Browsing Category "Talks"
13 Jun
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How to Dissolve Tension

I got this little gem of a quote last night from listening to one of Ajahn Sucitto’s newly posted talks, which was part of his response to a question about how to relax tensions that are “locked up” in the body:

“The universal solvent is goodwill.”

18 May
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Relax: Body. Breath. Mind.

One of my oldest habit patterns is believing that MY way is the RIGHT way. This can be very painful. For everyone!

Of course, sometimes my way IS the right way…or at lease ONE of the right ways…but it would be a whole lot better if I could avoid getting caught in this kind of thinking.

Mindfulness, of course, is the way to break free of old habits, so I’ve been working with that. But then last night, I happened to listen to a talk in which Phillip Moffitt describes how he developed a specific practice — for himself — to address this very habit!

He calls it Relaxing into Surrender:

“I started this practice when I was working with a particular area of my life… I was repeatedly getting caught in something that was not personal in nature, but nonetheless, it was something that I very much wanted to go my way.

“The feeling was one of tightness, closed heart, closed mind, and it was an unwholesome feeling. So I started relaxing. And then as I was doing it more I realized: Ah, there’s a bigger teaching here. For me! I started this practice not to teach it to you, but for my own practice. 

“What I have done now for these past 23 months is: periodically, every day, I will take just a brief 30 seconds or 3 minutes or 5 minutes or whatever it is…and I will relax. I will relax the body; I will relax the breath; I will relax the mind state. As best I am able. 

“So: driving a car, sitting in a meeting, I’ll just relax. Now maybe it’ll be in the middle of something that I actually have a point of view about, but other people are talking and I will sit there and I will just consciously relax: body, breath, and mind. Driving down the highway I will do it. Talking on the phone I will do it. Being by myself. Walking out in nature. Over and over again… I make a mindfulness practice out of relaxing. 

“What I discovered is that, although I already had a great deal of equanimity, mindfully relaxing day after day throughout the day in this way opened me up to a new level of relaxing, of letting loose of tension in attention, of tension in the body, tension in the mind state and it brought up this possibility repeatedly of surrendering.

“Because once I’d done all that relaxing…then I realized: OK so now here I am really wanting to affect the outcome in the decision we’re making in this particular meeting, but, who knows…maybe what I think would be best isn’t the best. But even if it IS best, maybe it’s going to happen and maybe it’s not. So: just let it go.

“But not giving up the point of view or failing to articulate that point of view!

“From a classical Buddhist teaching, this is letting go of sakkays-ditthi (personality view)…. which is the view of seeing everything from a dualistic perspective, from a personality — I like this and I don’t like that; I don’t want this to happen and I do want that to happen — and being attracted to all of that, to taking it in such a way that there is tension, there is clinging, there is holding onto it.

But not letting go of your values! Of course you want your community to be a safe community. You want your country to be a country of dignity and of kindness. And honesty. Of course you want that. Of course!!! But the getting tense around it is separate from the wanting of that, of having that as a value 

“What we surrender is the getting defined by it. So relax throughout the day and see: Oh, I can relax in this moment. Over and over again. Then this idea of surrender will come up in its own form, in its own time….

“The breath and the relationship of the breath to the emotions is a multi-dimensional experience. If you never experiment, you aren’t giving yourself a chance. This very simple exercise that I’m inviting you to do of relaxing the breath with the body and the mind, in the way I’ve said up to this point — that is enough.

“I can give you very fancy kinds of breath work, of controlling the breath, of controlling the inhale and the exhale, where to place the breath, where to follow the breath… I’ve done lots of very esoteric practices. But you do not need those practices for what we’re pointing to tonight. You really don’t.

“For most of us, we have to have some sort of practice. Otherwise our minds just take over and there’s some part of us that’s just on autopilot

“So we relax, but we don’t abandon practice. Surrender doesn’t mean quitting. It’s a specific use of the word ‘surrender.’ You’re surrendering attachment to outcome. You’re not quitting. You’re not being asked to give up the juice of your life. You’re being asked to practice letting go of your attachment, your clinging, your demand that those areas of your life be a certain way.” 


