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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
fall 2006| 42 |buddhadharma Degrees of Seeing If you think you’re seeing things as they really are, think again, says Ajahn Brahm. Unless you’ve had the deep experience of letting go known as the jhana states, there is only a myriad of illusions. AjAhn BrAhm (Born Peter Betts in London, engLAnd) is A monk in the LineAge of AjAhn ChAh. he heLPed found the BodhinyAnA monAstery neAr Perth, AustrALiA, where he CurrentLy resides As ABBot. he is the Author of mindfuLness, BLiss, And Beyond: A meditAtor’s hAndBook And who ordered this truCkLoAd of dung? Meditation is the way of letting go. First you let go of all perceptions of time to enter the timeless present moment. Then you let go of inner speech to rest peacefully in silent awareness. Next, you let go of most of your five senses’ activity, just keeping awareness of your breath. Then you let go of your breath and watch it disappear. At this stage, you can no longer see, hear, smell, taste, or feel touch. It appears that your body has vanished, and in its place you are mindful of a beautiful light, the nimitta. The nimitta is a reflec- tion of the citta (the mind), seen through the sixth sense. Then you let go of all controlling to merge into the light and enter the bliss of the jhana world. Thus, jhanas are what happen automatically when you really let go; they are described as the deep stages of letting go. The Buddha clearly and repeatedly stated that full enlightenment could not be attained without the experience of a jhana. Yet today, some teachers claim that such a degree of letting go is unneces- sary. They often cite the Buddha’s well-known, brief teaching to Bahiya, as recorded in the Udana (Ud 1.10). Bahiya was not a monk. The sutta does not record him giving dana, or taking refuge in the triple gem, or keeping any precepts. Moreover, the sutta has no mention at all of Bahiya ever meditating, let alone reaching a jhana. Yet, after receiving a very brief teaching from the Buddha, Bahiya became fully enlightened – an arahant – within seconds! This episode is very well known in Buddhist circles, because it seems to make enlightenment so easy. It appears that you don’t need to be a monk, that you can be miserly and not give dana, that you’re not required to take refuge and precepts are unnecessary – even meditating can be avoided! What a relief! All you need is intelligence, and everyone thinks they are intelligent. (You think you are intelligent, don’t you?) This makes Bahi- ya’s teaching both attractive and notorious.