Meditation on Perception (pp. 73-75)
“And what, Ananda, is the perception of dispassion? Here, having gone to the forest, to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut, a bhikkhu reflects thus: ‘This is peaceful, this is sublime, that is, the stilling of all activities, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the destruction of craving, dispassion, nibbana.’ This is called the perception of dispassion.” (tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
Perception of Dispassion
Dispassion is the opposite of craving. Craving leads to clinging. The Second Noble Truth tells us that clinging is the cause of suffering. The Third Noble Truth notes that the elimination of clinging is the cure for suffering. When we crave things such as material objects and relationships, we are not seeing that what we are craving is impermanent. With mindfulness (paying attention moment to moment to what is), we see that the perception of craving comes from greed, hatred, and delusion. The perception of dispassion is the purified perception replaces our distorted perception of craving.
The Buddha in one of his teachings, The Fire Sermon, explained the dangers of craving impermanent phenomena such as material objects and relationships. Just as one doesn’t touch a hot stove with a hand because of the potential for burning, one avoids craving impermanent objects for the same reason. The Buddha notes that all six senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking) have the potential for burning. He uses the eye and its contact as an example:
Bhikkhus, all is burning. And what, bhikkhus, is the all that is burning? The eye is burning, forms are burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning, and whatever feeling arises with eye-contact as condition- whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant-that too is burning. Burning with what? Burning with the fire of lust, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of delusion; burning with birth, aging, and death; with sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair, I say. (tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
In other words, all is burning with greed, hatred and delusion.
Absence of Burning
The way not to get burned is to let go of the source of burning as soon as possible. For example, as soon as you are conscious of making eye contact with an object you crave, look away. When an unskillful thought arises, replace it with a skillful one. This takes practice because of our habitual nature.
Developing strong mindfulness of dispassion allows us not to cling to anything. We truly realize that everything is impermanent, dissatisfactory, and of selfless nature.
The Buddha said that the way to resolve the paradox of the opposites (e.g. pleasure vs. pain) is by releasing the clinging.
T. S. Eliot captured the essence of the Buddha’s instruction in these lines from the poem “Ash Wednesday”: “Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still…”
The Buddha’s instruction to abandon clinging translates into caring without demanding, loving without imposing conditions, and moving toward your goals without attachment to outcome. (from Phillip Moffitt Dancing With Life)
- Reread this talk and reflect on it.
- Observe with the perception of dispassion all phenomena (thoughts, memories, perceptions, sensations). How does this affect your view?
- As you meditate, observe when craving or clinging to a thought, memory, perception or sensation arises,
- Apply dispassion. What happens?