“INCLINE THE MIND

TOWARDS THE DEATHLESS”

Unshakeable deliverance of mind

is empty of greed, empty of hatred, empty of delusion MN.43.35

 

It is certainly true that the Buddha referred far more frequently to the path of Dharma than to the end of the path. Yet, there are frequent references to the goal in a remarkable variety of expressions to convey the essential realisation of truth, not tied down to a feeling, a thought, a view or a narrow definition of an experience. Wisdom always mattered to the Buddha rather than exalted claims about personal attainment. It is the Buddha’s frequent insistence to “see and know” in the midst of daily life that stands out, rather than holding to a past experience as proof of awakening.

He engaged in numerous dialogues with Brahmins, yogis, ascetics, as well as men and women in his Sangha of dedicated practitioners, employing a wide variety of terms on the ultimate, the ineffable. Rather than listeners becoming fixated on a single concept to describe the goal, such as God or Truth, the Absolute, the Buddha or the Supreme employed skilful means to communicate an insight to his audience. His approach of employing particular words suitable for the listener generated an interest in the potential for realisation. He awakened curiosity in others through his various descriptions of the supreme. Some listeners realised immediately the goal, namely the supreme. Others turned their attention to the supreme after a dialogue with the Buddha. The supreme works like a dream coming to an end through the waking state.

It is an immense skill to communicate the highest Dharma language in ways that all kinds of people can understand and explore while ensuring that listeners appreciated the profound and subtle nature of liberating truth. He equally made it clear that I, me and mine are not worth of holding onto. He also taught the end of holding onto causes and conditions to ensure access to the unfabricated, the unconditioned and the unmade. He would respond to questions on the deepest matters in five different ways:

 

  • Yes

  • No

  • An analysis or inquiry into the question

  • A question in return

  • And not responding to the question

 

When using the last response, the Buddha considered that the question was not connected with liberation.

The Buddha points to an immediate access to a foothold (amatogadha) in liberation,, the ultimate, the supreme goal. He deeply appreciated the problem of language as limited constructs, yet still employed these limited constructs to convey the limitless. The Buddha employed numerous terms and concepts for the Deathless. It is not necessary to feel an intuitive connection with all of these terms and concepts.  He offered a full range of concepts to express both the path and the goal. He knew that some single concepts suit some people and other concepts suit others. This is a different approach to religion that often relies on a single concept and then endeavours to explain what the concept means. 

In Chapter 9.43.14, in the second volume of the Connected Discourses, The Buddha gave a list of about 20 synonyms for liberation as the ultimate realisation. Elsewhere in his discourses, he used various words to describe the ultimate. It is important to appreciate that every word shares the same essential meaning. It may well be that one word, or more than word, brings a depth of inner response. The Buddha’s use of a wide range of concepts for ultimate realisation shows skilful means.

A practitioner might read slowly and carefully through the list and see what word or words evoke a deep response. The Buddha employed a generous use of language in his determination to support the awakening of the listeners/practitioners (sravakas). Readers may wonder why there are so many different words standing for the ultimate truth. It would appear that the Buddha declined to offer a single concept because of the danger that reification could mean it became far removed from the human capacity for realisation. A reified single concept will contribute to the build-up and grasping of views and opinions, leading towards greater religious and philosophical disputes with divisions, sects and cults within the Sangha of practitioners. A small number of concepts, such as Nirvana, Enlightenment, The Truth, the Deathless and the Unconditioned appear daunting in terms of realisation. While the sense of freedom, emptiness of claims for the self, the Infinite, the Dharma, the Profound and Peace may seem much more accessible – while still referring to the same boundless discovery. The range and variety of concepts, as well as the willingness to let go of any conceptualisation, demonstrates another example of the application of skilful means (upaya) to naming the deepest discovery available to a human being.

Here is a full list of the 120 parallel concepts[G1]  on Liberation that the Buddha employed.

