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Mind Like Fire Unbound

<docinfo_head>

Title: Mind Like Fire Unbound: Chapter III (Fourth Edition)

Summary:

Mind Like Fire Unbound

Chapter III

<i>'Forty cartloads of timber.'</i>

Fourth Edition

by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff)

Alternate format: To request a printed copy of this book, please write to: Metta Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082, USA.

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<!– robots content='none' –> <!– the following list is brought to you in living color by GetHList() –> <ul class='hlist'>

<li class='first'>[[index|Preface]]</li>
<li>[[1|Abstract]]</li>
<li>[[2-0|Intro]]</li>
<li>[[2-1|Ch I]]</li>
<li>[[2-2|Ch II]]</li>
<li>Ch III</li>
<li>[[2-4|Ch IV]]</li>
<li>[[end|Backmatter]]</li>

</ul>

<p>Upādāna carries both of its meanings — clinging & sustenance — when applied to the mind. It refers on the one hand both to mental clinging & to the object clung to, and on the other to both the act of taking mental sustenance & the sustenance itself. This, of course, raises the question, 'Sustenance for what?' In the description of dependent co-arising, upādāna forms the condition for becoming and, through becoming, for birth, aging, death, and the entire mass of suffering & stress. Thus the answer: 'Sustenance for becoming' & its attendant ills.</p>

<p>'Just as if a great mass of fire, of ten… twenty… thirty or forty cartloads of timber were burning, and into it a man would periodically throw dried grass, dried cow dung, & dried timber, so that the great mass of fire — thus nourished, thus sustained — would burn for a long, long time; even so, monks, in one who keeps focusing on the allure of those phenomena that offer sustenance [lit: “flammable phenomena”], craving develops; with craving as condition, sustenance; with sustenance as condition, becoming; with becoming as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging, illness & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all come into play. Thus is the origin of this entire mass of suffering & stress.

'Just as if a great mass of fire… were burning, into which a man simply would not periodically throw dried grass, dried cow dung, or dried timber, so that the great mass of fire — its original sustenance being consumed, and no other being offered — would, without nourishment, go out; even so, monks, in one who keeps focusing on the drawbacks of those phenomena that offer sustenance, craving stops. From the stopping of craving, sustenance stops. From the stopping of sustenance, becoming… birth… aging, illness & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all stop. Thus is the stopping of this entire mass of suffering & stress.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 12.52 </p>

<p>The Buddha made a distinction between phenomena that offer sustenance & the sustenance itself. </p>

<p>'And what, monks, are phenomena that offer sustenance? What is sustenance? Form, monks, is a phenomenon offering sustenance. Any desire or passion related to it, is sustenance related to it. Feeling… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness is a phenomenon offering sustenance. Any desire or passion related to it, is sustenance related to it.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 22.121 </p>

<p>Thus passion & desire are both the act of taking sustenance and the sustenance itself, while form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness simply offer the opportunity for them to occur.

Alternatively, we can translate the distinction as one between clingable phenomena & the clinging itself.</p>

<p>'And what, monks, are clingable phenomena? What is clinging? Form, monks, is a clingable phenomenon. Any desire or passion related to it, is clinging related to it. Feeling… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness is a clingable phenomenon. Any desire or passion related to it, is clinging related to it.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 22.121 </p>

<p>In this case, passion & desire are the act of clinging and the object clung to, while form, feeling, & the rest simply offer the opportunity for them to occur.

Still, the two sides of this distinction are so closely interrelated that they are hardly distinct at all.</p>

<p>Visākha: 'Is it the case that clinging/sustenance is the same thing as the five aggregates for clinging/sustenance [form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness], or is it something separate?'

Sister Dhammadinnā: 'Neither is clinging/sustenance the same thing as the five aggregates for clinging/ sustenance, my friend, nor is it something separate. Whatever desire & passion there is with regard to the five aggregates for clinging/sustenance, that is the clinging/sustenance there.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 44 </p>

<p>(The use of the word aggregate <i>(khandha)</i> here may relate to the fire image, as khandha can also mean the trunk of a tree.)

The desire & passion for these five aggregates can take any of four forms. </p>

<p>'Monks, there are four [modes of] sustenance for becoming. Which four? Sensuality as a form of sustenance, views as a form of sustenance, habits & practices as a form of sustenance, doctrines of the self as a form of sustenance.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 11 </p>

<p>These four modes of sustenance act as the focus for many of the passages in the Canon describing the attainment of the goal. Because they are so closely related to the notion of nibbāna — they are the binding loosened in the unbinding of the mind — each of them deserves to be considered in detail.

First, <b>sensuality.</b> The Buddha recommended relinquishing attachment to sensuality, not because sensual pleasures are in any way evil, but because the attachment itself is dangerous: both in terms of the pain experienced when a relished pleasure inevitably ends, and in terms of the detrimental influence such attachment can have on a person's actions — and thus on his or her future condition.</p>

<p>'It's with a cause, monks, that sensual thinking occurs, and not without a cause… And how is it, monks, that sensual thinking occurs with a cause and not without a cause? In dependence on the property of sensuality there occurs the perception of sensuality. In dependence on the perception of sensuality there occurs the resolve for sensuality… the desire for sensuality… the fever for sensuality… the quest for sensuality. Questing for sensuality, monks, an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person conducts himself wrongly through three means: through body, through speech, & through mind…

'Just as if a man were to throw a burning firebrand into a dry, grassy wilderness and not quickly stamp it out with his hands & feet, and thus whatever animals inhabiting the grass & timber would come to ruin & loss; even so, monks, any contemplative or brāhman who does not quickly abandon, dispel, demolish, & wipe out of existence an out-of-tune, unskillful perception once it has arisen, will dwell in stress in the present life — threatened, despairing, & feverish — and on the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a bad destination.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 14.12 </p>

<p>This is not to deny that sensual pleasures provide a certain form of happiness, but this happiness must be weighed against the greater pains & disappointments sensuality can bring.</p>

<p>'Now what is the allure of sensuality? There are, monks, these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear… Aromas cognizable via the nose… Flavors cognizable via the tongue… Tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Now whatever pleasure or joy arises in dependence on these five strings of sensuality, that is the allure of sensuality.

'And what is the drawback of sensuality? There is the case where, on account of the occupation by which a clansman makes a living — whether checking or accounting or calculating or plowing or trading or cattle tending or archery or as a king's man, or whatever the occupation may be — he faces cold, he faces heat, being harassed by mosquitoes & flies, wind & sun & creeping things, dying from hunger & thirst.

'Now this drawback in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.

'If the clansman gains no wealth while thus working & striving & making effort, he sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: “My work is in vain, my efforts are fruitless!” Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason…

'If the clansman gains wealth while thus working & striving & making effort, he experiences pain & distress in protecting it: “How will neither kings nor thieves make off with my property, nor fire burn it, nor water sweep it away, nor hateful heirs make off with it?” And as he thus guards and watches over his property, kings or thieves make off with it, or fire burns it, or water sweeps it away, or hateful heirs make off with it. And he sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught: “What was mine is no more!” Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason…

'Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source, sensuality for the cause, the reason being simply sensuality, that kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, brāhmans with brāhmans, householders with householders, mother with child, child with mother, father with child, child with father, brother with brother, sister with sister, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend. And then in their quarrels, brawls, & disputes, they attack one another with fists or with clods or with sticks or with knives, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason…

'Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords & shields and buckling on bows & quivers, charge into battle massed in double array while arrows & spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are wounded by arrows & spears, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason…

'Furthermore, it is with sensuality for the reason, sensuality for the source… that (men), taking swords & shields and buckling on bows & quivers, charge slippery bastions while arrows & spears are flying and swords are flashing; and there they are splashed with boiling cow dung and crushed under heavy weights, and their heads are cut off by swords, so that they incur death or deadly pain. Now this drawback too in the case of sensuality, this mass of stress visible here & now, has sensuality for its reason, sensuality for its source, sensuality for its cause, the reason being simply sensuality.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 13 </p>

<i>Sumedha to her fianc&eacute;:</i>

<pre> In the face of the Deathless, what worth are your sensual pleasures?

For all delights in sensuality are

burning & boiling,
aggravated, aglow...

A blazing grass firebrand,

held in the hand:

Those who let go

do not get burned.

Sensuality is like a firebrand.

