I threw myself into my practice of investigation, and did exactly as Weeja instructed, alternating between the Calms and Investigation for the next two months, but I was having problems. I investigated my body and mind tirelessly by observing the various contacts with my senses, then I watched the feelings that resulted, either aversion, attraction or neutrality.

I carefully watched how I stored everything in memory and then played with it and rearranged it as the mind emotionalized and experimented with everything to come up with new ideas and concepts, but no wisdom was forthcoming. One evening after the meeting under Weeja's hut, I asked to speak with him concerning my lack of progress. Weeja asked if I was aware of the three characteristics of material existence, which are discontent, impermanence and no self, and I replied that I was.

Weeja then said, "The work required in investigation is looking at things we would normally ignore; our personal death, or the insides of our bodies; the distasteful parts. It is very hard to look at ourselves in this manner because we identify so closely with our body. Our body appears to be everything we have so it is threatening to observe it too closely, just as it is threatening to look at any of our delusions. But until we can see through them, how can we be free to go on?"
I was listening carefully because I knew my mastery of investigation would be crucial when I finally met the dragon.

"In order to investigate ourselves," Weeja continued, "we need to break ourselves down into two main categories - body and mind. The body is simply chemicals, mostly water, and that is the extent of it, but then we need to break down the mind into its four aspects, which are contact, feelings, memory and imagination. These body and mind components of which I speak are innocent in and of themselves. It is when we connect these parts to create a ‘self' that we are led into delusion. All these parts are temporary, the first of the three characteristics of material existence - impermanence."

I understood what he was saying and could see that everything changed, but sometimes they changed so slowly that I hardly realized it.

"The body and mind parts are subject to change," he continued, "but we mistakenly identify with them, trying to make them permanent and mistakenly seeing them as ourselves. They are not ourselves. They are merely arising and passing phenomenon. They are therefore empty of a ‘self,' which is the second characteristic of material existence - no self."

Now I understood clearly what my problem was, which was understanding this ‘no self.' I could not understand it, probably because I was too close to myself to see it.

I happened to look out the window and glimpsed a horse and rider across the courtyard. No key seekers rode horses except me, and Conqueror spent his days grazing in the forest.

"Then, as with any possession," Weeja went on, "once we create this false, insubstantial ‘self,' it worries us, for we must now protect and support it. However, we ultimately have no real control over this body and mind and therefore find ourselves trapped, having no real power but an imagined responsibility. This, of course, is a recipe for stress or the third characteristic of material existence - discontent. So, you can now see that embedded in our body and mind we have impermanence, no self and discontent?"

I was distracted by the horseman, but brought my mind back to the problem at hand, indicating that I needed more help with this concept of the characteristics and the self.

Weeja obliged by explaining further, "We must constantly investigate each one of these phenomenon: body, contact, feelings, remembering, and imagination to see this clearly. But we cannot merely investigate them on their own; we must investigate them in light of something else."

Ah hah, this must be the answer, I thought. Now we are getting somewhere. I waited patiently to see what this "something else" was.

"After we have investigated these interesting parts," explained Weeja, "then we investigate their characteristics. These characteristics apply to everything in the material universe and can you again tell me what they are?"

I recited, "Impermanence, no self and discontent" and began to see what Weeja was getting at. These three characteristics were the "something else" required to complete the investigation.

"Yes," said Weeja, "Impermanence, no self and discontent. Now, how do we investigate each one of our phenomena (body, contact, feeling, remembering, and imagination) in light of the three characteristics of impermanence, no self and discontent? That sounds complicated, does it not? However, it is not. Actually, it is very simple. We can start with one phenomenon, perhaps the body, by looking at it from inside out, and from the tip of our toes to the top of our head. Then we combine that one phenomenon; the body, with one of the characteristics; perhaps impermanence. We look at the impermanence of the body. We do this by seeing that the body changes constantly and we can investigate this by observing the body. How long can you remain in one position before the body needs to move? How long can you go without relieving yourself, or eating or sleeping? The body requires constant maintenance in almost every aspect, and if this maintenance is not carried out, there will be discontent."

I never looked at it this way. Now I could see the advantages of being an immaterial being, no body to worry about!

I heard a horse whinny and it sounded close. Was the rider waiting for me?

