Foundation Series on Buddhist
Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM)
As taught by
Sister Khema and overseen by Most Venerable “Bhante” Vimalaramsi Maha
the Gift of Dhamma is Priceless!
FS-03-WHAT IS SILA?
Q: What is Sila?
The pali word Sila means Morality.
Wholesome moral living is an important ingredient for the
practice of purifying mind. Without this ingredient, positive
personality changes cannot happen. Generosity
training is the introductory note for the Morality concerto!
When you talk about Morality, people sometimes shut down at the door.
They think, ‘this isn’t anyone’s
business’. They may not
want to listen. But don’t shut
the door just yet, please. What
if morality offered a valuable angle that helps the meditation succeed?
What if you can prove this
yourself? This might
be interesting to check out. That’s
why I am encouraging you to look at morality from an operational
perspective exploring it in terms of basic universal law.
Two parts to Sila.
There are two parts to morality
training. The first part has to
do with Precepts and the second part has to do with hindrances.
It’s important to receive interconnected information about these
two groups before committing to long-term meditation practice.
Otherwise we can’t realize their interconnected nature.
Buddhist meditation is a
training method for purifying mind.
A purified mind leads to clear thinking in the present moment and
opens mind’s greater potential.
The 5 basic precepts are guidelines for smoother meditation and a
balanced life. Breaking these precepts will lead to difficult meditation
and suffering .
Q: What are the
A: 5 basic “pieces of advice”
the Buddha gave.
Do not kill or harm
living beings on purpose;
Do not take what is
not freely given;
Do not commit wrong
Do not lie, use harsh
language, gossip or slander;
Do not use
recreational alcohol or drugs.
Q: Can you expand a
I- Do not kill or harm living beings on purpose.
We should consider that all
living beings have a strong desire to live full lives.
Therefore we should make a conscious effort to handle even common
pests by peaceful solutions rather than just killing them. This is
learning how to co-exist in this earthbound environment.
Q: What does it mean
to kill something?
A: According to the
Buddha, “to kill another being” specifically means 5 things:
A living being must
You must have the ‘intention’
to kill it.
You must have a
You must use the
The being must die.
This is intentionally killing a living being
II- Do not take what
is not freely given.
A painful feeling arises if something is stolen from you.
Do not cause mental or physical harm by stealing.
III- Do not commit
wrong sexual activity.
What exactly is wrong
This means don’t participate in anything that is physically or mentally
harmful to yourself or others.
Don’t have sex with a person who is too young and who is still
living in the care of their parents or guardians. Don’t have sex with
someone else’s mate. Don’t
do anything that causes mental or physical suffering for yourself, your
partner, or anyone related to the situation.
IV- Do not lie, use
harsh language, gossip or slander.
this precept is very watered down. It is not uncommon to hear lies or
harsh speech in our media today and be expected to accept this. People
who pretend this doesn’t matter suffer greatly later on.
We hear around us a battered language reflecting an angry
suffering modern society.
Q: What exactly is
gossip and slander?
A: This is defined for us in the Mahavagga.
saying something behind a person’s back that is untrue without them
being asked the truth of it.
Slander is where someone
makes up lies for the purpose of discrediting someone to cause a
division between two groups of people.
good practice to take a look at what we know
and HOW we know it
before taking any mental, verbal or physical action! This can be a
V- Do not use
recreational drugs or alcohol.
If you use alcohol or
take drugs, this clouds mind. A
clouded mind opens the door to breaking precepts.
What are the
learning meditation we hear about hindrances, barriers or impediments.
Before pursuing meditation
seriously, we should understand how these hindrances can affect our
meditation. They are directly
triggered by broken precepts! The past can mean this life or before.
The consequences get locked up inside of us.
When we begin meditation we agree to open our inner gate so we
can see the consequences of past actions clearly and let them go.
Releasing them clears the way
for the deeper work of purifying mind. The
5 Hindrances are:
Lust, Greed, “I”
want it mind leading to attachment.
don’t want it mind, leading to aversion AND more attachment.
Sleepy and dull mind,
is my fault”, guilt, remorse.
Am “I” doing this the right way?
Can you please expand a little
bit more on these hindrances?
Yes. The personal perspective of
“I” appears in this equation often, doesn’t it?
Lust, Greed, ‘I’
want it mind, leading on to
When you look at the ‘I’ want it
mind, notice there is arising tension and a pre-occupation
with ME and desire. This is where the idea of a personal self
arises. “I” want it! This
leads out of the present moment into thinking, analyzing,
conceptualizing state and imagination about how to make something
happen. How do I ‘get it’,
whatever “it” is? This
becomes an exhausting obsession, a driving force.
There is a pulling sensation as your attention is pulled away
from whatever you are doing.
Hatred, ‘I’ don’t
want it mind leads to aversion and more attachment;
hindrance also arises with a tension and tightness in mind/body as a
similar thinking process pulls attention from the present moment.
There is a desire to push it away and then there also arises
a pulling sensation which is attachment in our mind as we demand a
solution! Both happen in
similar ways because of the personal perspective involved. Hatred
and aversion do not lead to satisfaction and calm.
