Sept 4, 2018
Our experience of phenomena is insubstantial, impermanent, and dependent.
The nature of perception is insubstantial. When you see an elephant, there is no physical elephant in your mind; there is a mental image of the elephant. That image is insubstantial; it is made of light; it is a thought.
All our perceptions are thoughts, whether they are visual or tactile or of any other kind. Smell happens in the mind; sound happens in the mind. If it does not happen in the mind, we do not experience it.
Impermanence does not need much explanation. Even when we try to hold on to a perception, it quickly disappears, degrades, changes, like our memories. Even as things are happening, they keep changing. There is no fixed perception.
Our experience of phenomena is also dependent on multiple causes and conditions: our tendencies, previous experiences, conceptual biases, emotional states, sensory capacity, and external conditions.
Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.
It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom — freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.
– Pema Chödron
from the book “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”
No View is Right View, by Ajahn Sumedho
July 20, 2018
We can have this sense of non-discrimination; we can allow everything to be what it is at this moment, like the Bodhisattva listening to the sounds of the universe. You can have this attitude of letting go, of relaxing, of non-attachment, of nothing to do, of nothing to attain, of nothing to become. And yet you can be alert, awake, attentive, receptive. We can be aware of external things — the sounds or the temperature, what passes in front of our eyes, odours, sensations — at the same time being aware of what is happening inside — maybe our reaction to that fire alarm or whatever it was that went off a few moments ago. Maybe you think that the traffic passing outside is too noisy. Being aware of reactions to conditions gives us this huge space to be aware, both of the way things impinge on our body and mind, and our emotional reactions to them — liking, disliking, wanting, not wanting, approving, disapproving. Our position now is being this awareness itself, rather than trying to control the situation according to what we like, just allowing everything to be the way it is, being this knowing, this infinity, this pure conscious, non-personal reality.
I am pointing to, say, infinity or that which is immeasurable, and I feel this is very important. So much vipassana (insight) that is taught is a kind of obsession around impermanence. People that are doing vipassana courses are told to contemplate impermanence (anicca) which is good instruction, certainly, but (this is just my impression, anyway) they are so busy noting impermanence, they don’t notice the very noting itself, the awareness itself. It’s like following instruction to notice that all conditions are impermanent. You get the idea, and then you think thoughts are impermanent, sounds are impermanent, body obviously, seasons, times of day and night, subtle movements — it gets into subtleties of just emotional states or subtle feelings in the body, energetic experiences — but it is that which is aware, this awareness itself, which is the path. It’s as simple as that! Awareness, mindfulness, is the gate or door to the deathless, and the deathless has no boundary, it is infinite, it isn’t subject to birth and death like conditions are.