How is this non-grasping and non-clinging to be put into practice?
IF YOU MEET a person from another country who asks by what means one may practise the essence of Buddhism, you can once again answer by quoting the Buddha. We don’t have to answer with our own ideas. The Buddha explained how to practise in succinct and complete terms. When seeing a visual object, just see it. When hearing a sound with the ear, just hear it. When smelling an odour with the nose, just smell it. When tasting something by way of the tongue, just taste it. When experiencing a tactile sensation by way of the general skin and body sense, just experience that sensation. And when a mental object, such as some defiling thought, arises in the mind, just know it; know that defiling mental object.
Let us go over it again for those of you who have never heard this before. When seeing, just see! If at all possible, in seeing, just see. When listening, just hear; when smelling an odour, just smell the odour; in tasting, just taste; in detecting a tactile sensation by the way of skin and body, just experience that sensation; and on the arising of a mental object in the mind, just be aware of it. This means that these are not to be added to by the arising of the self-idea. The Buddha taught that if one can practise like this, the “self” will cease to exist; and the non-existence of the “self” is the cessation of suffering (dukkha).
“Viewing an object by way of the eye, just see it.” This needs explaining. When objects make contact with the eye, observe and identify them; know what action has to be taken with whatever is seen. But don’t permit liking or disliking to arise. If you permit the arising of liking, you will desire; if you permit the arising of disliking, you will want to destroy. Thus it is that there are likers and haters. This is what is called “the self”. To go the way of the self is suffering and deception. If an object is seen, let there be intelligence and awareness. Don’t allow your mental defilements to compel you to grasp and cling. Cultivate enough intelligence to know which line of action is right and appropriate. And if no action is required, ignore the object. If some sort of result is wanted from this thing, then proceed, with full awareness and intelligence, not giving birth to the self-idea. In this way you get the results you wanted and no suffering arises. This is a very concise principle of practice, and it should be regarded as a most excellent one.
The Buddha taught: When seeing, just see. When hearing,just hear. When smelling an odour, just smell it. When tasting, just taste. When experiencing a tactile sensation, just experience it. When sensing a mental object, just sense it. Let things stop right there and insight will function automatically. Take the course that is right and fitting. Don’t give birth to “the liker” or “the hater”, and so to the desire to act in accordance with that liking or disliking, which is the arising of selfhood. Such a mind is turbulent, it is not free, it functions without any insight at all. This is what the Buddha taught.
Why, then, didn’t we mention morality, concentration, insight, merit-making, or alms-giving in connection with the most fruitful practice? These are helpful conditions, but they are not the heart of Dhamma, not the essential matter. We make merit, give alms, observe morality, develop concentration, and gain insight in order to become stable persons. When seeing, just to see; when hearing, just to hear. Achieving this, we become stable people. We have stability, unshakeability, and equilibrium. Although objects of every kind make contact with us in every way and by every sensory route, self does not arise. Merit-making and alms-giving are means for getting rid of self. Observing morality is a process by which we gain mastery over self, as is concentration practice. Acquiring insight serves to destroy self. Here we are not speaking of several different matters; we are speaking of one urgent everyday matter. Our eyes see this and that, our ears hear this and that, our nose smells odours, and so on for all six sense channels. We have to stand on guard, keeping a constant watch at the entrances of the six channels. This single practice covers all practices. It is the very essence of Dhamma practice. If you meet a person from another country who asks how to practise, answer in this way.