Dancing with Life (DWL) (pp. 168-187)
The Second Insight: The Cessation of Suffering is to be Directly Experienced
“Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This noble truth of the cessation of stress is to be directly experienced’…”
Disenchantment is Necessary and Natural
As you practice the mindfulness of cessation, it is possible to become disheartened. The activities that you normally take pleasure in do not seem as interesting or engaging. This is because you are developing more clarity about what life really is. As Moffitt noted in himself, “The hypnotic appeal of the pleasant and appealing aspects of life had ceased. Fortunately, the direct realization of dukkha was the beginning and not the end of the insight process for me, and it will be the same for you.” (DWL p. 177)
The Buddha in one of his teachings, The Fire Sermon, explained the dangers of craving impermanent phenomena such as material objects and relationships. He spoke to 1000 ascetic monks who had been practicing fire worship so he used burning as a metaphor for the consequences of clinging. Just as one doesn’t touch a hot stove because of the potential for burning, one avoids craving impermanent objects for the same reason. The Buddha noted that all six senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking) have the potential for burning. He used 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)
By practicing mindfulness, you can become aware that all objects of awareness have energy and create burning or stress. The longer the contact, the more potential exists for the burning to become a bonfire (attachment to a desire becomes clinging leading to craving).
All Things Are Burning Leads to the Insight of Dispassion
Dispassion is defined as not being affected by strong feelings or emotions. As we practice cessation through mindfulness we are not influenced by clinging or craving. This is not the same as depression or despair where we do have strong feelings of hopelessness. Things do matter but we aren’t reactive.
Cessation gives you glimpses of pure awareness as Moffitt describes with his example of Kim who reported “that he did not experience a period of blankness while noticing cessation; instead his mind moved into total abandonment of all objects. For an extended period of time he was resting in pure awareness. No thoughts, body sensations, or any other sense experiences arose, although he was totally awake alert. Nor did he have any sense of himself as a subject or any awareness of awareness. He was literally not separate. It was only in coming out of this state that he was aware of having been in it.“ (DWL p. 176)
You do not have to be defined by the burning
As you practice mindfulness of cessation and experience the burning, you have three skillful choices: do not add fuel to the fire, do not make the burning personal, and do not be identified with the burning.
What is the fuel you add to the fire? It is attachment that can be in 3 forms: wanting (greed), aversion (ill-will) and ignorance (delusion). These three factors are what fuel the reactivity, create the bonfire and cause suffering.
What is making the burning personal? This is believing that the fire is directed at you rather than being of selfless nature and just arising.
What is identification with the burning? This is having perceptions and behaving in a manner that support (identify with) wanting, aversion or delusion. For example, a wanting person is always seeking pleasure, an aversion person is looking for the downside of everything and a deluded person believes that everything will stay the same. In truth, the wanting, aversion, and delusion are just distorted perceptions, not how things really are.
- Reread this talk and reflect on it. Can you experience that all is burning? Can you experience the onset of burning (attachment) and see that if wanting, aversion or delusion is present, that the burning increases? Keep doing the mindfulness of cessation practices as described in the previous talk.
- Meditate as usual in your daily practice using the practices of concentration, insight, and loving kindness (metta)