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Motivation and Results

A true dharma battleground

A true dharma battleground
6/17/13 12:24 PM
Inspiring stuff

Ajahn Maha Boowa:
From that point on, I really stepped up my efforts. The time I started sitting in meditation all night until dawn came from this point. I started to sit one night, focusing on in, focusing on in, and at first the mind had settled down because it was used to settling down. It settled down easily because it 'had a good foundation.' I kept focusing on in, and as long as no enormous pains arose, the meditation went quietly. But when I withdrew, a number of hours had passed, and a huge pain arose, to the point where I almost couldn't bear it. The mind that had been quiet was totally overturned. Its 'good foundation' had collapsed completely. All that was left was pain filling the body -- but the mind wasn't agitated. Strange!

The body was so pained that it was quivering all over. This was the beginning of the hand-to-hand combat in which I was to obtain an important approach -- when really severe pain arose unexpectedly that night. I hadn't yet made up my mind to sit until dawn, you know. I hadn't made any resolutions or anything at all. I was simply sitting in meditation as usual, as usual, but when the pain arose in full force: 'Eh? What's going on here? I'll have to tackle this feeling so as to see results tonight!' So I made a resolution in that very moment: 'Okay, if the time doesn't come to get up, I won't get up. I'll fight until the dawn of the new day. Tonight for once I'm going to investigate pain so as to understand it clearly and distinctly. If I don't understand it, then even if I die, let me die. Let me find out. So dig down!' This is when discernment really began to work in earnest.

I had never known, never imagined, never dreamed that discernment would become so sharp when it was at the end of its rope, when it was really cornered with no way out. Discernment really started spinning away. It went out digging, exploring, fighting, determined not to withdraw its troops in retreat. When I was at the end of my rope, discernment arose. This made me realize, 'We human beings aren't fated to be stupid forever. When we're at the end of our rope, we're sure to manage to find a way to help ourselves.' So it was then: When I was cornered, overwhelmed by severe pain, mindfulness and discernment probed into the pain.

When pain arises in full force like this, it fills the entire body. At first it started in hot flashes along the backs of my hands and feet, which wasn't much to speak of, but then when it really flared up into something big, the entire body was ablaze. All the bones, as they were connected, were fuel feeding the fire in every part of the body. It was as if the body were going to fall apart right then and there. The neck bones were going to come apart. Every bone was going to come apart from its connections. My head was going to fall off and hit the floor. When it's pained, everything is on a par throughout the body. You don't know where to hold it back enough so that you can breathe, because everywhere there's nothing but a mass of fire -- pain in full force.

When I couldn't find a safe spot in which to place the mind, mindfulness and discernment dug down into the pain, searching for the spot where the pain was greatest. Wherever the pain was greatest, mindfulness and discernment would investigate and explore right there by ferreting out the pain so as to see clearly, 'Where does this feeling come from? Who is pained?' When they asked each part of the body, each of them remained in keeping with its nature. The skin was skin, the flesh was flesh, the tendons were tendons, and so forth. They had been that way from the day of birth, but they hadn't been painful all along from the day of birth in the same way that they had been flesh and skin from the day of birth. 'The pain has been arising and vanishing at intervals. It hasn't been lasting like these parts of the body.'

I focused on down. 'Each part of the body that's a physical form is a reality. Whatever is a reality stays that way. Right now where is the feeling arising? If we say that all these things are painful, why is there one point where it's really severe?' So I separated things out. At this point, mindfulness and discernment couldn't slip away anywhere else. They had to run along the areas that hurt, whirling around themselves, separating the feeling from the body, observing the body, observing the feeling, and observing the mind: These three are the important principles.

The mind seemed comfortable. No matter how much pain was arising, the mind wasn't writhing or suffering or anything. But the pain in the body was clearly very strong. The nature of pain and of whatever defilements we have is that they join together. Otherwise the mind won't be troubled or affected by the physical pain that's really severe at that moment. So discernment kept digging down until the body, the feeling, and the mind were all clear, each in line with its individual truth.

The mind was what labeled the feeling as being this or that: This I could see clearly. As soon as this was really clear in this way, the feeling disappeared in a flash. At that moment, the body was simply the body in line with its reality. The feeling was simply a feeling and it disappeared in a flash into the mind. It didn't go anywhere else. As soon as the feeling disappeared into the mind, the mind knew that the pain had vanished. The pain had vanished as if it had been snapped off and thrown away.

In addition, the body disappeared from my sense of awareness. At that moment, the body didn't exist in my awareness at all. All that was left was simple awareness, because there was only one thing -- awareness -- and it was simply aware. That's all. The mind was so refined that you could hardly describe it. It simply knew, because it was extremely delicate and refined within itself. The body had completely disappeared. Feelings had disappeared. No physical feelings were left at all. The body sitting right there in meditation had disappeared from my awareness.

