“The body is in pain, the mind is not.”
I wrote this book after I was admitted into hospital for spinal surgery, remaining there for over three months, and later for months at home while recovering.
At first, I would like to pay high respects to the Triple Gem, the ancestral teachers, and His Venerable Luangpor Samran Dhammadhuro.
Thanks to the doctors, nurses, and all the hospital staff, monks and Dhamma fellows at Wat Pa Dhamma Utthayan, as well as my mother, my mother-in-law, my wife, my two daughters, friends, students, clients, all those who visited, and all those who sent their regards.
Thanks also to the authorities from the Ministry of Labor, Social Security Office, Dhipaya Insurance, 3K Battery, Thai Theparos (The Manufacturer of Golden Mountain sauce), Saint Gabriel Foundation, and companies in the Siam Cement Group who supported and took good care of me.
May I invite the power of the Triple Gem and all the holy beings to bless all of you so that you may achieve all the wishes you may have.
Body may be in pain, but not the mind
May the Dhamma rise in you, all respectful people who share the path of birth, aging, sickness, and death.
During my admission to the hospital for spinal surgery, I took the opportunity to visit other patients and kept audio recordings which later turned into this book. Throughout this time I was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk, because of the spinal surgery which left two pieces of metal, four knots, and a wire within my body. After the operation all the fingers and both my hands were nonfunctional. I could not even go to the bathroom or eat by myself.
However, I related to it as pain only in the body. The mind did not hold any suffering. Although my hands and legs were not functioning, my mouth and brain were fine so I had to continue my contribution, to continue being in the present moment.
The benefit of getting sick is that it opened up free time for me to practice meditation, and it also allowed many rare experiences to test and develop the mind.
This book (these recordings), are meant for patients, caretakers, relatives, doctors, nurses, medical staff, and anyone. They can read or just listen to it, then put the suggestions into practice. Let your mind be at peace. Being at peace is especially important for the patient’s relatives and caretakers. They need to understand this matter well. Please do not let your mind be weighed down and suffer, as this will add extra pressure on the patients.
Patients need treatments both for the body and the mind. The same goes for their caretakers; they also need to take care of their own minds and bodies. If one of them is weighed down this will affect the others. One needs to be strong and be mindful at all times to be a good patient visitor. An unskillful visitor can not only weigh his mind down, but also the patient’s mind. Or even worse, he can weigh the doctors, the nurses, and the whole hospital down too.
It is OK if you do not understand this book after the first reading. Listen to or read it several times. You can also pause and contemplate at any given time. There is absolutely no need to hurry and rush to the end. Listen to the recordings or read it while simultaneously observing your mind. Whatever happens in your everyday life, always remind yourself of what is shared here. Enjoy observing your mind.
Sharing the teaching that is suitable to Dhamma background
While in hospital I got a chance to visit an elderly man, named Mr. Tongchai. He was nearly 60. He was diagnosed with colonic cancer. His ward was on the same floor as mine. I had been looking for an opportunity to go talk to him for several days, however, I was not sure if he and his relatives could take my Dhamma sharing or not. Some people do not even want to resort to the Dhamma even when they are so close to their death.
Luckily, Mr. Tongchai let me visit him. When we first met, I introduced myself, but did not hurry into teaching him right away. This kind of thing needs the right time and place.
In the beginning, I had to evaluate which level he was on. The most fundamental level is to believe in the law of karma Luckily, he did believe in the law of karma. He had another job as a fortune teller.
Depending on which level the listeners are on, share with them the respective, suitable teaching, starting from building faith, even if it may just be a blind faith at first. Once their faith is well established, then introduce them to the merit making and giving: how to practice skillful generosity in order to yield the most benefit.
If they already know how to make merit and are able to be skillfully generous then advise them to follow and keep the precepts. Five precepts are simple and practical for daily practice.
If they are already able to keep precepts, then suggest that they cultivate diligence, effort, and perseverance in meditation.
The meditation that I recommend is the Practice of Mindfulness: observing the mind, investigating the mind, and enhancing the power of mindfulness, according to the guidelines of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Buddhism.
Meditation helps to liberate the mind and brings about complete mindfulness. The higher level of practice is the cultivation of genuine wisdom that cuts the chain of birth and death; not ever more coming back to be born and never again dying.
In summary, the foundation of the Dhamma practice starts from recognizing the law of karma, then building faith, making merit and practicing generosity, keeping precepts, and finally practicing meditation. Meditation is a practice to improve the quality of the mind, to overcome the mind. Remember the Thai drama actress of many years ago, her name was Bhavana Chanacitta (which means meditation overcomes the mind as literally translated in Thai.) That is the meaning of the word ‘meditation’.
Mr. Tongchai already had faith. He carried many Buddha amulets with him and had his house full of Buddha images. At the hospital, he always had flowers and garlands to offer to the Buddha. He regularly made merit and always kept precepts. However he had no idea about meditation. He chanted prayers. However praying is different from meditation. To meditate is to improve the mind, to overcome the mind, to liberate the mind.
What is the mind?
So I taught him about the mind. As soon as we would like to practice meditation, we first need to start getting to know the mind. We can roughly find the mind by being aware of its activities or mind manifestation. When the mind manifests itself, we can tell ourselves that “the mind is manifesting” or “the mind is rising.”
Mind is an intangible, abstract form. It can neither be touched, nor be seen. But we can notice it when it manifests. Mind and thought are totally two different things. For instance, when we are angry at someone, the mind is in an unwholesome state. We can be aware of its manifestation by noticing subsequent physical changes in several specific muscles of our body. In the case of anger, some people clench the fists, some knit the eyebrows, or some feel their heart shake. The heart is a part of the body and not the mind. It’s easy to find the mind while we are angry. We can realize it’s manifestation when any of these signs occur in our body: clenched fists, blood rushing underneath the facial skin, the rising taste of bitterness in the throat, pounding chest pain, or the uncomfortable feeling as if one’s chest was to explode out of resentment.
On the other hand, when we feel delighted, what changes can we notice within our bodies? The heart seems to enlarge with glee, not feeling as constricted as when we are angry, right? We might feel the heart shaking and blood rushing through the body. The body, hands, and legs may all feel lighter. There are no annoying urges like when we are faced with anger.
So how is it? Do you get some idea of how to observe the mind? Observe it and also investigate it, whether the mind is wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral.
During my sickness, I could not take a bath or go to the bathroom by myself. All the pretty nurses had to help me doing my business. As a straight man, my mind could also manifest. But I had to suppress it, hold it down; otherwise it would have been awfully embarrassing.
