Heaven in the Mind, Hell in the Mind

Luangpor Thong Abhakaro


Bless all of you here. I was invited by the manager to talk at CTCI corporation. I am so pleased to be here and meet all of you.

Today's topic is 'Heaven in the Mind, Hell in the Mind.' Some people may understand the meaning, others may not.

Accordingly, the heaven we have heard about, or have been taught for hundreds or thousands of years from our parents, grandfathers, grandmothers, is that heaven is a place outside of us, so high and far away that we can't even see it. That is the heaven we all know of, or have been taught about, so we are unable to know while we are alive.

It is taught that in order to go to heaven , we must do good deeds, or gain merit, so we can go to heaven after death. In heaven, there are many levels, from the lowest to the highest. If we have not done many good deeds, we will be in the lower level. If we did many good deeds, we will go to the higher level. So it is said or taught that we must do good deeds, make a lot of merit, and render services. So that when we die, we can go to heaven. Therefore, we do all of our good deeds and expect the result in the future or after death instead of getting it now.

Let's think carefully, since now we do not yet know what heaven is or how its tastes but we hope for it after death. Is it possible? Right now, at this present moment, we still cannot touch it and yet we want to get it in the future, it's impossible. It is not provable.

We have been taught this way for so long that we forgot the truth or misunderstood it. Therefore, we do not see the real heaven in this life, and hope for heaven in the future. It is the heaven of people who do not know, do not see, or do not understand Dhamma. It is the heaven of people who do not know themselves, do not see themselves. It is the heaven of one who forgot himself.

The heaven of one who knows himself, who doesn't forget himself, exists in the present. It is to know, to see, and to touch at the present moment. As it was mentioned in the texts, there is nothing outside of ourselves. It is close to us. It is quoted that 'sacha' means good humor. Good humor means that when our eyes see something, we are not happy or sad - that is heaven. If we don't have anger or hatred in our mind, that is heaven, that's good humor. While we are seeing, observe our mind, and our mood. If the mind is normal - that's heaven. Similarly, when our ears hear any sound, good or bad, beautiful or not, if we do not feel pleased or displeased, that is heaven.

This kind of heaven is provable. Everyone can prove it while still alive. Don't waste your time talking about the future. Now, at this moment while you are listening to me, can you see your mind? Can you see your mood? If right now your mind has no pleasure, no displeasure, that is heaven.

As they say, "heaven is in the mind." If one wants to go to heaven, one should keep one's mood and mind in a normal state. Now, at this very moment. If it is good in the present moment, there is no need to hope for heaven in the future. Because if there is heaven now, there must be heaven in the future too. If there is no heaven now, there is no heaven in the future either. Even though we desire it, hope for it, and pray for it, we cannot get it because it is not provable. What we have spoken about is the truth. Usually people talk about not provable things. So we were lost and stuck and can't find the way out. Therefore, we have doubt about our actions.

Next, we'll talk about "hell."

Hell is in the mind. Whenever our mind is suffering, we are in hell. When our eyes see a person or an object, we become displeased or unhappy, that means we are already in hell.

Therefore, when we see anything, we should look into our mind. Don't let it disturb us. Whenever the mind feels uneasy and confused, that is hell.

If what we have seen or known disturbs us for many hours or many days, it means that we have fallen into hell - floating and sinking in hell for many hours or many days.

In the same way, when we hear any sound that makes our mind become uneasy and confused, that is hell. Therefore, when we hear anything, we should look into our mind. If we are unhappy, we again are in hell.

This kind of hell can be proved now, at this very moment. Now, while we are sitting here, if there is a person that has done something bad and doesn't feel guilty, but we are irritated by his action, then WE are in hell.

In brief, heaven is in the mind, and hell is also in the mind.

If after we have heard all of this, we still don't change our attitude towards heaven and hell, and still hope for heaven, and still do not see our own mind, I will be disappointed.

The hell and heaven that I have talked about is provable. I want all of you to touch the real heaven and the real hell now, at this moment.

The eyes' only duty is to see. The ears' only duty is to hear. What really matters is the minds response to seeing and hearing.

Our mind and life is very difficult to control, to take care of, and to understand. In order to see our mind and our life, the Buddha taught that we have to have self-awareness, or sati. If we don't have self-awareness, we can't see our mind, thought and life, no matter how much we think and ponder.

Therefore, the Buddha taught us to be aware while standing, walking, sitting, lying and of all of our bodily movements; then we will be able to see our mind and our life.

If we cultivate self-awareness and have self-awareness, no matter what happens in our mind, we will see it. Whatever is dangerous to our mind or our life, sati will do its duty to protect us from it.

It is said in the Pali texts that "...one who has self-awareness is happy everyday" and "...happiness is not far away if we have self-awareness." If we don't have self-awareness, wherever we go seeking happiness, we will never find it.

I would like all of you here to practice and develop self-awareness. We can do it anywhere, any time, and while doing any kind of job. While we are doing our job, be aware of our bodily movements, our actions. This is the way to cultivate self-awareness in daily life because no one can stay still. We must know and be aware of our own actions. But there is a technique to cultivate self-awareness. If we cultivate and accumulate self-awareness, our sati will become stronger and stronger.

The method that I am going to suggest and demonstrate is easy. In this method, don't stay still, don't close your eyes, just be natural. Closing your eyes and ears is not natural.

We can practice this method even when we are traveling. At this present moment, wherever we are, whatever we do, we can use any bodily movement's to cultivate our self-awareness.

This method is in accordance with the Buddha's teachings about "akaligo" - it doesn't depend on time or place. We can prove it easily.

If we are interested in our own lives and are sincere with ourselves, it is very simple.

This talk is about the truth that exists in a human's life. Whether anyone knows it or not, it's always there. It existed even before the Enlightenment of the Lord Buddha.

So we are only talking about what we can prove while we are alive, not something not provable.

For whoever would like to prove the truth, I can guarantee that what I've talked about is the truth that the Lord Buddha taught more than two thousands years ago. There is evidence to support it. I guarantee this with my life. As the Buddha said, 'sacrifice property to keep bodily organs, sacrifice organs to keep life, sacrifice life to keep the Truth.'

You should not believe what I have said, but prove it for yourself. If anyone just believes me, that's wrong. Change your mind - don't just believe. Prove it with yourself and thoroughly understand it - then believe. Otherwise, whom should we believe? The Buddha? Don't even believe in the Buddha or teachers. We must believe in ourselves. The Buddha taught us we will be our own refuge. The Buddha said 'attahi-attano-nato' - "One is one's own shelter." Since most people have no shelter, they turn to something else which prevents them from finding the real shelter.

This article is from the book Beyond Text, Beyond Scriptures by Luangpor Thong Abhakaro.

Last update: July 14, 1996


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