Context: Throughout this transcript, Bhante Vimalaramsi is the speaker unless otherwise indicated.


welcome bante

it is really a pleasure and honor to

have the opportunity

to have this interview with you today

thank you

and let me begin by introducing uh


ramsey mila ramsey is a mahathira monk

he has been a monk for more than 35


and he is currently the abbot of

tamasuka meditation center

and he is one of the monks that i have


whose teachings are based on the


and most comprehensively recorded

teachings of buddha

straight from the sutas as he says and

why it's very special moment for me is

because for a brief period i had the


to have a temporary ordination as a

seminar among

while at the masuka meditation center

with the

banter ramsey so panther very welcome

once again

i'm looking forward to this conversation

with you

and to begin with let me ask you the


obvious question one can ask a monk

from your point of view and from from

the wisdom

of all the knowledge you have and the

experience you have what really

is mindfulness

mindfulness is remembering to observe

how mind's attention moves from one

thing to another

in other words your mind is with your

object of meditation

and it gets distracted how did that


it didn't all of a sudden jump over yeah

it's part of a process and when your


is strong you can see what happens first

and what happens after that

what happens after that so

when your mind is on your meditation

it's very still

then it starts wobbling your mind starts

wobbling and you start having tiny

little thoughts and they get bigger and

bigger until you're distracted all the


mindfulness is being able to observe


correct and if you if i might draw

a little further on that question is how

does sharpening

mindfulness help lay people people who

may not

be monks and are not monastic may not

even have a formal meditation practice


be more aware of what you're thinking

while you're thinking it

and how your mind gets distracted

when you're able to see that

you're reading something and all of a

sudden you're thinking of something else

you'll catch that more quickly and come

back so you

you start training your mind to stay

with what you want to be

your attention to be on yeah and that is

so important because one of the

greatest challenges in the modern life

is of all the distraction that is coming


us both from the world outside and from

inside so i think that is perhaps

a very important quality for us to


and now switching from mindfulness to

completely the other end of the spectrum

in the buddhist philosophy if we can

call it that

or there is the concept which is

approximately translated as craving


i would like you to explain in layman

terms a little bit about

what is craving and why is there

so much conversation in buddha's

teaching about craving

okay this is this is actually easy

okay we're made up of five different

things the psychophysical process

we have a physical body we have

feeling not emotional feeling just

feel feeling pleasant painful neither

painful nor pleasant

we have perception perception

and feeling are always together

when a painful feeling arises your mind

says that's painful

that's perception that said that or if

it's pleasant that's pleasant

you have thoughts you have consciousness

okay a feeling arises

it's either painful or

uh pleasant

as soon as that arises right after that

feeling there is something

that occurs in your mind

and that is craving what

is craving craving is the

i like it i don't like it mine

if it's a pleasant feeling i like it if

it's a painful feeling

i don't like it now the key of this

is i

i is a false belief in a personal self

that's when you're taking something

personally right

that's the definition of craving

i like it i don't like it

how do you recognize craving when it


that's key and

you'll notice that every time you have a


every time a feeling arises every time

any kind of thing distracts you a bit

you you have tension and tightness

in your head now your brain is like this

and you have a membrane that goes around

your brain

of energy and that's the meninges

meninges is basically just a bag

so when every time there's a thought

or a feeling or sensation

your brain expands a little bit against

that meninges and it causes a tension

or tightness that's how you

recognize craving when it arises

a lot of people that are teaching

meditation they don't tell you

about this yeah it's not brought up and

so they don't notice it yeah but

after a period of time they start

complaining about having a lot of

tightness in your head

that is craving

so what do you do to let go of the


you relax relax that tension and

tightness in your head

and when you relax you'll feel kind of

like an expansion happening and a

softening of your mind

that is called the cessation of craving

so every time you have a distracting


you recognize that your mind is not on

your object of


you release that distraction

how do you release it you release it

by not keeping your attention on

that distraction

then you relax you're letting go of that

tension and tightness now

right after that your mind becomes very

clear very bright

and there are no distractions that's

pulling your attention away

