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Teaching wich describing the non self chararcter of every thing.

(2nd of 2 parts)

anatta (2)

A world devoid of substance

What the monk Gotama did discover

Here is disclosed what the monk Gotama did discover: This world is totally empty of substance. There is no Buddha seated within our heart or mind, nor is found Brahmā or a God. There is no duality, no soul, no ego. There is neither a non-ego nor a transcendence of the ego, no impure veils of karma, which we ought to purify again and again until a continuum of consciousness is reached, this immutable and primeval consciousness. None of these things is found, did he claim.

But then, what is to be found? There is a hard fact, which is tangible, visible and experienced by all of us. We are "HERE". In fact, this is not really God or "buddhahood", which would be a kind of essence, which would be...here. Quite simply, we are the ones who are "here", experiencing our daily lives. And all the problem revolves around this simple fact; whether we want it or not, whichever the way we do reflect upon the world is, the hard fact is that we are immersed and completely bogged down into it!

Is there any exit gate?

But then, what can the exit gate be, what can liberation (freedom from rebirths) be? Does this world have an exit gate? No. The world is likened to a jail. There are bars fixed on the windows. Even if by chances, we could, on short occasions, observe some glimmers of light, meanwhile, there are still bars fixed on the windows. We can't escape from the world, there is no exit gate, it revolves in an enclosed chamber. It turns around because we are the ones who make it turn. If we make it turn around, it is due to the false conceptions that we do imagine. We make it turn around because we waste our time in running after culminations, realisations, fulfilments, experiences that, admittedly, are always described as sublime, wonderful, blissful, happy and joyful (whether through material or spiritual experiences).

At the worst, what can happen to us is precisely achieving one of these experiences of unity, of merging into the Divine or "Buddhahood". Because unless is imparted to us a fair knowledge of that which "tathāgata" Buddha taught, it is definitely very difficult to realise that it is precisely THAT, the final trap, the mother of illusions.

Of course, the world is not illusory by nature as, if it was so, then how could it be here before us? Of course, our sorrows, pains, difficulties are not illusions. The hard fact is that they are here, something happens, we are aware of it and owing to it, we are dissatisfied to some extent. We are more less aware of their constant setting in motion. Of course, beyond what we do perceive, NOTHING does exist.

There is nothing

And so, what Buddha has discovered, this is not an essence or a substance hidden behind the world. What he himself discovered, specifically, and that is the main point where theravāda teachings stand strongly opposed to all other spiritual traditions of mankind, is precisely that there is NOTHING!

This is the reason why when we ask him: "Within this cohort of spiritual masters, among this crowd of awakened beings, of fully enlightened Buddhas who teach all sorts of things, what do you teach, yourself, at the depth? Buddha replies: " I teach suffering and the cessation of suffering." By telling that, he still gives us a glimpse of the end of this dissatisfaction, as a possible prospect. It is therefore possible to achieve the end of suffering, but not by crossing the door, neither by climbing the window or the loft, nor by removing the tiles from the roof. It is not owing to have crossed something or tried to escape from the gravitational pull, which always bogs us down into this world, ineluctably, that we will put an end to our suffering.

So, what to do? What happens when a being reaches cessation, the end of this dissatisfaction and sorrow? It precisely occurs when the world CEASES, when phenomena that constitute the world CEASE to appear, to be produced. It's as simple as this. It is so stupid, but no one had thought about and experienced it.

The experience of the monk Gotama

It is precisely this experience, which the monk Gotama had made, and no one else (before him). He has actually seen and experienced something totally new, which peculiarly is CESSATION. The cessation of these transcendental states of consciousness. Because while being still ignorant and in search of the "truth", being looking for "something", as all of us do, he naturally started to perform all these yogic practices, all these mystical exercises. And he reached their ultimate stage of realisation (This is well mentioned in the canonical scriptures), with his spiritual master, he reached "buddhahood", the deity, let's call it the way we want.

Contrarily to his master, he didn't believe that it was the ultimate goal. He had an intuition, quite natural for a being like him, that it was still "something", that he had reached something and that the main problem revolved precisely around this simple fact. That was therefore still something, that was still a worldly phenomenon, even if we claim that this type of experience lies beyond samsāra.

