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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
29 Spring 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly E nlightenment, liberation, depends on the recognition of the radical separateness of awareness—“the one who knows” as Ajahn Chah would phrase it—and the world of the five khandhas (Sanskrit: skandhas). Having said that, it’s also crucial to note that the phrase “the one who knows” (Pali: buddho) is a colloquialism that has different meanings in different contexts. It can be used at one end of the spec- trum to mean “that which cognizes an object,” and at the other end to mean supramundane wisdom. Most often it is used in simple concentration instructions, where the meditator separates awareness from the object and then focuses on the awareness. The separate awareness of full awakening is of a different order altogether. A comparable model that Ajahn Chah often used to illus- trate this area is that of the relationship of mindfulness (sati), clear comprehension (sampajañña), and wisdom (pañña) to each other. He would liken these three to the hand, the arm, and the body respectively: sati, like the hand, is simply that which picks things up, or cognizes them; sampajañña, like the arm that enables the hand to reach for the desired objects and move them around, refers to seeing an object in its context and how it relates to its surroundings; pañña, like the life source which is the body, is seeing things in terms of anicca– dukkha–anatta—uncertainty, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self. The hand and the arm have their functions, but without the body they are powerless. The key is training the heart to rest in these various dimensions of knowing, and not becoming entangled in the khandhas. The heart knowing the Dhamma of ultimate ease sees for sure that the khandhas are always stressful. The Dhamma stays as the Dhamma, the khandhas stay as the khandhas, that’s all. ~ Ajahn Mun, The Ballad of Liberation from the Five Khandhas (translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu) The relationship of this quality of awareness to the condi- tioned realm is embodied in Ajahn Chah’s analogy of oil and water, an image he used very often. This is the way it is. You detach. You let go. Whenever there is any feeling of clinging, we detach from it, because we know that that very feeling is just as it is. It didn’t come along espe- cially to annoy us. We might think that it did, but in truth it just is that way. If we start to think and consider it further, that, too, is just as it is. If we let go, then form is merely form, sound is merely sound, odour is merely odour, taste is merely taste, touch is merely touch and the heart is merely the heart. It’s similar to oil and water. If you put the two together in a bottle, they won’t mix because of the difference of their nature... Oil and water are different in the same way that a wise person and an ignorant person are different. The Buddha lived with form, sound, odor, taste, touch and thought. He was an arahant (Enlightened One), so he turned away from rather than toward these things. He turned away and detached little by little since he understood that the heart is just the heart and thought is just thought. He didn’t confuse and mix them together. The heart is just the heart; thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings. Let things be just as they are! Let form be just form, let sound be just sound, let thought be just thought. Why should we bother to attach to them? If we think and feel in this way, then there is detachment and separateness. Our thoughts and feelings will be on one side and our heart will be on the other. Just like oil and water—they are in the same bottle but they are separate. ~ Ajahn Chah, “The Training of the Heart” in Food for the Heart When we use such terms as “the one who knows,” it is important to understand that this is a colloquial usage. In no way is some kind of true self or super-entity implied—it’s merely a convenient figure of speech. If we start looking for “who” it is that is aware we rapidly end up in a tangle of self-view. When we speak or think about the quality of awareness, there is also a subtle danger of trying to cast it into the form of some kind of immaterial thing or process. The word “aware- ness” is an abstract noun, and we get so used to relating to ordinary objects through conceptualizing them that we allow the habit to overflow and we can end up conceiving aware- ness in the same way. The heart can be aware, but trying to make awareness an object, in the same way that we would a tree or a thought, is a frustrating process. Ajahn Chah warned against this, often saying: You’re riding on a horse and asking, “Where’s the horse?” ~ Ajahn Chah, in Venerable Father, by Paul Breiter fraNkgrIsdale