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Mind Like Fire Unbound: Chapter IV (Fourth Edition)

Mind Like Fire Unbound

Summary:

Mind Like Fire Unbound

Chapter IV

'And taking a pin, I pulled out the wick.'

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.

A theme recurrent in the passages we have been considering is that the abandonment of clinging/sustenance is effected through knowledge.

'These four [modes of] sustenance have what as their cause, what as their origin, from what are they born, from what do they arise? These four [modes of] sustenance have craving as their cause, craving as their origin, are born from craving, and arise from craving.

'And what does craving have as its cause…?… feeling… And what does feeling have as its cause…?… contact… And what does contact have as its cause…?… the six sense spheres… And what do the six sense spheres have as their cause…?… name & form… And what do name & form have as their cause…?… consciousness… And what does consciousness have as its cause…?… fabrications… And what do fabrications have as their cause…?… ignorance…

'And, monks, as soon as ignorance is abandoned in a monk, and clear knowing arises, he — from the fading of ignorance and the arising of clear knowing — clings neither to sensuality as sustenance, nor to views as sustenance, nor to habits & practices as sustenance, nor to doctrines of the self as sustenance. Not clinging [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.”' MN 11

The word 'vijjā' — translated here as clear knowing — also means 'science.' And just as science implies a method, there is a method — a discipline — underlying the knowledge that leads to Unbinding. That method is described from a number of perspectives in the Canon, each description stressing different aspects of the steps involved. The standard formula, though, is the noble eightfold path, also known as the middle way.

'There are these two extremes that one who has gone forth is not to indulge in. Which two? That which is devoted to sensuality with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathāgata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

'And what is the middle way realized by the Tathāgata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.' SN 56.11

The eight factors of the path fall under three headings, the first two factors coming under discernment, the next three under virtue, and the final three under concentration. These three headings are called the threefold training; the dynamic among them, leading to the knowledge & vision of release, is one of natural cause & effect.

'It is natural that in a virtuous person, one of consummate virtue, freedom from remorse will arise… It is natural that in a person free from remorse gladness will arise… that in a glad person rapture will arise… that for an enraptured person the body will be calmed… that a person of calmed body will feel pleasure… that the mind of a person feeling pleasure will become concentrated… that a person whose mind is concentrated will see things as they have come to be… that a person seeing things as they have come to be will grow disenchanted… that a disenchanted person will grow dispassionate… that a dispassionate person will realize the knowledge & vision of release.' AN 11.2

According to the standard description of the noble eightfold path, the heading of discernment includes seeing things in terms of the four noble truths about stress, and maintaining the resolve to release oneself from sensuality, to abandon ill will, and to avoid doing harm. Virtue includes abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from harsh speech, & from idle chatter; from killing, stealing, & having illicit sex; and from engaging in dishonest or abusive forms of making a living, such as dealing in poison, slaves, weapons, intoxicants, or animal flesh.

The factors that go into concentration, though, are somewhat more complex.

'And what, monks is right effort? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen… for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen… for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen… (and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. This, monks, is right effort.

'And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… He remains focused on the mind in & of itself… He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.

'Thus either internally he remains focused on the body in & of itself, or externally… or both internally & externally… or else he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with reference to the body… or the phenomenon of passing away with reference to the body… or the phenomenon of origination & passing away with reference to the body. Or his mindfulness that “There is a body,” is maintained just to the extent of knowledge & recollection. And he remains independent, not sustained by [clinging to] anything in the world. [Similarly with feelings, mind & mental qualities.]' DN 22

(See Ud 1.10 above, instructions to Bahiya.)

Right concentration is the practice of the four basic levels of jhāna.

These three factors are component parts of a single whole. In fact, their balanced interrelatedness is what makes them 'right.' The first level of jhāna requires the abandoning of unskillful mental qualities (the hindrances*), which is part of the duty of right effort; and, as we saw in the description of breath meditation, jhāna begins with mindfulness of the present. As jhāna is practiced & mastered, skillful qualities (such as the factors for Awakening*) are fostered & maintained; physical processes are stilled so that mental qualities may become clearly apparent as they occur; mindfulness is made pure on the attainment of the fourth level of jhāna; and all four of the establishings of mindfulness are developed.