And so, by himself, by means of his own intuition, intelligence, patience, did he succeed in seeing what occurs in it so that it ceases to appear. To do so, he took for object, of his observation and attention, those very stages of the divine, divinity or "buddhahood". When he realised that these states only rise and pass away, as soon as he developed a direct insight into this reality, which is REALITY, but which is NOT the "truth", he experienced by himself something entirely new whose existence he had never imagined or guessed before. He experienced the complete cessation of this stage and the consciousness that experiences it. At this moment, he did experience nibbāna.

This is not an annihilation, neither a total destruction, nor a disappearance. When the cycle of phenomena comes to an end, as a matter of fact, this is nibbāna. That's the way it is, according to nature. That's the way the world functions. The world appears, and it inherently bears the property of no longer appearing. When the world does no longer appear, this is nibbāna.

This is what the monk Gotama taught. No matter how much paradoxical and unbelievable it may seem to us, we can say that the teaching of theravāda, the teaching of these monks, the monk Gotama's disciples, starts from the point where all other teachings end.

For some of them, the goal precisely is complete "buddhahood", supreme godhead, fullness of being. To us, sons of the Sākhya, disciples of the monk Gotama, this is precisely HERE that the problem starts.


I have tried to explain this doctrine in a concise form (perhaps not with the skilfulness required by this subject), this fact being recognized, tasted, experienced and heartfelt by the monk Gotama, which we can all perceive and experience as well. We can all deeply reflect upon it, so as to clearly acknowledge that it is effectively the way it is. That is to say the fact that there is absolutely NOTHING, do I claim indeed: absolutely NOTHING, in the material or spiritual world, which could, in an eternal and immutable manner, exist in or by itself.

Having read this, sincerely wishing that it will make you enthusiastic in doing this experience and verifying by yourself the genuineness of so incredible an assertion, which strongly contradicts all that which we usually hear, I sincerely hope that you will reach nibbāna as shortly as possible and under the best conditions.

Questions and answers about anatta

Can we experience "atta"?

All the previous teachings only endeavoured to explain that there is NO "atta". Therefore, we cannot discover "atta", whatever the method we utilise might be. We can figure it out, conceive it, get attached to it, achieve identification with it, but in REALITY, there is nothing as such. This is what theravāda teaching is all about. Not only to say it, but mostly, to lead anyone to experience it.

Whatever you do, there is no chance left to you to reach "atta", nor to permeate "atta" as there is no "atta".

This is where the dilemma lies: Very often, people are facing problems related to the ego, or the self, while believing to be victims of the ego, whereas in fact, there is no ego. In fact, whatever you do, you do not take any risks.

Religions, religious systems, religious philosophies induce in us the idea that we are today ordinary beings who live in a conditioned world. A world plunged in ignorance, into which whatever we do, we do it under the influence of sin from which we must be purified. Or else we do it under the influence of the veils of karma (You probably already heard such expressions) whose we should purify and transcend.

Buddha, from the beginning, tells: " No. It is FALSE". This problem DOESN'T exist. The only thing we are the victims of, at the most, that is our desires and erroneous conceptions. All these problems related to the ego and its transcendence are absent from the teachings of theravāda. Owing to the simple fact of hearing this, we already have the feeling to have reached a certain level of liberation.

Can beings dwelling in the celestial worlds (deva) experience nibbāna or can only humans seize this opportunity?

It is more difficult for them than it is to us. In the human world, we live in a world that is split apart between pains, sufferings, desires and satisfaction. Still, more opportunities are left to us than to them so as to become aware of the emergency to follow this step and this path. There are a few advantages inherent to the fact of dwelling in the celestial worlds, precisely the fact of experiencing less pains and sorrow. As a general rule, it is quite difficult to them to reach nibbāna.

Save when there is an omniscient Buddha who, on his behalf, knows how to find the appropriate words, is gifted enough to succeed in drawing their attention and teaching them. As to the ones dwelling in the highest abodes, who are the brahmās, to them, it is by definition impossible as precisely dwell in those abodes the ones who are depicted to have reached the state named "buddhahood ", the deity.

These religious men are not totally wrong in what they do teach us. In this sense that it is true that after death, it is possible to remain, in a certain state of being, of a purely blissful and delightful nature, without being subject to hassles and encumbrances inherent to a physical body. Among what is depicted to us as being the panacea, Buddha tells us that it is not the case at all. He is the one who saw, precisely out of his science, his omniscience, that even if those are states of extreme jubilation, extreme purity, and mostly states that last an incommensurably long period, the fact remains that dwelling in divine spheres still involves to be entangled into the deaths and rebirths' cycle.

