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12. Angutt., 10.60

13. Samyutt. 22.1.8.

14. Angutt., 1.21.47; Milinadapanha. 3.36; Majjh., 119.


15. Majjh.10.

16. Digha, 22.15.



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here only the fact of vision, the fact of hearing, the fact of taste and so on, which arise from the promiscuous contact of object and subject, and which proceed from the elementary self-identification of consciousness with its experience in processes of "combustion." The discipline we are discussing aims at dissociating this irrational mixture until one can truly say: "I see," "I taste," "I hear," "I touch," "I smell," "I think"-with the same clarity and self-awareness as one who grasps an object in his hand or lets it fall and who knows: "1 am grasping this object, 1 am letting it fall." When we consider the domains of the senses and of the mind itself, we must seek to cultivate a real feeling that they are actual organs that are consciously used, but always at a certain "distance": I am here, the thing seen or felt or tasted is there, and the result is the experience, and the "combination" of the two as an elementary fact or "bond," is also just as clearly before me. The texts provide a simile: "As from the contact of two pieces of wood when they are rubbed together heat is born and fire springs up, and as the heat formerly produced by them ceases, becomes extinguished when they are separated": just so, must we clearly come to understand that "This feeling is arisen," "this feeling is extinguished." The texts add, with particular refer­ence to the general aim of these contemplations: "There remains only passiveness which is pure, clear, ductile, flexible, resplendent."17 As an example of this contem­plation, on an everyday level, let us take the case of a meal: the mouthful is put into the mouth, it is consciously circulated in the mouth so that none remains unmasticated and so that none remains in the mouth when it is swallowed; when it has been swal­lowed, the next mouthful is taken; "the ascetic feels the taste whilst he takes the food, but he does not derive pleasure from it":18 one must taste with awareness and yet remain detached. A considerable inward effort is necessary to extend this kind of control beyond occasional moments of practice: it is, in fact. a case, not only of substituting one habit for another, but of coming to grips with the blind force of iden­tification that acts in the former habit. The natural development of this contempla­tion is what is known as the "watch over the senses" or the "curing of the wounds" of which we shall say more below (p. 139).



3. Contemplation of the mind. The term vedana can mean not only feeling, but also emotion or sentiment, and we can pass naturally from the sphere of the second contemplation to that of the third, which aims at awakening "knowledge" in the pres­ence of all states and changes of one's mind. The canonical formula is: "An ascetic knows the craving mind as craving and the non-craving mind as non-craving; the hate­ful mind as hateful and the non-hateful mind as non-hateful: the deluded mind as de­luded and the undeluded mind as undeluded; the concentrated mind as concentrated

17. Majjh., 140.


18. Ibid., 91.

135


and the distracted mind as distracted; the upward-tending mind as upward tending and the mind of low feeling as of low feeling; the noble mind as noble and the common mind as common; the tranquil mind as tranquil and the anxious mind as anxious-he knows the liberated mind as liberated and the hound mind as bound."19 This means that, in the first place, one must cultivate an attitude of absolute. inflexible sincerity and objectivity with regard to one's interior, psychological, and emotive life. In the second place, we are again concerned with the energy that is aroused by the disidentifying "insight." The sign that progress has been achieved on this road is one's ability to regard one's own emotions, feelings, states of mind, and passions as if they were another's-as though, naturally, they were taking place in someone about whom one were quite indifferent and who served merely as an object of observation. Once again, the aim is an active form of depersonalization. A text reads: "As the clouds arise, pass, become transformed and dissolve in the open sky, so also is it with the passions in the mind of the wise man." n its liberty and intangibility, the mind of the wise man is thus; likened to the sky. As its clarity is unaltered by the changing vicissi­tudes of the clouds, so his mind is unchanged by the passions and emotions that form, transform, and pass away there according to their laws. As the Bhagavadgitā20 speaks of one who "does not desire desire, into whom, instead, all desires flow as the waters flow into the sea which, [continually] refilled, [yet] remains unchanged," so in Bud­dhism the idea] state is likened to the "depths of the ocean, where no waves arise, but where calm reigns."21 We shall find other cosmic and elemental images of liberty and intangibility when we discuss (he "irradiant contemplations." Here, this serves but as a signpost to point out the way of contemplation.

