19. Consciousness and Suffering

19. Consciousness and Suffering

By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

Dated: 1994

Venerable Bhikkhus, brothers and sisters, the subject of the discourse today is; Consciousness is Dukkha, suffering.  Consciousness is the cause of suffering. Cessation of consciousness is the cessation of suffering. And the path leading to the cessation of suffering is the path leading to the cessation of consciousness.

You are aware having learned Dhamma up to now, that the formation of activities committed by the 6 sense bases are by creation of thoughts. In the creation of a thought, you are aware though the sense base and the object that has attract the sense base get together, the third part that appears is the consciousness. From there onwards, the entire operation in the way of seeing or hearing or smelling or tasting or contacting or thinking, the 6 functions perform by the 6 sense bases are all done as a result of  a thought created by the consciousness. It is the thought created in you that you are able to see. It is as a result of a thought created in you that you are able to hear. It is a result of a thought created in you that you are able to smell. It’s a thought created in you that you are able to taste things. It’s a thought created in you that you are able to contact things. It’s a thought created in you that you are able to think. So all these 6 activities are performed as a result of a thought created by the consciousness.

Suffering, Buddha refers to as physical and mental subjected to a worldling and as a result of incidence occurring to him. He of course gives specific instances of suffering such as birth, such as reaching old age, subject to sicknesses, death, parting from loved ones, mixing with people whom you do not like and also not being able to possess what you wish to possess. These are specified instances he gives as occasions for one to suffer. But he summaries all these sufferings which a worldling is subjected to by saying the 5 grasping groups is suffering. In the discourse I delivered to you yesterday, I clearly explain to you what the 5 grasping groups are and also the result of their activity in your mind. A worldling is under the impression that there is a being in him and it is this being who is responsible for all these activities.  According to Buddhism, there is no such being in us. All our activities are the result of cause & effect. There is no one as such as an authority to own the authorship of any of those activities. They are performed as a result of cause & effect, but the mind has created a delusion in you. While creating the thought for you to experience the object that has appeared before the sense base or has contact the sense base, you are make to believe that it is a being who is performing the act of seeing, hearing ,smelling, tasting, contacting, thinking whatever it may be. This is created in the very thought that you have created to experience the sense base activity. And when you experience the sense base activity, in that experience, the delusion created in you is that there is so to say an author to your experience in that activity. And this delusion is created by the 5 grasping group, which are grasping group of form, grasping group of feeling, grasping group of perception, grasping group of volition and consciousness. The very mental factors which are produced by the consciousness, they play a different part by creating the thought to create this delusion in you, it’s not 2 separate acts as such. The very thought that enables you to hear, smell, see, taste and perform the other activities of the sense bases, in that very thought itself there is this delusion created. For the creation of this delusion, the mental factor that help you to create the thought has participated.  Therefore, it is the consciousness that makes you to feel that there is a being in you. According to Buddhism, there is no being as such in any one of us. There is the activity of the cause and effect, but we are made to believe, subject our self to unnecessary suffering, always under the wrong impression created in us, and that impression is that there is somebody in authority who is subject to this suffering within you. Consciousness is a mental force created for the continuity of this world, we are making use of this to develop ourselves to states when we can realize something in depth much more than the consciousness can display, but it is this consciousness that has created this situation for us. We are now subject to constant suffering, always thinking that it is this so call being within me who is author of all our activities that is subject to this suffering. In others worlds, when we look at the worldling, in the Dhamma way we have to admit there is no person in him, except that there is a mind and matter. And this mind and matter casually commits activities, but this consciousness has created a delusion in you to always feel that that casually created activities are not a result of cause and effect but as a result of some author committing those acts. And that impression is so well planted in your mind, that you are deluded, that you are misled and you live in this delusion, always thinking about this person who is in you, as the author of your very existence. Therefore consciousness is the source of this creation. And that is why we say that consciousness is suffering. Because delusion of a being created in you is done by the consciousness in the very act of seeing as a result of a thought created by the consciousness. The ingredient that created the thought also become the ingredient that creates the delusion in you as a being present in you. So it is very clear now, it is the consciousness that has created this situation and you suffer as a result of that, therefore consciousness is suffering because consciousness has created this delusion in you and make to believe there is a person within you as a thought to subject to this suffering. And this is done by the consciousness, therefore consciousness is suffering.