	It burns
	those who
	do not let go.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Thig 16.1 </p>

<p>Even the more honorable emotions that can develop from sensual attraction — such as love & personal devotion — ultimately lead to suffering & stress when one is inevitably parted from the person one loves.</p>

<p>'Once in this same Sāvatthi there was a certain man whose wife died. Owing to her death he went mad, out of his mind and — wandering from street to street, crossroads to crossroads — would say, “Have you seen my wife? Have you seen my wife?” From this it may be realized how from a dear one, owing to a dear one, comes sorrow & lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.

'Once in this same Sāvatthi there was a wife who went to her relatives' home. Her relatives, having separated her from her husband, wanted to give her to another against her will. So she said to her husband, “These relatives of mine, having separated us, want to give me to another against my will,” whereupon he cut her in two and slashed himself open, thinking, “Dead we will be together.” And from this it may be realized how from a dear one, owing to a dear one, comes sorrow & lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 87 </p>

<p>'How do you construe this, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating & wandering this long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, from being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?'… 'This is the greater: The tears you have shed… Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning, monks, comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — long enough to become disenchanted with all conditioned things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 15.3 </p>

<p>A theme recurrent throughout the Canon is that complete knowledge of any object does not end with an understanding of its allure & drawbacks, but goes on to comprehend what brings emancipation from the mental fetters based on both.</p>

<p>'And what is the emancipation from sensuality? Whatever is the subduing of passion & desire, the abandoning of passion & desire for sensuality, that is the emancipation from sensuality.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 13 </p>

<i>Sundara Samudda:</i>

<pre>Ornamented, finely clothed

garlanded, adorned,

her feet stained red with lac,

she wore slippers:
a courtesan.

Stepping out of her slippers —

her hands raised before me
palm-to-palm over her heart —

she softly, tenderly,

in measured words
spoke to me first:

'You are young, recluse.

Heed my message:

Partake of human sensuality.

I will give you luxury.

Truly I vow to you,

I will tend to you as to a fire.

When we are old,

both leaning on canes,

then we will both become recluses,

winning the benefits of both worlds.'

And seeing her before me —

a courtesan, ornamented, finely clothed,
hands palm-to-palm over her heart —
	like a snare of death laid out,

apt attention arose in me,

the drawbacks appeared,
disenchantment stood at an even keel:

With that, my heart was released… </pre> <p class=“cite”>— Thag 7.1 </p>

<pre>Seeing a form unmindfully,

focusing on its pleasing features,

one knows with mind enflamed

and remains fastened to it.

</pre>

<p>(Notice how these lines draw directly on the image of burning as entrapment.) </p>

<pre>One's feelings, born of the form,

	grow numerous.

Greed & provocation

	injure one's mind.

Thus amassing stress

one is said to be far from Unbinding.

[And so on with the rest of the six senses.]

One not enflamed with forms

 — seeing a form with mindfulness firm —

knows with mind unenflamed

and doesn't remain fastened there.

While one is seeing a form

 — and even experiencing feeling —

it falls away and does not accumulate.

Faring mindful.

and thus not amassing stress,

one is said to be

in the presence of Unbinding.

[And so on with the rest of the six senses.] </pre> <p class=“cite”>— SN 35.95 </p>

<p>'There are forms, monks, cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. If a monk relishes them, welcomes them, & remains fastened to them, he is said to be a monk fettered by forms cognizable by the eye. He has gone over to Māra's camp; he has come under Māra's power. The Evil One can do with him as he will.'

[And so on with the rest of the six senses.]</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 35.115 </p>

<p>'There are forms cognizable by the eye — agreeable… enticing. If a monk relishes them, welcomes them, & remains fastened to them, then… his consciousness is dependent on them, is sustained by them. With sustenance/clinging, the monk is not totally unbound…

'If he does not relish them, welcome them, or remain fastened to them, then… his consciousness is not dependent on them, is not sustained by them. Without sustenance/clinging, the monk is totally unbound.'

[And so on with the rest of the six senses.]</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 35.118 </p>

<p>Here again, we see the reciprocal nature of attachment: One is bound by what one relishes & latches onto — or rather, by the act of relishing & latching on, in and of itself.</p>

<p>Citta: 'Venerable sirs, it is just as if a black ox & a white ox were joined with a single collar or yoke. If someone were to say, “The black ox is the fetter of the white ox, the white ox is the fetter of the black” — speaking this way, would he be speaking rightly?'

Some elder monks: 'No, householder. The black ox is not the fetter of the white ox, nor is the white ox the fetter of the black. The single collar or yoke by which they are joined: That is the fetter there.'

Citta: 'In the same way, the eye is not the fetter of forms, nor are forms the fetter of the eye. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there. The ear is not the fetter of sounds… The nose is not the fetter of aromas… The tongue is not the fetter of flavors… The body is not the fetter of tactile sensations… The intellect is not the fetter of ideas, nor are ideas the fetter of the intellect. Whatever desire & passion arises in dependence on the two of them: That is the fetter there.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 41.1 </p>

<p>In other words, neither the senses nor their objects are fetters for the mind. Beautiful sights, sounds, & so forth, do not entrap it, nor do the senses themselves. Instead, it is trapped by the act of desire & passion based on such things.</p>

<p>'Monks, there are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable… enticing; sounds… aromas… flavors… tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable… enticing. But these are not sensuality. They are called stings of sensuality in the discipline of the Noble Ones.</p>

<pre>'The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality, not the beautiful sensual pleasures

found in the world.

The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality.

The beauties remain as they are in the world, while the wise, in this regard,

subdue their desire.'

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— AN 6.63 </p>

<p>Thus sensual pleasures, which belong to the realm of form, are the 'clingable phenomena' that offer sustenance for the bond of desire & passion. Or, to borrow an image from Ven. Rāhula, they are the bait — as long as one is blind to their true nature — for falling into the trap of one's own craving & heedlessness.</p>

<i>Rāhula:</i>

<pre>They [the unawakened]: blinded by sensual pleasures,

covered by the net,

veiled with the veil of craving,

bound by the Kinsman of the Heedless*
like fish in the mouth of a trap.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Thag 4.8 </p>

<p>For this reason, freedom from sensuality as a clinging/sustenance requires a two-pronged approach: to realize the true nature of the bait and to extricate oneself from the trap. The first step involves examining the unattractive side of the human body, for as the Buddha says,</p>

<p>'Monks, I don't know of even one other form that stays in a man's mind and consumes it like the form of a woman… one other sound… smell… taste… touch that stays in a man's mind and consumes it like the touch of a woman. The touch of a woman stays in a man's mind and consumes it.

'I don't know of even one other form that stays in a woman's mind and consumes it like the form of a man… one other sound… smell… taste… touch that stays in a woman's mind and consumes it like the touch of a man. The touch of a man stays in a woman's mind and consumes it.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— AN 1.1 </p>

<p>'Just as if a sack with openings at both ends were full of various kinds of grain — wheat, rice, mung beans, kidney beans, sesame seeds, husked rice — and a man with good eyesight, pouring it out, were to reflect, “This is wheat. This is rice. These are mung beans. These are kidney beans. These are sesame seeds. This is husked rice,” in the same way, monks, a monk reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin and full of various kinds of unclean things: “In this body there are head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, membranes, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine”…

'Or again, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground — one day, two days, three days dead — bloated, livid & festering, he applies it to this very body, “This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate”…

'Or again, as if he were to see a corpse cast away in a charnel ground, picked at by crows, vultures, & hawks; by dogs, hyenas, & various other creatures… a skeleton smeared with flesh & blood, connected with tendons… a fleshless skeleton smeared with blood, connected with tendons… a skeleton without flesh or blood, connected with tendons… bones detached from their tendons, scattered in all directions — here a hand bone, there a foot bone, here a shin bone, there a thigh bone, here a hip bone, there a back bone, here a rib, there a chest bone, here a shoulder bone, there a neck bone, here a jaw bone, there a tooth, here a skull… the bones whitened, somewhat like the color of shells… piled up, more than a year old… decomposed into a powder, he applies it to this very body, “This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.” So he abides contemplating the body in & of itself, internally, externally or both internally & externally.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 22 </p>

<p>The purpose of this contemplation is not to develop a morbid fascination with the grotesque, but simply to correct the distortion of perception that tries to deny the unattractive aspects of the body and to admit only 'the sign of the beautiful' — its attractive side. Now of course this contemplation has its dangers, for it can go overboard into states of aversion & depression, but these are not incurable. At several points in the Canon, where the Buddha sees that monks have let the contemplation of foulness adversely affect their minds, he recommends that they calm their aversion by focusing on the in & out breath as a companion meditation.

