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A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa

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A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa (1913-2011) of the Thai Forest Tradition regarding the nature of his experience as an Arahat.

The selections are taken from a collection of his talks titled: Arahattamagga Arahattaphala - The Path to Arahatship.

When avijjã finally disintegrates [at the stage of the Arahant], being severed from the citta forever, total cessation is achieved. The citta is then free, vast and supremely empty, without limits, without bounds—totally expansive. Nothing encloses or obstructs it. All contradictions have been eliminated. When the citta knows, it knows only the truth; when it sees, it sees only the truth. This is true emptiness. - pg 63

Within the citta, it feels as though a powerful tremor shakes the entire universe. This crucial moment, when the citta breaks away from all forms of conventional reality, is one of indescribable wonder and magnificence. ... When the path is fully developed, the fruition of Arahantship is attained. Dhamma and citta have attained complete perfection. From that moment on, all problems cease. This is the nature of Nibbãna. - pg 60

When avijjã is extinguished, conditioned phenomena—which give rise to dukkha—are also extinguished. They have disappeared from the knowing nature of the citta. Conditioned phenomena, such as thoughts, which are an integral part of the khandhas, continue to function in their own sphere but they no longer cause dukkha. Uncorrupted by kilesas, they simply give form and direction to mental activity. Consciousness arises in the mind, purely and simply without producing suffering. ...All sense media and the sense contact that they condition are just naturally occurring phenomena that exist according to their own intrinsic characteristics. They have no negative effect whatsoever on the citta that has successfully completed its task...This is the total cessation of the entire mass of dukkha. - pg 62

As for [the five aggregates]  they are merely conditions, natural phenomena that spontaneously arise and cease without the ability to impact or contaminate the citta in anyway. The same applies to sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations: each has its own separate reality. Their existence no longer poses a problem as the citta is now free of the ignorance that caused it to make false assumptions about them. Now that the citta is fully aware of the truth, it knows the reality of its knowing presence as well as the reality of all natural phenomena within and without. With each having its own separate reality, the conflicts that used to arise between them no longer exist. All are free to go their separate ways. At this stage, the long-standing conflict between the kilesas and the citta is finally over. - pg 61

Once the citta [of the Arahant] has become so well cleansed that it is always bright and clear, then when we are in a quiet place, ...even though the citta has not ‘converged’ in samãdhi, the focal point of its awareness is so exceedingly delicate and refined as to be indescribable. This subtle awareness manifests as a radiance that extends forth in all directions around us. We are unconscious of sights, sounds, odors, tastes, and tactile sensations, despite the fact that the citta has not entered samãdhi. Instead, it is actually experiencing its own firm foundation, the very basis of the citta that has been well-cleansed to the point where a mesmerizing, majestic quality of knowing is its most prominent feature. Seeming to exist independent of the physical body, this kind of extremely refined awareness stands out exclusively within the citta. Due to the subtle and pronounced nature of the citta at this stage, its knowing nature completely predominates. No images or visions appear there at all. It is an awareness that stands out exclusively on its own. This is one aspect of the citta.

Another aspect is seen when this well-cleansed citta enters meditative calm, not thinking or imagining anything. Ceasing all activity, all movement, it simply rests for awhile. All thought and imagination within the citta come to a complete halt. ... Then, the citta’s essential knowing nature is all that remains. Except for this very refined awareness—an awareness that seems to blanket the entire cosmos—absolutely nothing else appears. For unlike a beam of light, whose range is limited, reaching either near or far depending on the strength of the light, the flow of the citta has no limits, no “near” or “far”. ... Distance is not a factor. To be precise, the citta is beyond the conditions of time and space, which allows it to blanket everything.

Far is like near, for concepts of space do not apply. All that appears is a very refined awareness suffusing everything throughout the entire universe. The whole world seems to be filled by this subtle quality of knowing, as though nothing else exists, though things still exist in the world as they always have. ...It cannot be expressed in the same way that conventional things in general can be, simply because it is not a conventional phenomenon. It is the sole province of those who have transcended all aspects of conventional reality, and thus realize within themselves that non-conventional nature.

