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Theragatha v.127-128

‘‘Tiṇṇaṃ me tālapattānaṃ,
gaṅgātīre kuṭī katā;
Chavasittova me patto,
paṃsukūlañca cīvaraṃ.
‘‘Dvinnaṃ antaravassānaṃ,
ekā vācā me bhāsitā;
Tatiye antaravassamhi,
tamokhandho padālito’’ti.

==
(English)
Using three palm leaves I made myself
a hut on the bank or river Ganges.
A skull itself that was my (alms)bowl,
And ragged rugs such was my robe.

And in between two years I spoke
Not more than just one time –
The third year was when I broke through
And left behind forever darkness.

(KEN translation:)
DREI Palmenwedel baut’ ich einst
Als Obdach auf, im Gangesgau,
Ein Schädel war mein Bettelnapf,
Die Fetzenkutte Leichengut.

Zwei Herbste hab’ ich so geruht,
Geredet einmal einen Satz-
lm dritten Herbste bin ich heil
Aus Nacht und Nebel drungen durch.

~~-♦-~~

Theragatha, v.985

Pallaṅkena nisinnassa, jaṇṇuke nābhivassati;
Alaṃ phāsuvihārāya, pahitattassa bhikkhuno.

When for him, who sits with legs crossed, the knee stays dry –
that is enough already to count as a pleasant dwelling for a devoted beggarmonk.

more Theragatha

~~-♦-~~

Itivuttaka, 42 – Jivaka Sutta:

This was said by the Lord…
“Bhikkhus, this is contemptible means of subsistence, this gathering of alms. In the world, bhikkhus, it is a form of abuse to say “You alms-gatherer(bhikkhu) ! Wandering about clutching a begging bowl!’ Yet this means of subsistence has been taken up by young men of good family for a reason, for a purpose. They have not been reduced to it by kings nor by robbers nor because of debt nor through freer nor from loss of an alternative means of livelihood, but with the single thought: “We are beset by birth, aging and death, by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair; overcome by suffering, afflicted by suffering. Perhaps an end can be discerned of this whole mass of suffering!”
“So this young man of good family has gone forth (into homelessness), but he may be covetous for objects of desire, strongly passionate, unconcentrated, of wandering mind and uncontrolled faculties. Just as a brand from a funeral pyre, burnt at both ends and in the middle smeared with exrements, can be used as timber neither in the village nor in the forest, so by such a simile do I speak about this person: he has missed out on the enjoyments of a householder, yet he does not fulfill the purpose of recluseship.”

He has missed both a laymen’s pleasure
And his recluseship, too, the luckless man!
Ruining it, he throws it away
And perishes like a funerary brand.

Far better for him to swallow
A fiery hot iron ball
Than that immoral and uncontrolled
He should eat the country’s alms.

~~-♦-~~

Samyutta Nikaya, 20. Bhikkhusamyutta, Sutta No. 8

…Nanda, it is not suitable for the son of a clansman like you who has gone forth out of faith to wear a stamped down ironed robe, to anoint the eyes and carry a shining bowl. It is suitable for the son of a clansman like you who has gone forth out of faith to be a forest dweller, to partake morsel food, to wear robes made of rags and not expect sensual pleasures.

5. The Blessed One, the well gone Teacher further said:

When will I see Nanda the forest dweller,
Wearing rag robes, satisfied with the morsel food
And not desiring sensual pleasures.

6. Then in the meantime venerable Nanda became a forest dweller wearing rag robes, satisfied with the morsel food and one not expecting sensual pleasures.

~~-♦-~~

Samyutta Nikaya, Opammasamyutta (19), Sutta 8

…Monks, at present the monks live diligent and zealous to dispel as though have taken a block of wood for the pillow. And Màra the Evil One does not obtain a cause and reason to intervene.

6. Monks, in the future there will be a time when the softness of the beautiful hands and feet of the monks would dry up and they would sleep until sun rise with their huge bodies. Then Màra the Evil One will obtain a cause and chance to intervene.

~~-♦-~~

Anguttara Nikaya, III, Devadutavagga, Hatthaka Sutta

I heard thus. At one time the Blessed One was abiding in Alavi on a cattle track seated on a spread of leaves in the Simsapa forest. Hatthaka of Alavaka walking and wandering for exercise saw the Blessed One seated on a spread of leaves in the Simsapa forest and approached, worshipped the Blessed One, sat on a side and said:…`Sir, wintry nights are cold, it’s the time of snow fall, the ground, with cattle made ruts is rough, the spread of leaves is thin, snow falls through the trees, minus their leaves, the cold wind blows through the earth-colored robe clinging to the body, and yet the Blessed One says Yes, prince, I slept well, I’m one of those who sleep well in this world.’….

…etc, etc. 😉
why do so few Buddhist monks call themselves “bhikkhu” ?! 😉
for more quotes from the suttas on the topic of “right livelihood of a bhikkhu”, have a look at this little book, which provides a long collection of similar passages from the Suttas, all strung together from the moment of entering the Order until attainment of arahantship, in the words of the Buddha:
PS: On a slightly different note, but interesting for purposes of studying the way of life of a “mendicant” – If you like to get an idea how this might have looked like in an even colder climate like Europe, enjoy this pretty accurate historical movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqD5KPE6LYw&feature=related

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Can a practice that we undertake which does not purify our mind be truly considered “cultivation of the mind”? Let’s forget our concepts and ideas about “meditation” for a moment and look at some words of the Awakened One on how to clean and purify our minds as a beautiful activity in and by itself…

[The Buddha:]…Here, bhikkhus, the ordinary man has not seen Noble Ones and Great Men, not clever and not tamed in their teaching, does not know the thoughts that should be thought and should not be thought. So he thinks thoughts that should not be thought and does not think thoughts that should be thought. Bhikkhus, what thoughts that should not be thought are thought? Those thoughts that arouse non-arisen sensual desires, and thoughts that develop arisen sensual desires….He thinks unwisely in this manner:`Was I in the past or wasn’t I in the past? Who was I in the past? How was I in the past? Become who and who was I in the past? Will I be in the future, or will I not be in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Who will I become and who will I be in the future?’

So manasikaraṇīye dhamme appajānanto amanasikaraṇīye dhamme appajānanto, ye dhammā na manasikaraṇīyā, te dhamme manasi karoti, ye dhammā manasikaraṇīyā te dhamme na manasi karoti…. ‘‘So evaṃ ayoniso manasi karoti – ‘ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Na nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kiṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kathaṃ nu kho ahosiṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? Kiṃ hutvā kiṃ ahosiṃ nu kho ahaṃ atītamaddhānaṃ? =>Middle Length Sayings, (Majjhima Nikaya), Sabbāsava Sutta.

[The Buddha:]…Such a monk, o monks, who has heard the Dhamma, dwells with a double kind of seclusion – he dwells with his body secluded and with his mind secluded. When he dwells thus secluded he (constantly) remembers verbatim [lit. “remembers along”] that Dhamma [i.e. the one he heard] and follows that Dhamma in thoughts [lit. “thinks along”]. At such a time, o monks, when a monk thus secluded remembers and thinks about that Dhamma again and again, mindfulness [lit. memory] as a factor of awakening has begun for that monk…mindfulness [sati, lit. remembrance, memory] as a factor of awakening is being cultivated at that time by that monk…

Tathārūpānaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ dhammaṃ sutvā dvayena vūpakāsena vūpakaṭṭho viharati – kāyavūpakāsena ca cittavūpakāsena ca. So tathā vūpakaṭṭho viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ anussarati anuvitakketi.‘‘Yasmiṃ samaye, bhikkhave, bhikkhu tathā vūpakaṭṭho viharanto taṃ dhammaṃ anussarati anuvitakketi, satisambojjhaṅgo tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhuno āraddho hoti…samādhisambojjhaṅgaṃ tasmiṃ samaye bhikkhu bhāveti..Diṭṭheva dhamme paṭikacca aññaṃ ārādheti. =>SN, Mahavagga, Sīlasutta.

So if reflection/contemplation is so important, should not it be emphasized duly in our Buddhist practice? How important is proper thinking really? How does it relate to the noble eight-fold path? Can we find some more quotes?

[The Buddha:]…And what, Kevatta, is the miracle of instruction? Here, Kevatta, a monk teaches thus: “Think in this way, do not think in that way. Reflect [lit. ‘keep in mind’, ‘attend to’] in this way, do not reflect in that way. Reject this, attain and dwell in that”. This is called, Kevatta, the miracle of instruction.

‘‘Katamañca, kevaṭṭa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ? Idha, kevaṭṭa, bhikkhu evamanusāsati – ‘evaṃ vitakketha, mā evaṃ vitakkayittha, evaṃ manasikarotha, mā evaṃ manasākattha, idaṃ pajahatha, idaṃ upasampajja viharathā’ti. Idaṃ vuccati, kevaṭṭa, anusāsanīpāṭihāriyaṃ. =>DN, Kevatthasutta

[The Buddha:]…”I too, Brahmin, instruct thus: – “Think in this way, do not think in that way. Reflect [lit. ‘keep in mind’, ‘attend to’] in this way, do not reflect in that way. Reject this, attain and dwell in that”.

Ahañhi, brāhmaṇa, evamanusāsāmi – ‘evaṃ vitakketha, mā evaṃ vitakkayittha; evaṃ manasi karotha, mā evaṃ manasākattha; idaṃ pajahatha, idaṃ upasampajja viharathā’’’ti. =>AN, 3. Brahmanavagga, Dvebrahmana Sutta.

[The Buddha:]…as he has heard and learned the Dhamma he follows it in his thinking, follows it reflecting, closely investigates it with his mind. Him, thus thinking and reflecting and investigating along the Dhamma which he has heard and memorized [lit. pariyatta means ‘taken-up completely’] his heart is released trough the ultimate destruction of attachment.

…yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati. Tassa yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakkayato anuvicārayato manasānupekkhato anuttare upadhisaṅkhaye cittaṃ vimuccati. Ayaṃ, ānanda, chaṭṭho ānisaṃso kālena atthupaparikkhāya. => AN, 6. Mahavaggo, Phagguna Sutta

But can this be “meditation” ? I always thought getting rid of thoughts is meditation? Stilling the mind? Is proper thinking meditation? Why is it necessary?

[The Buddha:]….Whenever, o monks, a monk follows and reflects upon and investigates along, that Dhamma, which he has heard, which he as memorized, then, at that time, he is experiencing the meaning, he is experiencing the Dhamma. Him, who is experiencing the meaning, experiencing the Dhamma gladness arises. For the gladdened one, joy arises. The joyful one’s body becomes tranquil. When his body become tranquil he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind becomes collected, concentrated…

Yathā yathā, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthapaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca. Tassa atthapaṭisaṃvedino dhammapaṭisaṃvedino pāmojjaṃ jāyati. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati. Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti. Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Wow! This is very straight forward. So you do follow the Buddha’s words in your mind. If I understand this correctly, a contemplation on a topic of the Dhamma itself, if practiced correctly, will turn into a deep meditation by itself. Very interesting. But how can thinking lead to a concentrated mind, to the jhanas, to vipassana?

[The Buddha:]….Whoever, o monks, greedy has rid himself of greediness, ill-tempered has rid himself of ill-temper, angry has kid himself of anger…He observes himself cleansed from all these evil unwholesome qualities. Him, observing himself cleansed from all these evil unwholesome qualities gladness arises. For the gladdened one joy is born. The body of the joyful calms down. With a calm body he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind attains concentration.

Yassa kassaci, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno abhijjhālussa abhijjhā pahīnā hoti, byāpannacittassa byāpādo pahīno hoti, kodhanassa kodho pahīno hoti… So sabbehi imehi pāpakehi akusalehi dhammehi visuddhamattānaṃ samanupassati. Tassa sabbehi imehi pāpakehi akusalehi dhammehi visuddhamattānaṃ samanupassato pāmojjaṃ jāyati, pamuditassa pīti jāyati, pītimanassa kāyo passambhati, passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti, sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati. =>MN, Cula Assapura Sutta

Do you always have to start out with thinking? What if someone has trained, lets say his metta thinking, to such an extant that he often experiences bliss right away when he starts his contemplation exercise…does not he almost have a “shortcut” to samadhi?

[The Buddha:]…here he does not think and reflect and investigate the Dhamma the way he heard and learned it, but instead he has well grasped, well attended to, well held up in his mind and well penetrated with wisdom a certain object of mental unification: whenever, o monks, that monks has well grasped, attended to, well held up in his mind and wisely penetrated that object of mental unification at that time he experiences the meaning and nature of that object. Experiencing the meaning and nature of that meditative object gladness arises. For the gladdened one joy is born. The body of the joyful calms down. With a calm body he feels happiness. The happy one’s mind attains concentration.

nāpi yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati; api ca khvassa aññataraṃ samādhinimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya. Yathā yathā, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno aññataraṃ samādhinimittaṃ suggahitaṃ hoti sumanasikataṃ sūpadhāritaṃ suppaṭividdhaṃ paññāya tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthapaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca. Tassa atthapaṭisaṃvedino dhammapaṭisaṃvedino pāmojjaṃ jāyati. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati. Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati. Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti. Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Is there also a false way how to do this?

[The Buddha:]… And again, o monks, there a monk thinks and reflects and investigates along a Dhamma which he heard and memorized. He, with those Dhamma-thoughts, spends too much of the day, neglects (mental) seclusion, does not yoke himself to inner mental tranquility. This monk, o monks, is called someone who is a “Think-a-lot” not a “Dhamma-dweller”.

‘‘Puna caparaṃ, bhikkhu, bhikkhu yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ cetasā anuvitakketi anuvicāreti manasānupekkhati. So tehi dhammavitakkehi divasaṃ atināmeti, riñcati paṭisallānaṃ, nānuyuñjati ajjhattaṃ cetosamathaṃ. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhu – ‘bhikkhu vitakkabahulo, no dhammavihārī’’’.

Okay. So to summarize, the Buddha encourages his students to hear the Dhamma. Then listen in such a way that they remember it. Then go and dwell on the Dhamma they learned in a calm contemplative fashion. If they do so, the mind will get unified, experiencing jhana. If they practice thus frequently, they might experience the stilling of the mind right away. However, while contemplating a topic of the Dhamma is the way to still the mind, if one just “thinks about” and “daydreams” one is missing the point either. So the goal has to be to experience, ultimately, what you are thinking about. Okay, so tell me, how did the monks at the time of the Buddha do this practice of correct thinking or reflection to purify their minds?

[The Buddha:]…He is equipped with this noble mass of virtue, equipped with this noble restraint of the senses, equipped with this noble remembrance and clear awareness, equipped with this noble contentment and he takes refuge in a secluded place, a jungle, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a gorge, a mountain cave, a cemetery, a forest abode, under the open sky, on a heap of straw. He, after his meal, when he has come back from his alms round sits down, having crossed his legs and straightened his body and having had his awareness/remembrance settle in front of him [lit. ‘around his face’].