Ultimately, as a more balanced perception of the body develops, one may make use of the second prong of the approach: turning one's attention from the object of the lust to the act of lust itself, seeing it as an act of mental fabrication — foolish, inconstant, & stressful — and so removing any sense of identification with it. This, in turn, can calm the mind to an even deeper level and lead on to its Unbinding.</p>

<i>Vaṅgīsa:</i>

<pre>With sensual lust I burn. My mind is on fire. Please, Gotama, out of kindness,

tell me how to put it out.

</pre>

<i>Ānanda:</i>

<pre>From distorted perception

your mind is on fire.

Shun the sign of the beautiful,

accompanied by lust.

See fabrications as other,

as stress,
not as self.

Extinguish your great lust.
Don't keep burning
again & again.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Thag 21.1 </p>

<p>'For one who keeps focusing on the foulness [of the body], any obsession with passion for the property of beauty is abandoned. For one who has mindfulness of breathing well-established to the fore within oneself, annoying external thoughts & inclinations don't exist. For one who keeps focusing on the inconstancy of all fabrications, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises.</p>

<pre>Focusing on foulness

in the body,

mindful

of in & out breathing,

seeing

the calming of all fabrications
	— always ardent —

he is a monk who's seen rightly.

From that he is there set free.

A master of direct knowing,

at peace,
he is a sage
	gone beyond bonds.'

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Iti 85 </p>

<i>Sister Nandā:</i>

<pre>As I, heedful,

examined it aptly,

[a vision of a beautiful person

growing sick, unclean, & putrid]

this body — as it actually is —

was seen inside & out.

Then was I disenchanted with the body

and dispassionate within:

Heedful, detached,

calmed was I,

unbound.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Thig 5.4 </p>

<p><b>Views</b> are the second mode of clinging/sustenance. And, as with the abandoning of attachment to sensuality, the abandoning of attachment to views can lead to an experience of Unbinding.</p>

<pre>'I argue for this,' doesn't occur to one when considering what's grasped

among doctrines.

Looking for what is ungrasped

with regard to views,

and detecting inner peace,

I saw.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Sn 4.9 </p>

<p>Attachment to views can block an experience of Unbinding in any of three major ways. First, the content of the view itself may not be conducive to the arising of discernment and may even have a pernicious moral effect on one's actions, leading to an unfavorable rebirth.</p>

<p>I have heard that once the Blessed One was dwelling among the Koliyans… Then Puṇṇa the Koliyan, a bovine, and Seniya, a canine naked ascetic, approached the Blessed One. On arrival, Puṇṇa the Koliyan bovine, bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side, while Seniya, the canine naked ascetic, exchanged courteous greetings with the Blessed One, and after an exchange of friendly greetings and courtesies, sat to one side, curling up like a dog. While he was sitting there, Puṇṇa the Koliyan bovine said to the Blessed One, 'Sir, Seniya, this naked ascetic, is a canine, a doer-of-hard-tasks. He eats food that is thrown on the ground. He has long undertaken & conformed to that dog-practice. What is his future destination, what is his future course?'

[The Buddha at first declines to answer, but on being pressed, finally responds:] 'There is the case where a person develops the dog-practice fully & perfectly… Having developed the dog-practice fully & perfectly, having developed a dog's virtue fully & perfectly, having developed a dog's mind fully & perfectly, having developed a dog's demeanor fully & perfectly, then on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of dogs. But if he is of such a view as, “By this virtue or practice or asceticism or holy life I will become a greater or lesser god,” that is his wrong view. Now, Puṇṇa, there are two destinations for one with wrong view, I say: hell or the animal womb. So the dog-practice, if perfected, leads him to the company of dogs; if defective, to hell.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 57 </p>

<p>'Just as if in the last month of the hot season a māluva creeper pod were to burst open, and a māluva creeper seed were to fall at the foot of a sāla tree. The deity living in the tree would become frightened, apprehensive, & anxious. Her friends & companions, relatives & kin — garden deities, forest deities, tree deities, deities living in herbs, grass, & forest monarchs — would gather together to console her: “Have no fear, have no fear. In all likelihood a peacock is sure to swallow this māluva creeper seed, or a deer will eat it, or a brush fire will burn it up, or woodsmen will pick it up, or termites will carry it off, and anyway it probably isn't really a seed.”

'And then no peacock swallowed it, no deer ate it, no brush fire burned it up, no woodsmen picked it up, no termites carried it off, and it really was a seed. Watered by a rain-laden cloud, it sprouted in due course and curled its soft, tender, downy tendril around the sāla tree.

'The thought occurred to the deity living in the sāla tree: “Now what future danger did my friends… foresee, that they gathered together to console me?… It's pleasant, the touch of this māluva creeper's soft, tender, downy tendril.”

'Then the creeper, having enwrapped the sāla tree, having made a canopy over it, & cascading down around it, caused the massive limbs of the sāla tree to come crashing down. The thought occurred to the deity living in the tree: “This was the future danger my friends… foresaw, that they gathered together to console me… It's because of that māluva creeper seed that I'm now experiencing sharp, burning pains.”

'In the same way, monks, there are some contemplatives & brāhmans who hold to a doctrine, a view like this: “There is no harm in sensuality.” Thus they meet with their downfall through sensuality. They consort with women wanderers who wear their hair coiled and long.

'The thought occurs to them: “Now what future danger do those [other] contemplatives & brāhmans foresee that they teach the relinquishing & analysis of sensuality? It's pleasant, the touch of this woman wanderer's soft, tender, downy arm.”

'Thus they meet with their downfall through sensuality. With the break-up of the body, after death, they will go to a bad bourn, destitution, the realm of the hungry shades, hell. There they will experience sharp, burning pains. The thought will occur to them: <i>“This</i> was the future danger those contemplatives & brāhmans foresaw that they taught the relinquishing & analysis of sensuality. It's because of sensuality, as a result of sensuality, that we are now experiencing these sharp, burning pains.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 45 </p>

<p>Secondly, apart from the actual content of the views, a person attached to views is bound to get into disputes with those who hold opposing views, resulting in unwholesome mental states for the winners as well as the losers.</p>

<pre>Engaged in disputes in the midst of an assembly,

 — anxious, desiring praise —
the one defeated is chagrined.

Shaken with criticism, he seeks for an opening.

he whose doctrine is [judged as] demolished,
defeated, by those judging the issue:

He laments, he grieves — the inferior exponent —

'He beat me,' he mourns.

These disputes have arisen among contemplatives.

In them are elation & dejection.

Seeing this, one should abstain from disputes,

for they have no other goal
than the gaining of praise.

He who is praised there

for expounding his doctrine
in the midst of the assembly,

laughs on that account & grows haughty,

attaining his heart's desire.

That haughtiness will be his grounds for vexation,

for he'll speak in pride & conceit.

Seeing this, one should abstain from disputes. No purity is attained by them, say the skilled. </pre> <p class=“cite”>— Sn 4.8 </p>

<p>Thirdly, and more profoundly, attachment to views implicitly involves attachment to a sense of 'superior' & 'inferior,' and to the criteria used in measuring and making such evaluations. As we saw in Chapter I, any measure or criterion acts as a limitation or bond on the mind.</p>

<pre>That, say the skilled, is a binding knot: that

in dependence on which
you regard another as inferior.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Sn 4.5 </p>

<pre>Whoever construes

'equal'
'superior' or
'inferior,'

by that he'd dispute; whereas to one unaffected by these three,

'equal'
'superior'

do not occur.

Of what would the brāhman* say 'true' or 'false,'

disputing with whom,

he in whom 'equal,' 'unequal' are not…

As the prickly lotus is unsmeared by water & mud, so the sage,

an exponent of peace,
without greed,
is unsmeared by sensuality &
the world.

An attainer-of-wisdom isn't measured,

made proud,
by views or by what is thought,
for he isn't affected by them.

He wouldn't be led by action, learning; doesn't reach a conclusion in any entrenchments. For one dispassionate toward perception

there are no ties;

for one released by discernment,

no delusions.

