5. Sankhara, Desire & Its End

5. Sankhara, Desire & Its End

By Venerable Amatha Gavesi

Dated: 11/10/1994

Venerable Bikkhus, brothers and sisters, the most difficult to grasp and understand is the first noble truth of Dukkha.  It is a difficult deep philosophy and need a lot of concentration to understand.  That is why you felt in the first picture I gave you, you found difficult to grasp the subject clearly, but listening to the talk I gave you this morning many times, you will be able to clearly see that it is not a difficult thing to understand, but the only thing is certain amount of concentration and thinking will help you to grasp the subject.

In this talk, I shall deal that Sankhara is the cause of Dukkha. That is the subject of discussion, Sankhara is the cause of Dukkha.  Now in the dependent origination, where Buddha clearly shows in the different links, the worldly behavior for worldling.  And in that he has referred to sankhara or activities of these worldling as the second link. It is due to the ignorance this worldling commit acts or sankharas. What are the acts he commits?  He commits the act of seeing, he commits the act of hearing, he commits the act of smelling, he commits the act of experiencing a taste, he commits the act of contacting something, he also commits the act of thinking, these are the 6 things the worldling commits.

I mentioned in my discourse in the morning, that a worldling can do only 6 things and those 6 things are the experiences he gain through the 6 sense bases by the creation of a thought.  Also Buddha referred that through these 6 sense bases, the worldling creates a world around him and he lives in that world.  In the world he has created, he has all the experiences he gained through his eyes, he has all the experiences he has gained through his ears, he has all the experiences he gained through his nose in experiencing smell, he has all the experiences he gained through his tongue experiencing different types of taste, he has all the experiences gained through his bodily contact and he has all the experiences gain through his process of thinking. All that his world contains are contributions by these 6 sense bases.  His knowledge about anything outside or within him is all that the 6 sense bases have created in him.  In other words, we can’t think of anything else outside this activity of the 6 sense bases, as all the knowledge and information and education whatever it may be, all those are the contributions by the 6 sense bases.  In other words, you live in a world of your own. But the world you have created is quite different from the world that others have created.  Therefore, we all live in different, different world which we have created unto ourself.  And commitment of Sankharas has contributed to this situation. Therefore, there are no more sankharas to your knowledge in this world which you have created, other than these 6.  These are all the sankharas you know of in this world. Sankhara as I told you is what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste, what you contact and what you think, experiences you gain through your 6 sense bases. That is all you know, that’s all your knowledge.  That’s the world you live in, there are no more sankharas in anywhere else. You may divide the sankharas into different, different categories. But all put together is the world you have created, nothing else.

Now we have born into the aspect of how dukkha is caused.  Suffering is created. Now we all at second stage, where we distinctly say it is Desire that has created the dukkha. The cause of your dukkha and suffering is desire.  Why did you say that? One question that we have to ask is, when you look with your eyes, is it absolutely necessary that you should create desire? Not necessary.  Can you look with your eyes without creating desire? Yes, you can look with your eyes without creating desire.  At the same time, you can made use of the other 6 sense bases without creating desire. You can see without creating desire, you can hear without creating desire, you can smell without creating desire, you can taste without creating desire, you can even contact without creating desire and you can think without creating desire. In other words, you can commit the sankhara or commit an act through any of these 6 sense bases, without that act leading to the creation of desire.  That clearly indicates that the use of your  6 sense bases do not automatically lead to the creation of desire.  There is a distinct difference between you committing an act to the sense base and that act ultimately leading to the creation of desire as something extra to that commission of that act. May I ask you this question? For instance, if all the activities of the 6 sense bases lead to the creation of desire, would you have been able to stop suffering. Because desire is the cause of suffering, and as long as he uses his sense bases and ultimately those that act which of yours lead to the creation of suffering by desire, there is no end to your existence.  Therefore, bear in mind that the committing of acts by the 6 sense bases is distinct, a clear moment, clear activity, whereas you extend that activity further to the production of desire, is something in addition to your commitment in the act of experiencing something through a sense base. It is clearly stated that the experience you gain through a sense base is the spontaneous activity of the mind. It suddenly happens.  You open your eyes, you see something; the noise occurs you hear, it catches the ears and made to hear, when there is a smell, you get the experience to smell; likewise in regards to the activities of the other sense bases, it’s just a spontaneous act.  And in that spontaneous act, there is no desire.  Because that act only perform the activity of the sense base that’s all. For one to have desire, one must experience a feeling.  And if you going to experience feeling, you have to create a thought for that.  You can’t experience a feeling without a thought. Now if I see something and if I want to experience the feeling about what I saw, in the way of either appreciating it as something which I like, or creating an aversion as  something which I don’t like. That is the production of a thought.  So you have then the thought that enables you to see, that is a spontaneous activity of the mind.   