When I had itches underneath my cast, I could not scratch them because the cast covered the entire upper part of my body. My fingers could not move, neither could my arms be raised. That very moment when I felt an itch, my mind manifested. My body was struggling. All kinds of crazy thoughts popped up. I call these thoughts that come up when the mind is manifesting, “rubbish thoughts.” They are unwanted thoughts. We should not have these kind of thoughts. They are the consequences of mental formation. These are thoughts that should be stopped and ended. We must refrain from thinking any further. Leave the thought and then start observing the mind. Like His Venerable Luangpu Dul kindly taught us, “Stop thinking and then you will know. The one who knows does not think. The one who thinks does not know.”
When the mind manifests, do not think. They would just be rubbish thoughts. We need to stop and abandon all these thoughts. Turn around to observe the mind, the body, or it can be our own breath until the mind is at peace. Only then, can we continue thinking. A disturbed mind will produce only rubbish thoughts. With a peaceful mind, we can think about the past, the future, or the present. Human beings will always think. But DO think only when the mind is at peace.
Mind, Awareness, and Thought are three totally different things
Before the surgery, His Venerable Luangpor Samran, my meditation master from Wat Pa Dhamma Utthayan, kindly taught me how to calm the mind and let awareness do all the work, instead of the mind. He taught me to clearly distinguish and recognize “Mind, Awareness, and Thought” as three totally different things.
In the past, I was not a Buddhist. When I started to practice, I got confused. What is awareness? What is the mind? What is thought? In the beginning I misunderstood that mind and thought were the same, until I really got down to practice. One exercise was to go somewhere we could get really scared, such as visiting a cemetery alone at night. This is the moment when we can see clearly that the mind does manifest. The mind has power over thoughts so that we can no longer think of anything else but the creepy, scary things. This is the phenomenon when the thought is under the influence of the mind. In that very moment the mind is NOT free – this is the cause of suffering. Suffering occurs when the mind manifests. To be free from suffering, we must liberate the mind. Do not let the mind manifest. Use awareness to have control over the thoughts. Never let the mind control the thoughts at any point.
Awareness is the knower. Just being aware, and not forcing or controlling. To be aware of the body; its condition, posture, weightiness (heavy or light), temperature (hot or cold), etc. Be aware of the feelings; pleasant or unpleasant, or neutral. Be aware of your own mind; whether the mind is manifesting or at peace, wholesome or unwholesome or neutral, knowing whether the manifestation of mind is forming, remaining or has come to an end. Be aware of the state of the mind; whether there is any hindrance, which could be attachment to happiness, desire, vengeance, stress, worry, restlessness, boredom, tediousness, etc.
During sickness, you have lots of free time. Do not just lie down, or sit around doing nothing. Do try to exercise. Do not just stay still. The muscles will just be weakened and waste away. While you have the opportunity, please contemplate my suggestion; observe how mind and thought are different things.
I would like to simplify the explanation about thought and mind as the following: There are three kinds of thoughts:
(One) The first kind of thought is the rubbish thought. They are thoughts that form as soon as the mind manifests, such as when you have been diagnosed with the terminal stage of cancer by your doctor. At this point of time, when the ears are in contact with the noise, immediately the mind is weighed down. Being weighed down is the symptom of mind manifestation, such manifestation is usually unwholesome. Be vigilant at this point! Are you able to detect the transition of feelings and changes in emotions? When the mind manifests, within a millionth of a second, the rubbish thoughts will spew out, such as “Oh, my god!”, “I’m a dead man!”, “I’m doomed!”, “My life is totally over!”, etc. From then on, the rubbish thoughts will make the mind tense, nervous, anxious, and keep on thinking. Have you forgotten the teaching? You need to stop thinking. Hit the break on the thoughts before it’s too late. Do not let the rubbish thoughts out. Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop, Stop it. Then immediately investigate your body. Talk to yourself in silence. Narrate the status of the body to yourself, such as “My chest is heaving”, “My heart is pumping”, “My blood is rushing up to my face.” Do it just like how a commentator would narrate a sporting event. “Ah, there…the mind is manifesting”, “Such rubbish mental formation is taking place”, “These are restless thoughts.”, “The manifesting mind, don’t think too much for now”, “Oh, this is what they call suffering.” Maintain your observation and awareness. Be aware of the body. Be aware of the feelings. Be aware of the mind. Be aware of the nature of mind. Maintain your awareness of the mind and thoughts. Until the mind is eventually at peace, that is when you know you are mindful. Take a deep breath. Do not make a fuss. Continue observing the mind. The mind is of a funny nature. When we observe it, it would just shy away, getting embarrassed, eventually it will calm itself down. If the mind were a cow that was tied to a pole, the cow would just stop moving when we gain awareness, as if the rope was being pulled. Using an analogy, think of a rat as the mind, and we as a cat watching it. The rat will just stop. It would not dare come out of the hole. So would the mind, once we observe it, it would stay calm. The one who knows, the one who watches, is called the awareness.
(Two) The second kind of thought is called the straying thought. It is the thought that triggers the manifestation of the mind. That is, the mind was originally at peace, then suddenly a straying thought comes into contact, then the mind integrates itself with that straying thought, therefore manifesting itself. This manifestation only takes a trillionth of a second. For instance, one moment, the mind was relaxing with an object of mind (which could be good or bad), like we are watching a movie, reading a newspaper, listening to a music, then suddenly straying thought comes into contact, and the mind weighs down. Just like that! The mind could have come into contact with unpleasant images. Upon hearing the displeasing words, the mind would then be angry, filled with resentment, or depressed.
(Three) The thoughts when the mind is free. These are wholesome thoughts. They are free from any defilement. To liberate the mind from all defilements is the mission of meditation for those who want to be free from suffering. For Noble Disciples, their mind and thought are set apart, like oil on water, like layered cake. But for us, our mind is mashed up with thoughts like scrambled egg. So we have all the suffering, and all the pain in body and mind.
In general, it is easier to clearly recognize the thoughts coming up from manifesting mind than the straying thoughts. And the straying thoughts usually come before the rubbish thoughts. The straying thoughts are difficult to see as they come up so quickly. For a novice practitioner, start by observing these thoughts that come from mind manifestation or the rubbish thoughts. When you have acquired some skill, the straying thoughts can be recognized more obviously. For the Noble Disciples, they are always aware of the straying thoughts, not letting them come into contact with their minds. Even if the straying thoughts could come into contact with the mind, they simply do not let the mind and the thought integrate with one another, preventing the forming of rubbish thoughts.
If we want to be free from suffering, take advantage of free time during sickness to study and comprehend our thoughts. Try to be aware of straying thoughts, the rubbish thoughts, and the manifesting mind. We must watch out for them. Just reading or listening will not help you find them. They are easily recognized when the mind encounters with a strong emotional impact. For example, when close relatives learn about the patients’ condition, there will be a stream of rubbish thoughts when their eyes are in contact with image of the patient. My condition was totally helpless. I had to lie still like a log. I moaned with every move. When my wife visited, her eyes were in contact with those images, her ears were in contact with the noise, and then her mind was immediately weighed down. Her mind was then flooded with so many rubbish thoughts. Let me give you another example, some visitors talked to a hospital staff with just a bit of tone of voice and the member of staff expressed her frustration immediately. Oh dear, please show mercy to the poor patients! They are already stressed. Without the practice or skill to free the mind from the thoughts, all three parties; patients, visitors, and staff; their minds are weighed down.
