Sutta Study Reflection Theme 6-1-13

The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Pages 39 – 52

Sections to be read out loud:
The Fire Sermon, p. 44 – 45
Verses of the elder nuns, p. 49 – 51

Discussion Theme: 
Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno begin this chapter by quoting a well respected Buddhist scholar Richard Gombrich where he raises the essential practice question, if nibbana means that something is ‘going out’, what is it that is “going out”?

As we contemplate the movements of the heart and mind this month, let’s explore our experience of the mind and heart heating up and cooling down. Let’s get interested in what the Buddha is pointing to with his metaphors of heating and cooling. In an even more subtle way, can we discern the nature of what it is that is heating and cooling. In the Fire Sermon the Buddha identifies clear seeing, (“Seeing thus”) as the turning point. As the mind more deeply understands that everything is aflame with greed anger and delusion, the process of letting go begins. Cooling and extinguishing the fires of greed anger and delusion was the Buddha’s central metaphor for nibbana. It makes sense for us to practice with this metaphor as we open to our experience. How is this metaphor useful in understanding the mind and clarifying our practice?

“Fire, when burning, is in a state of agitation, dependence, attachment, and entrapment – both clinging and being stuck to its sustenance. Extinguished, it becomes calm, independent, indeterminate, and unattached: It lets go of its sustenance and is released.” Thanassaro Bhikkhu, ‘The Mind Like a Fire Unbound,’ p. 41 

Additional Notes:
Remember, this metaphor arose in a particular time and place. We need to recognize that our preference might be more toward heat than to cool given our climate. Also, the Buddha’s emphasis on coolness was probably purposely in contrast to the vedic value of fire (see pages 43-44).

Reflect on the five aggregates as bundles of fuel, (p. 43)
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