In this episode, Bhante Sathi talks about the idea of “harmonious understanding”— an understanding free from bias and ignorance. He also details the Four Realizations a person with harmonious understanding will encounter.
Episode recorded on June 18th, 2021 - Friday Night Online Teaching Session
Follow our podcast on iTunes or Spotify
Sign up now for the Triple Gem Newsletter.
Visit our website at Triple Gem of the North
[Bhante Sathi]: So, for this topic, I would ask you to pay 100% attention, because it sounds like this is easy, but this is most deepest topic. Simple words, but concept is very deep. The reason is– I [will] tell you what the reason [is]. The topic is harmonious understanding, but commonly this concept [is] describe with the terms of “right understanding”. The Buddha's word is “samma ditthi”. Therefore, I am going to talk about samma ditthi, because right understanding is not what it is, and harmonious understanding is very close, but that is not what it is. Now, understanding. Let's try to recognize what understanding means.
If something is happening to us, or if something is happening outside of us, we only notice the result or what [that] activity is causing. By knowing the result, knowing the cause of it, we might be able to understand what is causing this trouble. Like think about in the summer, you feel your house is still hot. Your air condition is working. Then when you are questioning yourself, you find out, oh, that window is open. You realize the window is open, but you go through your experience. That is what we call understanding. Understanding is happening through our experience. We understand through our sense experience. Now, this understanding is giving us a view. It also based on the view. What's the view? Our view is, if you open the door while the air condition is on, you are still going to be a little bit warmer because air condition is not just protecting inside the house. Can you apply same thing for summer? Sorry– for the winter? No. In the winter, if somebody just got the literal meaning of that, if you keep the window open, your home going to be warm. That person going to be wrong during the winter, because in the winter, we have to understand that differently. If your window is open, your house was going to be more colder. Our understanding is based on a few different things.
I just gave an example to describe the ignorance. When our understanding develop[s] an ignorance, we keep the ignorance with us. We think we know what it is. We know everything. We build ourselves based on ignorance. Why? We believe our senses. That's why I often find people who come here during the summer then complain, oh it's too cold, and I find some other people that complain, oh it's too warm. Who's right? But according to each of them, they are right. Now, if I'm a middle person who want to keep the environment comfortable for others, I'm in trouble because one person says cold, other person says it’s warm. Which persons judgement that I'm going to support it? In these days, [name] complain[s], because house is cold. Now, cold mean it is 78 upstairs, and the other day he was even wearing hat. Why? It is cold for him. Is he wrong? If he is wrong, he is wrong according to who? He is not wrong according to him, but he might be wrong according to others. So, the right or wrong is based on the personal perception. Now, with a personal perception, we have built the entire life– ourself. Your school is shaping your personal perception with education. Your parents has shaped your personal perception, your individual perception, while they are raising you. Your community, your news– these days media is keep influencing us for their perception. They are pouring the ideas into our head. We think that's the right thing. So even though we call “I understand”, I'm talking about the perception I have now. Then we live our life based on the perception I have. Maybe there's some[thing] that is not the perception according to your spouse, that is not the perception according to your family, your friends, and others. So, now then we need to understand [that] my perception is not the perfect one. It is my perception based on the life experiences I have. So, not concept of harmonious understanding. Harmonious understanding means the perception beyond yourself. It's a universal perception which means the perception is okay going with you. And even that perception goes with any other living beings. Then even the perception that is going with in the future, present, and the past. Those are the perception we call harmonious understanding. And when somebody can live in that harmonious understanding, that person's perception is not based on– not supported by greed, anger, or ignorance. But unfortunately, even though we don’t believe– even though we don't want to think our perception is based on greed, anger, and self concept which we call ignorance. That's why I'm thinking I am right. My way of thinking is right.
So, with this harmonious understanding, or with the harmonious way of perception, what do we do? Number one thing is we will not struggle with anything in the world. Let me bring you some examples. We know anger is bad. We know anger is bad, as long as you are not angry. When you are angry, you think your anger has right, or your anger is reasonable, or you have a right to be angry, like that. You see value in your own anger. You think when somebody else [does] something wrong, you have a right to be angry. And that's how we think, but everybody else cannot do it– only you can do it. That's not universal. That's not harmonious. But commonly what is harmoniousness in there, is we realize anger is negative.