Why do we speak of a “conventional” citta and an “absolutely pure” citta? Are they actually two different cittas? Not at all. It remains the same citta. When it is controlled by conventional realities, such as kilesas and ãsavas, that is one condition of the citta. But when the faculty of wisdom has scrubbed it clean until this condition has totally disintegrated, the true citta, the true Dhamma, the one that can stand the test, will not disintegrate and disappear along with it. Only the conditions of anicca, dukkha and anattã, which infiltrate the citta, actually disappear. No matter how subtle the kilesas may be, they are still conditioned by anicca, dukkha, and anattã, and therefore, must be conventional phenomena. Once these things have completely disintegrated, the true citta, the one that has transcended conventional reality, becomes fully apparent. This is called the citta’s Absolute Freedom, or the citta’s Absolute Purity. All connections continuing from the citta’s previous condition have been severed forever. Now utterly pure, the citta’s essential knowing nature remains alone on its own. - pg 102

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/11/15 8:54 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
thank you Chuck, fantastic stuff here
do you have any thoughts on the ideas presented by Ajahn Maha Boowa or would you prefer for his teachings to stand on their own?

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 2:21 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Daniel Leffler:
thank you Chuck, fantastic stuff here
do you have any thoughts on the ideas presented by Ajahn Maha Boowa or would you prefer for his teachings to stand on their own?

I have some thoughts as to how to approach them and those of others like Chogyam Trungpa, Bernedette Roberts, Ajahn Chah, etc. He is relating his experience as best he can. Language is the medium we have to use but it has many limitations. This experience arises only with the ending of conventional reality. Though conventional reality ‘the world’ ceases in an instant, there is a period of time - years usually, during which the experience deepens. This is sometimes expressed as a clearing of the body. It is, in my view, a slow dissolving away of residual fear. People choose different wording depending on which aspects are prominent for them or which they are trying to describe in a given talk. Words are only a pointer and so cannot be taken literally but rather one has to try to tune into the general flavor instead. Below are some other bits and pieces from other teachers - I think the flavor comes across even though the words differ.

Ajahn Dune Atulo (died 1983)
Actually, arahants don't need to know much. They simply have to develop their minds to be clear about the five aggregates and to penetrate dependent co-arising (paticca samuppada). That's when they can stop fabricating, stop searching, stop all motions of the mind. Right there is where everything ends. All that remains is pure, clean, bright — great emptiness, enormously empty.

Han Shan (16th Century Chinese Monk)
-When you think of a thing, you impart existence to it. Objects which cause desire to arise disappear when the mind’s eye closes to them. They blend into the scenery.

It is the same with emotions. Hopes, fears, judgments of right and wrong, and feelings of pleasure or misery also vanish when the mind remains uninvolved in the worldly events that occasioned them. When uncluttered by worldly refuse, the empty mind can hold infinite space. Peace pervades its purity, heaven gleams, and the harmony of the spheres resonates throughout.

- The clearer the body, the brighter one’s Buddha Nature shines. In the beginning, we still need the body. It’s like a lamp. The Buddha Nature is this flame. But we may still be conscious of shadows. As we progress we feel that the body is the universe itself and that our Buddha Self shines throughout it like the sun.

- The mind expands, into the universe; the body shrinks to mouse-like size. To be enlightened is to appreciate the dynamics of the Dharma.

When the mind soars into boundless space, the body remains confined to earthly habitats. It is usually found scurrying around in the dark.

Buddha
There is an island, an island which you cannot go beyond. It is a place of nothingness, a place of non-possession and of nonattachment. It is the total end of death and decay, and this is why I call it Nibbæna.

Ajahn Amaro
The Buddha talks about the mind of the arahant as “consciousness which is unmanifest, signless, infinite, and radiant in all directions.” The Pali words are viññaμn|am| (consciousness); aniddassanam| (empty, invisible or signless, non-manifestative); anantam| (limitless, unconfined, infinite); and sabbato pabham (radiant in all directions, accessible from all sides).

Upasika Kee Nanayon (died 1979) A lay woman teacher that became very well known. Not technically in the Thai Forest Tradition but close enough - (she lived in the Thai Forest)

To know the disbanding of consciousness pure and simple is to know the disbanding of everything. It's like opening up the entire world, or stripping off the entire world and throwing it away.

