using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 34 |buddhadharma What I saw reflected a dilemma inherent in the models themselves. The model of intensive medi- tation practice is that you seek to have a certain profound experience – stream-entry, a taste of nir- vana – and the idea is that it transforms you for- ever, and indeed there is some basis for this in the Buddhist texts. In this model (I’m not going to say whether it’s true or not, I’ll leave that to your own experience), people were taught that they could have a profound opening to nirvana, be assured of beautiful rebirths, and then feel like they were basically saved and would never need to do retreat practice again, or at least not very much. U Pandita Sayadaw was an example of this belief. After very deep training, he became a skill- ful teacher in terms of samadhi and the higher realms of practice. When Mahasi Sayadaw died, U Pandita was the dharma successor and next abbot of Mahasi’s monastery. However, there were power struggles in that monastery and U Pandita had to leave. After this loss, he went on retreat again for some deep meditation training. I’m told it was the first time he’d been on retreat in thirty-five years. In Mahasi’s model, enlightenment – or at least stream-entry, the first taste of nirvana – comes in the form of a cessation of experience, arising out of the deepest state of concentration and atten- tion, when the body and mind are dissolved, the experience of the ordinary senses ceases, and we rest in perfect equanimity. We open into that which is unconditioned, timeless, and liberating: nirvana. Like Zen satori, this moment brings a whole new way of knowing. But there are a lot of questions around this kind of moment. Sometimes it seems to have enormously transformative effects on people. Other times people have this moment of experience and aren’t really changed by it at all. Sometimes they’re not even sure what hap- pened. Using this method of practicing, perhaps three percent of the people who went to Mahasi’s monastery would have had such a stream-entry experience. If you have a thousand people practic- ing at a given time, that means thirty people would have stream-entry experiences and maybe another hundred would be deep in the progress of insight. A lot of people have really cool experiences, but there are the other 870 who aren’t anywhere near that level. Even so, retreats are amazing. I had fantastic experiences and I learned a great deal from those intensive retreats. The insights and freedom you can touch are very beneficial. Of course when I came back to Ajahn Chah’s monastery, I told him with relish about all of the experiences I had. He just looked at me and smiled and said, “Good. Something else to let go of.” And that was his per- spective. He appreciated the experiences, but even if they were a taste of enlightenment, they were done. He was interested in whether I could embody them moment-by-moment, here and now. At Ajahn Chah’s monastery, his belief and teach- ing about nirvana and stream-entry were different. He spoke about nirvana as the “unconditioned.” He said at one point, “If you’ve been in this mon- astery for six months or a year and haven’t entered the stream, haven’t tasted the unconditioned, I don’t know what you’ve been doing. You haven’t been practicing correctly.” If you followed his teachings correctly, you became mindful of the con- stantly changing conditions of sight, sound, taste, smell, physical perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. Through mindfulness practice you began to experi- ence how conditioned the world is and how these conditions constantly change. To free ourselves, we need to quiet the mind through some mindfulness in meditation. Then, instead of identifying with the changing condi- tions, we learn to release them and turn toward consciousness itself, to rest in the knowing. Ajahn Chah called this pure awareness, “the original mind,” and resting in “the one who knows.” Similarly, Ajahn Jumnian talks about awareness as pure consciousness, amattadhamma – the death- less, the unborn. The senses and the world are always changing conditions, but that which knows is unconditioned. With practice, we discover the selflessness of experience; we shift identity. We can be in the midst of an experience, being upset or angry or caught by some problem, and then step back from it and rest in pure awareness. We let go; we release holding any thought or feeling as “I” The Buddha taught a host of skillful means to quiet the mind and open the heart and learn to let go, and they have developed into many traditions over the millennia. Yet people often latch on to one and misunderstand the others. Jack Kornfield (left) with Joseph Goldstein, 1976 SpIRItRoCKaRChIveSSpIRItRoCKaRChIveS