In It For You
can expect certain benefits from your meditation. The initial
ones are practical, prosaic things; the later stages are profoundly
transcendent. They run together from the simple to the sublime.
We will set forth some of them here. Your own experience is
all that counts.
Those things that we called hindrances or defilements are more
than just unpleasant mental habits. They are the primary manifestations
of the ego process itself. The ego sense itself is essentially
a feeling of separation -- a perception of distance between
that which we call me, and that which we call other. This perception
is held in place only if it is constantly exercised, and the
hindrances constitute that exercise.
Greed and lust are attempts to get 'some of that' for me; hatred
and aversion are attempts to place greater distance between
'me and that'. All the defilements depend upon the perception
of a barrier between self and other, and all of them foster
this perception every time they are exercised. Mindfulness perceives
things deeply and with great clarity. It brings our attention
to the root of the defilements and lays bare their mechanism.
It sees their fruits and their effects upon us. It cannot be
fooled. Once you have clearly seen what greed really is and
what it really does to you and to others, you just naturally
cease to engage in it. When a child burns his hand on a hot
oven, you don't have to tell him to pull it back; he does it
naturally, without conscious thought and without decision. There
is a reflex action built into the nervous system for just that
purpose, and it works faster than thought. By the time the child
perceives the sensation of heat and begins to cry, the hand
has already been jerked back from the source of pain. Mindfulness
works in very much the same way: it is wordless, spontaneous
and utterly efficient. Clear mindfulness inhibits the growth
of hindrances; continuous mindfulness extinguishes them. Thus,
as genuine mindfulness is built up, the walls of the ego itself
are broken down, craving diminishes, defensiveness and rigidity
lessen, you become more open, accepting and flexible. You learn
to share your loving-kindness.
Traditionally, Buddhists are reluctant to talk about the ultimate
nature of human beings. But those who are willing to make descriptive
statements at all usually say that our ultimate essence or Buddha
nature is pure, holy and inherently good. The only reason that
human beings appear otherwise is that their experience of that
ultimate essence has been hindered; it has been blocked like
water behind a dam. The hindrances are the bricks of which the
dam is built. As mindfulness dissolves the bricks, holes are
punched in the dam and compassion and sympathetic joy come flooding
forward. As meditative mindfulness develops, your whole experience
of life changes. Your experience of being alive, the very sensation
of being conscious, becomes lucid and precise, no longer just
an unnoticed background for your preoccupations. It becomes
a thing consistently perceived.
Each passing moment stands out as itself; the moments no longer
blend together in an unnoticed blur. Nothing is glossed over
or taken for granted, no experiences labeled as merely 'ordinary'.
Everything looks bright and special. You refrain from categorizing
your experiences into mental pigeonholes. Descriptions and interpretations
are chucked aside and each moment of time is allowed to speak
for itself. You actually listen to what it has to say, and you
listen as if it were being heard for the very first time. When
your meditation becomes really powerful, it also becomes constant.
You consistently observe with bare attention both the breath
and every mental phenomenon. You feel increasingly stable, increasingly
moored in the stark and simple experience of moment-to-moment
Once your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful
and at rest in an utterly simple awareness. This awareness cannot
be described adequately. Words are not enough. It can only be
experienced. Breath ceases to be just breath; it is no longer
limited to the static and familiar concept you once held. You
no longer see it as a succession of just inhalations and exhalations;
it is no longer some insignificant monotonous experience. Breath
becomes a living, changing process, something alive and fascinating.
It is no longer something that takes place in time; it is perceived
as the present moment itself. Time is seen as a concept, not
an experienced reality.
This is simplified, rudimentary awareness which is stripped
of all extraneous detail. It is grounded in a living flow of
the present, and it is marked by a pronounced sense of reality.
You know absolutely that this is real, more real than anything
you have ever experienced. Once you have gained this perception
with absolute certainty, you have a fresh vantage point, a new
criterion against which to gauge all of your experience. After
this perception, you see clearly those moments when you are
participating in bare phenomena alone, and those moments when
you are disturbing phenomena with mental attitudes. You watch
yourself twisting reality with mental comments, with stale images
and personal opinions. You know what you are doing, when you
are doing it. You become increasingly sensitive to the ways
in which you miss the true reality, and you gravitate towards
the simple objective perspective which does not add to or subtract
from what is. You become a very perceptive individual. From
this vantage point, all is seen with clarity. The innumerable
activities of mind and body stand out in glaring detail. You
mindfully observe the incessant rise and fall of breath; you
watch an endless stream of bodily sensations and movements;
you scan a rapid succession of thoughts and feelings, and you
sense the rhythm that echoes from the steady march of time.
And in the midst of all this ceaseless movement, there is no
watcher, there is only watching.
In this state of perception, nothing remains the same for two
consecutive moments. Everything is seen to be in constant transformation.
