Extra Session – Follow up on the Perception of Selflessness (pp. 55-57)
Most people do not want enlightenment
Ajahn Chah noted in Food for the Heart Chapter 29, No Abiding “So most people don’t want to go to nibbana, because there’s nothing there at all; nothing at all.” No abiding is like that space between two abidings, the floor and the roof. “Where there is no abiding, that’s where there’s emptiness, and nibbana is in this emptiness.”
“People hear this and they back up a bit; they don’t want to go. They’re afraid they won’t see their children or their relatives… But when you start talking about emptiness, they don’t want to hear about it; they’re attached to abiding.” (pp 316-7)
Do you truly want to go for enlightenment? It does mean losing your conditioned self.
“What is the Self ?” is not the important question
It is who or what we are not that needs to be addressed first because who we are cannot be described. Our mind wants certainty and clarity. The mind wants a description of who we are particularly searching for the fundamental answer to can the self die?
Don’t be concerned with the existence or not of the self. This concern can only lead to attachment and suffering. Without the self, there is freedom. “Once there’s the experience of such total freedom, where would there be any concern about what’s experiencing it, or whether or not it’s a self?” –Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Use the awareness of the self as a reminder (trigger) for attachment being present. The concept of the self is always accompanied by an object. Use mindfulness to see what that object is. For example, if you are thinking, “I am hurt by those comments,” through mindfulness you can see that the concept of self,”I”, has arisen and the object of attachment is an emotion of feeling hurt.
It’s all about letting go
Ajahn Chah based the majority of his teaching on the three characteristics: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selfless nature. In the previously noted chapter, No Abiding, he discusses the importance of letting go. Wishing for things is a common experience; letting go is the difficult part. Ajahn Chah described the correct process as “Know and let go.”
Know and let go is a summary phrase for the process of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. We apply the first three factors, mindfulness, investigation, and effort allowing us to let go and experience joy, tranquility, concentration and equanimity. “Make the mind know in this way, let wisdom arise. When the mind has wisdom, what else is there to look for?” P. 315
Practicing Know and let go (Non-Abiding)
- Reflect on the dhamma daily. A good reading for non abiding is The Place of Non-Abiding (Chapter Two) in Small Boat, Great Mountain by Amaro Bhikkhu.
- Meditate daily if only for a little while. After quieting the mind with concentration practice, shift to Vipassana (Insight) practice and see the three characteristics manifested in each phenomena (a thought, memory, sensation, perception) that arises.
- When conscious of the self, apply mindfulness to see the object attachment. “When we see our mind getting caught up with something, we can apply the classic vipassana technique—just hit it with impermanence, not-self, and suffering, the old one, two, three. If we have a good sense of anatta (selflessness), we chop it with a “not me, not mine” and down it goes. But it is important to remember that clinging is extraordinarily wily. There we are gloating over our success, but we don’t realize that this is a tag match that’s going on. Another character is bearing down on us from behind while we look at our knockout on the floor. The partner is about to clobber us. We just barely let go of the attachment to time when attachment to opinions starts moving full speed ahead. We drop that, then here-ness takes over. Then it’s the body. . . Clinging takes shape in many, many different ways and we need to notice them all.” (Small Boat, p. 28)
- Reread this talk daily. When you perceive the self arising, look for the attachment and practice know and let go. What do you experience?
- When the self arises in meditation, look for its origin. Does the self exist or is it just another phenomena arising and falling away?