind than in its own natural home – the centre of the body – where it feels happiest.
Your primary goal for meditation should be to feel relaxed and peaceful. At this point, how you feel matters more than what you see.
Meditation is a practical skill. Just as you don’t get to eat a cake by reading a cookbook, you won’t benefit from meditation by merely reading about it. You need to sit down and do it yourself – for yourself.
Find a comfortable place to sit, a place where you are least likely to be disturbed. You can sit on the floor with or without a small cushion. You can even sit in a chair if you cannot sit cross-legged. Try to reserve a time to give yourself a daily reward of deep inner peace and serenity, and to care for your most precious asset – the mind.
To start, sit upright with your right leg on your left leg, and your right hand on your left hand. Let your right index finger touch your left thumb. Feel free to adjust your sitting position until you feel comfortable.
Close your eyes softly as if you are about to fall asleep. Relax every muscle in your body – from your eyelids to your cheeks, your shoulders, your arms, and your legs, down to the tips of your fingers. Remind yourself that you are in for a relaxation session to rejuvenate your body and mind.
Free your mind from all kinds of thoughts. Drop all your personal baggage of duties, worries, problems and attachments the way a backpacker drops all the heavy stuff off his back when he arrives home from a trip. Assume they do not exist for now. Imagine that you are sitting happily alone in the universe. Indulge in peaceful solitude.
Also, imagine that your body is hollow, clear and transparent –with no internal organs. Breathe in deeply and slowly exhale a few times. Wherever your breath ends, assume that this is the centre of your body and rest your mind there. The centre of your body, or your body’s centre of gravity, is two fingers width above the navel.
Don’t worry if you cannot locate the exact central point inside your body. As long as it is around the middle of your stomach, you are doing fine. If you find that you cannot bring your mind to the stomach level, rest it anywhere nearest to the centre of your body where you can do so comfortably. It might be at the level of your nose or your chest. That’s fine. When your mind reaches a certain level of stillness, it will naturally gravitate toward the centre of your body by itself. You don’t have to do or think of anything. Just relax and be still.
To keep your mind from wandering, imagine a luminous crystal ball at the centre of your body. You can use any other neutral object that you’re familiar with and that you can visualize easily. It can be a diamond, a dewdrop, an orange, a scoop of ice cream, the moon, or anything that doesn’t stir your mind in either a positive or negative way. Make sure not to strain your eyes. In meditation, you see with your mind, not with your physical eyes.
At the beginning, the crystal ball or the object of your visualization may not be as clear or as bright as your wish. That’s all right. Just visualize only as much as you can comfortably. Don’t try to make it clearer or brighter. Just let it be. Relax. Don’t force an image. It will only bring on stress, which defeats the purpose of meditation. A visualized object is only there to help preserve your focus at the centre of gravity and to help you still your mind. That’s all. It doesn’t matter if you can visualize it clearly or not.
To further prevent thoughts from entering your mind, slowly and softly recite the words summa arahung, summa arahung, which means “the virtuous path toward freedom from all evils of the mind”. Recite the words as if you’re humming a song while quietly observing whatever scenery there is at the centre of your body. Continue humming the words for as long as you wish. Let the sound of the mantra come out from the centre of your body. When your mind reaches a certain level of stillness and you wish to stop reciting the words, feel free to stop. Enjoy the sweet silence of a still mind.
You can also choose to imagine nothing at all, if you find that more comfortable. In any case, simply observe whatever you see at the centre of your body without making any judgment or emotional response to it. Whether you see darkness or bright light or anything else, just accept it without any thought.
In meditation, your mind, your body, and your brain are supposed to be relaxed – not engaging in any thought or action. Be a silent observer. Be completely still. Be like a mountain observing a sunrise.
If any thoughts or images arise in your mind, don’t fight against them. Don’t feel that you have failed if thoughts keep coming like waves. Let them pass through the centre of your body like a passing view that you happen to see from the window of a moving train. Accept that they are present but don’t pay them any attention. Soon, the uninvited guests cannot stand being ignored and will disappear from your doorstep.
The important thing for you is to continue to relax and observe whatever there is to see at the centre of your body without any thought. Even if all you see is darkness, just observe the darkness as if you are watching a movie. Be contented with your inner experience. Accept it the way you love yourself unconditionally. Dwell in the stillness of the mind.
Depending on the degree of stillness and clarity of your mind, after awhile you will experience a sense of peacefulness and refreshing joy as if you’ve just come out of an inner spa.
It is a nice practice of compassion to end your meditation session by spreading the inner peace and all the good feelings that you’ve received to all living beings regardless of their race, nationality and faith, and even your personal feelings: “May all living beings share the peace and happiness that I have received from meditation, whether they are in my country or anywhere else, whether they are a member of my race or any other race, whether they are a follower of my religion or any other belief system, whether they are acquaintances, friends or foes. May this air of purity resulting from the meditation dissolve all the anger, sadness and suffering in their hearts. May those in pain be free from suffering and those already happy be happier. May all the peoples of all races, nationalities and faiths live together in peace, forgiveness and compassion.”
Like everything else, you can expect progress in meditation only if you practice it daily. For beginners, we suggest that you meditate twice a day when you wake up and before you go to bed. You may start with doing it for 15 minutes a session, then increase the time to 20, 30, 45 minutes to one hour or longer.
During the day, you can practice meditation anywhere that you feel comfortable: at your office desk during a lunch break or in a bus while you’re commuting or even on a toilet seat.
It is advisable to keep a notebook with you so that you can jot down your meditation experiences. Write down what you observe during meditation, your feelings, and most importantly your reflection as to why you had that good or not-so-good result. Your reasons for progress in meditation are as unique as your individual character. You can only rely on yourself to observe and think through the experience: what works best for you and what doesn’t.
Perhaps, this evening you can still your mind faster because you meditate after taking a shower and you feel refreshed whereas the day before you meditated right after dinner. Or, today you can stop thinking right away because you’ve had a good day at work. You forgave and forgot that a colleague had wronged you, whereas the day before you were still angry with him. Or, today you don’t feel sleepy when you meditate possibly because you ate a little less than you did yesterday, and so on.
Generally speaking, if you have had an emotionally smooth day, when you return home and meditate you are more likely to meditate well. Whatever your past experiences are, don’t get hung up on them – even the really good ones. They will create expectations, desires, and very likely disappointments.
Meditation is like flying a plane. The more hours of flying or practical experience you have, the better you are at navigating the plane. You can practice resting your mind in its natural home during the day while you are eating, taking a shower, working at the computer or even while talking to friends, bosses or colleagues.