All things are born, all things grow old and die. There are
no exceptions. You awaken to the unceasing changes of your own
life. You look around and see everything in flux, everything,
everything, everything. It is all rising and falling, intensifying
and diminishing, coming into existence and passing away. All
of life, every bit of it from the infinitesimal to the Indian
Ocean, is in motion constantly. You perceive the universe as
a great flowing river of experience. Your most cherished possessions
are slipping away, and so is your very life. Yet this impermanence
is no reason for grief. You stand there transfixed, staring
at this incessant activity, and your response is wondrous joy.
It's all moving, dancing and full of life.
As you continue to observe these changes and you see how it
all fits together, you become aware of the intimate connectedness
of all mental, sensory and affective phenomena. You watch one
thought leading to another, you see destruction giving rise
to emotional reactions and feelings giving rise to more thoughts.
Actions, thoughts, feelings, desires -- you see all of them
intimately linked together in a delicate fabric of cause and
effect. You watch pleasurable experiences arise and fall and
you see that they never last; you watch pain come uninvited
and you watch yourself anxiously struggling to throw it off;
you see yourself fail. It all happens over and over while you
stand back quietly and just watch it all work.
Out of this living laboratory itself comes an inner and unassailable
conclusion. You see that your life is marked by disappointment
and frustration, and you clearly see the source. These reactions
arise out of your own inability to get what you want, your fear
of losing what you have already gained and your habit of never
being satisfied with what you have. These are no longer theoretical
concepts -- you have seen these things for yourself and you
know that they are real. You perceive your own fear, your own
basic insecurity in the face of life and death. It is a profound
tension that goes all the way down to the root of thought and
makes all of life a struggle. You watch yourself anxiously groping
about, fearfully grasping for something, anything, to hold onto
in the midst of all these shifting sands, and you see that there
is nothing to hold onto, nothing that doesn't change.
You see the pain of loss and grief, you watch yourself being
forced to adjust to painful developments day after day in your
own ordinary existence. You witness the tensions and conflicts
inherent in the very process of everyday living, and you see
how superficial most of your concerns really are. You watch
the progress of pain, sickness, old age and death. You learn
to marvel that all these horrible things are not fearful at
all. They are simply reality.
Through this intensive study of the negative aspects of your
existence, you become deeply acquainted with dukkha, the unsatisfactory
nature of all existence. You begin to perceive dukkha at all
levels of our human life, from the obvious down to the most
subtle. You see the way suffering inevitably follows in the
wake of clinging, as soon as you grasp anything, pain inevitably
follows. Once you become fully acquainted with the whole dynamic
of desire, you become sensitized to it. You see where it rises,
when it rises and how it affects you. You watch it operate over
and over, manifesting through every sense channel, taking control
of the mind and making consciousness its slave.
In the midst of every pleasant experience, you watch your own
craving and clinging take place. In the midst of unpleasant
experiences, you watch a very powerful resistance take hold.
You do not block these phenomena, you just watch them, you see
them as the very stuff of human thought. You search for that
thing you call 'me', but what you find is a physical body and
how you have identified your sense of yourself with that bag
of skin and bones. You search further and you find all manner
of mental phenomena, such as emotions, thought patterns and
opinions, and see how you identify the sense of yourself with
each of them. You watch yourself becoming possessive, protective
and defensive over these pitiful things and you see how crazy
that is. You rummage furiously among these various items, constantly
searching for yourself--physical matter, bodily sensations,
feelings and emotions--it all keeps whirling round and round
as you root through it, peering into every nook and cranny,
endlessly hunting for 'me'.
You find nothing. In all that collection of mental hardware
in this endless stream of ever-shifting experience all you can
find is innumerable impersonal processes which have been caused
and conditioned by previous processes. There is no static self
to be found; it is all process. You find thoughts but no thinker,
you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house
itself is empty. There is nobody home.
Your whole view of self changes at this point. You begin to
look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph. When
viewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you see is a definite
image. When viewed through a magnifying glass, it all breaks
down into an intricate configuration of dots. Similarly, under
the penetrating gaze of mindfulness, the feeling of self, an
'I' or 'being' anything, loses its solidity and dissolves. There
comes a point in insight meditation where the three characteristics
of existence--impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness--
come rushing home with concept-searing force. You vividly experience
the impermanence of life, the suffering nature of human existence,
and the truth of no self. You experience these things so graphically
that you suddenly awake to the utter futility of craving, grasping
and resistance. In the clarity and purity of this profound moment,
our consciousness is transformed. The entity of self evaporates.
All that is left is an infinity of interrelated non-personal
phenomena which are conditioned and ever changing. Craving is
extinguished and a great burden is lifted. There remains only
an effortless flow, without a trace of resistance or tension.
There remains only peace, and blessed Nibbana, the uncreated,
* (End) *