If the mind is weighed down, it will return to the cycle of birth and death. So take advantage of the time during this sickness to practice observing the mind. This practice of observing the mind is actually a meditation practice. Think of our body as a temple for us to practice. We always avoid temples, neglecting the teachings, when we were healthy and strong. We are lucky to get sick today, so we have all the time to practice observing the mind.
The mind is comparable to a CD-ROM
To make it simple to explain about the mind and the law of Karma, imagine that there is a CD-ROM inside our chest. In the middle of the disc is an empty hole, and the space around it is the area for memory recording.
Our true self is the mind, which is this CD-ROM. The body is just like a robot or a bus, whereas our mind is the bus driver. Our self is our “self”. The body is merely a body. We suffer because we mistake the body as our self. We cling to the body – taking the body so seriously and this causes suffering. The body is just a shelter for the mind. It ages, and breaks down upon usage.
Going to a hospital is like going to a repair workshop. We, as our mind, are the driver. When the mind is sick, it needs the Dhamma medicine. When the body is sick, that body needs a doctor. Do not argue with the doctor. Do not try to be a doctor. We did not go to medical school. Leave the body to the doctors. Let the doctors do what they are trained for. And we are to take care of our mind.
When our body is used up, it will be like an old car that is beyond repair. Any mechanic or doctor will not be able to fix it. That is when we are dead. Dying is just when we or our minds depart from the body. There is nothing to be afraid of. We have been moving in and out of countless bodies. Sometimes we are in the form of human, sometimes in the form of animal. Sometimes we are born poor, sometimes rich, sometimes as a Deva (heavenly being) without a body, possessing only the mind. We have already been this and that for millions and millions of lives.
What determines our form – to be born this or that? It is the manifestation of the mind that defines us. Someone with mind that is often weighed down and usually being in an unwholesome state will have unwholesome Habitual Karma (Acinna Karma). He will go to unpleasant places, to hell, or reborn as an animal, or a Hungry Ghost, as a result of the unwholesome mind. So, do not cry, do not be sad. When our mind is weighed down, the unwholesome data will be recorded on the CD-ROM. It registers our mind activities onto the disc. Once we die, the law of Karma works so accurately as if the god of Death had a computer. He would put our CD-ROM into his computer and it would read out everything we have done. We can never lie to him. Because it would record every single activity of our mind. The CD-ROM witnessed and would record everything. If there is any Weighty Karma which is called Garuka Karma, such as killing an Arahant Noble Disciple, killing one’s own father or mother, or creating a rift in the Sangha community. This Weighty Karma will take effect before Acinna Karma, the Habitual Karma.
We practice in order for our mind to be free, in order to create void on the CD-ROM. As a result, the god of Death’s computer would just crash. That void of recording on a CD-ROM, which the god of Death could not read, that represents Nirvana or Nibbana. When the mind does not manifest, it is free. Free of unwholesomeness, it does not go to hell. Without wholesomeness, it will not go to heaven. Please do not forget that Buddhism’s aim is not to go to heaven, but the Nirvana. Neither heaven nor hell, nor to be reborn as a human; the aim is never to be born again. This can be attainable only when the mind is free. The mind will be free by observing it. The one who watches and knows the state of mind as well as its manifestation is the awareness. While the straying thought, the trouble maker, always induces the mind to manifest. The rubbish thoughts – mental formations, keep the manifesting mind going. That is why I suggested you quickly extinguish the rubbish thoughts as quickly as possible when they pop up. Can you still remember?
On the CD-ROM, if there is only wholesome manifestation of mind recorded or if we always have wholesome state of mind, we will go to pleasant places after death. But if there is only unwholesomeness recorded, we will go to unpleasant places. What we DO want is the mind that is neither wholesome nor unwholesome. The mind that is called Abyakata (which means ‘neutral mind or free mind.’) We can see that the middle of the CD-ROM is just the hole. When the mind is free, there is no recording. When the entire disc including the hole and the recording area is void of any data, empty – that is the Nirvana. As some venerable monks refer to this state of mind as a ‘completely free mind’, that is when the recording area and the center are void of any data.
How important is the mind before dying?
Many people are reckless because they misunderstood that only the final mind state just before death would determine where they would end up. So they told me that they would do whatever they want. At the moment before they die, they will, only then, manage to concentrate their minds. Upon hearing that, I had only to correct them. Now listen carefully.
(One) If you have conducted the Weighty Karma, Garuka Karma, i.e. killing your own father or mother, or creating a rift in the Sangha community. This kind of Karma will take effect first, regardless of your final mind state.
(Two) If you did not conduct any of the Weighty Karma, then you might have the Habitual Karma, which means the action that you conducted repeatedly as a habit. The Habitual Karma would take effect before your last action or the final state of mind. Don’t be careless. Some people have the habit of drinking regularly, and they tell me they are not alcohol addicts, they just drink for leisure. But they drink every day. In fact, this is indeed a habit. Some people are moody. They can be upset with any small thing. For these types of people, they should not expect their final Karma or so-called the Death-Proximate Karma (Asanna Karma) to come to their rescue. The Habitual Karma would overtake the Death-Proximate Karma. Some people’s mind gets weighed down and get sad often. Life is already full of sorrows; still they just love reading sad stories, or watching sad movies. And whenever they do that, they are so moved and absorbed into the stories that they can cry incessantly. They often weigh down their mind as Habitual Karma. I hope that you all are free of unwholesome Habitual Karma. A wholesome Habitual Karma would be really advantageous. Making merit, giving, keeping precepts, and meditating regularly so that they become your habit. That is why people in the past usually taught their children to pray every day, so it takes place repeatedly, forming a habit.
(Three) If you have neither Weighty Karma nor Habitual Karma, then it is up to the final state of your mind to determine where you will go. But what if we die from unnatural causes or sudden death? How can you manage to concentrate the mind in time? Some already died and became Hungry Ghosts without acknowledging their own death. They were still worried about their house, their wife, their belongings, and they ended up being a Hungry Ghost, a fox, a gecko that would keep watch over their possessions. Please do not be careless.
(Four) However, the most important problem is that we do not realize that the mind and the thought are two different things. Some people have been Buddhist for all their lives, but still they have no idea that the mind and the thought are two different things and how they can affect one another. There was a patient who always chanted prayers and visualized the image of the Buddha. He also had Buddha images all around his deathbed. However he could go to an unpleasant place after his death. Though his mouth was saying prayers, but his mind was overwhelmed by the fear of death. His mind was burdened with so many worries about so many things. It was definitely an unpleasant departure.
