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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
spring 2007| 44 |buddhadharma likened to a bee flying toward a flower. the label encapsulates the whole experience. In children just beginning to speak, this process is very obvious and simplistic. they rejoice at being able to name an object – “Car! Car!” at their level of linguis- tic development, the word “car” simply points to the object. there’s not much thought around the word, since language itself, which allows us to think about an object, is not that developed yet. For adults, the word “car” conjures up a host of memories and desires. We are thinking about an object, which is known as proliferation (papañca). thinking and daydreaming serve to keep our attention off the presenting object and distract the mind. the buddha likened this thinking mind to a monkey that jumps from branch to branch. We have to rein the monkey in. shrinking thought down to a single word is the preliminary effort. at this stage the meditator has to keep pulling the attention out of wandering and into observing. that’s what training with a technique is all about: reconditioning consciousness to be present and attentive to what’s happening now. noting is an acknowledgement of what the body, heart, and mind are doing. For it to be effective, it has to be practiced with precision. For example, on waking from a fantasy, there is the first note: we recognize that we are arguing, plan- ning, or lusting. then there is further noting, which acknowledges what we are obsessing about. In the same way, if a sensation or feeling arises in the body, the first note is recognition, and the second and all subsequent notes are acknowledgements of what is really happening now. the attention is placed not on the word but on the experience: the feeling of a sensation, the feeling of an emotion. It is as though the intuitive intelligence sees through the word, experiencing the sensation or emotion directly. In this way conceptual thinking is brought into the service of intuitive intelligence, rather than continuing to obscure it. We tend to be confused about this original intuitive intelligence. the activities of our body, mind, and heart – sensations, thoughts, and emo- tions – make us think there is a “me.” this mis- taken identity, which the buddha referred to as the self, atta (atman in sanskrit), is the root of our problem. the buddha’s teaching of not-self, anatta (anatman), encourages us to develop the under- standing that anything we experience that arises and passes away cannot be a “me.” nor can it be possessed or made “mine.” recognizing that our experience is neither me nor mine allows our intui- tive intelligence to realize its own true nature. thought itself can be split into two categories, conceptualizing and image-making. For example, with our attention on the breath, as we practice noting, we have a concept of rising and falling and also a mental image of the abdomen. We do not try to destroy or obliterate the concept or the image. We just keep pointing our attention to the feeling of movement. as our attention to the sensation grows in strength, eventually it will take all the energy out of thinking until all that remains is the noting word. now we have reached the second stage of development, vicara. We are still noting, but instead of wandering off, our attention stays on the object. this second stage of developing right concentration is likened to a bee landing on a flower and gathering the pollen. If we continue to note, increasing our attention on the object and really feeling those sensations as they arise and pass away, all the energy will be drawn out of the thinking mind. It will stop. thinking is an attempt to categorize. We see what we experience in light of what has happened in the past. and what we have experienced in the past is filtered through the way we look at things now, our dispositions (sankhara). that is why conceptual thought will not allow us to see things anew. If we want to experience things as they are, conceptual thinking about those things must come to an end. When thinking stops, we are right there with what is happening. It is at that point that true vipassana consciousness, samma sati, right aware- ness, arises. our intuitive intelligence, pañña, free of the distortion of thought and image, can finally begin to understand and see things as they are (ñanadassana-yatha-bhutam). We don’t have to worry about when to stop the noting. once we have arrived at a high enough level of awareness and concentration, it will just stop. such moments of pure vipassana, known as khanika samadhi, are usually of very short dura- tion, but they have great potential for insight. With consistent practice, our experience eventu- ally lengthens into a moment-to-moment concen- trated awareness. Unlike absorption concentration (arambana samadhi), this state does not depend on When thinking stops, true vipassana consciousness, right awareness, arises. Our intuitive intelligence, free of the distortion of thought and image, can finally begin to understand and see things as they are.