He dwells with a mind freed from sensual desire, having rid himself of desire towards the world, he cleanses his mind from sensual desire. He has given up anger and ill-will, dwelling with a heart free of ill-temper he is filled with compassion and welfare towards all living beings, he cleanses his mind from ill-temper. He has rejected sloth and torpor, without sloth and torpor he dwells, perceiving light, remembering and clearly aware, he cleanses his mind of sloth and torpor. He has thrown out restlessness and remorse, he dwells stilled, with his heart inside at peace, he cleanses his mind from restlessness and remorse. He has given up doubt, dwells having gone beyond doubt, he is without doubt regarding the wholesome qualities, he cleanses his mind from doubt.

Let’s say, great king, a man has taken on a debt to endeavor in some business. That business succeeds. So those former debts which he had, he is able to eliminate them and he would have something left to support a wife. He would think thus: “I have taken on a debt before, to endeavor in this business. That business of mine succeeded. Now I am able to pay off those debts and beyond that something remains which allows me to support a wife.” He would based on that become glad, experience  happiness.

‘‘So iminā ca ariyena sīlakkhandhena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena indriyasaṃvarena samannāgato, iminā ca ariyena satisampajaññena samannāgato, imāya ca ariyāya santuṭṭhiyā samannāgato, vivittaṃ senāsanaṃ bhajati araññaṃ rukkhamūlaṃ pabbataṃ kandaraṃ giriguhaṃ susānaṃ vanapatthaṃ abbhokāsaṃ palālapuñjaṃ. So pacchābhattaṃ piṇḍapātappaṭikkanto nisīdati pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā.

‘‘So abhijjhaṃ loke pahāya vigatābhijjhena cetasā viharati, abhijjhāya cittaṃ parisodheti. Byāpādapadosaṃ pahāya abyāpannacitto viharati sabbapāṇabhūtahitānukampī, byāpādapadosā cittaṃ parisodheti. Thinamiddhaṃ pahāya vigatathinamiddho viharati ālokasaññī, sato sampajāno, thinamiddhā cittaṃ parisodheti. Uddhaccakukkuccaṃ pahāya anuddhato viharati, ajjhattaṃ vūpasantacitto, uddhaccakukkuccā cittaṃ parisodheti. Vicikicchaṃ pahāya tiṇṇavicikiccho viharati, akathaṃkathī kusalesu dhammesu, vicikicchāya cittaṃ parisodheti.

218. ‘‘Seyyathāpi, mahārāja, puriso iṇaṃ ādāya kammante payojeyya. Tassa te kammantā samijjheyyuṃ. So yāni ca porāṇāni iṇamūlāni, tāni ca byantiṃ kareyya siyā cassa uttariṃ avasiṭṭhaṃ dārabharaṇāya. Tassa evamassa – ‘ahaṃ kho pubbe iṇaṃ ādāya kammante payojesiṃ. Tassa me te kammantā samijjhiṃsu. Sohaṃ yāni ca porāṇāni iṇamūlāni, tāni ca byantiṃ akāsiṃ, atthi ca me uttariṃ avasiṭṭhaṃ dārabharaṇāyā’ti. So tatonidānaṃ labhetha pāmojjaṃ, adhigaccheyya somanassaṃ=> DN 2, Sāmaññaphala Sutta.

So the monks spend their afternoons actively purifying their mind from unwholesome qualities and states and if they succeeded would experience the bliss and final tranquility of the jhanas. Obviously, this is not a five minute activity!!! This purification of the mind is the exercise regiment for their afternoon seclusion! The five hindrances which the monks try to purify themselves from are an embodiment of unwholesome qualities against which the Buddha offered a wide variety of meditation (thinking – or rather contemplation) topics. Let’s look at some examples of what these monks would actually have practiced:

[The Buddha:]…o monks, even if robbers cut your limbs one after another with a two handled saw, if your mind be defiled on account of that, you have not done the duty in my dispensation. Then too you should train thus: “Our minds will not change, we will not utter evil words. We will abide compassionate with thoughts of loving kindness not angry. We will pervade that person with thoughts of loving kindness. Having pervaded that person with a mind of loving kindness we will dwell thus and from that object onward pervade the whole world with a mind of loving kindness…” Monks, you should train thus. Monks, you should constantly attend to the advice on the simile of the saw. Is there anything small or large in those words of others which you then would not be able to endure? – No, Sir – Therefore, o monks, often reflect [lit. attend to, manasikarotha, “make it in your mind”] on the simile of the saw, it will be for your welfare and happiness for a long time.

‘‘Ubhatodaṇḍakena cepi, bhikkhave, kakacena corā ocarakā aṅgamaṅgāni okanteyyuṃ, tatrāpi yo mano padūseyya, na me so tena sāsanakaro. Tatrāpi vo, bhikkhave, evaṃ sikkhitabbaṃ – ‘na ceva no cittaṃ vipariṇataṃ bhavissati, na ca pāpikaṃ vācaṃ nicchāressāma, hitānukampī ca viharissāma mettacittā na dosantarā. Tañca puggalaṃ mettāsahagatena cetasā pharitvā viharissāma tadārammaṇañca sabbāvantaṃ lokaṃ mettāsahagatena cetasā vipulena mahaggatena appamāṇena averena abyābajjhena pharitvā viharissāmā’ti. Evañhi vo, bhikkhave, sikkhitabbaṃ. ‘‘Imañca tumhe, bhikkhave, kakacūpamaṃ ovādaṃ abhikkhaṇaṃ manasi kareyyātha. Passatha no tumhe, bhikkhave, taṃ vacanapathaṃ, aṇuṃ vā thūlaṃ vā, yaṃ tumhe nādhivāseyyāthā’’ti? ‘‘No hetaṃ, bhante’’. ‘‘Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, imaṃ kakacūpamaṃ ovādaṃ abhikkhaṇaṃ manasikarotha. Taṃ vo bhavissati dīgharattaṃ hitāya sukhāyā’’ti. => MN 21.

[The Buddha:]…I do not see a better thing, o monks, that will prevent sensual desire from arising when it has not arisen yet and will remove sensual desire once arisen – than a (meditative) object of impurity. Wisely reflecting o monks on the object of impurity (of the body) o monks, will not allow unarisen sensual desire to arise and will remove sensual desire which arose.

Nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ ekadhammampi samanupassāmi yena anuppanno vā kāmacchando nuppajjati uppanno vā kāmacchando pahīyati yathayidaṃ, bhikkhave, asubhanimittaṃ. Asubhanimittaṃ, bhikkhave, yoniso manasi karoto anuppanno ceva kāmacchando nuppajjati uppanno ca kāmacchando pahīyatī’ => AN 1.

[The Buddha:]...a monk reflects on this body from the top to the bottom of his feet, from below to the hair on his head, surounded by skin, filled with various kinds of impurities: “In this body there is hair, body-hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh…just like, o monks, there would be a bag filled with various kinds of grains…and a man with sharp vision would open up the bag and investigate it thus: “These are wheat grains, these are rice grains, these are beans…”

…bhikkhu imameva kāyaṃ uddhaṃ pādatalā, adho kesamatthakā, tacapariyantaṃ pūraṃ nānappakārassa asucino paccavekkhati – ‘atthi imasmiṃ kāye kesā lomā nakhā dantā taco maṃsaṃ…‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ubhatomukhā putoḷi [mūtoḷī (sī. syā. pī.)] pūrā nānāvihitassa dhaññassa, seyyathidaṃ – sālīnaṃ vīhīnaṃ muggānaṃ māsānaṃ tilānaṃ taṇḍulānaṃ. Tamenaṃ cakkhumā puriso muñcitvā paccavekkheyya – ‘ime sālī ime vīhī ime muggā  => MN 10.

So this reflecting according to the Buddha’s teaching, did the Buddha do something similar before his enlightenment?

[The Buddha:]...Before even, o monks, my awakening, as yet an unawakened, the awakening searching, this thought occured to me: “What now if I were to dwell (exercise) breaking up my thoughts and dividing them into two”? And I, o monks, whenever a thought of sensual desire, a thought of ill-will or a detrimental thought arose, I put it on one side, and whenever a thought of renunciation, a thought of non-ill-will and not detrimental arose, I put it on the other side…and I knew: “In me arose a detrimental thought. This thought will lead to my own disadvantage, it will lead to other’s disadvantage, it will lead to both, it destroys my wisdom, it will bring trouble, it will not lead to cessation.” – (When I was thinking) “Leads to my own disadvantage” thus o monks reflecting [patisancikkhati] that thought vanished. (When I was thinking) “Leads to others disadvantage” thus o monks reflecting that thought vanished...”will destroy my wisdom, cause trouble, does not lead to cessation.” that thought vanished. Thus I, o monks, got rid of those thoughts, cleaned myself of them, made and end to them….Whatever one thinks along, reflects along often, thereto the mind is bent….Just as, o monks, in the last month of the summer, when all the cowherds are watching over the cows they sit at the root of a tree or under the open sky and have to make their remembrance: – “(there) are the cows”. In the same way, o monks, I had to make my remembrance (thinking) “(there) are these thoughts”…And energetic was, o monks, my effort, not negligent, ongoing was my remembrance, not disturbed or lost, stilled was my body, tranquil, and one-pointed my mind, collected. Then I, o monks, entered the first jhana away from sensuality, away from other unwholesome thoughts, with thought and reflection experiencing joy born of seclusion, dwelling in it.

Pubbeva me, bhikkhave, sambodhā anabhisambuddhassa bodhisattasseva sato etadahosi – ‘yaṃnūnāhaṃ dvidhā katvā dvidhā katvā vitakke vihareyya’nti. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, yo cāyaṃ kāmavitakko yo ca byāpādavitakko yo ca vihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ ekaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ; yo cāyaṃ nekkhammavitakko yo ca abyāpādavitakko yo ca avihiṃsāvitakko – imaṃ dutiyaṃ bhāgamakāsiṃ….So evaṃ pajānāmi – ‘uppanno kho me ayaṃ vihiṃsāvitakko. So ca kho attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, paññānirodhiko vighātapakkhiko anibbānasaṃvattaniko’. ‘Attabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘parabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘ubhayabyābādhāya saṃvattatī’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati; ‘paññānirodhiko vighātapakkhiko anibbānasaṃvattaniko’tipi me, bhikkhave, paṭisañcikkhato abbhatthaṃ gacchati. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, uppannuppannaṃ vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ pajahameva vinodameva byantameva naṃ akāsiṃ‘‘Yaññadeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, tathā tathā nati hoti cetaso…Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gimhānaṃ pacchime māse sabbasassesu gāmantasambhatesu gopālako gāvo rakkheyya, tassa rukkhamūlagatassa vā abbhokāsagatassa vā satikaraṇīyameva hoti – ‘etā  gāvo’ti. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, satikaraṇīyameva ahosi – ‘ete dhammā’ti..‘‘Āraddhaṃ kho pana me, bhikkhave, vīriyaṃ ahosi asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihāsiṃ.  =>MN 19, Dvedhavitakka

[The Buddha:]..

Ràhula, when you desire to do some mental action, you should reflect. In doing, this mental action, will I trouble myself? Is it demerit? Is it unpleasant? When reflecting if you know, this mental action will trouble me. It is demerit and unpleasant. Then, if possible you should not do it. Ràhula, when reflecting if you know, this mental action will not bring me trouble. It is merit and pleasant. Then Ràhula, you should do such mental actions. Even while doing that mental action, you should reflect. Does this mental action give me, others, trouble? Is it demerit and unpleasant? Ràhula, if that is so, give up that mental action. If you know, this mental action does not bring me, others trouble. It’s merit, and pleasant Then follow it up. Having done such mental actions too you should reflect. Did it cause me, others, trouble? Was it demerit? Was it unpleasant? When reflecting if you know, this mental action caused me, others, trouble. It is demerit and unpleasant. Then you should be disgusted and loathe such mental actions. Ràhula, when reflecting if you know, this mental action did not cause me, others, trouble, it was merit and it was pleasant. Then you should pursue such things of merit day and night delightedly. Ràhula, whoever recluses or brahmins purified their bodily actions, verbal actions and mental actions in the past, did by reflecting. Whoever recluses or brahmins will purify their bodily, verbal and mental actions in the future will do so reflecting reflecting. Whoever recluses or brahmins purify their bodily, verbal, and mental actions at present do so reflecting. Therefore Ràhula, you should train thus. Reflecting I will purify my bodily, verbal and mental actions.

Yadeva tvaṃ, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ kattukāmo ahosi…Karontenapi te, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ tadeva te manokammaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ…Katvāpi te, rāhula, manasā kammaṃ tadeva te manokammaṃ paccavekkhitabbaṃ – ‘yaṃ nu kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – akusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ dukkhudrayaṃ dukkhavipāka’nti?Sace kho tvaṃ, rāhula, paccavekkhamāno evaṃ jāneyyāsi – ‘yaṃ kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ attabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – akusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ dukkhudrayaṃ dukkhavipāka’nti, evarūpaṃ pana [evarūpe (sī. pī.), evarūpe pana (syā. kaṃ.)] te, rāhula, manokammaṃ [manokamme (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)] aṭṭīyitabbaṃ harāyitabbaṃ jigucchitabbaṃ; aṭṭīyitvā harāyitvā jigucchitvā āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjitabbaṃ. Sace pana tvaṃ, rāhula, paccavekkhamāno evaṃ jāneyyāsi – ‘yaṃ kho ahaṃ idaṃ manasā kammaṃ akāsiṃ idaṃ me manokammaṃ nevattabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, na parabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati, na ubhayabyābādhāyapi saṃvattati – kusalaṃ idaṃ manokammaṃ sukhudrayaṃ sukhavipāka’nti, teneva tvaṃ, rāhula, pītipāmojjena vihareyyāsi ahorattānusikkhī kusalesu dhammesu….Ye hi keci, rāhula, atītamaddhānaṃ samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā kāyakammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, vacīkammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, manokammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, sabbe te evamevaṃ paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā kāyakammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā vacīkammaṃ parisodhesuṃ, paccavekkhitvā paccavekkhitvā manokammaṃ parisodhesuṃ. => MN 61.

oh, so they were cleansing their mind. this is facinating. can you quote another suttas where we can see how that was done?

I heard thus. At one time a certain bhikkhu lived in a certain stretch of forest in the country of Kosala. At that time, this bhikkhu sitting for seclusion during the day thought evil thoughts of demerit such as sensual thoughts, angry thoughts and hurting thoughts. Then a deity living in that stretch of forest out of compassion, wishing to arouse remorse, approached that bhikkhu. Approaching, said these stanzas:

Thinking unwisely the good one is submerged in thoughts,
Give up the unwise thinking and be wise
Bhikkhus in the Community of the Teacher, become virtuous
And doubtlessly delight, realizing pleasantness.û

Then that bhikkhu made remorseful by the deity became concerned.