You can do this with or without imagining an object of visualization at the centre of your body. If you prefer visualization, think of an object of your choice in a light-hearted manner. Thinking of the object of visualization should be as easy as thinking of the face of your loved one.
Overtime, you will find that staying centred helps lead your mind into positive territory. You will sense the arrival of any unwholesome thought or feeling and let go even the slightest resentment before it builds up into anger and starts to harm you.
At the beginning, it might seem difficult. It might seem like you have to split your mind and cannot do well on either task that you are trying to accomplish. It’s like when you started learning how to drive and you could not drive and sing at the same time. But after months of practice, you can do both with ease and pleasure.
With continued practice, you can train your mind to serve you. You can train your mind to think at the centre of your body instead of in your head so that you don’t get stressed. You can train your mind to listen to any sound or speech and let it pass through the centre of the body. And, eventually you will be able to train your mind to stop thinking whenever you wish, like turning off a switch.
You will no longer feel helpless at the arrival of any unwanted thought or feeling. You can easily let go of them and allow your mind to come to a standstill. After practicing Dhammakaya meditation daily for some time, you will come to realize that you can choose to be happy or sad – it’s all up to you. You already have the power within you to train your mind to serve you and make you happy. It’s all up to you whether or not to use that power. While you cannot control other people and many other things, you can be the master of your mind and insist on being happy, calm, and relaxed. It’s all up to you.
Chapter 4 Humble Beginnings
Undoubtedly you must be wondering where the inspiration and motivation to produce this book have come from. Why should such effort be addressed to all people of all races, religions and backgrounds from all over the world? The answer is because of one extraordinary person whose immense insight and wisdom-fuelled vision has led him to dedicating his life to bringing about world peace through his universal love for all beings. In order to understand this remarkable man, we have to look briefly into his history and background.
Currently he goes by the name of The Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Ven. Dhammajayo Bhikkhu) or Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, although this was not always the case. You may find his name difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to remember, but if you are ever fortunate enough to be in his presence he will leave you with a lasting and memorable impression of the supreme quality of mind he has attained from many decades of meditation. He has a pure spiritual love and happiness that is so unshakable it has inspired countless numbers of followers and respectful admirers from all walks of life, all religions and beliefs from around the world to find true happiness and peace within their own lives.
This noble and virtuous man was born Chaiyaboon Suthipol on Saturday April 22nd, 1944, and grew up in a small riverside house in Sing Buri Province, north of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. His father, Janyong Suthipol, was an engineer working for the Ministry of Industry, and his mother was Juree Suthipol. Because his father would be relocated very often due to the nature of his employment, the young Chaiyaboon was sent to study at a boarding school.
The owner of the school, who was childless and of royal blood, recognised special qualities in his new student and treated him as if he were his own son. Chaiyaboon would accompany the owner of the school to the Sra Pratum Palace, where he became familiar with the customs of royalty and also came into contact with monks on a regular basis. This was the point in Chaiyaboon’s life when his interest in studying the Buddhist teachings was first awakened.
Young Chaiyaboon was eager to learn, unlike other teenagers his age who only wanted to have fun all day long. He would usually be found in T-shirt and shorts reading books from various bookstands, finding a special interest in books relating to Dhamma, or in other words Buddhist teachings, which he would read over and over again. The more he read the more he refined his thoughts so that he could better understand the sufferings of the world. Even biographies of important people were read repeatedly, so that he was able to accurately memorise all their names and contributions.
His wide reading prompted questions in his mind: Why were we born? What is the purpose of life? These questions would normally be considered too advanced for someone of his age, yet when he was just 13 years old he wrote in his journal: “If I were to pursue secular interests, I would want to attain the highest objective. If I were to pursue religious interests, I would like to reach the utmost Dhamma and disseminate Buddhism to the world.”
Scarcely anyone could have imagined that such a dream would come true, but that young man who set his goals early in life is today a revered abbot, recognised worldwide for his exemplary life and practice. With the phenomenal growth of support and approval from fellow spiritual leaders and deep-thinking lay people, he has been able to advance in establishing not only a real and tangible location and vehicle for peace-lovers in his own country, but also across the world.
As his knowledge of Dhamma developed during his schooldays, Chaiyaboon and his friends established a Buddhist Youth Society. He also continued to seek out Dhamma lectures to attend, even if they were far away and difficult to get to. Then one day, he came across a book titled, Dhammakaya. This book was written in the format of a sermon by The Great Master Phramongkolthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro), the Abbot of Paknam Temple, and one passage in particular struck a chord in the young man’s mind: “If one wants to follow in the right path of Buddhism, one has to practice until one gains complete comprehension and understanding”.
Later Chaiyaboon read an article that spoke about the advances in meditation achieved by a nun, The Master Nun Chand Khonnokyoong (Khun Yay Ajahn), who was a recognised expert in the practice of Dhammakaya meditation and also a disciple of the previously mentioned, “Great Teacher”. Meeting Khun Yay Ajahn did not prove to be the easiest of tasks, but eventually Chaiyaboon’s perseverance paid off and the two were to finally meet. He found her to be of slight build, yet firm, strong, powerful, and brimming with kindness. Although she was not educated or literate, she could provide profound answers to deep Dhamma questions.
From that point on Chaiyaboon felt confident he had found the right teacher, and the knowledge that he received from this simple nun enabled him to address and settle everything he had once questioned. He was also inspired in his vision and mission to spread the peace he had found, and the means to find it, throughout the world.
However, when Chaiyaboon ask Khun Yay Ajahn’s permission to be ordained as a monk, Khun Yay Ajahn not only refused his request, but urged him to finish his degree first. She reasoned that, “You have to be knowledgeable in the world and be a scholar in Dhamma, too, so that you will be beneficial to Buddhism once you are ordained. You can’t be dependent only on Buddhism.” He respectfully followed her advice. In April 1969, Chaiyaboon graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Agricultural Economics. After receiving his degree, he immediately informed his father of his desire to become ordained for life in the Buddhist monkhood.
It took a considerable amount of time before his father accepted and rejoiced along side his mother in their son’s desire to be ordained. It was on August 27th, 1969, a full-moon day in the ninth month of the lunar calendar, an auspicious day, when Chaiyaboon donned the saffron robe and became a monk.
Later on, Chaiyaboon, now known as Luang Phaw Dhammajayo and Abbot of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple, reflected: “Ordaining as a Buddhist monk is not an easy task, just simply donning a saffron robe is not enough. One must train oneself to take the 227 precepts, as well as the daily routine of a monk’s life, in accordance with monastic discipline. If one wishes to attain full fruition from the merit accrued from being ordained one must be able to be a refuge for Buddhism, not just taking refuge in Buddhism”.