Those who grasp at perceptions & views

go about butting their heads in the world.

</pre> <p class=“cite”>— Sn 4.9 </p>

<p>An important point to notice is that attachment to views must be abandoned through knowledge, and not through skepticism, agnosticism, ignorance, or a mindless openness to all views. This point is made clear in the Discourse of the Supreme Net. There the Buddha gives a list of 62 philosophical positions concerning the nature of the self, the cosmos, & the state of ultimate freedom in the immediate present. The list is intended to be exhaustive — the 'net' in the title of the discourse — covering all possible views & positions on these subjects divided into ten categories, one of the categories — equivocation — including cases of agnosticism.</p>

<p>'There are, monks, some contemplatives & brāhmans who, being asked questions regarding this or that, resort to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling, on four grounds… There is the case of a certain contemplative or brāhman who does not discern as it actually is that “This is skillful,” or that “This is unskillful.” The thought occurs to him: “I don't discern as it actually is that 'This is skillful,' or that 'This is unskillful.' If I… were to declare that 'This is skillful,' or that 'This is unskillful,' desire, passion, aversion, or irritation would occur to me; that would be a falsehood for me. Whatever would be a falsehood for me would be a distress for me. Whatever would be a distress for me would be an obstacle for me.” So, out of fear of falsehood, a loathing for falsehood, he does not declare that “This is skillful,” or that “This is unskillful.” Being asked questions regarding this or that, he resorts to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling: “I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not.”</p>

<p>[The second case is virtually identical with the first, substituting 'clinging' for 'falsehood.']</p>

<p>'[The third case:] There is the case of a certain contemplative or brāhman who does not discern as it actually is that “This is skillful,” or that “This is unskillful”… “If I, not discerning as it actually is that 'This is skillful,' or that 'This is unskillful,' were to declare that 'This is skillful,' or that 'This is unskillful' — There are contemplatives & brāhmans who are pundits, subtle, skilled in debate, who prowl about like hair-splitting marksmen, as it were, shooting [philosophical] positions to pieces with their dialectic. They might cross-question me, press me for reasons, rebuke me. I might not be able to stand my ground, that would be a distress for me… an obstacle for me.” So, out of a fear for questioning, a loathing for questioning… he resorts to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling…

'[The fourth case:] There is the case of a certain contemplative or brāhman who is dull & exceedingly stupid. Out of dullness & exceeding stupidity, he — being asked questions regarding this or that — resorts to verbal contortions, to eel-like wriggling: “If you ask me if there exists another world [after death], if I thought that there exists another world, would I declare that to you? I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not. If you asked me if there isn't another world… both is & isn't… neither is nor isn't… if there are beings who transmigrate… if there aren't… both are & aren't… neither are nor aren't… if the Tathāgata exists after death… doesn't… both… neither… I don't think so. I don't think in that way. I don't think otherwise. I don't think not. I don't think not not.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 1 </p>

<p>Agnosticism, then, is not a way of abandoning standpoints but is simply another standpoint: Like all standpoints, it must be abandoned through knowledge. The type of knowledge called for — in which standpoints are regarded, not in terms of their content, but as events in a causal chain — is indicated by the refrain that follows each of the ten categories of the Supreme Net.</p>

<p>'This, monks, the Tathāgata discerns. And he discerns that these standpoints, thus seized, thus grasped at, lead to such & such a destination, to such & such a state in the world beyond. And he discerns what is higher than this. And yet discerning that, he does not grasp at that act of discerning. And as he is not grasping at it, unbinding <i>[nibbuti]</i> is experienced right within. Knowing, as they have come to be, the origin, ending, allure, & drawbacks of feelings, along with the emancipation from feelings, the Tathāgata, monks — through lack of sustenance/ clinging — is released.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 1</p>

<p>Another list of speculative views — a set of ten positions summarizing the standard topics debated by the various schools of contemplatives in the Buddha's time — recurs frequently in the Canon. Non-Buddhist debaters used it as a ready-made checklist for gauging an individual's positions on the controversial issues of the day and they often put it to the Buddha. Invariably, he would reply that he did not hold to any of the ten positions.</p>

<p>'Seeing what drawback, then, is Master Gotama thus entirely dissociated from each of these ten positions?'

'Vaccha, the position that “the world is eternal” is a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. It is accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and it does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, stopping; to calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding.

'The position that “the world is not eternal”… “the world is finite”… “the world is infinite”… “the soul is the same thing as the body”… “the soul is one thing and the body another”… “after death a Tathāgata exists”… “after death a Tathāgata does not exist”… “after death a Tathāgata both exists & does not exist”… “after death a Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist”… does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, stopping; to calm, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding.'

'Does Master Gotama have any position at all?'

'A “position,” Vaccha, is something that a Tathāgata has done away with. What a Tathāgata sees is this: “Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception… such are fabrications… such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.” Because of this, I say, a Tathāgata — with the ending, fading out, stopping, renunciation & relinquishing of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & my-making & obsessions with conceit — is, through lack of sustenance/clinging, released.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 72 </p>

<p>The construings the Buddha relinquished include views not only in their full-blown form as specific positions, but also in their rudimentary form as the categories & relationships that the mind reads into experience. This is a point he makes in his instructions to Bāhiya, which led immediately to the latter's attaining the goal. When the mind imposes interpretations on its experience, it is engaging implicitly in system-building and all the limitations of location & relationship that system-building involves. Only when it can free itself of those interpretations and the fetters they place on it, can it gain true freedom.</p>

<p>'Therefore, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen… only the heard… only the sensed… only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.'</p>

<p class=“cite”>— Ud 1.10 </p>

<p><b>Habits & practices.</b> The Canon mentions a variety of habits & practices — the third mode of clinging/sustenance. Prominent among them are Brāhmanical rituals & Jain practices of self-torture, and according to the Commentary these are the habits & practices referred to in this context. Yet although the goal will always remain out of reach as long as one remains attached to such practices, the abandonment of this attachment is never in & of itself sufficient for attaining the goal.

But there is another practice which, though a necessary part of the Buddhist path, can nevertheless offer sustenance for becoming; and which — as the object of attachment to be transcended — figures prominently in descriptions of the goal's attainment. That practice is <i>jhāna,</i> or meditative absorption. It might be argued that this is stretching the term, 'practice' <i>(vata),</i> a little far, but jhāna does not fall under any of the other three sustenances for becoming at all, and yet it definitely does function as such a sustenance, so there seems to be little choice but to place it here.

Different passages in the Canon number the levels of jhāna in different ways. The standard description gives four, although the pure mindfulness & equanimity attained on the fourth level may further be applied to four progressively more & more refined formless sensations — termed the 'peaceful emancipations, formlessness beyond forms' — that altogether give eight levels, often referred to as the eight attainments.

A number of objects can serve as the basis for jhāna. The breath is one, and an analysis of the Canon's description of the first stages of breath meditation will give an idea of what jhāna involves.

The first step is simply being mindful of the breath in the present:</p>

<p>'There is the case of a monk who, having gone to a forest, to the shade of a tree or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, & keeping mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.</p>

<p>Then comes evaluation: He begins to discern variations in the breath: </p>

<p>“Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.'”</p>

<p>The remaining steps are willed, or determined: He 'trains himself,' first by manipulating his sense of conscious awareness, making it sensitive to the body as a whole. (This accounts for the term <i>'mahaggataṃ'</i> — enlarged or expanded — used to describe the mind in the state of jhāna.)</p>

<p>'He trains himself, “I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body”… “I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.”</p>

<p>Now that he is aware of the body as a whole, he can begin to manipulate the physical sensations of which he is aware, calming them — i.e., calming the breath — so as to create a sense of rapture & ease.</p>

<p>'He trains himself, “I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication”… “I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in sensitive to rapture”… “I, will breathe out sensitive to rapture.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure”… “I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.”</p>

<p>(As we will see below, he maximizes this sense of rapture & pleasure, making it suffuse the entire body.)

Now that bodily processes are stilled, mental processes become apparent as they occur. These too are calmed, leaving — as we will see below — a radiant awareness of the mind itself.</p>

<p>'He trains himself, “I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication”… “I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in calming mental fabrication”… “I will to breathe out calming mental fabrication.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in sensitive to the mind”… “I will to breathe out sensitive to the mind”'…</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 118 </p>

<p>The standard description of jhāna, however, does not refer to any particular object as its basis, but simply divides it into four levels determined by the way the mind relates to the object as it becomes more & more absorbed in it.</p>

<p>'Furthermore, monks, the monk — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful (mental) qualities — enters and remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, so that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from seclusion.