In alphabetical order

  1. ABSENCE OF ENTRAPMENT IN ENCYCLIC EXISTENCE

  2. ABSENCE OF LUST AND DESIRE

  3. ALLAYMENT

  4. ALL LUMINOUS CONSCIOUSNESS (used twice: M. 49.25 and D11.85)

  5. ALL THINGS MERGE IN THE DEATHLESS

  6. ASUYLUM

  7. AWAKENING

  8. BIRTHLESS

  9. BOUNDLESS

  10. BRAHMAN (God but not in the sense of a personal Creator)

  11. CESSATION (of poisons of the mind)

  12. CESSATION OF SUFFERING

  13. DELIVERANCE

  14. DESTRUCTION OF ATTACHMENT

  15. DESTRUCTION OF DESIRE (gross/subtle problematic wanting,

  16. DIRECT KNOWLEDGE

  17. DISENCHANTMENT (with the mundane)

  18. DISPASSION

  19. DISSOLUTION OF UNHEALTHY INFLOWS OUTFLOWS.

  20. EMPTINESS OF SELF EXISTENCE (SUNYATTA)

  21. EMPTY OF WANTING, NEGATIVITY AND DELUSION

  22. END OF ATTACHMENT (upadana), end of fuelling situations.

  23. END OF CLAIMS ABOUT SELF (I AM THAT OR ANYTHING ELSE).

  24. END OF BECOMING

  25. END OF BEING (this or that or an ontology)

  26. END OF EXISTENCE AND NON-EXISTENCE

  27. END OF SUFFERING

  28. END OF THE WORLD OF NAME AND FORM

  29. ENDING OF BEING JOINED TO (YOGA) –Pali sam-joga-na means fetter

  30. ENLIGHTENMENT  (a Western concept. Wake up from confinement

  31. ETERNAL (endless)

  32. FAR SHORE

  33. FREEDOM

  34. FREEDOM FROM BONDAGE

  35. FREEDOM FROM LONGING

  36. FULLY AWAKENED

  37. HIGHEST HAPPINESS

  38. IMMACULATE VISION

  39. IMMEASURABLE

  40. IMPERTURABLE

  41. INFINITE

  42. INVINCIBLE

  43. LIBERATION (also by trust, wisdom)

  44. LIBERATION (from limits of consciousness)

  45. LIBERATION THROUGH DIVINE ABIDINGS

  46. LIMITLESS

  47. NEITHER HERE, NOR THERE, NO IN BETWEEN

  48. NIRVANA (NIR-VANA) extinction of fire of greed, hate and delusion

  49. NO LANDING OF CONSCIOUSNESS

  50. NOBLE PEACE

  51. NON CONCEIVING

  52. NON-ARISING

  53. NON-DEPENDENCY

  54. NON-SELF or NO SELF (meaning no inherent existence of anyone or anything)

  55. NOT MADE UP OF ANY THING OR FROM ANYTHING (atammayata)

  56. ONE WHO KNOWS AND SEES

  57. OTHER SHORE

  58. PEACE

  59. RELEASE

  60. SAFETY

  61. SIGNELSS

  62. STILLNESS

  63. SUPREME SECURITY

  64. TAINTLESS

  65. THE AGELESS

  66. THE AUSPICIOUS

  67. THE BEYOND

  68. THE BLESSED

  69. THE COMPLETION

  70. THE DEATHLESS

  71. THE DHARMA

  72. THE END

  73. THE ENDLESS

  74. THE EVERLASTING

  75. THE HARBOUR

  76. THE INVISIBLE

  77. THE ISLAND

  78. THE LAW

  79. THE MARVELLOUS

  80. THE PEACEFUL

  81. THE PROFOUND

  82. THE PURITY

  83. THE REFUGE

  84. THE RELEASE

  85. THE SECURE

  86. THE SHELTER

  87. THE SORROWLESS

  88. THE STABLE

  89. THE STAINLESS

  90. THE SUBLIME

  91. THE SUBTLE

  92. THE SUPREME

  93. THE TRUTH

  94. THE UNAFFLICTED

  95. THE UNAILLING

  96. THE UNBORN

  97. THE UNCONDITIONED

  98. THE UNCREATED

  99. THE UNDISINTEGRATING

  100. THE UNMADE UP OF ANYTHING

  101. THE UNDIVERSIFIED

  102. THE UNDISTURBED

  103. THE UNFORMED

  104. THE UNMADE

  105. THE UNORIGINATED

  106. THE UNPROLIFERATED (OF THOUGHTS, PROJECTIONS)

  107. THE UNSHAKEABLE

  108. THE UNTRACEABLE

  109. THE UNSTUCK

  110. THE UNWEAKENING

  111. THE VERY DIFFICULT TO SEE

  112. THE WONDERFUL, STRANGE

  113. TIMELESS

  114. TRANSCENDENT KNOWING

  115. TRUE KNOWLEDGE

  116. UNFATHOMABLE

  117. UNFORMED

  118. VISION

  119. WHAT HAD TO BE DONE HAS BEEN DONE

  120. WHERE ELEMENTS HAVE NO FOOTHOLD

      