'On whatever occasion, monks, a monk breathing in long discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, discerns that he is breathing out long; or breathing in short discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, discerns that he is breathing out short; trains himself to breathe in…&…out sensitive to the entire body; trains himself to breathe in…&…out calming bodily fabrication: On that occasion, monks, the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world…

'On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… &…out sensitive to rapture; trains himself to breathe in…&… out sensitive to pleasure; trains himself to breathe in…&…out sensitive to mental fabrication; trains himself to breathe in… &…out calming mental fabrication: On that occasion the monk remains focused on feelings in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world…

'On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… &…out sensitive to the mind; trains himself to breathe in… &…out gladdening the mind; trains himself to breathe in… &…out steadying the mind; trains himself to breathe in…&… out releasing the mind: On that occasion the monk remains focused on the mind in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world…

'On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… &…out focusing on inconstancy; trains himself to breathe in…&…out focusing on dispassion; trains himself to breathe in…&…out focusing on stopping; trains himself to breathe in…&…out focusing on relinquishing: On that occasion the monk remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — subduing greed & distress with reference to the world.' MN 118

In the Great Discourse on the Establishings of Mindfulness, the Buddha describes mindfulness of mental qualities in & of themselves, in part, in terms of the hindrances and the factors for Awakening, qualities that are respectively set aside & fostered in the practice of jhāna.

'And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the five hindrances? There is the case where, there being sensual desire present within, a monk discerns, “There is sensual desire present within me.” Or, there being no sensual desire present within, he discerns, “There is no sensual desire present within me.” He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no further appearance in the future of sensual desire that has been abandoned. [The same formula is repeated for the remaining hindrances: ill will, sloth & torpor, restlessness & anxiety, and uncertainty.]…

'And how does a monk remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves with reference to the seven factors for Awakening? There is the case where, there being mindfulness as a factor for Awakening present within, a monk discerns that “Mindfulness as a factor for Awakening is present within me.” Or, there being no mindfulness as a factor for Awakening present within, a monk discerns that “Mindfulness as a factor for Awakening is not present within me.” He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen mindfulness as a factor for Awakening. And he discerns how there is the development & consummation of mindfulness as a factor for Awakening once it has arisen. [The same formula is repeated for the remaining factors for Awakening: investigation of phenomena, persistence, rapture, serenity, concentration & equanimity.]' DN 22

Thus the practice of right mindfulness does not repress undesirable mental qualities — i.e., it does not deny their presence. Rather, it notices them as they occur so that the phenomenon of their occurrence can be understood. Once they are understood for what they are as phenomena, they lose their power and can be abandoned.

However, the practice of right mindfulness focuses, not on the haphazard occurrence of mental qualities, but on the elimination of undesirable qualities — the hindrances — that obstruct jhāna, and on the development of desirable qualities — the factors for Awakening — that jhāna fosters. As these factors are strengthened through the continued practice of jhāna, they make possible a clearer awareness of sensory processes as they occur. The factors of rapture, serenity, & equanimity, existing independently of the input of the five senses, make the mind less involved in sensory pleasures, less inclined to search for emotional satisfaction from them; the factors of mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, persistence, & concentration enable clear insight into the events that make up sensory perception.

To see events in the body & mind simply as that — events, conditioned, arising & passing away — creates a further sense of distance, disenchantment, & de-identification.

'Knowing & seeing the eye as it has come to be, knowing & seeing forms… eye-consciousness… eye-contact as they have come to be, knowing & seeing whatever arises conditioned by eye-contact — experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain — as it has come to be, one is uninfatuated with the eye… forms… eye-consciousness… eye-contact… whatever arises conditioned by eye-contact and is experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain…

'Knowing & seeing the ear… Knowing & seeing the nose… Knowing & seeing the tongue… Knowing & seeing the body…

'Knowing & seeing the intellect as it has come to be, knowing & seeing ideas… intellect-consciousness… intellect-contact as they have come to be, knowing & seeing whatever arises conditioned by mental contact — experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain — as it has come to be, one is uninfatuated with the intellect… ideas… intellect-consciousness… intellect-contact… whatever arises conditioned by intellect-contact and is experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain.