so this is what we call the pure mind

because there's no distractions

you have let go of that craving

now you bring up something that's


you bring up a smile

we re-smile a lot

what does a smile do it does a couple of


one the more you can smile

during the day the

better your mindfulness during the day


absolutely absolutely true

and you bring that smiling

pure mind back to your object of

meditation you return to your object

now i teach both kinds of meditation

i teach more than one kind let's put it

that way

i teach loving-kindness meditation

and i also teach mindfulness of


and there are other meditations that i

teach also

the thing that you want to

understand is you want to keep

your attention on your object of


it doesn't matter how many times your

mind gets pulled away

just because your mind got pulled away

doesn't mean you have to be frustrated

or you're a failure

that happens until you get more and more

used to

staying with particularly your object of

meditation with loving kindness or

with the breath but

both of these kinds of meditation has

the smile

in it


the smile it improves your mindfulness

so you become much more aware

much more quickly yeah

and your mind is much more at ease

when you're smiling and

it can bring joy up

joy is a happy feeling there's some

excitement in it

and you start going ah this is why i

wanted to meditate

this is this is the reason this is

really good

that's good yeah so

the more you can smile

the better your mindfulness is the

faster your progress is

with the meditation yeah

that was a lot to pack in an answer

right but that is how it is to talk to

you but

i always say it's like drinking from a

fountain of wisdom

no matter how much you drink you will

always remember

there was so much that flowed by you

could not hold on to

but i think uh in your answer you

you brought out three very important

aspects and i will dive a little bit


into each one of them one at a time you

know you talk you talk

about the concept of no permanent self

the anata

or an atman from the buddha doctor we'll

return to that and

i think you summarize the 6r technique

and the relax and the smile step

as well but from craving i want to

bridge to something that lay people have

difficulty understanding especially in

some sense

when we talk about the four noble truths

and the core teachings of buddha

the concept of suffering as translated

from dukkha

arises now suffering in colloquial


as people understand has to do with pain


something unpleasant and so on and so

forth however there is this very

very different degree of richness and


in what buddha is saying when he talks

about dukkha

yeah and which very approximately

translates to suffering so i thought

let me let me take a segue to that and

ask you what

is dukkha how would you explain that to


according to the sutas it's

not getting what you want

that's very well said wanting something

and then not getting what you want

or getting something that you don't want

yeah okay

it's holding on yeah

and taking it personal that's what

the craving

actually is yeah


when the buddha was talking about


he said that there's three parts to the


yeah the first part is practicing your


now the thing with the generosity is


think that it has to be something that's


and it can be mental too if you say

something kind to someone else

you're giving them your love and happy


so generosity is not just about


i'm going to give this to you

and the more you practice your


your kindness towards other people

around you

the lighter your mind becomes

the second part of meditation is

keeping the five precepts

five precepts are

lust or greedy mind

hatred or aversion mind

sleepiness dullness

restlessness anxiety

and doubt when any of these five things

come into your mind

you're no longer meditated now you're

getting caught up

in your thoughts about one of these


how the buddha

gave the uh five precepts as a

recommendation it's not

commandments the commandment at all the

buddha never gave any commandments

he just gave recommendations

and the closer you can be to keeping

your precepts without

breaking them it turns into a protection

for you and

it also make your my mind

more happy

now when you break a precept let's say

you tell a little white lie

that's still telling a lie

so when you

tell to say something that's not true

a small voice in your mind says that's

not i


and you take that

personally you feel guilty because you

said it

but you shine it on i mean you

you just uh don't think about it anymore

except when you're trying to purify your

mind through meditation

absolutely and when you purify your mind

through meditation

you're going to have to recognize

this hindrance

as a wrong belief and a guilty feeling

in a personal self

as soon as you

begin to let go and

relax that craving

you've purified your mind you've let go

of that

unwholesome feeling and

your mind is clear your mind

is bright your mind is very alert

and then you bring up something


a smile so yeah and

bring that smiling wholesome mind

back to your object of meditation

this is how you progress in meditation


is how you let go of

any kind of distraction that pulls your

attention away

the more you can do this

