2022-02-25 Satipaṭṭhāna (37) Reactive LIfe, Emergent Life
3:58PM Feb 25, 2022
Continuing with the topic of the second foundation of mindfulness, I am repeating a little bit of what I said in the meditation. In the four foundations of mindfulness, when we get to the second foundation, the practice – the activity – being taught is that of knowing, pajānāti.
How to know is described as just knowing the simplicity of the experience itself. If there is pleasure, know it as pleasure. If there is pain – unpleasantness – know it as unpleasantness. If there is neither, know it that way. We will see, as we go through the other foundations, it is that simple. Just know whatever is arising. Know what is there.
And know it for itself, without adding anything to it – the judgments or the preferences we might have. Just to know. And this knowing is a very significant act. Just to know. Different people know in different ways. Some people are more cognitive. Some people are more somatic, knowing and experiencing.
But whatever way you have of knowing that allows each thing to be itself, without agendas, preferences, and commentary. Just to know, as if you are allowing a flower in your garden just to grow and be there. Or you allow a tree to just be there. Just look at the tree. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. But you do not say, "Well, that branch is too crooked." It is just a tree, and you allow it to be a tree.
So it is the same thing with these natural phenomena, whatever happens to us inside. Just see it as that at the moment. But the knowing is not only for the purposes of knowing something. The purpose of knowing is also to discover a place in the mind that can be that simple.
Sometimes, we are accustomed, almost habitually, to be reactive to the inputs, the thoughts, to whatever is going on, to being for or against. Searching for how to be safe in every situation. Searching for what can we get here, and how can it benefit us. Or how does this relate to me, myself, and mine, and my self concept. There is a constant searching, wanting, getting, making, planning, and reviewing that is a part of this reactive mind we live in.
Part of the wonderfulness of knowing is that we are putting to rest that way of being. We are emphasizing, we are inhabiting, a different way of being in the world, which is just to know. That can create a tremendous amount of calm and peace because we are putting energy into knowing, not energy into reactivity.
With this allowing, just letting things be – knowing them begins to have qualities of spaciousness, peacefulness, stillness, or acceptance. These nice qualities, which I like to think of as beginning to make room for things. It makes room for what inside of us is shy, or for what is easily eclipsed by what is loud. What is loud, oftentimes, is desire, greed, fear, aversion, resentment, and envy.
We have all these afflictive emotions, which I think of as being surface phenomena. They are on the surface because they are reactive to the input we get from outside, but also the input provided by the mind. The mind has imaginings, thoughts, and memories it drums up. And then there are reactions to those. And because it has to do with the reaction to input, it is more surfacy.
But it is louder. Maybe on the surface, it covers over. The hindrances are things that cover over the wisdom that is inside. So what is quieter, maybe shyer in a sense, is what gets eclipsed by our surface emotions, reactivity. What is not reactive is that which exists for us independent of reactivity, independent of the input coming in.
Imagine, for example, that you cut yourself somehow. Your finger gets cut. You are gardening, putting manure in the garden. Somehow you get cut, and there is dirt and manure on your finger. But you just keep on working and working. Then you go to the compost pile. You go in the outhouse to clean that out. And you do not take care of your cut. And so it festers. It gets infected and gets worse and worse.
But if you can stop all the doing, and clean it well, cover it and protect it – then something emerges from your whole physiological system to heal the cut. Lots of things get marshaled together inside you to heal a cut. It is not a simple phenomenon. It is amazing how complicated it is.
So in the same way, if we can stop adding input from the outside all the time, but rather clean ourselves, clear out all the reactivity – the junk, the gunk that is there – and keep it clean, that allows a huge, beautiful, complex inner world to emerge and take care of things. It is not like nothing is there within us. We have a rich inner heart, a rich inner life, which – given a chance – will bubble up and begin to do the work of healing and liberating.
In the second foundation of mindfulness, the Buddha says – I am interpreting now – first, know what is pleasant as pleasant, know what is unpleasant as unpleasant, know what is neither pleasant nor unpleasant as neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Just learn to make those distinctions. Learn to recognize this.
Once you have learned to recognize this, it allows you to get more settled. You know that which is pleasant because it belongs to the reactive world, and that which is pleasant because it belongs to another place which is the nonreactive. It is the emergent world, from deep inside.
Many people are self-oriented when they sit down and focus on their body and their breathing. They focus on the sensual world. And the sensual world is the world that responds to input – temperature, comfort, and physical sensations. It can be wonderful and profound to do that.
But there is another world within that does not require input. In fact, it is almost like the less input we have, or the more the ground is cleared, the more something can grow there. A farmer clears the field so the plants can grow. So what is it that can grow within us when we do not have input – and that comes when we are quiet, focused, and calm?
In Buddhism, this is primarily associated with meditation practice, but it does not have to be there. Maybe this is because of our strong meditation tradition. As we begin meditating and get calmer, more settled, and more concentrated, then that which is quieter, non-reactive, and emergent within us can begin to flow and move through us.
At some point, we want to be able to recognize that this is happening. For the Buddha, this was called the pleasure that is not of the flesh, and the unpleasantness that is not of the flesh. I like to refer to these qualities as "worldly" or "spiritual." Some people say "physical" or "spiritual." One translator uses "worldly" or "unworldly," which reminds me of some other location that is not even here – the astral field perhaps – to call it "unworldly."
This is something that is really valuable as we move along the path of insight, the path of mindfulness. It is something we begin to be attuned to, something that is usually eclipsed, hidden in our reactive, preoccupied mind.
If we are always trying to navigate – negotiate – the reactive mind, the mind that is all about input and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic (everything has to be right, fixed, and made just right in the world), then we are missing the opportunity to become aware of these deeper wellsprings.
These deeper wellsprings become the reference point for the path of liberation, which is described in the four foundations of mindfulness. These deeper wellsprings of the emergent, the spiritual, the non-sensual – non-sensual in the sense that the sense doors are not impacted by input from the outside. This then creates a reference point, a foundation, for the last two foundations of mindfulness.
We have a switch now in the four foundations of mindfulness. It is a pivot from mindfulness of the body – mindfulness of the sensual body – which has a lot to do with input. Even if you dance, which is a beautiful, sensual thing to do, the dancing is providing the input. I do not want to say that the sensual is somehow less than, but it is different from this deeper, more spiritual place.
Here, we have a switch in the satipaṭṭhāna from that which is of the body, the physical sensuality – to focusing on something that some might call the mind, citta (which is the whole inner landscape), to something deeper and more intimate, which is helpful for appreciating the path to freedom from suffering.
I hope this discussion about the distinction between "of the flesh" and "not of the flesh" gives you enough ideas so that you can search yourself for your own terminology for the distinction between the two – and for your own way of finding something inside that is not dependent on the conditions of the world (including the conditions of your ordinary body). This belongs to the heart, the spiritual center, belongs to the citta – the mind – belongs to some of the wellsprings within where deep reservoirs of peace and happiness can be found. Thank you.
Next week, I will not be here. I am going off on retreat at IRC and I am happy to have Nikki Mirghafori coming back. She has done this a few times now. I think people have really appreciated her and I appreciate your welcome receptive perception of her, the appreciation of her that I have heard from many people. I will be back on the seventh of March. Then we will start with the third foundation, citta, the mind state or the inner life we are now beginning to point to. Thank you.