  In a meeting with Malunkyaputta (Middle Length Discourses MN64), the Buddha stated: “Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, thoughts and consciousness, he sees these states as impermanent, unsatisfactory and non-self. He turns his mind away from those states, and inclines the mind towards the Deathless."

It is worthwhile for every dedicated yogi to take this powerful and unambiguous statement to heart or we may never turn our mind towards the deathless. We can easily fall into the habitual trap of  ‘practice, practice and practice’  and never turn our attention to liberation. In the Buddha’s discourse, The Way to the Imperturbable (MLD 265), the Buddha explained exactly what he meant when he used the term the Deathless. “This is the Deathless, namely the liberation of the mind through non-clinging.”

 

There is no need to look outside the Triple Gem, nor confuse the limits of the Theravada tradition with the words of the Buddha. The Buddha met with Malunkyaputta in Jeta’s Grove, a large park in Shravasthi, north India.  The Buddha spent 25 years Shravasthi. In the previous discourse (MLD 63), Malunkyaputta said he found himself caught up during his meditation in speculative views about the world, the self and whether one who has gone beyond,  exists or not after death. He said that he if did not get clear answers he would give up the Dharma life.  He did not understand the Buddha’s refusal to decline to be involved in the metaphysics of the world, life, matter, origins of existence and whether one who has gone beyond exists or not after death. Malunkyaputta asked: “Did the Buddha know and did not say or did the Buddha not know?” The Buddha kept his focus on the deathless and regarded metaphysical views about origins as a distraction.

The Buddha used the analogy of the surgeon whose take the arrow out of a wounded man rather than speculate about the origin of the wood used in the bow and arrow. “I have left these speculative views undeclared. It does not belong to the fundamentals of the spiritual life as it does not lead to awakening and nirvana,” the Buddha told Malunkyaputta. He spoke to Malunkyaputta of freedom from of the five lower fetters. In ending these fetters, the yogi is no longer obsessing or enslaved to a view of his identity, to doubts, rules and observances, desire for pleasure or negativity. Seeing the Deathless ends these fetters.

The Pali word for fetter is samyojana.   The middle syllables come from the root “yug” like the word yoga. You can interpret this rather freely as a reminder to yogis, to practitioners, that nothing whatsoever is worth becoming yoked to. The fetter of rules and observances becomes important one for meditators, as well as religious believers. The Pali is sīlabbata  paramasa.  Sila here means religious virtues rules in the way of doing things. Vata includes forms of practice, rites and methods. Parāmāsa means holding onto and being under the influence of. For the meditator holding onto a particular practice, seeing virtue in it above everything else is a fetter, a hindrance to liberation.
        The Buddha also explained that a “young, tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion of ‘identity’ yet the underlying tendency to possessing an identity view lies within him. An untaught ordinary person with no regards for the noble ones, unskilled and undisciplined in the Dharma, abides with a mind obsessed and enslaved by identity view.” The view of an identity  become habitual and enslaved. The same principle applies to all the fetters.