According to nature, we all have a certain memory, certain skill to recollect upon our mind all the events of our present life from its beginning. However, as each of us will notice, in the human world, we can't remember our life's first moments, which occur at the time of our impregnation. We can't, besides, even remember the first months or years, which come in the wake of our birth (after the child's delivery).

Likewise, those beings do not remember when they came into embodied existence, when they took birth into this world or realm of existence. They are deeply convinced that they dwell in it since times without beginning, that they are eternal beings. But, it is not the case at all. To succeed in making Gotama's teaching understood by those beings is definitely a very difficult task.

We should also be reminded that it is possible to reach nibbāna while being in the human world at a first stage, and to then be reborn into those "divine" spheres. Besides, in those spheres, are found many beings who already reached nibbāna in the human world and who can experience nibbāna again and again as many times as they wish. With even more opportunities to do it as they do not undergo any constraints whatsoever. Let us keep in mind that we here refer to beings who reached nibbāna in the human world.

However, to the one who hasn't experience nibbāna yet, once he has attained this " upper" mansion, the simple fact to listen to the teaching, to practice it and to reach nibbāna thereafter is impossible.

Once we have reached nibbāna, is it possible to travel from one world to another?

It is possible even if we haven't reach nibbāna.yet. Many beings do have the potency to see all the worlds, to perform a journey through these latter without having ever reached nibbāna. This is what Buddha explains, he tells that some of them have acquired these powers and utilise them. Unfortunately, they reach out through them some erroneous conceptions about the world.

We can succeed in doing so even if we have not reached nibbāna yet and the fact to have reached it, doesn't constitute in itself a propitious help for doing these types of things. It is independent, these are simply faculties that we sometimes call psychical powers.

We could easily believe that by freely moving from one world to another, which is the ineluctable fact to get rid of various barriers, we reach a certain mastery, that is already a stage of progress on the path.

That is the problem. The more we progress on any path whatsoever, the more we reach an advanced stage, this is precisely where the problem lies. The more we progress, the more we jump to the conclusion that we have reached something, we have led to something, or even we have achieved complete realisation.

Someone can believe that he is someone important in this world, higher ranked than others in the social scale because he can proceed from one continent to others aboard his private jet. It doesn't really make him a liberated being, because, even if he looks smart while travelling by jet, he always keeps on turning around the earth.

In the same way, those beings who developed this supernatural power to travel from worlds to other worlds, don't do anything else than going on a trip, in THE world.

I began to see the possibility of a mission, the one of a "bodhisattva", who completes a journey for granting help to others who are afflicted by sorrow.

A kind of charitable spiritual mission? A "bodhisattva" (bodhisatta) is not, by definition, in a very good position to lead others to the state of liberation. Because if he is a " bodhisattva", it forcibly means that he didn't reach himself yet. A Buddha proves to be much more effective to that sake.

Indeed, once he had reached full awakening, Buddha travelled a lot. He performed numerous journeys from world to world (except, admittedly, among the lower worlds, animal worlds, where there is not much that can be done) in order to make his teaching known by the many. Prior to having himself experienced this cessation, he couldn't forcibly be very helpful to sentient beings.

An action whose intentions are not rooted in a state of being, is it essential that much? Can we call this nibbāna?

No intention can have a state of being as its root cause. nibbāna, that is when there is no more intention nor action. That is the complete cessation of all the process and all the "machine". As long as there is an action and an intention, whatever the philosophical speculations that we can elaborate about those may be, that is not nibbāna. This is what we call samsāra.

We can't remain performing no action!

Absolutely. We can't stay doing nothing, that is inconceivable. There is no other option left to us than to do, or let do, undergo or act. That is the nature of the world, this is the way it functions. A video cassette player can't do anything else than reading or recording videocassettes, never will a video cassette player be able to grind some coffee or warm up some milk. In the same way, the world will never be able to do anything else than perpetuating itself. Living beings will never be able to do anything else than, as you say, performing actions, having intentions.

Why do a monk hide his face upon giving dhamma talks?

