The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Four, All That is Conditioned; pages 66 – 84
Sections to be read out loud:
S 22.81 and M 140.20-22; pages 72-75
How is it that greed hatred and delusion arise in the mind with such persistence? The Buddha might say that the mind becomes enchanted with conditioned experience because it is as Ajahn Pasanno and Amaro say, “multi layered, multi faceted, subtle, awesome, colourful, compelling, inspiring, frightening, irritating and generally very convincing with regards to its substantiality, meaning and value.” It doesn’t occur to us to look through the surface of experience and notice how the mind, unaware, constantly constructs meaning. The mind then takes this constructed meaning to be something substantial and personal, worthy of attachment. This misapprehension is the mind’s basic ignorance. We are misunderstanding what, ‘this’ is.
“This world is anguished, afflicted by sense-contact, even what it calls the ‘self’ is in fact unsatisfactory; for no matter what it conceives, the fact is ever other than that.
Always becoming something other, the world is held by being, afflicted by being and yet delights in being, yet what it relishes brings fear, and what it fears is pain. Now this holy life is lived to abandon suffering.”
– Ud 3.10
It is relatively easy to understand the first type of dukkha which arises whenever we experience painful feelings whether they are physically or psychologically based. The second type is more subtle and points to the unsatisfactoriness that is inherent even in pleasant experiences because of the inevitability of change. On some level we know that we can’t count on any experience forever and this is stressful. This month we will reflect on sankhara dukkha, the most subtle uneasiness that colors that mind. It arises from a fundamental misunderstanding that concludes that personal safety is required and can be found in the conceptions the mind constructs and identifies with. This unwise response to the changing nature of experience can be seen with wisdom and released. Let’s use this month of practice to learn better how to live in a world where we are necessarily conceiving thoughts all the time, without taking them to be more than what they are. Thoughts are useful in forming and maintaining community and in organizing our actions. But thoughts can not provide satisfaction in a lasting, absolute sense. Insight is our refuge – wisdom that arises from seeing clearly, directly the way things are. Of course, later one inevitably thinks about one’s insights, but these thoughts are not the insight.