4. Contemplation of the dhamma. The term dharmmā has a wide meaning, as we have said, and this section includes contemplation not only of phenomena and states of consciousness of various kinds, but also of the ascetic processes themselves. Thus it is said that awareness is to be practiced in regard to the "five hindrances," that is to say: craving. aversion, slothful laziness, pride and impatience, doubtful uncertainty.22 And it must he practical as well in regard to the estimation of their absence, or of their development, or of their disappearance at the moment of intervention by the dissolving action of which we shall treat below. The same awareness is practiced in order to observe the manifestation and the cessation of attachment in each of the five groups of personality in turn-we are dealing, in other words, with variations of the contemplation of states of the mind. Further disciplines take as their object higher states of ascetic consciousness, such as the "seven spiritual awakenings" or

19. Dīgha, 22.12.


  1. Bhagavadgita. 2.70.

  2. Suttanipata. 4.14.6.

  3. Digha. 22.13.

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bojjhanga,23 and the direct supermundane apprehension of the "four truths."24 In this further region recurs the necessity for maintaining a perfect, detached state of consciousness even in the development of the higher ascesis, as well as the necessity for avoiding identification even with supersensible experiences and for emphasizing at all times the absolute sidereal and extrasamsaric element in such experiences. Loss of control and "agitations" must never take place, a calm and steady light must shine on every experience and on every action. At the very limit of the supreme realization, the pure and detached element of consciousness--sati-must constitute, in a manner of speaking, a higher "dimension" than the content of any ordinary experience.

This is the fourfold form of satipatthāna. As we have said, what is realized in individual exercises should be developed into the form of a habitus of clear con­sciousness maintained at all moments of daily life. This, in fact, is considered in the texts as a development of the first contemplation, and is expressed in this for­mula: "The ascetic knows when he is walking, `I am walking,' he knows when he is standing, am standing,' he knows when he is in this or that position that he is in this or that position." In a word, he ends by literally hearing his own body. In a commen­tary on the texts. in this connection, the characteristic question is asked: "Who is walking?" The answer being: "It is not the "I" that is walking": "Whose walking is it?" "t is not of an `I'"; "Who determines the walking?" "An act of the mind, trans­mitted and assumed by the breath (prāna) which pervades the body and moves it.

The texts further specify: the ascetic is clearly conscious in coming and in going, in looking and in detaching his gaze, in bending and in raising himself, in wearing his robe, in eating and in drinking, in masticating and tasting, in defecating and urinat­ing, in walking and standing and sitting, in falling asleep and waking, in speaking and in keeping silent."26 As in a mirror, he "looks at himself again and again before performing an action; he looks at himself again and again before saying a word; he looks at himself again and again before harboring a thought."" t can easily be seen that by following such a path a man naturally transforms himself into a kind of living statue made up of awareness, into a figure pervaded by composedness, decorum, and dignity, a figure that inevitably calls to mind not only the whole style of the ancient Aryan aristocracy but also that made famous by the ancient Roman tradition in the original type of the senator, the pater laminas, and the maiores nostri. In reality, there is a natural relationship between these effects of the discipline of