Instead, they lead to an emotionally active mind full of
suffering. “I” struggle and
“I’ suffer to make things the way “I” want them to be!
That’s a lot of pushing and pulling going on.
Dull and sleepy mind; sloth
and torpor; “I’m” Tired;
one is a favorite hiding place everybody uses at one time or
another. Remember a time
when you were down about something or you felt like things were not
working as smoothly or as fast as you wanted them to? Can you
remember feeling a dull mind set in and then drooping over and
wanting to sleep? In
meditation, most times this is caused by a slip in interest and can
be corrected by bringing up mindfulness and remembering to use the
“I” don’t like this, the personal perspective, is at the heart of it
once again! Without “me”
there is no desire for escape. If we understand the true nature of
what is going on here, how perspective matters, precisely how this
all works, then there is a
way out of this predicament.
this is my fault, guilt, remorse.
During meditation, you can’t sit still; you just can’t stop moving.
In life, perhaps it’s hard
to sleep or you can’t stay on a task.
This can become irritating,
but, there is a solution.
Doubt is the last
This is a specific kind of doubt; its doubt about how you practice
meditation. It is a lack of
confidence. This is where,
without comparing anything else, you need to keep the meditation
going long enough to see if it really works or not.
Also it’s where a little
faith in the Buddha’s instructions helps out.
After all, the Buddha taught
meditation for 45 years! He must have refined the way to teach it in
that time. I’m not saying
accept a practice on the word of a teacher. Let’s be very clear
about this. I just mean it’s
time to get closer to the source for how to do things, to “back up
to the suttas and regroup, follow the instructions precisely while
you test-run the results properly for yourself.”
Recognizing doubt is like seeing a signpost that says
Review if you are practicing
correctly? Are you smiling and keeping mind light enough?
instructions. Start again.
Persevere. Ask questions.
Discuss your concerns with
the teacher. Don’t sit on them in silence.
Q: How do hindrances
A: Understanding how
hindrances work, affects how easy or difficult your practice will
If you break a precept, at that time you have lust and hatred in your
heart. The after effect shows up
later as an arising hindrance like restlessness or dull sleepy mind.
Guilt, remorse, anxiety can change sleep patterns and you can get
really tired. Hindrances do not
necessarily come up one at a time. They can gang up on you.
Q; What can be done
A: Through Harmonious
Practice using Right Effort properly, the Buddha taught how to
systematically replace the hindrances until they naturally fade away.
The way to deal with hindrances is to RECOGNIZE as early as possible
arising tension that comes up with them.
RELEASE any attention on the hindrance and RELAX all remaining
tension and tightness that was caused by it. Then just let it be there.
Lightly SMILE and RETURN to your
meditation object or whatever task you were doing.
All hindrances naturally pass away if they are not fed mind’s
attention. A hindrance
cannot increase if “I” do not personally give it nutriment!
When a hindrance arises, it lets us know how the idea of a self,
or the personal perspective causes suffering. Think about this. Once we
understand this angle, it becomes clear what has to change and the 6Rs
offer us the way to do this.
It’s interesting to consider how end results will change if we use an
Q: Do these arising
hindrances have to do with Karma?
This is what I call karmic kickback! It can happen within this lifetime
or over longer periods of time! How bad the after effects are depends
entirely on the level of “intention” at the time of the action.
Intention is not the karma.
Intention is a component of
karma. Karma is “action.”
The quality and degree of karmic
kickback depends on the level of intention involved during an action.
What can we do about this?
A: Don’t break the precepts!
Retrain mind in a wholesome direction.
Experience universal laws for yourself in order to fully
understand how this works. When
you figure out the true nature of everything, you develop more effective
ways to respond to life situations.
What kind of universal laws?
A: Buddhist practice
is all about CHANGE.
You must be willing to change in order to succeed. Universal law
opens the way for new hope, development, and future change.
you do in the present moment, dictates what happens in the future!”
This is Karma
So, concerning the suffering caused by hindrances, you are saying
there is a choice?
A: Of course. There is a beautiful choice in foundation Buddhism leading
to the Cessation of Suffering.
This choice is now missing is
much of the teaching of Buddhism today. Foundation Buddhist Meditation
offers you the choice “to stay in the present moment or not to.”
It helps you see the difference between being fully alive in the
present moment without craving and clinging or not.
It trains you through a system
of “knowledge and vision”, which means, personally “knowing by seeing”
how things really work. It encourages you to test everything.
The meditation trains you how to
observe suffering and notice what happens when you let it go.
Broken precepts produce
hindrances. By following the precepts closely, hindrances are reduced
and eventually they stop all together once we understand exactly what
they are, what causes them, how they can be released and how to be
mindful and practice this release naturally all the time. Buddhist
Meditation offers us the way to a cessation of suffering by using Right
Effort all the time.
Understanding the inter-relationship between precepts and hindrances
from the beginning of training helps clear the way for smooth successful
At the website at
, Please read “Simple
Easy to Understand Mindfulness”
found in the articles section.
Also in the Dhamma talks section, please listen to MN-46
Much Metta .
Rev. Sister Khema