After that then you have the creation of your own thoughts, in the pursuit of what is pleasant or in the pursuit of what is unpleasant and creating an attachment to aversion.  That’s something which you are got used to doing it now. It is habit now in you, whether you do something, when you see something, you begin to think about it and create this attachment to aversion. Therefore creation of desire is an activity committed fully by you.  In your effort to enjoy what is appealing to you as good and in that disappointment to create an aversion to what you did not like.  In that enjoyment you also to create a thought to enjoy it and enjoy it; in the creation of an aversion you also create a thought of aversion. Now there is an object that has caught your eyes and spontaneous activity of the mind has created thoughts for you to see.  That act is over.  Then you produce a thought because that object is to your liking, to pursue that liking, to enjoy that liking and create an attachment. Again thoughts. If that object is not to your liking, you create a thought of aversion.  Something which you don’t like and you express that by creating aversion towards it. So this attachment and aversion are subsequent products on your part which you wilfully commit after the spontaneous activity of the mind has enabled you to either see or hear or smell or taste or contact or think.  Now we have created such a strong habit in your mind to pursue all objects that attract the 6 sense bases.  And create either an attachment to the object if it is to your liking, or create an aversion to the object if is not to your liking. This activity of creating an attachment or creating an aversion are the result of subsequent thoughts you create in the mind pursuing such activity. Therefore, there is a distinct difference between the spontaneous activity of the mind when an object has caught the sense base to create a thought that enable to perform the activity of the sense base.  That’s clear.  Subsequent activity on your part, in pursuing  something which you like by the creation of a thought or something which you so pursuing activity on your part in the way of creating hatred to the object which you did not like.  That is the position or that is the situation in regard to the creation of desire in you. In other words, desire is something foreign to the original mind.  You have as a result of your own activity brought about desire into contact with the mind and it is now being maintained by you as a volunteer.  So long as it is something foreign to the mind, it has to be maintained.  If it is something as a quality of the mind and it is the original quality of the mind,  it is being maintained automatically. But this is something which you are introducing into the mind from outside, as a result of creation of thoughts subsequent to the act committed in experiencing an object at the sense base. Therefore, your life as a worldling is maintaining desire. Every experience you gain through your sense base, eye, you pursue that experience further and create attachment to aversion and thereby promote desire. In the same way regards to all objects that attract the other sense bases, you pursue these extra activities on your part in the way of creating thoughts and then creating an attachment to aversion to promote desire. 