  1. Ibid., 22.16.

  2. Ibid., 22.17.

  3. On Digha (W. 357).

  4. Digha. 22.3-4.

  5. Majjh.. 61.

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self-awareness and the traits that, together with the "thirty-two signs of the superior man," tradition has bestowed on the enlightened Ariya in the following terms: "As an Accomplished One speaks, so does he act and as he acts so does he spear";28 he goes neither too fast nor too slowly; the lower part of his body, while he walks, neither swings nor moves through the effort of the body. In seeing, he looks in one direction: straight ahead, not upwards nor downwards, nor does he walk glancing here and there. He always sits composedly, not lolling his body, nor making useless movements with his hands, nor crossing his legs, nor resting his chin on his hand. He remains calm, "girded with isolation."29 Calm, sidereal self-awareness cannot help but result in styliization since it acts on the irrational, oblique, and hidden part of the human being, rather in the way that the calm and severe glance of the schoolmaster is enough to quell the prankishness of the pupil who thought himself unobserved. So we can say that the substitution of energies that is the essential aim of the whole ascesis of the Ariya has already begun to have its effect externally. Whereas, be-fore, every movement and every action of the individual was motivated by an irra­tional vital force or samsāric element, now this element is replaced by pure aware­ness, which cannot but bring about-as we have said-an increase of simplicity, composedness, and dignity in the manner and the outward appearance of one who seriously follows this path. One might even discern a certain aspect of racial cathar­sis, too, in these disciplines, since, as we have just said, these elements of a style of life existed naturally, aborigine, among people of a higher racial type, whose char­acteristics various factors, above all crossbreeding, have successively altered and encroached upon.30

Let us see where we have arrived in our exposition. When defenses against the most immediate forms of mental disturbance have been raised, the assimilation of the principles of "right conduct" arouses in the mind an "intimate, unalloyed joy" joined with the stability and sureness of one who feels himself in a state of "justice." For which we are given the simile of a lawfully crowned king who knows that his enemies are routed and that there is no threat of any kind to his sovereignty.31 We have also acquired the strengthened "neutrality" or "sidereality" of the mind that, thanks to the fourfold contemplation, has further freed itself and is now at the center of all its experience, both internal and external. At this point we undertake the really cathartic action whose aim is to neutralize, by degrees, any possibility of "combus­tion" and of self-abandonment to the multiple variety of "contacts." Contacts wound;


  1. Angutt., 4.125.

  2. Majjh., 140. It is said of the assembly of the fathers of the order: "it does not gossip, it does not speak. it consists of essentiality, it is the blessed scat for the world" (ibid.. 118).

  3. Cf. our Sintesi di dottrina della razza (Milan. 1941).

  4. Dīgha, 2.63.

138

contacts consume by exciting the fire that burns the body and the mind, which nour­ishes the samsaric stem and prostrates the higher principle. "The fool, struck by force, perishes; the wise man, when struck, does not tremble," he remains intact, remains unshakable, remains elusive;32 we must become like the wise man. It is a question, then, of dealing a blow at the transcendental "desire" that lurks in the visual and other senses, in the khandha (the groups of the personality), in the elements, and which is corruption, disease, suppuration.33 All this must naturally take place, not on the psychological or moral plane, but on the existential and metaphysical one. The beginning of the process of alteration lies in the senses, which are likened to so many "wounds."34 They present us with forms or sounds or tastes or smells or tactile sensa­tions, "desired, loved, delightful, pleasant, associated with craving, alluring," whence, "in the five cords of desire, in one or other seat of the senses, may arise inclination of the mind" or assent.35 We have used this word to translate the term anunayo, which Woodward renders as "lurking tendency"'' and which can actually be likened to the attitude of someone who spies, who waits ready to identify himself, in this case, with pleasure, if there is a pleasant feeling, or with pain, if instead the feeling is painful, or with opaque indifference (with "ignorance"), if the feeling is neither pleasant nor painful." And here, naturally, the reference is also to the primordial anguish that lies at the base of samsāric existence and that produces attachment. In this way there arise formations or combinations that attach themselves to one or other of the five groups of the personality, that is to say, to the groups of materiality, of feeling, of perception, of the formations, of individuated consciousness. This being so, in order to "bandage the wounds" and neutralize the infection provoked by contacts, we must ensure that "the internal sight, the internal smelling, the internal hearing, the internal tasting, the internal touching, the internal thinking are not distracted," that is to say, that we are present in the sixfold seat of the senses in such a way that we can imme­diately prevent any self-relaxation, self-attachment, self-intoxication, any luring of ourselves by enjoyment. There will be, then, no further building of combinations, at first in the fundamental stem of the will, and then in the five stems of the personal­ity." This is the essence of the new work of catharsis.