I really see how this could have a big impact…over time, of course. Phillip says to try it for at least 3 months.

OK, Phillip. At least for the next 3 months, I’m taking this one as a specific practice. Anybody else out there care to join me?

(The excerpt above is from Phillip Moffitt’s talk called Relaxing into Surrender, beginning at about the 40 minute mark. It is lightly edited for readability. Click here for the full talk.)

14 May
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Try a Tiny Retreat

I was listening to a talk by Phillip Moffitt on Choiceless Awareness — not with any particular intent except to be listening to Phillip give a dharma talk — and I heard him get started by talking about samadhi practice, and saying that no matter what kind of meditation we’re doing, we start out by collecting and unifying our mind…and that as we build up continuity, over time, “our mind gets really stable.”

Right. Nothing new there.

But then he said: “Really stable. Not so much during an evening like this [he was talking to his Sunday Night sitting group], and certainly not that much at home (usually) if we’re just doing 30 minutes at home — but if we’re doing a half-day, one weekend a month — the mind can get pretty darn stable….in a half day, if you’re there alone, and you don’t have some big thing on your mind. You can really get going on this.”

And I thought: Wow.

I have a daily sitting practice, which I just “kicked up a notch” by increasing the amount of time I sit. (And I’ve really noticed a big difference as a result.) But I never thought about scheduling a half-day, here at home, once a month.

And then I thought: I could do it!

So…I’ll be taking a Tiny Retreat — on the last Friday of every month, from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon. Starting Friday, May 25.

Want to join me? (You could do it on a different day, at whatever time you want.) But we’d still be doing it “together.” We could check in with each other about it. Or just text to say that we’d done it.

I’m serious. Email me here if you’re interested.

Think about it!

9 May
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What Could Stop You?

I’ve been listening to some of Phillip Moffitt’s talks on Awareness lately and came across this particularly helpful little bit of dharma wisdom:

“One of the big understandings and training that comes out of meditation is that we learn to start where we are, and we learn to start over.

“We connect mindfulness with clear intention, because mindfulness without a clear intention succumbs to the ego.

“So we are mindful and we have a clear intention. Then — when we add patience and persistence — we are a force to be dealt with.

Why? Because we are always willing to start where we are. And we are always willing to start over!

“For example, we’re in a situation and we get thrown off. We become aware: Oh, I’m off center. OK. Come back to center.

“We don’t go into: Oh, I always get off center. You know, ever since I was a child and I didn’t get that support I needed… Or: I’m never able to stay centered…or any of this judging and comparing. No: Just start over. But we can’t start over from somewhere other than where we are. We’re lost — so we start from there. And then we move back to center.

“So often we try to start from where we are not. It’s easy to see this in meditation. We sit down and we have an idea of what mediation is, or how this meditation is supposed to be, and we’ll try to start from where we think we should be. But the truth is that we’re sleepy, or we’re tired, or we’re something else that’s other than where we think we should be. And the effect of that is actually to lessen our effectiveness as meditators. We’re better off recognizing the sleepiness: Oh, sleepiness is like this. 

“An awareness of the sleepiness and a skillful relationship to it will make it less likely that we will succumb to it, not more likely — as long as we have intention. As long as we know that in this moment: I intend to be awake and meditate. (If that’s the truth. Sometimes that’s not the truth for us. We actually don’t mind it. We’re thinking that we’re just going to doze through this one.) I’m not saying that’s wrong. Just know we’re doing it! Just know that we’re making that choice…

Starting where we are requires patience. Starting over requires persistence. With those two, plus mindfulness with intention — What do you think happens? What’s someone going to be able to do to stop you, if you’re willing to start over from wherever you are?

“Oh, I’ve just been defeated! OK. Starting from ‘defeat,’ here’s where I’m going….

It’s very powerful.

“So powerful that I always remind people that we must take responsibility for what we learn in the dharma. As we gain more impact, more personal empowerment, it’s very important that sila — the commitment to ethical behavior — comes with it.”


This excerpt is from a daylong course taught by Phillip, called Awareness of Awareness. It begins at about 8 minutes into this talk and has been edited for readability.