'Just as an adept bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, monks, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. And as he remains thus earnest, ardent, & intent, any longings related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, unified & composed. That is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

'And furthermore, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration, so that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born of concentration.

'Just like a lake with spring-water welling up from within, having no inflow from east, west, north, or south, and with the skies periodically supplying abundant showers, so that the cool fount of water welling up from within the lake would permeate & pervade, suffuse & fill it with cool waters, there being no part of the lake unpervaded by the cool waters; even so monks, the monk permeates… this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. And as he remains thus earnest, ardent & intent… he develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

'And furthermore, with the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the Noble Ones declare, “Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.” He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture, so that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by pleasure divested of rapture.

'Just as in a blue-, white-, or red-lotus pond, there may be some of the blue, white, or red lotuses that, born & growing in the water, stay immersed in the water and flourish without standing up out of the water, so that they are permeated & pervaded, suffused & filled with cool water from their roots to their tips, there being nothing of those blue, white, or red lotuses unpervaded by cool water; even so, monks, the monk permeates… this very body with the pleasure divested of rapture. And as he remains thus earnest, ardent & intent… he develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

'And furthermore, with the abandoning of pleasure & stress — as with the earlier disappearance of joys & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor stress. He sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness, so that nothing of his entire body is unpervaded by pure, bright awareness.

'Just as if a man were sitting covered from head to foot with a white cloth so that there would be no part of his body to which the white cloth did not extend; even so, monks, the monk sits, permeating the body with a pure, bright awareness. And as he remains thus earnest, ardent, & intent… he develops mindfulness immersed in the body.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 119 </p>

<p>'Directed thought' mentioned in the reference to the first level of jhāna corresponds, in the description of breath meditation, to the mindfulness directed to the breath in the present. 'Evaluation' corresponds to the discernment of variations in the breath, and to the manipulation of awareness & the breath so as to create a sense of rapture & pleasure throughout the body (the bathman kneading moisture throughout the ball of bath powder). The still waters in the simile for the third level of jhāna, as opposed to the spring waters welling up in the second level, correspond to the stilling of mental fabrications. And the pure, bright awareness in the fourth level corresponds to the stage of breath meditation where the meditator is sensitive to the mind.

Thus as the mind progresses through the first four levels of jhāna, it sheds the various mental activities surrounding its one object: Directed thought & evaluation are stilled, rapture fades, and pleasure is abandoned. After reaching a state of pure, bright, mindful, equanimous awareness in the fourth level of jhāna, the mind can start shedding its perception (mental label) of the form of its object, the space around its object, itself, & the lack of activity within itself. This process takes four steps — the four formlessnesses beyond form — culminating in a state where perception is so refined that it can hardly be called perception at all.</p>

<p>'With the complete transcending of perceptions of form,

and the passing away of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of diversity, (perceiving,) “Infinite space,” one enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space…

'With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) “Infinite consciousness,” one enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness…

'With the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) “There is nothing,” one enters & remains in the dimension of nothingness…

'With the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, one enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 15 </p>

<p>To abandon attachment to jhāna as a sustenance for becoming means, not to stop practicing it, but rather to practice it without becoming engrossed in the sense of pleasure or equanimity it affords, so that one can discern its true nature for what it is.</p>

<p>When this had been said, Venerable Ānanda asked the Blessed One: 'In the case, lord, where a monk has reached the point that — (perceiving,) “It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon” — he obtains equanimity. Would this monk be totally unbound, or not?'

'A certain such monk might, Ānanda, and another might not.'

'What is the cause, what is the reason, whereby one might and another might not?'

'There is the case, Ānanda, where a monk has reached the point that — (perceiving,) “It should not be, it should not occur to me; it will not be, it will not occur to me. What is, what has come to be, that I abandon” — he obtains equanimity. He relishes that equanimity, welcomes it, remains fastened to it. As he does so, his consciousness is dependent on it, sustained by it. With sustenance, Ānanda, a monk is not totally unbound.'

'Being sustained, where is that monk sustained?'

'The dimension of neither perception nor non-perception.'

'Then, indeed, being sustained, he is sustained by the supreme sustenance.'

'Being sustained, Ānanda, he is sustained by the supreme sustenance; for this — the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — is the supreme sustenance. There is [however] the case where a monk… reaches equanimity. He does not relish that equanimity, does not welcome it, does not remain fastened to it. Such being the case, his consciousness is not dependent on it, is not sustained by it. Without sustenance, Ānanda, a monk is totally unbound.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 106 </p>

<p>Once the mind can detach itself from the pleasure & equanimity offered by jhāna, it can be inclined toward that which transcends jhāna — the unconditioned quality of deathlessness.</p>

<p>'There is the case, Ānanda, where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, empty, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines it to the phenomenon <i>[dhamma]</i> of deathlessness: “This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishing of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; stopping; Unbinding.”

'Staying right there, he reaches the ending of effluents. Or, if not, then — through this very Dhamma-passion, this very Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters* — he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world. [Similarly with the other levels of jhāna up through the dimension of nothingness.]'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 64 </p>

<p>The fact that the various levels of jhāna are nurtured & willed, and thus dependent on conditions, is important: A realization of exactly how they are nurtured — a realization acquired only through practical experience with them — can give insight into the conditioned nature of all mental events and is one of the ways in which the attachment to jhāna, as sustenance for becoming, can be abandoned.

An indication of how this happens is given in outline form in the Discourse on Mindfulness of In & Out Breathing. To take up the description of breath meditation where we left off: Once there is direct awareness of the mind itself, the various levels of jhāna are reviewed. Now, however, primary attention is focused, not on the object, but on the mind as it relates to the object — the different ways in which it can be satisfied & steadied, and the different factors from which it can be released by taking it through the different levels (e.g., releasing it from directed thought & evaluation by taking it from the first to the second level, and so forth).</p>

<p>'He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out gladdening the mind.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out steadying the mind.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out releasing the mind.”</p>

<p>The states of gladdening, steadiness, & release experienced on these levels, though, are willed and therefore conditioned. The next step is to focus on the fact that these qualities, being conditioned, are inconstant. Once the mind sees directly that inconstancy is inherent both in the pleasure offered by jhāna and in the act of will that brings it about, one becomes dispassionate toward it, stops craving it, and can relinquish any & all attachment to it.</p>

<p>'He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out focusing on inconstancy.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out focusing on dispassion.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out focusing on stopping.” He trains himself, “I will breathe in…& out focusing on relinquishing.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 118 </p>

<p>At the conclusion to the discourse, the Buddha states that breath meditation, when practiced often & repeatedly in this way, results in the maturation of clear knowledge & release.

A more vivid description of how mastery of jhāna can lead to the insight that transcends it, is given in the Discourse on the Analysis of the Properties:</p>

<p>'[On attaining the fourth level of jhāna] there remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable & luminous. Just as if a skilled goldsmith or goldsmith's apprentice were to prepare a furnace, heat up a crucible, and, taking gold with a pair of tongs, place it in the crucible. He would blow on it time & again, sprinkle water on it time & again, examine it time & again, so that the gold would become refined, well-refined, thoroughly refined, flawless, free from dross, pliant, malleable & luminous. Then whatever sort of ornament he had in mind — whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain — it would serve his purpose. In the same way, there remains only equanimity: pure & bright, pliant, malleable & luminous. He [the meditator] discerns that “If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space, I would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this equanimity of mine — thus supported, thus sustained — would last for a long time. [Similarly with the remaining formless states.]”

'He discerns that “If I were to direct equanimity as pure & bright as this toward the dimension of the infinitude of space and to develop the mind along those lines, that would be fabricated. [Similarly with the remaining formless states.]” He neither fabricates nor mentally fashions for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, he is not sustained by anything in the world [does not cling to anything in the world]. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 140 </p>

<p><b>Doctrines of the self</b> form the fourth mode of clinging/ sustenance. The Canon reports a wide variety of such doctrines current in the Buddha's time, only to reject them out-of-hand for two major reasons. The first is that even the least articulated sense of self or self-identification inevitably leads to stress & suffering.</p>

<p>'Monks, do you see any clinging/sustenance in the form of a doctrine of self which, in clinging to, there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair?'

