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Attavagga - The Self : The stupid man, who on account of false views scorns the teaching of the arahats, the noble ones, and the Righteous, ripens like the fruits of the kashta reed, only for his own destruction. Dhammapada Verse 164.

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-Sambuddhassa!


© Rasika Wijayaratne Email: rasikaw@gmail.com Website: www.vihara.org.au Created: 08/09/12 Modified: 20/09/12

While living amongst others there are always occasions when they say various things to one. People want to share what is in their minds, so they offer these ideas to one using words, much like a host offers food to a guest. The usual thing to do is to accept this 'verbal food,' both good and bad, and then continue to consume it within the mind.2 If the words given are negative (lies, untruths, harsh/unkind words, vicious/double meanings, slander, back-stabbing, tale-bearing, talking behind one's back, useless/empty words, etc.), then one can suffer a much by consuming them. But one does not need to accept the negative words of others or take these negative words into one's own mind.

The Lord Buddha gave this living lesson and example when Akkosaka Bharadvaja abused him. On being abused the Lord Buddha asked Bharadvaja, "O brahmin, let us suppose you offered some food to some guests and they left the house without taking the food. Since the guests did not accept your food, to whom would that food belong?" To this the brahmin replied that it would be his. The Lord Buddha then said, "In the same way, O brahmin, since I do not accept your abuse, the abuse would only go back to you."3 This highlights the approach that one should take with the various servings of negative words that others choose to offer one. One should make a determination to not take up their negative words into one's own mind and let the mind become polluted. One should let those words be and focus on one's own work and business. There is even no need to respond to those words with counter (negative) words, as one would have then joined in with them in their negative 'meal.' One's peace of mind remains intact when one does not responded with any negative words or thoughts, both of which are negative kamma.

One could say that negative words that others give to one are an outer enemy and the negative words in the form of thoughts that one's own mind gives one are an inner enemy. The best approach to take with these two enemies is to simply to not take these up into one's mind at all, i.e. not think about it, personalise it, analyse it, etc. Don't give any room in one's mind to the negative words that others choose to offer one (arising from their inner kilesas or defilements). One should put those words out of one's mind, simply block and throw them away from one's mind. The same applies to the negative thoughts arising within one's own mind too. Hundreds and thousands of thought objects arrive at the mind throughout the day. If one is thinking about something, then that means one has taken it into one's mind. One should always train to not take up negative thoughts into the mind, not to pick them up but rather to drop them, to throw them away and be done with them, thus keeping the mind light, 'empty' and care-free.

A child for example knows little and is blissfully unaware. Nothing troubles or bothers them as they do not take anything up into their minds. But as they grow older they learn from others and society such as how to know when someone has insulted one and so on. So they begin to grasp at these thing, take them into the mind and cling to them, beginning to suffer more and more. So like a child that has a care free mind, one must learn to let go of these things. One must in a way 'unlearn' the negative habits which one has learned from society, i.e. have a nature where one easily lets things go of things in the mind.

The Lord Buddha was know to have responded to others' questions with either a brief answer ('yes,' 'no,' etc.), a detailed and analytical answer, a counter-question or with silence by putting aside their question.4 Others may say or ask inappropriate, unnecessary or harmful things from one. One does not need to answer such questions or comments. They can be put aside and responded to with silence. This way others will not gain the opportunity to insult, harm or put down one. As one is silent one will not be harmed and others too will not be harmed in return. Others may also contemplate the reason for one's silence and may correct their negative actions as a result.5

The Lord Buddha described the mind as inherently pure and as being defiled by incoming negativities/defilements. He said "Luminous, monks, is the mind. And it is defiled by incoming defilements."6 The same principle of not taking up negative words from others can be used to keep the mind pure of negative mental defilements (negative thinking) that arise in the mind throughout the day. When defilements such as negative desire, lust, anger, jealousy, ill-will, laziness, restlessness and fear, doubt, etc.7 creep up in the mind, one should not take them up or have anything to do with them. If one takes these up one will then begin to run with them within. Going back to the previous analogy on food, one begins to consume these defilements and thus becomes consumed by them. As before one should not take mental defilements up into the mind. It is best to keep the mind pure of them by being aware of them and keeping one's mind's eyes open on the lookout for them and blocking them as they arise (yoniso manasikara). As soon as they start arising, one can make the determination to not take them up in the mind and to drop them quickly.