There are several reasons for it. The main reason lies in that it is better for the audience not to watch the one who is giving his talk in order not to discard away personal judgements about his physical beauty, ugliness or about expressions that could eventually appear on his face.

The main idea is that everyone may receive the teaching, Buddha's word, in its crude form. As it is. A bit as if it came out of a video cassette player. That's why Buddha emphasised on the point that monks shouldn't express at all on their faces any inner emotions or feelings while giving dhamma talks. They should also speak in a perfectly monotonous manner because only what is spoken is essential. The surrounding has no importance whatsoever. One of the ways to behave to that sake lies in hiding the speaker's face.

The best way to listen to a teaching lies in closing one's eyes so as to better concentrate on what one hears. Or eventually directing one's gaze to the ground, avoiding to look around oneself, so that one doesn't reflect upon the aesthetic quality of what one looks at.

Where do we find a smile in its human nature?

First of all, there is no nature as such so it would therefore be vain to search for one, that is in all case what is taught in theravāda, and a smile, what do you mean by a "smile" in its human nature?

The joy for existence.

We tend to mistake certain moments of intense pleasure with that joy for existence precisely. We find it difficult to realise that it is only a moment of intense pleasure. Indeed, even if it is abstract, very spiritual or purely mental by nature, it still remains a moment of intense pleasure. And we are, admittedly, after those types of experiences.

All this is difficult to accept!

Absolutely! It actually caused several attempts of murder against the first monk who expounded something like that. Because you can easily understand that the (would be) great incarnate Buddhas who lived during his time, while seeing so great a number of their disciples abandoning their teachings to go to listen to the sermons of the monk Gotama, didn't like it at all.

The problem that monks of this epoch had owed to the fact that many followers gathered around them. The problem that monks in today's world have is that we rather tend to make all the people RUN AWAY from us! (Laughter)

The teaching of a "tathāgata", in some of its aspects, is unbearable. If you minutely look at it, search for it, there is no other teaching whatsoever, which makes us feel ill at ease. All other teachings immediately try to bring a kind of solace to its followers, let's say a certain form of intellectual comfort, at first. The teaching of a "tathāgata", bears this specific property to be very uncomfortable by nature. It is so precisely because it directs us, makes us trip over scales, pebbles found in this world, whenever we tend to try to forget them, to ignore them.

That is a realistic teaching, a teaching about reality. The reality precisely lies in the fact that this world partakes of an unsatisfactory nature. As soon as we get close to reality, we inevitably feel a lot of discomfort. Otherwise, we haven't come close to it yet!

Does this "questioning" still keep on bothering you?

To me, things are going better. Because it still does occur a moment when things are going better. Indeed, on the path, there are three stages, and a conclusion, a "cherry on the cake". The first stage, this is precisely that feeling of discomfort, it can sometimes be harmful, painful, we can experience very uncomfortable things. Afterwards, when we have progressed a little, we reach the crossing point of a second obstacle, maybe worst than the first, because we precisely reach a certain stage of self-contentment, comfort and well being, a certain degree of bliss. That is still a trap. In a third stage, we are led to something even more vicious, more insidious, more effective, due to its anaesthetising effect, that is what is called experiences of equanimity and neutrality. It is treacherous and misleading because we haven't reach the final goal yet. The final goal is achieved only when cessation of all experiences is reached.

Are mad people happier than we are? Because they do not think, whereas to us, a lot of time is spent on thinking, fabricating, imagining.

This is a bit easy to point the finger at some specific categories of people by telling: "Look, they are the mad fellows". When one looks around himself, the question one may ask is not: "Where are the mad fellows ", but instead: " Where are the ones who are not mad? ". After all, is madness not mankind's natural condition? Admittedly, some degrees of madness are more advanced among some of us than others. At last, are we not all mad? Mad to endure this life. Mad to keep on wandering and going around in circles in this life, which can give us absolutely nothing.