Love, I know I want people to love me, then we know all living beings like to [be] loved. They want to be loved. Everybody like to have compassion. Everybody has to have forgiveness, like to be forgiven for their mistakes. Then by knowing it harmonious understanding means you are realizing things in a universal way, not in the personal way. Not with supporting your ambitions, or your greed, or anger. Harmonious way. When you understand harmonious way, living in a harmonious way is a challenge. Like think about there are so many things you think [are] a right thing, but you do not have ability to maintain it. I have seen many people [who] get into some hook, who believe one thing, but they live in a different way. They do something else. They say without that, I can’t live my life. But person who has harmonious understanding, that person is not going to do any single thing wrong to oneself or others. This is going beyond how with the harmonious understanding, you realize how it is actions and thoughts are shaping yourself. That's the most important part to realize for somebody who has harmonious understanding. Like think about you have black ice on the winter and when you see black ice you know if I walk on this, I can be fell down. Therefore, I should have good shoes. Before that happened, you prepare for it by knowing black ice is there. You know if I don't have safe fire[place] in the house, then my house will burn. There you will have good protection for you forever for your fireplace. And there are so many other things you do by knowing the result, what result can be. The same way, if you have certain actions, this action will lead into pain sooner or later. By having those understanding, you will support you to not to go in those actions. And also you will see how you have been supported yourself, how you have been shaping yourself, evolving, supporting you to evolve yourself, with actions in your life. Once you know you have the understanding, you are not supporting– you are not continuing those things. And by knowing your past, you know these other things has made me weak, take my time away, then you are going to be serious with your time. Especially when you have such understanding.
Person who has harmonious understanding come into four different realizations. That person's [life will be based] on those realizations. Number one, you realize the uncertainty of your life. By knowing I do not have time to waste, death can come to me anytime. For this kind of person will take that as a positive thing, not a negative thing. Knowing the reality is helpful. Knowing the truth, standing for the truth. Oh, there are some people they are pretending they're okay, but they're not okay. They're pretending is not supported by harmonious understanding person. You know you're going to die. Therefore, the wonderful thing is, you know, now I am alive. I have this time to work with. Therefore, I want [to] invest this day mindfully with a maximum beneficial way. The maximum beneficial way. That's the number one realization that person would have: understanding the uncertainty or impermanent of life.
Number two, that person understand the impermanence or uncertainty of your health and energy. This evening, I was visiting one good friend going through some– one of the family is going through some health issues. And the other friend, this friend’s spouse was telling me that she's happy she got into mindful path some time ago, but now she's unhappy because she knows she could do more. But she wasted her time with many other ways. She has wasted her time in many other ways. Now she's too late. Because health is not supporting her. When she's healthy, she was always postponing not only meditation, [but also] some other activities she wants to do support her mind for her well being. She said I must keep postponing. Now my mind is not that strong. But I don't have ability to come in to the level that I could come in the past. I could not reach into the maximum potential of myself. Now with the harmonious understanding, that person understand when I have energy and health, how can I invest this energy and health without wasting it. Without losing it. Without wasting or without losing out in that. Often I find people complain. People blame and they regret of there are some habits, some actions they have done in the life, and they were saying I was keep taking granted of my health. I was abusing my health. Now I don't have it anymore, because I have wasted it. That is not the destination of the harmonious understand person.
With the harmonious understanding, you realize it, then you will do the right action. Be responsible for doing the right action. That's a number two realization. The number three realization is our health is not permanent. We can be unhealthy any time. When you are able, then you can invest yourself fully. You can invest yourself for your wellbeing to maintain the health. And most of the time people when they're healthy, they waste their health and they even abuse their health. But harmonious understanding person will use it invested properly, not just wasting it by doing something not important for this person.
Fourth is that habit, the person who has harmonious understanding is keep recognizing the progress of the self. Now, progress of the self is part of the spirituality. It's not the part of your financial situation or your income states. It is not your financial states. It's about your mind compared to last day where I am now. Now when somebody can apply harmonious understanding, that person will understand harmonious understanding and realizing the reality will not [lose] their life in pressure or their ambitions or something else, because they always understand what's going on. So that's how that person will live. That would be the first step of this eightfold path– cultivating the harmonious understanding. Any questions? Or any thoughts?
[Meditator]: Yes Bhante I have a question. Point number four recognizing the progress of the self. Are you saying self in the sense just in casual conversation?
[Meditator]: For convenience.