231. Ekaṃ samayaṃ aññataro bhikkhu kosalesu viharati aññatarasmiṃ vanasaṇḍe. Tena kho pana samayena so bhikkhu divāvihāragato pāpake akusale vitakke vitakketi, seyyathidaṃ  kāmavitakkaṃ, byāpādavitakkaṃ, vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ. Atha kho yā tasmiṃ vanasaṇḍe adhivatthā devatā tassa bhikkhuno anukampikā atthakāmā taṃ bhikkhuṃ saṃvejetukāmā yena so bhikkhu tenupasaṅkami; upasaṅkamitvā taṃ bhikkhuṃ gāthāhi ajjhabhāsi –

‘‘Ayoniso manasikārā, so vitakkehi khajjasi;
Ayoniso paṭinissajja, yoniso anucintaya.
‘‘Satthāraṃ dhammamārabbha, saṅghaṃ sīlāni attano;
Adhigacchasi pāmojjaṃ, pītisukhamasaṃsayaṃ;
Tato pāmojjabahulo, dukkhassantaṃ karissasī’’ti. => Vanasamyutta 11, SN. Akusalavitakkasuttaṃ.

So you are saying that cultivation (bhavana) is really cultivating a whole different mindset throughout the day (besides purifying ones bodily and verbal actions, of course!) by following in your mind along the way the Buddha recommended looking at things. Does not that mean we first have to know at least a couple of suttas very well (by heart) in order to do that? In other words – don’t we have to know at least a little piece of Dhamma to reflect accordingly, to actually have topics of the Dhamma to reflect upon or – similarly – see the disadvantage of unwholesome states of the mind?

[The Buddha:]...With the arising of trust, he visits him and grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it [lit. “carries the Dhamma, ie. remember it]. Remembering it, he reflects upon the meaning of those dhammas.

saddhājāto upasaṅkamati, upasaṅkamanto payirupāsati, payirupāsanto sotaṃ odahati, ohitasoto dhammaṃ suṇāti, sutvā dhammaṃ dhāreti, dhatānaṃ [dhāritānaṃ (ka.)] dhammānaṃ atthaṃ upaparikkhati, =>MN 95

so, if meditation is this continous proper reflection throughout my day, what will happen? Can you show me how this continous pondering over the Dhamma or contemplation alongside the thoughts of the Dhamma fits into the whole pathway of the Buddha’s teaching? What is the big picture?

[The Buddha:]... In the same way, o monks, due to keeping wrong company he does not get to hear the true Dhamma. Not getting to hear the true Dhamma trust (in the message of the Buddha) is weakened. Without conviction wise reflection (in accordance with the Dhamma) does not get fulfilled. Without wise reflection on the Dhamma remembrance and clear awareness do not get fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled the sense doors will not be well guarded. With the senses not well guarded he will behave wrong in one of three ways (body, speech, mind). Due to fulfilling bad actions in body, mind, speech the five hindrances will get stronger. Because the five hindrances get stronger, ignorance (of the four noble truths) will grow….

Thus now, o monks, with keeping good company his listening to the true Dhamma gets fulfilled. Because of listening to the true Dhamma his faith/conviction grows. Due to his conviction (in the teaching of the Buddha) his wise reflections start to grow. With fulfilled wise reflections his remembrance and clear awareness will get fulfilled. When his memory and awareness are fulfilled [which allows hims to actually guard and identify what is going on at the doors of his senses] his guarding of the senses will grow. When his guarding of the senses is fulfilled his behavior in body, speech and mind will get purified. When his wholesome behavior in body, speech and mind is fulfilled the four pillars of memory will get fulfilled [now he is able to keep is pure mind on the meditation objects, which act like pillars for his continues awareness]. When the four pillars of memory are fulfilled the seven factors of awakening will get fulfilled [they are: memory (sic!) =>investigation of the Dhamma (sic!), =>effort => joy => tranquility of the body => collectedness (can you see the pattern!!!) => equanimity]. When the seven factors of awakening are fulfilled knowledge and liberation will be achieved.

‘‘Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, asappurisasaṃsevo paripūro asaddhammassavanaṃ paripūreti, asaddhammassavanaṃ paripūraṃ assaddhiyaṃ paripūreti, assaddhiyaṃ paripūraṃ ayonisomanasikāraṃ paripūreti, ayonisomanasikāro paripūro asatāsampajaññaṃ paripūreti, asatāsampajaññaṃ paripūraṃ indriyaasaṃvaraṃ paripūreti, indriyaasaṃvaro paripūro tīṇi duccaritāni paripūreti, tīṇi duccaritāni paripūrāni pañca nīvaraṇe paripūrenti, pañca nīvaraṇā paripūrā avijjaṃ paripūrenti; evametissā avijjāya āhāro hoti, evañca pāripūri….

‘‘Iti kho, bhikkhave, sappurisasaṃsevo paripūro saddhammassavanaṃ paripūreti, saddhammassavanaṃ paripūraṃ saddhaṃ paripūreti, saddhā paripūrā yonisomanasikāraṃ paripūreti, yonisomanasikāro paripūro satisampajaññaṃ paripūreti, satisampajaññaṃ paripūraṃ indriyasaṃvaraṃ paripūreti, indriyasaṃvaro paripūro tīṇi sucaritāni paripūreti, tīṇi sucaritāni paripūrāni cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūrenti, cattāro satipaṭṭhānā paripūrā satta bojjhaṅge paripūrenti, satta bojjhaṅgā paripūrā vijjāvimuttiṃ paripūrenti; evametissā vijjāvimuttiyā āhāro hoti, evañca pāripūri. => AN, Yamakvagga, Avijjasutta.

Ah! If I reflect right, sort my thoughts, catch them right when they come up and purify my thinking step by step by adding more good thoughts, chastising bad thoughts, gradually changing my thinking towards the wholesome and good, I act like  the doorkeeper in the Buddha’s simile of sati. This doorkeeper promotes sense restraint. And sense restraint means I will not fall for unwholesome qualities of my mind which could break my sila which in due course would destroy my mental energy break up my concentration and destroy my efforts in building up wisdom. You translate sati as memory and sampajaññā as awareness. In the above steps of progression it fits in nicely, as memory is essential after listening to the Dhamma to remember and continously go over the “thoughts of the Dhamma” in this form of contemplative meditation. What was the simile of sati as the doorkeeper again?

[The Buddha:] …”Similarly, o monks, just when there is a doorkeeper of a royal border-town, who is wise, smart, intelligent and who blocks those who he does not know and lets those proceed who he does know and who thus protects those inside and wards off those outside. In the same way, o monks, a noble disciple is remembering, is equipped with the highest carefulness and remembers things done a long time ago, spoken a long time ago, remembers in accordance. With memory as the doorkeeper, o monks, the noble disciple rejects the unwholesome and cultivates the wholesome. He rejects that which is with blemish and cultivates what is free of blemish, he always keeps himself pure.

‘‘Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, rañño paccantime nagare dovāriko hoti paṇḍito byatto medhāvī aññātānaṃ nivāretā ñātānaṃ pavesetā abbhantarānaṃ guttiyā bāhirānaṃ paṭighātāya. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena samannāgato cirakatampi cirabhāsitampi saritā anussaritā. Satidovāriko, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako akusalaṃ pajahati, kusalaṃ bhāveti; sāvajjaṃ pajahati, anavajjaṃ bhāveti; suddhaṃ attānaṃ pariharati. => AN, 10. Nagaropamasutta

What a wonderful simile! This is why sati or memory plays such an important part in Buddhist practice. When I think wisely I nourish the doorkeeper, I create a doorkeeper that way. Because, after all, the doorkeeper as to be aware of people passing by (sampajaññā, as in “knowing what is going on right at this moment”) but he also has to remember who these people are to make a sound judgement, whether he should let them in or not (sati)! If his memory (in this case, his memory of the Dhamma) fails him, he will not recognize bad and unwholesome things as bad, like a doorkeeper with bad information – he will make wrong choices in terms of who he lets in. Now it also makes sense, why the Buddha mentioned that listening to the Dhamma and trusting it are the predecessors of sati, memory. Without them, there is no memory of the teachings. But if there is, whatever goes through our senses, we will carefully investigate in line with our knowledge of wholesome and unwholesome. So this practice will lead to real sense restraint. And real sense restraint will lead to a pure life. A purified conduct in body, speech and mind will nourish the meditation practice automatically and fundamentally. The four foundation of binding the continuous remembrance of the mind that is, and they in due course will lead to a highly concentrated mind through joy and happiness, creating the source of concentration and wisdom… now I understand, how wonderful mental training can be – but also how life pervasive mental training has to be, if I expect results! And how important to know, meditation cannot be isolated to sitting down on a cushion – at least according to the Buddha – if our goal is final liberation from samsara (that’s a whole different topic, of course). And finally, it cannot be restricted to the mind alone, it needs to include purification of deeds and words, otherwise only 1/3 of the foundation is laid.

Finally, what are good meditations to do so?

[The Buddha: ] … Once, when the Buddha was dwelling near Savatthi at the Jeta Grove, the householder Anathapindika visited him and, after greeting him politely, sat down at one side.
The Exalted One addressed Anathapindika, “Are alms given in your house, householder?”
“Yes, Lord, alms are given by my family, but they consist only of broken rice and sour gruel.”
“Householder, whether one gives coarse or choice alms, if one gives with respect, thoughtfully, by one’s own hand, gives things tht are not leftovers, and with belief in the result of actions, then, wherever one is born as a result of having given with respect, the mind will experience pleasantness.”
“Long ago, householder, there lived a brahman named Velama who gave very valuable gifts. He gave thousands of bowls of gold, silver and copper, filled with jewels; thousands of horses with trappings; banners and nets of gold; carriages spread with saffron-colored blankets; thousands of milk-giving cows with fine jute ropes and silver milk pails; beds with covers od fleece, white blankets, embroidered coverlets, and with crimson cushions at the ends; lengths of cloth of the best flax, silk, wool and cotton. And how to describe all the food, sweets and syrups that he gave? They flowed like rivers.”
“Householder, who was the brahman who made those very valuable gifts? It was me.”
“But, when those gifts were given, householder, there were no worthy recipients. Although the brahman Velama gave such valuable gifts, if he had fed just one person of right view, the fruit of the latter deed would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred people of right view, the fruit of feeding a Once-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Sakadagamis, the fruit of feeding one Non-returner would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Anagamis, the fruit of feeding one Arahat would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Arahats, the fruit of feeding one Non-teaching Buddha would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a hundred Paccekkabuddhas, the fruit of feeding a Perfect One, a Teaching Buddha, would have been greater.”
“…and though he fed a Sammasambuddha, the fruit of feeding the Order of monks with the Buddha at its head would have been even greater.”
“…and though he fed the Sangha with the Buddha at its head, the fruit of building a monastery for the use of the Sangha would have been even greater.”
“…and though he built a monastery for the monks, the fruit of sincerely taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha would have been even greater.”
“…and though he sincerely took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha, the fruit of sincerely undertaking the Five Moral Precepts would have been even greater.”
“…and though he sincerely undertook the Five Precepts, the fruit of developing (concentration on radiating) metta, even for just to the extent of a whiff of scent, would have been even greater.”
“…and though he developed universal lovingkindness, the fruit of cultivating the awareness of anicca-even for the moment of a finger snap-would have been even greater.

yo ca antamaso gandhohanamattampi mettacittaṃ bhāveyya, yo ca accharāsaṅghātamattampi aniccasaññaṃ bhāveyya, idaṃ tato mahapphalatara’’nti.  =>Anguttara Nikaya, Navakanipata, Sutta 20

[The Buddha:] …Ràhula, develop loving kindness; when it is developed, anger fades. Ràhula, develop compassion; when it is developed, anger fades. Ràhula, develop joy with others; when it is developed discontentment fades. Ràhula, develop equanimity; when it is developed aversion fades. Ràhula, develop the thought of loathesomeness; when it is developed lust fades. Ràhula, develop the perception of impermanence; when it is developed the conceit `I am’ fades.

‘‘Mettaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Mettañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo byāpādo so pahīyissati. Karuṇaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Karuṇañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yā vihesā sā pahīyissati. Muditaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Muditañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yā arati sā pahīyissati. Upekkhaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Upekkhañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo paṭigho so pahīyissati. Asubhaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Asubhañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo rāgo so pahīyissati. Aniccasaññaṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Aniccasaññañhi te, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvayato yo asmimāno so pahīyissati. => MN 62.

[The Buddha:] … The notion of impermanence, o monks, cultivated, often done, makes all sensual desire fade away, makes all desire for forms fade away, makes all desire of existence fade away, makes all ignorance fade away and completely eradicates the conceit of “I am”. In the Autumn the farmer ploughs his field, cutting and tearing all the roots with a huge plough…Just as the reapers would reap the reeds, and holding the top of the reeds would shake off the seeds…Just as when the stem of a bunch of mangoes is broken, all the mangoes in the bunch get dismantled…Just as all the rafters meet at the ridgepole, supporting the framework of a gabled roof, and it is said to be the chief beam…Monks in the Autumn when the sky is clear, is free from clouds, the sun having ascended in the sky, has dispelled all darkness and burns and shines, in the same manner the monk, developing the perception of impermanence, destroys all sensual greed, all material greed, the greed `to be’, all ignorance, and the measuring `I am’…And how, o monks, is this perception of impermanence developed…? (he reflects thus) Such is form. Such is the arising of form. Such is the disappearing of form. Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.”

‘‘Aniccasaññā, bhikkhave, bhāvitā bahulīkatā sabbaṃ kāmarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ rūparāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ bhavarāgaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ avijjaṃ pariyādiyati, sabbaṃ asmimānaṃ samūhanati’’….‘‘Kathaṃ bhāvitā ca, bhikkhave, aniccasaññā kathaṃ bahulīkatā sabbaṃ kāmarāgaṃ pariyādiyati…pe… sabbaṃ asmimānaṃ samūhanati? ‘Iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā… iti saññā… iti saṅkhārā… iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti – => SN, Khandhasamyutta, Aniccasaññāsutta.

[The Buddha:] … Collectedness, o monks, cultivate, once collected a monk, o monks, will understand “form is impermanent”. Thus seeing and knowing a noble disciple will be freed from birth….

Samādhiṃ, bhikkhave, bhāvetha, samāhito, bhikkhave, bhikkhu rūpaṃ aniccanti pajānāti. Evaṃ passaṃ ariyasāvako parimuccati jātiyāpi => Samādhi Sutta, SN, Salāyatanasamyutta.