My dear readers and listeners, try and put one hand on your head and say, “Here is the thought.” Then move the hand over your chest and say, “Here is the mind”. And then move your hand upwards, between your chest and your head, right around your chin. Have your hand up across, with palm down, just below the chin and say, “Here is awareness. Use awareness to prevent the mind from manifesting.” “The mind, don’t you dare mix up with the thought.” “And you, the thought! Don’t wander down to trigger the mind!” “Now, the mind and the thought, you two just don’t mingle, alright?” “Awareness you warn me, OK? As soon as the mind moves, tell me.”
Suppose the mind is a ball. The ball is at the centre of your heart. Your hand below the chin is there to detect the bouncing movement of the ball. The aim of the practice, to attain the Nirvana, is that the mind does not bounce – free from mind manifestation.
Now we have learnt that the mind and the thought are two different things, and then we just keep the mind free as a habit. Then we need not worry about the final mind state. No more worries over a sudden or unnatural death. We have the Habitual Karma of meditating, observing and overcoming the mind. This Habitual Karma would certainly take effect before the Death-Proximate Karma. Even if we are sick in a hospital, this could be really nice. We have the opportunity to observe the mind. Constantly keeping “Free Mind” as both Habitual Karma and Death-Proximate Karma. There have been many who attained Enlightenment, becoming a Noble Disciple, as they were approaching their death. When you are near death, be aware of the mind. Do not get lost in the thoughts. Straying thoughts may come to bully us. Rubbish thoughts would be triggered by the mind that is frightened, scared, or worried. We must be aware of the mind and its manifestation- the rubbish thoughts. Relax the mind. Think of, say and do only good things. Kick out the straying and rubbish thoughts. Just maintain thinking and doing good things. Maintain the awareness. Be aware of the body, the feelings, the mind, the nature of mind. Out of the four; i.e. the body, feelings, mind, or the nature of mind; do observe whichever one that is most recognizable for you.
The final “free mind” goes to the Nirvana, when death comes. Depart with full awareness; the mind will not go astray. Awareness will lead the path to the Nirvana.
Been learning for such a long time, however getting trapped by the idea.
I was with Mr. Tongchai, guiding and teaching him for several days. My attempt to teach him on how to observe the mind had come to no avail. Perhaps it was my incompetent teaching skill or his limited capacities. He was interested only in the subjects of merit making and giving. He showed no interest in observing the mind. Whenever we met, he would ask me to chant prayers, and to pour water (as a sign of dedication of merit), moreover, he would ask me to perform some invoking rituals. This would hold his progress only at the level of building faith.
Now when it comes to the subject of *invoking, His Venerable Luangpoo Chanta Thawaro had taught me to invoke ourselves by ourselves. Hence how could he expect me to invoke any objects for him. I was still in need of medical attention; even His Venerable himself was also confined to a wheelchair.
* (To perform an invoking ceremony is believed to make objects sacred or potent by means of reciting incantations.)
What is invoking oneself? To invoke oneself is, in fact, to meditate to overcome the mind. Have awareness do all the work instead of the mind. Maintain observing the body, the feelings, the mind and the nature of mind. Observe the mind regularly to enhance the power of mindfulness. Mindfulness is indeed the incantation or mantras that invoke us. Please be reminded to leave the tending of the sick body to the doctors, whereas we had better work on developing the mind. Even if the body is perfectly healthy, suffering exists if the mind continues to manifest. We cannot avoid returning to the cycle of birth, aging, sickness, and death. To break away from this cycle, we must maintain mindfulness and keep the mind free of manifestation.
We are free to pursue thinking when the mind is free of manifestation. If the mind manifests, then drop the thinking and observe the mind immediately.
Despite all I have said, the wishes from the dying would have to be granted, so I taught him how to make merit and to give. Please pay attention now.
There are different degrees of merit making. Merit making by means of offering objects, which is at the basic level, does not yield much and may take more than one life time to take effect, e.g, make offering of items, supporting all those constructions. You may want to continue your offerings, but do not expect to demand the returns within this life time. Some temples boastfully claim that the wealth would fall upon you in this very life, citing examples of people who become richer, in respect to the amount donated. Never believe that, you are simply fooled.
The merit making at this basic level could amount to even lesser if it is done out there. It would increase in magnitude if brought closer to oneself. Do pursue the intermediate degree of merit making – that is to completely fulfill one’s responsibility. As a duty of a child to his parent, you had better take care and help them. As a superior, then do take care of your subordinates. It is ridiculous to drive all the way through the night to make merit at some distant and remote temples, while abandoning subordinates in the midst of crisis, and yet telling them that they were to be on their own.
Some pursue merit making at temples, while neglecting their families and households in trouble. They are straying from The Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment; that is failing to rightly perform one’s responsibilities, neglecting the duty as a father or mother, or a child. They just succumb to the greed for merit. Some would just overlook those who are close to them, instead driving all the distance to make merit, merely out of greed, making the merit with an unwholesome mind. This is similar to a direct sale scheme, where one makes the merit simply because one is lured by wealth as an instant return, or when they claimed that there would be no better place to make the merit.
Oh dear! They are deceived by those so-called monks. Moreover, the mind would become unwholesome. And the most incredulous claim from these people is “Merit making here would be expressed directly to the hand of Lord Buddha!” What a claim! The very mind of that merit maker is immediately clouded by greed; the desire for wealth. They are losing contact with awareness, failing to investigate, failing to consult those who know. The rubbish thoughts triggered a mental formation. Awareness is lost. The mind manifestation is taking over the thoughts, and then the thoughts command the hands, taking out and putting forth cash as donations. How ironic! He declined when his own parents were asking for financial help, but when a so-called monk asked for some money for making some sacred objects, he would pay without a second thought.
In order to get a magnitude of merit, one simply need not go far or search elsewhere. To get instant returns (like getting instant cash from an ATM!!) is to make merit at our own mind and body, that is by meditating, cultivating awareness. Freeing the mind for a moment just as short as a snake flicking its tongue, the merit in return is as much as from building seven stupas!
Giving away objects as merit making, no matter if it is done to someone close by or to those far away, the yield is slower than the result when one is calming the mind. Keeping the mind free of manifestation reduces the number of the cycles of birth and death. When the mind ceases to manifest, the mind does not need to return to birth ever again: perpetual freedom from suffering. To meditate by observing the mind does not cost you money. No need to fight for those chances of making merit, leaving you out of others’ quarrels. Your work and duty remain unaffected. The Eightfold Noble Path to Enlightenment is also being practiced.