The Buddha then spoke of ways to dissolve the fetters through the depths of meditation or through seeing the suffering of any or all of the fetters. He employed strong metaphors. “Regard the fetters as suffering, a disease, a tumour, as barbed wire, and also non self in terms the fetters are a calamity, as disintegrating, as empty. He turns his mind away from these states and directs it towards the Deathless element. Thus, this is peaceful. This is sublime. This is the renunciation of all grasping, all fuelling. With the destruction of the five lower fetters, he abides in the realm of the Gods from where he attains final liberation without ever returning from that world.”  In the realm of the gods, one abides with happiness, content and love.

Dedicated practitioners need to give dedicated attention to the depth of this discourse from the Buddha to yogis. Incidentally, scholars usually translate the word “savaka” in the texts as “disciple.” The word savaka actually means “the hearer (of the Dharma), the listener.” In the texts, savakas come to a liberating wisdom through listening to the noble ones and others who find lierating wisdom through practice  of the noble pat and  meditation, as well as listening to teachings. Ariyasavaka is one who listens to a noble one. Savakasangha is the community of listeners. The Buddha emphasised the profound importance of listening to the Dharma to see and know the truth for ourselves, a direct challenge to the culture of gurus and disciples.

At the end of the discourse Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, asked the Buddha why there was a difference between the two types of liberation, gradual and immediate. Gautama said it was due to the “difference in faculties.” Some yogis developed their receptive faculties, including listening, through practice that eventually culminated in liberation of mind. While others had mature faculties that enabled a liberating wisdom to establish immediately while listening to teachings on the Deathless.

What does it mean to “direct the mind to the Deathless?”      

 

        If one is neither obsessing nor feeling enslaved to various mind states, whether shallow or deep, happy or  unhappy,  then this provides the opportunity to focus on the Deathless,  no matter how abstract, vague or intellectual, it may first seem. It would not be a waste of time to spend hours, days, months or years directing the mind regularly to the Deathless with unwavering interest.

  1. Have you had any experiences, especially in recent times, hours, days, months or a year or two, not being bound up with self and other? We might refer to these experiences as transcendent to the ordinary, everyday conventional mind when consciousness has become involved in content. Do I have an authentic sense of the timeless that releases inwardly an emergence of awe and wonder?

  2. If not, why not?

  3. What steps can you take to get out of certain habits, adherering to ways of doing things with self-preoccupation?

  4. If you have had such transcendent experiences, reflect on their significance. Squeeze the honey out of them.

  5. Why are they important? What is revealed? What is uncovered? What is the realisation about?

  6. The Buddha used some 120 concepts or terms for the Deathless. Are any of these terms in accordance with your experiences, insights or realizations? (See list below)

  7. Reflect on the liberating element in these perceptions. How does the liberating element reveal itself in your daily life? Do you experience a daily sense of liberation or is it occasional, or very occasional, or not at all?

  8. Keep turning your attention to liberation that is not bound up with self, nor sense objects, yet not outside of them in some metaphysical realm.

  9. Meditate, reflect and read very slowly and consciously the statement on ultimate truth. You need only a few verses for awakening to truth, to reality that knows no boundary.

  10. Make your interest in liberating truth your primary interest and draw regularly on profound moments, experiences and insights. Remember any practice is a preparation before including the mind towards the Deathless.

Doubt in the ultimate teachings of the Buddha ends when the practitioner has seen and known for herself or himself the Deathless element. It is as obvious as light is to a person with good eyesight - to use an analogy of the Buddha. The Buddha does not make a condition to realise the unconditioned,  the gradual and systematic dissolution of all the fetters. The remaining five fetters out of ten consist of clinging to forms, formless, restlessness, conceit and ignorance (of conditions).