It is true that some people, pursuant to various pathological, medical or psychological reasons, give us the feeling to be totally unconscious. Let's say that they don't express anything. Because they are, as we say, afflicted with mental disturbances. Their mind is a bit less balanced than ours. However, everyone has got his own way to be mad to endure all the sufferings he has to. Without being really aware of the stage where he is. Of course, there are always people more crazy than us. Then, we will point the fingers at that fellow by telling: "look at him, he is, beyond contest, completely insane! He spends a whole day thinking he is Napoleon, he is beyond help!" In a sense, we think of ourselves to be Peter, to be Jasmina, we think we are a man or a woman. In fact, we are exactly as crazy as he is. As Sigmund Freud very well claimed: "The whole of humanity is my patient. "

One shouldn't believe that " insane " people do not suffer. I have personally got the chance to come close to the psychiatric universe; the suffering of all those beings is quite abominable, but they do not openly express it the same way as we do, that is to say, they don't complain, they don't indulge into big metaphysical questionings, but within their own mind, do plague a lot of darkness. They sometimes go through very terrific states of suffering, mental suffering. At a physical level, we could draw a comparison with someone who suffers because he is inside of a metro, he is tied, stuffed, it is very hot, there are wooden seats, it gives him pain on the buttocks. And so sometimes, to the ones whom you call mad fellows, it is the same thing as if you literally thrust a red-hot iron into their own flesh, into their body. This is what they experience within their own mind.

We are free to some extent, we can do whatever we want, go wherever we want, when we want, as compared with criminals who are locked up in jail. If they have committed such horrible actions, it means that they definitely have mental problems. Why are monks not paying visits to jails or psychiatric hospitals to teach the cause of suffering to those people?

What you tell calls for several reflections. Everything is relative. A prisoner is locked in a jail, he does have a limited space, but we are also locked in a jail. Our space of freedom is very limited. If to you, freedom lies in choosing between New York and Hong Kong, we could say that in a sense " you are free". In all cases, beyond the surface of the earth, you don't enjoy, in today's world, the freedom to proceed WHEREVER you really want to. If you want to complete a journey to the moon or the planet Mars, you won't be able to. To a certain extent, a prisoner is someone who enjoys a certain form of freedom; he can proceed from the kitchen up to the library, the library up to showers (sometimes, he can even have access to some Internet sites!). Nevertheless, there are locations where he cannot have access due to coercive reasons: there are security doors, bars fixed on the windows, everything is very relative.

When a monk teaches the word of a tathāgata, as a matter of fact, he always does it to some prisoners. Afterwards, it's a matter of degree. If the opportunity to do it into what we call, in our society, a prison environment, a place of detention, he will do it. However, the monk won't have the feeling to teach to people who are more imprisoned than others, simply because all the locations of the universe are linked with one another like in an entangling jail of inter-dependence. He will teach to other people who, on their behalf, are deeply caught up into the world's cage, the cage of the life they lead, through their obligations, social or professional needs. Life is a jail. Someone who has a job, who got married and has children...... In this existence, we undergo a lot of obligations and, in a sense, someone locked in jail is not more imprisoned and bounded by his obligations than we are.

Afterwards, we are facing the issue of the values promoted by our society, we stick to some peculiar ideals of freedom, which make us think that prisoners are more imprisoned than we are, that to live in a prison environment is something shameful and humiliating; it can be, besides, a very painful experience. On the contrary, owing to the simple fact to be free to choose, for our next vacations, between Hawaii and South of Spain, according to our social conventions, we can say that we enjoy more freedom. However, it doesn't really make a difference. As I told you, we don't really choose what we do, we don't really control the "machine".

Even if they face a lot of inconveniences, prisoners still enjoy a lot of advantages. They still have time to think a bit about the reason that brought them here, about what they do, whereas very often, in professional life, we don't even spend time on it because we are very busy in doing all sorts of things. They are quite isolated from the rest of the world, they undergo a certain form of physical solitude, which is certainly not a bad thing for following a path; please don't laugh, I am serious, they get free food and lodging, they don't really have to work, to make efforts to get their food, to maintain their place to live. To some extent, all this gives them some type of freedom that, in the world outside, we don't have. We must go for devices, do cooking, constantly worry about our food and lodging, pay the rent.

A prisoner''s problem perhaps lies in the fact that he is imprisoned, that he would like to go out. Through my own experience, I could tell you that once I had to face a problem, which was the exact opposite of the one previously mentioned, and I was precisely threatened of eviction from my lodging. Obviously, I didn't like it at all!