Let’s go to the other one, consciousness is also the cause of suffering. We are aware that the instantaneous or spontaneous activity of the mind in the way of creation of a thought, various sense objects appears or attract the sense base. That thought enables you to experience that sense object. That is a spontaneous act of the consciousness. When we went into detail as to how a thought is created, I explain to you that the consciousness appears at the base or contact the base at the third party. The first being the object is reflected in the contrivance adapted in the sense base where such objects can be received. And it is this reception that becomes the first incident that occurs. After that reception by the sense base, then the consciousness appears or contact the sense base at the third party. From there onwards, it is the 5 mental factors that creates a thought, directed by the consciousness that helps you to experience the object. That is the task the consciousness has to perform in enabling you to experience something through a sense base. But it goes further than that. It has created the being in you already. In the thought you created in your mind to experience the sense activity, and you are now under the impression, the false impression the delusion created by the consciousness that there is somebody in authority for that act. Mental factor feeling always gives you the impression whether that object that has confronted your sense base is something to your liking or not to your liking. That is not pursue further than that, is only an impression is given to you whether you like it or not like it. The delusion created in your mind the nature of a person living in you, a being living in you, he becomes the author of the activity of the sense base in the way of hearing, smelling, tasting things and what he heard or what he saw or what he smelt to his satisfaction. This being naturally goes all out to enjoy that, to his satisfaction. And if it is something that has created an impression in you in this being that it is not to his liking, he also creates a distaste for it, an aversion to it. This subsequent action is actually committed as a result of the false impression created in your mind that there is a being as the author of that activity. Because he goes further than the mere creation of a thought to experience the sense base activity in trying to create more thoughts and pursue what is good and enjoy or pursue what is not to his taste to create a distaste for it. These are the 2 things, attachment and aversion that promote desire. Who does that? The consciousness. In the first instance, the consciousness created this imaginary being in you. In the second instance, consciousness gave the impression to this being that what that sense base has experienced is something good or something bad. This so call being that has been created by the consciousness in regard to the functioning of the consciousness in respect of that object that has attracted the base, he goes further to pursue what is good to enjoy it. How does he enjoy it, create more thoughts. He as the author of such thoughts and he enjoys it and creates a liking for it. And if the object is something not to his liking, he creates a distaste for it. These 2 extremes are creating desire, maintaining desire, supplying desire with the necessary food to maintain itself. In other words, repetition of an act created by you has now become a bad habit. And the habit gets strengthened more and more as you go on committing acts in accordance to the habit and that is what is happening in you now. You have created bad habit in the way of creating a desire for experiences through the sense bases and this bad habit of maintaining the desire is supported by or maintained by the constant feelings of attachment or aversion created by the pursuit of the feeling in creating thoughts. Therefore it is the consciousness that is responsible for the creation of the desire. Consciousness created the being, an imaginary person in you. This consciousness who created the imaginary person in you also pursued the experience gain through that sense base. If it was something to his satisfaction, the consciousness created more thoughts and pursued that experience and enjoyed it and create the liking for it. If it is not to his satisfaction, he creates a thought and pursue it and create an aversion to that experience. And this attachment and aversion supported the desire, maintained the desire, created the desire. Therefore, consciousness is responsible for the creation of desire, that’s very clear to you now.

Cessation of desire is also done by the very same consciousness that has created the desire. In a worldling, the consciousness is not a developed one. When we say developed consciousness, the consciousness that sees things in depth realistically and understand them. To achieve that height, one has to develop the consciousness to a degree in concentration and that is what we are doing, brothers and sisters. We develop the consciousness to a higher degree or transcend it to a higher state through concentration and it reaches the 1st absorption, 2nd absorption, 3rd absorption, 4th absorption.  And that’s also the definition given by Buddha about samadhi or concentration. That one has to achieve this height so that you give the necessary strength for the consciousness to deeply examine the thing and understand realistically what it is. Those who have not developed their mind, they live on the surface. They take things as they are, as displayed by the sense bases and either create a satisfaction for it or a distaste for it. And it is this untrained development that pursues that satisfaction or the distaste further in creating more thoughts as an additional activity to the activity it has already created in the way of creating a thought to enable you to perform the activity of the sense base. And in that pursuit, he enjoys what is good, the consciousness and created distaste for what is bad. That which appeals to him he enjoys, that which does not appeal to him, he does not enjoy, creates an aversion to it. This is the natural reaction of the human being. You possess an undeveloped consciousness, you accept what is found on the surface. It is rather for you to grasp what is found in depth as reality, like impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness. Those have to be realized by a mind who has transcended his mind to a higher state because they are not qualities found on the surface, qualities found on the surface are opposite to these realities. They are permanent, satisfaction and the continuity and you have been misled by accepting these false impressions created by objects on the surface. You have wandered in samsara, cycles of birth for many many millions of years and now have reached a state of mind where you see the truth, where you understand the truth. And in pursuit of that truth, the initial step you have taken was see that you sharpen your mind to an extent when it can realistically understand the true nature of things. Sharpening of your mind means build concentration of the mind so that it can fix its attention at one thing and continue to look into that in depth so that realistically understand not what is found on the surface  which is misleading but what is really within and that is the realistic aspect of the object. And what is within this, it is nothing but impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and soullessness.