When you can strip it away, throw it off, and let it go, there's nothing but emptiness, an emptiness that's bright and clear, with no sense of the world at all. The words "world" and "five aggregates" are simply conventions to help us see how there's change.

And as to whether this is something worth aspiring to, I leave it up to you to decide.

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/13/15 4:51 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.


Ajahn Amaro
The Buddha talks about the mind of the arahant as “consciousness which is unmanifest, signless, infinite, and radiant in all directions.” The Pali words are viññaμn|am| (consciousness); aniddassanam| (empty, invisible or signless, non-manifestative); anantam| (limitless, unconfined, infinite); and sabbato pabham (radiant in all directions, accessible from all sides).



This idea of Ajahn Amaro has no basis in the scriptures since when the Buddha allegedly spoke these words he was not necessarily referring to the mind of an arahant. In the relevent suttas (DN 11 and MN 49) the relevent audience are Brahma gods thus the Buddha would not necessarily preach the path to arahantship to such highly deluded Brahma gods as found in these suttas. 

Further, these two suttas are anti-Brahma propaganda thus it is unlikely they were ever actually spoken by the Buddha but most likely later additions to the texts.

In MN 43, it was made clear that the 'signless' or 'themeless' liberation of mind not the foremost thus is not the mind of the arahant. emoticon

Now, to the extent that there is theme-less awareness-release, the unprovoked awareness-release is declared the foremost. And this unprovoked awareness-release is empty of passion, empty of aversion, empty of delusion.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.043.than.html

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/13/15 5:08 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.

Upasika Kee Nanayon (died 1979) A lay woman teacher that became very well known. Not technically in the Thai Forest Tradition but close enough - (she lived in the Thai Forest)

To know the disbanding of consciousness pure and simple is to know the disbanding of everything. It's like opening up the entire world, or stripping off the entire world and throwing it away.

When you can strip it away, throw it off, and let it go, there's nothing but emptiness, an emptiness that's bright and clear, with no sense of the world at all. The words "world" and "five aggregates" are simply conventions to help us see how there's change.



This sounds like some kind of samadhi state, similar to Amaro. For example, this perception of 'emptiness' is a 'perception' thus the aggregate of perception is functioning in the mind. I have never read in the Pali the aggregates referred to as "conventions".

Emptiness does not mean 'empty of the five aggregates'. Emptiness means the five aggregates are merely the aggregates, i.e., are empty of 'self'.

The life of an arahant is comprised of aggregates. For example, when they walk, the body aggregate functions, when they talk the sankhara aggregate functions.

While these aggregates are impermanent, not-self & even illusory in their lack of abiding substance, they are not necessarily "conventions".

The Buddha was quite unambigous in declaring craving & selfing as the problem.

It took the Buddha many years to reach true awakening because the delusions related to unified non-labelling samadhi states are vast & beguiling.  emoticon

Just as, with an assemblage of parts
The word 'chariot' is used,
So, when the aggregates are present,
There's the convention 'a being.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.010.bodh.html

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/13/15 12:39 PM as a reply to Nicky.
Hey Nicky,

What you've posted here is what X X was referring to as the "Rigpa vs. Impermanent Sensations Debate." It might be worthwhile to read the ideas without trying to justify them in the suttas - these are just very content and happy people explaining their situation as best they can using the religious texts they "grew up" with. There is certainly a way to argue from both points of view using the suttas, but that has already been done quite a lot and I think a lot of people are exhausted by it. I hope this isn't offensive. I do appreciate your knowledge of the suttas and what you have to say about these things. emoticon

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/16/15 4:10 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Hey Nicky,

 emoticon

As I posted, if an experience can be described, then the aggregrates are operating in that experience.

I also suggest to abandon scriptures & try to appeal to common sense. emoticon

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 12:58 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Can not thank you enough for bringing this to my attention at this moment.


http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Maha_Boowa_The_Path_to_Arahantship.pdf


Psi

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 5:25 AM as a reply to Psi.
This is good stuff Chuck. Ultimately, I think the poetry/terminology of post awakening is just hard to describe. It it simply mind? Is it simply experience? Is it simply mystery? Is it simply things as they are? Does something transcend? Is it all immenance? All of those have a premise built into them, so aren't quite right... but out of compassion, we need to say something.  

