This afternoon I spoke about Quantum Physics, and I won't do that now, so you don't have to worry. What I want to talk about is, how we live a quality life in the modern world. All of us live in a world that's filled with technology, filled with entertainment, filled with sense data that's constantly bombarding our minds and bombarding our senses.
So our topic tonight is how we turn our minds around to look inwards to the source rather than being caught up in the sense data. This requires practice. Whether you're a layperson or a left-home person, the only possibility of turning the situation around in any time, but particularly in the modern world, is through rigorous practice.
The first step for any of us to try to solve those basic problems is to find our mind where it's silent, to experience the silence of the mind, the silence of the body. Every day we have to practice being quiet. This isn't just meditation, although meditation is certainly the concentration of the mind and includes this silence. But this silence is something that needs to be practiced at every opportunity that we get.
In the Theravada tradition there's a list of seven factors of enlightenment. These seven factors are the basis of cultivation, and I'll go over them quickly. The Buddha said that first of all, "when secluded..." and you'll notice that the Buddha's first two words already talk about being quiet. "When secluded, he or she recollects to themselves the readings about the doctrine," in other words, the Eightfold Path and the various doctrines that the Buddha taught.
The second factor is that not only does the person recollect, but also reflects and investigates the doctrine. So it's not a matter of simply calling up the Eightfold Path or the various doctrines of the Buddha, but also investigating, discriminating, reflecting on them.
The third factor that the Buddha taught was that you need to have energy. You need to bring up your
qi and have energy in this endeavor. At this point, the person should go through the experience of having immense nonsensual joy, a sort of self-contained joy that's not dependent upon anything outside. Now this is isn't the joy of enjoyment. This kind of joy is not dependent upon sense data. It's not, "I like this; I don't like that. And since I'm getting what I like, I enjoy it." This joy that the Buddha's teaching here is totally self-contained, totally not dependent upon anything else. And we could even say that it's a sort of sustainable joy based on nothing outside.
This led to the next factor, which is tranquility. At this point the Buddha taught that the mind becomes extremely tranquil and very, very quiet.
At this point the person can concentrate. The concentration that the Buddha was teaching was a concentration that came about as a result of all these factors that we've talked about so far. So at this point a person could have samadhi, or concentration.
At this point the person reaches the seventh factor, which is equanimity—the equality of everything. Nothing is more or less;, everything becomes totally equal, and the person becomes totally at peace in his equanimity.
The Buddha taught that this self-possession, the discrimination of principle, the
qi or energy, the joy, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity were all just natural states of human beings, just the natural state of being human.
The question is, for those here who aren't constantly in joy and have immense energy and total tranquility all the time and very good concentration all the time and equanimity all the time, why aren't we in that state?
Of course, most people here in the room are Buddhist, and so we do know what the Buddha taught. The reason we are not in that state is simply because of the desire and attachment that we have.
Actually, in the modern world, all of us in this room are in a very dangerous situation in terms of our personal lives. Each one of us lives at a very dangerous time in terms of finding our own peace of mind and our own meaning in life.
Why do I say we live in a very dangerous time? Because we live in a time where we are being bombarded at an incredible rate by not just random sense data, but by advertising and by symbols and images that have been carefully thought out and carefully developed through using billions of dollars of resources and incredible creativity to hit just those points of attraction that a human being has.
My grandparents, who died at 97 some years ago, basically lived their life on a farm, as many of your grandparents and even parents did if they lived in a rural area. What they met as sense data was the rain and the wind and the water and the soil. There were sufferings that people had, but the difference that you have to understand is that, until very recently, the creativity and intelligence of human beings psychologically had not been put to work to attract your mind in very carefully orchestrated and developed methods.
I would make the statement tonight that cultivation is no longer a question of simply cultivating to get enlightened. At this point in time, cultivation is a matter of: If you don't cultivate, you can't stay sane.
The nature of the world that surrounds us is that there's so much stimulation. For example, on the bus coming over someone mentioned that in Taiwan there are 84 television stations, but we were told, no, there are 92 now. So, in the course of the day there have been many more stations added. Why are there 92 television stations? It's because there may not be something that stimulates them on any one of them, so you have to go through all 92 of them to find something that will stimulate you.
Now we have interactive computers and Internet and so forth. We have all this interactive communication and interactive entertainment, and we all have to understand that as we get caught up in this constant stimulation, that we need more and more and more. What's driving the economic system of every country is the need for ever-increasing amounts of stimulation to keep this "drug" going.
This increase of data and stimulation operates on the neurons of the human mind in a way very similar to heroine or cocaine or any other drug. As the body gets used to that amount of stimulation, if you take it away, the person feels bored, anxious; they're missing something; if only they could have this, if only they could get that, it would solve their problem. Everyone begins to feel a little bit anxious and a little bit bored, and rather than looking to find where that boredom and anxiety begin, they simply turn something on. They turn on a television; they turn on a radio; they call somebody up. And it seems that the anxiety and boredom are overcome, but in fact they are just masked, and you just need more entertainment the next day, the next week, the next year.
Once society gets caught up in this machine, this sense data input system, as it increases and increases its volume and information, we all just become completely lost in this. We can't see our way out, because our value systems and how we see ourselves and each other begins to be caught up in this system.
If you look at every city in the world right now, you can't see this disease that's sweeping across the world and that we're all being caught up in. Why are we working so hard? Because we might get a little bigger house, a little better car, send the kids to a little different school, and so forth. If you begin to look at this system, it never ends. There's no end to this system. It feeds upon itself in an endless circle, including everybody, everybody's family, and every context, and slowly feeds the entire society into it.
At this point in time, cultivation of the mind is essential for our sanity, for us to maintain any kind of balance within the situation that we find ourselves. All of us have to, in our own practice, turn back into our minds, and develop that quiet, that silence, that happiness, that joy, that lies at the core of our existence and isn't dependent upon anything outside.
It turns out that if each of us in this room goes to be silent for an hour or two, the mind continues to scream inside. We can put ourselves in a very quiet place, but the mind continues to come back at us with all the things we've collected within the past days or weeks. So it turns out that this silence for each of us is really going to take some practice to get back to.
The Buddha gave us many methods to quiet the mind. Compassion—helping other people, looking empathetically not just at what our own desires and needs are, but at what other people need and want and trying to help them— obviously takes us out of ourselves for whatever time we engage in that compassion. Being out of our own desires for that period of time has the effect of quieting the mind.
Of course, we all know that this is the issue of virtue. The connection between the quiet mind and virtue is absolute. For instance, the five precepts: Each of the five precepts has something to do with the quiet and clear mind. If we tell a lie, we have to remember that lie. Therefore, we can't spontaneously live in the moment. We have to retain this collection of dishonesties that we're carrying in our mind. If we have never told a lie, we can always be spontaneous, and that spontaneity is a major factor of the quiet mind.
The other precepts operate in much the same way— controlling desire and not altering the mind in some kind of way. [Something missing between tapes] Basically, we in America are hoping that you in Taiwan can give us leadership in this. You as a society and a people are very close to this virtue, to this practice. We out in America, out in California, are pretty far away and the society that we live in is very much caught up in all the things that I've been talking about. We very much hope that each of you can provide leadership to us as to how our lives can be lived in a way that balances this practice, quiet, and all that I've talked about, within a modern society that's quickly developing technology and so forth. If you could help find that balance in your own life, you could help us all to see how to do that.