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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
79 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly kimscafuro If we keep in mind that Gotama’s project as a teacher was to show us a way to overcome dukkha, existential unease, then sabba becomes the answer to one of the most crucial questions we can ask ourselves: where do I begin the project of knowing—directly, immediately, for myself—the source of my dissatisfaction? To answer, as Gotama does, “by recog- nizing sabba,” is to claim that the knowledge we require for gaining precious insight into our unhappiness is literally right in front of our noses (and eyes, and ears, and so on). The knowledge we require is, namely, full and present in the very act of perception. In Gotama’s teaching, an act of perception involves (i) the givenness of the world (forms, sounds, scents, etc.); (ii) sensory reception (the eye, the ear, etc.); and (iii) response (passion, craving, grasping/dispassion, equanimity, unbinding, etc.). (For this latter aspect, you can further explore Samyuttani- kaya, Sabbavagga 5.) “The all,” sabba, is Gotama’s way of referring to this starkest, barest, most stripped-down calcu- lus of human being: phenomena and reception plus response equal lived experience. It is important to make clear that sabba is the sum total of our actual, rather than imagined, fantasized, or otherwise deluded, reality. To “declare another all,” as the Buddha’s imaginary interlocutor does, is “a groundless assertion” because it runs counter to the way things are. Perhaps the Bud- dha had in mind the theists of his day, who insisted that there exists a reality that stands outside the all, i.e. God (Brahma). Or perhaps he just had the average person in mind, who per- sistently mistakes felt qualities for transcendent realities (love, beauty, etc.). Asked to examine what is actually present in experience when “God” or “love” is manifest to them, careful people will have to point to some admixture of sabba, such as bodily sensations and thoughts. In the Buddha’s schema of sabba, “God” is a concept that gives rise to physical sensa- tions (feelings, emotions) that give rise to further thoughts that become forms of life, and so on and on. Sabba is Gotama’s periodic table of elements. In its first instance, a phenomenon—something, everything, anything you can name or imagine—is one of the following: a vis- ible form, a sound, a scent, a taste, a bodily sensation, or a thought. The Buddha says that a person making a contrary assertion “when asked about it, would not be able to explain,” and will thus “meet with distress.” The person’s incoherency and distress result from a serious confusion about the basic categories of being. Gotama’s project is to help us recognize a phenomenon at its most basic level—to get clear about how and what things are before our proclivity toward delusion works its magic. When we do so, an ease born of clarity settles in, and you know what it means to “put down the burden” of the super- fluous. This release follows naturally from “directly knowing and fully recognizing sabba.” Zafu and zabuton developed by monastics at Zen Mountain Monastery with physicians, physiotherapists, and kinesiologists The most comfortable cushion you will ever use Traditional design Modern orthopedic technology Stabilizing buckwheat hull base Viscoelastic foam top layer Molds to the shape of your body Encourages correct alignment Handcrafted cushions in 3 sizes Please call us for assistance The Monastery Store 845-688-7993 www.dharma.net/monstore dharma communications *US Patent Pending the mountain seat