His sole purpose in becoming a monk was to spread peace, happiness and the teachings of the Lord Buddha all over the world. His ordination was a great example that prompted many followers to come and be ordained as he was, and this tradition continues to the present day.
In his new life as a monk, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo was very disciplined in the monastic codes of conduct and studied diligently, while also giving sermons on a regular basis to laypeople at the meditation centre of Khun Yay Ajahn. It soon became apparent that as the numbers attending the sermons could no longer be contained in the humble premises, the overcrowding being such that many had to sit outside in the street, something had to be done to address the situation.
Undaunted by the task ahead, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo and his team of special friends, young men and women who had a comprehensive knowledge of the world and the perseverance to complete any task asked of them, set about relocating to a larger area. This was in 1970 and the team could only muster a meagre budget of Baht 3,000 (US$ 120), a pittance in comparison to the challenge that they faced. They did have the good fortune, however, to receive a donation of 80 acres of land.
The team economised on their daily expenses by consuming simple food, only what was necessary for energy and not for pleasure. Nevertheless, their hearts were filled with encouragement that they would achieve their goal even though no solutions were apparent at the time. Their dedication, their attention to the smallest of details, and their selfless efforts touched the local lay community to such an extent that donations and other means of support materialised and the first temple, or chapel building, became a reality and not just a dream.
From the very origins of the first temple building, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo has consistently dedicated every moment of every day to his vision of solving sorrow and agony by empowering through the practice of meditation the means for individuals to attain happiness without fear, and to achieve things they previously believed themselves incapable of.
Through his unfaltering love for his monks and staff at the temple, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo has set an example and provided thorough training so that all are well prepared to go out into the world, to different places and under different circumstances, and share this invaluable gift of a way to bring out the peace that lies within all human beings. All those touched by his deep compassion and immense understanding of the causes of human suffering find their lives are changed immeasurably for the better, and they continue to look to him for guidance in every aspect of their daily lives.
So sincere and approachable, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo listens carefully and considers the words, comments and questions of others so that he may improve himself. Because of this he fully understands others’ needs and earns their complete trust, never letting them down and always providing them with the means to solve any problem or fear that they may encounter. He is like a father, and the monks his sons, guiding them to be good people and spread only good in whatever they think, do or say.
He does this not only by words, but also by example, living the most simple and frugal of lifestyles. Even to this day he resides at the temple in a bare temporary hut built decades before the impressive buildings we see today. His only personal desire, his “Golden Aim”, is to help others and for there to be world peace, releasing all individuals from their own, often self-inflicted sufferings.
Meditation is not an Asian monopoly, it is a universal tool for everyone, and the presentation of the Dhammakaya method of meditation, as recognised, understood and expounded by Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, is sympathetically adapted to suite local cultures, customs and religions.
For example, there is no requirement or need for a Buddha image in Muslim or Christian countries as the main vision and direction of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s teaching is based on pure meditation, albeit that his own wisdom and vision of how to achieve world peace is derived from Buddhist teaching.
What is amazing is that all those fortunate enough to encounter this exceptional man are struck by his simplicity and clarity of direction that enables young and old, followers or disbelievers to trust and accept his words that convey far more than on first analysis. His guidance and answers to questions are always non-challenging and do not dictate what one should or should not do. Those who receive his guidance are led to find within themselves the most appropriate answer or action to take. This enriches their lives and happiness, and its effectiveness is continuously born out by the ever-growing numbers of monks, followers and lay supporters who find they are drawn to love and respect Luang Phaw Dhammajayo.
It is natural that people who have not encountered this wholly dedicated man, or who have only briefly witnessed the rapid development and growth of the Dhammakaya Foundation, should be suspicious of such a fast-growing phenomenon. It must be noted, however, that the Foundation has blossomed from within the Buddhist community of Thailand, where cultural traditions, especially ceremonial practices of making merit and paying respect are strongly preserved.
It is little surprising then that when upwards of 200,000 Thais and visiting followers gather together at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, although the buildings are extremely simple and of focused functional design, the ceremonial practices and procedures of the Thai culture produce images that appear to many western cultures to be extravagant and overly flamboyant. But if you look closely at the individual participants in their simple white clothing, see the joy and happiness that have been unlocked in their lives, then you realise the undeniable benefit derived from participating and practicing in order to make Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision for world peace a reality.
Even in Thailand, the rapid growth and grand ceremonies have spawned suspicions as to the motives and methods behind such fervent expansion. This lead to many unfounded accusations and misconceptions, finally resulting in an investigation being commissioned by The Sangha Supreme Council, the supreme hierarchy of Thailand’s ordained society, who sent their most senior and respected members to the temple to witness first hand and scrutinise Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s intensions and methods. Their conclusion was that Luang Phaw Dhammajayo thinks only of others and his motives are driven in a pure and considered way that is admirable.
It was further recognised that Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s perception is to create this vehicle to world peace that will serve not only the people of his lifetime, but also continue to serve for those of the future. Many of the tasks he has set himself, as he acknowledges, cannot be achieved within his own lifespan, but undeterred he remains focused and in his wisdom has prepared and passed to his sons the correct moral training and education to perpetuate and fulfil his vision.
Because Thailand has such a unique culture, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo appreciates that it is important that the Dhammakaya Foundation and its mission respects the cultures and sensitivities of non-Thai people. It is for this reason that monks, who are assigned with the responsibility of clearly and accurately informing others around the world, have the necessary personal attributes and have received special training not only in Buddhist teachings, but also in international standards of communication and technical skills so as to better understand and be properly prepared for their task.
What is so important is that meditation does not have any cultural ties as it is something that is connected to the state of humanity without barriers or discrimination. We are all conditioned by the culture into which we are born and will view other cultures as being different, but when individuals meditate, it is their own familiar but untapped inner wisdom that they are connecting with.
Regarding the structural and architectural qualities of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya complex in Thailand, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo stated, “With all the necessities that have been donated to the temple, laypeople have paid homage to ‘The Triple Gem’ and then made a resolution prayer powered by the merit of having made these donations, therefore we must make full use of all necessities that we have been given”.
The same principle is followed with each addition and expansion to the temple and its grounds. Simplicity of design, whilst maintaining refined elegance, is applied to ensure low-cost maintenance, and all construction has been done to ensure durability and to withstand the test of time.