'For him — remaining uninfatuated, unconjoined, unconfused — the five aggregates for sustenance head toward future diminution. The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now this & now that — is abandoned by him. His bodily disturbances & mental disturbances are abandoned. His bodily torments & mental torments are abandoned. His bodily distresses & mental distresses are abandoned. He is sensitive both to ease of body & ease of awareness.

'Any view belonging to one who has come to be like this is his right view. Any resolve, his right resolve. Any effort, his right effort. Any mindfulness, his right mindfulness. Any concentration, his right concentration: just as earlier his actions, speech, & livelihood were already well-purified. Thus for him the noble eightfold path goes to the culmination of its development… the four establishings of mindfulness go to the culmination of their development… the seven factors for Awakening go to the culmination of their development. [And] for him these two qualities occur in tandem: tranquility & insight.' MN 149

With the union of tranquility & insight at the culmination of the path, Awakening occurs. The Canon records many instances where Awakening is sudden & total, and many where it occurs in stages: The reason for the difference isn't stated, but perhaps in sudden Awakening the mind goes through the various stages in quick succession. At any rate, a brief look at the stages will give something of an idea of the dynamics of the mind's Unbinding.

The standard list of the stages gives four, and describes them in terms of how many of the ten Fetters the mind sheds: (1) identity-views, (2) uncertainty, (3) grasping at habits & practices, (4) sensual passion, (5) irritation, (6) passion for form, (7) passion for formlessness, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, & (10) ignorance.

'There are in this community of monks, monks who, with the total ending of [the first] three Fetters, are Stream-winners, steadfast, never again destined for states of woe, headed for self-awakening…

'There are… monks who, with the total ending of [the first] three fetters and the waning of passion, aversion, & delusion, are Once-returners. After returning only once to this world they will put an end to stress…

'There are… monks who, with the total ending of the first five Fetters, are due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world…

'There are… monks who are Arahants, whose effluents are ended, who have reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who are released through right gnosis.' MN 118

An alternative way of classifying the stages lists three:

'There is the case of the monk who has attained full accomplishment with regard to virtue, a modicum of accomplishment with regard to concentration, and a modicum with regard to discernment…

'There is the case of the monk who has attained full accomplishment with regard to virtue, full accomplishment with regard to concentration, and a modicum of accomplishment with regard to discernment…

'There is the case of the monk who has attained full accomplishment with regard to virtue, full accomplishment with regard to concentration, and full accomplishment with regard to discernment. With the ending of the effluents, he remains in the effluentless release of awareness & release of discernment, having known and made them manifest for himself right in the present.' AN 3.88

As the text makes clear, Stream-winners and Once-returners are those who have fully developed virtue, Non-returners are those who have fully developed virtue & concentration, and Arahants are those who have fully developed all three parts of the path: virtue, concentration, & discernment.

This is not to say, however, that Stream-winners have not developed discernment to a fairly high degree. In fact, the unvarying definition of Stream-winners is that they have 'seen with discernment,' and their level of Awakening is called the arising of the Dhamma eye. What they see with this Dhamma eye is always expressed in the same terms:

Then Ven. Assaji gave this exposition of Dhamma to Sāriputta the Wanderer:

'Whatever phenomena arise from a cause: their cause & their cessation. Such is the teaching of the Tathāgata, the Great Contemplative.' </blockquote>

Then to Sāriputta the wanderer, as he heard this exposition of Dhamma, there arose the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation. Mv 1.23.5

For this realization to occur, it must follow on a glimpse of what stands in opposition to 'all that is subject to origination,' i.e., a glimpse of the Unconditioned — deathlessness.

[Immediately after winning to the Stream] Sāriputta the wanderer went to Moggallāna the wanderer. Moggallāna the wanderer saw him coming from afar and, on seeing him. said, 'Bright are your faculties, my friend; pure your complexion, & clear. Could it be that you have attained the Deathless?'