When someone provokes us, making us angry – we must quickly turn to observe the mind, be aware of the rubbish thoughts. Extinguish these rubbish thoughts; namely prejudice, vengeance and etc. When the mind is free of manifestation, use awareness to do the thinking and to do all the work. Then we will manage to forgive. The Tripitaka states clearly that the merit of forgiving one time equals that of presenting 300 pots of food to Lord Buddha himself. Try and think about this when we have to be at work all day long or when we are sick and confined to bed, making it difficult to go anywhere. Still we can always make merit by forgiving those who have hurt us. We can forgive the hospital staff, forgive those caretakers, our spouse and children. Imagine how much merit from forgiving we could earn within a day! Let’s say, you only forgive once a day, you may have already earned more merit than those who offer the alms to the monks every day. Observing the mind is to dedicate the practices as a form of paying homage. In fact this is to put Lord Buddha’s teachings into practice. This costs us much less than the offering of objects. Nevertheless I suggest we do both forms of merit making as the conditions would allow. Just try to observe the mind round the clock, even in your dreams or when you are sick.
Prior to the departure
Finally Mr. Tongchai departed after months of acquaintance. I instructed his wife and children not to cry at his deathbed, because moaning and crying turns the mind unwholesome; not a good deed. It is the moaners that weigh down the patient’s mind, at the same time turning their minds unwholesome too. Instead, I told them to remind him to calm the mind and prevent the rubbish thoughts from forming, to maintain good thoughts and relax the mind. The mind simply departs the body. Do not fear, death is not that frightening. It is birth that we should be afraid of. The destination of next birth is up to the quality of the departing mind.
Caretakers who would be accompanying the patients at their terminal stage, must maintain their mindfulness. Keep observing the mind. Do not get lost in thoughts. If unable to observe the mind clearly, then you may choose to observe the body. Just before one starts to cry, we can feel the stuffiness pushing up over the chest, the thickening of saliva in the throat. This is the moment that we have to use our strength of awareness to extinguish those sad thoughts. Teach ourselves with good thoughts such as contemplating on impermanence; this helps us to let go. If the thoughts are too strong to extinguish, we can choose to observe the in- and out-breaths, chant prayers, or recite the verses. If the mental formation is not too strong, we can observe the mind. But if it is too strong, beyond our capacities, then we can suppress it by observing our breaths, while reminding oneself that “It is as such”, or reprimand oneself “Stop! Do not cry! Do not think any further!” His Venerable Luangpoo Chah kindly taught us to utter the word “Hmm” as self-reprimanding, to stop the flood of rubbish thoughts. This self-reprimanding prevents any further manifestation of mind.
Mr. Tongchai passed away peacefully at six a.m. His relatives managed to maintain their mindfulness. My efforts did not go in vain.
Fortunate that he had some practice
There was another colonic cancer patient. He was a retired high-ranking civil servant, with a high level of education. His children and grand children were also educated abroad. He had a modern lifestyle and was affluent. I had an opportunity to pay him a visit.
Despite the fact he had been read a great number of Dhamma books, still he had no idea about the difference between the mind and thought. It was fortunate that once he had some training, just days before he passed away, with just a little guidance, he came to understand the difference between awareness, the mind and thought as three totally different things. It is the final state of mind, NOT the final thought that is critically important. Even if one is thinking about the Noble Arahants during his final breaths, but if the mind is burdened with anxiety and worries, this mind is still weighed down by unwholesomeness.
However this gentleman was a good person. He had faith (in the Law of Karma), the practice of offerings/giving, and had been keeping the precepts. The only bit missing was the correct practice of meditation, due to the incorrect understanding of the mind, the awareness and the thought. Finally, he passed away just before dawn. His wife held herself very well and was mindful. I helped myself to his funeral bathing ceremony in my wheelchair. Also telling his wife that, “The deceased are at peace, now it is the remaining one (referring his wife) – who is to continue the practice. Good luck.”
Years of training had been lost in oblivion as he was departing
A 32 year old man who had colonic cancer, who just got married a few years ago; this young man was in the next room. When in pain, he would make such a loud noise that the cries were audible even in my room. Whenever I heard him cry in pain, I would feel compassion for him. He finally died in agony, with the cancer spreading to his lungs. It is a pity that I had no opportunity to share the teachings with him. All I knew was that he had been to a number of trainings at numerous temples. Nurses shared with me that he was only thinking about taking his own life and wanted to jump off the building to his death. It is a shame when one did not read the teachings; greater the shame is when those who read the teachings did not put then into practice; the greatest shame is when one who had extensive practice but failed to apply what he learned in the most critical moment. I presumed he did not know that the mind and the thought are two different things.
The eyesight may be lost, but not the mind
There was one wealthy young man with a great build, educated overseas, and with a very good job. Then old Karma caught up with him and he lost the vision of both eyes in a car accident. It wasn’t just his mind that was weighed down, his mother’s was even worse.
I taught him a number of topics, such as, I said, “On the brighter side of this, there is one less sense organ as an entrance for all the defilements. It was fortunate that you lost your sight but not your life.” For almost two hours, I helped him to understand the distinctive differences between the mind, awareness and thought.
At the beginning, I used the psychological approach by encouraging more positive thinking. Eventually, I shared the Dhamma teaching. I taught him to observe the mind. The eyesight may be lost, but not the mind. We had better look inwards into our mind, rather than outwards to the world.
I cited the example of the outstanding intelligence of King Rama V. How exemplary was His Majesty’s spirits when the great Siam had to witness the loss of its land to the foreigners. Losing the eyesight was not different. Sacrificing a small chunk of land to save the sovereignty of the whole country, the majority of the land was then secured. I also shared with him my story that I could hardly walk, my arms were not fully functioning, I could not fully clench my hands, my back was in pain, but I just did not pay them attention. I surrendered my body to the doctors. I was thinking that my mouth and brain were still functioning. I could use the audio recorder to continue my work.
A poor foreigner
A foreigner was in the room on the other side of mine. He had been in the hospital for years. His wife and children only visited him once in a while. He was already eighty years old. He could hardly hear or walk. He would spend his days either sitting or lying in bed. He was suffering from emphysema as a result of heavy smoking. He had to breathe and be fed via tubes. Nurses had come often to clap on his chest in order to reduce the buildup of phlegm in his lungs. This man was ill-tempered. He shouted, jolted his bed noisily and made loud noises in the middle of the nights. This behavior had exhausted all the nurses. He would spend his days just watching TV. He was stressed out since he had difficulty in communication.
It was unfortunate that I was unable to teach him about awareness. It is already hard enough to deliver the teaching in Thai. This foreigner had difficulty in hearing, also my ability to communicate in English is limited. It was a real pity!
I share with you this story so that you should feel fortunate. For at least, we all can understand all Their Venerable’s’ teachings of Dhamma in Thai. We are so lucky to be born in Thailand, and to know about the practice of mindfulness. Regardless of whatever religion you may hold, so long as you are aware and are able to free the mind from manifestation, just this much will do.
Surrender the body to doctors
His Venerable Luangpor Samran who is also known as “Luangpor Kluay” was so kind to make a trip all the way from Khon Khaen, specifically to visit me at the hospital. His Venerable taught me several topics.