'No, lord.'

'…Neither do I… How do you construe this, monks: If a person were to gather or burn or do as he likes with the grass, twigs, branches, & leaves here in Jeta's Grove, would the thought occur to you, “It's us that this person is gathering, burning, or doing with as he likes”?'

'No, lord. Why is that? Because those things are not our self and do not pertain to our self.'

'Even so, monks, whatever is not yours: Let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit. And what is not yours? Form is not yours… Feeling is not yours… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness is not yours. Let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 22 </p>

<p>The second reason for rejecting doctrines of the self is that, whatever form they take, they all contain inherent inconsistencies. The Buddha's most systematic treatment of this point is in the Great Discourse on Causation, where he classifies all theories of the self into four major categories: those describing a self (a) possessed of form & finite; (b) possessed of form & infinite; (c) formless & finite; and (d) formless & infinite. The text gives no examples for the categories, but we might cite the following as illustrations: (a) theories that deny the existence of a soul, and identify the self with the body; (b) theories that identify the self with all being or with the universe; (c) theories of discrete souls in individual beings; (d) theories of a unitary soul or identity immanent in all things.

Discussing these various categories, the Buddha states that people who adhere to any of them will state that the self already is of such a nature, that it is destined to acquire such a nature after death, or that it can be made into such a nature by various practices. He then goes on to discuss the various ways people assume a self as defined in relation to feeling.</p>

<p>'In what respect, Ānanda, does one assume when assuming a self? Assuming feeling to be the self, one assumes that “Feeling is my self” [or] “Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling]” [or] “Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.”

'Now, one who says, “Feeling is my self,” should be addressed as follows: “There are these three feelings, my friend — feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, & feelings of neither pleasure nor pain. Which of these three feelings do you assume to be the self? At a moment when a feeling of pleasure is sensed, no feeling of pain or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pleasure is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed. Only a feeling of pain is sensed at that moment. At a moment when a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed, no feeling of pleasure or of pain is sensed. Only a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is sensed at that moment.

'“Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, compounded, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, & stopping. A feeling of pain… A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant… subject to stopping. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as 'my self,' then with the stopping of one's very own feeling of pleasure, 'my self' has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as 'my self'… Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as 'my self,' then with the stopping of one's very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, 'my self' has perished.”

'Thus he assumes, assuming in the immediate present a self inconstant, entangled in pleasure & pain, subject to arising & passing away, he who says, “Feeling is my self.” Thus in this manner, Ānanda, one does not see fit to assume feeling to be the self.

'As for the person who says, “Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],” he should be addressed as follows: “My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed [experienced] at all, would there be the thought, 'I am'?”'

'No, lord.'

'Thus in this manner, Ānanda, one does not see fit to assume that “Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].”

'As for the person who says, “Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,” he should be addressed as follows: “My friend, should feelings altogether and every way stop without remainder, then with feeling completely not existing, owing to the stopping of feeling, would there be the thought, 'I am'?”'

'No, lord.'

'Thus in this manner, Ānanda, one does not see fit to assume that “Neither is feeling my self, nor is my self oblivious to feeling, but rather my self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling.”

'Now, Ānanda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that “My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,” then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”

'If anyone were to say with regard to a monk whose mind is thus released that “The Tathāgata exists after death,” is his view, that would be mistaken; that “The Tathāgata does not exist after death”… that “The Tathāgata both exists & does not exist after death”… that “The Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death” is his view, that would be mistaken. Why? Having directly known the extent of designation and the extent of the objects of designation, the extent of expression and the extent of the objects of expression, the extent of description and the extent of the objects of description, the extent of discernment and the extent of the objects of discernment, the extent to which the cycle revolves: Having directly known that, the monk is released. [To say that,] “The monk released, having directly known that, does not see, does not know is his opinion,” that would be mistaken.' [This last sentence means that the monk released is not an agnostic concerning what lies beyond the extent of designation, and so forth. He does know & see what lies beyond, even though — as Ven. Sāriputta said to Ven. MahaKoṭṭhita — he cannot express it, inasmuch as it lies beyond objectification. See the discussion of SN 35.23, AN 4.173, & SN 35.117 in Chapter One.]</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 15 </p>

<p>Views of the self can center around not only feeling, but also physical form, perception, fabrications, & consciousness — the five aggregates for sustenance — which, according to another passage in the above discourse, cover the extent of what can be designated, expressed, & described, but none of which, on investigation, can rightfully be designated as self.</p>

<p>I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Vārāṇasi, in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

'Form, monks, is not-self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. One could get form to be like this and not be like that. But precisely because form is not-self, it lends itself to dis-ease. And one cannot get form to be like this and not be like that.

'Feeling is not-self… Perception is not-self… Fabrications are not-self…

'Consciousness is not-self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. One could get consciousness to be like this and not be like that. But precisely because consciousness is not-self, it lends itself to dis-ease. And one cannot get consciousness to be like this and not be like that.

'How do you construe thus, monks — Is form constant or inconstant?' — 'Inconstant, lord.' — 'And whatever is inconstant: Is it easeful or stressful?' — 'Stressful, lord.' — 'And is it right to assume with regard to whatever is inconstant, stressful, subject to change, that “This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am”?' — 'No, lord.'

'…Is feeling constant or inconstant?… Is perception constant or inconstant?… Are fabrications constant or inconstant?…

'Is consciousness constant or inconstant?' — 'Inconstant, lord.' — 'And whatever is inconstant: Is it easeful or stressful?' — 'Stressful, lord.' — 'And is it right to assume with regard to whatever is inconstant, stressful, subject to change, that “This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am”?' — 'No, lord.'

'Thus, monks, any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: “This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.”

'Any feeling whatsoever… Any perception whatsoever… Any fabrications whatsoever…

'Any consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every consciousness is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: “This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.”

'Seeing thus, the instructed noble disciple grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he grows dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is released. With release, there is the knowledge, “Released.” He discerns that “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”'

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the group of five monks delighted at his words. And while this explanation was being given, the hearts of the group of five monks, through not clinging [not being sustained], were released from effluents.</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 22.59 </p>

<p>On the surface, doctrines about the self would appear simply to be another variety of speculative view. They deserve separate treatment, though, because they all come down to a deeply rooted sense of 'I am' — a conceit coloring all perception at the most fundamental level.</p>

<p>'Monks, any contemplatives or brāhmans who assume in various ways when assuming a self, all assume the five aggregates for sustenance or a certain one of them. Which five? There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person… assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, form as in the self, or the self as in form. He assumes feeling to be the self… perception to be the self… fabrications to be the self… He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.

'Thus, both this assumption & the understanding, “I am,” occur to him. And so it is with reference to the understanding “I am” that there is the appearance of the five faculties — eye, ear, nose, tongue, & body [the senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste, & touch].

'Now, there is the intellect, there are ideas [mental qualities], there is the property of ignorance. To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by experience born of the contact of ignorance, there occur [the thoughts]: “I am,” “I am thus,” “I will be,” “I will not be,” “I will be possessed of form,” “I will be formless,” “I will be percipient [conscious],” “I will be non-percipient,” or “I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient.”

'The five faculties, monks, continue as they were. And with regard to them the instructed noble disciple abandons ignorance and gives rise to clear knowing. Owing to the fading of ignorance and the arising of clear knowing, [the thoughts] — “I am,” “I am this,”… “I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient” — do not occur to him.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 22.47 </p>

<p>The sense of 'I am' can prevent a person from reaching the goal, even when he feels that he has abandoned attachment to sensuality, speculative views, & the experience of jhāna.</p>

<p>'There is the case, monks, where a certain contemplative or brāhman, with the relinquishing of speculations about the past and the relinquishing of speculations about the future, from being totally not determined on the fetters of sensuality, and from the surmounting of the rapture of seclusion [in the first jhāna], of pleasure not-of-the-flesh, & of the feeling of neither pleasure nor pain [in the fourth jhāna], thinks, “I am at peace, I am unbound, I am without clinging/sustenance!”