The untrained and unenlightened mind has a tendency of taking up anything that comes into its attention. When mind objects (thoughts) arise in relation to what is seen from the eyes, heard from the ears, smelled by the nose, tasted by the tongue, felt by the body and arising as thoughts in the mind, the mind has an immediate tendency to want to grab hold of these objects and attempt to personalise, own, 'I-dentify' and make them 'mine.'8 This tendency of the untrained, unenlightened mind is what causes most of the defilements to arise within mind, as unskilful thinking then follows in relation to these grabbed mental objects (thoughts). So if one trains to not grab and not take up these defilement causing mind objects (thoughts), but just to be aware of and to observe them, then the mind can remain pure in its original pure state. As the Lord Buddha said, “321. Bhikkhus, just as a little bit of urine, ... re ... saliva, ... re ... pus, ... re ... blood smells and should be got rid of, I do not specify thinking even for the fraction of a second.”9 But one can still continue to think on the Dhamma and another such useful and beneficial topics as and when required. If unskilful mind objects (thoughts) are taken up accidentally in a moment of non-awareness, then one should immediately throw them away from the mind as if throwing rubbish away. Training thus the mind can remain pure at all times of the day.

One should keep this determination at all times, "I will not accept or consume the evil offerings of negative words that the world offers to me nor the negative thoughts my own mind can give rise to or attempt to take up. I will keep these negativities out of my mind, thus keeping my mind pure at all times." Practising thus, one will be able to keep the mind very pure throughout the day. Very few things will bother or trouble one. One will not be affected by the negative words of others, nor by the negative mental formations/thoughts that arise within the mind. One will remain untouched, aloof, unaffected, undisturbed and pure from all such negative forces. Remaining thus calm, pure and collected one will be able to advance quickly in one's practice and attain to the realisation of Nibbana in due time.

May you remain untouched by outer verbal negativities and inner mental negativities and may it help you to gain the lasting peace of Nibbana quickly!


Don't take the rubbish (negative words),
that others want to give to you,
in to your mind.
Don't take those words up,
analyse them,
or even think about them,
just discard,
and drop them from your mind.
The same applies,
to the negative thoughts,
that your mind wants to give to you,
reject, block and drop them.
don't take them up,
in to your mind.
Training thus,
your mind will remain pure,
untouched and unaffected at all times.


"Don't take anything (negative) into your mind and let it become polluted. Keep them out, shut them out."


1. The latest version of this article can be found in HTML format here http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=noaccum or here http://www.vihara.org.au/dhamma/articles/authors/rasikaw/noaccum.aspx and in PDF format here http://www.vihara.org.au/go?to=noaccumpdf or here http://www.vihara.org.au/dhamma/articles/authors/rasikaw/pdf/A_Buddhist_Approach_to_Avoid_Accumulation_of_Defilements.pdf

2. The automatic acceptance seems to be related to the desiring and acquiring nature of the unenlightened mind that tries to grab onto, attach to and personalise everything experienced through the six senses.

3. See Dhammapada Verse 399, Akkosakabharadvaja Vatthu here http://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=399

4. See Pañha Sutta: Questions here http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.042.than.html

5. Deflection or quickly changing the topic of conversation is also another good approach in such situations.

6. See Pabhassara Sutta: Luminous here http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an01/an01.049.than.html

7. See the five hindrances to spiritual progress here http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html

8. Anatta, 'no me, myself or I,' see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta

9. See XVI. Ekadhammapali, One Thing, see http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara1/1-ekanipata/016-Ekadhammapali-e.html

Related Discourses (suttas) and Other Resources

1. Dhammapada Verse 399, Akkosakabharadvaja Vatthu http://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=399

2. Anguttara Nikaya 4.42 PTS: A ii 46, Pañha Sutta: Questions http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.042.than.html

3. Anguttara Nikaya 1.49-52, PTS: A i 10, (I,v,9-10; I,vi,1-2, Pabhassara Sutta: Luminous http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an01/an01.049.than.html

4. The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html

5. The Importance of Wise Reflection in Meditation see http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh463-p.html

6. Anguttara Nikaya, Ekakanipata, XVI. Ekadhammapali, One thing, http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/4Anguttara-Nikaya/Anguttara1/1-ekanipata/016-Ekadhammapali-e.html

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