This work is based on what is known as the "watch over the doors of the senses," for which the canonical formula is: "Upon perceiving a form with the eye, the ascetic


  1. Majjh., 82; ct. ltivurtaka, 28; Angara., 6 55.

  2. Samyutt.. 27.1-I0; 35.90.

  3. Majjh.. 33; 105.

  4. Ibid.. 122.

36. [ln English in the original.-Trans.]

  1. Samyutt., 36.3.

  2. Majjh., 28; 149.

139

conceives no inclination, no interest. Since craving and aversion and damaging and harmful thoughts soon overcome the man who lives with the eye unguarded, he remains vigilant, he guards the eye, he remains vigilant over the eye." Upon hearing a sound with the ear, upon smelling an odor with the nose, upon tasting a flavor with the tongue, upon touching a contact with the body, upon representing to himself a mental state with the mind, he conceives no inclination, he conceives no interest. Since craving and aversion and damaging and harmful thoughts soon overcome the man who lives with his mind unguarded, he remains vigilant, he guards the mind, he remains vigilant over the mind."39 To fail in this vigilance at some point is to suffer the fate of the tortoise: when the tortoise unthinkingly put out one of its limbs a jackal seized it by that limb and carried it off to its ruin.40 In this matter then, we have to come to grips with the samsaric entity with which we are associated and that consti­tutes our double, composed of thirst. A continually tightening circle closes round it. It is effectively likened to an enemy who, knowing that he cannot openly defeat his adversary, gets himself employed by him as a servant and gains his confidence so that he may then defeat him by treachery: this-it is said-is the part that the illusory "I," created by identification, plays in us until the time of initiation into the doctrine of the Ariya.41 That the discipline of the watch over the senses or binding the wounds leads to a higher liberation is shown by the simile of the man who has at a crossroads a thoroughbred team and can guide them wherever he pleases.42 The man who does not know or who forgets this practice is dominated by forms, sounds, smells, tastes, contacts, and thoughts, instead of being their master.43

In another way this discipline can also he summed up by the word silentium: "to gird oneself with silence," silence in the technical and initiatory sense, in the sense of the Eleusinian σιωπή, Impressions are arrested at the periphery, at the limit of the senses. Between them and the "1" there is now a distance, a zone of "silence." We thus become endowed with that form of silence that consists of not pronouncing either the exterior word or the interior word, and this in turn implies not hearing, not seeing, not imagining. This theme has also been expressed in a popular form. It is, in fact, the deeper, hidden significance of the well-known statu­ette of the three sacred monkeys of Benares, one with the ears closed, one with the mouth closed, and one with the eyes closed: speak not, hear not, see not. And we may here also recall the curious hermetical formula: "Who has cars, let him open them tin the sense of a close watch on every impression], who has a mouth, let him


  1. Dīgha. 2,64.

  2. Samyutt., 35.190; cf. 202.

  3. Ibid., 22.85.

  4. Ibid. 35.198.

  5. [hid., 35.202,

140

keep it shut [in the sense of the aforesaid silence, of calm. intangible 'neutrality']."

It is thus that the conditions for further liberation and then for awakening the extrasamsāric principle are consolidated. We shall see that development in this sense is directly continued in the four jhānas.