Chapter 5 The Triple Gem
The founding temple, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, developed rapidly along with the hearts and minds of its supporters, who have grown in great numbers over the years. So much so that the original 80 acres were not enough to accommodate the expanding community and, accordingly, the site has been increased to 1,000 acres for the purpose of serving as a World Meditation Centre.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision and foresight have already blossomed far beyond the expectations and aspirations of that team of special people who once stood in a fallow 80-acre rice paddy, with little money or resources between them. Their faith and support towards a young man driven by a vision and mission in life, who had consolidated his intentions by becoming a monk, have been rewarded in a way they never imagined achievable, and certainly not in such a short space of time.
At this point it may be helpful to understand the planning and design development of the temple as a centre for world meditation, as well as Buddhism. Although meditation is universal and not tied to any specific religion, practice, culture or social background, it is important that a meditation centre, wherever it may be, is sympathetic to the cultural practices and religions of its location. So, naturally, the influences on the architecture of Wat Phra Dhammakaya reflect Thai culture and religious practices.
Buddhism is the main cultural and religious influence in Thailand, the home of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, and one of the temple’s most outstanding features when seen from the air or upon entering at ground level is the form of the large round buildings, based on a simple design symbolically inspired by “The Triple Gem”. A Buddhist is a person who is considered to have taken refuge in The Triple Gem, namely the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. These three terms are collectively called The Triple Gem because they represent qualities which are excellent and precious.
Without an understanding of the symbolism of The Triple Gem incorporated into the design of these notable buildings, as well as in the design logo of the Dhammakaya Foundation flag and signage, it is easy to misinterpret the shape and design as somewhat futuristic. However, with closer inspection and an insight into the influence of Buddhism with regard to the design features, it becomes apparent that the highest point and dome represents the Buddha, while the less accentuated curve of the middle section represents the Dhamma, or Buddhist teachings, radiating outwards in all directions and supported by the third section, the Sangha or the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks and nuns who dedicate their lives to following the noble path and disseminating the teachings of the Lord Buddha.
It is only fitting then that all large Buddhist events and special ceremonies held at the founding Wat Phra Dhammakaya revolve around these great structures with the symbolic representation of the Buddha at the centre. Also, during these events and ceremonies monks take up their appropriate position with regard to the symbolism incorporated in the architectural design, while lay followers likewise assume their appropriate position in the order of things. This follows a comfortable format, providing order and a logical physical presentation that is recognized and understood by the local culture and those familiar with Buddhism.
It must be stressed that this architectural presentation, and the format of ceremonial practices are appropriate because of the local culture and predominant religious background of the location and may not be appropriate, appreciated or understood if they were to be applied elsewhere. It is also important to note that the power of meditation remains as strong and as positive wherever it is correctly applied and under whatever cultural, racial or religious circumstance and background it is practiced.
As a founding centre with a vision to make available the teaching of meditation, the Dhammakaya Foundation acknowledges that meditation is not the possession of this founding temple, it is an intrinsic ability of all mankind. The aim of the Dhammakaya Foundation is to make meditation and its benefits more accessible both to local people and to the family of all human beings throughout the world.
The development within the grounds of Wat Phra Dhammakaya had to serve not only spiritual needs, but also practical requirements such as providing a pleasant and clean environment for everyone living in or visiting the temple. This meant providing accommodation for resident monks, nuns and lay-workers, facilities for day visitors, the ability to provide food and refreshment and other necessary support on occasions when large numbers of people would assemble for special events and ceremonies.
The logistics would seem almost as daunting as Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision for world peace. Yet, even when many hundreds of thousands of people gather simultaneously, attention to every detail ensures that all runs smoothly and joyously. Indeed, it is a wonderful example of the power of meditation to unite people of all races, religions and backgrounds and what it can achieve.
Because of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s all-encompassing vision, his attention to detail was not only applied to the buildings’ design and construction, but also to the environmental impact such an undertaking would have. In this sphere his love extends even to each individual tree, none of which may be harmed or disturbed without his personal consideration and instructions.
A great deal of the land upon which the founding temple now stands was once barren, with soil too acidic and infertile to be of practical agricultural use. Today, there are forested areas that provide shady tranquil spaces for quiet contemplation and meditation within a flourishing and aesthetically beautiful natural environment.
Chapter 6 Coming Together
Following the construction of the founding chapel came a meditation hall with the capacity to accommodate 500 people. This was to be outgrown within the space of only five years. So great became the numbers of followers that many would sit outside on the grass in the pouring rain just to attend sermons, meditate and participate in religious ceremonies led by Luang Phaw Dhammajayo. This was unsatisfactory and clearly there was a need for an even larger meditation hall. To address the situation, a hall with a thatched roof and a capacity to accommodate 12,000 people was erected. Yet again within a short period of time the same unsatisfactory overcrowding situation arose.
The response of the people touched by the words of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, and the tangible benefits the effect of meditation had on their lives and families drew the attention of those about them. This led to more and more people becoming curious and wanting to experience for themselves why this person and place was attracting so many people, and why these people seemed to have changed their lives, becoming noticeably happier and at peace within themselves and with those about them. Others also noticed that these people had become more positive and successful in their businesses, professions and daily lives.
It was all too clear by now to those around him that Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision and prediction, when he stood in a fallow rice paddy field and told the small group of friends with him that one day many hundreds of thousands people would come to that place to meditate, was already a reality and something on a far grander scale would be required to accommodate very large numbers of people. Therefore, the Dhammakaya Assembly Hall was built with an initial, but expandable, area of 500,000 square meters and the capacity to host 300,000 people.
Ongoing expansion of the Dhammakaya Assembly Hall was still unable to fully meet the requirements of the rapidly growing community, so another phase of construction was embarked upon. This even grander project consisted of the Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya, or The Golden Temple, and The Grand Meditation Stadium, both designed to last for a thousand years and have an area of 1,000,000 square meters in order to serve 1,000,000 monks and laypeople from around the world who would one day regularly come to practice meditation in the pursuit of achieving world peace.
During the development and expansion of these practical yet aesthetically harmonious grand structures, other buildings were erected along the way to pay homage and express gratitude to the Great Teacher and monk of whom Khun Yay Ajahn had been a disciple, and also to the nun Khun Yay Ajahn herself as the inspiration and mentor of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo.
To honour the Great Teacher of Khun Yay Ajahn, “The Memorial Hall of Phramongkolthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro)” was built. For Khun Yay Ajahn, who had not only been a master of meditation and extremely knowledgeable, but had also been an immensely practical person, always working to maintain the smooth running of the day-to-day practicalities of life at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, it was fitting that both “The Memorial Hall of Master Nun Chand Khonnokyoong” and “The Master Nun Chand’s Refectory” should be constructed in her honour. The latter building respects Khun Yay Ajahn’s dream to create a dining hall that would cater for the clergy who reside at the temple, as well as for those arriving from all directions, and also be able to provide sustenance for all lay people who come to the temple, now matter how large their number.
