The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Twelve: Knowing, Emptiness and the Radiant Mind, second half ending at p. 219
Sections to be read out loud: 12.17, 12.24, 12.29
In the passage 12.16 five hundred lay followers approached the Buddha and asked him for teachings that will lead to their happiness for a long time. The Buddha responded, “You should train yourself thus, ‘From time to time we will enter and dwell upon those discourses spoken by the Tathagatha that are deep, deep in meaning, supramundane, dealing with emptiness.’” The lay followers responded that it is not easy for them given that they dwell in homes, “Crowded with children, enjoying sandalwood, wearing garlands, scents, and cosmetics, receiving gold and silver…..” Instead, they were content with their confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and the development of “virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken… leading to concentration.”
This month let us assess our own willingness to hear, learn, contemplate and realize the Buddha’s teachings on the underlying nature of mind – knowing, emptiness and radiance. Although subtle, it is not too much of a stretch for us lay folk, when not completely overwhelmed by life, to contemplate the nature of the five aggregates that make up our experience as living beings. Passage 12.17 encourages us to investigate these elements of experience in the same way a, “Person with good sight would inspect it, ponder it, and carefully investigate it, and it would appear to them to be empty, hollow, insubstantial.” Is this true for us? When form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations & volitions and consciousness are investigated with a clear, open and unfixed view, what is the effect, what is realized?
Ajahn Chah states in 12.29 that our practice is to realize the Original Mind. We can simply notice the mind’s reaction to hearing this. Is there inspiration, doubt, or aversion arising? Let’s reflect that any inspiration, resistance or doubt that arises is also empty of self. No matter what our response/reaction is to this or any experience in our lives, can it be understood as, ‘empty, hollow and insubstantial’, a movement of nature, not of self?