Meditation on Perception (pp. 69-72)
“And what, Ananda, is the perception of abandoning? Here, a bhikkhu does not tolerate an arisen sensual thought; he abandons it, dispels it, terminates it, and obliterates it. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will … an arisen thought of harming … bad unwholesome states whenever they arise; he abandons them, dispels them, terminates them, and obliterates them. This is called the perception of abandoning.” –The Buddha (tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
Perception of Abandoning
To abandon means to give up or get rid of something. The something that the Buddha is referring to in this perception is unwholesome thoughts. Unwholesome thoughts include those of sensuous pleasure, hatred, and hurting others.
These thoughts are deeply rooted in the mind and require vigilant mindfulness to identify them and intervene. Unwholesome thoughts can lead to unskillful action so it is best to deal with them as soon as they are perceived.
Know that this is the process of abandoning thoughts that arise; not dwelling on “I shouldn’t have these thoughts.” Resisting thoughts rather than abandoning will cause them to remain.
The Buddha described the process of abandoning in the second step of the Eightfold Path, Right Thinking:
“And what, is Right Thought? Thought associated with renunciation, thought associated with absence of ill will, thought associated with absence of cruelty. This is called Right Thought.”
Thoughts for sensual pleasure arise though desire. Desire for material objects and relationships. Clinging takes place. The mind becomes excited, restless and agitated rather than at peace. Abandoning or letting go can put the mind back in a peaceful state. Replacing thoughts of sensual desire with those of renunciation is beneficial. Resisting rather than replacing leads only to perpetuating the perception.
Bhante G. notes: “Renunciation is the conscious decision to let go of perceptions of desire, lust, greed, clinging and craving. It is the conscious decision to restrain the senses to avoid disturbing impulses and refocus our attention on the goal of making the mind peaceful, relaxed and serene.” P. 71
Absence of ill-will
When ill-will or hatred is present, our mind perpetuates our suffering and can aggravate any illness that we have. Letting go of ill will and replacing it with loving-kindness is the antidote.
Bhante G. notes: “When we no longer push things away, we feel friendly acceptance toward everything that exists, even toward our own body and illness.” P. 71
Absence of Cruelty
Thoughts of cruelty hurt ourselves and not others. We can reflect on times when we were treated badly and the consequences of that. Letting go of harming thoughts and replacing them with restraint, compassion and care for others are the antidotes.
Bhante G. notes: “Abandoning harmful thoughts helps to make us feel peaceful and happy, which helps us overcome our own suffering.
- Reread this talk and reflect on it. When you perceive thoughts of sensual pleasure, ill-will or harming others, can you replace them with thoughts of renunciation, loving-kindness and compassion?
- Observe without judgment to see if there are any habitual unwholesome thoughts that arise. Practice abandoning on these.
- As you meditate, note the selfless nature of the thoughts and sensations of the sensual pleasure, ill-will, and harming. that arise. Note the impermanence of these thoughts.