The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Thirteen: Practices and Perspectives I, pages 222 – 231
Sections to be read out loud: 13.5, 13.7, 13.11, 13.12
The Buddha taught that it matters what we pay attention to. Ajahn Pasanno says on page 223, “Perception is what conditions all of our thoughts words and deeds.” Our patterns of perceiving the world also create the world we inhabit. This month, let’s better discern these patterns of perception and their natural consequences. Can we notice when we are setting in motion a world infused with dukkha because our perceiving is bound up with greed, anger and delusion? Can we also notice when the way of perceiving supports the purification of our actions, the purification of our mind and the purification of our views; revealing a world that is increasingly free, less bound up with the tendencies of greed, anger and delusion?
The opening sutta in this chapter has Ananda asking the question we ourselves might want to ask, “What is the reason, what is the cause why certain beings in this world are not fully set free in this very life?” Sariputta answers that it is because we do not see as it really is, the perception conducive to decline, the perception conducive to stability, the perception conducive to distinction, and the perception conducive to penetration, (13.1). Sariputta is pointing to a training that gradually transforms the way the mind attends to or sees experience, replacing a fascination with the world with a “world-weariness, disenchantment, or disgust (nibbida)”. Let’s honestly acknowledge that most often we have minds that as the Buddha states in 13.6, “Delight in adhesion, takes delight in adhesion, rejoices in adhesion.” We miss understanding this experience of adhesion because our perception isn’t sharp and stable enough to catch the stress associated with the grasping.
Ajahn Pasanno makes the important point that this practice of transforming perception doesn’t lead to an aversion toward the world of experience, rather it leads to one losing their taste for the world or no longer finding satisfaction in the world of sense experience. When the mind is no longer bound to perceptions colored by greed, anger and delusion, then it can open to the perception of cessation and the peace of nibbana.