Below are a handful of quotes on ultimate truth. The Buddha clearly encouraged the entire assembly of practitioners to incline towards Nirvana - just as the River Ganges inclines towards the sea. (M. 73.14). Quotes from the Buddha have a significance as far too many practising Buddhists spend far too much time working on themselves, cultivating the path and listening to teachings on the practices. It can easily happen that the practitioner loses sight of the nature of the goal. To put it another way, the ultimate truth dissolves the practitioner and the practice which does not function as a cause to the ultimate truth. Human beings have the capacity to know and experience a profound resonance that makes the ultimate truth immediate, accessible and as obvious as colour to a person with clear eyesight.

 

We never know the time and place when the Buddha’s  remarkable resonance enables a realisation of the Deep. A reflection and meditation on ultimate truth cannot cause its uncovering but may contribute directly or  indirectly to a totally different sense of things not bound to the usual conventions of the mind of I, me and mine, of self and other, of stress and problems with temporary relief.

 

  1. S[G2]  22.1 (p 855):

“And how is one afflicted in body but not afflicted in mind? Here, householder, the instructed noble listener, who is a seer of the noble ones and is skilled and disciplined in their Dharma does not regard form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. He does not live obsessed by the notions: ‘I am form, form is mine’. As he lives unblessed by these notions, that form of his changes and alters. With the change and alteration of form, there do not arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair.”

[Repeated for feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness.]

  1. S 22.8 (p 867):

“And how is there non-agitation through non-clinging? Here, bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple does not regard form thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self.’ That form of his changes and alters, With the change and alteration of form, there do not arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure and despair.”

[Repeated for feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness.]

  1. S 22.36 (p 879):

“If one does not have an underlying tendency toward form, then one is not measured in accordance with it; if one is not measured in accordance with it, then one is not reckoned in terms of it. If one does not have an underlying tendency toward feeling… towards perception… towards volitional formations… toward consciousness, then one is not measured in accordance with it; if one is not measured in accordance with it, then one is not reckoned in terms of it.

  1. S 22.45 (p884):

 “Form is impermanent… feeling is impermanent… perception is impermanent… volitional formations are impermanent… consciousness is impermanent. What is impermanent is suffering. What is suffering is nonself. What is nonself should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees this thus as it really is with correct wisdom, the mind becomes dispassionate and is liberated from the taints by non-clinging.

   “If the mind has become dispassionate towards the form element… towards the feeling element… towards the perception element… towards the volitional formations element… towards the consciousness element, it is liberated from the taints by non-clinging.

    “By being liberated, it is steady; by being steady, it is content; by being content, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains Nibbana. He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’ ”

  1. S 22.58 (p 901) [from the Buddha’s second discourse in Sarnath]:

“Form is nonself. For if form were self, this form would not lead to affliction, and it would be possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’ But because form is nonself, form leads to affliction, and it is not possible to have it of form: ‘Let my form be thus; let my form not be thus.’

[Repeated for feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness.]

  1. S 22.92:

Then the venerable Rahula … said to the Buddha:

   “Venerable sir, how should one know, how should one see so that, in regard to this body with consciousness and in regard to all external signs, the mind is rid of I-making, mine-making, and conceit, has transcended discrimination, and is peaceful and well liberated?”

  “Any kind of form whatsoever, Rahula, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near – having seen all form as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ one is liberated by non-clinging.

[Repeated for feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness.]

   “When one knows and sees thus, Rahula, then in regard to this body with consciousness and in regard to all external signs, the mind is rid of I-making, mine-making, and conceit, has transcended discrimination, and is peaceful and well liberated.”

  1. S 22.95 (p 952):

“Form is like a lump of foam,

Feeling like a water bubble;

Perception is like a mirage,

Volitions like a plantain trunk,

And consciousness like an illusion,

So explained the Kinsman of the Sun.

 

“However one may ponder it

And carefully investigate it,

It appears but hollow and void

When one views it carefully.”

  1. S 28.1 (p 1015):

Sariputta: “Here, friend, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered and dwelt in the first jhana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. yet, friend, it did not occur to me, ‘I am attaining the first jhana,’ or ‘I have attained the first jhana,’ or ‘I have emerged from the first jhana.’ ”

   “It must be because I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit have been thoroughly uprooted in the Venerable Sariputta for a long time that such thoughts did not occur to him.”

