The Island: An Anthology of the Buddha’s Teachings on Nibbana
By Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro
Chapter Thirteen: Practices and Perspectives I, pages 231 – 244
Sections to be read out loud: 13.14, 13.16, 13.23, 13.27
Ajahn Pasanno reminds us that, “The results of the path are not all saved to the end.” (p. 234). Thank goodness, this means that the results, the deepening experience of release or non-grasping can be a barometer helping us negotiate the path. The last two sections of this chapter describe the Buddha’s teachings both in terms of a natural path and as the middle path. ??The naturalness of this path means that it reflects the conditionality and lawfulness of nature itself. This path of awakening must contain within it the causes and conditions that allow it to continue to develop. As Ajahn Pasanno says, “It is helpful to recognize this tendency for good qualities to foster further good qualities, so that we can nurture the appropriate causes for the results we are seeking.” Reflecting on this nature of the path can help us refine our understanding about right effort as the establishing and strengthening of the underlying supports that allow insights to develop. Wanting to become wise and compassionate is a supporting causes. On page 232, Ajahn Pasanno tells how his teacher Ajahn Chah made this point in terms of cultivating a garden.
The teaching on the middle path is not as simple as finding the midpoint between two extremes. Rather, it is learning how to step beyond the mind’s tendency to see things in dualistic ways. “The act of clinging to views of being or non-being forms the basis for our misperception in life. When we hold to being, we foster a tendency to search for ways of furthering the gratification, comfort, pleasure of that being. When we hold to non-being, the swing goes in the other direction of nihilism, fear, aversion to the quality of being. This is to state the case in a somewhat oversimplified way, but as we reflect and extrapolate from these two positions we can see how they can give rise to a multitude of difficulties.” (p. 239-240).
Freedom depends on leaving behind dualistic notions altogether. Mindful awareness sees in terms of conditionality – the lawful and immediate arising and ceasing of phenomena. The knowing or understanding is direct and intuitive, not in terms of conceptual ideas of good or bad, self or other, etc. In 13.23, the Buddha says, “This world is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence. But this one (with right view) does not become engaged and cling to that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’ He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing.” (p. 239). Let’s appreciate the rightness of the ‘middle way’ whenever mindful awareness is steady and the mind realizes the way that it is free from the distorting effects of dualistic concepts.