Meditation on Perception (pp. 81-82)
“And what, Ananda, is the perception of nondelight in the entire world? Here, a bhikkhu refrains from any engagement and clinging, mental stand- points, adherences, and underlying tendencies in regard to the world, abandoning them without clinging to them. This is called the perception of nondelight in the entire world.” (tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
Perception of Nondelight in the Whole World
This perception goes deeper and may be hard to understand. In the conditioned world, our tendency is to increase our delight (pleasure). However, we have learned so far in our exploration of perception that all phenomena share characteristics of impermanence, dissatisfaction and selfless nature. We know that pleasure shares these characteristics and even if we could completely fill our lives with it, we still would suffer. The Buddha’s father tried to fill his son’s life with pleasure and the Buddha came to the same realization.
We also know that we can experience the joy of peace and nonattachment which is preferable to pursuing delight.
However, the mind is always looking for ways to survive and we may hold out hope that in another life we may be able have pleasure without suffering. Two of the ten fetters or subtle hindrances to our practice are craving for fine material existence and, if that fails, craving immaterial existence. We realize that our cravings are just thoughts for these exalted states.
The path leads to permanent freedom and our purified perception allows us to put aside doubt and fear. We become free of attachment to the eight worldly conditions.
As the Buddha said in the Mahamangala Sutta:
A mind unshaken
When touched by the worldly states,
Sorrowless, stainless, and secure;
This is the blessing Supreme.
Though touched by worldly circumstances,
Never his mind is wavering,
Sorrowless, stainless and secure:
This, the Highest Blessing
Worldly State: Loka-dhamma, i.e., conditions which are necessarily connected with life in this world; there are primarily eight of them: gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pain and joy.
Does nondelight mean that we can’t have pleasure or joy in our experiences?
The short answer is yes, you can. When you experience any emotion be it joy, pleasure, anger or hatred, know it with mindfulness. All experiences share the three characteristics of impermanence, unreliability (dissatisfaction) and are of selfless nature. So when you experience pleasure, enjoy it in the present moment and know that it is not permanent. The disappointment comes in when greed, hatred, or delusion follows and we want more or less (if the experience is painful.) Every day we experience many or all of the eight worldly conditions – pleasure, pain, gain, loss, praise, criticism, fame and disrepute. When, for example, life throws us praise, we may feel pleasure and being mindful, we do not attach to and base our happiness on getting more.
- Reread this talk and reflect on it.
- As life throws you the worldly conditions, practice mindfulness and know the joy of nonattachment.
- If thoughts arise of craving for the exalted states of fine material existence and, if that fails, craving immaterial existence, see them for what they are: delusion.