We'll see how this thread goes. I'm kinda anticipating the kind of "Rigpa vs. Imperminant Sensations" debates of the old DhO. Ah, good times. emoticon

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 2:28 PM as a reply to x x.
x x:
We'll see how this thread goes. I'm kinda anticipating the kind of "Rigpa vs. Imperminant Sensations" debates of the old DhO. Ah, good times. emoticon

My time is very limited these days so probably no big debates - at least from my side of things. Having decided to once again come out of the closet - I will be speaking much more openly about my own experience and those of others I relate to if anyone is interested. I will leave it to the reader to make their own decision. It's been six years now since the world dissappeared on me and I am in a much more open space from which to speak about these things.

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 3:04 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
(note this was a response to the post two above this one, Chuck posted again before I hit publish)

Chuck, I can promise that I won't take a positional attitude in this conversation. I actually just said that to hopefully exorcise an unfortunate tendency that we could fall into, but I share your hope for no big debates. And I already am appreciating what you are saying about the clearing of the body, so I hope you keep sharing. I consider myself a new puppy and I know I still have a lot to learn/understand.

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/23/15 7:19 AM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
Can not thank you enough for bringing this to my attention at this moment.


http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Maha_Boowa_The_Path_to_Arahantship.pdf


Psi

Wow, cool stuff in here!

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 9:07 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Once the citta [of the Arahant] has become so well cleansed that it is always bright and clear, then when we are in a quiet place, ...even though the citta has not ‘converged’ in samãdhi, the focal point of its awareness is so exceedingly delicate and refined as to be indescribable. This subtle awareness manifests as a radiance that extends forth in all directions around us. We are unconscious of sights, sounds, odors, tastes, and tactile sensations, despite the fact that the citta has not entered samãdhi. Instead, it is actually experiencing its own firm foundation, the very basis of the citta that has been well-cleansed to the point where a mesmerizing, majestic quality of knowing is its most prominent feature. Seeming to exist independent of the physical body, this kind of extremely refined awareness stands out exclusively within the citta. Due to the subtle and pronounced nature of the citta at this stage, its knowing nature completely predominates. No images or visions appear there at all. It is an awareness that stands out exclusively on its own. This is one aspect of the citta.

The parts I put in in bold really stood out.  I'm wondering if he meant it's not that these types of sensations aren't happening, but the radiance & purity of an Arahant's citta is so strong, none of these other features/sense doors can overshadow citta. 

Edited to add: In the mind of someone who is not an Arahant (using myself as an example here), each of the sense doors seems more prominent at certain points, due to the mental act of focusing in on any one sense door at any given time.  It's like the mental wandering that is scanning the environment zooming into and reacting to the physical world.  So that focusing on certain sense doors makes it seem parsed out at different points.  I'm guessing the citta of an Arahant is so refined that this focus and additional mental impression after the fact doesn't happen anymore.



RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 9:58 AM as a reply to Steph S.
I think it is important that the paragraph includes the statement "this is one aspect of the citta".

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 10:05 AM as a reply to x x.
I agree.  What do you think is important about that statement?

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 1:21 PM as a reply to Steph S.
I think there is a tendency (by individuals or spiritual traditions) to say that one aspect of heart/mind (citta) is its "true" aspect or most important aspect but Ajahn Maha Boowa's multiple statements paint a really good portrait of the different facets of citta. I find it really refreshing!

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 2:50 PM as a reply to x x.
x x:
I think there is a tendency (by individuals or spiritual traditions) to say that one aspect of heart/mind (citta) is its "true" aspect or most important aspect but Ajahn Maha Boowa's multiple statements paint a really good portrait of the different facets of citta. I find it really refreshing!

This is something I put together some time ago. It describes the different qualities that present themselves at this stage. Some focus on spaciousness and freedom, others ordinariness, others vividness and magicalness, and still others (Bernedette Roberts for example) emphasize nakedness and inescapable (I think this is because she wrote her books early on in her experience).