19 Apr
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I was listening to a talk by Ajahn Sucitto last night and was so struck by what he said about our sense of self and what it does to us that I just had to get up and write it down. Here it is (slightly edited for readability):

“We have so learned to BE our selves and to DO things, that it can be hard to just sit with ourselves in a sense of sympathy — rather than criticizing or constantly having a plan to change things — but just be present with oneself in a sympathetic state. This fundamental quality of a sympathetic resonance with what’s experienced comes from a certain depth of realization, when the citta [heart/mind] is clear enough, not so driven, not so impacted with ‘ego-hood.’

“The self image tends to block that. Because the self image is making us more concrete and less resonant, more prepared and less open, more strategized and less intuitive, more competent and less caring.”


It’s a very rich talk. The quote above starts at about the 10 minute mark, but it’s really worth your time to listen all the way through. Click here.

12 Apr
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The “And” Practice

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of dharma talks that Phillip Moffitt has given at the Marin Sangha because there he’s primarily focused on Dharma Practice in Daily Life (as opposed to most of the talks from Spirit Rock, which are usually in a retreat setting).

At the beginning of the one I listened to last night (Exploring the Many Dimensions of Metta), Phillip took comments from the sangha members about their experience using the Metta phrases. One woman said that her favorite phrase was: May you be at peace. She said she often repeats it to herself as she goes about her day. And then just recently, while she was on her way to the office, someone darted out in front of her car and she blurted out: Oh you asshole! But then right after that, she found herself thinking: May you be at peace.

(Everyone laughed.)

Phillip said, “That’s what I call the ‘And… Practice.’ It’s like: I’m so mad…. or It’s so unfair… then you add the ‘and….

“The ‘And… Practice’ is what connects you back to a wholesome state when you’ve moved to an unwholesome state of mind. You’re already having the unwholesome mind state, so you accept that, and then the ‘and…’ is your intention to go back to the wholesome state. Maybe you go back and maybe you don’t, but that’s your intention. The practice connects you back to your deepest intention.”


I love that!

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it explained quite like that before. I’ve heard of using “and” instead of “but” in conversation, as a way of being inclusive and to keep from being argumentative, but never as a way to re-connect with a deeper intention.

I’m going to try it.


The whole talk is a terrific, by the way. Click here to listen.

2 Apr
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The Body Infused with Awareness

I led the Sunday Sangha sitting group this past weekend in the Metta for the Body mediation, using instructions from Phillip Moffitt’s Daylong Retreat for Experienced Students.

What to try this at home? Here’s the text:

Today we’re going to be doing Loving-kindness as a meditation, but we’re going to be doing it for the body. The body itself. Not for “me,” not for “my” body… The liver is not concerned about being “my liver.” The liver has it’s own experience in it’s “liver-ness.” Not as a self-reflective consciousness. But as an actual experience as having tension or heaviness or whatever various kinds of things that could be going on with the liver. The same with the heart, the lungs… So we are treating each of the body parts as an experience in itself.

We’re not saying oh, I want to “fix my knees.” There’s no judging, comparing, or fixing at all. We’re not trying to do some kind of magic. Rather, we’re building concentration through Metta practice because Metta is a concentration practice. It’s a mantra practice, and all mantra practices – whether they are Hindu or Christian or Buddhist or whatever – are concentration practices. The repetition itself defines a kind of concentration.

The phrases I use are:
May I be safe and feel protected.
May I be happy, just as I am.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I live in the world with ease.

The orientation towards these phrases (what we mean by “safe” and “happy” etc.) is the kind of well-being that can come to the body when the body is infused with awareness. You may feel only the slightest amount of this well-being, or you may feel a lot of it. If we were doing this once a day over many days or if we were doing this all day long, you’d be more likely to feel more of it. But for however long you are doing it, the more relaxed you are, the more you’re able to take it easy with your body — the more you will be able to develop concentration.

But you are keeping your mind on the phrases. You’re not pausing and wandering around in your mind. You are keeping continuity from one moment to the next. It’s one phrase, then the next, the next, the next…  We want it to be steady. You can have a changing rhythm – you might start slow and it might speed up, for example – but you are aware of your rhythm, of the pacing, and there’s a continuity within whatever’s going on at the time. So you don’t say one phrase fast and then slow down on the next one. It’s not jerky like that at all. The steadiness is part of what builds the concentration.