The monk, the bhikkhu, is the one who, from a certain viewpoint, is neither in the situation of a prisoner detained in a prison compound, nor in the situation of the other prisoner, who believes to enjoy freedom. It is still a slightly different situation. But in fact, a genuine freedom is only achieved upon reaching emancipation, that is to say succeeding in putting a definitive end to this belief we have in the "truth", in definitely putting an end to our attachment, our fixation on sensuous pleasures and self-pride.

Once we have reached that, we have definitely achieved genuine freedom, total emancipation from this world. Afterwards, whether our body is located in a prison compound, a monastery or in a street, it no longer makes a difference.

A young child who comprehends the world with a poetic inspiration, writes a text, does a drawing, and then turns his attention away from the artistic work into which he has had a nice time. Could we say that this young child (or this adult) has entered a path conducive towards happiness. If later on, he prolongs it by some meditation sessions while observing a balanced life, is it a good start?

What do these notions of poetry and childhood have to do with your question? I find it difficult to understand.

We tend to think that children conceive the world in a simpler way than adults do. These non-attached eyes, eyes that do exercise no influence at all. Could we this consider this as a state of freedom?

I am not expert at all in child psychology but what I can remember about children whom I observed in my adult life, and mostly how far I remember the child I was, doesn't make me think at all that children are far more natural and free beings than adults are. Admittedly, adults build a certain image about childhood, but it seems to me that the life of a child is an abomination to some extent! They express themselves in a very spontaneous manner, have a better capacity to experience pleasure than we have. A child visiting a leisure park will enjoy himself to the full, he will fully take delight in the situation. We perhaps have a lesser capacity to do this type of experience once we have become adults, but in all other aspects, the life of a child is abominable, plenty of rules, when it is not literally knocks or humiliations.

In all cases, it involves a lot of totally potty principles, which are instilled in them, which they do not understand at all, a discipline that they are compelled to observe. And let us not forget that in France, and it is not the case only for France, we are led to a situation where children work more than adults. One should know that at school, a child daily works a larger number of hours than an adult does. Let's not talk about children who do not attend school but instead work in factories or elsewhere.

There are moments of explosion into laughter, of spontaneity, which, as adults, we like to ascertain in children. But aren't moments of blissful ecstasy we can experience upon listening to a cantata of Bach similar? Even if we don't openly express our sentiments of plenitude in the same way as children do. After all, is a child so different from an adult?

I just wanted to talk about living in this natural state of full awareness.

But are children really experiencing a natural state of mind that is fully aware? More than we do?

I imagine that we ascribe to children, who don't have a mind hindered with philosophical systems, perceive the world, or the noise of a river in a vivid manner, this feeling of mental peace, a pristine joy to live for the present moment, a certain degree of mental purity. Yes. At the level of recurrence of thoughts, passionate reflections that we have, we don't accept things as they are whereas children do. We can indeed say that there is a form of suffering that children never experience. But the comparison being drawn should end here itself. There are also other forms of sufferings inherent to childhood that adults usually never experience, noticeably the total privation of freedom. When they enter the adult world, many young people go through an experience of quest for what we call freedom: "Here I am, now I have grown mature, I drive my car, I can go wherever I want!"

We do enjoy liberties that children don't and these latter, among themselves, do experience specific forms of suffering, which are of a lesser range. As far as I believe to know, having never really been a gifted child, I remember having had times of passionate reflections and cogitating, which drew me to states of deep uneasiness. Nevertheless, it is true that a child can be pleased by anything, but one shouldn't be too idealistic and mainly shouldn't try to reach this state of mind.

I also wished to evoke this state of pristine communion with the whole world. Such as aboriginals do, as they harmoniously commune with nature.

We are supposed to find, as you did utter the word, a state of communion, reflected by the simple and spontaneous relationship, which takes place among a brethren of monks. However, daily realities very strongly disavow these beautiful ideals. On the contrary, to the one who succeeds in getting rid of a few of these defilement, false views, which we call kilesās in pāḷi language, the more he will eradicate these "pollution", the more he will connect with his environment in a quite spontaneous, neutral, adult, simple and healthy manner. We could imagine a brethren of liberated monks to be a model of perfection.