Buddha clearly indicated that in his discourse given to you, to get rid of desire.  In his discourse he gave you to get rid of desire, what did Buddha say?  There are 4 things about which you must be careful.  That is about your body and the body of another. Be careful. Mindfully see that. You do not permit subsequent thoughts to occur and promote desire.  In regard to feelings you experience through your 6 sense bases, you must be careful to see that, after an experience of that nature not to permit the mind to create thoughts and in creating attachment to aversion thereby promoting desire.  In regards to the creation of thoughts in you, once the thought is created, you must be careful not to permit the mind to create more thoughts about that thought and multiply and then create either attachment to aversion and thereby promote desire.  In regards to the development of your mind along the path shown by Buddha, there too don’t allow this activity of creating unnecessary thoughts promoting attachment to aversion and feeding desire.  That’s the simple instruction given to you by Buddha to get rid of desire. Clear instructions given to you by Buddha to get rid of desire. Attend to these 4 things carefully and then you will by degrees, by making the desire to disappear little by little, not being fed by subsequent thoughts after an experience gained through a sense base; you allow that desire to disappear. When you think of any habit which you have cultivated, so long as you maintained that activity promoting that habit, that habit is strong.  If you do not commit activities to promote that habit, that habit becomes weak and it tends to disappear.  Isn’t that the way we get out of such situation realistically in life. For instance, if you are a person who is addicted to liquor, you would carefully see that you would not commit acts of taking liquor, and thereby maintaining that habit.  And if you carefully keep away from liquor for some time, the habit disappears. It’s the same in the event of any other habits, and that is why I though is not a really applicable term to be used to describe desire, desire is a habit which you have created in your mind. You treat it that way, are clear for you to understand the path shown by Buddha to get rid of this habit. This habit is maintained as a result of experiences gain about your body and the body of another. Experiences gained as a result of feeling through experience through objects received by the 6 sense bases.  And also as a result of creation of thoughts and the forth not permitting such situation to arise when you are taking actions against desire. A very simple approach he gave you to get rid of desire. And bear in mind that it is this desire that has created this suffering for you.  One would ask the question how can desire create suffering in me? Desire create suffering in you, brothers and sisters, desire promotes the continuity of your life further and further and further. Desire promotes grasping. Desire promotes becoming. And Desire promotes the birth.  It is the birth that is the cause of your suffering. Who creates the birth in you? Desire creates the birth in you.  If you get rid of desire, there is no grasping. If you get rid of desire, there is no becoming. If you get rid of desire, there is no birth.  And you have completed your task.  That is why we say Sankhara is the cause of desire. Why? Sankhara are the activities of the 6 sense bases. And now that you have create the habit of pursuing these experiences further than just creating a thought of experiencing the object, you are pursing that object further thereby create thoughts of attachment to aversion about that object, it promotes desire. Therefore, Sankhara is the cause of desire.  You as Buddhist who are practicing, or proceeding along the path shown by Buddha for your liberation. This fact must be clearly noted by you. That Desire is not a quality of the mind, desire is what you have created and still it is maintained by you, therefore it is causing you a lot of inconvenience in the way of creating births after births and continuously carrying on this cycle of existence, birth.  Desire! Who introduces this desire? No one introduce this desire to you.  Buddha was asked this question by a certain Brahmin.  How did one experience this desire? Buddha said from the day you experience objects through the 6 sense bases and after experiencing objects through the 6 sense bases, you pursue those objects, to enjoy what is pleasant, you created desire which promoted attachment. And he says if the object is not to your liking, you create the hatred or an aversion to the object and that too promoted desire.

Therefore this is something which we are maintaining brothers & sisters, this so call desire. So long as it is maintained, it is strong in you.  So long as you maintain this desire, it is creating birth after birth for you.  And it is this birth, which becomes the cause for Dukkha. Therefore every birth you experience, you are subject to suffering. The only way to stop suffering, is to stop the creation of births, further births. How could one stop further births?  One should stop becoming.  Now how could one stop becoming? One can stop becoming only, brothers and sisters, when the fully aware is dawn to you that there is no being in you. It is this being which you have created in your mind that promotes the becoming. This being wants to become until up to the end of your span of life, the last thought is thought promoting a becoming, Kamma Viññāna. And what creates this becoming? The original creation in the Sankharas, this so call imaginary being in you, as the person who commits the Sankhara. You created this at the start. What made you to create that?  The very consciousness  that help you to commit the act of creating a Sankhara that gave a delusion to you, in the way of the very 5 mental factors participating in creating that delusion, that there is a so call being in you. And what are those components that created this form feeling in you? The 5 grasping groups.  What are these 5 grasping groups?  The grasping group of form, grasping group of feeling, grasping group of perception, grasping group of volitional activity and consciousness. They refer to the 5 mental factors which helps you to create a thought.

The first mental factor is contact.  Imagine the contact that you have; the eye contacts an object.  The ear contacts an object, a physical contact.  The nose contacts an object of smell, a physical contact. The body contacts an object, physical.  All these are physical contacts that the mind creates. Now it is the physical aspect in this first mental factor of contact which enables you to have the feeling of that the presence of the object,  physical contact.  And which physical contact contacts the other object? Your physical contact.  That is why it is said that mental factor contact creates the form, the physical aspect of it. And that is the personality. Don’t mix up this with the ego.  Ego is something deeper than personality. Personality refers to your physical aspect, and sakayaditti itself is the “ditti” arising as a result of the personality consciousness you possess. Now with this personality concept, you have created with the first contact, it is this person who is living in this personality, this so call physical form that feels, it is the same person who lives in this physical form that perceives, it is the same person who lives in this physical form that creates and commits volitional activity.  And who creates this?  The consciousness creates that. Therefore, this creation of an imaginary being in you when you commit the Sankhara is nothing but the personality of yourself you see created that aspect. More on the physical aspect of your body becomes the leading ingredient in the formation of the 5 grasping groups. This person therefore one can easily say it is this personality that becomes the base creation of this 5 grasping groups.  So that personality of course, the mental factors like feeling, perception and volition certainly contributed much to put the substance into that form and creates this being in your imagination which is created by the consciousness.