You may at times get images of your body as you’re doing this. Those images are fine. They’re not a distraction. But you keep your words in the forefront and let the images be in the background. You may find yourself really getting into the awareness of a particular sensation—some kind of tension in the neck, for example—and thoughts might start to come, like: “oh, this tension is a kind of fear that’s showing up in my neck,” which may be true, but this is not our investigation time. You could do that some other time. But for now, we’re keeping those thoughts in the background. You’re not getting rid of the thought; you’re not denying it; you’re just moving on. Another day you could do it differently, but not now.

We’re going to move through the body. Top to bottom and back up, if you’re comfortable like that. Or else straight down each time, or up each time if you’re more comfortable with that.

You can choose from a number of different ways to do this. Sometimes I only do the organs. Sometimes I’ll only do the bones. Or sometimes I just do whatever comes up as I move from my head down to my feet. You choose whatever you think would work for you.

You can use whatever phrases you’re used to. You can also decrease the number of phrases, if you prefer that. And you can modify them, if that seems right.

For example:
May these knuckles be safe and feel protected.
May these knuckles be happy, just as they are.
May these knuckles be healthy and strong.
May these knuckles live in this body with ease.

Part of doing this practice is really opening to, imagining your body having this well-being. Well-being is relative to what’s possible. I can not imagine well-being as though I were 25 years old. That isn’t within the realm of what’s possible. But I can imagine the various parts of my body as having well-being within the range of their condition right now. And that works quite beautifully. Otherwise you’re getting unreal. You’re falling into magical thinking. And it’s not magical thinking.

There is a feeling of well-being that can develop in the body from doing this, in part just because there’s a kind of deep relaxation going on. And part of it is because energy follows awareness, so you’re energizing the parts of the body, and that energizing is very wholeness for the body. Part of it is that you are letting loose of certain tensions that are held and it’s like doing yoga of the mind for the body. And there’s a mysterious aspect. It’s just mysterious as to why this has a certain well-being-ness to it, but it does mysteriously happen.

Remember, we’re not trying to “get it right.” We’re just looking to experience the experience. There is as little “doing” as possible when we’re “doing” meditation. (Despite all these instructions!) It’s very light.

OK. So let’s start…..


I’ve modified this slightly. (For example, I offered the phrases I like to use because Phillip didn’t include his.) If you want to hear Phillip himself, click here. His instructions for this meditation start at about the 1 hr and 50 minute mark.

16 Mar
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Entering the Stream

More on “personality view” from Ajahn Sucitto. (I know this post is really long, but I just couldn’t bear to cut it.)

“The Buddha presented 10 “fetters” or “knots” that are released at Awakening. Awakening has several stages to it. At the first stage, the first three fetters all go at the same time. It’s not 1, then 2, then 3… because the first three fetters are really aspects of the same experience.

“The first is sakayaditthi (literally: ‘the view of being in this body,’ which is generally translated as ‘personality view‘). This is the isolated individual. It’s the belief in the individual as a separate reality and also that it can provide a good foundation.

“But as we practice, probably we begin to recognize that the personality is something that we have to be able to release, rather than to establish as a foundation. It doesn’t mean that there’s no sense of self. It means that we can begin to recognize that the personality is kind of like a structure, or a series of mental actions and perceptions that have been established through past karma and particularly through the social/domestic experience. So our personality forms as a response to the world around us.

“And so this is very much associated with the second fetter, attachment to ‘systems and customs,’ because that’s exactly what the personality gets indoctrinated into — systems and customs: Do this, do that. Get a job, get a mortgage, get two-point-five kids, get a dog, be happy. That’s it.

“I’m being humorous, of course. But there’s also nationalism, religious dogmatism — these are also aspects of systems and customs. What it leads to is a certain automatic quality, where we operate automatically according to certain socially generated norms.

“Neither of these mean that you don’t have any personality. Personality is a natural form. The citta (heart) develops a sort of skin, you could say, to interact in the world. But you don’t believe that that’s your final “statement”. That’s just the clothes you wear, you might say.