Indeed, it is true that there are communities, civilizations, primitive tribes, as we still dare to call them, who give us the feeling of a greater spontaneity, a better way to communicate. But once more, let's not be beguiled by appearances at all; someone totally naked, who wears a loincloth around his waist, with colour strokes painted on his body and who walks with naked feet in his jungle; doesn't forcibly need more communication and spontaneity than some allegedly "civilized" adults, modern as we say, equipped with a mobile phone and owning a car, do. Among those latter, we meet a few who, visibly, are quite simple folks endowed with a clear mind and who communicate with the surrounding in a way, which seems to us quite free and spontaneous.

One should be cautious while dealing with these notions and stereotypical bias, and mostly shouldn't create for himself an imaginary, emancipated, "cool", "relax", "peace and love" personality; I love you, I love you, we are all brothers belonging to the same human species. There is, besides, something very unhealthy found in those attitudes. Mainly, when they spread at the community level and around a spiritual and charismatic master, allegedly radiating with light, etc.

In fact, our step doesn't lie in trying to lead to an emancipated and perfect society, a spontaneous, clear and limpid community. Our step lies in achieving the cessation of suffering. There is a great chance that the more we will find beings who have reached the ultimate goal or have crossed significant steps on the path leading to it, the more the result, even if it wasn't the goal at first, would be a quite balanced and emancipated society, indeed, where there will be, as you say, these moments of truthfulness, of plenitude.

The most difficult (at last, the most difficult among them because it is the first) of obstacles to get rid of is this erroneous conception we have about the existence of a substance on which all world religions are based.

Unfortunately, even in theravāda we can sometimes hear monks falling into this trap. Whereas it is obvious that in the scriptures (canonical) Buddha considers this conception as precisely the first among these mental defilement and the root-causes constantly leading us to experiencing worldly sorrows.

If you undertake a training into satipaṭṭhāna, vipassanā, you will succeed, and let's not talk about awakening or anything as such, indeed, in clearly perceiving that all this is quite empty! That there is no such a substance or nature.

Even if there is no ego, as to the wish of a person who wants to improve his human nature, to search for enlightenment, what is the real nature of that wish?

It is EXACTLY the same as the one that leads you to toilets when you want to urinate. In reality, it is nevertheless the same thing. There is, admittedly, a difference: All human beings go to toilets or behind a tree to urinate but unfortunately all beings do not follow the path leading to the end of suffering. In all cases, all beings are, in a way or another, inclined towards the achievement of a certain form of well being, of happiness. Everyone according to his affinities, his degree of maturity, will rather follow a path instead of another. Animals' capacities, in these regards, are very limited obviously but, in a sense, an animal wishes the same thing, feels that need, has this desire to reach a certain state of self-contentment. To it, however, it will be limited; it will only lie in getting its food, finding a place to sleep, etc. To us humans, there are many more opportunities made available but this idea, that inspirational impulse that does incite us to take a certain step for having a better life, still remains a perfectly in born tendency.

When we reach all this, we realise that it is the same thing. That is exactly the same mechanism that takes place when we go to toilets. It is done for the sake of getting rid of an uneasy sensation. When we go to toilets, we don't do it while being aware that there is a biological cycle taking place, that the body naturally eliminates the toxins. We don't even go to toilets to urinate but also to get relieved.

In the same way, when we tread a path, in particular the one disclosed by Buddha, we have an idea in mind. Therefore, there is no ego, nature just follows its course. Even if we indeed have more time to think, because there is no urgent matter bothering us, we ask a lot of questions within ourselves, there are some highs and lows, we keep in mind: "In a sense, I am only a mean egoist, I do my little meditation while there is a lot of suffering and misery surrounding me". Upon being seated on the "throne" while answering the call of nature, we don't tell unto ourselves: "In a sense, I am only a mean egoist, I try to get relieved while all this misery is surrounding me."

But it does occur in such a short span of time that we don't have time to go through all those questionings within ourselves. When we tread a path supposedly leading us to the complete liberation from all the burden that life binds on us, it's a much longer process. We indeed have sufficient time to go through many questionings within ourselves. Indeed, it is the same process, the same thing occurs. That is to say, we feel a certain need to succeed in being relieved, being totally delivered from something that we perceive to be an hindrance, a weight, something oppressive indeed. To tread this path, from this moment onward, is a perfectly natural thing. And in all cases, hopefully, it will deliver us from this hindrance.

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Origin: Teaching given in France

Author: Monk Sāsana

Date: 1999

Translator: Thierry Lambrou

Date of translation: 2001

Update: 2005, June the 14th