'Yes, my friend, I have…' Mv 1.23.5

Although their Awakening is not yet complete, Stream-winners see enough of the Deathless to remove all uncertainty about the Buddha's teachings.

To Upāli the householder, as he was sitting right there, there arose the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye: Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation. Then — having seen the Dhamma, having reached the Dhamma, known the Dhamma, gained a footing in the Dhamma, having crossed over & beyond uncertainty, having had no more questioning — Upāli the householder gained fearlessness and became independent of others with regard to the Teacher's message. MN 56

Their glimpse of deathlessness is also enough to convince Stream-winners of the worthlessness of identity views that center on the five aggregates of sustenance, all of which come under the category of 'all that is subject to origination.'

'Māgandiya, it is just as if there were a blind man who couldn't see black objects… white… blue… yellow… red… the sun or the moon. Now suppose that a certain man were to take a grimy, oil-stained rag and fool him, saying, “Here, my good man, is a white cloth — beautiful, spotless, & clean.” The blind man would take it and wear it.

'Then suppose his friends, companions, & relatives took him to a doctor, and the doctor treated him with medicine: purges from above & purges from below, ointments & counter-ointments, and treatments through the nose. And thanks to the medicine his eyesight would appear & grow clear. Then together with the arising of his eyesight, he would abandon whatever passion & delight he felt for that grimy, oil-stained rag. And he would regard that man as an enemy & no friend at all, and think that he deserved to be killed. “My gosh, how long have I been fooled, cheated, & deceived by that man & his grimy, oil-stained rag! — 'Here, my good man, is a white cloth — beautiful, spotless, & clean.'”

'In the same way, Māgandiya, if I were to teach you the Dhamma — this freedom from Disease, this Unbinding — and you on your part were to understand that freedom from Disease and see that Unbinding, then together with the arising of your eyesight, you would abandon whatever passion & delight you felt with regard for the five aggregates for sustenance. And it would occur to you, “My gosh, how long have I been fooled, cheated, & deceived by this mind! For in clinging, it was just form that I was clinging to… it was just feeling… just perception… just fabrications… just consciousness that I was clinging to. With my clinging as condition, there is becoming… birth… aging & death… sorrow, lamentation, pains, distresses, & despairs all come into play. And thus is the origination of this entire mass of stress.”' MN 75

Because they realize that their glimpse of the goal came through an act of discernment, Stream-winners no longer grasp at habits & practices. What this means is that they no longer view mere adherence to habits & practices as a sufficient means to the goal in & of itself, although they continue to abide by the habits of right speech, action, & livelihood and by the practice of jhāna that fostered their discernment to begin with. Having seen the efficacy of their own actions, they will never intentionally do evil again. This is what perfects their virtue. Still, they have yet to fully comprehend the practice of jhāna, and so their minds remain attached to the phenomena — with & without form — on which that practice is based. As the texts say, they are bound by their incomplete mastery of concentration & discernment, and by seven remaining Fetters to the cycle of birth & death.

As for Non-returners, they have mastered jhāna to the extent that they can use it as a vantage point for watching the arising & passing away that occurs in reference to the five senses, while the pleasure, rapture, & equanimity it offers serve them as a fulcrum point for uprooting any desire for the pleasures of those five senses, together with all feelings of irritation that come when such desires are not met.

They, too, have seen the Deathless, but as with Stream-winners, their discernment is not yet fully comprehensive: They have yet to turn it on the act of seeing: the tools — tranquility & insight — that lead to that discernment, and the subtle levels of passion & delight that accompany it.

The texts express this point in a variety of ways. Some passages simply list the Fetters that Non-returners have yet to abandon: passion for form, passion for formlessness, conceit, restlessness, & ignorance. Others give more experiential accounts of what is happening in a Non-returner's mind. From reading these latter accounts it is possible to see how the five Fetters in the list are interconnected: Although Non-returners shed attachment to identity views back when they attained Stream entry, they still have a lingering sense of the conceit 'I am', associated with the five aggregates for sustenance — possessing form & formless — as they function subtly in the arising of tranquility & insight as a process of becoming. And while they have gained enough insight into the five senses to let go of any attachment to them, they still suffer from a certain amount of ignorance concerning the subtler level of becoming inherent in that conceit. This leads to refined forms of passion & delight that keep them restless & bound to the sixth sense: the mind.

