An interview with Dhamma master Michael Kewley by Leonie Gschwendtberger

'Dhamma is simple. Live with love and be aware.
It is only the mind that complicates this teaching and says that it is not enough. The mind, invested as it is in fascination and distraction from simply being, always seeks something outside the reality of the moment.'
- Michael Kewley

On Being One With The Reality Of Life

Q.The ultimate goal of all beings is to be completely happy, but why does our everyday journey towards a feeling of completeness never seem to find an ending? What is the essence of unhappiness and an always returning feeling of dissatisfaction?

A.Because there is always a sense of separateness from the moment itself we find ourselves outside observing that which we call reality. We stand on the bank of the river watching the water flow past, insisting that the water always please and satisfy us. However, the nature of water is to be water, and the nature of life is to be life. Life itself does not mind about us or our desires and sensitivities, it just flows on moment after moment.
The sense of separateness that we experience we call self or ego identity and it can never be one with the moment because from the egos point of view, whatever we experience can always be improved upon and so there is always a sense of dissatisfaction. The voice of the ego says, 'if only I had more....'

Q.How do we constantly create the possibility for further unhappiness in our lives?

A.By repeating our habit of demanding that the world and everyone and everything that it contains always please and satisfy us. We find ourselves doing the same things over and over trying to experience something different, something better, but in the end of course, always meeting the same results. How can it be other than that?
Without pure Dhamma understanding our life is always cyclic, doing the same things repeatedly but continually expecting different endings.

Q.How do we break the habit of empowering mind states which lead us into unhappiness? What does meeting our Kamma really mean?

A.The first thing to cultivate is awareness. With non attached observation of the natural processes of mind we see our story, our personal history. We see the habits of mind that always take us into the same moments of experience and it's ultimate dissatisfaction. This is a more accurate understanding of the first Noble Truth of the Buddha, not that life is suffering, but life is unsatisfactory, that whatever we meet can always be improved upon to bring greater happiness or satisfaction to us. This task is endless.
Actually we meet our kamma in every moment. We can say in a simple way that kamma is only our habits of mind. With awareness we see this process without empowering it in any way, thus releasing its influence in our life.
This is called ,'letting go' and is what is understood by the expression, 'to put down what we carry'.
To cultivate the awareness that we need in order to see the reality of each moment and to be peaceful with it, we need to stop induldging the grasping mind's habit of seeking distraction from what is and longing for change and greater satisfaction.

Q.Can you explain the importance of meditation practice in this?

A.What we call meditation is simply stopping in our life and being fully with the mind as it arises and passes away in every moment. We don't try to get something, we don't try to make something happen, we just sit quietly.
In the end this is the highest practice. This is what the Buddha ultimately had to do to realize his own liberation, stop trying to get something and allow the truth that he carried inside him to manifest. Our journey is not different.
Not to do something, but to do nothing!
This is why this form of sitting practice is so difficult, because our human nature is to do something for what we can receive from it. Here we meet the supreme Dhamma paradox, that there is plenty to do, but nothing to get. The idea of getting something, whether it is peace or liberation or anything else, always becomes the obstacle to awakening.
Only when we put everything down and simply be, will we able to become one with reality.

Q.How can we integrate practice into our everyday lives and what can inspire us to actually make an effort to do so?

A.We have to recognize that Dhamma practice is not about sitting like the Buddha in Dhamma halls, or burning incense and chanting, but it is about the continuing cultivation of awareness and love. With awareness we see the true nature of this mind that we call 'ours', and with love we make no demands that is should be different than the way it presents itself in any moment.
The instant that we are in peace with the nature of the mind, quite naturally we stop seeking something different. This manifests into every aspect of our lives and we find that our usual fear based habits to control everyone and everything no longer possesses us, and we flow lovingly and harmoniously in life, responding wisely to each moment.
This practice then naturally manifests into every aspect of our life.
Inspiration can only come from you, and that in the end it is you who will do the practice or not. The words and life of the teacher only inspire you if your heart is already open to be inspired to continue. In every moment and in every way we are always responsible for how we live and what we empower.
I have a rule with all my students and disciples, that they must never come to me and tell me why they didn't meditate or practice that week. They have to understand the simple and profound truth that if the make the practice they will receive the results of making the practice, and if they don't make the practice they will receive the results of not making the practice.
The equations in Dhamma are always very simple. There are no rewards or punishments, only consequences.