You have pursued the path shown by Buddha. What is the path shown by Buddha? The Eightfold Path,  which is summarized as virtue, concentration and mindfulness and samadhi. In this path, it is essential that you maintain virtue. Virtue is nothing but controlling your activities and controlling your expressions so that you commit no harm to any other being, you are harmless. As a result of your harmless, there is peace gained by your mind. The mind is not repenting on an act committed because repentance normally comes when he realized he has done some harm to others. Now these instances, you have not done only harm willfully, knowingly. As a result, you have peace of mind. Unless you have that foundation created in you, it is rather difficult to fix your mind at 1 point because the mind is constantly disturbed by the 2 extremes of aversion and attachment. These are the 2 extremes the mind always lives in the worldling. He finds things to either experience something enjoyment or something which falls to the other side something which he does not like. Something enjoyable is a creation by desire and desire that liking, that attachment is created by desire and also aversion is also a result of being disappointed in realizing that what you have experienced through the sense base is something which is not to your liking. Therefore there is the opposite of enjoyment there created in you and that is aversion. These 2 are related to each other, loosely connected with each other.  If one does not enjoy, he naturally falls into the other extreme of aversion.  If one does not create an aversion, he naturally falls into the other extreme of enjoyment. In between, certainly there is neutral feelings. But very often, the 2 extremes you fall into are these aversion and attachment. Both these are produced by desire. They support desire, they maintain desire. They strengthen desire by constantly falling into these 2 extremes. Virtue becomes an essential ingredient for you to develop your mind to higher states to realize the truth. Thereby you have controlled your activities by the body and controlled the activities by the expressions. There is no development in that as such, when you say developing your sila not that you are pitching your mind to a higher level where you see that there is virtue is also developing within it, no. There is nothing like that except that you have confined yourself to certain activities which are not harmful to others. It is more observance than development. When you observe it minutely, it is very good as an excellent virtue. Effective virtue or virtue is helpful in every aspect of a being concerned. If your virtue is very shaking, in other words you commit wrong acts in between and observe virtue over and over again, that means you are living on a very unsteady foundation which is not suitable for the development of concentration. Therefore you must observe virtue strictly and maintain yourself in that condition without giving an opportunity for one to repent. Repentance is a fact that is created as a result of not having virtue in the mind of the person and repentance is rather a very disturbing feature to the mind. With repentance, you can’t fix the mind. The mind is always very shaky repenting from what you have done. That is virtue. Based on virtue, you concentrate.  If one would ask the question, is concentration a quality of the mind? It is a quality of the mind. But how is it that it has now lost its quality? Because you have given way to that, you are responsible for it. The desire is so so may I say virulent,  or if I say so susceptible to enjoyment, going all out for them, very effective desire. Then naturally you will see you cannot control your mind. The sila is the thing that is the virtue that is controlling that aspect of it.

