I’m Ok with Bowing

Clear Lake sunset with ducksIn the speeches recorded close to his death, Gautama said:

“Therefore… be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge unto yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the Truth. Look not for refuge to any one besides yourselves. And how… is (one) to be a lamp unto (oneself), a refuge unto (oneself), betaking (oneself) to no external refuge, holding fast to the Truth as a lamp, holding fast as a refuge to the Truth, looking not for refuge to any one besides (oneself)?

Herein, … (one) continues, as to the body, so to look upon the body that (one) remains strenuous, self-possessed, and mindful, having overcome both the hankering and the dejection common in the world. As to feelings… moods… ideas, (one) continues so to look upon each that (one) remains strenuous, self-possessed, and mindful, having overcome both the hankering and the dejection common in the world.”

(Digha Nikaya ii 100, Pali Text Society DN Vol. II pg 108; Rhys Davids’ “body, feelings, moods, and ideas”, above, rendered by Horner in her translations of the Majjhima Nikaya as “body, feelings, mind, and mental states”)

As it turns out, Gautama had a distinct version of the mindfulness he described above, that was his own way of living.  After an incident in which a lot of monks “took the knife” because he had recommended meditation on “the unlovely (aspects of the body)”, he taught the remaining monks his own practice of mindfulness in sixteen elements, and said:

“… if cultivated and made much of, (the mindfulness in sixteen elements) is something peaceful and choice, something perfect in itself, and a pleasant way of living too.”

(SN V 320-322, Pali Text Society SN V pg 285)

The point I’m making is that Gautama, at least in his later years, emphasized the “setting up” of mindfulness, and that’s what he put forward as being “a lamp unto (oneself)” before he died.

The fifteenth element of the mindfulness that made up Gautama’s way of living was:

“(One) trains (oneself), thinking: ‘I will breathe in… breathe out beholding stopping (cessation)’.”

(MN III 82-83, Pali Text Society III pg 124; parentheticals added)

I hope I make the case in The Early Record that the cessation that was a part of Gautama’s way of living was the cessation of “determinate thought” in the action of the body, that is to say, the cessation of habitual or volitive action of the body.  That’s not the “cessation of [determinate thought in] perception and feeling”, the cessation that was synonymous with Gautama’s enlightenment.

I do believe that what passes for enlightenment these days is mostly the mindfulness that includes breathing in or breathing out beholding cessation (of habitual or volitive action of the body).  That would have been Gautama’s way of living, particularly in the rainy season (or so he said).

The final element of the sixteen was:

“(One) trains (oneself), thinking: ‘I will breathe in… breathe out beholding casting away’.”

(MN III 82-83, Pali Text Society III pg 124)

“Casting away” would be the relinquishment of the notion of a self associated with the body, with feelings, with the mind, with habitual tendencies, or with mental states.

I agree with my friend John, who said:  “It’s like you’ve come across the Holy Grail in the woods and you cannot help but bow before it because it is so… awesome.”  Here is a real and verifiable path, to lay down “latent conceits that ‘I am the doer, mine is the doer’ in regard to this consciousness-informed body” in the course of everyday living, and to reorient beliefs and assumptions to the mind that has no home:

“Let the mind be present without an abode.”

(Diamond Sutra, translation Venerable Master Hsing Yun, from “The Rabbit’s Horn: A Commentary on the Platform Sutra”, Buddha’s Light Publishing pg. 60)

I’m ok with bowing. Maybe I should also shake my head in disbelief that we could be so lucky.

 

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