This is something very deep, one finds difficult to understand. But brothers & sisters when you advance along the path to a higher stage of attainment, this picture can be visualized better. To beginners it may be something quite foreign and find difficult to grasp.  Let it remain as that for one day you will see through your wisdom what is Sakayaditti means, Ditti means a belief that’s all, is a belief of a being created in your mind.  Believe of a being that’s all. And your personality has participated very actively in the creation of this so call imaginary being in you. Now it is clear brothers and sisters, birth is created by desire.  And if there is no desire, there are no births, future births. Who else created the desire? Sankhara has created the desire. How did Sankhara create desire? After every act you experience through a sense base which is Sankhara, you have pursued that further by additional thoughts created by you in creating the attachment to aversion. Therefore, Sankhara is responsible for the creation of desire.  That is, the substance of the subject which I have dealt with today. 

We go a little further and deal with the other 2 links also. Next truth realized by Buddha is cessation of desire is the cessation of all defilements and enable you to realize Nibbana, cessation of desire.  Sankhara has created the desires, I told you that there is a big difference between the commitment of Sankhara and the creation of desire. The way it appears to be the continuous activity of the mind. No it is not so.   Because the first thought that you create to experience Sankhara is a spontaneous act of the mind.  Whereas the thoughts that you create of attachment to aversion are thoughts which you have wilfully created in full awareness that you are enjoying the pleasant sensation or creating an aversion to that which you did not like, which ultimately led to the promotion of desire.  There is a distinct difference between the first act in the creation of a thought to enable to experience the sense base activity and also creation of thoughts promoting attachment to aversion which promote desire.

Buddha says make use of mindfulness. For what purpose? So that you will not allow this mind to proceed beyond the spontaneous activity in the creation of the first thought to enable you to experience the activity of the sense base. Stop at that.  If you proceed beyond that and permit thoughts to occur, then as a result of the strong habit which you have created, you will either create thought of attachment or thought of aversion.  These are the two extremes that human being normally leads his worldly life. He’s used to that. It has gone right into him and it is functioning as a strong habit in him.  The only way one can take away this is to be mindful of the habit. Now your mindfulness plays a vital role here. You see something take an example, and you create a thought and see it yourself. If you relax at that stage without being mindful, then you fall into the old procedure which you have followed as a habit, could create this attachment or aversion and thereby promote desire. But at that stage if you use mindfulness, after seeing the object with your eyes as a resulting from the thought you have created spontaneously, then brothers and sisters, you will not permit the mind to proceed further in creating thoughts of attachment to aversion.  You stop at that, which is rather easy to explain this in this manner to you. But a person who has developed this habit so strong in his mind, is rather difficult to check yourself at that point with mindfulness and say stop, don’t go further. Buddha realized this.  And having realized this, Buddha found a method to stop it.  What is the method he found? He revealed to the world the true state of things, the realities of life. That everything is impermanent, unsatisfactory and soulless. These 3 truths he revealed to the world, and these 3 truths are not found on the surface, they are found in depth.  That one has to place these things in your mind carefully, so that with every thought that occurs, your mindfulness will bring these 3 truths to the surface and then check you for a moment and of course it must be embedded into the mind very strongly.  And that is why Buddha says that you should develop your concentration. The ordinary mind can think, but it forgets what he thinks.  Therefore this ordinary mind must be sharpened to a tune that it can take in or maintain a thing which it has practiced and then bring that to the surface at anytime it wishes.  And that is the mindfulness, to practice mindfulness, you must develop your mind to realize the 3 realities and it is the samadhi mind that attains that height.  Samadhi mind can always bring these 3 truths to be applied to any situations at any time.  Otherwise if you merely know them, the tendency is, if the object that has attracted the sense bases is very powerful when it attract you, then you tend to forget all that mindfulness has taught you and subject yourself to the creation of an attachment to aversion. Therefore Buddha said practice this impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and soullessness as a meditation so that these 3 principles are well fixed in your mind.  Every way it will come out, by itself when the situation that arises, not permitted the mind to overcome them and then lead you to create the desire.  That is where, that is the very thing that he has referred to in the 4 foundations of mindfulness, pertaining to your body always be aware of these 3 noble truths. Apply that and you shall not get create additional thoughts and create attachment to aversion.