“I want to get that clear because in terms of people with a lot of deep practice, or who are said to be or understood to be or seem to demonstrate quite realized qualities — they still have a personality. But often it can be that they can kind of turn it off, as well. It’s not a fake thing. It’s just that when there’s a time for interaction, the personality is the appropriate way to interact.

But their personality is often quite light and flexible. It’s appropriate. They’re not trying to boost it, or emphasize it.

And certainly they can use systems and customs as is appropriate, as is suitable. Because if handled properly, systems and customs can be a ground for harmony: Let’s all do it this way. Fine. Then we know where we are and we don’t have to concern ourselves too much about these behavioral things.

“Also someone like this is aware of the rationale behind systems and customs. For the sake of harmony or out of mutual respect or imbued with conscience and concern, one can use a meditation system without it turning into: This is it. It’s the only way. I’ve got to be good at this… Instead: Ah, this is actually providing the ground for calming or steadying or it’s making me realize where the hindrances are. This is good! And one can use a range of those systems. One really sees the value of them and can use them rather than being disoriented without them or being dogmatic about them.

“This can be because the citta has realized something beyond the level of personal behavioral experience. It’s realized something deeper than that.

“So therefore it doesn’t have the third fetter: doubt (or lack of confidence). One is confident that this ‘me’ is not something I really have to concern myself about too much because there’s something more important here than my personality and what people think of me and whether I look good or…

“You also might say that this sense of right and wrong is much softer. Right and wrong often applies to dogmatic apprehension of experience: This is right and this is wrong. Instead one might say: This doesn’t seem to be very fitting right now.

“But the person where these fetters are really deeply embedded will have a lot of personality issues. Often complaining about themselves; the inner tyrant experience; critical mind; going on and on worrying about themselves. And also doing it to other people: She’s this and he’s that. Always focusing on the personalities of other people as a big issue.

“Without that, we can get on with a whole range of people because we’re not really making personality the main thing. So this makes life a lot broader and more expansive.

That really is the stream-enterer, but they still have things like sense-desire, ill-will, residences….. You know, they’ve still got stuff!

“I think that’s really helpful because if you’re aiming for total purity on day one, or you’ve got to let go of all your attachments, that’s a big ask. But that’s not it.

“So the next two fetters are: resistance (or irritability) and sense-desire. One’s mind is heated by the qualities of sense desire and one’s mind is also irritable. It’s not permanently irritable, but certainly you can sense that irritability to things, and resistances. Likes and dislikes. Even the once-returner [the second stage of Awakening] has still got that to a certain degree. Then that fades, wanes, as the foothold on what we’ll call the Deathless becomes more assured, so that one is experiencing a sense of comfort in it.

“The first realizations, or aspects of realization, are really not so much about feeling that great. The first thing that’s established, actually, is a sense of security. Or stability. Which is what ‘confidence’ means. Or ‘lack of doubt.’ You’ve touched something and you know… you don’t necessarily always feel great and comfortable and wonderful… but you know: This is it. And because of that, then the path is established. You know. Even though things are still somewhat uncomfortable — preferences, irritability — still you know: I have confidence; There is this; There is this place of refuge.

So the stream-enterer definitely has a refuge, a foothold on it. That’s why it’s called ‘entering the stream.’ They’re just getting their feet in it. They’re not totally buoyed up by it. So it’s just: There is a stream. It doesn’t mean one necessarily is completely immersed in it. [laughs] So the irritability and sense-desire are still there to a degree. But this doesn’t get in the way of what they’re doing.

“Another fetter is the attachment to meditation qualities: to fine mind-states, and then to even subtler mind-states — absorptions and calm and ease and spaciousness. Those are another two fetters. The stream-enterer still hasn’t really broken or released those.

“And there’s ‘conceit‘ — conceiving oneself to be something, either better or worse or the same-as. Having oneself as a concept, a ‘perceptual self’ you might say. Conceiving oneself as anything really — enlightened, half-enlightened, somewhat enlightened. That’s why the realized people just don’t say anything about being enlightened, generally. Because it doesn’t really make sense. [laughs] You just say: Suffering has stopped. 

