Friday, September 17, 2010

Nothing to Cling To

Dharma teacher Rodney Smith once told the story of meeting a Tibetan monk in at Ajahn Buddhadhasa's monastery in Southeast Asia. At the time, Rodney was himself a monk at the monastery, and he queried the Tibetan visitor about what kind of practice he employed. The Tibetan monk began to tell Rodney about all of his various practices and observances. The monk told about his devotional practices for a whole pantheon of different deities and imagery meditations using tankhas. There were complex mantra practices given to him by his guru, for whom he had extreme devotion. According to Rodney, "He probably talked an hour non-stop. I was just amazed. And I have to say, I was quite envious of him and all the things I could do. Then he asked me about my practices, and because I couldn't think fast enough and come up with anything more exciting I said, 'Well, I just try to see things as they are'. He was not impressed."

We cannot comment upon the Tibetan monks practice, because we do not know his experience of it. But Rodney now says that he is very proud of that phrase, "I just try to see things as they are." As he puts it, "There are not a lot of trappings [in the practice of vipassana]. There are not a lot of inducements or activity. And as I began to understand the mind more clearly, I began to understand how it is that need for activity is really a need for self-perpetuation. And this practice doesn't hold a lot of that."

When we practice vipassana meditation, we are left with nothing to cling to. We can't cling to the feeling of the breath. We can't cling to any experience that arises because it will change or go away. We cannot hold onto the pleasant; we cannot push away the unpleasant. All we are left with is to see things as they are.


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