“The past and future – they arise from these bodies and hearts of ours. Preserve in not letting them in and getting involved with you. If we can wipe them out, we will be at ease. take up just the present moment as your object.” – Luang Pu Waen Sucinno
above is quoted from the book ” The life and teachings of Luang Pu Waen Sucinno. It is an inspiration for this post.
One of the Buddhist spiritual training is to be mindful and be aware of our senses. It is a common training method in Buddhism.
In the process of training ourselves, we understand how we function as an individual. What make us tick? In the process, wisdom is developed/unfolded/unhidden.
Guarding the doors to our senses is just a terminology or a naming convention. Different people call it different name. At the end of the day, the goal is to gain wisdom and be free from mistaking our temporal stimuli of the senses as happiness or suffering.
More importantly, it is to discover another type of happiness, a spiritual happiness. Any religion can practice this because we all have senses.
The senses refers to sights (see), sound (hear), aromas (smell), flavours (taste) and tactile impressions (touch). These are the doors that require “guarding”. That means being mindful of them and being mindful of how these sense stimuli affect us. (emotionally and psychologically)
To be mindful, our mind cannot be distracted.
Our mind is constantly being distracted by pulling up past memories or projecting unfounded future fantasies.
For example, while typing this post, my mind had wandered to the past to bring up memories of teachings that I had heard. It then wandered to the future and imagine how you might react to this post. Therefore , I am not mindful of my typing anymore, or the surrounding sound or the hot humidity that my body is feeling. Then I just realised that the little irritation in my mind is caused by the rising tropical temperature as the morning sun is now blaring down near it’s mid noon tropical best. Then I worried about lunch…..
In order to “strengthen” our mind, the “door guard”. We need a tool.
Foremost, we need to be mindful to use/apply the tools. In that aspect, we need to discipline the mind and constantly make sure that the mind is not wandering off into the past or future. That requires a lot of practice.
Next we need to use our tool to constantly strengthen the aforesaid effort. That requires perseverance.
It is therefore like a loop, or a wheel in motion. Once we are used to it, it gain speed/strength. Our mindfulness becomes stronger.
Introducing the various mindfulness strengthening tools. Which tool should we use? (choose one and stick to it as long as possible) It is just an object to help anchor our mind to the present mindfulness/awareness. In that aspect, you need not be limited to a Buddhist themed tool.
For example, a neutral theme tool is our breathe. By making conscious effort to be mindful of our in and out breathe, we anchor our mind to the present moment and we try to be mindful of our senses. Be mindful of the emotion that is caused by our senses. Just being aware without more thought process.
In the previous example, the hot tropical sun is irritating me. That is it. Leave it there. Bring the mindfulness back to the breathe. To the present. be mindful of the sense and the internal reaction. be mindful of the mind. Living in the present.
There are many different tools that we can choose from. For example, some may mentally recite “Buddho” constantly without stop. When breathing in , mentally recite “Bu” and when exhaling recite “dho” Alternatively, one can recite “Amen” or “Allah” or “Krisna” Important thing to do, is to bring the mindfulness within and be alert of what is going on within ourselves. Do not be attached to the tools or be attached to the meaning of the tools.
Alternatively, some people, do not require a tool to start off with. They can straight away be mindful of their senses. Their mind is disciplined enough or strong enough to live in the present moment. That is fine and good.
Here, we start talking about guarding the doors.
What it means, is to be aware of the sense stimuli we are experiencing and let go of it immediately. Do not allow our mind to be distracted, agitated or attached to the stimuli. Do not let the mind start its uncontrollable thoughts, emotional ride forward.
For example, if we hear an insult. We feel agitated. But we do not let it get out of control. We are aware of it. We acknowledge it. Then we let go. The sound of the insult appear, our ear hears it, we fell agitated. Then STOP! It disappear. Very soon, wisdom arise, we discover that we were taught how to react to those words we hear. We discovered that we were taught how to interpret those words we hear as an insult. The words on its own has no meaning and impact until we were taught to be averse to them.
That requires a lot of skill and practice.
Likewise, for praises or anything pleasant.
Likewise for any senses stimuli.
IMPORTANT: This doesn’t mean we stop interacting with the world
It simply means we do not give the mind uncontrolled freedom to throw us into an unbalanced state or chaos. We are fully in control.
It is because of this total awareness that allow us to react in nobleness and wisdom.
When being mindful of the senses stimuli, we need to have wisdom so that we are not easily swayed by these stimuli.
In some school of Buddhism, we are taught to recognise all these stimuli as suffering. This is because they arises from this world that are inherently imperfect. All compound matters are impermanent. they are transient. Once we constantly remind ourselves that, we are not easily swayed by the stimuli. No point getting carried away by something that is ultimately transient in nature right?
Alternatively, if we are constantly chant our favourite mantra etc, we can train our mind to react to the stimuli by saying our mantra as an immediate reaction. So whatever we experience in life, we react with Amituofo or Amen or Allah etc. Then like before we let it slide and go. Do not be attached and do not allow our mind to go into a chaotic roller coaster. We remain at peace and mindful in the process and we gain wisdom as we slowly become an observer. In that manner, we gradually understand the nature of ourselves and our surrounding.
Alternatively, some people believe that our body is a temple. All our senses are deities or gods and all things we experience are likewise a temporary creation of gods etc. In this manner we understand that all these senses stimuli are just illusions. Therefore we have that inner confidence and do not lose sight of our holy sanctuary. We do not let our thoughts go into a uncontrollable roller coaster. We preserve the peace and tranquility of our inner temple. As we learn to react with detachment at the illusions unfolding in our daily life, se learn to sit back and observe this show. As we progress, we gain wisdom into the nature of ourselves and surrounding.
In summary, it is important that when we “guard” or be mindful of our senses.
- We learn not to be attached to our sense stimuli. We learn not to lose control of ourselves. We live in the present.
- We react or live our life with mindfulness, fully in control of our action speech and thought. When there is evilness or good, we are aware. We chose good over evil.
- We learn to recognise and understand ourselves and our surrounding better because we are not lost in our inner chaos.
Last but not least. It is important to know that the goal of this training is to REALISE how suffering arises in ourselves and others. That suffering arise because of craving and aversion. Because we had mistaken worldly happiness as true happiness, we create more suffering for ourselves and others. Once we realise that, we have a strong compassion for our fellow beings who are still lost in that ignorance.