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|Upasika Kee Nanayon|
A Good Dose of Dhamma
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Listening to the Dhamma when the mind has already reached a basic level of emptiness is very useful. It's like an energizing tonic, for when we're sick there's bound to be pain disturbing us; but if we don't pay it any attention, it simply becomes an affair of the body, without involving the mind at all. Notice this as you're listening: The mind has let go of the pain to listen to the words, leaving the pain to its own affairs. The mind is then empty....
Once the mind honestly sees the truth that all compounded things are inconstant, it will have to let go of its attachments. The problem here is that we haven't yet really seen this, or haven't yet reflected on it in a skillful way. Once we do, though, the mind is always ready to grow radiant. Clear knowing makes the mind immediately radiant. So keep careful watch on things. Even if you don't know very much, just be aware of the mind as it maintains a balance in its basic level of neutrality and emptiness. Then it won't be able to fashion the pains in the body into any great issues, and you won't have to be attached to them.
So keep your awareness of the pain right at the level where it's no more than a mere sensation in the body. It can be the body's pain, but don't let the mind be in pain with it. If you do let the mind be in pain with it, that will pile things on, layer after layer. So the first step is to protect the mind, to let things go, then turn inward to look for the deepest, most innermost part of your awareness and stay right there. You don't have to get involved with the pains outside. If you simply try to endure them, they may be too much for you to endure. So look for the aspect of the mind that lies deep within, and you'll be able to put everything else aside.
Now, if the pains are the sort that you can watch, then make an effort to watch them. The mind will stay at its normal neutrality, calm with its own inner emptiness, watching the pain as it changes and passes away. But if the pain is too extreme, then turn around and go back inside; for if you can't handle it, then craving is going to work its way into the picture, wanting to push the pain away and to gain pleasure. This will keep piling on, piling on, putting the mind in a horrible turmoil.
So start out by solving the problem right at hand. If the pain is sudden and sharp, immediately turn around and focus all your attention on the mind. You don't want to have anything to do with the body, anything to do with the pains in the body. You don't look at them, you don't pay them any attention. Focus on staying with the innermost part of your awareness. Get to point where you can see the pure state of mind that isn't in pain with the body, and keep it constantly clear.
Once this is constantly clear, then no matter how much pain there is in the body, it's simply an affair of mental and physical events. The mind, though, isn't involved. It puts all these things aside. It lets go.
When you're adept at this, it's a very useful skill to have, for the important things in life don't lie outside. They lie entirely within the mind. If we understand this properly, we won't have to go out to grab this or that. We won't have to latch onto anything at all -- because if we do latch on, we simply cause ourselves needless suffering. The well-being of the mind lies at the point where it doesn't latch onto anything, where it doesn't want anything. That's where our well-being lies -- the point where all suffering and stress disband right at the mind....
If we don't really understand things, though, the mind won't be willing to let things go. It will keep on holding tight, for it finds so much flavor in things outside. Whatever involves pain and stress: That's what it likes.
We have to focus on contemplating and looking, looking at the illusions in the mind, the wrong knowledge and opinions that cover it up and keep us from seeing the aspect of the mind that's empty and still by its own internal nature. Focus on contemplating the opinions that give rise to the complicated attachments that bury the mind until it's in awful straits. See how mental events -- feelings, perceptions, and thought-formations -- condition the mind, condition the property of consciousness until it's in terrible shape.
This is why it's so important to ferret out the type of knowing that lets go of knowing, i.e., that knows the property of consciousness pure and simple when mental events haven't yet come in to condition it, or when it hasn't gone out to condition mental events. Right here is where things get really interesting -- in particular, the thought-formations that condition consciousness. They come from ignorance, right? It's because of our not knowing, or our wrong knowing, that they're able to condition things.
So I ask that you focus on this ignorance, this not-knowing. If you can know the characteristics of not-knowing, this same knowledge will know both the characteristics of thought-formations as they go about their conditioning and how to disband them. This requires adroit contemplation because it's something subtle and deep.
But no matter how subtle it may be, the fact that we've developed our mindfulness and discernment to this point means that we have to take an interest in it. If we don't, there's no way we can put an end to stress or gain release from it.
Or, if you want, you can approach it like this: Focus exclusively on the aspect of the mind that's constantly empty. If any preoccupations appear to it, be aware of the characteristics of bare sensation when forms make contact with the eye, or sounds with the ear, and so forth. There's a bare sensation, and then it disbands before it can have any such meaning as "good" or "bad." If there's just the bare sensation that then disbands, there's no suffering.
Be observant of the moment when forms make contact with the eye. With some things, if you're not interested in them, no feelings of liking or disliking arise. But if you get interested or feel that there's a meaning to the form, sound, smell, taste, or tactile sensation, you'll notice that as soon as you give a meaning to these things, attachment is already there.
If you stop to look in this way, you'll see that attachment is something subtle, because it's there even in the simple act of giving meaning. If you look in a superficial way, you won't see that it's attachment -- even though that's what it is, but in a subtle way. As soon as there's a meaning, there's already attachment. This requires that you have to be good and observant -- because in the contact at the eyes and ears that we take so much for granted, many sleights-of-hand happen all at once, which means that we aren't aware of the characteristics of the consciousness that knows each individual sensation. We have to be very observant if we want to be able to know these things. If we aren't aware on this level, everything will be tied up in attachment. These things will keep sending their reports into the mind, conditioning and concocting all kinds of issues to leave the mind, or consciousness, in an utter turmoil.