[Ven. Udayi reports]…Amazingly, O Lord, astonishing, O Lord, how very much it helped me, that I won the sympathy and reverence, shame and shyness towards the Blessed One. Earlier, O Lord, when I lived in the home I did not care much for the Dhamma, did not care too much of the Sangha. But when I, O Lord, began to notice that I won sympathy and esteem for the Blessed One, shame and shyness, it was then that I went from home into homelessness. And the Blessed one taught me the Dhamma thus: Such is form. Such is the arising of form. Such is the disappearing of form. Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.” And am I, O Lord, went into an empty hut and turned these five factors of grasping upward and downward and truly understood: ‘This is suffering” understood in accord with reality, ‘That’s the sufferings origin”  understood in accordance with reality ‘ This is the cessation of suffering’ understood in accord with reality ‘ this is the procedure leading to the cessation of suffering”…

‘‘Acchariyaṃ, bhante, abbhutaṃ, bhante! Yāva bahukatañca me, bhante, bhagavati pemañca gāravo ca hirī ca ottappañca. Ahañhi, bhante, pubbe agārikabhūto samāno abahukato ahosiṃ dhammena  abahukato saṅghena. So khvāhaṃ bhagavati pemañca gāravañca hiriñca ottappañca sampassamāno agārasmā anagāriyaṃ pabbajito. Tassa me bhagavā dhammaṃ desesi – ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo; iti vedanā…pe… iti saññā… iti saṅkhārā… iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti. ‘‘So khvāhaṃ, bhante, suññāgāragato imesaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhānaṃ ukkujjāvakujjaṃ samparivattento ‘idaṃ dukkha’nti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yathābhūtaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ. Dhammo ca me, bhante, abhisamito, maggo ca me paṭiladdho; yo me bhāvito bahulīkato tathā tathā viharantaṃ tathattāya upanessati yathāhaṃ – ‘khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānissāmi. => Udayi Sutta, SN

[The Buddha:] Bhikkhus, what is the concentration developed and made much would conduce to a gain of knowledge and vision? Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu attends to the perception of light and intends the perception of daylight. In the day time, intends night and in the night, intends day. Thus with an open mind develops the uncovered mind, full of light. Bhikkhus, this concentration developed and made much would conduce to a gain of knowledge and vision. Bhikkhus, what is the concentration developed and made much would conduce to remembering awareness? Here, bhikkhus, to the bhikkhu feelings arise, persist and fade knowingly, perceptions arise, persist and fade knowingly and thoughts arise, persist and fade knowingly. Bhikkhus, this concentration developed and made much conduces to mindfull awareness. Bhikkhus, what samādhi developed and made much would conduce to the destruction of desires (āsavakkhaya, i.e. Nibbāna)? Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu abides reflecting the arising and fading of the five holdling masses.Such is feeling…such is perception…such is intention…such mental formation…such is cognition, such is the arising of cognition, such is the disappearing of cognition.”

‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanappaṭilābhāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu ālokasaññaṃ manasi karoti, divāsaññaṃ adhiṭṭhāti – yathā divā tathā rattiṃ, yathā rattiṃ tathā divā. Iti vivaṭena cetasā apariyonaddhena sappabhāsaṃ cittaṃ bhāveti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā ñāṇadassanappaṭilābhāya saṃvattati.‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satisampajaññāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno viditā vedanā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti; viditā saññā…pe… viditā vitakkā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā satisampajaññāya saṃvattati. ‘‘Katamā ca, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā āsavānaṃ khayāya saṃvattati? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu udayabbayānupassī viharati – ‘iti rūpaṃ, iti rūpassa samudayo, iti rūpassa atthaṅgamo, iti vedanā, iti vedanāya samudayo, iti vedanāya atthaṅgamo; iti saññā, iti saññāya samudayo, iti saññāya atthaṅgamo; iti saṅkhārā, iti saṅkhārānaṃ samudayo, iti saṅkhārānaṃ atthaṅgamo; iti viññāṇaṃ, iti viññāṇassa samudayo, iti viññāṇassa atthaṅgamo’ti. Ayaṃ, bhikkhave, samādhibhāvanā bhāvitā bahulīkatā āsavānaṃ khayāya saṃvattati. => SN, Rohitassavaggo, Samādhibhāvana Sutta.

Therefore contemplation leads progressively into a deeper state of meditation, a samādhi, which is set on the right topic, a topic of wisdom generating quality. The practice of samathā and vipassanā

[Ven. Sariputta declares]…”For, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahats, Fully Enlightened Ones of the past had abandoned the five hindrances,  the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; had well established their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; had duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and were fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. And, Lord, all the Blessed Ones, Arahats, Fully Enlightened Ones of the future will abandon the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; will well establish their minds in the four foundations of mindfulness; will duly cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment, and will be fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment. And the Blessed One too, Lord, being at present the Arahat, the Fully Enlightened One, has abandoned the five hindrances, the mental defilements that weaken wisdom; has well established his mind in the four foundations of mindfulness; has duly cultivated the seven factors of enlightenment, and is fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.”

Ye te, bhante, ahesuṃ atītamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhiṃsu. Yepi te, bhante, bhavissanti anāgatamaddhānaṃ arahanto sammāsambuddhā, sabbe te bhagavanto pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacittā, satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambujjhissanti. Bhagavāpi, bhante, etarahi arahaṃ sammāsambuddho pañca nīvaraṇe pahāya cetaso upakkilese paññāya dubbalīkaraṇe catūsu satipaṭṭhānesu suppatiṭṭhitacitto satta sambojjhaṅge yathābhūtaṃ bhāvetvā anuttaraṃ sammāsambodhiṃ abhisambuddho… => DN 16

If you read all of the above up to this point, I sincerely wish that you may benefit immensely from these words of the Awakened One and attain Nibbana in this very life! (For everyone else who did not get this far, I have the same wish, but they did n’t see this message 😉 May you not repeat my mistake of thinking that meditation practice and purification of the mind are two separate things. Thanks for stopping 😉 by.

mettāya,

a theravadin…

==

Translations (and mistakes) are mostly mine and with some adaptations (less the mistakes) from metta.lk 

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The Lay Disciple

This is the disciple of the Buddha, living in the house. He has confidence in the Buddha’s awakening. He trains himself to purify his actions and his speech. He cultivates generosity, learns to sacrifice and let go. And this is his practice: he embraces opportunities to listen to the Dhamma – the word of the Buddha, of awakened monks & nuns. But that’s not all. He makes it a point to remember the Dhamma he heard. He tries to memorize it, keep it in his mind. Because he knows that thus he will think about it, look at it, investigate it, deeply understand it. Then, by such practice, he knows this to be a natural law, his life will follow suit, inevitably.

Slowly but surely his whole life gets touched and transformed by the magic that is the miracle of the Dhamma: In his work he is industrious, hard-working and diligent. In his financial manners, he is generous, avoiding debt, knowing the benefits of saving and he never forgets to uplift the mind of his family and friends. He takes good care of his parents who he owes his training and guidance in life and instructs & supports his children and companions always on the lookout to associate with good and noble people. Thus his worldly live is in balance allowing him to devote more time and clarity to his spiritual life.

At least once a week, clad in white which symbolizes purity, he enjoys a day of silence and contemplation. He makes up his mind to invest into this noble training of body, speech and mind. He knows, such a day spent following in the footsteps of the Arahants will be, at the end of his earthly days, worth more than any fortune in his bank account. That day, he reminds himself of the Dhamma he learned, he might fast that day too, keeping it light and simple, reflecting over the words of the Buddha. He might recollect the Buddha’s qualities, what makes an Awakened One such, he might recollect the Dhamma and Sangha. He might recollect the qualities of the Devas knowing that his life if purified in this way will lead to such a state of mind and no other destination.

Every day, he starts his morning with the 5 wholesome reflections. Every morning he might re-affirm his confidence in the master, recluse Gotama and his explanation of the Dhamma and the group of disciples who follow this path earnestly. Every morning he might reflect on the virtues he is determined to bring into his life and he might think how he can practice generosity that day. Every day, he might make it a point, to increase his memory of the Buddha’s teachings, reciting the words of the Awakened from memory. Every day you can find him calmly reflecting over the meaning of the Dhamma he learned. Others call it meditation, he calls it sammā samādhi and bhāvanā, or development, for he knows it is like a plant, it needs continued attention and careful handling to let it grow strong to bear fruit.

He knows, that from confidence comes serenity and from serenity joy. That inner joy will lead him more than often into the calm abiding of the four jhānas. He knows how to utilize the perfect calmness and equanimity of the fourth jhana to recollect his past lifes, yes, he might master such similar skills, but over all, he knows no higher joy than to reflect over the impermanence of the six senses, watching their bubbling arising and passing away as his wisdom grows, knows no higher joy than to observe the five aggregates arising and dissolving, contemplating the dependent origination leading to deep insight and purifying wisdom.

As his weekly meditation days (Uposatha) grow in depth, guided and aligned by the words of the Buddha which he cherishes like an ancient treasure, his skill in deepening his awakening through the application of the meditations as described by the Buddha becomes formidable. He, still wearing a white garment, living among wife and children, keeps his mind firmly engaged in the mindfulness on the body, or the four satipatthanas, or the meditation on breathing, leading to deep insight & wisdom & the fruits of stream entry, once return and non-return. This he knows as the path to Nibbana as pointed out by the Awakened One.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Based on the following suttas:

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Majjhima Nikaya, Middle collection
M. 75th (VIII, 5) Māgandiya Sutta (Māgandiyo)

translated from Pāli by Karl Eugen Neumann

THIS HAVE I HEARD. At one time the Blessed One was staying in the Kuru country, in a town of the Kurus called Kammasadammam, at the altar hearth of a Brahman from the Bharadvajer-lineage, on a straw mat. And the Master, getting ready early, took bowl and robe and went to Kammasadammam for his alms meal. And as the Sublime One, walking from house to house, had received alms, he returned, took the meal and then went to a nearby forest grove, for the day. Inside this forest thicket, the Sublime One sat at the foot of a tree, to dwell there until sunset.

Now came Māgandiyo, a pilgrim, strolling on a promenade, to the altar hearth of the Bharadvajer Brahmin. And there he saw the straw mat arranged, and when he had noticed that he spoke thus to Bharadvajer Brahmin:

“For whom is here at Sir Bharadvajo’s altar hearth the straw mat arranged? It looks like a seat of an ascetic.”

“It is, o Māgandiyo, the ascetic Gotama, the Sakyerson who has renounced the legacy of the Sakya! This Lord Gotama is greeted everywhere with the joyous glorious call: ‘So indeed, this is the Sublime One, the Holy One,the fully Awakened One, proven in knowledge and character, the Welcome One, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of the herd of men, the master of the gods and men, the Awakened One, the Sublime One.’ For this Sir Gotama the seat is arranged.”‘

“Bad, verily, O Bharadvajo, we have seen that we have seen the seat of Sir Gotama, the core-biter.”

“Let go, Māgandiyo, of such talk! Even many learned princes and learned priests, learned ascetics and learned citizens are thrilled and genuinely initiated by this Lord Gotama, in the salutary law.”

“And if, oh Bharadvajo, that Lord Gotama came to face, we should say it to his face: ‘A core-biter is the ascetic Gotama, I say: and why I say that? Because he, as such, is against our own statutes.'”

“If it is agreeable to Sir Māgandiyo, I want to tell the ascetic Gotama.”

“Not that I want to burden Sir Bharadvajo with it, but he may say it.” But the Blessed One heard with his heavenly ear, the purified, superhuman, reaching beyond borders, this talk of the Brahmin of the Bharadvaja lineage with the pilgrim Māgandiyo.

When the Blessed One had now finished towards evening the peace of thought, he returned to the altar hearth of the Bharadvaja Brahmin and sat down on the arranged straw mat. Then came the Bharadvajer-Brahmin and approached the Sublime One, exchanging courteous and friendly greeting and memorable words and sat down on the side. And when the Bharadvajer-Brahmin sat to the side, the Blessed One addressed him thus:

“Did you, Bharadvajo, have any conversation here with Māgandiyo the pilgrims about this straw mat?”

At these words the Brahman Bharadvajo, taken by awe, replied to he Exalted One:

“That’s just now what we wanted to inform Lord Gotama about: ‘But Lord Gotama has now made us become silent.”

And no sooner this conversation of the Sublime One with the Bharadvajer Brahmins had begun, there came Māgandiyo the pilgrims strolling on his walk, back to the altar hearth of the Bharadvajer Brahmin, and he walked to the Sublime One, exchanging courteous greeting and friendly, memorable words with the Sublime One and sat down on the side. And as the pilgrim Māgandiyo sat aside, the Blessed One addressed him thus:

“The eye, Māgandiyo indulges in the forms, loves the forms, enjoys the forms: it the Tathagata has subdued, made waiting, saddled and bridled; to rein it in he shows the teaching. Have you, Māgandiyo thought of this as you saidst: ‘A core-biter is the ascetic Gotama?’ ”

“Of this, sure, O Gotama, I thought when I said, ‘A core-biter is the ascetic Gotama, I say: and why I say that? Because he, as such, is against our own statutes.'”

“The ear, Māgandiyo indulges in the sounds, the nose, Māgandiyo in the scents, the tongue, Māgandiyo, indulges in the juices, the body, Māgandiyo indulges in the tangibles, the mind, Māgandiyo indulges in ideas, loves ideas, delights in ideas: the mind has been tamed by the Perfect One, made waiting, saddled and bridled; to rein it in he teaches the teaching. Have you, Māgandiyo thought of that, when you spoke.? ‘A core-biter is the ascetic Gotama’ ”

“Of this, sure, O Gotama, I thought when I said, ‘A core-biter is the ascetic Gotama, I say: and why I say that? Because he, as such, is against our own statutes.'”

“What do you think Māgandiyo: it was there someone first being served by the forms entering into consciousness through the eye, which he longed for, loved, lovely, pleasant, appropriate for desire, charming, who had then later understood the forms’ arising and passing away, understood their misery, their refreshment and renunciation; who then discarded the desire for forms, the fever for forms and has conquered the thirst and gained the stilling of his own mind: what you want now, Māgandiyo argue against such a one ?”

“Nothing, oh Gotama!”

“What do you think Māgandiyo: it was there someone first being served by the sounds entering into consciousness through the ear, by the scents entering into consciousness through the nose, by the tastes entering into consciousness through the tongue, by the tangibles entering into consciousness through the body, by the ideas entering into consciousness through the mind which he longed for, loved, lovely, pleasant, appropriate for desire, charming, who had then later understood the ideas’ arising and passing away, understood their misery, their refreshment and renunciation therefrom; who then discarded the desire for ideas, the fever for ideas and has conquered the thirst and gained the stilling of his own mind: what you want now, Māgandiyo argue against such a one ?”

“Nothing more, O Gotama!”

“I used to, Māgandiyo, also live in the house and was gifted with the possession and enjoyment of the five desires: the forms entering into consciousness through the eye, the sounds entering into consciousness through the ear, the fragrances entering into consciousness through the nose, the juices entering into consciousness through the tongue, the tangibles entering into consciousness through the body, the ones longed-for, loved, lovely, pleasant,  appropriate for desire, charming. And I owned Māgandiyo, three palaces, one for fall, one for winter, one for the summer. And I spent, Māgandiyo, the four autumn months in the autumn palace, served by invisible music, and did not rise to come down from the balcony. Later then I understood according to truth the desire’s arising and passing away, its refreshment and misery and renunciation therefrom and I rejected the desiring pleasure, denied the desiring fever, conquered thirst and attained the ebbing of my own mind. And I saw how the other beings who yielded to the desire, consumed of desiring thirst, ignited by desiring fever, how they indulge in desires, and I could not envy could find no pleasure in it: and why not? Because yes, Māgandiyo, my joy, far from desires, far from unwholesome things, come close to heavenly bliss: such joy enjoying I could not find anything attractive in the common, find no pleasure in it.