'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, perceptions, 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 his mind to the phenomenon [dhamma] 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 the effluents. Or, if not, then — through this very Dhamma-passion, this very Dhamma-delight, and from the total ending 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 each of the remaining levels of jhāna.]' MN 64

Several strands of our discussion converge at this passage. To begin with, the act of discernment described here — inclining the mind to the Deathless — is identical with the object of concentration described by the Buddha at AN 10.6 (see page 35). This would thus be an instance of tranquility occurring in concert with insight (see page 102).

Secondly, as the passage points out, the crucial difference between Arahants and Non-returners is whether or not the mind feels passion & delight for this act of discernment. Here the distinctions concerning sustenance & clinging raised at the beginning of Chapter III (see page 44) come subtly into play. Any act of discernment, even on this level, comes under the five aggregates for sustenance, as composed of perception, fabrications, & consciousness. If not fully seen for what it is, it can thus act as a phenomenon offering sustenance (or as a clingable phenomenon). Any passion & delight for it — and these themselves are perceptions & fabrications — function as refined sustenance/clinging in the modes of views (of inferior/superior), mental absorption, & a sense of 'I am' involved in the act of discerning. Thus the mind still contains the conditions for becoming on a refined level, and this stands in the way of its total freedom.

Tied by both the yoke of sensuality & the yoke of becoming, beings continue in transmigration, leading to birth & death. Those who have abandoned sensuality without reaching the ending of effluents, are tied by the yoke of becoming: are said to be non-returners. While those who have cut off uncertainty have no more conceit or further becoming. They who have reached the ending of effluents, while in the world, have gone beyond. Iti 96

Ven. Khemaka, a Non-returner, speaks shortly before he attains Arahantship: 'Just like the scent of a blue, red, or white lotus: If someone were to call it the scent of a petal or the scent of the color or the scent of a filament, would he be speaking correctly?'

'No, friend.'

'Then how would he describe it if he were describing it correctly?'

'…As the scent of the flower.'

'In the same way, friends, I don't say that this “I am” is form, nor that this “I am” is other than form. I don't say that this “I am” is feeling… perception… fabrications… I don't say that this “I am” is consciousness, nor that this “I am” is other than consciousness. It's just that for me the “I am” with regard to the five aggregates for sustenance has not been removed, although I don't regard them as “This is me.”

'…Just like a cloth, spotted & stained, whose owners give it over to a washerman: The washerman scrubs it with salt earth or lye or cow dung and then rinses it in clear water. Now even though the cloth is clean and spotless, it still has a slight, lingering residual scent of salt earth or lye or cow dung. The washerman gives it to the owners, the owners put it away in a wicker box filled with incense, and its slight, lingering residual scent of salt earth, lye, or cow dung disappears.

'In the same way, even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower Fetters, he still has with regard to the five aggregates for sustenance a slight, lingering residual “I am” conceit, an “I am” desire, an “I am” obsession. But at a later time he keeps focusing on the phenomena of arising & passing away with regard to the five aggregates of sustenance: “Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance. Such is feeling… Such is perception… Such are fabrications… Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.” As he keeps focusing on the arising & passing away of these five aggregates for sustenance, the slight, lingering residual “I am” conceit, “I am” desire, “I am” obsession he had with regard to them disappears.' SN 22.89

Only when discernment is so fully developed & totally comprehensive that it has no lingering conceits, desires, or obsessions for anything — not even for the fabrications of passion & delight that condition subtle levels of becoming around the experience of the deathless — can it complete its emancipation from the six spheres of sensory contact that make up the All.

Moggallāna [shortly before becoming an Arahant]: 'Briefly, lord, to what extent is a monk — released through the ending of craving — utterly complete, utterly free from bonds, a follower of the utterly holy life, utterly consummate: foremost among human & heavenly beings?'

