Sutta Study Theme 12-3-2014

The Island
Chapter 15: Practices and Perspectives III

Discourses to be read out loud:
15.2, 15.3, 15.6, 15.7

Discussion theme:

Ajahn Pasanno begins the chapter with “How, then, does the path of practice yield an experience of the goal? This question requires careful consideration, for there are many misconceptions of this relationship that can get in the way of actually reaching the goal, even after genuine progress on the path.” It seems that Ajahn is pointing to the importance of understanding the relationship between the ends and means of the path as essential in navigating the path.

Understanding the relationship between path and fruit might be explored in terms of how we practice at different moments in our practice. For example, I find it very instructive how the Buddha outlines three stages of awareness practice in his discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: first, we are asked to know things in and of themselves, in other words – not conceptually; second, we are instructed to develop enough steadiness to see things arising and passing so that the mind can discern the skillfulness and unskillfulness of how the mind is relating; and finally, we are asked to trust in simple awareness that supports a not clinging to anything in the world – that just this is enough. Each of these three instructions can be seen also as a deepening experience of fruit or freedom.

This month let’s reflect alone and together in our small groups how our understanding of path and fruit of our practice have shifted over the years and even day to day. In many ways the great bulk of our practice is the clarifying of what is the and is not the path. See if there are times when the path of practice itself appears to be an expression or manifestation of the mind’s inherent freedom. Also, let’s notice that in moments of freedom, the mind is naturally inclined to practice – sustained mindful awareness.

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