“Just if, Māgandiyo, there was a father, or the son of a householder, rich, with money and property powerfully gifted in possession and enjoyment of the five desires. And he had traveled on the righteous path in works, words and thoughts and at the dissolution of the body, after death, reappeared on the good track, enters into a heavenly world, up to the realm of the thirty-three gods. And he lived in the ‘Blissful Forest’, with an array of nymphs, in the possession and enjoyment of the five heavenly desires. And he perceived a householder, or the son of a householder, who owns the five worldy desires and enjoys them what do you think Māgandiyo, would this son of the gods, who owns the ‘Blissful Forest’ with an array of nymphs and the heavenly five desires enjoy that householder, or son of a householder and envy him, and miss the five human desires, turn to human desires? ”

“Certainly not, O Gotama!”

“And why not?”

“Human desires, O Gautama, are to be preferred and be preceded by heavenly desires.”

“Just in the same way now, Māgandiyo did I used to also live in the house and was gifted with the possession and enjoyment of the five desires: . Later then I understood according to truth the desire’s arising and passing away, its refreshment and misery and renunciation therefrom and I rejected the desiring pleasure, denied the desiring fever, conquered thirst and attained the ebbing of my own mind. And I saw how the other beings who yielded to the desire, consumed of desiring thirst, ignited by desiring fever, how they indulge in desires, and I could not envy could find no pleasure in it: and why not? Because yes, Māgandiyo, my joy, far from desires, far from unwholesome things, come close to heavenly bliss: such joy enjoying I could not find anything attractive in the common, find no pleasure in it.

“Just if, Māgandiyo, when a leper, whose limbs have become covered with ulcers, rotten, worm-eaten, are scratched by the nails and sore, would bake them at a pit full of burning coals with scraps of skin tearing down from the body. And his friends and comrades, relatives and cousins ​​ordered him a knowledgeable doctor, and this knowledgeable doctor would give him a cure, and he used this remedy and would be freed from leprosy and was cured, felt good, independent, and could go where he wanted. And he saw other lepers, with limbs full of sores, foul-grown, eaten by worms and scratched by the nails sore, as they dried them up at a pit full of burning coals with shreds of skin hanging down from the body. What do you think Māgandiyo, would this man envy those lepers or miss the glowing coal pit and the use of the remedy? ”

“Oh no, oh Gotama!”

“And why not?”

“If one is ill, oh Gotama, then one needs a cure. If one is not sick, then you do not need it.”

“Just in the same way now, Māgandiyo did I used to also live in the house and was gifted with the possession and enjoyment of the five desires: . Later then I understood according to truth the desire’s arising and passing away, its refreshment and misery and renunciation therefrom and I rejected the desiring pleasure, denied the desiring fever, conquered thirst and attained the ebbing of my own mind. And I saw how the other beings who yielded to the desire, consumed of desiring thirst, ignited by desiring fever, how they indulge in desires, and I could not envy could find no pleasure in it: and why not? Because yes, Māgandiyo, my joy, far from desires, far from unwholesome things, come close to heavenly bliss: such joy enjoying I could not find anything attractive in the common, find no pleasure in it.

“Just if, Māgandiyo, when a leper, whose limbs have become covered with ulcers, rotten, worm-eaten, are scratched by the nails and sore, would bake them at a pit full of burning coals with scraps of skin tearing down from the body. And his friends and comrades, relatives and cousins ​​ordered him a knowledgeable doctor, and this knowledgeable doctor would give him a cure, and he used this remedy and would be freed from leprosy and was cured, felt good, independent, and could go where he wanted.  And two strong men grabbed him under the arms and dragged him toward the glowing coal pit. What do you think Māgandiyo? Would not this man pull back his body in every possible way?”

“Certainly, oh Gotama!”

“And why is that?”

“That fire, oh Gotama, is so painful to endure and even terribly scorching and terribly injuring.”

“What do you think Māgandiyo: is only now the fire painful to endure and terribly scorching and dreadfully injuring, or was it earlier too painful to endure and terribly scorching and dreadfully injuring?”

“Now, O Gautama, the fire is painful to endure and terribly scorching and dreadfully injuring and even before the fire was painful to endure and terribly scorching and dreadfully injuring. But that leper, oh Gotama, whose limbs were full of sores, had become rotten, worm-eaten, were scratched by the nails with shreds of skin tearing down from his body, he had become confused and had lost his mind, and that his how he endured the painful fire believing: ‘That feels good’ ”

“Just in the same way, however, Māgandiyo, were also the desires of the past painful to bear and terribly scorching and frightfully injuring, and also the desires of the future will be painful to endure and terribly scorching and frightfully injuring, and even the desires of today are painful to bear and terribly scorching and frightfully injuring. But these beings, Māgandiyo, yielded to the desire of desiring thirst, inflamed by desiring fever, have become confused in their senses, lost their mind, and while they painfully endure the desires they believe: ‘This feels good’.

“As if, Māgandiyo, a leper, whose limbs are covered with ulcers, rotten, worm-eaten, are scratched by the nails and tearing shreds of skin off his body close to a fire pit full of burning coals – the more and more now, Māgandiyo, those lepers scratch themselves, the more and more his open wounds get filled with dirt, odor and pus, and yet he feels a certain complacency, a certain enjoyment by rubbing the open wounds. In the same way, Māgandiyo, do the beings who indulge in desires, surrendering to desires and desiring thirst, consumed by desiring fever and ignited by passions – the more and more now, Māgandiyo, they are given to the desires and desiring thirst, consumed by desiring fever and inflamed and indulging in desires – the more and more grows in them desire, the more they are ignited by the lustful fever, and yet they feel a certain complacency, a certain enjoyment following the five sense desires.

“What do you think Māgandiyo: have you seen such a king or a prince, who, endowed with the possession and enjoyment of the five desires, without rejecting the desire and without having denied the desiring fever, has defeated his thirst and attained to the ebbing of his own mind, or finds it or will find it? ”

“Probably not, oh Gotama!”

“Well, Māgandiyo: Neither have I heard nor seen, Māgandiyo, that a king or a prince, in the possession and enjoyment of the five desires, without rejecting the desiring pleasure, and without having denied the desiring fever, defeated thirst and attained to the ebbing of his own mind, or is, or will find it. But whoever also Māgandiyo, of all the ascetics and priests, overcame thirst and did attain the ebbing of their own mind, or does so or will in the future – each has truly seen the desires’ arising and passing away, their refreshment and misery and renunciation therefrom and rejected the desiring pleasure, denied the desiring fever, and then conquered the thirst and found the ebbing of his own mind, or finds it, or will find it. ”

And the Blessed One was heard on this occasion saying the following verses:

“Health is the highest good,
The extinction of delusion highest salvation,
The eightfold real is the best of all pathways
To extinguish forever. ”

At these words the pilgrims Māgandiyo said to the Exalted One:

“Wonderful, oh Gotama, is great, oh Gotama, how well Lord Gotama has put it:

“Health is the highest good,
The extinction of delusion highest salvation’

I too have heard this, oh Gotama, this word of the pilgrims and their former masters and teachers of yore:

“Health is the highest good,
The extinction of delusion highest salvation’

With them, oh Gotama, it is consistent! ”

“What you heard there Māgandiyo, the word of the pilgrims and their former masters and teachers of yore:

“Health is the highest good,
The extinction of delusion highest salvation’

what does ‘health‘ mean? what means ‘the extinction of delusion’? ”

So asked, the pilgrim Māgandiyo wiped his hand over eyes and forehead:

“The meaning of ‘health’, o Gotama, is the same as the meaning of ‘extinction of delusion’. I am now, oh Gotama, healthy, feel good and am wanting for nothing.”

“Just if, Māgandiyo, there were a man born blind: who sees no black and no white objects, not blue, not yellow, not red, not green, he did not see what is equal and what is not equal, would see no stars and no moon and no sun. And he heard the word of someone who can see: ‘proper, indeed, my dear, is a white dress, fine, without stains and clean.’ And he sought to gain such and someone deceived him, someone gave him a shirt greasy and grimy and second hand. ‘Here you go, my dear man, here is a white dress, very fine, without stains and clean’. And he took and clothed himself with it and happily he would run around saying: ‘proper, indeed, is a white dress,very fine, without stains and clean.’ What do you think Māgandiyo; would this man knowingly had accepted that greasy and grimy old shirt, put it on and running around made such happy exclamation or because he trusted that seeing man who sold it to him? ”

“Without knowing it, certainly, oh Gotama, without seeing it he had accepted that greasy and grimy old shirt, put it on and talked about it chearfully, because he believed that man who could see.”

“Just in the same way, Māgandiyo, the other ascetics and pilgrims are blind and eyeless, don’t know of health, do not see the extinction of delusion, and yet they say the phrase:

‘Health is the highest good,
‘The extinction of delusion highest salvation.’

Those ancient holy ones, Māgandiyo, the fully Awakened Ones (Buddhas) were saying this:

“Health is the highest good,
The extinction of delusion highest salvation,
The eightfold real is the best of all pathways
To extinguish forever. ”

This is now gradually becoming a common saying. But this body here, Māgandiyo is a sickly thing, a brest-like thing, a painful thing, an evil thing, a fragile thing, and from this body, which is a sickly thing, a brest-like thing, a painful thing, an evil thing, is a fragile thing, you say: ‘The meaning of health, oh Gotama, is the same as teh meaning of extinction of delusion.’  You are lacking the noble vision, Māgandiyo, equipped with the noble vision you knew what health is, would see the extinction of delusion. ”

“I trust the Lord Gotama as much and think as well that Lord Gotama can show me his teaching such that I become aware of health, may see the extinction of delusion!”

“Just about, Māgandiyo if it were a man born blind because: who sees no black and no white objects, not blue, not yellow, not red, not green, he did not see what right and what is not equal, would see no stars and no moon and no sun. And his friends and comrades, relatives and cousins ​​ordered him a knowledgeable doctor, and this knowledgeable doctor would give him a cure, and he used this remedy and could not clear his eyes, could not  purify the eyes. What do you think Māgandiyo: would not that artist have plagued and struggled with his patient in vain “?

“Certainly, oh Gotama!”

“Just in the same way, Māgandiyo, I could probably expound to you the doctrine about health and about the extinction of delusion and you might not perceive health and not see the extinction of delusion: and it would be my plague and my struggle with you would be in vain.”

“I trust the Lord Gotama as much and think as well that Lord Gotama can show me his teaching such that I become aware of health, may see the extinction of delusion!”

“Just as, Māgandiyo there were a man born blind: who sees no black and no white objects, not blue, not yellow, not red, not green, he did not see what is equal and what is not equal, would see no stars and no moon and no sun. And he heard the word of a seeing person: ‘proper, indeed, my dear friend, is a white dress, a fine one, without stains and clean.’ And he sought to gain such and it deceived him another man with a shirt greasy and grimy a used one. ‘Take it, dear man, a white dress, very fine, without stains and clean’. And he took it and clothed himself with it. And his friends and comrades, relatives and cousins, they would order a knowledgeable  doctor, and this knowledgeable doctor would give him a cure, and let’ him drain himself up and down using ointment, balm and sneezing powder and under this treatment his eyes were clear up and get purified and as he would start to see he would loose his pleasure and joy in the old greasy and grimy used shirt, and he thought of the man as his enemy, as his adversary, and thought perhaps even the fact that he sought his life: ‘Long time has passed, verily, that I was deceived by that man, deceived and betrayed with this old greasy and grimy slave-shirt, saying: ‘Here thou have, dear man, a white dress ,very fine, no stains and clean “:

Just in the same way, Māgandiyo, I could expound to you the doctrine about health and about the extinction of delusion, and you would perceive health, and see the extinction of delusion: and as you would start seeing your joy and delight in the five pieces of clinging would perish and you would think: ‘For a long time, verily, I was cheated by this heart, deceived, betrayed! Because I attachingly attached to form, attachingly attached to feeling, attachingly attached to perception, attachingly attached to (mental) distinctions, attachingly attached to consciousness.  Thus from attachment resulted becoming and from becoming birth, from birth, aging and death, woe, misery, suffering, grief and despair: this is how this mass of suffering comes about. ‘”

“I trust the Lord Gotama and believe as much that the Lord Gotama can show me his teaching so that I will get up from this seat free from blindness!”

“Well then, Māgandiyo, join good people, and joining good people, Māgandiyo, you will listen to good teaching, and when you will listen to the good teaching, Māgandiyo, you will live in accordance with the teaching and living in accordance with it, Māgandiyo, you will know by yourself, see by yourself: ‘That’s the infirm, the brest-like, the painful. There the infirm, the brest-like, the painful will be dissolved without residue. In this way in me through dissolution of attachment becoming will dissolve and from the dissolving of becoming birth will dissolve. Through the dissolution of birth  aging and dying, woe, misery, suffering, grief and despair: that suffering will find its end. ‘”

After these words, Māgandiyo the pilgrim turned to the Sublime one and said:

“Well said, oh Gotama, excellent, oh Gotama. Just as if one, oh Gotama, would turn upside what had fallen down, or reveal the concealed or point out the right way to the misguided one, or bring light into the darkness: ‘Whoever has eyes to see, may he see’: in the same way has Lord Gotama explained the doctrine in various ways and so I take refuge in the Lord Gotama, in the teaching and discipleship. May Lord Gautama accept me as his student, give me the entrance into his order.”!

“Who was, Māgandiyo, first in another order and then comes to this doctrine and discipline, and wants to receive the entrance into the order, stays for four months, and after a lapse of four months he will, if he remains, will be introduced into the order and trained well by experienced monks: for I have seen here some some variability. ”

“If, O Lord, the former members of other orders, which will enter in this doctrine and discipline, will receive the consecration, after four months, and after a lapse of four months – if they remained so – are introduced to the monkhood by very experienced by monks, I want to stay four years, and after a lapse of four years, if I remained, therefore, be allowed to enter the order.”

Māgandiyo the pilgrim was accepted by the Sublime One, and entered the order.

Not long, after the venerable Māgandiyo was admitted to the Order, there he had, lonely, isolated, pursuing tirelessly in hot, heartfelt earnestness quite soon achieved what attracts noble sons entirely away from home into homelessness: that supreme goal of asceticism in this very life he made it apparent to himself, realized and attained to it: ‘Dried up is birth, perfected the asceticism, the work accomplished, no longer is this world’. He too now, the venerable Māgandiyo, had become one of the saints.

===

Karl Eugen Neumann was one of the first European Buddhists. His translation of Dhp, MN, DN, Thag, This and Snip in an incredibly poetic and non-commentarial reading of the Suttas with footnotes expressing his vast array of literary, philogical and artistic knowledge spanning across 2500 years of Eastern and Western religious and philosophical life are an amazing rendering of the beauty of the Buddha’s words into a modern language.

This translation of MN 75 from the German translation of the middle length discourses by KEN does not strive for perfectionism in a word by word rendering of the original Pali (how could it, being a secondary translation Pali-German-English ;-)).

While KEN was extremely ambitious to render the frequent Pali alliterations, the melody, rhythm and word order as close as possible to the source texts, my personal attempt to translate this important sutta into English from the German original was just an attempt to try to capture the “flavor” of KEN’s translation style in English – even if it’s just a distant echo of the original – and with a lot of help of google translate.