In regards to all the feelings that you experience with your 6 sense bases, apply this noble truth, this realistic aspect of life of impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness  and do not permit the mind to create unnecessary thoughts of attachment to aversion promoting desire. In the event of creation of thoughts, there are two recollect on the realities of life which you have now practiced and well maintained by you in your consciousness.  So that it can come to the surface and check your further movement at any time when an object attracts the sense base occurs or appears. And so is the development of the mind in the Dharma way. That is the gist given to you, brothers and sisters, by Buddha, to overcome this habit which you have created, to create more thoughts after every experience you gained through a sense base and create attachment to aversion.  This creation of attachment to aversion is the thing that feed the desire. It is the creation of attachment or aversion that maintains the desire. In a worldling that is an automatic occurrence.  What is the occurrence? The occurrence of a feeling of attachment or a feeling of aversion in every experience you gain through a sense bases; but in a developed mind this situation is kept clearly by these 3 realities – impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness.  When you go on checking like that, checking like that, constantly, constantly checking, mindfully checking, every occasion when a thought arises in your mind in the way of experiencing some object through a sense base, this is the thing that arises immediately after that experience has been gone through, impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness, you are well protected, guarded. And you must promote this more and more so that it becomes an instantaneous act, immediately occurring after every thought that arises in your mind to experience the object through the sense base.  Therefore there is no possibility, no chance given to the consciousness to create an attachment to aversion because consciousness is checked by this realistic aspect of life well planted in your mind, brothers and sisters.  You are always conscious of it.  When you are walking you are conscious of the realities of life from impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness. When you are sitting you are conscious of these because these 3 habits well planted in your mind as a result of your meditation. That’s object of habit you want to maintain that habit feed that habit by repeating that act as often as possible, that habit becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. After you have create habit and you want to get rid of the habit, check further feeding of that habit by not permitting the mind to create the thought in support of that habit. What happens? Desire which you have introduced into the mind as something from outside, not the quality of the mind and you have been maintaining that desire right through the years and years of existence in this cycle of birth; now you have clearly taken positive steps to see that this desire is not fed any further.  Every occasion when the desire arises, before the desire arises you have the realistic aspect of life dawning into you not permitting by any means to create further thoughts of attachment to aversion. And you go on doing that, doing that, one day this desire will disappear. That is the cessation of desire.  When you have stopped desire, you have stopped grasping, when you have stopped grasping, you have stopped becoming, when you have stopped becoming, you have stopped further births. You will not be born again, you will only be born again that you will subject to suffering, but suffering cannot take all of you because you are not creating another birth, another existence, with the last birth,  you and your struggle in this world of existence and that is the attainment of Nibbana.  That is the cessation of suffering, that is the cessation of committing for the further Sankhara with the false creation in your mind that there’s a being in you. You have ended the task, you have reached the highest and gained your final liberation. 

And the next thing, next truth Buddha realized was the path leading to this cessation of suffering that I have explained to you earlier. Briefly, when you refer in the path it is virtue, concentration and wisdom.  And that I have given you instructions as to how you should developed yourself along the path. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, if you made an effort don’t you feel that you can overcome that desire. How do you overcome desire?  Brothers and sisters, don’t you feel that you can be always mindful of impermanence, unsatisfactory nature of things and the soullessness; plant that truth well in your mind and think about it. If you can’t think about let’s say Dukkha and Anatta, think about Annica only, impermanence, repeat that term as often as possible in your mind.  In every moment of yours that see that that is the thing that arises in your mind, impermanence, everything is impermanent, everything is subject to change, because everything is subject to change that there is empty, there is nothing substantial in it, because everything is subject to change that there is no continuity.  Therefore, if you can be conscious of this impermanence right throughout every time, from the time you get up right up to time you go to sleep, you will gain your liberation and that you could do in this birth, brothers and sisters. This is the clear path shown by Buddha, a practical path which you can practice and attain. 

May you all attain Nibbana. 

Thank you.

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