“Surrender the body to doctors”, that is to let go and refrain from thinking too much. Straight after the operation, I was carted to the Intensive Care Unit. I was anaesthetized at 14:00. I regained my consciousness in the Intensive Care Unit at around 23:00. I woke up with dizziness. That was the moment my mind manifested. I had no idea that both my arms would not be functional. Fortunately, as His Venerable had suggested beforehand, I managed to calm the mind down. I was telling myself, “Surrender the body to the doctors” and also added, “Never mind”, “The body and the mind are different entities.”
I was laid, with my face down, over the parted operation table in order to put the cast on my back. The pain was intense with every movement. All I could tell myself was, “Surrender the body to the doctors” and “The body has nothing to do with the mind.” When I encountered the most intense pain, I focused on my breath. Breathing in, I spoke to myself in silence, “Buddh”. Breathing out, with “Dho”. That was how I got through it. In fact I was very lucky to have these practices. The intensity of pain has recurred every day. It has been almost five months that I have been encountering this great pain. Now, pain has become my friend. However, though the body is in pain, the mind is not.
Extinguish the thoughts
His Venerable Luangpor Kluay must have known that I had to go through a major test, like encountering a major challenge for the mind. Before I underwent the spinal surgery, His Venerable taught me, “Extinguish the thoughts, do not let them form right from the beginning.” And that was what happened. The first week after the operation, I could not move. I could only lie on my back, sometimes on the side. All eating, bathing, toileting, and hair washing took place right in my bed. Wrapped in the cast, itches could not be scratched. Even though my head was so itchy and full of dandruff, I could not scratch because both my arms could not be raised.
At night, I could sleep for only an hour and a half. Then I had to call the caretaker to get the nurses to turn me to the other side, because I could not press the call button myself. Not a single finger could be moved.
One night, after midnight, I was attacked by straying thoughts. A feeling of despair just invaded my mind. All of the sudden, the thought poked my relaxed mind. “What a pity!”, “That was so unfortunate!”. I could not observe this straying thought in time, so the mind did manifest. The body was in pain, because it was immobilized for a long time. When I turned to observe the mind, I realized that I had no control over the manifestation. The body was in pain, the mind also manifested. Nonetheless, I thought of His Venerable’s teaching, “When the mind manifestation is powerful, the power of your awareness is insufficient to maintain the observation. Then hold it down, extinguish it right away!” I had no idea, “How am I supposed to hold it down?” At last, I used the power of concentration to knock it down. This means observing the breathing along with the reciting of the words “Buddh” and “Dho”. This is what I suggested earlier, that if the mind manifestation was too powerful to observe, then hold it down. But that was exhausting. When in pain, the thoughts came along. Therefore I stopped the thoughts by focusing on reciting “Buddh” and “Dho”, dwelling in the concentration.
Lately, I have tried a different approach. The mind did manifest again, especially when I was massaged. Massaging pressure can set off great pain. I discovered that it was difficult to recite “Buddh” and “Dho” when others were talking to me, asking me questions. The physical therapist wanted to know if and where it hurt, also expected me to cry out when I felt the pain. As soon as I was engaged in the conversation, the breathing observation was disrupted. When I could no longer observe my breathing, the straying thoughts took over quicker than lightning. Great pain then! I pondered and realized that I should have extinguished the thoughts right from the beginning. When struck with pain, just do not think any further, let it be, just be aware of it. Surrender the body to doctors, “the body is not mine.” When struck with pain, just recognize it. Cry out if needed. Though the body is in pain, the mind is not. Do not fight it, just relax the body. Simply follow through with the movement of pressure from the therapist’s hands.
Nowadays, my muscles become so stiff that they had to be forced apart. Getting out of bed, with the movement of the body, it hurts. When in pain, I drop the thoughts and relax. I have my personal mantra – “Never mind.” My apologies if this sounds a bit impolite. But that works for me. I have to sit up on the bedside and holding on to my wife’s arm and hop alongside to the bathroom. This is why I started calling myself, “the wife’s clinging man,” because whether I was to walk or to eat, I had to cling on to her. To return my wife’s favor, I became her mindfulness training’s exam.
Advice for patients and those involved
Let me summarize simple advice for all who are to interact with the patients, whether you are a relative, a caretaker, a nurse, a doctor, all the medical staff, visitors, or observers, etc.
1) Refrain from asking the same old question : As a visitor, we should come up with positive and entertaining subjects to talk to the patients. However, most of the visitors ask those same old questions, such as “What’s wrong?”, “What did the doctor say?”, “When will you be OK?” Do not forget that these popular questions are repetitively used by everyone! The patients are already drained having to answer these very questions over ten times on some days. So next time when you are to visit a patient, do your homework. Get some ideas about the patients’ condition before the visit, avoiding these kind of questions. Try some other constructive questions.
2) Rejoice in the the merit : I recommend rejoicing the merit you have made with the patients. The visitor should share with the patients about the good deeds they have done, so the patients can rejoice those merits. To rejoice a merit is like “making a copy of the good deeds or merit.” Although the patients were not making those deeds themselves, by rejoicing in the merit, the patients would earn the merit equally as if they had performed it themselves. Those visitors who share the merit would also have doubled the merit every time it is being shared.
3) The customary gifts : Certain gift items are not very useful, like all those bottled chicken essence. The patients receive these items again and again. Some patients try to cook them into broths, offer them to others, yet they are left lying around. What I suggest you do is to call and ask if they are in need of, or short of anything. As for bouquets of flowers, they could turn into health hazards sitting in the patient’s room if they have been sprayed with insecticides. They will do more harm than good. Some patients are more susceptible to fragrances. Gifts we thought of as pleasant smelling could end up nauseating the patients. The gifts with strong odors or fragrances sometimes become so unbearable for many patients. The odors would linger on in the patient’s room, particularly worse in rooms with carpeted flooring that tend to absorb and hold odors for longer. Some doctors cut short their ward rounds, perhaps it was because they cannot put up with the food odors in the patient’s rooms.
4) Do not impose your will on the patients : Many caretakers or visitors like to impose their thoughts on the patients. These folks are dictatorial. For example, the patient might say he wants the air-conditioning to be colder, but the caretaker said it was already cold enough. What the caretaker did not realize is the patient could feel really hot. Well, he is sick and wrapped in cast, no doubt why he wanted the stronger air-conditioning. A patient mentioned he wanted to have a Kluay Khai (a variety of Thai banana), then the caretaker insisted that Kluay Namwa (another variety of banana) is more delicious. In fact, this is nothing short of a deliberate twist. The caretaker was just too lazy to fetch that particular kind of banana. These caretakers are the dictators who are eccentric. Come on! After all they are different tongues; the preferences on tastes are subjective to individuals. When some visitors have brought what they thought as delicious, the patients said otherwise. Yet they insisted the patients finish the food, totally oblivious to the fact that the patients are sometimes not even aware that their gustatory senses have been distorted because they have been on a lot of medication everyday. Or perhaps the patients are simply not in the mood to find the food delicious.