'With regard to this, the Tathāgata discerns: “This venerable contemplative or brāhman, with the relinquishing of speculations about the past… thinks, 'I am at peace, I am unbound, I am without clinging/sustenance!” Yes, he affirms a practice conducive to Unbinding. But still he clings, clinging to a speculation about the past or… a speculation about the future… or a fetter of sensuality… or the rapture of seclusion… or pleasure not-of-the-flesh… or a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. And the fact that he thinks, 'I am at peace, I am unbound, I am without clinging/sustenance!' — that in itself points to his clinging.”

'With regard to this — fabricated, gross — there is still the cessation of fabrications. Knowing, “There is that,” seeing the escape from it, the Tathāgata has gone beyond it.'</p>

<p class=“cite”>— MN 102 </p>

<p>Whereas the contemplative or brāhman under discussion in this passage reads an 'I' into what he is experiencing, the Buddha simply observes that 'There is this…' This unadorned observation — which simply sees what is present in an experience as present, and what is absent as absent — is treated in detail in the Lesser Discourse on Emptiness. There the Buddha describes how to develop it methodically, in ascending stages passing through the levels of jhāna — in this case based on the object 'earth', or solidity — and leading ultimately to Awakening.</p>

<p>'Ānanda, just as this palace of Migāra's mother [in the monastery constructed by Lady Visākhā near Sāvatthi] is empty of elephants, cattle, & mares, empty of gold & silver, empty of assemblies of women & men, and there is only this non-emptiness — the singleness based on the community of monks; even so, Ānanda, a monk — not attending to the perception [mental label] of village, not attending to the perception of human being — attends to the singleness based on the perception of wilderness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of wilderness.

'He discerns that “Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of village… that would exist based on the perception of human being, are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.” He discerns that “This mode of perception is empty of the perception of village. This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of wilderness.” Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: “There is this.” And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

'Further, Ānanda, the monk — not attending to the perception of human being, not attending to the perception of wilderness — attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of earth. Just as a bull's hide is stretched free from wrinkles with a hundred stakes, even so — without attending to all the ridges & hollows, the river ravines, the tracts of stumps & thorns, the craggy irregularities of this earth — he attends to the singleness based on the perception of earth. His mind… settles & indulges in its perception of earth.

'He discerns that “Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of human being… that would exist based on the perception of wilderness, are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of earth.” He discerns that “This mode of perception is empty of the perception of human being… empty of the perception of wilderness. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of earth.” Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: “There is this.” And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.

'Further, Ānanda, the monk — not attending to the perception of wilderness, not attending to the perception of earth — attends to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space… [and so on through the four levels of formless jhāna. Then:]

'Further, Ānanda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the signless concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its signless concentration of awareness.

'He discerns that “Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of nothingness… that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.” He discerns that “This mode of perception is empty…[etc.]”

'Further, Ānanda, the monk — not attending to the perception of the dimension of nothingness, not attending to the perception of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception — attends to the singleness based on the signless concentration of awareness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its signless concentration of awareness.

'He discerns that “This signless concentration of awareness is fabricated & mentally fashioned.” And he discerns that “Whatever is fabricated & mentally fashioned is inconstant & subject to stopping.” For him — thus knowing, thus seeing — the mind is released from the effluent of sensuality, the effluent of becoming, the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, “Released.” He discerns that “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”

'He discerns that “Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the effluent of sensuality… the effluent of becoming… the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.” He discerns that “This mode of perception is empty of the effluent of sensuality… the effluent of becoming… the effluent of ignorance. And there is just this non-emptiness: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.” Thus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: “There is this.” And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, pure —

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; superior & unsurpassed.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 121 </p>

<p>Ānanda: 'It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. To what extent is it said that the world is empty?'

The Buddha: 'Insofar as it is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self: Thus it is said that the world is empty. And what is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self? The eye is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self. Forms… Eye-consciousness… Eye-contact is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self.

'The ear… The nose… The tongue… The body…

'The intellect is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self. Ideas… Intellect-consciousness… Intellect-contact is empty of self or of anything pertaining to self. Thus it is said that the world is empty.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 35.85 </p>

<p>In abandoning the notion of self with regard to the world — here defined in the same terms as the 'All' (page 31, above) — the Buddha did not, however, hold to a theory that there is no self.</p>

<p>Having sat to one side, Vacchagotta the wanderer said to the Blessed One, 'Now then, Venerable Gotama, is there a self?' When this was said, the Blessed One was silent.

'Then is there no self?' Again, the Blessed One was silent.

Then Vacchagotta the wanderer got up from his seat and left.

Then, not long after Vacchagotta the wanderer had left, Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One, 'Why, lord, did the Blessed One not answer when asked a question by Vacchagotta the wanderer?'

'Ānanda, if I, being asked by Vacchagotta the wanderer if there is a self, were to answer that there is a self, that would be conforming with those contemplatives & brāhmans who are exponents of eternalism [i.e., the view that there is an eternal soul]. And if I… were to answer that there is no self, that would be conforming with those contemplatives & brāhmans who are exponents of annihilationism [i.e. that death is the annihilation of consciousness]. If I… were to answer that there is a self, would that be in keeping with the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self?

'No, lord.'

'And if I… were to answer that there is no self, the bewildered Vacchagotta would become even more bewildered: “Does the self that I used to have, now not exist?”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 44.10 </p>

<p>This dialogue is one of the most controversial in the Canon. Those who hold that the Buddha took a position one way or the other on the question of whether or not there is a self have to explain away the Buddha's silence, and usually do so by focusing on his final statement to Ānanda. If someone else more spiritually mature than Vacchagotta had asked the question, they say, the Buddha would have revealed his true position.

This interpretation, though, ignores the fact that of the Buddha's four express reasons for not answering the question, only the last is specific to Vacchagotta. The first two hold true no matter who is asking the question: To say that there is or is not a self would be to fall into one of two philosophical positions that the Buddha frequently attacked as incompatible with his teaching. As for his third reason, the Buddha wanted to be consistent with 'the arising of knowledge that all phenomena are not-self,' not because he felt that this knowledge was worth holding onto in & of itself (cf. his statement to Upasīva, Sn 5:6, that in the experience of the goal all phenomena are done away with), but because he saw that the arising of such knowledge could, through causing the mind to let go of all forms of clinging/sustenance, lead to liberation.

This point becomes clear when we compare the exchange with Vacchagotta, given above, to this one with Mogharāja:</p>

<i>Mogharāja:</i>

How does one view the world so as not to be seen by Death's king?

<i>The Buddha:</i>

<pre>View the world, Mogharāja,

as empty —
always mindful,

to have removed any view about self. This way one is above & beyond death. This is how one views the world so as not to be seen by Death's king. </pre> <p class=“cite”>— Sn 5.16 </p>

<p>The fundamental difference between this dialogue & the preceding one lies in the questions asked: In the first, Vacchagotta asks the Buddha to take a position on the metaphysical question of whether or not there is a self, and the Buddha remains silent. In the second, Mogharāja asks for a way to view the world so that one can go beyond death, and the Buddha speaks, teaching him to view the world without reference to the notion of self.

This suggests that, instead of being a metaphysical assertion that there is no self, the teaching on not-self is more a strategy, a technique of perception aimed at leading beyond death to Unbinding — a way of perceiving things that involves no self-identification, no sense that 'I am', no attachment to 'I' or 'mine.' And this would be in keeping with the discernment the Buddha recommends in the Discourse on the Supreme Net (DN 1): one that judges views not in terms of their content, but in terms of where they come from and where they lead.

If a person aiming at Unbinding is not to view the world in terms of self, then in what terms should he or she view it? The Buddha's comment to Anurādha (page 25) — 'It is only stress that I describe, and the stopping of stress' — suggests an answer, and this answer is borne out by a series of other passages in the Canon.</p>

<p>'Lord, “Right view, right view,” it is said. To what extent is there right view?'

'By & large, Kaccāyana, this world is supported by [takes as its object] a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it has come to be with right discernment, “non-existence” with reference to the world doesn't occur to one. When one sees the stopping of the world as it has come to be with right discernment, “existence” with reference to the world doesn't occur to one.

'By & large, Kaccāyana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings [sustenances], & biases. But one such as this doesn't get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on “my self.” He has no uncertainty or doubt that mere stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccāyana, that there is right view.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 12.15 </p>

<p>'There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person… does not discern what ideas are fit for attention, or what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he doesn't attend to ideas fit for attention, and attends [instead] to ideas unfit for attention… This is how he attends inappropriately: “Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Will I be in the future? Will I not be in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Having been what, what will I be in the future?” Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: “Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?”