Qualities:
The best description of these qualities that I have come upon are in Reggie Rays book Secret of the Vajra World. In a section titled Some Aspects of Mahamudra Experience, Reggie quotes extensively from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche on the qualities of the Fruition Mahamudra:

Vividness: 'A pure, straight forward expression of the world of sight and smell and touchable objects as a self-existing mandala of experience...Things are seen precisely, beautifully, without any fear of launching into them'.

Ordinariness: 'One usually thinks of the spiritual journey as moving higher and higher, until we attain fulfillment that is extraordinary in the extreme, the highest of the high. However, [this is] the fulfillment of a journey downward, from our lofty ideas about the ultimate to the raw truth and reality of our lives, to the most basic, unadorned experience of what life is.'

Nakedness: The .. experience is also somewhat irritating, or even highly irritating,because of its sharpness and precision. The energies around you... are all very vivid and precise. They are all so naked and so much right in front of you, without any padding, without any walls between you and that. That nakedness is overwhelming.'

Inescapable: 'hen the world begins to become you and all these perceptions are yours and are very precise and very obviously right in front of you, you can't run away from it. … you really try to run away from these phenomena, they begin to mock you, laugh at you....You can't get away from it...You begin to feel you are just a live brain with no tissue around it, exposed on a winter morning to the cold air.”

Youthfulness: It is eternally youthful because there is no sense of repetition, no sense of wearing out of interest because of familiarity. Every experience is like a new, fresh experience.'

Great Bliss: 'You become the bliss rather than enjoying the bliss...We are talking about pleasure in the sense that everything can be included. There is a sense of reality involved in pleasure. There is a sense of truth in it. ..The bliss... is not so much great pleasure, but it is the experience of tremendous spaciousness, freedom from imprisonment, which comes from seeing through the duality of existence and realizing that the essence of truth, the essence of space, is available on this very spot.'

Communicative Power of Being: 'here is energy, intelligence, and direction in our most ordinary experience as humans. We begin to find messages coming through our experience,and these provide illumination, guidance, and help...erceptions, feelings, emotions arise in our experience. In the experience of Mahamudra, they are seen not as something already known but rather as fresh irruptions of reality, unprecedented and beyond the reach of our concepts and judgments. Each is a revelation, appearing at just that moment.'

Magic of What Is: 'Mahamudra reveals the natural order and rightness of reality at just this moment. It reveals the magic of what is. The magic of simplicity. ..When we look at things as they are on a very simple, ordinary level, we find that they are fantastically, obviously true, frighteningly true. Because of their quality of being true and obvious, things are sacred and worth respecting.'

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 3:14 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Edited to add: In the mind of someone who is not an Arahant (using myself as an example here), each of the sense doors seems more prominent at certain points, due to the mental act of focusing in on any one sense door at any given time.  It's like the mental wandering that is scanning the environment zooming into and reacting to the physical world.  So that focusing on certain sense doors makes it seem parsed out at different points.  I'm guessing the citta of an Arahant is so refined that this focus and additional mental impression after the fact doesn't happen anymore.



That’s a good description. I think instead of saying refined - released is better. Though there is a kind of gradual refinement - when the change takes place it is sudden - a cessation, collapse, or disappearance of that previous mode of consciousness.

The mind that is not liberated has this kind of jumpy consciousness. It gets pulled one way and then another by thoughts, sights, sounds, etc. We get sucked into things and this is the cause of stress. The mind that is free from that sees, hears, etc but phenomena lack graspability or thingness - hard to describe but the thingness or separateness of phenomena drops away. The jumpiness ceases because consciousness is no longer getting bound-up with anything. The power that our experience has over us comes from the sense we have of being a body in a big world with past and future and all that stuff. This is all thingness. It disappears.

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 7:46 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Cool, thanks, Chuck.  Makes sense from how I see it.

Also, above you said if anyone is interested you would post more about your experiences since six years ago.  If you're so inclined and when you have the time, yea, it would be much appreciated to see posts about your experiences or heck, any input on stuff leading up to that.

RE: A selection of quotes from Ajahn Maha Boowa
Answer
2/12/15 8:48 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck, I've always kind of gotten this from your posts, but I think we're kindred spirits - at least in terms of this meditation thing. emoticon  I'd be very interested to hear about your experiences as well.  The stuff you've posted on this thread really strikes home for me.