Sources for insight includes:

 

  • meditation

  • mindfulness

  • inquiry

  • listening

  • speaking

  • reading

  • nature

  • spontaneously

  • receptivity.

 

The difference between genuine insight and general knowledge is rather like the difference between visiting the Himalayas and looking at postcards of these mountains. Insights make a difference to our lives, they open up consciousness, they wake us up from the sleep of existence. Invaluable insights come from experience when liberating knowledge has dissolved the fetters involved with the constructed world view, making it possible for fresh insights to become available. Realising the liberation element takes the suffering out of I and my,  it is not enough to know what we suffer over various issues. It is knowing that the exit from suffering that matters,  rather than becoming lost in a picture of ourselves and who we are. Have a blind spot, we  imagine that what matters revolves around what goes on in our life or in the life of others, and how that affects us.

Every experience arises due to causes and conditions even though certain experiences offer strong intimations of a transcendent realm. For example, there are times when there is stillness, a palpable silence and an element unaffected by sound passing through the air. This element gives an intimation of the timeless, a freedom from bondage to time. It would be unfortunate however for the self to come to rely upon such deep experiences for the knowing of the timeless, the unaffected, the vast. Experience certainly matters since it confirms a transcendent element to the mundane and the transitory. The Buddha discouraged a reliance on such experiences, much loved by the yogis and mystics, and instead place the emphasis on “seeing and knowing” the nature of wisdom and liberation amidst our experiences..

As the Buddha said, the liberating dharma is difficult to see but that should not discourage us from its exploration. What is it that the Buddha wants us to see? He wants us to see and know a life free from suffering, free from anguish and fear. He wants us to see and understanding the way things dependently arise and dependently stay and dependently pass. He wants us to know a divine love, compassion and appreciate joy and equanimity in daily life. He wants us to see and know the unformed, unmade, timeless nature effortlessly revealed in seeing and knowing the emptiness of self existence. Yes, the Dharma is difficult to see and difficult to know but as human beings, we have this remarkable capacity to deep realisation and the daily expressions of it. 

 

“When, Bahiya, in the seen is merely what is seen…in the cognised is merely what is cognised, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that’; when you are not ‘with that’, then you will not be ‘in that’; when you are not ‘in that’, then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.” [1] (Udana 1.10)         Through this brief Dharma teaching of the Lord the mind of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth was immediately freed from the taints without grasping…

The Buddha told Bahiya to see clearly the cognised as simply the cognised. The mind has a tendency to project, to cast layers of itself upon the object, so then the object carries with it features of the subject. In this movement of the subject casting itself onto the object, it is  hard to distinguish what is going on in the mind and what the object itself reveals. There is a meeting of subject and object. There are points to be clear about.

 

  1. The subject is not independent of the object.

  2. The object is not independent of the subject.

  3. The subject gives significance to the object

  4. The object gives significance to the subject.

  5. The object can be external to ‘ourselves.’

  6. The object (of attention) can be ‘ourselves’ such as giving attention to states of mind, emotions and thoughts.

 

Realising that one is neither here, nor there, nor in between, reveals the end of the unrest, confusion and distortions.  There is freedom from grasping onto anything.

 

The Elements

A long, deserted beach, removed from all features of civilisation offers an extraordinary display of the elements – earth, air, heat and water. There is the earth element, namely the beach under our feet. There is the clean air element filling up our lungs. There is the element of the heat of the sun warming our cellular existence, and the ocean of the water element lapping upon the sand. All four elements, plus the element of space, stand out as extraordinarily distinctive at such a time amidst the vast expanse. All the elements dependently arise upon each other.

 

Where neither water nor yet earth

Nor fire nor air gains a foothold,

There gleams no start, no sun sheds light,

There shines no moon, yet there no darkness reigns.