Every success and achievement of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, whether the acquisition of the temple site, the creation of a religious community, or the dissemination of wisdom for the purpose of instilling peace in the minds of human kind, was possible because there was a significant and important figure behind it all. This was Khun Yay Ajahn, the teacher who provided Luang Phaw Dhammajayo with wisdom and illumination in Dhamma and meditation. Upon her passing, on September 10th, 2000, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, with his utmost respect and profound gratitude, declared Khun Yay Ajahn as the founder of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Such was her impact that an estimated 500,000 people were present at her cremation ceremony held on February 3rd, 2002. These included more than 100,000 monks and senior monks from over 30,000 temples throughout Thailand.
Even though Khun Yay Ajahn is no longer with us today, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo continues to devote all his time and effort to his ever-increasing amount of work, and to preserve and carry on the wisdom of Dhammakaya meditation that Khun Yay Ajahn received from the Great Teacher and transferred to him in order to create an inner happiness that can develop into lasting peace on earth. Everything that has been done, and everything that Luang Phaw Dhammajayo proceeds with, derives from one primary goal – Peace on Earth.
It is this goal, a goal shared by all right thinking people, that brings so many people repeatedly to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and the meditation centre, joining together joyously to improve the happiness and peace that they find from the experience and teachings they receive. And it is this global, collectively shared and uniting human desire that brings about the realisation and support for the “Golden Key” to unlocking the peace within all mankind, the “Golden Key” of “Meditation”. A key that knows no barriers of language, race, religion or background that it cannot overcome or unlock. Within the individual it opens the way to inner peace and lasting happiness, providing the source of wisdom, strength and ability to face and succeed in any challenge or to reach any goal.
But of course, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, on the outskirts of Bangkok in Thailand, is not the only place that this wisdom and key may be studied and practiced. People from all walks of life and in many different places around the world are also finding the peace and happiness that they desire through the practice of meditation. Therefore, to facilitate this greater need, other centres and meditation retreats had to be established both in Thailand and other countries around the world.
Chapter 7 Dhammakaya Foundation
The objectives and purpose of the Dhammakaya Foundation are to promote social harmony through the practice of meditation, thus promoting in world society a culture of virtue and morality irrespective of gender, race, language or religion and beliefs. This is to be achieved by providing the facilities for the teaching of meditation and the study of a culture for world peace, thereby creating virtue in society by instilling morality, with special emphasis on the younger generation.
Furthermore, the Dhammakaya Foundation aims to promote the recognition of and praise for good role models of exceptional virtue in society, and produce media and printed materials to promote a culture for peace, social harmony, virtue and morality.
As well as these facilities, plus teaching and guidance materials, the Dhammakaya Foundation is committed to providing humanitarian services worldwide in times of disasters or need.
With so many people wishing to share the benefit they have found from the practice of meditation, the resources available to achieving the vision and goals of the Dhammakaya Foundation have also grown proportionately. This has allowed the rapid expansion of the Foundation and the continued refinement of all aspects of its goals and commitments to society, applied to suit diverse locations and cultures around the world.
The large numbers of resident and visiting followers and supporters in Thailand have been the sole reason for the grand scale of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, and associated buildings in this particular location. These collectively fulfil the need to provide not only a pleasant and appropriate place to meditate, study and gather, but also the means and facilities to cater for the special occasions and ceremonies that take place, allowing all those attending to fully enjoy and appreciate the experience without even having pillars to obscure their view.
This has resulted in an impressive complex that is in reality a purely functional requirement to provide for the growth and future development of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s unwavering vision: that one day a million supporters and like-minded people will gather in this place, all united in the same goal and desire for world peace. When that day happens, the stage will be set for world peace to become a reality.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s dedication comes from his heart, and he sees all humans as equal, without prejudice for race or beliefs. He is acutely aware of the human sufferings of the world, and his vision is to give all people a way to release themselves from their own suffering and fears while achieving individual peace. If each individual can do this on a personal basis, as the numbers grow so will the goal of world peace become ever closer.
In his wisdom, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo realizes that the world is constantly developing new means of communication, and that technological developments enhance and expand the possibilities and channels through which the benefits of meditation, as well as access to wholesome moral guidelines and encouragement, may be made.
To facilitate and develop this need, the International Buddhist Society facility was constructed, enabling young members to develop the necessary ethical morality, along with practical skills and abilities, so that they may contribute to communicating the methods and benefits of meditation and a virtuous lifestyle in a contemporary and professional way, while keeping in pace with technological developments and social trends.
At this facility young people receive the guidance of the Sangha, while being able to interact with their peers, both Thai and from around the world. This not only prepares them to take their place within the world having gained internationally recognized standards of commercial and technical skills, but also exposes them to the international community at large and greatly expands their understanding of life, thereby expanding their perspective of what they are able to achieve.
The Dhammakaya Foundation continually strives to provide suitable facilities and the means to enable young people, not just of Thailand but of the entire world, to join similar organizations and ethical development programmes sympathetic to their own cultures and local circumstances, with the aim of producing good people for the future. The common ground is in the promotion of meditation so that the young people of today and the future have access to the “Golden Key”, and are able to look inside themselves and find the answers to their questions, discovering their own inner peace and sharing it with others so that the entire world may one day enjoy lasting peace.
Chapter 8 Reaching Out
With a vision of a world at peace, it is important to reach out to the world, which necessitates the establishment of branches in every country and enabling access to information regarding the Dhammakaya Foundation and its vision, and the motives behind the great efforts it is undertaking to make this vision become a reality and bring happiness and harmony to the people of the world.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo keeps himself well-informed on the world situation and suffering. After speaking live every single day for more than a decade on the Dhamma Media Channel (DMC), he reviews feedback and questions from around the world using the internet and the latest technology. It is significant to note that such is the quality of DMC’s programmes that they have been acclaimed by numerous prestigious “Telly Awards”, including the Children’s Audience award (for “Dream in Dream Kindergarten”), the Religion/Spirituality award (for, among others, “The Song: Lord Buddha”), and the Social Issue award (for the “No Tobacco, No Alcohol,” campaign).
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo also ensures he is well informed of what is happening throughout the Dhammakaya Foundation, both in Thailand and overseas. Welcoming modernisation and progress, he is open to any advancement that will improve the availability of his meditation methods and vision to those who are in most need.
