Sutta Study Theme 9-5-15
From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the ThoughtWorld of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo
Chapter 3, Passion/Raga, pages 39 - 53
Sections to be read outloud:
Middle three paragraphs, p. 40
Last two paragraphs, p. 41- ending on the top of 42
All of section 3.2 on pages 44-45
Last three paragraphs through first full paragraph, p 51-52
Bhikkhu Analayo begins this chapter on passion (raga), by pointing to its nature as an inherently insatiable mental activity of wanting, needing, lacking that defines our human predicament. The Buddha see passion as a central attribute of craving - the cause of all dukkha. We have passion around certain sense experiences, we have passion around our opinions, we can have passion for existence, and most generally we have passion around our identification with the mind and body (the five aggregates).
As we reflect on our own experience of passion, we can, in hindsight as least, recognize its obscuring nature. The word itself, raga, means “to color” or “to dye”. The Buddha talks about how our mind overcome with passion is unable to discern what leads to our own welfare and the welfare of others. How are we to set in motion happiness if the mind lacks the clarity to discern the lawfulness of its causes and conditions? When the mind is obscured by passion and delight, it can be easy to miss how imprisoning and stressful passion is for the mind. One image from the suttas mentioned in this chapter is of a spider that is caught in its own web - the mind entangled by or clinging to its own constructions.
This month, let’s notice not just those moments when the stress of passion is obvious and strong. More importantly, let’s notice the fading away of passion leading to experiences of dispassion. What is the relationship between this fading away of passion and your experiences of letting go and freedom? What is it that the mind understands that supports the fading away of passion? How do we experience dispassion, how do we know it is a wholesome quality of mind? It what ways do you still distrust or misunderstand the experience of dispassion?