Your mind is a very very, in its original form a bright speck without any discoloring at all. But the way you make use of this consciousness has created defilements in the consciousness. The defilements which you have created in the consciousness are the things that you are trying to get rid of now. And the mind in performing the functions according to the defilement you have created, is a weak mind. It is the weakness that maintained these defilements. Weakness in the concentration, the mind is weak, so to say cannot fixed itself to one point and seriously think about it, in that you picked anything on the surface and such things that lead you to create either an attachment or an aversion. You have also learnt about impermanence, about unsatisfactory nature of things and about non continuity or soullessness. These are not qualities found on the surface in anything existing in this world. Opposite to these 3 things are permanence, satisfaction and continuity. That is what your sense bases display to you. That is what you experience through your sense bases and it is that acceptance of these false views or false assessment of things that has completely misled you. And the mind is so formed now, performing its activities on the surface, believe these situations, believe that everything in this world is permanent, is satisfactory and continue to exist. Also your bases are also so made, in other words the bases can only see something on the surface and it sees something permanent, something satisfactory, something continuing. Your eyes shows you that, your nose experiences smell in that way. Your ear experiences sounds and noises as permanent, as something existing and something satisfactory. So are the experiences you gain through other 6 sense bases. But in reality, what is existing truthfully is something quite opposite. None of these experiences are permanent, they are all impermanent, they arise and pass away. The attachment you created thinking that they are all satisfactory, wholesome and brings you some results in the way of satisfying yourself. That’s also a false impression you have created. When something is impermanent, constantly changing, there is no fixed nature in itself, how could one be satisfied with a changing situation like that? Because you have taken the opposite view, create a wrong impression about that object, that it is something permanent that you gain satisfaction out of that. You know now and through science it has been proved amply that there is nothing that existing in this world for a fraction of a second in one condition. Everything is changing, nothing permanent in this world and that is the truth you have realized. And that truth can only be realized by a mind that has been transcended to a higher state, because the performance of activities by a consciousness which is undeveloped, that consciousness is subject to any illusion created, any false outside view, the consciousness is ready to accept without going deep into it. Thereby the existence of human being without giving deep thought to what he experiences, merely accepting what is found on the surface is completely a life of deception created by the 6 sense bases.

Now once that you have developed your concentration to a high degree, that’s the 4th absorption level. Your mind is there sharp, can penetrate into anything. Realistically understand the true nature of objects that attract the sense bases. For the 6 sense bases, brothers and sisters, experience 6 different things. They are all experienced by one power and that is your consciousness. Now once you have developed your consciousness to a high degree, it is that developed consciousness ultimately that will see the true aspect of things. And what it sees will be everything in this world is impermanent, unsatisfactory and no continuity, soulless. That is the truth, these truths, these realities are not observed on the surface. Why can’t you observe these realities on the surface? Because the equipment provided such as the eye, ear, nose, body, mind and power to think are all not powers that would lead you to a deep study of anything. They only pick things on the surface, that is the strength of the equipment you are supplied. Therefore what you do is when there is a sense bases attract an object, you just on the surface create a thought for you to experience something about that object. These equipment that is given to you like the eye, ear, nose, body and mind, they are all equipment for you to make use of for the continuity in this cycle of births, making you always the false impression that this is substantial, this is permanent and this is the thing that you realistically observe with your sense bases. If the true impression was created in your mind that all that you observed experience through your sense bases are impermanent, unsatisfactory and soulless you would not continue to exist in this world. Because you see the deception created all around you. And you also then realize that you also live in deception.

There is an instance where the human being or the so call “the worldling” has to live in a created world. The creation for his existence, the creation is for his complete deception. In other words, he has been not shown the true state of things but made to believe something that is not existing, something not true, something false, something created to mislead him, something created for him to be led by the nose to continue this existence in this cycle of births. The way nature that has been created as a worldling is not true. There is no person as such living in this so call combination of mind and matter. It is purely a combination of mind and matter where reaction in the matter is as a result of the creation of a thought. We have been subjecting ourselves to this deception for the last so many many births and the revelation made by Buddha 2600 years ago gave us an idea what we are and who we are, to realistically understand the surrounding in a true manner. And the realistic understanding we have created now is that everything in this world is impermanent, unsatisfactory and soulless. That is what Buddha taught. But merely Buddha taught this, the teaching by itself cannot save you from where you are. This has to be realized by yourself and it is this realization that will ultimately lead you to your liberation. Therefore he showed us a path, a clear path for us to follow. Buddha not only realized the truth, but Buddha also realized the path one has to follow in order to liberate himself from this cycle of births, in this deception he is in. And that path as I told you is virtue, concentration and wisdom.

