Sutta Study Discussion Theme 4-1-17
From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought-World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo,
Chapter 23, Emptiness / Sunnata
To be read out loud:
23.1 Second paragraph p. 273 “Hence…” to end of section.
23.3 Whole section
23.4 Last paragraph on p. 280 until end of chapter p. 281
Venerable Analayo reports that in the early texts the adjective ‘sunna’ or being empty of something was used more often than the abstract noun ‘sunnata’ or emptiness. This means that the Buddha, in his usual pragmatic fashion, was instructing folks to be mindful of moments when the mind is empty of greed, anger and delusion; or empty of identification with the idea of a permanent self; or the environment is empty of stimuli that might trigger latent tendencies of greed, anger and delusion. In other words, the Buddha used the concept of emptiness is a tool or skillful means used to support the arising of insight and release. The path of practice is learning to recognize, wake up to, the mind empty of any of the distorting effects of wrong view. Do we know this mind? Ajahn Chah refers to awakening as the reality of non-grasping – realizing the mind empty of grasping.
Understanding the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness reveals much about the practice. We hear how the practice is not about striving to attain some special state, but when we understand this teaching on sunnata, at least intellectually, we will naturally orient our practice in a way that is more about abandoning what is burdensome and unnecessary. In section 23.2 Analayo mentions the Culasunnata sutta where the Buddha explains to Ananda his meditation practice of ‘dwelling in emptiness’. Please consider listening to Ajahn Punnadhammo’s brief introduction and guided meditation using the Buddha’s teachings from this sutta. Here is the link: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/8/talk/19346/
This month, let’s cultivate the perception that the mind’s empty nature is already here and now. Due to the force of habit the mind regularly fixates on and reacts to mental activities in a way that obscures or distorts the empty (of self) nature of the mind. With practice, wisdom develops and the mind remains more and more unconfused by the habits of greed, anger and delusion or any other self centered patterns of mind. This sets up the possibility of insight, the mind recognizing its empty nature.