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Pali Canon - Dhammapada Chapters 14 and 20

by Sangharakshita

... - of moving your
hand plus awareness. But they don't do it like that. They for instance will do it like this "I am
about to move my hand. I have moved my hand. I am now going to move my hand or foot as
the case may be again. I have moved it now." So that they do the walking and mindfulness
practice in that sort of way. They sometimes relate it to the Abhidhamma philosophy, for
instance that the fire element is now active, etc., etc. Well the result is that its a sort of stop/go
... stop/go and this has quite, well quite unpleasant and I would say quite undesirable effects
on the person concerned and that together with deprivation of sleep in some cases produces a
sort of breakdown and you have certain odd experiences and sometimes or very often quite
painful experiences and some at least of these Vipassana teachers, they interpret these painful
experiences as insight into Dukkha. You see what I mean? Insight into the Truth of Dukkha,
which again is a separate misunderstanding because you don't necessarily have insight into
the truth of Dukkha because you experience the fact of Dukkha. This a quite different thing.
So broadly speaking their technique is to sort of break you down a bit. Some people are
strong enough to stand up to this and come through it and some... in a few cases it can have
even a positive effect. But I have seen cases in my early days in London of people practising
this so-called Vipassana, I say so-called because Vipassana practice is an essential part of all
Buddhist meditation, practising specific vipassana techniques and just having [5] nervous
breakdowns and going into mental hospitals. There were quite a lot of these people around in
the middle and late sixties who were taught by well ... some Thais some by people who had
been to Burma and Thailand from this country. So this is the so-called "dry" insight and some
of these people in those days - but again there was a difference of emphasis amongst different
teachers, some of the people, some of the teachers derided the experience of the dhyanas.
They said it was totally unnecessary and a waste of time. They were especially scornful of the
metta bhavana, this they had no time for at all... whereas I believe now there are some
Vipassana teachers who do permit, if that is the right word, or tolerate, the practice of metta
bhavana and who are not so hard and rigorous, who teach the technique in a milder, gentler
sort of way, which is perhaps a bit more acceptable. I think the whole system has been toned
down quite a bit in the last ten or fifteen years. though there are still some teachers who are
teaching in this rigorous manner... the results of which are usually quite undesirable. I also
noticed that these people tended to regard mediation - Vipassana - as being just a technique
They were generally people of scientific background and sympathies and the meditation
teachers were very often people who had just learned the technique and were operating it
were passing it on and in at least one case I say that a meditation teacher was operating the
technique quite clearly as a means of satisfying his own need to control other people and to be
able to affect other people and see other people sort of all breaking down as a result of the
influence he had over them. And this seemed very undesirable indeed.
So the traditional classical Buddhist position is that there is no real insight without the
experience of the dhyanas. The experience of the dhyanas provides the concentrated energy,
the positive emotional base and also enables you as it were to receive the impact of the
vipassana experience. So this is a quite important point. It is quite important to understand the
distinction between Samatha or calm on the one hand and Vipassana or insight on the other
and why they are both in fact necessary and Vipassana without dhyana experience is only a
so-called vipassana. It is just a theoretical understanding.
Very often you find that in the case of people who are involved with this so-called vipassana
tradition, they memorize the categories of the Abhidhamma and sort of recall them under the
conditions I mentioned and imagining that they are in fact developing insight. But that is not
the case at all. So the classical Buddhist tradition is insight on the basis of the dhyanas and
one would find in one's own experience that this is what happens. You as it were immerse
yourself in a more concentrated state, the Dhyana state, mental activity is suspended and then
you gradually [6] emerge from that, you start up mental activity with that concentrated energy
in that phase of a poised and peaceful condition and you develop insight. You understand
things better and better more and more clearly.
Murray: In the sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng's discourse where he says samadhi and
prajna are inseparable, one automatically gives rise to the other. An experience of samadhi is
an experience of prajna and vice versa. The samadhi he talking about there, - is that dhyana or
would that be more equivalent to compassion?
S: It would seem not. It would seem that the subject, also terminology here, I have suggested
somewhere, that the samadhi of which he speaks is akin to the cetovimutti or emancipation of
mind of the Pali texts and the prajna to the prajna-vimutti or emancipation of wisdom.
Because it is as though, when you are in the more rarefied dhyana state, in a higher dhyana
state and when the negative emotions have subsided and you're very concentrated, it is as
though your sort of mundane consciousness is in a very rarefied state, or becomes as it were
transparent, so that there are really no hindrances present. you're not enlightened, but there are
no hindrances present. So it is very difficult, say, to distinguish that state in which there are
no hindrances or at least no hindrances active though the seed of them is lurking from the
actual state of wisdom. So at that point the mind, the mundane mind becomes so transparent
that even without actively developing vipassana there is a sort of reflection of something
beyond. Do you see what I mean? And this is that sort of state of cetovimutti.. the negative
emotions are suspended to such an extent that insight almost dawns naturally but not quite.
Do you see what I mean?
Murray: You've got a vision of a vision
S: It's as though you could say that insight is not having any-glass in the window, there's just
an open space and you can look straight out. The usual mental state is like the window when
its very very dirty so you cannot see out at all. But the mind in a very purified state when the
passions are suspended and completely suspended are like the glass which is there, but it's so
clean you're not really sure whether the window is open or not. Whereas if you were to try to
put your fist through, it goes through, so then you soon find out! So, if you try to act upon this
superior samadhi state you soon find out you weren't, in fact, enlightened. But its not easy to
distinguish between the two. So I think this is why the Pali scriptures, the Buddha often uses
these expressions Ceto-vimutti, prajna-vimutti, together, as though the two things are put
together and why perhaps, Hui Neng speaks in terms of samadhi and prajna as being
inseparable. If you look at his statement in strictly doctrinal (terms, you see that) [7] that he is
using samadhi in the sense of Enlightenment even and prajna in the sense of the activity of
that Enlightened state. But that is to drop, as it were, the original meaning of those terms and
to take up a very different Mahayana usage. Or one might even say that Hui Neng's own
usage is not really even very standard Mahayana usage, but clearly he is trying to
communicate something, he is trying to communicate the fact that the inner experience,
maybe of enlightenment is sort of dynamic, it manifests, it operates in the world. He is trying
to guard against the danger of what in the West is called quietism.
Anyway that's all come out of the first line. So "whose conquest is not to be undone" . The
Buddha has conquered the passions once and for all because of his fully developed insight,
His enlightenment. So his conquest is "not to be undone" and he is one whom "not even a bit
of those conquered passions follows" He is no longer under their influence q P to the slightest
extent. So, that awakened one, that Buddha, that enlightened one "whose sphere is endless.
The word here is anantagocaran. gocaran, literally means pasture or field. Go is cow, caran is
to go so it is where the cow goes, in other words the pasture, the field. So the meaning is
extended to mean a whole sphere of operations, so that is why its translated here as "sphere".
So "that Awakened one whose sphere" whose field, whose field of operations "is endless;
Ananta, So why is this. Why is the Buddha's sphere of operations said to be endless? In what
sense is it endless?
Johnny: Because he is acting skilfully all the time. He won't come up against any obstructions
caused by unskilful action.
S: mm.. He won't come up against any obstructions caused by any subjective factors.. But
does that really exhaust the meaning of "endless"?
v: It sort of implies a transcendent quality that just goes beyond anything that could [2 words
unclear]
S: His method of operating one can say is unconditioned, it is not dependant on ...

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