recognize that your mind is distracted

release the distraction

relax the tightness caused by that

distraction re-smile

return to your object to meditation and


staying with your object of meditation

as long as you can


what i said a little while ago was

just because your mind gets distracted

doesn't mean you're a failure

it's just what minds do it's just the

nature of mind yeah

so when you relax you let it be there by

itself you don't keep your attention on


you don't make a big deal out of

any kind of thing that pulls your

attention away

i don't care if it's sadness or anger

or fear or anxiety it doesn't matter

what it is what matters is

what you do with what arises

in the present moment

so if you

fight with what's happening in the

present moment

you don't like this feeling of anger

or sadness or dissatisfaction of some


and you try to control

your feeling with your thoughts

you're going to have those thoughts come

up a lot

bigger and more intense and

that feeling is going to get bigger

because you're feeding it with your


that's why you need to see

that distraction let it be there don't

keep your attention on it anymore

don't make it into a big deal

every time you make it into a big deal

the pain becomes

bigger more intense

it takes a little practice to be able to

do this

but as you start to see

how this process actually works

it gets easier and easier

and as a result you start

letting go of your heavy emotional


your dislikes and your dissatisfactions

you start

not getting so caught up in them

if you use release

relax smile

and come back to if which with your

daily activities

smiling some more

you're following the eightfold path

so if you

have 50 distractions while you're

sitting and

50 times you let it be and you relax

and smile and come back that

is a good meditation

if you try to push it away i don't want

this i

i hate this feeling i i want that person

to do something and they're not doing it

and i'm mad

if you don't get it make a big deal

out of that feeling

you allow it to be you relax

smile and come back you start developing

your personality

so that you have more happiness

and joy coming up

and this

leads to a quieter mind

a mind that's more relaxed

at ease and accepting

thank you that was a great answer and in

that answer

was also the answer to one more question

that i had planned for one day

about explaining the six hours and i

think we will close with that later but

i think

a lot of gist of it i almost felt like a

feeling of deja vu

i remember when i was in the robes at

the smc

on the second day you came up for lunch


the the only instruction you gave me at

that point was you are not smiling


you didn't smile worse it was almost

like a deja vu

now we've talked about craving you

talked about suffering we talked about

how to deepen the meditation practice

i'd like to ask you about this concept

there's a lot of

conversation in the self-development


about self-informant self-actualization

self-realization self-development

and then we have the we have the

buddhist principle if i may say or

concept of anata or an atman in another

language of

not-self and i don't give it that

definition okay okay because that's

really confusing

yes it is it certainly is give it the


of seeing the impersonal nature

yeah no personal sense no personals yes

yeah there's still self yes yeah so it's


not self self yeah but seeing the

impersonal nature is what happens as

soon as you let go of the craving

and your mind is very clear yeah

and you're seeing this as

a process right rather than

a personal attachment yeah in fact that

brings me to uh you know i was having a

conversation with chris cullen

at the oxford university and we were

talking about uh

a not personal self and i and i

mentioned to him perhaps

one of the major source of suffering is

the craving for an eye

that you know the the concept and belief


there is a real mean you know there is a

personal me

and from there you know the the cascade

of that process starts

so it what you said about uh not

personal stuff is a

very astute way to articulate that

yeah and and and it's a lot more easy to


yeah especially when you're doing the

practice at that time

at that time and see for yourself yeah

that's why i tell a lot of people that

come and they want to learn meditation

with me

i tell them that they are their own

teacher yeah yeah and that's important

yeah because you have to see this

for yourself so and it's not an


practice that is true and

in many cases meditation gets confused

with contemplation

yeah so uh the the the the word

meditation itself

has uh become so democratized in some

sense and so generalized

that sometimes it does amaze me stuff

that people do and then they say

that's their meditation so uh so i get

the point about

being able to do everything mindfully


but by staying in the moment by focusing

on what you're doing not getting


with your thoughts or emotions that may

come up other forms of feeling

but to classify everything as meditation

seems to have become fashionable

well i just got through writing a book

life is meditation

it's a wonderful book it's a wonderful


it is part of living living you have

hindrances arise whether you're sitting

in meditation