 

When a sage, a Brahmin, has come to know this

For himself through his own experience

Then he is freed from form and formless,

Freed from pleasure and from pain. (Udana 1.10)

There might be approval or disapproval of the state of the earth element of the beach with a preference for sand or for pebbles.  There might be a judgement of the air element – too windy, too little breeze – or heat element – too hot or too cold, or water element – too rough or too still. The perceived state of the elements gains another foothold in our consciousness so that our peace of mind seems to become dependent on the elements. Never satisfied, the mind desires times by the ocean to be as comfortable and pleasant for as long as possible. There is a resistance to seeing  that the world does not function to fit our demands.

Or, perhaps we respond from a deep place within as we behold the wondrous elements and our participation in this remarkable process unfolding before our eyes. It is these deep responses that have the power to evoke an intimacy with the elements; a sense of something ‘spiritual’ comes to mind. It seems such a waste to use the beach  exclusively

for the primitive activity of sunbathing instead of exploring this meeting of consciousness with the bare elements with the potential to see and know wondrous freedom. This accessibility reveals a profound sense of wonder about the meeting of heaven and earth, of beauty and the elements. The deserted beach serves as one of those precious spots in nature permitting an absorption that speaks of oneness, of abiding in a unitive dimension. This is not the Deathless but a true confirmation of the unitive mind that the Buddha spoke highly of.

We appreciate our response to the direct and immediate experience of the four major  elements when they make harmonious contact with consciousness. The expansive sense of things also knows the dependent arising of the elements as one after the other of the elements stands out so clearly. Exposure to the wonderful forms of nature, or a formless experience, reveals the sense of the spiritual amidst the elements.

If, however, the elements take a foothold within us, it means we would be clinging to the experience, wanting to repeat it, exaggerating it or undermining it in some way or other. When such an experience doesn’t take hold in consciousness, there is a depth of expansiveness that is as immeasurable as the very elements themselves. The Deathless is clear when nothing takes hold including the most sublime experience of the elements. Consciousness inter-acts with elements. This inter-action has the potential to realise an awakening, not bound to the elements, not tied to the condition of the elements. It is the grasping onto the elements that obscures liberation and a life of ensnarement to the elements.

There is a common misperception that the Buddha concentrated exclusively on the path with little reference to liberation, itself. The discourses of the Buddha show his determination to speak of liberation through as many concepts as possible. He  also endorsed the exploration and inquiry into profound experiences including seeing and knowing the Deathless. The Buddha also warned about the danger of boasting about realisations of the ultimate, whether unintentional or a deliberate attempt to deceive. It is all too easy for the ego (“I” and “my”) to grasp onto such experiences and realisations, perhaps to impress others or to have a belief in personal accomplishment. Monks and nuns hesitate to speak about their realisations in case it sews the seed for sectarianism and division in the Sangha that could result in banishment from the ordained way of life.

Dharma teachers and practitioners do not have to observe such a Vinaya (discipline) but have certainly inherited the same kind of cautious approach. Those engaged in the fourfold Sangha (monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen) need to engage in the exploration of the Deathless, the ultimate, rather than constant attention to the journey from birth to death, impermanence and the path of practice. It is not easy. For example, some Buddhist commentators, path and present, have said the meditator makes the “Deathless element an object of meditation.” That is not possible. All objects are subject to change, subject to birth and death.

The experience and the realisations emerging from the experience of the Deathless belong to a different order a different sense of things altogether. We are blessed with the teachings of the Buddha, the true wealth of the Triple Gem, and an infinite number of expressions of what truly matters, which are suitable for everyone, along with numerous open doorways to full and immediate realisation. Incline the mind fully to liberation. There is nothing more important to incline the mind towards. The Deathless.

 

 

 

  May all beings live with insight and wisdom 

 Christopher Titmuss's

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5. www.anengagedlife.org lists and bullet points for inner and outer change

5. www.MeditationinIndia.org  annual Sarnath February Retreats and other retreats...

6. www.dharmayatraworldwide.org  Annual Pilgrimage in late July in southern France.

 

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