To his followers and to those who have attended the Foundation’s retreats purely for the benefit of meditation, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo is regarded as the master of meditation in the modern world, offering a technique that even enables individuals who have meditated previously without exposure to the Dhammakaya method to attain a higher level of accomplishment in meditation and the resulting benefits it brings.
If people, especially the young, are encouraged to be aware of their own behaviour and moral conduct, they instinctively become more mindful of the way they go about their daily lives and the effects that their actions have not only on their own lives, but also on the lives of those about them. To encourage this awareness the International Buddhist Society, staffed by mainly young volunteers, was set up within the grounds of Wat Phra Dhammakaya under the guidance of the revered monk Taneed.
This accomplished and intellectually talented monk first worked at the temple to be close to Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, while simultaneously pursuing his academic studies. He has known Luang Phaw Dhammajayo since 1985 and was himself inspired to become ordained in 1989. He says of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo:
“Throughout all this time Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision and direction have never faltered and his total dedication to achieving world peace for all has remained firm, committed and unchanged. When you come to know someone over a long period you will usually see flaws in their way of behaving, reasoning, character or motives, but to this day no flaws are apparent in Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s purity of body and mind, which remain untarnished, and he has maintained his meditation consistency even in the face of criticism and adversity, never uttering a bad word in response.
“Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s wisdom is practical as well as spiritual, offering answers to everyday problems and explaining Dhamma in a simple and easily understood way with immediate results. It is for this reason that so many come to trust and follow him as he never lets them down.
“Those who come to Luang Phaw Dhammajayo in a state of suffering, full of anger and entrapped in bad ways, are amazed to find the wisdom that he offers transforms their lives. He clearly sees the root of all people’s problems and gives them the correct answers to solve their problems and release them from their suffering, thus bringing about positive changes in their lives and leading them to happiness.”
The revered monk Taneed also says that he is perpetually inspired by Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s ability to help each individual to reach his or her potential for the good of all humanity. Therefore, he believes that by teaching the young throughout the education process to be good people regardless of religion, creed or race, world peace is achievable. Societies developing with well-educated good people, in whom the seeds of how to help each other and live a life for the overall good of humanity have been sown at an early age, will take their place in the future direction of our world towards a harmonious and peaceful self-perpetuating outcome.
Problems with people start within the family, conditioned by their immediate home and cultural environment and circumstances. Lack of moral training leaves them ill prepared to deal with the social pressures they encounter. The lack of, or break-up of family unity and loss of spiritual or moral guidance leads to a breakdown of moral and acceptable codes of conduct, which can only lead to selfishness, misery, retaliation and aggression, fuelling conflicts that spread out from each individual into communities and countries across the world.
But how to teach the young the proper guidelines that are so important for them to be good people and contribute to a better peaceful world? It is vital that they have the right role model and education to enable them to progress personally, finding for themselves the joy in contributing towards the happiness of others. In learning to find their own personal peace through adhering to a good moral lifestyle and playing their part in sharing this with others, their skills for life will also be developing. This will bring them not only happiness but greater opportunities and success in all that they do.
The training programme and “World Peace Ethics Contest”, promoted and organized by the Dhammakaya Foundation, provides an incentive to learn the good ways and monitor one’s individual progress. Participants’ success goes far beyond success in the competition itself, as they find they have guidelines for a lasting happiness that remains with them throughout their life.
In Thailand, the Dhammakaya Foundation provides and develops the channels that give access to the means of inner happiness in many forms. For example, small Thai children are given a diary-style notebook with pleasing graphics and are told to write down all the good things they encounter or do on a daily basis. They are encouraged to see the good in others from an early age. The completed book is presented to their teachers, stimulating gratitude and pride.
They are also encouraged to meditate bringing self-discipline and mindfulness into their development. Among the many self-development incentives, on the King’s birthday the children clean their homes and then proudly display above the door a sign they are given saying, “This is my house”. The effect on the family unit is very positive and everyone benefits, not just the children themselves.
As the young progress in their education through youth camps and by participating in various schemes and activities aimed at developing moral awareness and good behaviour, many will look to the guidance found in the publication A Manual of Peace – 38 Steps Towards Enlightened Living, published by the Dhammakaya Foundation and used as a source of information to enable them to take part in the “Path of Progress Dhamma Quiz”, which is one of several programmes initiated by Luang Phaw Dhammajayo that show his concern for the youth culture of today and his dedicated work to instil values.
The initiation of these programmes dates back to 1972, when the “Dhammadayada Training Programme” was set up at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. At that time, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo wanted to find an outlet for college students and teenagers who were depressed and irritated by the then unstable political situation. Accordingly he developed a three-month, semi-ordination training programme during which students observed the Eight Precepts, stayed in an umbrella-like tent (Dhudangha), studied Dhamma and meditated. Later they could decide if they wished to be ordained. The result of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s initiative was an end to the conflicts and greater peace in the country.
A decade later, in 1982, the “Path of Progress Dhamma Quiz” was established. This nationwide programme offers Dhamma teaching in the 38 Blessings of Life to teenagers so that they may better understand Dhamma and apply it in their daily lives. At the end of their training, participants take a final quiz, with the winners attending an award ceremony at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The contest receives royal grace from His Majesty the King of Thailand, who kindly bestows the First Place Honours on the winners, while the Award of Honour for the first place in the teacher and professor category is sponsored by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Education further provides certificates, and there is also increasing support from a growing number of international organizations.
So successful has the “Path of Progress Dhamma Quiz” been that the annual number of students participating has grown from 382 in 1983 to 5,104,980 in 2007. In terms of international recognition, the contest has been honoured by UNESCO as one of the “Programmes of Peace and Non-Violence of the Century”. The programme was also selected to give a presentation to and share experiences with representatives from 1,600 NGOs at the “Future of Our Children” conference in September 2000 at Geneva University, Switzerland. Also, at the “Human Security and Dignity: Fulfilling the Promise of the United Nations” conference held in New York, USA, in …add just date…, the Quiz was selected to present under the title of “The Psychological Aspect of Peace from Youth through Maturity”.
Following on from the success of the “Path of Progress Dhamma Quiz”, the “Path of Progress for Teachers” programme was introduced in 2000. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo believes teachers must walk in parallel with their students, have more knowledge and be educated on life education in order to support their teaching. Hence the setting up of the programme, which covers the same 38 Blessings of Life as in “Path of Progress Dhamma Quiz”, but in more depth. At the end of the course, the teachers take a test at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, with the winners receiving cash awards that are then used to support needy students.
In the past two years, the “Path of Progress for Teachers” programme has caught the attention of the Ministry of Education, prompting it to sponsor a new project whereby teachers, principals and education administrators receive practical training with three days of meditation and three days of Dhamma lectures.