Sometimes patients want the windows shut lest the mosquitoes get into the room. The visitor instead suggests opening the windows would let in fresh air. The patients end up getting bitten all night long. There are so many of these kinds of example. Have some empathy for the patients. They have been both physically and psychologically traumatized, yet we are imposing these insensible thoughts against their will.
5) Observe the mind : The extended period of time in which one is hospitalized is the opportune time for mind observation (practicing meditation). For many who have been using their lack of free time due to heavy workload as an excuse not to practice, well… your wish is being granted along with this sickness of yours! You can now chant the morning and evening prayers, listening to Dhamma recordings, practice observing your mind, etc. It is indeed very fortunate, now that you have all the time you need for Dhamma practice. Utilize all those crazy and disturbing thoughts as your mindfulness training exams. When these thoughts arise, you should then turn to observe the mind.
6) Use your finger to do walking meditation : If your sickness is critical and you are unable to walk, then use your fingers, instead of feet to walk. With the forefinger touching the mattress, recite “Buddh”, the middle finger touching the mattress, recite “Dho.” If you do not like this, then exercise as per your doctors instructions. Raising your right leg, recite “Buddh”, then your left leg, recite “Dho.” Raise your arms or fingers or whatever, just do them. If you are completely unable to do that, you can always observe the rise and fall of your belly. Getting bored of raising the feet? Then switch to raising the fingers. Enough of the finger raising then observe the breathing. When you are bored with observing the breathing then come back to the rise and fall of your belly again. Meanwhile, you can observe the mind and the thoughts.
Train yourself to continuously observe all the postures and every movement of the body. Be aware of those movements, not doing them mindlessly like soldiers marching, moving your legs and commanding “Buddh”and “Dho.” This would be just marking of steps – the actions orchestrated by the mind. To be aware means to recognize the movement of the legs and the changing postures, to be aware of the rising or fading of the feelings. The suffering and aching feeling of muscles would normally be relieved and fade away with the changing of posture. However, it worked the opposite in my case. Every movement would overly stretch the muscles, therefore causing ‘painful feelings’. I was merely aware of these feelings, not thinking any further. Though the body is in pain, the mind is not. All the days and nights during which the body was going through pain, the mind did not suffer. The suffering was kicked away, when awareness is at work instead of the mind.
7) Try to educate the patients : Many doctors and nurses are just too sparse and reserved with their words, hardly educating the patients. This is totally out-of-date. After all, we are living in a learning society nowadays. Please try educate the patients. At least give them handouts to read. Do not presume that all patients are stupid. Sometimes, the patient’s relatives are also doctors, or even professors in medical schools.
8) Role play like in a drama : Service is a difficult job. It is the job that you must leave the “Ego Self” or “Atta” aside. Nurses, medical assistants, the hospital staff, the doctors, the financial department personnels etc., are sometimes unable to contain their emotions. They put on a stern-faced expression through out the year. This is because they have not had any mindfulness training, and have low emotional intelligence. I recommend that they think about it as a role play. You have been cast as a good guy, not the vicious one. The role of the bad guy can wait until after your work shift. Be nice to patients, think of your job as making merit. Do not think of reporting to your shift as a “เข้าเวร- Khao Wane” (time for the bad turns of Karma), that’s very unwise. Instead, consider it a “เข้าบุญ-Khao Boon” (time for merit making.) If you do not have a heart for this job, it would be better to quit. The mind that gets weighed down very often, turning into bad Habitual Karma, would lead you to the underworlds after your death. When you report for work (“Khao Boon”), think of this as “time to practice Dhamma”. Enjoy observing the mind. Whether it is the patient’s relatives, the doctors or your superiors who are taking their turns putting pressure on you, do maintain observing the mind. Maintain your mindfulness. Do not allow the prejudice, biases, anger, vengeance or all the hindrances to take over the mind. You may as well attain Enlightenment in the hospital!
9) Train the caretakers to practice maintaining their awareness : When I was in the hospital, different people took their turns as my caretakers. But in fact, I was skeptical about who was really being taken care of. I had to be turned from one side to the other, go to the toilet, or drink some water late into the night. I tried my best to bother my caretakers the least as possible with these activities.
I sympathized with all the nurses that got called every hour or two. Some of the nurses had been working double shifts for days. When I had to wake my caretaker in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 in the morning, out of their slumber, they were still half-asleep. They were not aware. I asked for some water, but I got a urinal instead. Asking them to raise the bed at the feet, they instead raised the head end. Asking them to turn down the air-conditioning, they turned on the fan. And many more! So eventually, I had to teach them how to build their awareness. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I would holler, telling her to focus on and be aware of each foot touching down on the floor. I would announce “Buddh” and “Dho” with her every step as she was walking towards my bed. When I applied this method for a couple of days, her awareness would improve. However, after a long time not tending to me, her awareness would diminish and I would have to train her all over again.
For us to be competent at teaching anyone, we also must be aware and cultivate patience. Do not get upset. Do not scold. Extinguish the thought that would make us express any negative things. Be compassionate. This is good for both us and them.
10) Chanting prayers : Actually, I would rather you observe the mind. However, many would still prefer chanting prayers. That is OK too. My advice is to follow one of the chanting books published by good temples such as one by His Venerable Luangpor Jarun, His Venerable Luangpoo Chah, etc. The essential sections I suggest are “*the seeking pardons from the Triple Gem” since we might have conducted any misdeeds towards the Triple Gem without our knowledge in this life time or even in our past lives. “The Radiation of Loving Kindness”, “The Dedication of Merit through pouring water”- please share and dedicate the merits with those who we are in debt with deeds from previous lives. If the patient is a monk, we can chant the “Bojjhanga Piritha” to him. “Girimananda Suttta” is also a good prayer for ill monks.
11) Do not add more stress by watching TV or reading papers : Please do not watch or listen to all this stressful information. This heavy stuff will end up buried deep in your head, becoming the nurturing source for defilements. Simply speaking, this information will be stored in your memory unit or your “perception.” When straying thoughts are triggered, all this heavy and crazy stuff will pop up as the rubbish thoughts, developing into unwholesome mental formation. We should consume instead light-hearted information. For those with work that requires a lot of brain power, they should watch comedies or read comics. We should look for the Dhamma movies, however they are hard to find. Despite the fact that Thailand is a Buddhist country, we do not have that many film makers producing such movies. If you do not believe me, try having your blood pressure checked before and after watching a serious and stressful movie filled with violence, shootings and killings. We would discover that our blood pressure would rise. Some people who enjoy watching the news programs and then get stressed out, end up cursing the Prime Minister or the Government and their minds become unwholesome and can be easily weighed down.