The Buddha: 'There is the case, Moggallāna, of the monk who has heard, “All things are unworthy of attachment.” Having heard that all things are unworthy of attachment, he fully knows every thing. Fully knowing every thing, he fully comprehends every thing. Fully comprehending every thing, then whatever feeling he experiences — pleasure, pain, neither pleasure nor pain — he keeps focusing on inconstancy with regard to it, keeps focusing on dispassion, focusing on stopping, focusing on relinquishing. As he keeps focusing on inconstancy… dispassion… stopping… relinquishing with regard to that feeling, he is unsustained by [does not cling to] anything in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is unbound right within. He discerns: “Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”

'It's to this extent, Moggallāna, that a monk, in brief, is released through the ending of craving, utterly complete, utterly free from bonds, a follower of the utterly holy life, utterly consummate: foremost among human & heavenly beings.' AN 7.58

Knowing the All from all around, not passionate for any aims at all: He, having comprehended the All, has gone beyond all stress. Iti 7

'Now when a monk discerns — as they actually are — the origin & passing away of the six spheres of (sensory) contact, their allure, their drawbacks, & the emancipation from them, then he discerns what is superior to all these things.' DN 1

'With ignorance as condition, there occur fabrications; with fabrications as condition, [sensory] consciousness; with [sensory] consciousness as condition, name & form; with name & form as condition, the six sense spheres…

'But with the remainderless fading & stopping of ignorance, fabrications stop. With the stopping of fabrications, [sensory] consciousness stops. With the stopping of [sensory] consciousness, name & form… the six sense spheres… contact… feeling… craving… clinging… becoming… birth stops. With the stopping of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, & distress all stop. Thus is the stopping of this entire mass of stress.' MN 115

'That which arises in dependence on the eye as pleasure or joy, that is the allure of the eye. Whatever [aspects] of the eye are inconstant, stressful, & subject to change, that is the drawback of the eye. Whatever is the subduing of passion & desire, the abandoning of passion & desire for the eye, that is the emancipation from the eye. [Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect, and with forms, sounds, aromas, flavors, tactile sensations, & ideas.]' SN 35.13-14

'This, the unsurpassed, foremost state of peace, has been realized by the Tathāgata: liberation, through lack of clinging/sustenance, having known, as they actually are, the origin, the passing away, the allure, the drawbacks of — and the emancipation from — the six spheres of (sensory) contact.' MN 102

This unsurpassed, foremost state of peace that comes as the mind realizes emancipation from the All, is totally Unconditioned.

'There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — uncompounded. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — uncompounded, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — compounded would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — uncompounded, emancipation from the born — become — made — compounded is thus discerned.' Ud 8.3

Where water, earth, fire and wind have no footing: There the stars do not shine, the sun is not visible,, the moon does not appear, darkness is not found. And when a brāhman, a sage through sagacity, has known [this] for himself, then from form & formless, from pleasure & pain, he is freed. Ud 2.10

Having fully realized the Unconditioned, the mind no longer falls under the sway of stress & inconstancy. No longer engrossed, it finds that its sense of participation & engagement in all the processes of experience disbands once & for all.

Nandaka: 'Sisters, it is just as if an adept butcher or butcher's apprentice, having killed a cow, were to carve it up with a sharp carving knife so that — without damaging the substance of the inner flesh, without damaging the substance of the outer hide — he would cut, sever, & detach only the skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in between; and having cut, severed, & detached the outer skin, and then covering the cow again with that very skin, he were to say that the cow was actually joined to the skin: Would he be speaking rightly?'

'No, sir. Why is that?… because no matter how much he might say that the cow was actually joined to the skin, the cow would still be disjoined from the skin.'

'This simile, sisters, I have given to convey a message. The message is this: The substance of the inner flesh stands for the six inner sense spheres [the senses]; the substance of the outer hide stands for the six outer sense spheres [their objects]. The skin muscles, connective tissues, & attachments in between stand for passion & delight. And the sharp knife stands for noble discernment, which cuts, severs, & detaches the defilements, fetters, & attachments in between.' MN 146

Although the senses & their objects are there just as before, the fundamental affective link that ties the mind to sensations has been cut. And its cutting means unconditional freedom for the mind.