Another programme, “Open House” started in 1999, focuses on the family. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo believes Peace has to begin within the family and among neighbours and friends, especially youths. Accordingly, this programme encourages parents and children to put the sign “Kalyanamitra House” (meaning “Open House”) outside their home and to invite friends in once a week to chant, meditate and engage in other communal activities such as playing music. Some families also open their house to young addicts, asking them to keep a journal of their good deeds to parents, teachers and friends, and to read it at the meeting. Conflicts between parents and children have vanished because of the programme, which creates love, creativity and compassion within the family and among neighbours.
With Peace introduced to children, teenagers, students and teachers, it was Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision that all should come together to study how to create a warm, less-violent family by following the Lord Buddha’s teachings about virtue for a good home life. This resulted in the establishment of World-PEC (World Peace Ethics Contest) in 2007, which has a text titled “The Heart of the Family”, based on the 38 Blessings of Life.
The contest attracts participants of all ages, from 4 to 93 years, and involves 72 nationalities from six continents at more than 150 testing centres around the world, with the test translated into 10 languages, and awards presented to the winners at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The outcome of programme has been an awakening of education for life, and Thai society has become hopeful of solving the problem of broken homes.
Stemming from the “Path of Progress” programme, the V-Star (Virtuous Star) and “V-Star Thailand” projects were established in 2008. With students having gained the same knowledge from the “Path of Progress” experience, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo wanted them to take practical training together and so he devised the V-Star project. Over a three-month period, students do 10 daily routines divided into three groups: Discipline (1. waking up early and making the bed, 2. dressing appropriately, 3. observing the five precepts, and 4. saving money); Respect (5. paying respects to parents, teachers and friends, 6. taking notes of the virtues of parents, teachers and friends, and 7. chanting); Patience (8. doing household chores, 9. reading good books, and 10. meditating).
The programme started with 200,000 students from 5,000 schools, and in May 2008 more than 200,000 students gathered at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Visaka Bucha Day. Very positive feedback on the programme has been received from principals, teachers and parents, who have expressed a wish that such beneficial training be continued for a long time as before this there was no good way of training students in terms of behaviour.
In the V-Star Thailand project, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo wants to teach youths from each region of the country to become good role models through a week-long training camp at the Dhammakaya temple in Chiang Mai. To date, 200 students have been selected to stay in the camp and do the V-Star activities together.
All of these programmes are methods of reaching out with guidance into individual families, communities and into the world at large. With the advent of television, the Dhamma Media Channel (DMC) also reaches many thousands of people across the globe, broadcasting 24 hours a day in every region of the world. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo created this positive media channel to provide a variety of resourceful creative programmes that are wholesome and suitable for viewers of any age. With translations into many languages, including English, Chinese, Laos, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Cambodian, this truly makes the DMC a globally accessible medium.
However, just teaching people and offering guidance is not always sufficient or appropriate and there are times and occasions when people may need immediate assistance. In these instances, practical measures need be taken to assist our fellow man when and where the need arises. It is for this reason the Dhammakaya Foundation is committed to providing hands-on and material assistance in the event of disasters and in times of humanitarian crisis.
In creating world peace, an important virtue in one’s mind is compassion. Thus, in times when the world and its people experience natural disasters, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo has never remained indifferent. He broadcasts news of such sufferings via the DMC so that the people of the world can help the victims, which reflects the power of unity and compassion that lies within everyone’s conscience.
Instances of the Foundation’s assistance in times of need are too numerous to list in this book, but to give just one example, when the greatest natural disaster of modern times, the tsunami of December 26th, 2004, struck, Luang Phaw Dhammajayo immediately directed the Dhammakaya Foundation to deliver requisites to the victims. The Foundation also served as a co-coordinator between the government and NGOs while, later, it organized inter-faith commemoration ceremonies in Phuket and Phangna.
Reaching out also encompasses collaboration and cooperation with international organizations and institutions with similar aims to create world peace. In this field the Dhammakaya Foundation was endorsed as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations in 1986, playing an active role in encouraging policies in various aspects such as peace, youth and education.
The Dhammakaya Foundation has also been an active and participating member of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) and the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) since 1986. In addition, the Foundation coordinates with Buddhist organizations and educational institutes, including other religious organizations, in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and the USA.
In the act of reaching out, be it to large world organizations or to you as an individual reading this book, the goal is the same and the “Golden Key” is appropriate in all circumstances to maximize any effort made or benefit received. In grasping the “Golden key”, not only are you unlocking your own inner peace, but also opening the door for the world to follow.
Chapter 9 Cause and Effect
We all look at the same world, but we do not all see it in the same way. It is as if we are looking through an eye glass. Some glasses may be cloudy and impair the vision, while others may distorted and change the view. Then there is the perfect eyeglass, one that has been carefully fashioned to allow pure and clear sight without distortion, and when we view the world through this eyeglass we see the reality of what lies before us.
What one person views as a problem, another may view as an opportunity, and what one person may see as a hardship, another may see as a blessing. Through the Dhammakaya method of meditation each person is able to make their own eyeglass clear, pure and perfect, and so see reality and release themselves from misconceptions and distortions that cause suffering in their lives. As more and more people are able to make their personal eyeglass clear and find inner happiness and lasting peace, so the problems and sufferings of the world will also diminish.
An example of how profound and life-changing discovering the truth and path to inner happiness can be is told in the story of the now revered monk Sudhamo. As a youth Sudhamo did not understand his role in society and the world. At that time he was a long-haired fashion-conscious teenager, a hippy with a successful band and full of his own self-assuredness. He thought he was happy, but his vision of life was narrow, he squandered his money on pointless luxuries, abused drugs and alcohol, and enjoyed the nightlife and sex, indeed all the material trappings of what many teenagers and some adults continue to see as a glamorous lifestyle.
But all the while he was fooling himself and causing damage to his body and mind. Eventually his health deteriorated and he could no longer ignore the signals of the impending self-destruction he was facing. Forced by his ill-health, he realised that what he thought was happiness was an illusion, and it was only through the support of Khun Yay Ajahn and the compassion and wisdom of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo that he discovered the key to unlocking the true happiness that lay within him and so averted his untimely self-destruction.
Sudhamo was moved by the gratitude Khun Yay Ajahn had for her own parents and how she had left home to seek the knowledge of the Dhamma and meditation. Even though she was herself uneducated she had chosen the correct path, while he had chosen a path that would ultimately lead to his own annihilation. Khun Yay Ajahn had been instantly able to see through him, telling him not to waste his life and the chance to achieve something positive and so attain lasting happiness.
