The initial Renunciation and heroic striving -
(talk given on Pilgrimage in Bodhgaya)
The final and Complete Cessation of Suffering -
(talk given on Pilgrimage in Kusinara)
I am happy to now be able to share two more edited talks which were given at the Buddhist Holy Sites whilst on Pilgrimage in India last December. Both of these talks contain colourful and informative readings which are excerpts from suttas as well as rich commentarial texts contained in Bhikkhu Nyanamoli’s “Life of the Buddha.”
The first talk which was given in Bodhgaya covers the grand Renunciation of the Bodhisattva Prince as he leaves the palace, as well as his inspiring, utterly sincere and arduous striving for Enlightenment. In contrast the second talk covers the final chapter of the Enlightened Buddha’s life where he utters his last teaching and enters Maha-Parinibbana, thus demonstrating personally the profound fact that complete and utter cessation from every type of suffering is possible.
The Maha-Parinibbana is often miss-understood even by well-practiced Buddhists, yet the principle illustrated by the “parinibbana” is well worth understanding. It is important to consider that Nibbana is not extinction and to understand that the Lord Buddha did not teach a nihilistic doctrine. This means that when the body dies, the liberated mind must remain liberated. Considering deeply the meaning of final nibbana is in fact very profound and valuable, not so as to understand it intellectually, but rather for developing confidence in the true meaning of nibbana, as well as for learning to trust deeply in the future experience of this genuinely liberating goal... a liberation that even death cannot touch! So many beings cried when the Buddha’s body passed away, but wouldn’t it be more suitable to rejoice with this – the absolute consummation of Lord Buddha’s complete and utter Liberation?
For enlightened beings who have realised the “Unconditioned” and the “Deathless”… and who have uprooted the causes of future rebirth in any conditioned realm… what is the experience when the body dies?... Once greed, hatred and delusion are destroyed, what then remains?... Indeed what is a liberated mind?... As practitioners we might develop more confidence in and joy about “the goal” if we challenged the current limitations of our imagination with these very poignant questions. Of course it is impossible to really understand the subtlety of such a complete enlightened liberation intellectually. But on the heart level we can train ourselves to dis-believe our doubts and fears and train ourselves to trust in the minds true potential. For the fact that it is possible for all of us who practice well to experience an “Un-Dying, Unshakeable Peace” is truly most encouraging.
Let us all keep practicing so that we may come to realise this Unshakeable Peace.
My teachers have instructed me that to truly develop the insight that will lead to liberation it is necessary to consistently establish mindfulness based in the physical body and then to investigate the very nature of the body with a collected mind - by looking at the various parts which comprise it, and further separating these into elements. This is because a large part of our attachment is based upon perceiving this very body as a ‘Self’ and as ‘Ours,’ but when we have a really close look we will discover that no ‘Self’ can actually be found there. The contemporary Forest Tradition Masters of Thailand have demonstrated that when cultivated diligently, these practices truly can and do liberate minds.
This talk introduces the theme of body contemplation with a lot of care and kindness. That is because it is very important to investigate the truth of ‘Not-Self’ with a gentle yet determined attitude of one who, motivated by compassion, aspires to realise the truth. If we try to destroy the ‘self’ by wilfully negating it, or dissect the body in the minds eye with energy like a mad professor, we could wind up with even more problems than we started with! But when we come from an attitude of Loving-Kindness coupled with a sincere interest in understanding the truth… both Wisdom and Compassion will grow. We are able to relate to the conventions of the world skilfully, while noticing the deeper truth with ever deepening clarity. As my teacher Ajahn Anan has stressed repeatedly to me, the practice of metta supports the development of insight.
This half hour talk leads into a half hour Guided Meditation.
These practices do not uproot all ignorance and attachment overnight, we have to keep up with them over a long period of time. They do however begin to weaken our latent attachments, grasping and delusion. So whatever stage we are at in our practice, these kinds of meditations can be useful.
May we all grow in Mindfulness, Wisdom and Loving-Kindness.
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