Sutta Study Discussion Theme 12-­5-­15

From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought­-World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo
Chapter 7, Doubt, pages, pages 78­-84

Sections to be read outloud:
Page 80­-81, first three paragraphs of 7.2
Last paragraph on page 83 through end of chapter on page 84

Discussion Theme:
Doubt is a particularly difficult mental quality to recognize and abandon. When the mind
is identified with and caught up in doubt, the strong tendency is to want to think in order
to construct a sense of safety and certainty that we want. The trouble is, our thoughts
about things and any meaning that we construct can’t provide the safety we seek.
Conceptual meaning is inherently unstable, requiring ongoing thinking to maintain any
appearance of security. Joseph Goldstein says in his book, Mindfulness: A Practical
Guide to Awakening, “This is the mind state of uncertainty, wavering, and indecision. It
is like coming to a crossroad and not knowing which way to go. The mind simply wavers
back and forth between alternatives, and we end up not going anywhere.” He then
quotes a line from Yann Martel’s book, Life of Pi, “To choose doubt as a philosophy of
life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”

The Buddha said, “There are, bhikkhus, things that are the basis for doubt. Frequently
giving careless and unwise attention to them is the nutriment for their arising and
increasing. Giving wise attention to them becomes the cause of their diminishing and
disappearance.”

This month, we continue to observe the conditioned forces of mind that hinder the
steadiness and clarity of attention. Without some degree of steadiness and clarity, our
mind is not good for much except getting us into trouble. Let’s be particularly interested
in the arising and persistence of doubt in the mind. Notice what mental activities feed
the circular movement of doubt and what wholesome qualities undermine it. A powerful
skillful means is learning to recognize the often uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty. If
we can befriend that feeling, bring mindful awareness to it, then the mind won’t feel
compelled to get away from it. You can use a phrase such as, “Oh, it’s just doubt. Doubt
is being known. Can this be OK?”

The mind can choose to rest in the experience of not knowing without assuming that
any unpleasantness is dangerous. With practice, the mind learns to trust uncertainty
and abandons its habits of aversion. The grounding that the mind is looking for arises
when the attention is turned away from concepts, and toward things in and of
themselves. In other words, we give ourselves completely, wholeheartedly to the activity
that is right in front of us. Walking is just walking, seeing is just seeing, talking is just
talking. We are not reinforcing the mind’s dependence on what it all means.

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