When you think of wisdom, sometimes the ordinary mind one will think of wisdom about all the things that are existing in the world, so much so that you would know the beginning of the tree and the end of the tree, beginning of the being and the end of the being, such things and everything is there in that wisdom of yours. This is the vast wisdom that you can imagine, but Buddha did not make you to cultivate the thing like that. He found the key to the realization of the truth and that key he found is that his realization that everything is unsatisfactory. And if something is unsatisfactory, that there is no permanent feature in that, impermanent, unsatisfactory and also realized that there is nothing continuing, everything is subjected to constant change. These are the 3 truths he realized. That is the wisdom he realized. And that is the very wisdom that enabled Buddha to ultimately realize the 4 Noble Truths. That is the wisdom that solved the problem of a being existing in a worldling. That realistic aspect of things indicated clearly that mind and matter are causally creating things and one is made to believe that there is somebody within him. But this wisdom which he gains which dawns to him showed him the true nature of things that there is no being as such in this, it’s a performance of mind and matter. Matter reacting to a directive given by the mind and that is casually created and they arise and pass away. These are the realistic aspect of things. And in this path which we follow, you are made to see the true nature of things at stages, not automatically. In order to live in this truth and practice the truth, and the realization dawns to you step by step so that you will be able to get rid of the defilements or the fetters that tied you down to this false existence we are subject to in the past. That is the nature of Dhamma. This Dhamma is not a thing that somebody introduce into your mind as such from the outside, it is something we have ourselves find out, like a person digging the earth and finding a dam buried in the earth and he possess that dam after much effort. In the same way, brothers and sisters, the truth is not found on the surface, we have accepted what is found on the surface and got misled. We have suffered enough in lives, in births and deaths, and now we have reached a stage when we will not believe what is found on the surface. And we impressively know and understand that there is something more then what is displayed on the surface and that is the truth. And that truth is nothing but impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and soullessness. You have accepted that and you are quietly now following the path one by one to get rid of the so call defilements with the development occurring in you so that you ultimately liberate yourself from all these trappings. Liberate yourself from all these defilements. Liberate yourself from all these fetters that has tied you down to this false existence and one day see to the end of this life of suffering.  Gain your final peace, never to subject yourself to occasions of the nature you have experienced in the past and that is Vipassana Samadhi , Insight Knowledge of the Truth.

Brothers and sisters, when you think of this situation we are in and the action we are expect to commit in order to clear ourselves from this situation and finally see, imagine the true state of things we will realize and the liberation we will enjoy at that time, this activity on your part, this sacrifice you are making now, getting out of the world and coming to a place like this and search for the truth is something worthwhile. Something which cannot be valued with money or gold. We can value anything which is in the nature of an object with money and gold, but this is liberating your consciousness from an imprisonment which has lasted for many many many many thousands of years and the untold sufferings you went through, subjecting yourself to the deception created by the mind and the immense amount of stages and occasions you are subject to in the way of even getting fed up with your existence. When you think of such situations, you must be happy that you have now come across circumstances which lead you to realize the truth.

Therefore your effort in this respect to gain liberation is incomparable to any use of this opportunity. The path shown by Buddha is a very clear one, any sensible person can follow it reasonably and satisfy himself that he is not led by the nose by any person as such but the truth dawns into you in every step you take clearly directs you to along the right path and every step you take and every progress you experience indicate to you that the path is true. Therefore brothers and sisters, you are very fortunate in meeting a situation like this comparing yourself to many millions and millions of person living on this earth who still have not got this opportunity. They are in the wilderness. You are now following a life before you in order to make yourself a light unto yourself. How could that be done? Clear all obstructions within you so that you shine as a pure form as truth and spirit, nothing but truth and that truth always give a certain clear bright light I should say. The word light is not a suitable term to be used but still that is the term when used I would create this impression in you about the nature you will be in at the end of your effort and operation. You are well on the path, you have little more to go, but the only thing is don’t be hasty, after all you are fighting against a battle, against an enemy that has existed in you for many many many many thousands of years. You have accepted this enemy, you have looked after him, nurtured this enemy, promoted all that he wished and now you turn your back against him and say, I don’t want you, you have misled me, you have subjected myself to all the torture on this earth, I no longer wished to have you with me. But such a statement can only be made by a person who has liberated. In the course of action you take to liberate yourself, well you have to see both sides. What you have been subjected to and what you are achieving now and patiently proceed without creating a dissatisfaction about anything. Always considering that we are living in a world of delusion and it is nature of delusion to always delude you, mislead you and represent matters to you so that they appear to be true when they are not true. That’s the nature of things and you pursue your task to such time the realization of the truth dawns to you that there is no being in you. This mind and matter has existed for many millions of births as an entity creating a false impression in you that you are a being and look at that delusion you have got out. And you are very fortunate that you are now on the path for your liberation. When you are liberated, you will not be there, the so call imaginations you have created in your mind about the being and all appendages and all let us say accompaniments which you had created as a being no longer exist in you now and you are free. You have lived your life, done what you could have done, that’s nothing more to do once you have liberated and that satisfaction will come to you, I have now finished my task. That is the satisfaction that must come into yourself, I have finished my task, I have no more to do, I am liberated.

May you all attain Nibbana.

Thank you.






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