'As this person attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view <i>I have a self</i> arises in him as true & established, or the view <i>I have no self</i>… or the view <i>It is precisely because of self that I perceive self</i>… or the view <i>It is precisely because of self that I perceive not-self</i>… or the view <i>It is precisely because of not-self that I perceive self</i> arises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: <i>This very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure as long as eternity.</i> This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound by a fetter of views, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person is not freed from birth, aging, & death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. He is not freed from stress, I say.

'The well-taught noble disciple… discerns what ideas are fit for attention, and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he doesn't attend to ideas unfit for attention, and attends (instead) to ideas fit for attention… He attends appropriately, This is stress… This is the origin of stress… This is the stopping of stress… This is the way leading to the stopping of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, uncertainty, & grasping at habits & practices.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 2 </p>

<p>'Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress: Birth is stress, aging is stress, death is stress; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stress; association with the unbeloved is stress, separation from the loved is stress, not getting what is wanted is stress. In short, the five aggregates for sustenance are stress.

'And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.

'And this, monks, is the noble truth of the stopping of stress: the remainderless fading & stopping, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.

'And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way leading to the stopping of stress: precisely this noble eightfold path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

'Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: “This is the noble truth of stress”… “This noble truth of stress is to be comprehended”… “This noble truth of stress has been comprehended”… “This is the noble truth of the origination of stress”… “This noble truth of the origination of stress is to be abandoned”… “This noble truth of the origination of stress has been abandoned”… “This is the noble truth of the stopping of stress”… “This noble truth of the stopping of stress is to be realized”… “This noble truth of the stopping of stress has been realized”… “This is the noble truth of the way leading to the stopping of stress”… “This noble truth of the way leading to the stopping of stress is to be developed”… “This noble truth of the way leading to the stopping of stress has been developed.”

'And, monks, as long as this three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision of mine concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be was not pure, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening… But as soon as this three-round, twelve-permutation knowledge & vision of mine concerning these four noble truths as they have come to be was truly pure, then did I claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening… Knowledge & vision arose in me: “Unprovoked is my release. This is the last birth. There is now no further becoming.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— SN 56.11 </p>

<p>'Just as if there were a pool of water in a mountain glen — clear, limpid, & unsullied — where a man with good eyes standing on the bank could see shells, gravel, & pebbles, and also shoals of fish swimming about & resting, and it would occur to him, “This pool of water is clear, limpid & unsullied. Here are these shells, gravel & pebbles, and also these shoals of fish swimming about & resting.” So too, the monk discerns as it actually is, that “This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the stopping of stress… This is the way leading to the stopping of stress… These are effluents… This is the origination of effluents… This is the stopping of effluents… This is the way leading to the stopping of effluents.” His heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, is released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there is the knowledge, “Released.” He discerns that “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”

'This, great king, is a fruit of the contemplative life, visible here & now, more excellent than the previous ones and more sublime. And as for another visible fruit of the contemplative life, higher & more sublime than this, there is none.'</p> <p class=“cite”>— DN 2 </p>

<p>Thus for the person who aims at Unbinding, the Buddha recommends a technique of perception that regards things simply in terms of the four truths concerning stress, with no self-identification, no sense that 'I am', no attachment to 'I' or 'mine' involved. Although, as the following passage states, there may be a temporary, functional identity to one's range of perception, this 'identity' goes no further than that. One recognizes it for what it is: inconstant & conditioned, and thus not worthy of being taken as a self — for in transcending attachment to it, there is the realization of deathlessness.</p>

<p>Ānanda: 'It's wonderful, lord; it's marvelous. For truly, the Blessed One has pointed out the way to cross over the flood by going from one support to the next. But what then, lord, is the noble liberation?'

The Buddha: 'There is the case, Ānanda, where a noble disciple considers that “Sensual pleasure here & now and in lives to come; form here & now and in lives to come; perceptions of form here & now and in lives to come; perceptions of imperturbability, perceptions of the dimension of nothingness, perceptions of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception: [All] that is an identity, to the extent that there is identity. [But] this is deathless: the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging/sustenance.”'</p> <p class=“cite”>— MN 106 </p>

<p>Once the sense of self is transcended, its polar opposite — the sense of something standing in contradistinction to a self — is transcended as well. In the Discourse at Kālaka's Park, the Buddha expresses this lack of a self/non-self polarity directly in terms of sensory experience. For a person who has attained the goal, experience occurs with no 'subject' or 'object' superimposed on it, no construing of experience or thing experienced. There is simply the experience in & of itself.</p>

<p>'Monks, whatever in this world — with its gods, Māras & Brahmās, its generations complete with contemplatives & brāhmans, princes & men — is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: That do I know. Whatever in this world… is seen, heard, sensed, cognized, attained, sought after, pondered by the intellect: That I directly know. That is known by the Tathāgata, but in the Tathāgata it has not been established …

'Thus, monks, the Tathāgata, when seeing what is to be seen, doesn't construe [an object as] seen, doesn't construe an unseen, doesn't construe [an object] to-be-seen, doesn't construe a seer.

'When hearing… When sensing…

'When cognizing what is to be cognized, he doesn't construe [an object as] cognized, doesn't construe an uncognized, doesn't construe [an object] to-be-cognized, doesn't construe a cognizer.

'Thus, monks, the Tathāgata — being such-like with regard to all phenomena that can be seen, heard, sensed, & cognized — is “Such.” And I tell you: There is no other “Such” higher or more sublime.</p>

'Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
and fastened onto as true by others,

One who is Such — among the self-fettered — wouldn't further claim to be true or even false.

Having seen well in advance that arrow

where generations are fastened & hung
 — "I know, I see, that's just how it is!" —

there's nothing of the Tathāgata fastened.' <p class=“cite”>— AN IV.24 </p>

<p>A view is true or false only when one is judging how accurately it refers to something else. If one is regarding it simply as an event in & of itself, true & false no longer apply. Thus for the Tathāgata — who no longer needs to impose notions of subject or object on experience, and can regard sights, sounds, feelings, & thoughts purely in & of themselves — views are not necessarily true or false, but can simply serve as phenomena to be experienced. With no notion of subject, there is no grounds for 'I know, I see;' with no notion of object, no grounds for 'That's just how it is.' So — although a Tathāgata may continue using 'true' & 'false' in the course of teaching others, and may continue reflecting on right view as a means of abiding mindfully & comfortably in the present — notions of true, false, self, & not self have lost all their holding power over the mind. As a result, the mind can see conditioned events in their suchness — 'such are the aggregates, such their origin, such their disappearance' — and is left free to its own Suchness: unrestrained, uninfluenced by anything of any sort.</p>

<img src=“./../../../../img/dalberding8.gif” alt='* * *' />

<p>This concludes our survey of the four modes of clinging/ sustenance — passion & delight for sensuality, for views, for habits & practices, and for doctrines of the self — and should be enough to give a sense of what is loosed in the Unbinding of the mind. All that remains now is the question of how.

Many of the passages we have considered seem to suggest that total Unbinding may be realized by letting go of any one of these four modes of sustenance. What most likely happens in such cases, though, is that the abandoning of one mode immediately triggers an abandoning of the remaining three, for there are other cases reported in the Canon where the experience of Unbinding comes in stages spread over time: the arising of the eye of Dhamma, which frees one from passion & delight for identity views, uncertainty, and grasping at habits & practices; the attainment of Non-returning, which frees one from passion & delight for sensuality; and the attainment of Arahantship, which frees one from passion & delight for all views, the practice of jhāna, & the conceit 'I am.' Why these stages happen in this order, and how they relate to the practices meant to induce them, is what we will take up next.</p>

<!– robots content='none' –> <!– the following list is brought to you in living color by GetHList() –> <ul class='hlist'>

<li class='first'>[[index|Preface]]</li>
<li>[[1|Abstract]]</li>
<li>[[2-0|Intro]]</li>
<li>[[2-1|Ch I]]</li>
<li>[[2-2|Ch II]]</li>
<li>Ch III</li>
<li>[[2-4|Ch IV]]</li>
<li>[[end|Backmatter]]</li>

</ul>

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	<div id="F_sourceEdition">Fourth Edition.</div>
	<div id="F_sourceTitle">Transcribed from a file provided by the author.</div>
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