As the natural counterpart of the watch on the doors of the senses, a world of disintoxication is carried out within the zone that is now isolated, in order to eliminate or reduce those internal smoldering embers of agitation and self-identification that may be made to burst into life by external contacts. This is what is known as the removal of the five nīvarana, a term that means a "dross," a "hindrance," or an "impediment." The five nīvarana are: desire (kāmacchanda); hate or anger (vyāpāda); slothful idle­ness (thīna-middha); pride and impatience (uddhacca- kukkucca); doubtful uncertainty (vicikicchā). The action of these five hindrances is clearly indicated by the following similes: it is like trying to look at one's reflection in water wherein all kinds of colors are mixed (desire), or in boiling water (hate and anger), or in water full of mud and moss (slothful idleness), or in water agitated by the wind (pride and impatience), or finally, in dark and murky water (doubt).' Removal is effected by direct action of the mind on the mind, together with accurate and calm self-examination. The discipline is described in the texts in the following manner. The ascetic finds a solitary place and begins to meditate. A well-known yoga position is counseled: sit with legs crossed and body straight upright. This traditional Indo-Aryan position is, however, only suitable if one is so accustomed to it that it is quite natural and requires no special effort and does not produce fatigue. In general, the position recommended for this, as for other con­templations, must be one of equilibrium, which does not have to be changed; it must have a kind of symbolical meaning of self-awareness and it must not demand efforts that would distract the mind. This is the formula for the meditation: "The ascetic has given up worldly craving and now rests with his mind free from craving, he purifies his mind of craving. He has given up hate and now rests with his mind free from hate, he purifies his mind of hate. He has given up inertia and accidie; lover of the light, clearly conscious, he purifies his mind of inertia and accidie. He has given up pride and rest­lessness, with his mind inwardly tranquil he purifies his mind of pride and restlessness. He has given up wavering, he has crossed over from doubtful uncertainty; he has no doubts about what is bene-ficial, he purifies his mind of wavering."45 It is fundamen­tally a more advanced development of the states already induced by sīla or "right con-duct." The aim here is obviously to bring us to a deeper zone by means of the strength­ened power of internal vision that we have gained through the preceding disciplines. It is a matter of attacking, to some degree, the sankhara, that is to say, the innate and



  1. Angutt., 5.193.

  2. Digha, 2.68-74: Angutt., 1.2.

141

congenital tendencies that come. in part, from the extra-individual heredity that we have assumed.

Here, too, the purity achieved at certain moments comes to be developed until it has almost attained a state of permanency. This is how we must understand what is known as the "threefold watch": "by day, walking and sitting, turn the mind away from disturbing things; in the first watch of the night, walking and sitting, turn the mind away from disturbing things; in the middle watch of the night, lie down on the right side, like the lion, one foot on the other, bringing to mind the hour of waking; in the last watch of the night, after arising, walking or sitting. turn the mind away from disturbing things."46 This is a kind of continuous examination of consciousness. The yama, the watches of the night that are recognized in this discipline consist, accord­ing to the Buddhist tradition, of four hours each; the first runs from six until ten in the evening, the second from ten until two in the morning, the third from two to six in the morning. Thus, strictly speaking, the period of true sleep or of the state that in the common man would correspond to sleep (cf, p. 181) is restricted to four hours only, from ten in the evening until two in the morning. In this we must not see an "ascetic" discipline in the Western sense of mortification: on the contrary, it is natural that in advancing along the road of illumination the need for sleep is considerably reduced, and this reduction produces no ill effect. Here, too, a unilateral "authoritarian" inter­vention would only serve to create states of fatigue and inattention unfavorable for spiritual life by day.

With attentive care of the "wounds" and with action taken against the hindrances or impediments, the zone of "silence" is strengthened, and a gradual interior in-crease of the extrasamsāric quality takes place therein; this increase should he aided by illuminated effort and it is related to the aforesaid "seven awakenings"-bojjhanga. These "awakenings" are the positive counterpart of the cathartic or prophylactic action, that is to say, they are a "defence against intoxication produced by action." The canonical formula is: "[The ascetic] rightly causes the awakening of mindful­ness derived from detachment, derived from dispassion, derived from cessation [of the flux], ending in renunciation, he causes the awakening of investigation-of in-flexible energy-of enthusiasm-of calm-of concentration-of equanimity, of these awakenings derived from detachment, derived from dispassion, derived from cessa­tion, ending in renunciation."47 Various interpretations of the place of these awaken­ings in the whole development are, nevertheless, possible. Their sense as a whole, indeed, reflects that of the four jhānas, of the contemplation that is to be performed in complete detachment from external experience. Here, however, we may under-

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