The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Fourteen: Practices and Perspectives II, first half of chapter, pages 245 – 254
Sections to be read out loud: 14.4, 14.5, 14.6, 14.8, 14.11, 14.15
Meditation is all about opening to Dhamma – the truth of the way things are. This is a direct and immediate approach to freedom. It is our not opening, our not seeing clearly the way things are that supports and perpetuates our confused and stressful ways of relating to experience. The Buddha invites us to become devotees of Dhamma. Traditionally, Buddhists chant that the Dhamma is “apparent here and now” (sanditthiko), “timeless” (akaliko), encouraging investigation” (ehipassiko), “liberating” (opanayiko), “to be experienced for oneself” (paccattam), “realizable by the wise” (veditabbo vinnuhi). In other words, whatever it is that the heart is actually seeking is here and now. Let’s consider, how best to actualize this opening & releasing?
The previous chapter emphasized how the path was a gradual one, certainly there is a lot of good foundational work that one can do to increase the probability of moments of insight. But, let’s remember that moments of insight however large or small are a direct and immediate opening & letting go into freedom. Ajahn Pasanno encourages us to reflect on the directness of the Buddha’s teachings, probably so we don’t fall into the trap of postponement, “I’ll do it later when conditions are just right!” Instead of wrongly believing that this moment is not OK, we want to remember that moments of insight always begin with the mind recognizing the limitations of wrong view. Wrong view isn’t the problem, it is the not recognizing wrong view for what it is that is the problem.
14.2 “Here, Hemaka, with regard to things that are dear – seen, heard, sensed and cognized – there is: the dispelling of passion & desire, the undying state of Nibbana. Those knowing this, mindful, fully unbound in the here and now, are forever calmed, have crossed over beyond entanglement in the world.” SN 1086-7
The awakening process starts with seeing that things are dear (attachment or the inclination toward attachment) and then the releasing of that very same attachment. Our insight must be the same as the Buddha’s insight, “Nothing is fit to be clung to,” or “Nothing is worth adhering to.” (p. 247) Non-clinging or letting go can be understood as the natural movement of a generous mind that understands the way things are.
Not everything is to be let go of, only dukkha or clinging. The Buddha points to four ways of clingings that are worthy of releasing: the clinging to sensual desires, the clinging to rules and observances (routines), the clinging to views, and the clinging to doctrines (views) of self. This month let’s examine these four ways our minds habitually clings to experience and how in any moment there can be a letting go. We can ask, “What is the mind doing, what is it not seeing or not understanding that feeds habits of clinging or prevents the letting go of clinging?” Remember, whenever wisdom detects clinging, right there exists the possibility of release or freedom.