Monday, July 4

Thoughts on the Dhamma

This morning I was checking out the "What's New?" page at Access to Insight and found "Thoughts on the Dhamma" by the Mahasi Sayadaw, a collection of extracts from a variety of the venerable Sayadaw's sermons.

Reading these extracts before starting my meditation put me into a very beneficial frame of mind, and it was a pleasure to use the Mahasi method, noting the rise and fall of the abdomen -- a welcome vacation from noting the breath at the nostrils, which is a more subtle object, and therefore requires more effort...

An excerpt, on using despair as wholesome motivation:
Some meditators are disheartened because of their weak concentration at the outset, but as a result, some redouble their effort and attain unusual insights. So the meditator may benefit by his despair at this stage. According to the commentaries, we should welcome the despair that results from non-fulfillment of desire in connection with renunciation, meditation, reflection, and jhana.

Sorrow is wholesome when it arises from frustration over any effort to promote one's spiritual life, such as the effort to join the holy order, the effort to attain insight, and so forth. We should welcome such sorrow for it may spur effort and lead to progress on the Path. It is not, however, to be sought deliberately. The best thing is to have wholesome joy in the search for enlightenment.

And another, on purity of mind:
You have purity of mind when you are mindful. It is a mistake to think that one can attain it only when one enters meditative absorption (jhana). Purity of mind based on jhana is due to the continuous stream of jhanic consciousness. Purity of mind through Vipassana is the purity that emerges at the moment of attaining insight. Both kinds of consciousness are alike in respect to purity of mind and freedom from hindrances.

On nama and rupa arising and passing away:
Take another example. Place a mirror at the roadside. All pedestrians and vehicles will be reflected in the mirror in their true nature. If you watch and note them, you will see them as they really are. In the same way if you watch and note with mindfulness all that appears at the six sense-doors, you will notice the sense-objects (which have no consciousness) arising while the mind (the subject that possesses the consciousness) is taking cognizance of such arising. Then both the object and the subject pass away. Then this process is renewed. The meditator will then come to realize that this is the phenomenon of nama and rupa arising and passing away. Consciousness and corporeality are, after all, not everlasting. They are not permanent. They are suffering. They are unsubstantial.

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