One Motif — No Clinging

‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’

— Anguttara Nikaya 11.12

Clear insight doesn’t come from thought or conjecture. It comes from investigating the mind it is grounded in an sufficiently calm and stable. As we peer with intensity into every corner of the mind when it’s free from thought-formations, judgements, preconceptions or likes and dislikes for its obsessions. One has try hard to maintain this state and at the same time inquire further, because superficial knowledge isn’t true knowledge. It’s not what we are aiming at. As long as we haven’t gone deeper into the mind, we don’t really know anything about it, its workings and how we experience reality as it is. If the mind is calm on a shallow level, and our understanding of the mental wanderings are still under the influence of defilement, craving, and attachment.

When we carry something heavy on our back, we know it’s heavy because it’s weighing on use down. When we put it down, it’s not heavy any more. In the same way, when we see that birth is stressful, aging is stressful, illness is stressful, death is stressful, being without the ones we love is stressful, being with those we don’t care for is stressful. then we should examine those things as they arise to see that they’re really not us not do we really have anything invested in them — they are not ours. Then we’ll be able to let them go. By putting the burden of believing stress is either ‘me’ or ‘mine’ we become detached from the burdensome belief and this is one of the points of discovery in Buddhist meditation.

Letting go of our preconceptions leads detachment — not being attached to our cravings, preconceptions and assumptions that cause stress — this is the very opposite of tanha (craving) and it is this tanha that is the source of all the myriad stress and suffering experienced by sentient beings. This craving is deeply ingrained in our minds because of our ignorance about the real nature of the phenomena we call ‘the world.’ The meditation techniques of the Buddha are designed to help us facilitate insights into our illusions that obscure the nature of reality. These illusions are preserved by our inaccurate perception of both the world and ourselves. Understanding must be garnered about the impermanent, unsatisfactory and existential nature of all conditioned phenomena, the soullessness of everything mental and physical, which are the effect of causes and supported by conditions.

Many often conceive insight as a ‘magical’ experience that suddenly happens out of nowhere making all things immediately manifesting instant clarity about everything. Those people would be wrong. Insight develops gradually, almost imperceptibly, through the careful discipline of observation, investigation and analysis of phenomenal events (‘things’) until their ultimate nature, hiding behind their apparent, conventional truth is clearly and perceived without a doubt. It is this process known in Pali as dhammavicaya (Investigation of Dhamma) and closely related one of yoniso-manasikara (systematic attention), in the Suttas, the Abhidhamma and the sastras (commentaries), both terms are equated with pañña (transcendent wisdom).

We should look after our mind to make sure that it doesn’t create the presumption that any of those things are us or ours. They don’t somehow reside within us. Those things are just objects, elements, and we genuinely leave them at that without any penalty. No one owns stress. It’s just as when you put down a heavy weight: there’s nothing heavy about it at all.

The other shore is not so far away. To get to it we first have to give up assumptions about the self, the five aggregates. Through investigation we see them all as stress (dukkha) and that none of them are ‘me’ or ‘mine.’

Focus on this one motif — not clinging.

Shakyamuni Buddha once spoke of the past as below, the future as above, and the present as in the middle. He also said that unskillful qualities are below, skillful qualities above, and neutral ones in the middle. To each of them, he said, ‘Don’t cling to it.’ Even nibbana, the other shore. Even that should not be clung to. Anyone who cannot understand that even nibbana is not to be clung to ought to reflect the basic teaching that enjoins us not to cling. We have to find our way to let go. ‘All things are unworthy of attachment.’ Nothing is worth clinging to.This is the ultimate message of the methodology behind the Buddha’s teaching.

All phenomena, that is physical events we call ‘things,’ whether compounded or uncompounded, fall under the phrase, ‘Sabbe dhamma anatta — All things are not-self.’ They ultimately offer us nothing except stress and pain. This encapsulates everything we need to know about ‘things,’ including our own investigations to uncover the truth of the world and of the Dhamma,

To see things clearly with our unique mindfulness and discernment, cutting through the compounded fabrications to the uncompounded and unfabricated, through the worldly to the transcendent, all of which has to be done by looking within, not out there somewhere.

If we want to see the real essence of the Dhamma, we have to look deeply, profoundly. Then it’s simply a matter of letting go all along the way. We see all the way in and let go of everything. The theme of not clinging covers everything from beginning to end. If our practice is to go correctly, it’s because we look with mindfulness and discernment to penetrate everything, not getting stuck on any form, feeling, perception, thought-formation, or consciousness at all.

The Buddha taught about how ignorance — avijja, ‘not seeing,’ not knowing form, delusion with form — leads to craving, the mental act that arises at the mind and agitates it, leading to the kamma by which we try to get what we crave.

And what is ignorance, what is the origin of ignorance, what is the cessation of ignorance, what is the way leading to the cessation of ignorance? Not knowing about dukkha, not knowing about the origin of dukkha, not knowing about the cessation of dukkha, not knowing about the way leading to the cessation of dukkha — this is called ignorance. With the arising of the taints there is the arising of ignorance; with the cessation of the taints there is the cessation of ignorance. The way leading to the cessation of ignorance is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view… right concentration.

And what are the taints, what is the origin of the taints, what is the cessation of the taints, what is the way leading to the cessation of the taints? There are three taints: the taint of sensual desire, the taint of being and the taint of ignorance. With the arising of ignorance there is the arising of the taints. With the cessation of ignorance there is the cessation of the taints. The way leading to the cessation of the taints is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view… right concentration.’

— Majjhima Nikaya 9

When we understand this, we can practice effectively, we already know that we have to disband the craving. The reason we contemplate the body and mind repeatedly is so that we will diminish the feeling of obsession for anything outside, will not run away with anything outside. The more we contemplate, the more things outside seem trite, superficial and not worth the emotional and psychological investment. The reason we were obsessed and excited was because we simply did not know. When we rant and rave about people and things, talking about material matters: ‘This is good, that’s bad, she’s good, he’s bad.’ The mind got all tossed about in material affairs it is impossible to examine the diseases within our own mind.

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About Sensei Mui

Sensei Mui is a Buddhist monk who took formal refuge and bhikkhu ordination as a Theravada monk in Thailand during the early 1970s. Since those days he has both studied and was ordained in multiple Mahayana lineages. Today the main focus of his practice and teaching is from the Pure Land perspective. He currently acts as the Director and Administrator for Hongaku Jodo, an educational and practice oriented organization of Buddhist teachers of Dharma, pure and simple.
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