She clearly and simply explained the cycle of birth, growth, learning and ageing until passing away, and impressed him with her thorough understanding of life. Unless he changed his ways he would not reach his potential or fulfil his responsibilities. She enlightened him to his situation and brought him back from his path of self-delusion.
Khun Yay Ajahn then introduced him to Luang Phaw Dhammajayo and after only one hour of meditation his heart was changed and full of determination, this time along the correct path. Every Sunday he would visit Khun Yay Ajahn until the time was ready for her to pass his further guidance on to Luang Phaw Dhammajayo, who had in fact been in the senior year to him at the same school before their paths had taken very different directions.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo received Sudhamo as a younger brother, telling him that it is never too late to be a good person and of value to society. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s closeness and the trust that he brings out in all who meet him forged a bond of loyalty and deepest respect. Urged to return to his studies, the young Sudhamo, not only slowly experienced a change of heart, but also a reversal of lifestyle. His health started to improve and desires for fame and fortune dissolved. In his own words, he went from “drop out to drop in”, and his desire to find true fulfilment led him more and more towards following Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s example and guidance.
Once a week he would visit his mentor and each time he would leave further encouraged and inspired, his goal becoming clearer. However, he encountered obstacles along the way. He was called to be a soldier, his health was still not completely satisfactory, and he was falling behind in his academic studies. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo told him to simply meditate and the problems would go away. So each Sunday, uplifted by his meeting and the guidance he received, he would then return to his life and slowly by the following Saturday he would have again allowed his determination and motivation to subside, floundering again towards his own self misery.
But he came to recognise this repetitive cycle, and he knew that he needed a constant teacher and reminder. He determined to follow more resolutely Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s guidance on a daily basis, and within the year his problems had gone and he had passed his exams.
Even at this point, when Sudhamo was still only 22 years old, there were times when his thoughts would turn to other distractions that in the past had brought him so much misery, but then Luang Phaw Dhammajayo invited him to become a team member. This was his chance to do something positive for others and not just for himself, and to contribute towards Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision of establishing world peace. He applied to become a teacher and visited the temple regularly, but still could not see how Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision could possibly be achievable, especially as the grand temple of today was mostly an uninspiring expanse of fallow paddy fields at that time.
After attending a Dhammakaya Training Programme, Sudhamo felt that this was his family and decided to apply for a job at the temple as a construction worker just to be close to his new-found family. He thus became the first lay worker. He soon realised, however, that he was like a toddler in the family and needed more teaching and guidance in order to take his place fully.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo told him that if he really wanted to join him, he must have a clear goal and be patient, and that the process would be fraught with difficulty and require perseverance and dedication. He was told to attend university for a law degree, then study to become a judge, then, step by step, he would be ready to be ordained. This would be a total life-changing decision and experience. At the time, there were only eight monks at the temple.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s standard for ordination included that those to be ordained must have a Bachelor degree, and although the eight monks already at the temple were well educated, they were still undergoing training themselves to bring Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s vision into fruition. Because of this they would often confuse the young Sudhamo with their conflicting instructions as he was struggling to fulfil his roll and go about the tasks they set him. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo told him that in order to cope with this situation he must see only the good in others, as people are not perfect and only by following the good examples would he progress himself.
Gradually, his aims and aspirations were becoming clear, first to graduate with honours and, second, to increase his Dhamma study. Luang Phaw Dhammajayo inspired him to achieve the highest standards possible and supported his academic education, enabling him to meet his goals. At the same time, Khun Yay Ajahn taught him self-discipline and organization.
In the beginning there was no money. He was only 22 years old and was instructed to seek assistance from the government offices to borrow army diggers to start the very first construction works at the temple site. It was only by the human respect he had learned and Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s profound teachings that he was able to achieve this. Now when he looks at the scale and workings of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, able to serve so many followers and monks, he is convinced without any doubt of Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s words that all is possible with the power of meditation.
In that empty uninspiring expanse of a fallow, unproductive paddy field Luang Phaw Dhammajayo had said that many will come there to meditate and it will be necessary to develop the skills to deal with this and provide an orderly, well-maintained facility for large numbers to come and meditate in a perfect environment. Although there were only eight monks there at the time Luang Phaw Dhammajayo could already see the course his vision would take.
The expansion has been step by step and detailed even to the wearing of white by followers (an old Thai tradition to inspire cleanliness and a clean mind) to reflect the character of the temple as clean and orderly, without any unnecessary adornments. With an interim goal of one million people from around the world, and from all walks of life to be able to meditate together with the unified goal of achieving world peace,
The Grand Meditation Stadium, together with the Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya and its surrounding galleries, is an imposing complex that has become an impressive assembly venue capable of serving such a large gathering.
What better example of positive life enhancing cause and effect, brought about by the power of meditation could you wish for. If meditation enriches one person, such as the young Sudhamo, to such an extent, then the power from then on as it is passed from one person to another is boundless and brings incalculable benefits to all who come into contact with it.
When the people of the world start to meditate together with the common goal of peace, the obstacles and problems dividing them will be overcome, and understanding and consideration will come into play. Regardless of their cultures, backgrounds, religions or beliefs, all are equal in coming together in peace to be better people.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo never stops training himself, using the teachings of the Lord Buddha, but he is aware that his vision is achievable not only by Buddhists and that meditation is the “Golden Key” to giving people an open mind to being better human beings in their own surroundings and cultures.
The physical scale of Wat Phra Dhammakaya obviously required huge funds to complete the buildings as you see them today. At the beginning there was no money, it is purely that those who have seen and benefited from the power of meditation have wanted to support Luang Phaw Dhammajayo’s immaculate vision. And it is their combined vast numbers, gratitude and desire to share this peace with the world that has resulted in the donations and efforts we see manifested in the material appearance and scale of the Grand Meditation Hall and the multitude of centres and retreats already in existence, along with the continually growing numbers of facilities and supportive organisations that are accumulating around the world today.
As the realisation that all human beings are basically capable of discovering that peace lies within through the universal practice of meditation, so the expansion will continue, and eventually the world will be a peaceful place for all.
Luang Phaw Dhammajayo sees happiness coming from a universal balance of life – happiness is found in a still mind not desiring material things, wealth or fame.
“Do not just believe, open your mind to the Golden Key of
meditation, see for yourself and accept our invitation to embrace
your own unshakeable inner peace.”
May we conclude with a heartfelt welcome
to the Peaceful World of Dhammakaya
The following as required by the committee to be included:
Contact information, website etc.
Listing of centres around the world
Additional reading: meditation manuals, CD’s etc.