MahāKaccāyana: 'Concerning the brief statement the Blessed One made, after which he entered his dwelling without expounding the detailed meaning — i.e., “A monk should investigate in such a way that, his consciousness neither externally scattered & diffused, nor internally fixated, he would from lack of clinging/sustenance be unagitated. When… from lack of clinging/sustenance he would be unagitated, there is no seed for the conditions of future birth, aging, death, or stress” — I understand the detailed meaning of this statement to be this:

'How is consciousness said to be scattered & diffused? There is the case where a form is seen with the eye, and consciousness follows the drift of [lit.: 'flows after'] the image of the form, is tied to the attraction of the image of the form, is chained to the attraction of the image of the form, is fettered & joined to the attraction of the image of the form: Consciousness is said to be externally scattered & diffused. [Similarly with the remaining senses.]

'And how is consciousness said not to be externally scattered & diffused? There is the case where a form is seen with the eye, and consciousness does not follow the drift of the image of the form, is not tied to… chained to… fettered, or joined to the attraction of the image of the form: Consciousness is said not to be externally scattered & diffused. [Similarly with the remaining senses.]

'And how is the mind said to be internally fixated? There is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, is tied to… chained… fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. Or further… he enters & remains in the second jhāna. His consciousness follows the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of concentration, is tied to… chained… fettered, & joined to the attraction of the rapture & pleasure born of concentration. Or further… he enters & remains in the third jhāna… His consciousness follows the drift of the equanimity & pleasure… Or further… he enters & remains in the fourth jhāna. His consciousness follows the drift of the neither pleasure nor pain, is tied to… chained to… fettered, & joined to the attraction of the neither pleasure nor pain: The mind is said to be internally fixated.

'And how is the mind said not to be internally fixated? There is the case where a monk… enters & remains in the first jhāna. His consciousness does not follow the drift of the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, is not tied to… chained to… fettered, or joined to the rapture & pleasure born of seclusion. [Similarly with the remaining levels of jhāna.]

'And how is agitation caused by clinging/sustenance? There is the case of an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person… who assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. His form changes & is unstable. Because of the change & instability of his form, consciousness alters in accordance with the change in the form. With the concomitant arising of agitation born from this alteration, the mind stays consumed. And because of the consumption of awareness, he feels fearful, threatened, & solicitous. It is thus, friends, that agitation is caused by clinging/sustenance. [Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness.]

'And how is non-agitation caused by lack of clinging/ sustenance? There is the case of an instructed noble disciple… who does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. His form changes & is unstable, but consciousness does not for that reason alter in accordance with the change in form. His mind is not consumed with any concomitant agitation born from such a change. Because his awareness is not consumed, he does not feel fearful, threatened, or solicitous. It is thus, friends, that non-agitation is caused by lack of clinging/sustenance. [Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications & consciousness.]' MN 138

'One who is dependent has wavering. One who is independent has no wavering. There being no wavering, there is calm. There being calm, there is no desire. There being no desire, there is no coming or going. There being no coming or going, there is no passing away or arising. There being no passing away or arising, there is neither a here nor a there nor a between-the-two. This, just this, is the end of stress.' Ud 8.4

'Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he [a person who has reached the goal: This is the continuation of MN 140, quoted in Chapter Three] discerns that it is fleeting, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pain… Sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, he discerns that it is fleeting, not grasped at, not relished. Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of pain… Sensing a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, he senses it disjoined from it. When sensing a feeling limited to the body, he discerns that “I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.” When sensing a feeling limited to life, he discerns that “I am sensing a feeling limited to life.” He discerns that “With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is experienced, not being relished, will grow cold right here.”

'Just as an oil lamp burns in dependence on oil & wick; and from the termination of the oil & wick — and from not being provided any other sustenance — it goes out unnourished; even so, when sensing a feeling limited to the body, he discerns that “I am sensing a feeling limited to the body.” When sensing a feeling limited to life, he discerns that “I am sensing a feeling limited to life.” He discerns that “With the break-up of the body, after the termination of life, all that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.”

'Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest resolve for discernment, for this — the knowledge of the ending of all stress — is the highest noble discernment.

'His release, being founded on truth, does not fluctuate, for whatever is deceptive is false; Unbinding — the undeceptive — is true. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest resolve for truth, for this — Unbinding, the undeceptive — is the highest noble truth.

'Whereas formerly he foolishly had taken on & brought to completion (mental) acquisitions, he has now abandoned them, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest resolve for relinquishing, for this — the renunciation of all acquisitions — is the highest noble relinquishing.

'Whereas formerly he foolishly had greed — as well as desire & infatuation — he has now abandoned them, their root destroyed… not destined for future arising. Whereas formerly he foolishly had malice — as well as ill-will & hatred — he has now abandoned them… Whereas formerly he foolishly had ignorance — as well as delusion & confusion — he has now abandoned them, their root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest resolve for calm, for this — the calming of passions, aversions, & delusions — is the highest noble calm. “One should not be negligent of discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishing, and train only for calm.” Thus it was said, and in reference to this was it said.

'“He has been stilled where the currents of construing do not flow. And when the currents of construing do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace”: Thus it has been said. With reference to what was it said? “I am” is a construing. “I am this” is a construing. “I will be” is a construing. “I will not be”… “I will be possessed of form”… “I will not be possessed of form”… “I will be percipient”… “I will not be percipient”… “I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient” is a construing. Construing is a disease, construing is a cancer, construing is an arrow. By going beyond all construing, he is called a sage at peace.

'Furthermore, a sage at peace isn't born, doesn't age, doesn't die, is unagitated and free from longing. He doesn't have anything whereby he would be born. Not being born, will he age? Not aging, will he die? Not dying, will he be agitated? Not being agitated, for what will he long? It was in reference to this that it was said, “He has been stilled where the currents of construing do not flow. And when the currents of construing do not flow, he is said to be a sage at peace.”' MN 140

Sāriputta: 'And how, my friend, is a monk's mind well-composed by means of awareness? “My mind is without passion” — his mind is well-composed by means of awareness. “My mind is without aversion”… “My mind is without delusion”… “My mind is not subject to passion”… “to aversion”… “to delusion” — his mind is well-composed by means of awareness. “My mind is destined not to return to states of sensuality”… “to states of form”… “to formless states” — his mind is well-composed by means of awareness.

'Even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into the visual range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away. And even if powerful sounds… aromas… flavors… tactile sensations… Even if powerful ideas cognizable by the intellect come into the mental range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released, his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged. Being still, having reached imperturbability, he focuses on their passing away.

'Just as if there were a stone column, sixteen spans tall, of which eight spans were rooted below ground, and then from the east there were to come a powerful wind storm: The column would not shiver nor quiver nor quake. And then from the west… the north… the south there were to some a powerful wind storm: The column would not shiver nor quiver nor quake. Why? Because of the depth of the root and the well-buriedness of the stone column. In the same way, my friend, even if powerful forms cognizable by the eye come into the visual range of a monk whose mind is thus rightly released… etc… his mind is neither overpowered nor even engaged.' AN 9.26

Everywhere the sage independent holds nothing dear or undear. In him lamentation & selfishness like water on a white lotus do not adhere. As a water bead on a lotus leaf, as water on a red lily, doesn't adhere, so the sage doesn't adhere in connection with the seen, the heard, or the sensed; for, cleansed, he doesn't construe by means of the seen, the heard, or the sensed. In no other way does he wish for purity, for he neither takes on passion nor puts it away. Sn 4.6

This radical freedom — unattached to sensation, untouched by the power of passion, aversion, & delusion — is the Unbinding experienced in the present life.

Sister Patacara:

Washing my feet, I noticed the water. And in watching it flow from high to low, my heart was composed like a fine thoroughbred steed. Then taking a lamp, I entered the hut, checked the bedding, sat down on the bed. And taking a pin, I pulled out the wick: Like the flame's unbinding was the liberation of awareness. Thig 5.10


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