or you're out for a walk right you still

have hindrances that can arise

so you can do you can let go of the pain

of that by

practicing the six hours six hours yeah


on that point uh we've talked a lot


how we can sit with meditation how we

can use six hours of meditation

and i open my conversation by asking

about mindfulness i think it's

appropriate let me ask you

about okay what is meditation and how

would you explain to someone who's never

meditated before well meditation is

being able to

observe how mind's attention

actually works and

how to let go

of the suffering that we can get caught

up in the boredom

the sloth interprets

the creation the restlessness

all kinds of different things uh

the the greed of i want this to be the

way i want it to be

when i want it and when it's not

there is suffering yeah true yeah

but every time you try to fight

with the present yeah you're causing


suffering oh absolutely the present will

still be here but with suffering

you are yeah well said

that's it and uh so

in the in the buddhist doctrine there's

also a lot of conversation around

enlightenment right

and uh um and there's been a lot of

commentary around it also and there's

there's marked difference in how


is in some way tangentially referred to

in the sutras and how later on in which

the maga there is lot of commentary

around it

i'd love to hear from you what your view


a very basic question what really is


i tell you something you don't know i've

enlightened you


okay but i don't call what the buddha


enlightenment i call it awakening

because we're walking around in a dream

in a dream

of our own uh

mishmash of thoughts and feelings and

and got to do this to do that all of

those kind of

things when you become

clear you become more awake

and you start to see how this process

works and

the clearer you become

the happier you become

it is my understanding that the word

buddha literally means the fully

awakened one right

yeah yeah i know that there's

especially in america yeah

there's people that think that that's

his name


it's an honorific yeah it's

how to be respectful when you say the


yeah the awakening and your mind

actually takes a step down when you do


in a sincere way yeah yeah and just in

interest of trivia

his name actually was siddhartha gautama


the prince of the son of the king

or the psychic kingdom also later on

called sacrimoni

yeah and in fact in in buddhist

philosophy and buddhist cosmology you

study about

many buddhas that have preceded the

buddha and there's also a conversation

about matriar buddha who's supposed to

who will be coming

will be coming so it it's it's great

that you clarified that you know

for for our listeners that the buddha is


honorific to refer to the fully awakened


and and while we are talking about


in the world today there is so much that

is going on that

i sometimes have this conversation with

my students and i say

there is a lot of tranquilized

obviousness in life

we just tend to run on an automatic

pilot putting one foot in front of the


because of a conditioned mind that i got

to do this i got to do that

and the whole full catastrophe of life

that we need to deal with

and and i also have a conversation with

them about how

uh mindfulness and meditation can help

people get out of that autopilot

and find more compassion more joy more

fulfillment more quantity

and i was hoping that you could say

something about the millennial


where uh millennial generation i mean i

know people

have all sorts of comments about it but

i think they they have been born into an

environment with more distractions than

ever before

and how can a lot of them are becoming

more and more aware

of the suffering that they're doing


absolutely they're they're looking for a


to get out of that yeah yeah so true one

of the problems that people

have with buddhism is they think it's a


and that's the farthest thing away from

religion that there is

this is mind science

this is being able to look at how

you treat yourself and how

you cause your own pain

if you get angry at somebody and they

say something you didn't like

yeah you wind up blaming them for making


angry and the anger is happening where

you are not where

they are right in that moment of choice

you chose to be angry

right yeah and being mindful

means letting go of that

yeah absolutely so you don't get so

caught up

in your emotional upset

now uh there is

a feeling that arises right after that

there's craving

you either let it go or not right after


you have uh

clinging clinging clinging is

your thinking about your opinions your


and taking what you said

and thought very personally

and you really hold on to this is my


i'm right you're wrong

and that causes suffering in itself

but the thing right after that

this is what i call your habitual

emotional uh


you it's your

i just lost what i was going to say

that's okay yeah

it's your habitual tendencies yeah

now what does that mean i have a feeling

come up

let's say depression that seems to be a


what is what is that feeling it's


i don't like it i want it to stop

so what you try to do is

think with thoughts

your depression and how you don't like


and you keep on coming back and the more

you think about a painful thing the