[Bhante]: Yes. Yes, I am saying a little bit more with some details. When we talk about this spiritual self, or our inner self. Our inner self also has some abilities just like your physical body. Your physical body is nothing without eyes, ears, nose, skin, and your tongue. Without five senses, your physical body is nothing. Then you call it “I'm just like a vegetable” or somebody like a vegetable, because those people cannot use their physical body. The same way the spiritual self in mind also has five different types of senses, so based on the confidence and discipline, the ability of realizing, then skillfulness of generosity, and wisdom. Those are the five things you can cultivate. You can do a lot. But mostly we recognize the opposite of those qualities. Instead [of] generosity, we recognize the greed. We don't want to say I am greedy, but you see other people are greedy. But when you are greedy and you are justifying it, we are thinking we are smart. And then we are not only greedy by supporting your senses or your pressure, there you will realize this is the nature of the greed. And ability of realizing also we keep postponing. But when somebody realized something clearly, that will give that person energy to live based on what that person has realized.
Knowledge and the realizations are two different things. We are knowledgeable for many things, but realizations is lower. That's what I mentioned that self. Confidence, discipline, ability of realization, skillfulness of generosity, wisdom. Those are the five types of yourself you need to do.
[Meditator]: What would the pali word for that type of what you're calling self be?
[Bhante]: Well, it is [list of pali words]. Those are the five terms.
[Meditator]: Okay. Yeah, once we get past four syllables, okay, I'm done. Then I will just use spiritual self, casually, instead.
[Bhante laughing]: Yes.
[Meditator]: Thank you, Bhante.
[Bhante]: Thank you.
[Meditator]: So harmonious understanding. To me, it seems like a point of view, but it also seems more than just an opinion or a belief system that one would hold to the exclusion of other things. But rather, it's like a point of view that enables greater understanding in the future if I did understand you correctly.
[Bhante]: So I think, [Name], maybe you can listen to what I just talked about half an hour. It has a bigger description. But unfortunately, most people have– I mean, the books talk about it. And they're just talking about the literal meaning of right understanding, not the concept of some [inaudible]. So they just simply think [inaudible] is [inaudible] but no. It's not.
[Meditator]: I have a question Bhante.
[Meditator]: Yeah. So I'm curious about this harmonious act, and we talked about it through just self discipline and determination. And how long do you think this would take to develop this perfect harmonious understanding? And also, once this is developed, if you have harmonious understanding, do you still make mistakes? Or, you know, like your example with, you know, the black ice, if you, you know, it's black ice, so you should not go. But what happens if you go on the black ice even if, you know, it's bad, you know, because this sometimes happens with a woman, you know, maybe like smoking cigarettes, we know cigarettes are bad, but people smoke cigarettes anyway. Things like that.
[Bhante]: [Name], you're asking the wrong question. Let me tell you why. If somebody asks you– I mean the wrong question is “how long”, is the wrong question. Like if somebody asked you– just think about if somebody asked you how many liters for in one kilometer or one miles, how many litres in one miles. You know that's the wrong question. The “how long” is the wrong question. Therefore, the time– you cannot measure this with a time Yes, you can measure the graduation like if somebody asked you for how much I have to study to get a PhD in Buddhism, in Christianity, then you will say yeah, for a degree would be enough and then you can be appraised something like that. Or six years. Yes, those things you can measure by time. But wisdom you cannot measure with the time. You're talking about that lady, and you're talking about the people, and well people know about it that there are books and magazines describing how bad smoking for your health. But still people are smoking. Why? Don't they know? No, they know. But because of ignorance they think that will not happen to me now. I will not become sick now. This one cigarette will not do anything to me. One time taking drugs, one time will not make me an addict.
Last week I was speaking to a young man actually who happened to be DUI. And this young man was telling me, every time when he get into car with having some alcohol his girlfriend was warning him don't do this, this bad for you and if you get caught by police. He said, no police will not catch me. I will do okay this time. And he told me not even once, even the one time I didn't learn learn the lesson. Not even twice, in a second time I didn't learn the lesson. Now I am having to do jail time. Still I don't think I have learned the lesson. I think police will not notice me. This is what we call ignorance. That's how ignorance is that hard. We need to have strong practice to be honest. Then when you become that person, you are living the life because you want to live, not because others are forcing you to live. That's what wisdom is doing. It is supporting you to recognize the life that you want to live. You want to have. [Name], I hope I answered your question.
[Meditator]: Yes, I think you did.
[Bhante]: Okay, any other thoughts for tonight or any question? Any suggestion for next week topic?
[Meditator]: Harmonious thoughts.
[Bhante]: Okay, number two, then I'm going to start.
[Meditator]: And I'm not going to go through every fold of the path. You know, I think we all know that stealing is wrong. So, right action. You know. But I think these two, the first and second one need a lot of clarification, at least for me.
[Bhante]: Okay. So we can go as harmonious intention. Okay, that's a topic for next week.