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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
42 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 but often overlook. There are the very obvious changes in nature: climate change, daily weather patterns, evolution, and extinction of species. On the collective level, there are large-scale changes in society: the rise and fall of civilizations and cultures. On the personal level, people are born, and they die. Walking through the woods in New England, we often come across miles of stone walls and old stone foundations, with trees now growing up through them. What stories took place here? What lives as vivid as our own? What is left? We see the changing experience of our relationships or work, and most intimately, of our bodies and minds. Given all these examples of change that are before us all the time, it is striking that we often still find the changes in our lives surprising. Somehow we count on things staying a certain way, or at least, if they are going to change, changing to our liking. When we pay careful attention, we see that everything is disappearing and new things are arising not only each day or hour but in every moment. When we leave our house, or simply walk from one room to another, can we notice this flow of changing experience—the flow of visual forms as we move, different sounds, changing sensations in the body, fleeting thoughts of images? What happens to each of these expe- riences? Do they last? The truth of their chang- ing nature is so ordinary that we have mostly stopped noticing it at all. As mindfulness and concentration get stron- ger, we more clearly and deeply see imperma- nence on microscopic levels. We see for ourselves that what appears solid and stable is really insub- stantial and in constant flux. The perception of change becomes so rapid that in the very moment of noticing an object, it’s already disappearing. At this point, people sometimes feel that their mindfulness is weak because things are not last- ing long enough for our attention to land on them. But this is simply a refinement of the per- ception of change. We really begin to see that, on one level, there’s nothing much there. As a meditation exercise, particularly in sit- ting, it is sometimes helpful to notice what aspect of impermanence is most predominant. Are we seeing new things arise even before the last one has ended? Are we seeing the endings more clearly and not seeing the moment of an object arising? Or do we see both the arising and passing away of objects equally? It’s not that any one of these perspectives is the right one. In the course of our practice, sometimes it is one way, sometimes another. Noticing how we perceive change is simply another way to refine our attention. In one discourse, the Buddha makes the dis- tinction between the establishment of mindful- ness, which is the simple awareness of what is present, and the development of the establish- ment of mindfulness. In this development stage, the awareness of impermanence becomes even more predominant than the object itself. It is the beginning of movement from mindfulness of content to mindfulness of process. It is this stage of satipatthana that leads to wisdom and awakening, because if any aspect of experience is still seen as permanent, then opening to the unconditioned, nibbana, is impossible. This understanding is not limited to monks or nuns. Many laypeople, from the Buddha’s time up until the present, have experienced profound stages of enlightenment. The Buddha addresses this possibility in a conversation with the lay dis- ciple Mahanama: Here, Mahanama, a lay follower is wise, pos- sessing wisdom directed to arising and passing away, which is noble, and penetrative, leading to the complete destruction of suffering. In that way a lay follower is accomplished in wisdom. — The Connected Discourses of the Buddha 55:37, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi Bare Knowing and the Continuity of Mindfulness The next line of the refrain says, “Mindfulness that ‘there is a body’ is established in one to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and con- tinuous mindfulness.” As Analayo notes, bare knowledge here means observing objectively without getting lost in associations and reactions. It’s the simple and direct knowing of what’s pres- ent without making up stories about experience. This “seeing clearly” is, in fact, the meaning of the Pali word vipassana, usually translated as “insight meditation.” We often miss the simplicity of bare knowl- edge because we look through it—or over it—for something special, or we look forward in expec- tation and miss what is right in front of us. There (Opposite) Buddha – Profile II WWW.BRIANENGLISHART.COM