Sutta Study Discussion Theme 7-2-16

From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought-World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo,
Chapter 14, Happiness/Sukha

Sections to be read outloud:
14.2 Beginning at bottom of p. 156 (To train the mind requires….) until end of section
14.3 From beginning of this section to the top of p. 162 (… source of pure happiness.)

Practice Theme:
Venerable Analayo outlines both wholesome (unworldly) happiness and unwholesome (worldly) happiness. In all types of happiness there are different degrees of refinement. For example, there the happiness that arises when we experience sense pleasure (some gross others quite refined), there is the happiness of absorption (the mind temporarily secluded from what is agitating and tormenting – to a lesser or greater degree) and there is the happiness of liberation (a mind not identified with or pushed around by conditioned experience – again, to a lesser or greater degree).

In terms of the first type of happiness, the happiness that arises dependent on pleasant sense experience, this happiness is considered worldly because it is does not support deepening insight and the liberation of the heart (an unconditioned happiness). Instead, it is often dangerous when the mind doesn’t see its limitations and therefore mistakenly clings to it as if it can provide meaningful, lasting happiness. Of course, the point of all these teachings on happiness is not to reject or become afraid of happiness, but rather to understand how the entire path is a deepening attunement to a happiness that is subtle, unconditioned and sublime; and a letting go of attachment to any happiness that is dependent on what is undependable, (happiness that arises dependent on changing conditioned experience).

Besides taking this month to more carefully map out and better understand the ethical nature (the skillfulness and unskillfulness) of our experiences of happiness, let’s also more specifically look into the role of happiness in the arising of samadhi.

“These discourses depict a conditional sequence that begins with “delight” and leads via “bliss” and tranquillity to the arising of “happiness”. Based on the presence of happiness, concentration naturally arises, which in turn forms the basis for wisdom and realisation. The dynamics of this causal sequence is comparable to the natural course of rain falling on a hilltop, which gradually fills and rivulets and rivers, and finally flows down to the sea.” (Venerable Analayo’s, pages 160 – 161)

Is it possible that the development samadhi and insight could be as natural as water finding its way down a hill? Mindfulness is the means to illuminate the nature of the mind, the causes for stress and the causes for release. Wishing us all a good month of practice as we gain understanding, skill and confidence in the happiness that is available in any mind not clinging to sense experience.

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