bigger and more intense that

it becomes yeah yeah so that's not the

way to get rid of depression

i gave a talk for a psychiatrist

and he said well how are you supposed to

get rid

of depression i said laugh

well he said it's not funny and that

made me laugh

because it is funny it is it's something

yeah because you're caught

and you don't see it as soon as you


you go from i'm depressed and i don't

like it

to well it's only this depression

did i ask this depression to come up

no well whose is it then

why are you taking it personally it's


a feeling you can't make that feeling


you have to let it be by itself relax

and smile

in fact the latest research and

depression is uh is pointing out to this

that a lot of cognitive therapy

techniques are being borrowed to add

more nurturing activities so that you

can reframe and

decenter yourself from depressive


when they arise and and then that


absolutely that's that's mindfulness and

they are bringing the focus

back more and more to engaging in more

nurturing activities

at the time when those depressive

feeling arises nothing is more nurturing

than having a smile

so so i think science is eventually even


psychiatric learning yeah

we have used the word feeling many times

if i'm not mistaken the original pali

word is vedana

right and uh and it is vedanai itself is

different from how

in english sometimes you understand

feeling as an emotional feeling you know

there can be an eye feeling there can be


ear feeling so i was hoping that for

people to get the right context of

when you say depression is a feeling if

you could see a little bit about talking

about an emotional feeling your habitual


i always think this when that arises


now that has nothing to do with


it has nothing to do with your awareness

that happens

just because of your old habit of acting

this way

when that arises

when you start practicing an


feeling is only pleasant unpleasant


it's not emotion and it's not

yours personally

a feeling arises you have a pain in your

knee did you ask that pain to come up

he just gave up did you say i want

this pain i haven't had pain for a long


no nobody's going to do that yeah

you're seeing more and more clearly

how the process works and

when you start seeing how this process

works then you'll start letting go of it

more and more easily

one of the things that i tell my

students a lot

is that you have to stop being hard on


you have to start being kind to yourself

you're going to make a mistake then

you're going to think about how dumb you


and how much you shouldn't have done it

and it's going to come up over and over

and over again

that's habitual emotional tendency so

you have to learn no

i made a mistake okay i forgive myself

for making a mistake

i'm not perfect i don't claim to be


why do i criticize myself

when i make a mistake

you need to be kind to yourself you need

to be grateful that you made a mistake

because that way you won't do it again

and the more you practice gratitude

the clearer your mind becomes yeah

in fact the studies have shown that

depression the

leading indicator of depression is

self-critical thoughts

judgment and evaluation that works at


uh process and they call it the vicious


because every negative self-critical

thought brings out more self-critical


more self-critical thought and then

eventually it becomes anxiety and over a

period of time

depression so what you said is so

consistent with what people are finding


laugh smile and laugh you make a mistake


fine so what what's the big deal yeah

yeah every time you laugh you let go

of that false belief in a personal self

and i'm dumb and i don't like it

you let go of that mother i'd like to

pick up a theme

oh in your last answer you talked about

one of the misunderstanding people can

have that buddhism is a religion

and i think and in all fairness i think

part of it is

also fueled by how buddhism is practiced

in some parts of the world you know with

temples and rituals and

rights and the flutes and everything

else and and obviously

you know your teachings go right back to

the sutras the original

words of buddha so to say as as closely

preserved as possible

may i draw you into an inquiry as to

what do you see is the

future of buddhism given all that's


to the world and all that's happened to

the teachings of buddha now

well believe it or not i see

buddhism softening the blow of the

dissatisfaction and dislike of what's

happening right now

and it's starting to change things

that's i was in asia for 12 years i came

back to this country

to help soften the blow and i teach

people how to be happy yeah and when

they're happy then they say well i want

to be a teacher

yeah okay you teach by your exam example


and you teach other people how to smile

and laugh

and have fun

when when you first came that was one of

the first things i said to you you're

not laughing enough

you need to laugh more i remember you

were sitting on the right and you were

playing with

the dog and i was busy with my food and

he said

you need to laugh more it took me a

while to

get hold of that one that was a good one

now i imagine you're saying that

every time i get too serious if bhante

was here you tell me you need to laugh