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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just What is Khammatthana, in Buddhism, from Thailand

Recently I have mentioned, and misspelled, the word Kammatthåna and spoken of Kammathana Dhutanga monks. More and more I am asked to explain terms in Buddhism and I am very careful to separate opinion from fact and many terms are beyond my simple explanation.
The following is from the book "Patipada" by Luangta Maha Boowa and translated by Pannavadho Bhikku. This book and others is available at Forest Dhamma.
Since many people do not have the time or interest in reading the whole book available, and as I said in previous posts, I will occasionally reprint sections of the books I think might be of interest to people
So here you go...

The word “Kammaṭṭhāna” is a technical term, and it is given a special significance
in the way of Dhamma as practised by those who are Dhutanga
Bhikkhus. The true basis of kammaṭṭhāna however, is to be found in everyone
— in men, women, those who are ordained and lay people, for it refers to
such things as hair of the head, hair of the body, and the rest.
Some people may not have understood the full meaning of the word
“kammaṭṭhāna” or “Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna Bhikkhu,” so this book will be concerned
only with the way of practice of Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna as derived from
Venerable Ajaan Mun (Bhūridatta Thera). Outside of this I am not well versed
or experienced in other ways of practice, only having a passing acquaintance
with them without ever having had a chance to become familiar with them.
However, concerning those ways in which Venerable Ajaan Mun led his followers
I understand them quite well, having seen, heard, and practised them.
But before writing about this, some explanation of the word kammaṭṭhāna will
be given, for it is the basis of the way of practice of Kammaṭṭhāna Bhikkhus and
this will serve as a guide to show how it conforms to the practices which will
be described later on.
The word “kammaṭṭhāna” has been well known among Buddhists for a long
time and the accepted meaning is: “the place of work (or basis of work).” But
the “work” here is a very important work and means the work of demolishing the world
of birth (bhava); thus, demolishing (future) births, kilesas, taṇhā, and the removal and
destruction of all avijjā from our hearts. All this is in order that we may be free from
dukkha. In other words, free from birth, old age, pain and death, for these
are the bridges that link us to the round of saṁsāra (vaṭṭa), which is never easy
for any beings to go beyond and be free. This is the meaning of “work” in
this context rather than any other meaning, such as work as is usually done in
the world. The result that comes from putting this work into practice, even
before reaching the final goal, is happiness in the present and in future lives.Therefore those Bhikkhus who are interested and who practise these ways
of Dhamma are usually known as Dhutanga Kammaṭṭhāna Bhikkhus, a title of
respect given with sincerity by fellow Buddhists.
A form of kammaṭṭhāna which has been very important since the time of
the Buddha, and is taught by the Upajjhāya (Preceptor) at the time of ordination,
consists of five parts of the body: “Kesa — hair of the head; Loma
— hair of the body; Nakhā — nails; Dantā — teeth; Taco — skin” in both
forward and reverse order. These are taught so that the one who has been
ordained should grasp them as a method of contemplation, going back and
forth over them, time after time until skill is gained and one of them, or all
five, are known thoroughly. For these five are important parts of the bodies
of all men and women.
But that which is called the “kammaṭṭhāna”, which is the “supporting object”
(ārammaṇa) of any particular citta, is of many kinds, and according to the texts,
which can be consulted by those who are interested, there are forty such objects.
The main reason why there are so many different kinds of kammaṭṭhāna
is to allow those who are interested in practising to choose one or more which
are suitable to their characters, for the characteristics of people differ. This is
similar to diseases, which are of many kinds and therefore require different
medicines to treat them.
The method is to take up one of those objects and to repeat its name
(parikamma–bhāvanā) in any bodily position that is suitable or appropriate.
For example, repeating, Kesa… Kesa… Kesa… Kesa..., or Loma… Loma…
Loma… Loma..., having mindfulness to maintain constant control, and not letting
the heart wander elsewhere, while being aware of the particular Dhamma object, the
name of which one is repeating, and not frequently changing about between several
Dhamma objects — which is characteristic of one who is halfhearted and desultory.
One should continue in this way until either truly experiencing the results or
truly knowing that the object does not suit one’s character, before changing
to a new object.
One who truly knows that a particular object suits his character should
take hold of it as the heart’s guide and continue to persevere without weakening
until he experiences the results more and more and goes forward into the ground of Dhamma where it becomes necessary for him to change the
object of Dhamma — which he will know for himself.
The result that comes from practising with these or any other kinds of
Dhamma that suit one’s character, is an increasing happiness and calm within
the heart which one has never experienced before. This calmness of heart
begins at the lowest level, which is the attainment of calm for only a few moments.
Then it increases to a moderate duration, and finally to a state of calm
for as long as one wants to rest, and to withdraw from it as one wishes. This
last state of calm is much more subtle, deep and intimate than the others.
While the citta is calm it can let go of all those emotional disturbances
which normally trouble it in various ways and then there remains only the
“knowing” and “brightness” which are innate qualities of the heart, as well
as happiness which arises from the calm, and accords with the level of the
heart. There is nothing else there, because at this moment the citta is without
any objective support (ārammaṇa) and it is its own self and alone. Even if there
are subtle kinds of kilesas within it they do not show themselves, for it is like
still, clear, unclouded water in which any remaining sediment has settled to
the bottom and does not make the water muddy, so that it is clear and clean
and fit to be used for drinking, washing or anything else.
The heart which is without any objective support is peaceful in itself and
for however long it stays alone it will be happy, wonderful, meaningful and of
great value causing “the owner” to admire it long and much while it remains
in that state. In that it is both meaningful and wonderful it never becomes
insipid even long afterwards. This is because the heart which is profound and
wonderful is already within oneself, so that when it is cleansed and one goes
inside and truly reaches it even for only a moment, it immediately shows
one by direct experience how wonderful it is. But if one lets it go, letting it
slip out of one’s hands, and it deteriorates due to not truly going back to the
method of practice or trying to develop it further, it will cause one to long
for it and to feel very upset that one cannot get back to that state of the citta.
It is probably for this reason, that at the time of the Buddha, the heart of one
of the Sāvakas developed and deteriorated up to six times, until he became
very disappointed and sorry because of his longing. But finally he became one of the Sāvaka Arahants because exertion and striving acted as a bridge that
made the link, enabling him to penetrate and reach the Deathless (Amata)
Dhamma — which is the realm of happiness. This he did by relying upon the
Kammaṭṭhāna Dhamma as the way to go forward.