So if we want to look purely inside, we have to be very, very observant, because things inside are subtle, elusive, and sensitive. When the mind seems empty and neutral: That's when you really have to keep careful watch and control over it, so as to see clearly the sensation of receiving contact. There's contact, pure and simple, then it disbands, and the mind is empty. Neutral and empty. Once you know this, you'll know what the mind is like when it isn't conditioned by the power of defilement, craving, and attachment. We can use this emptiness of the mind as our standard of comparison, and it will do us a world of good....
Ultimately, you'll see the emptiness of all sensory contacts, as in the Buddha's teaching that we should see the world as empty. What he meant is that we observe bare sensations simply arising and passing away, knowing what consciousness is like when it does nothing more than receive contact. If you can see this, the next step in the practice won't be difficult at all -- because you've established neutrality right from the start. The act of receiving contact is no longer complicated: The mind no longer grabs hold of things, no longer feels any likes or dislikes. It's simply quiet and aware all around within itself at all times. Even if you can do this much, you find that you benefit from not letting things get complex, from not letting them concoct things through the power of defilement, craving, and attachment. Even just this much gets rid of lots of problems.
Then when you focus further in to see the nature of all phenomena that are known through sensory contact, you'll see that there's simply bare sensation with nothing at all worth getting attached to. If you look with the eyes of true mindfulness and discernment, you'll have to see emptiness -- even though the world is full of things. The eye sees lots of forms, the ear hears lots of sounds, you know, but the mind no longer gives them meanings. At the same time, things have no meanings in and of themselves.
The only important thing is the mind. All issues come from the mind that goes out and gives things meanings and gives rise to attachment, creating stress and suffering for itself. So you have to look until you see all the way through. Look outward until you see all the way out, and inward until you see all the way in, all the way until you penetrate inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. See things as they are, in and of themselves, in line with their own nature, without any meanings or attachments. Then there won't be any issues. The mind will be empty -- clean and bright -- without your having to do anything to it.
Now, the fact that the mind has the viruses of ignorance, or of the craving that gives rise to things easily, means that we can't be careless. In the beginning, you have to supervise things carefully so that you can see the craving that arises at the moment of contact -- say, when there's a feeling of pain. If you don't label it as meaning your pain, craving won't get too much into the act. But if you do give it that meaning, then there will be the desire to push the pain away or to have pleasure come in its place.
All this, even though we've never gotten anything true and dependable from desiring. The pleasure we get from our desires doesn't last. It fools us and then changes into something else. Pain fools us and then changes into something else. But these changes keep piling up and getting very complicated in the mind, and this is what keeps the mind ignorant: It's been conditioned in so many ways that it gets confused, deluded, dark, and smoldering.
All kinds of things are smoldering in here....This is why the principle of the knowing that lets go of knowing is such an important tool. Whatever comes at you, the knowing that lets go of knowing is enough to get you through. It takes care of everything. If you let it slip, simply get back to the same sort of knowing. See for yourself how far it will take you, how much it can keep the mind neutral and empty.
You can come to see this bit by bit. In the moments when the mind isn't involved with very much, when it's at a basic level of normalcy -- empty, quiet, whatever -- keep careful watch over it and analyze it as well. Don't let it just be in an oblivious state of indifference, or else it will lose its balance. If you're in an oblivious state, then as soon as there's contact at any of the sense doors, there's sure to be attachment or craving giving rise to things the instant in which feeling appears. You have to focus on keeping watch of the changes, the behavior of the mind at every moment. As soon as your mindfulness lapses, get back immediately to your original knowing. We're all bound to have lapses -- all of us -- because the effluent of ignorance, the most important of the effluents, is still there in the mind.
This is why we have to keep working at our watchfulness, our investigation, our focused awareness, so that they keep getting clearer and clearer. Make your mind ripe in mindfulness and discernment, continuously....
Once they're ripe enough for you to know things in a skillful way, you'll be able to disband the defilements the very minute they appear. As soon as you begin feeling likes and dislikes, you can deal with them before they amount to anything. This makes things a lot easier. If you let them loose so that they condition the mind, making it irritated, murky, and stirred up to the point where it shows in your words and actions, then you're in terrible straits, falling into hell in this very lifetime.
The practice of the Dhamma requires that we be ingenious and circumspect right at the mind. The defilements are always ready to flatter us, to work their way into our favor. If we aren't skillful in our awareness, if we don't know how to keep the mind under careful supervision, we'll be no match for them -- for there are so many of them. But if we keep the mind well supervised, the defilements will be afraid of us -- afraid of our mindfulness and discernment, afraid of our awareness. Notice when the mind is empty, aware all around, with no attachments to anything at all: The defilements will hide out quiet, as if they weren't there at all.
But as soon as mindfulness slips, even just a little, they spring right up. They spring right up. If you recognize them for what they are the moment they spring up, they'll disband right there. This is a very useful skill to have. But if we let them get to the point where they turn into issues, they'll be hard to disband. That's when you have to bear with the fight and not give up.
Whatever happens, start out by bearing with it -- not simply to endure it, but so as to examine it, to see what it's like, how it changes, how it passes away. We bear with things so that we can see through their deceits: the way they arise, persist, and disband on their own. If they disband while we're examining them and clearly seeing their deceitfulness, we can have done with them for good. This will leave the mind in a state of freedom and independence, empty entirely within itself.
If you can learn to see through things right away the moment they arise -- what you might call your own little instantaneous awakenings -- your aware- ness will keep getting brighter and brighter, stronger and more expansive all the time.
work at them -- these little instantaneous understandings -- and eventually,
when things come together in an appropriate way, there will be the moment where
there's the instantaneous cutting through of defilements and effluents once and
for all. When that happens, then -- nibbana. No more taking birth. But
if you haven't yet reached that point, just keep sharpening your knives: your
mindfulness and discernment. If they're dull, they won't be able to cut
anything through, but whatever shape they're in, keep cutting through bit by
bit whatever you can....