Maybe one or the other Pali translator (who might not be fluent in German) might enjoy KEN’s sometimes un-orthodox but always beautifully rhythmic rendering of the Buddha’s words. It will not come as a surprise that Hermann Hesse (like many other poets and writers) were deeply influenced by Neumann’s translation.

About this discourse, MN 75, Karl Eugen Neumann wrote to one of his best friends, the famous Italian scientist Giuseppe de Lorenzo, in a letter dated “Vienna, May 9th 1900

“You are absolutely right when you praise No. 75  as exceedingly beautiful master piece: if we just had this one discourse, so would it alone show the perfected greatness of Gotama and his teaching. It is the deepest metaphysics spoken in a comprehensible manner. What did Wagner once – brilliant enthusiastically – say? “The language most appropriate to highest insight was spoken by that Buddha.” Every word fits like an Ashokan thought-pillar.

Karl Eugen Neumann was born October 18th, 1865 and passed away on that same day, October 18th, 1915 having dedicated his whole life to the translation of the Tipitaka.

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From the Theragatha, the Verses of the Elders.

445. Uppajje te sace kodho, āvajja kakacūpamaṃ;
Uppajje ce rase taṇhā, puttamaṃsūpamaṃ sara. (1)

446.‘‘Sace dhāvati cittaṃ te, kāmesu ca bhavesu ca;
Khippaṃ niggaṇha satiyā, kiṭṭhādaṃ viya duppasun”ti;

445. If anger arises in you, turn to the simile of the saw;
If craving for taste arises, remember the simile of the son’s flesh.

446. If your mind races into sensual pleasures or into becomings
Quickly take it down with (a) memory, like (you would) crop eating bad cattle.(2)

A couple of observations: Obviously this is not the first, but one among many similar passages in the Canon where “sati” (lit. memory/remembrance, mostly translated as ‘mindfulness’) appears in proximity to words which obviously evoke associations to its literal meaning, i.e. memory.

In this case we see an explicit reference to sarati, “to remember” and āvajjati to “tend to, pay attention, direct the mind towards”. At the same time it is being explained very clearly how and why “memory” serves as such an important role in the process of meditation: It is through the means of sati that the mind is being pulled away from “unskillful” objects.

Also very fascinating: two such detrimental “feeding grounds” for our mind (in this simile the stubborn ox) are mentioned by the Arahant elder who spoke these verses: – the first one is kāma or sensual desires which could be taken to stand for the enemy number one preventing samatha or concentration meditation to develop and the second item bhava (if this is the intention) summarizes perfectly the vipassanā branch of meditation: preventing the mind from going into bhavas (loc. pl.) or moments of becoming, that is identifying and becoming one is ones experience, which, if you remember the idea of dependent origination, is the result of a thirst-driven taking-up (identification) of experience in each and every moment as “you” – and considered to be the root of all problems.

These verses are so over-flowing in depth regarding meditation technique/instructions that you could write entire books on it – and then again, if you understand them properly, I guess, you would not 🙂

The Theragatha verses above very likely refer to this teaching/simile by the Buddha, which we find in the different spot in the Pali Canon, in the book of the six sense bases, in the Samyutta Nikaya, the “Themed Collection” of discourses of the Buddha:

Suppose that corn had ripened and the watchman was heedless. A corn-eating ox, invading the corn to eat it, would intoxicate itself as much as it liked. In the same way, an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person, not exercising restraint with regard to the six media of sensual contact, intoxicates himself with the five strings of sensuality as much as he likes.

“Now suppose that corn had ripened and the watchman was heedful. The corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

“A second time… A third time, the corn-eating ox would invade the corn to eat it, but then the watchman would grab it firmly by the muzzle. Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead. Having pinned it down by the forehead, he would give it a sound thrashing with a stick. Having given it a sound thrashing with a stick, he would let it go.

“As a result, the corn-eating ox — regardless of whether it went to the village or to the wilds, was standing still or lying down — wouldn’t invade the corn again, because it would recall the earlier taste it got of the stick.

“In the same way, when a monk’s mind is held back, thoroughly held back, from the six media of sensory contact, his mind settles inwardly, grows steady, unified, & concentrated.”

Source: SN 35, 205.

Next up a passage from the Saratthapakasini, the venerable old Samyutta Nikaya commentary which had something to say about the meaning of “crop-eating cattle”. This gives you an idea how A, the Theragatha eye-witness report from around the time of the Buddha which we quoted in the beginning and B, the Buddha’s own words where understood approximately at C, the time between 100 BC – 200 AD:

Evameva khoti idhāpi sampannakiṭṭhamiva pañca kāmaguṇā daṭṭhabbā, kiṭṭhādo viya kūṭacittaṃ, kiṭṭhārakkhassa appamādo viya imassa bhikkhuno chasu dvāresu satiyā avissajjanaṃ, daṇḍo viya suttanto, goṇassa kiṭṭhābhimukhakāle daṇḍena tāḷanaṃ viya cittassa bahiddhā puthuttārammaṇābhimukhakāle anamataggiyadevadūtaādittaāsīvisūpamaanāgatabhayādīsu taṃ taṃ suttaṃ āvajjetvā cittuppādassa puthuttārammaṇato nivāretvā mūlakammaṭṭhāne otāraṇaṃ veditabbaṃ. Tenāhu porāṇā –

‘‘Subhāsitaṃ sutvā mano pasīdati,
Dameti naṃ pītisukhañca vindati;
Tadassa ārammaṇe tiṭṭhate mano,
Goṇova kiṭṭhādako daṇḍatajjito’’ti.

“In the same way” thus here (in this simile) ripened corn has to be seen as (illustrating) the five strands of sensual pleasure; the crop eater as the cheating mind; the crop protector’s heedfulness (or: [continuous] non-negligence = a+pamāda) as the monk’s paying attention/attending through mindfulness (lit. memory) towards the six sense doors; the stick as the suttas, the time when the oxen approaches the crops and receives a beating with the stick – that has to be understood as the time when the mind goes out and while approaching the various objects and having been directed towards (the memory of !) a sutta like “Unconceivable is the beginning of Samsara“, “The messengers of the devas“, “The house on fire“, “The simile of the vipers“, “The dangers in the future“, etc. and thus having restrained (or pulled away) the mind from the various objects descents into its (former/original) meditation object. Therefore the ancient masters said:

“When one hears the well-spoken the mind becomes pleased,
And one finds bliss and happiness on taming the mind.
Then one’s mind stops at the objects (of the senses)
Like a stick-stricken crop-eating ox.

Source: Samyutta-Atthakatha (Saratthappakasini), PTS p. 3.66

Amazing: the suttas are the stick 😉 – maybe next time you might want to give your mind a “sound thrashing with the stick of memorized words of wisdom” when it tries to “intoxicate itself with the five sense pleasure” swaying away from the object of meditation. Who knows, you might find that your mind “settles inwardly, grows steady, unified and concentrated” 🙂

===Notes===

(1) this verse seems to equate sarati = āvajjati. An interesting detail to better understand how the faculty of memory was perceived in the early Buddhist (meditative) context (and supports some of the recent observations made in this blog regarding the interpretation/role of sati)

(2) nigaṇhati = lit. “taking down”. The context in the Buddha’s simile in SN 35 (see above) explains the “taking down” in describing how the “cowboy” would “pin down” the oxen before beating it with a stick: “Nāsāyaṃ suggahitaṃ gahetvā uparighaṭāyaṃ suniggahitaṃ niggaṇheyya – Having grabbed it firmly by the muzzle, he would pin it down by the forehead“. A similar passage occurs in MN (PTS 1.137) in the “snake simile”: Tamenaṃ ajapadena daṇḍena suniggahitaṃ niggaṇheyya. Where the snake is being pinned down with the help of a U-shaped stick. In both cases the “wild animal” (here the mind) is being “brought to a hold” with the help of a tool (memory of the Dhamma) and allow it to settle down, calm down, experience samādhi.

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A dear friend of mine–that happens to be a fairly new convert to Theravada Buddhism–emailed me with a question.  Is Buddhism more than just a philosophy?  A colleague of hers, upon hearing of her new-found religion, quickly dismissed her ambition to be a good Buddhist by informing her that it was nothing more than a philosophy.  In his opinion, there was nothing to convert to; it was no different than someone declaring that he or she had the intent to convert to Kantism or Socialism.
While my friend was sure that this was not true, she really had lacked the confidence to debate the fellow and asked me for guidance.  The question I was to answer was simple: Why is Buddhism more than just a philosophy?
The following was my reply…

Buddhism is not just a philosophy, though many people see it that way.  This false view stems from the fact that theists have a difficult time comprehending a religion that does not worship a creator god.  Abrahmaic religions all gather what they believe to be the truth from [what they believe to be] a divine source—Dogma, it is called.  Buddhism is a religion that is actually backed by consistent philosophy that makes a lot of sense—Dhamma, this is called.  Sadly, this is another reason people don’t see it as “religion”.  In this day and age, many have come to see the term “religious ideals” as synonymous with “irrational ideals”.

Some people only accept the philosophy of Buddhism.  They utilize the aspects of philosophical reasoning and ethics to better their lives without accepting the “total package”, per se.  Others only utilize the psychology of Buddhism to improve their attitudes toward their lives.  Buddhism has so many practical teachings that many pick and choose teachings and use it as a self-help program.  Whoever said this to you most likely knew someone or read something by someone that only accepted/practiced/discussed one or more of the pragmatic facets of Buddhism.  However, this does not mean that there is nothing more to it.

This, too, is something people don’t associate with religion; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all expect complete commitment or no commitment.  Buddhism, on the other hand, welcomes those that refuse to accept the entire doctrine.  We know that a lot of people are simply too attached to the ideas that were socialized into their mind—brainwashed is another word—and there is no point in trying to convince them.  We’d rather spend more time teaching those that actually want to learn.  No overbearing, door-to-door Buddhists here.

To advance the ideas posited in the first paragraph, Buddhism is a religion because, although we do not believe in god, we do assert the functionality of god.  Most people see god as functioning in two ways: the creator of all things and the enforcer of morality.  We say that creation is irrelevant because there is no beginning and end in the ultimate sense; there is only constant change.  Beginnings and endings, births and deaths, are all problems created by the limitations of our conceptual minds.  In the ultimate sense, the universe is more like a circle.  We may believe in the Big Bang, but we believe there were incalculable Big Bangs in the past and every time the world system renews itself, there will be another.  In essence, the story of a Creator is nothing more than “a story to explain away the problem that the previous story created”.  As you can see, our minds are great story tellers!

Creation doesn’t exist, therefore the need for a creator does not exist.

Regarding the “enforcement of morality”, we do not believe there is a courtroom in the sky where a judging god looks through our record and passes a judgement—a judgement based on what we believe, not what we have done, mind you.  We believe ethics are enforced by a natural law that—like every other tendency in the universe—seeks a point of equilibrium.  When you dole out goodness, goodness returns to you.  Not because a bearded man in the sky says you deserve it, but because it is a natural law; a natural law no different than gravity or the second law of thermodynamics.

We also hold a view on the self, or lack thereof, just like any other religion.  We don’t believe in a “soul” because a “soul” is defined as an unchanging self that includes the ego/personality.  The ego is created during abstraction/conceptualization (detailed in the psychology of the Abhidhamma) and is not permanent.  There is a belief that our personality “matures” from birth into its natural state, then falls away at old age.  This belief that “who we are” is our personality during mid-life is ridiculous.  Here’s another point: If our personality is an unchanging essence of “who I am”, how is it that I can take a pill that will completely change my attitudes, behavior, and social values?  Drugs and time to not mask our true nature; there is only who we are in this very moment.  We are not inherently sinful or nor are we innately good; we are who we are right now, in this very moment, and that is all.

However, this does not mean that I do not exist.  (Most Westerners think there are only two options: soul or non-existence.)  After all, there is a stream of continuity.  We may not physically be the same person we were 10 years ago—I believe the oldest cell in our bodies is no more than 7 years of age—and we may not be the same person psychologically, but we still consider ourselves to be the same person as the kid in the old family photo.  There is continuity; no one denies that.  What we assert, as Buddhists, is that self is a verb.  Let me explain.

We are not a being, but we are a becoming.  We are constantly “becoming” something other than we are right now.  We are a collection of actions, of things done.  What “we” are is a self-ing rather than a self.  Most religions ponder our awareness of the universe and stop there, thinking it all ends with consciousness; that consciousness exists in and of itself.  They believe this consciousness is the end-game; the final root-of-all-things.  In fact, this how the eternalist view came to be.  However, they [the eternalists] overlooked one important detail: we are always conscious of something.

Consciousness does not exist without an object.  This is the important link between hither and thither, you and the world, and the basis of the dualism our mind creates.  Their fault lies in the over-evaluation of the mind and the confusion of consciousness and mind as being one in the same.  The mind is another sense base; just as the eyes have visual phenomena as objects, the mind has thoughts, concepts, and mental constructs as objects.  Consciousness is the awareness of these mental thoughts and conceptualizations, along with the perception of the physical world through the sense bases.

This is all that really exists in an ultimate sense; the rest is nothing more than an illusionary world of concepts—which are great for interaction with the world, so long as we do not mistake them for reality itself.  The “self” is something added onto the perception/cognition of these events.  Anyone that has lost his or herself in a great song, while performing sports at his or her best, or while admiring nature knows this; it is possible to be cognizant of the world without the creation of a subject.  It is not possible, however, to be conscious without an object.

The Buddhist worldview, which is heavily supported by Quantum Mechanics, asserts that the [materialist] notion of the universe being filled with “things” that “do things” is completely wrong.  A more accurate notion is that the universe is a collection of “events” rather than collection of “things”.  One educated in western society would default to declaring that if there is no “thing” in existence then, it only naturally follows that, the “things done” do not really exist either.  These are all notions built upon the scientific worldview as expounded by Isaac Newton .  This has been proven, absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to be false.  Why everyone still clings to this perspective is beyond my comprehension.

What is your life?  Most people would say something along the lines of “the collection of experiences up to now”.  Well, the Buddhist worldview is very similar: There are mental and physical events, not things, and there is a knowing of those events.  So, that “collections of experiences/events” is not only your life, but your world, too.  There is no point in trying to objectively figure out the “world out there”.  The only way one knows the world is through the sense bases; to get to the root of your experience is to get to the root of the universe itself.  The important point here is this: although there is no “thing” behind the experience, the experience is real.  Schrödinger’s wave-function exemplifies this: the wave-function of an object is the object; although there is behind it as one would reckon, the wave-function does, in fact, exist.

The universe is this massive, ever-changing, flux of events and “we” are the awareness (or consciousness) of those events—though we later realize that this awareness is dependently originated like all other conditioned phenomena.  In order to deal with the massive amount of information cognized by the mind, our mind wraps everything into separate bundles in order to deal with the information more efficiently.  This perceptual overlay of concepts divides things up into neat little separate objects that seem permanent.  This is a great way dealing with a massive amount of information.  However, it creates a false notion of separate-ness that does not exist in the ultimate sense.

