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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
THANISSARO BHIKKHU 81 of stress arising and passing away. Because these processes have no further value in terms of “world” or “self,” “existence” or not, you can let them all go. And in letting them go, the mind lets go of everything that’s fabricated and caused, that arises and passes away. That’s how it gains release. The Brahmanimantanika Sutta describes this state of release as “consciousness without surface,” a consciousness that, unlike ordinary consciousness, is not experienced through the six senses. In other words, it’s not engaged in any world, in any sense of the term. The Kevatta Sutta adds that this consciousness is free from name and form, which means that—unlike, say, the infinitude of consciousness experienced in formless states of concentration—it’s not involved in any sort of fabrication. In both of these discourses, this conscious- ness is presented as something that even the devas in the highest heavenly worlds don’t know. After all, they’re still in their worlds, whereas this consciousness is where no world finds a footing. It’s the world’s cessation. In the Atthi Raga Sutta, the image used to illustrate this con- sciousness is of a light beam that doesn’t land on any object. Though bright in and of itself, it doesn’t participate in the world in any way, and so can’t be detected as existing, not existing, both, or neither. Its release is that total. This is the goal of the Buddha’s teachings on the world: a state of mind freed from any world of any kind. In going beyond the world, you find that the Buddha’s provisional worldviews were true, as far as they went, but that their genuine worth lies in how they allow the mind to go further than they do. As the Buddha’s life story shows, people who have gone beyond worlds in this way can—as long as the body continues to live—still offer guidance and help to those still trapped in worlds, whether those worlds are of a natural or supernatural sort. This is why the Buddha was a teacher of human beings as well as devas: he saw—and saw through—their worlds as well as ours.