13) Asleep during the day, awake at night: It is odd that patients tend to sleep during the day and stay awake at night because they have to go through all those tedious, tormenting procedures during the daytime. The blood pressure is checked at early dawn. For some patients, I could not see any point in having the blood pressure checked every day. It was just disturbing the patient’s resting time. Later in the morning the patients get several more check-ups, taken to physical therapies, and so on. They are drained and fall asleep by the afternoon; therefore they are up and awake at nighttime. On the contrary, the nurses would have to be active during the daytime, while falling asleep at night. Because there are tons of things to get done; they are so busy with papers and files that they forget to take care of patients. Less than half of what they learned from the nursing school was ever used. Those learned psychological skills for nursing were completely forgotten. The clean-up job of patient’s bowel movements is thrown at general staff who only had a couple of months training. Isn’t that weird? The patients are in terrible shape, while the hospitals are awarded with ISO and HA.
Some nurses scold patients, telling them to get some sleep. Well, the patients have slept all day long. As they are about to fall asleep, then it would be the time for the nurses to open the room, to take the trash out, to replace the glasses, to read the blood pressure and temperature. With them coming in and out the rooms with the lights fully on; this would weigh down the minds of not only the patients but also the caretakers. But if we are not taking them seriously, the mind will not be weighed down. So let them be: think of this as “Getting the opportunity to train the awareness.”
14) For the relatives: Please do not bring more pressure : Sometimes it is the relatives who speak too much and are more demanding. They add more pressure on the nurses and other staff. I would ask you not to do that. Say good words, be polite and compassionate, and keep on observing the mind. It would be alright and fortunate if that nurse was kind, otherwise it will be the patient who has to bear the consequences; the resonated pressure. Be wise relatives and do not make unskillful demands and apply unnecessary pressure.
15) Good manners for visiting patients : For the visitors, I suggest they have good manners. Such as; do not make the visits too long, do not ask those same repetitive questions, do not be too inquisitive. Be mindful of the times when patients should rest and eat. Do not make loud noises, disturbing other patients. Do not pry or be nosy of patients in other rooms. Be cautious when the patient is being disrobed, not to embarrass them. Be careful with food odors and small children who might disturb the patients. Do not stare at any patients for a long time, for that might embarrass them or hurt their feelings. It is terrible to look at patients or disabled persons like how you would look at animals in a zoo. If you really want to, please be discreet.
16) Do not pressure anyone : Patients who have awareness, and have been observing the mind and not lost in the thoughts will be in good moods. Do not get frustrated during the sickness. I do understand that there are many frustrations. However utilize these moments to suppress and observe the mind, harvest the power of mindfulness, and investigate the mind. Practice forgiving frequently, maintain a wholesome state of mind and be sweet when it comes to words. Do not be a flirt, taking every advantage of the female caretakers.
Nurses and their teams have sympathetic lives. Throughout the day, they are verbally abused by those mean doctors or the management who are self-centered and self-absorbed. With more pressure from the patients and their relatives, nowadays so few would like to be in the nursing profession. They are all driven away. Some develop a fear of HIV infection. Some think the job would leave them in position that would make finding a husband more difficult. Some complain of unsocial working hours. Please be compassionate and have empathy for nurses and the team.
17) Do not act like you were a doctor : I have seen a lot who acted more competent than the doctors, more knowledgeable than doctors. “I thought they were really this or that”, “That other doctor is more competent” or “The other place (hospital) is better than …” Some of the patient’s relatives took the liberty of drawing their own conclusion without even consulting the doctors. I think this could be dangerous. Some are so stubborn that they do not listen to the doctors. Some stay silent in front of their doctors, but as soon as the doctors leave, they will appear to be so smart all of a sudden. This is indeed dangerous. The four parties; namely the patients, the relatives, the doctors and the hospital staff, work together as one team to treat the patients. All four are in the same boat, therefore, all have to trust and be able to effectively communicate with one another.
Being a doctor is a difficult and exhausting profession which demands a lot of responsibility. The profession leaves little time for their families. They can be easily stressed. Some are outstanding academically, but are reserved in their words. They are brilliantly clever, so they sometimes use so few words, expecting others to remember and understand. “We are not as clever as you, doc!” Our memories are short-lived. We do not have the courage to ask. Even when we did not fully understand, we act as if we did. That is why the doctors became frustrated with us so often. Doctors who often tell the patients off, get regularly stressed and frustrated, please be careful, because their minds will become unwholesome. If the doctors do it often enough, this can develop into Habitual Karma, and they could be in trouble in their next life. Do not even expect to be born a doctor again, I am skeptical whether they would be born a human at all in their next life.
For us, patients, just be patient. Make use of the doctors as mindfulness training exams. The doctors also earn the merit because they are our mindfulness examiners.
18) Do not rush the patients : Sometimes when the hospital management has insufficient manpower – too few nurses, but too many patients, resulting in hastened operations. The bad thing is patients are being hurried through everything. The nurses may have only good intentions with all the urging, because the modern medical guidelines encourage the patients to be active so they recuperate more quickly. But the patients can misunderstand the good intentions of the nurses if there is a break down in communication. Normally the patients avoid arguing with anyone, but such instances could set their relatives on the rampage.
19) Do not be inactive : Whatever your doctors ask you to do, if they ask you to exercise, please do not be lazy. I came across fellow patients who were so inactive, hardly doing anything. They would just watch TV, sleep, chat, or hardly move. They ignored what doctors might have instructed. Do raise your arms or legs, whatever the doctors ask, just do it. Otherwise do not blame the doctors for failing to treat you. But do not overdo what they asked you to do. Do consult with your doctors well.
20) Turn your mind into a temple : Lastly, I suggest that you observe the mind. Do not feel sorry for your destiny. When you feel sorry or pity yourself, that is the moment the mind manifests. The rubbish thoughts have already formed. Turn your mind into a temple. Observe and investigate the mind. Maintain awareness every time you observe the mind. You will earn accumulative awareness. As soon as it reaches the sufficient level, awareness will become automatic or self-generated. This will be a ticket to attaining the fruit of your practice, “Nirvana.”
21) We were not born to repay past unwholesome Karma: Do not misunderstand that we were born to repay the debts from past lives. In fact, we were born to make use of the past karma as a task to cultivate awareness and observe the mind. The greater awareness, the better. Great awareness gives rise to the wisdom that puts an end to the suffering. To observe the mind is simple and by far the shortest path to attain “Nirvana.” Though your limbs may be cut off, you are still able to observe the mind. You do not need to do sitting meditation with crossed legs like others. You may have as many meals, needless to starve because you are sick. You can observe the mind when you eat. Try to observe it and be aware of the trigger, “Is it the mind or the body that demands eating?” When you are sick like this, it is alright being unable to go to a temple. Turn your mind into a temple. All of the 84,000 Dhamma teachings in the Tripithaka are all to do with the mind – to liberate the mind.
May the Dhamma rise and flourish within you. May all realize Nirvana. “Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.” (May your right wishes be realized).