The real problem occurs when we get so deep into this process that we forget what is concept and what is reality.  We have lost ourselves into a daydream of sorts, mistaking the perceptual overlay to be the ultimate reality.  Because of this, we see life and death, beginnings and endings, and everything seems permanent.  The concepts themselves are the only things permanent.  The underlying reality that we have wrapped in this concepts is in constantly flux.

When a certain combination of physical and/or mental phenomena manifest together, we wrap in a concept and give it a name.  For instance, a whirlpool occurs.  What is the whirlpool? It is nothing more than a collection of events—in this case, the circular/funnel-like movement of water.  The whirling slowly speeds to a climax and inevitably slows until it is visible no more.  When it is slowed to the point that it is difficult to cognize, we think it has “ended”, but what has ended?  There was water before and water after.  There was movement in the water before and after.  There was movement in the water during the “life” of this concept.  The only thing that was born, lived, and died was a mental construct in our minds.  In essence, all there was, all there is, all there will be is constant change; a constant flux of events.

In essence, all you were, all you are, all you will be is a constant flux of events.

Buddhists are not merely social activists exercising a philosophy.  It is simply that, based upon our worldview, “belief” is a mental construct while “action” is the only thing that truly defines “you”—as “you” are nothing more than a stream of action/reaction and the awareness of those events.  Bodily action, based upon mental volition, and the cognizing of this process is the mind-body we call self.  Anything else—any other “wrapping up” of this ultimate reality with a perceptual overlay—is an illusion, albeit a very useful one.

Wholesome actions lead to positive reactions as per the law of kamma, the Moral Law, from moment to moment and life to life.  Unwholesome actions lead to negative reactions, from moment to moment, life to life.  We believe in heaven and hell (though not as eternal states), gods (referred to as Brahmas), angels (we call them devas) and ghosts (we call them petas)–though most all of these terms refer to something more rational, and less cartoonish, than some other religions.  In short, we have the same components as every other religion in the world, with a few additions that the others religions are lacking—such as a psychology and a consistent, rational philosophy.

So you see, as Buddhists, we have a world-view, a self-view, a book of scripture, a philosophy, a psychology, a code of ethics, an ordination line traceble to our founder, and ritual observances just like any other religion.  They just need to understand that a creator god is not a requirement of a religion—it is simply a common component of the Abrahmaic religions.

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Many of you already know about my deep gratitude towards Ven. Ñāṇananda who I consider to be one of the greatest living Dhamma and Meditation masters. If anything you ever read on this blog might have helped you, all that potential puñña goes straight to this exceptional monk whose singular patience, learning, insight, wisdom, humility and penetration of the Dhamma I owe so much.

Now the Ven. Bhikkhu Yogananda (whom I have never heard of before but who considered himself a “Nyanavirist” – which actually is not a bad foundation bringing you quite close to Ven Ñāṇananda’s vicinity of understading) has posted a very detailed report on his meeting with Ven. Ñāṇananda, a meeting which occurred last year. He did an excellent job of summarizing that experience (‘escaping’ Pa Auks Na Uyana monastery 🙂 ) and foremost of all, the most interesting Dhamma discussion wich took place between the two.

There is lots of interesting points raised. Especially for those of you who are already acquainted with Ven. Ñāṇananda’s writings (such as “Magic of the Mind”, “Concept and Reality”…”Nibbana – the Mind Stilled”) this post is a great read, because Ven. Yogananda has the Ven. Bhikkhu Ñāṇananda clarify some rather tricky Dhamma questions (which is his specialty anyways). He also did a great job of introducing the closest student Ven. Nyanarama probably ever had to a wider audience in his short but very honest and close observation of his meeting with the “heretic sage”. So here is the link for those of you interested:

http://nidahas.com/2010/08/nanananda-heretic-sage-1/

On a side note: I found it quite fascinating to hear that Ven. Ñāṇananda (again an exception in this matter) is outspoken about a Western import to Sri Lanka with regard to the interpretation of Nibbana/Nirvana. He explains what is wrong with the notion of perceiving Nirvana as “a flame unbound” – a concept/mistranslation which leads towards an existentialist interpretation of the Dhamma and a notion which, when confronted with it 30 years ago in Sri Lanka itself, resulted in the creation of his masterpiece of contemporary Buddhist insight literature: The 33 Nibbana Sermons. If you haven’t read anything from Ven. Ñāṇananda yet, these are a great way to start.

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Sometimes we forget all about gratitude and respect for the help we receive from others.

If one were to look at our attitude towards the many hardships and sacrifices of all the people who came before us who made it possible that we can meditate and practice and yes, also improve our understanding of the Dhamma … it sometimes is really pitiable.

Think of the millions of monks who fled from religious persecution and starvation during the centuries, their hardships of travel, of cold and heat, to simply hear or learn or preserve one line of the Dhamma…

I would like to share the following two paragraphs with you. It seems to me, they do reflect different mind-sets:

“Answering in this way when thus asked, Lord, am I speaking in line with what the Blessed One has said, am I not misrepresenting the Blessed One with what is unfactual, am I answering in line with the Dhamma so that no one whose thinking is in line with the Dhamma will have grounds for criticizing me?”
“Certainly, Bhumija, in answering in this way when thus asked, you are speaking in line with what I have said, you are not misrepresenting me with what is unfactual, and you are answering in line with the Dhamma so that no one whose thinking is in line with the Dhamma will have grounds for criticizing you.”

[Bhumija Sutta and many other places]

vs.

Buddhism is not a monolithic entity. It is rather a tradition from which people who consider themselves Buddhists draw inspiration and to which they add as they respond to the problems of their lives, sometimes reformulating the doctrine in new ways to make it more relevant, sometimes returning to earlier principles when they seem to be timely or in danger of becoming lost. The tradition is thus a history of what Buddhists think and do. [Book on Buddhism]

…which reminds me of this story.  True, this post is almost off topic but after reading that particular passage in a “Buddhist book” I thought I might share this with you. There is Robert L’Orange’s famous quote “Na aññatrā tathāgathassa sotabbaṃ maññāmi”* – of course that is a bit extreme, but when you think about the above quotation…one really is intended to skip 90% of contemporary Buddhist literature. Why go for the bronze if you can tap into silver … Gold, obviously, being the practice of the Dhamma. 🙂

Between Blind Faith – Gratitude – Disrespect. Let’s find the middle path. 🙂

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* Nice pali saying for Theravadin fundamentalists ;-). Translation: “I do not consider anything worth listening to which was not spoken by the Tathagatha” :-). Robert L’Orange was one of the first Europeans to embrace Buddhism in 18-something. He learned Sanskrit, Pali and was a good friend of Karl Eugen Neumann…before he vanished either into the desert or Asian jungle)

**Another quote on this topic from Sue Hamilton’s excellent book: “Early Buddhism. A new approach“:

Furthermore, it is in these very canonical texts that evidence can be found of their oral preservation from the very
early stages of the Buddhist tradition. There is considerable evidence that conscious efforts were made to ensure accuracy
in such preservation, and that accuracy continued to be a factor when teachings began to be written down. The prime
reason why accuracy was desired was to preserve the teachings for as long as possible. The specialising groups who undertook this
would have taken their task extremely seriously, not merely for the sake of taking pride in their accuracy but because the survival
of the Buddha’s teachings, the Dhamma, depended on it.

Furthermore, it is in these very canonical texts that evidence can be found of their oral preservation from the very early stages of the Buddhist tradition. There is considerable evidence that conscious efforts were made to ensure accuracy in such preservation, and that accuracy continued to be a factor when teachings began to be written down. The prime reason why accuracy was desired was to preserve the teachings for as long as possible. The specialising groups who undertook this would have taken their task extremely seriously, not merely for the sake of taking pride in their accuracy but because the survival of the Buddha’s teachings, the Dhamma, depended on it.

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“Tell me, which part of the Tripitaka is the most ancient? Which part would I want to read, study and practice if I look for the most authentic instructions?”

The answer is very simple.

There are two little collections of verses in the entire Pitaka which take up a very unique position. They are kind of tugged away in the mass of teachings but here is what is so special about them:

First of all, they had already been memorized and were cherished by the young Buddhist community during the lifetime of the Buddha. How do we know? Well, there are other ancient suttas in the Tipitaka which refer to these verses as common knowledge amongst lay people and monks during Buddha’s lifetime.

Secondly these two collections are the only ones which have such an ancient commentary attached to them, that that commentary itself is now part of the Tipitaka.

And finally, after a mere 250 years, emperor Ashoka when recommending texts for study selected a few of his recommendations from these collections.

Which are those two?

The “Book of the Eights” (Atthaka-vagga) and the “Book of the Way Beyond” (Parayana-vagga).*

Having set the stage, let us focus on the Parayana Vagga for a second.

It consists of questions and answers between sixteen (young) brahmin priests who all came to see the Buddha.

When we read these verses we can see that some of the terms which would later become standard repertoire of the Buddhist teaching are still in their “infancy”, i.e. we see how the Buddha originally started using them before everyone knew what they meant and they became (Buddhist) technical terminology.

When the sixteen brahmins come to the Buddha “Ajita” starts with very general questions about the world and what might be wrong with it.

But very soon the topic moves into a philosophical/psychological arena.

Ajita wants to know why our minds make us behave like they do and the Buddha responds that that is because of the six streams, i.e. the six sense impressions.

Now Ajita is curious and wonders what one could do about that and the Buddha responds with two tools: sati (“mindfulness”/”remembering”/”witnessing”) and panna (wisdom/knowing).

But Ajita wonders: Isn’t that mental activity as well? How could we ever get beyond all streams? And the Buddha answers, you are right, eventually, what you are looking for is “viññāṇassa nirodhena** the extinguishing of the apart-knowing (vi-ñāṇa), generally known and translated as “consciousness”. It is that part of our knowing/consciousness which is able to distinguish (“vi-“, as indicated by the prefix).

Now the next brahmin priest, Tissa-Metteyya takes up the state of such a developed person and wants to know more about the attainment such an “arahant”, i.e. “worthy” person would live in.

Having attained a preliminary understanding of the Buddha’s message we enter round too of their Q&A:

The third question is from another brahmin ascetic, Punnaka, who wants to know about his and his ancestors practice. Did their rituals and worshipping, their sacrificing and prayers lead at least some of them towards that same goal the Buddha is referring to? Of course that question was bound to come. If what you are saying is right and it really sounds extremely fascinating, then what about our (ancient) religious practices and traditions.

And Buddha’s answer is a clear “sorry, no”. Fire worshipping priests of yore did not attain to that state of Nibbana… And he gives a reason as well: The very fact that wishing, desiring and hoping was ALL their practice consisted of they would never get beyond “existence”.

Mettagu, the next brahmin to ask a question is now puzzled…if religious tradition does not help overcome suffering then what is the source of all suffering according to the Buddha. If it has nothing to do with God(s) trying to challenge us or helping us in our salvation…Now we would expect a very long answer but the Buddha explains the source of all suffering there is, was and ever will be in one word:

upadhi

How can this one short answer give an explanation to the complexities of life, you might ask? Once you get the implications behind the meaning of this word you are almost enlightened 🙂

Upa-dhi, literally means something on which you stand. “Upa” means “on” and the root “dhā” implies “standing”. So whenever we stand on something we create the basis for suffering. Whatever we identify with, attach with, make our self part of or foundation for ourselves this will lead to suffering. From a simple feeling, sense impression, act of volition  with which we attach and identify to the grand (composite) scale of identifying with sports cars or relationships, wealth, poverty, politics, religion etc. etc. The source of our sorrow, pain and suffering, in one word, really, is just “upa-dhi” – Making and Taking something as the foundation of yourself.
At this point in the conversation  “Mettagu” is very impressed with the Buddha’s explanations so far and is the first (but not the last one) to ask for a meditation instruction (and the reason for this blogpost in the first place) 🙂

Let’s have a look at the Buddha’s four line gatha (verse) advising Mettagu how to realize Nibbana, the freedom of suffering, the state of non-upadhi:

Mettagu asks:

 

Kathaṃ nu dhīrā vitaranti oghaṃ, jātiṃ jaraṃ sokapariddavañca;

Taṃ me muni sādhu viyākarohi, tathā hi te vidito esa dhammo’’.

Well how did the wise ones cross over the flood? Over Birth, Age, Sorrow and Despair?

O Sage, please explain this to me very well, because you have experienced/known this dhamma (thing, principle, etc. etc)

[This and following verses, Sutta Nipata, Chapter 5: pali]

 

And the Buddha says, no problem, listen well and I will explain everything to you:

 

‘‘Kittayissāmi te dhammaṃ, Diṭṭhe dhamme anītihaṃ;

Yaṃ viditvā sato caraṃ, tare loke visattikaṃ’’.

I will tell you this dhamma, seen in the now – not based on hearsay (history, tradition, culture…)

Which having experienced/understood it and (then) practicing it (lit. walking in remembering it)

You will cross over the world entanglements.

 

Now we would expect the Buddha to give us a clear, easy to understand, well defined instruction for our meditation, correct? After all, the Buddha mentioned in other occasions, that his teaching is open for all to come and see. In contrast to other teachers which have something called “the fist of a teacher” meaning that they would hold back information for only the “initiated” people, the Buddha’s Dhamma fulfills more the reasoning of science: visible and open for public scrutiny; an invitation for all to study it, see it and (if possible) replicate it.

Unfortunately, looking at most contemporary translations, you would wonder WHERE that meditation instruction has gone. It seems, as if the Buddha only leaves Mettagu with a very general description of what needs to be done. Well, you would think, “probably he explained it in more detail later, not recorded in the text”. Or did he? 

However, here is my objection: Why would a text, which was up to this verse so detailed and even modern in its dialog suddenly stop explaining on such a detailed level and introduce mere commonplaces? Especially when we see how the entire conversation is structured and culminates at this very important pragmatic point.

And so looking very closely at the following verse especially with regard to observations we made in prior blog posts*** , we really CAN decipher a clear cut meditation instruction in the next few lines, but in order to do that, we have to “update” or “revise” a couple of standard-English terms used in Pali translations. Are you ready? Let’s go:

1061. ‘‘Yaṃ kiñci sampajānāsi,
Uddhaṃ adho tiriyañcāpi majjhe;
Etesu nandiñca nivesanañca, 
panujja viññāṇaṃ bhave na tiṭṭhe.”

 

First, a very very literal approximation:

Yaṃ kiñci sampajānāsi … what-ever (that-whichever) you perceive (know/experience/are aware of)

Uddhaṃ adho tiriyañ c’āpi majjhe … above, below, around and in the middle

etesu – panujja …. In these (with regard to these) having given up/dispelled/removed/pushed away

  1. nandi … delight
  2. nivesana … living-in (forming a home, settling, entering into, a place to stay, settlement). I really like the psychology of this word…In your vipassana meditation you can nicely observe how you “enter and settle” into the world based on “not seeing” sense contact but falling for the movie/story-line it is weaving.
  3. viññāṇa … lit.apart-knowing (the distinguishing, mental categorizing, analysis)

bhave na tiṭṭhe … you may/will not not stand (opt. of tiṭṭhati) in “being”.