"And regardless of our undying attention and care," continued Weeja, "and in spite of our limited success in holding off or temporarily curing our diseases for perhaps many years, the body will eventually go the way of nature and dissolve when it chooses to in spite of our wishes. Therefore, we study the impermanence of the body. We do this investigation during the inner work by forcing ourselves out of our calm, and then we look directly at the body, investigating it from head to toe, over and over, inside and out, keeping in mind its impermanence. And when we are not involved with the inner work, we view everything in the world with impermanence, no self and discontent in mind."

I understood change somewhat. I certainly was not the same being I was when I was five years old. And when I become old, I won't be the same being as I am now, but there seemed to be a continuity as if somebody was watching. Was it Reality? Was there a fundamental awareness, an instigator of consciousness beyond my small ‘self?'

Weeja continued, "If we thoroughly understand just one of these characteristics, and then understand the connection of this characteristic with any one of the aspects of body, contact, feeling, memory, or imagination, then we will automatically know every combination of the different characteristics and aspects. Therefore, you don't have to investigate each one. Just discover which ones appeal to your particular tendencies, and the ones that appeal to you, these are the ones you should work with."

All of this would have to simmer in my mind while I threw myself into my inner work for it to make any sense. My mind could not keep up with it all. I imagined that when I did finally understand, there would surely be revelations of some kind. But for now, it all sounded like a foreign language to me.

"You will someday understand that your body and mind are innocent," said Weeja, "Then, you will be free to use them without the trouble and confusion you are now experiencing. It is not necessary to introduce desire, attachment, and clinging to our body or mind or other bodies and minds. We can merely let them come and go in life as our thoughts come and go during our inner work. As practice becomes advanced, you will constantly watch these internal functions in both yourself and in others. Once this investigation really takes hold, there is nothing else on earth that will compare to the interest you will have in this subject because this internal work is more satisfying than anything you could possibly engage in, and it creates incredible energy as well.

"Many other things will then become clear. You will recognize how a misunderstanding of these truths causes never-ending confusion, hatred, and greed in the world. You will see as well how connecting this idea of an individual self to these separate components causes disharmony. There is actually no problem with anything in the world for it is simply the world. Your misunderstanding of this world and your unrealistic expectations remains the problem. Every aspect of your body and mind are blameless in themselves. As a matter of fact, the solving of this problem of the characteristics and the aspects is the fuse, which when lit, eventually destroys all confusion."

Weeja had finished speaking and I now had a better understanding on how to investigate, but the horse and rider were waiting for me; I was certain of that. When I peered out the door, however, nobody was there, so I returned to my hut to think about Weeja's instruction.

The next day it was raining, one of those steady rains that would last all day soaking me all the way to the village and back. It was also chilly that morning so we all shivered as we ate our meal silently in the main hall. An air of gloom had settled over the compound, and as I began walking back to my hut, I saw the horse again. It definitely belonged to the priest. Why would he return without soldiers if he knew I was here? Was it possible that he hadn't recognized me? That was it! I would have to lay low during his visit.

I went to Weeja's hut that evening. I just had to clear something up. "If the aspects of body and mind are unimportant and are not ‘us,'" I inquired, "what is it we must focus our energies on to end our imagined suffering and discontent?"

"The only important thing is kamma," he said, "that psychic energy resulting from our actions which seeks rebirth in various forms. Until our kamma is clean, we will not develop the passion; the undirected passion, that is required to find the key. You see, because the normal senses are ignorant of kamma it is ignored, as we stake our whole future on the surface reality, which is the body and mind that we are familiar with. But kamma is the crucial, underlying cause of our discontent and confusion, not only during this lifetime, but also in untold numbers of future lifetimes. Constantly be aware of the greed, hatred, and delusion that remains within you for now, until ‘you' disappear."

Weeja then became quiet signaling he was finished. I thanked him for the advice and started toward my hut in the driving rain to delve deeper into this investigation, a study that I had to admit was becoming more and more fascinating.

I had only gone a little way down the trail when I heard a horse approaching. It was the priest. I watched him dismount and climbed the steps to Weeja's hut, after which I walked over to his horse and waited. I was not the type to lay low like a coward, and the confrontation could not be avoided.

I stood in the rain for only a few minutes before he came down the steps. When he saw me standing by his horse, he stopped dead in his tracks and quickly glanced back toward the safety of Weeja's hut. He knew who was standing there, and he also knew my reputation as a cold blooded killer. (To be continued)

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com