All that was left was 'simple knowingness,' without any thoughts being fashioned about this or that. At that point, the mind wasn't forming any thoughts at all. When it doesn't form thoughts, we say that nothing at all makes the slightest move. The mind is fixed -- firmly fixed in its own solitude. It's a mind in its simple form, on the level of a mind centered in stillness -- but mind you, this doesn't mean that there was no unawareness.

Unawareness had infiltrated right there, because the mind hadn't withdrawn from unawareness. The mind and unawareness were quiet together because unawareness didn't get out to work. When discernment has it surrounded, unawareness shrinks in and hides out, quiet in the heart, like the sediment in the bottom of a water jar.

At that point, I began to feel amazed. There was no pain left. The body had disappeared. Only one thing hadn't disappeared: an awareness so refined I couldn't describe it. It simply appeared there. You couldn't say anything else about it. The thing that simply appeared there: That was the great marvel at that moment. There was no motion in the heart, no rippling, nothing of anything at all. It stayed fixed and still like that until enough time had elapsed and then it moved. The mind began to withdraw and rippled -- blip -- and then was quiet.

This rippling happens on its own, you know. We can't intend it. If we intend it, the mind withdraws. What happens is that the mind has had enough, of its own accord. When it ripples in a 'blip' like this, it's aware of the fact. As soon as the 'blip' appears, it vanishes. After a moment it ripples -- blip -- again, and disappears in the same instant. Then the rippling gradually becomes more and more frequent.

When the mind withdraws after having fully settled down to its foundation, it doesn't withdraw all at once. I could clearly see this at that moment. The mind rippled slightly: A sankhara formed in a 'blip' and then disappeared before it had amounted to anything at all. It rippled -- blip -- and disappeared right then and there. After a moment it rippled -- blip -- again. Gradually it became more and more frequent until finally I came back to ordinary consciousness, to the ordinary level of the mind. I was aware of the body, but the pain was still gone. When the mind came back out, there was still no pain. It was still quiet until time came for the pain to reappear.

This is where I got my standard and my certainty. I realized that I had arrived at a basic principle in contending with pain: 'So this is how it is. Pain is actually something separate. The body is separate. The mind is separate, but because of one thing -- delusion -- all three converge into one, and the whole mind becomes delusion, the whole mind is the one deluded. Even though pain may simply arise in line with its own nature, if we grab hold of it to burn ourselves, it's hot -- because our labeling makes it hot.'

After a fair while, the pain returned, so I had to tackle it again, without retreating. I had to dig on down, exploring again as I had explored before, but this time I couldn't use the tactics I had used in investigating and remedying the pain the last time around. I needed fresh tactics, newly devised by mindfulness and discernment so as to keep up with events. It was pain just the same, but the tactics simply had to be pertinent to the moment. I couldn't remedy matters by holding to the old tactics I had used to investigate and know in the past. They had to be fresh, hot tactics devised in the present to cure the present. The mind then settled down firmly in stillness as it had done before.

In that first night, the mind settled down three times, but I had to go through three bouts of hand-to-hand combat. After the third time, dawn came -- the end of the final showdown using reason with real mindfulness and discernment. The mind was audacious, exultant, and had no fear of death. 'However great the pain may be, that's its own ordinary business. As long as we don't enter in and load ourselves down with it, pain has no significance in the heart.' The mind knew clearly that the body has no significance in terms of itself, in terms of the feeling, or in terms of us -- unless the mind gives it a significance and then gathers in the suffering to burn itself. There's nothing else that can come in and make the mind suffer.

Getting up that morning, I felt audacious in an extraordinary way. I wanted to tell Venerable Acariya Mun of my knowledge and capabilities. This was because I felt daring in a way hard to describe. How was it that things could be so marvelous like this in a way I had never encountered before? Ever since I had begun meditating, nothing like this had ever happened. The mind had completely cut off all connection with any objects and had gathered within itself with real courage. It had gathered by investigating all around itself, which was why it had calmed itself inwardly like a thoroughbred. When it withdrew, it was still full of courage, with no fear of death at all, owing to its conviction that, 'I investigated like this and this when pain arose. The next time it comes, I won't fear it because it's the same old pain. It's pain with the same old face. The body is the same old body. Discernment is the same old discernment we've used before.' For this reason, the heart felt no fear of death -- so much so that it felt all sorts of things hard to describe. To put it in worldly terms, it was like defying someone right to his face, with no fear of pain or death.

See? When the mind is bold, it's bold all the way. Daring all the way. It fights without retreating. 'Okay, I'll take you on.' To put it simply and frankly, that's just how it feels. When the time comes to die, 'Okay, I'll take you on.' The mind doesn't retreat. 'When the time comes to die, where will death find any pain for us greater than this? There's no such thing. The only pain is the pain in the khandhas. It can be great or small, but we know it here in the khandhas. No matter how much or how heavy the pain may be, it can't outstrip our knowledge and capabilities. It can't outstrip our mindfulness and discernment. Mindfulness and discernment are capable of keeping track of it all, as they have already known and removed it in the past.' This is what made me feel really bold.