Q.It takes a lot of fearlessness to sit through whatever arises into our consciousness and to watch it. How do we find the strength to be with everything that awareness reveals to us?
(Can you explain the Loving Kindness practice?)

A.This is really just a way to speak because in reality there is nothing to be afraid of - its only mind arising and passing away. We may not like what we meet and it may be uncomfortable or even painful, but actually it's always harmless.
This is the first thing that we have to understand.
The environment we cultivate to be with the mind as we no longer try to avoid it is called loving kindness, but often better understood by the term, 'unconditional acceptance'. This means that we just 'be with' whatever presents itself in an interested way, but not fascinated by it.
To everything that arises we can always say the same thing that, 'this is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am', and so there is no need to fight with it, or to try to change it into something more pleasant, or even to avoid it altogether.
We don't have to like it, we don't have to be friends with it, but we can be at peace with what the mind presents.
One great master said, Dhamma is not difficult, it just means giving up picking and choosing.
The letting go of our habit of demanding that everything we meet in life or just in the mind, always be the way we want it to be, is called unconditional acceptance, or Love.

Q.How can the Loving Kindness practice be more than just a spiritual practice during the meditation and again, as the awareness, taken into our everyday lives?

A.Love means unconditional acceptance, and this is available in every moment. We must understand the subtly of Dhamma, that we don't really accept the other person or event, we accept our mental perception of it and not judge it or act upon it.
At the beginning of practice this takes great skill, but as we let go more and more to our belief in what the mind presents as being reality, we see that the world we experience is always unique and personal to us. We don't really see the person in front of us, we only see our perception, based in our karmic habits of fear and desire, and that is what we judge!
When the heart is open, all judgement falls away naturally and we respond to life and everything it presents, moment after moment.

Q.Regarding the variety of apparently separate individual beings in the world, it is quite overwhelming that in absolute terms reality can only be perceived within the boundaries of one body and there's no way of having perception outside of these (no matter how spiritually developed we are) and one mind which determines our experience of life. How do we cope with the absolute aloneness that this brings with itself and how can it be transcended?

A.Aloneness is not loneliness and so there is no emotional relationship to it. There is now only the intuitive understanding of complete interconnectedness, and that there is no 'me' outside and separate, but only the absolute reality of being one with everything.
In this place we can call aloneness, 'oneness'.
It is ego or self identity that separates everyone into us and them, mine and yours, ours and theirs. In the place of oneness, no such divisions exist.

Q.In what way does our life change if we commit to Dhamma? What benefits do we meet?

A.Dhamma means truth and to commit to truth means to become one with the reality of life. To commit to Dhamma means to give all ones efforts and intentions to the idea of waking up from deep sleep. The benefits of awakening cannot be spoken of in conventional terms, for to do so reduces it to our usual world of dualism. However, it is the potential of all human beings to awaken so they are no longer deluded by what the world, as perceived by this mind, presents as reality.
In this way you will be happy and then share that happiness with all beings.
May all beings be happy.

'The function of the Dhamma master is to encourage their disciples to follow the path of wisdom and to show, by their own example, the true Way. This is not a Way of belief and blind faith, but of an active and personal investigation into Truth. To know for ourselves, directly and without doubt, the reality of being.'
Michael Kewley

Author's Bio: 

Michael Kewley is the former Buddhist monk Paññadipa, who is now an internationally acclaimed Master of Dhamma, presenting courses and meditation retreats throughout the world. For many years he was the guiding teacher at the International Meditation Centre, Budh Gaya, India and is the founder of the Pure Dhamma tradition of spiritual awakening and the Being Awake meditation group network.

A disciple of the late Sayadaw Rewata Dhamma, he teaches solely on the instruction of his own Master; to share the Dhamma, in the spirit of the Buddha, so that all beings might benefit. On 26th May 2002, during a special ceremony at the Dhamma Talaka Temple in England, he was awarded the title of Dhammachariya.

A full biography of Michael Kewley, including videos and Dhamma talk extracts, can be found at: www.puredhamma.org