 

Okay, here now the entire verse:

 

Whatever you experience (in your meditation)

above, below around and in the middle –

Towards these any delight and entering into

Having dispelled (and) consciousness (or discriminating) –

Do not stay in the being  (i.e. moment) 

 

The entire setup reminds us of a couple of things: 

First of all it looks like a meditative environment. Whatever you perceive in all directions. Whatever your mind is aware of in any direction. No matter what you perceive. Think: Closed eyes, concentrated mind…and now you experience the “stream of the six senses” and it feels like the sixfold sense information is experienced in and around you. The body “below”, the “sound” around or above. The “thought” in the middle.

What should you do with that? How should you approach it? The Buddha’s answer indicates an increasing refinement: Make sure that you give up “delight” towards any of those experiences. Make sure you do not “build a house” on them…Do not “move into them”, try not to “identify” with them.

Eventually you are trying not to stay in the ever-ongoing “being” in the moment. If there “is” in the moment, then there is a “you” and a “they”. There is a birth, a sorrow and a death for “you”.

Interesting also how viññāṇa is used in this context. You can either add it to the list of nandi, nivesana and vinnana as more and more refined ways of how we build our identification in the present moment, or alternatively, if you wanted to stick with the general translation of viññāṇa as “consciousness” you could say they indicate that you should try to give up “conscious delight” or “conscious housing” in anything surrounding you.

 

Mettagu is very excited with this answer and wants to know if there is more, but the Buddha basically finishes his question indicating that this is all you need to practice on the way to full enlightenment.

We could be satisfied at this point with the Parayanavagga and be glad to get such a deep insight into Buddhist (vipassana/insight/sati/wisdom…) meditation. But wait! More good things to come.

 

Dhotaka, the next brahmin asking Buddha a question, obviously was listening to Mettagu’s instruction. Now he himself would like to get a personalized meditation instruction to attain Nibbana, that attainment/state the Buddha had described as freedom from suffering. (Beautiful are the references and metaphors on Nibbana “ākāsova abyāpajjamāno” – undisturbed like the sky/space, “santi” the peace, “vivekadhamma” the principle of solitude etc.)

It is interesting to see that when you look at Dhotaka’s question, it seems as if he is expecting a very personalized instruction.

But when we look at Buddha’s answer we see that the Buddha starts out in the same way as for Mettagu, maybe implying ‘Dhotaka, this thing is true for all people. Mettagu’s instruction was not limited to him as a person but an example of a general principle’. This, of course, might be in between the lines, but let’s have a look at the second meditation instruction which the Buddha shares with our 16 brahmin ascetics and which is not “in between the lines” but literally an instruction for meditation:

‘‘Yaṃ kiñci sampajānāsi,
Uddhaṃ adho tiriyañcāpi majjhe;
Etaṃ viditvā “saṅgo”ti loke,
bhavābhavāya mākāsi taṇha’’nti.

First two lines are identical to the previous meditation instruction given to Mettagu. This is important! Like in a mathematical formula we can now assume that the last two lines offer additional insight into what the last two lines  of “Mettagu’s instruction” stood for. Here the Buddha gives a little variation to enhance Dhotaka’s understanding of his meditation instruction given to Mettagu.

So, if your question was: How do I train my mind not to go for delight/housing in the present moment, how can I leave “bhava”, the identification of me and mine in each moment…Here is Buddha’s even more explicit answer:

Whatever you experience, above, below around and in the middle (in your meditation)

Etaṃ viditvā “saṅgo”ti loke ….Having known/experienced/perceived that,  (then think/mark/tag) “This is a shackle” with regard to the world

bhavābhavāya mākāsi taṇham … from (moment of) being to (moment of being) do not do/make thirst. Or “do not make thirst to neither being nor non-being” – bhavabhava allows both interpretations. 

 

The “etam viditva” refers to the first two lines. Whenever you experience something around/in you in your vipassana meditation it already occured. However, now immediately after that experience, which means immediately when you become aware of it, you are supposed to do this:

“It is a shackle”

Hmmm… Does not that just sound like a version of our good old labeling? Yes, and of course, this crucial part of the instruction only makes sense, if you try to translate the direct speech in this case as …well, direct speech/thought and do not morph it into a vague general meaning of “you have to understand it as shackle”.

If you leave it in its literal form you would actually rather tend towards a translation like the following:

“Whatever you experience of the world, above, below, around and in the middle, 

Right after having known/experienced it (know it as/think of it as/apply a label of) “This is a shackle”.

The ” … ” is indicated by the “(i)ti” which means “so” in pali and stands for a direct or indirect speech or thought. Something someone tells or thinks. ***

If you were to follow your sense impressions (streams) in this fashion, of course, you would minimize the application of thirsting for objects/content. Instead of proliferation and conceptualization you start to see through the fabric of impressions and impulses and the “rising and falling” starts to become visible. Something most of you who did some vipassana at one time in their life probably experienced.

Seeing the rising and falling is a very important step in the process of insight, as implicated in many other passages we can find in the Suttas.

As you can see from the above, this was only a very abbreviated discussion on the first few verses of the Parayana only  with a little highlighting of the meditation instructions therein. Definitely a little yet very deep text reflecting Buddhism as it was intended by the Buddha and all of that in condensed powerful verses.

I hope you enjoy reading the Parayana and let me know about your insights into its theory and application,

metta!

 

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* Here is a wikipedia entry on those two chapters of the Sutta Nipata.

** On viññāṇassa nirodhena see other blog posts like this, this and this.

*** If you will, this entire article serves as yet another ‘evidence’ connecting the (in)direct speech/thought  particle “iti” which stands for something said or thought with the modern day application of “labeling” your experience in insight meditation practice. When you “label” something you in fact “tag” it as if “adressing” it with a short “statement” – the same idea “iti” conveys, but, Buddha’s time being an oral not a literate culture, the meaning of “label” is equivalent to the usage of “iti”. Here, here and here some prior articles on this topic.

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Famous words by the Buddha:

Vuttaṃ kho panetaṃ bhagavatā: yo paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passati so dhammaṃ passati; yo dhammaṃ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṃ passatīti. Paṭiccasamuppannā kho panime yadidaṃ pañcupādānakkhandhā. Yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chando ālayo anunayo ajjhosānaṃ so dukkhasamudayo. Yo imesu pañcasu upādānakkhandhesu chandarāgavinayo chandarāgappahānaṃ, so dukkhanirodho’ti 

Now, the Blessed One has said, “Whoever sees dependent arising sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees dependent arising.” And these things — the five groups of grasping — are dependently arisen. Any desire, embracing, grasping and holding-on to these five groups of grasping is the origination of suffering. Any subduing of desire and passion, any abandoning of desire and passion for these five grasping-groups is the cessation of suffering. [MN, 28]”

Intriguing, indeed. But what does it mean “to see dependent origination”?

Surely, it does not imply simply some intellectual grasp of this list of concepts which are mentioned in almost every Buddhist book.

It should be clear from this passage quoted from the Middle Length Sayings and many other instances that the concept of paticcasamuppada tries to focus on this very  present  moment – how it comes about, what it consists of and how it conditions the next moment(s).

paticcasamuppada-in-a-nutshell

Now we don’t know about time, but whatever present moment of reality we look at we find and recognize these factors which the Buddha explained as paticcasamuppada…and, like in layers of different abstraction [think: OSI Model] all of them rest on the preceding ones or wrap them into higher levels of complexity: Build on the background of ignorance does consciousness and name and form play through the senses. And from mere tanha for more arises via mana into full fledged views and ideas (ditthi) our ego. Not so much in time, as you can see, as in layers of complexity or papanca, proliferation. 

If you will, paticcasamuppada explains life. And every time you are able to explain something thoroughly you can manipulate it (sounds like science? Well, not materia-listic science but real-istic science.**

If you are still following conventional commentarial explanations that dependent origination mainly talks about three lives, the things I just mentioned but especially the interpretations which follow will definitely escape you. Therefore, to make most out of this post (or for later referencing) please read these articles/clarifications first, before you continue..or come back to them, in case you like to better understand what the following observations are based on:

  1. Ñāṇavīra (probably the first in modern times to note this),
  2. Ñāṇananda – discusses this in even more detail than Ven. Nyanavira from Nibbana Sermon 2 to at least Nibbana Sermon No. 6
  3. Buddhadasa – the only Thai monk who follows this refined understanding
  4. and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s abhidhammic-materialistic criticism who brings forth all arguments against seeing paticcasamuppada mainly focusing on the present moment, but could be easily refuted, IMHO).

And while you could still apply paticcasamuppada to explain rebirth, that is definitely not at its center core…If that did not become clear yet, wait till the end of this blog post :-). Wait, lets restate this: Paticcasamuppada only talks about re-birth: The rebirth which takes place in each moment. Once you understand continuity through conditions on this scale, it is kind of a given that life will go on no matter what – as long as those conditions are in place.

For the Buddha the problem did not lie in a past or future life, but the present moment.

Let me introduce you to a (maybe clumsy) simile which might make you aware of how your every day vipassana meditation can be seen in terms of navigating through the layers of paticcasamuppada:

 

Imagine there is a leak in a pipe or fountain and water gushes and streams out. Lets say “you” are a little ball, which dances on this fountain of water.

Every time your noting is quick and fast what will happen is that you start diving down into that fountain at various levels, sometimes closer to its source sometimes only superficial. What is the source? The birth of this very moment. Now, and now, and now….you get it.

That is why sometimes you only note concepts, emotions…the world…at a very conceptualized, proliferated level.

Here it is that you break precepts, or get into fights, that you vote for parties or fight over religious dogmas.

At other times you note your identification with these things. Further breaking into those layers of experiential abstraction at other times you note the feeling which underlies these objects.

Increasing concentration and insight further and you sometimes go as deep as contact…towards the event horizon of each current moment.

buddha1You note consciousness and name and form in its barest notability. And as we know from the definition of paticcasamuppada… the interplay of consciousness and name and form in this moment is based on intentions of the moment(s) [and yes, lifes] before…which in due course can only arise when ignorance of exactly this entire process wraps us up.

 

So the past is made up of myrads of moments like the present one. And because in those moments you “were” under the influence of not knowing you created intentions, preparations, determinations, creations – whatever we should call those sankharas which lead to new moments of existance like the current one. And here, in this moment again, you are wrapt up in avijja, or “ignorance” of that process of being wrapt up. And so now too, you work on the foundation for future moments. But this present moment, could be the very last.

I admit, this is difficult to understand. So yes, I just threw the common understanding (and until recently also my) understanding overboard which says that in and through vipassana we only [sic] “break paticcasamuppada at the feeling level”.

I say we can and do break into these links at various levels all the time in our vipassana sessions.

Sometimes we note a feeling. What about the rest of the 5 groups of grasping in that moment? Are the five groups of grasping chained and come one after the other in time like “moments”. No, they do not. These terms are just names to describe experience. And sometimes our awareness (part of name and consciousness) witnesses one part of itself in a moment of vipassana. But then, in the next moment, we are already at the next moment of life.

However, until we get down to the level of consciousness and name and form – we (our “I”, you remember, the little ball) is all the time pushed up again by the fountain. 

Does not that feel exactly like vipassana? Sometimes a series of extremely refined “notings” and sometimes we find ourselves caught up in larger emotions and ideas. We are delving into (i.e. recognizing)  parts of the now-reality in varying degrees of abstraction: More often emotions, ideas. Less often pure object. Even less often just the feeling of a moment. Rarely what lies beyond – where in the “contact” consciousness and name-and-form align.

So what are we trying to get to?

If in this moment we would be able to stop at the level of consciousness and name and form (where the present moment is conceived in) we would have removed the vail of ignorance, destroyed sankharas (at least for one moment) and thus “we” would extinguish the foundations for the birth of (or better “into”?) the next moment.

In that one moment the entire pyramid of life comes falling down.  Vinnanassa nirodhena … etth’etam uparujjhati…  …bhavanirodho nibbanam …sankharasamatho etc. etc.

The implications of understanding this (i.e. theoretically and even more so pragmatically) are quite numerous.(*)

We now understand what in fact we are trying to achieve in our vipassana -mindful-noting-pure-attentional mode. We understand, that it is not time (although that might be helpful) but rather skill/ability gained through pushing this mental cultivation towards the brink of experiental existance…

Have you ever tried to extinguish a candle flame with two fingers? Sometimes you need several attempts..you get closer and further away from the wick but one moment you succeed and the dancing burning fighting flame disappears… smoke (phala samapatti?) indicates the attainment but overall peace concurs.

So what is paticcasamuppada?

A description of experience (like the 5 groups of grasping and the six sense impressions). However, it also indicates the conditions keeping samsara going which, if tumbled lead instantly to the cessation of samsara. Whereas the description of the 5 groups of grasping needs additional qualifiers (groups of grasping) the paticcasamuppada is a self-sufficient explanation of the entire Dhamma.

Again, we might think of the similes of trees and seeds which the Buddha sometimes used for explaining the “sprouting” of consciousness. Each moment of life is like the sprouting of a seedling, planted by the previous fully blossomed paticcasamuppada into the tree of “suffering” and each new seedling in every moment almost instantaneously blossoms into a new tree…and so on… (like the simile of the forest, our life is a growing forest – or a forest fire, as no other trees seem to be left standing)

So with vipassana it seems as if we stop or slow down the blooming or growing of this flower/tree for a short period.

Sometimes we slow down that process just before the flowers open sometimes we delve deeper and stop the growth of its stem or even closer to its root… But we never fully succeed in stopping it at the moment where the seed touches earth. (Whether it is really a when and not a what, I leave that question open for Arahants to answer 🙂

So, in most cases we note and see one part of this process of “growth into concepts” or growth of papanca (proliferation) and each time we only succeed in slowing down for a moment.

It seems however, that that is enough, over the long course of insight meditation to do two things:

  1. We start to get an experiental understanding of the entire process of “becoming a self” in each present moment
  2. We start to get “skilled” in our reflective attention (pati-vekkhana == looking back, pati-san-cikkhati == looking back) until there will be one moment where we catch the process where consciousness gets born on grounds of the sankharas of previous moments.

The funny/paradox thing is this: as we unravel our avijja in this moment to see the beginning of this moment we – in the moment we do succeed – also destroy the very foundation for this to happen in the next moment – bam! and before you know it – cessation. Skilled cessation through the power of developed insight.

Of course, having seen that, the mind never completely functions like it did before. It found its own samsara-off switch, 😉 .

 

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(*) Still, this article itself is floating in uncharted territory. I haven’t read the SN, Nidanavagga in quite some time but will try to provide citations to support this line of interpretation (in the next couple of months) – or make you aware of suttas which are in conflict with this paticcasamuppada interpretation.

(**) real. lat < res ‘the thing’ < > same idea in pali for dhamma

Further Reading: This is a nice read very much along the lines of recent observations made on this blog as well: The five groups of grasping as fuel for experience and DO as a description of experience not of things. Thanks, Jaya!

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