“Then ‘restlessness,’ where the mind has still got some association with the conditioned realm. The conditioned mind is always shifting and moving. There’s an association with that, so the mind is being stirred. And the last is ignorance, or the lack of full comprehension. These then are not released — yet.

But stream-entry is perhaps the major breakthrough. The Buddha pointed to a mountain and then he pointed to the dirt under his fingernail and he asked: What do you think is greater — the amount of earth in that mountain or the amount of earth under my fingernail? And of course, the bhikkhus: Surely Lord…. [laughs] And then the Buddha said: Well, the amount of earth in that mountain, that’s what you shift at stream entry. And what I have under my fingernail, that’s the rest of it. So it’s considered a major breakthrough because then it is said that one is not going back. It’s going to continue. It’s going to deepen.

“The aim then is to keep referring the heart to that, keep establishing it, keep acknowledging what drags one out of it, and increasing the sense of enjoyment in it, and the comfortableness. And then working on the subsidiary fetters.

“You can notice what bothers you. So if you’re still worked up about him and her and myself and this-that-and-the-other, there’s some ‘personality view’ still there. Or if you momentarily get these irritable mind-states or a tendency to be critical, then you know that and your aim is to work on that.

Even though stream-entry is a major breakthrough, a stream-enterer isn’t always clear about it. Because it’s not that solid. It’s solid in the way that it’s not going to turn back, but you can’t really feel fully enriched by it. Stream-enterers can still misbehave. But because they’re not attached to their personality, they can acknowledge it. They’re not defensive because they’re not trying to present themselves as an ideal person any more. Which is a great help.”


This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and readability. It is Ajahn Sucitto’s answer to the question: “How would you characterize freedom from sakayaditthi (personality view)?” Click here for the full Q&A session.

13 Mar
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Conflict and Comparison

(continuing from yesterday’s post with excerpt from Ajahn Sucitto’s Q&A on the mental “fetters” that bind us to suffering)

The second fetter, attachment to rites and rituals (silabbata-paramasa), has to do with — not just rituals, lighting incense, or praying — but everything that’s automatic. It’s systems and customs. Any kind of system or custom.

Language is a system. It’s a series of sounds and words, but it’s a system, a custom. Everybody is operating according to systems and customs. For example, everybody goes to work at this time or everybody eats their meal at this time. Everybody’s following some kind of ritual/system/custom. These are things we operate with, but really, in truth, there’s no day or night, there’s no Monday or Thursday — that’s just the convention. We think: “Oh, this is Thursday, I have to do this. Or I can only do this on Sunday. Or it’s six o’clock!” But there’s no such thing as six o’clock. It’s just the convention. And when one gets attached to these things, then we live life like a robot. Like a puppet that’s moved along. This is a considerable fetter.

Doctrines can also be part of that. Even meditation systems can be things we get attached to: “This is the right way. I’m going it right. He’s wrong.”

The quality of these always separates us. So even when you call yourself a “Buddhist”, it’s tricky. Buddhism a good system, but it’s a system. And actually, there are no “Buddhists”, really, there’s just Dhamma practice. We can call ourselves “Buddhists” when we have to write something down on an official form, or whatever. So people know that this is the label and it probably means we’re good people. But we also understand this is just a system and a custom. It has to be seen in the light of: When does it become useful? When does it become something where we quarrel? As in: Who’s better — Buddhists or Christians? Mahayana or Theravada? And in meditation: Which practice style do we do? Mahasi Sayadaw or Ajhan Chah or U Pandita or U Tejaniya or Zen? Then we get stuck in these things.

The Buddha didn’t teach any of that. He said: “Purify the heart.” Is there a system for that? [laughs]

So attachment to systems and customs sets us apart from each other. And then we find there is comparison and conflict. There’s no liberation where there is comparison and conflict. There’s no ending of suffering where there’s comparison and conflict. There’s no ending of stress where there’s superior and inferior. Where there’s men and women. There’s no ending of it.

It only ends when you come to: Let go of that. There is a point at which these are relevant, and there’s a point where they’re irrelevant. For liberation, you must realize the depth where these things that separate us no longer occur. Because there’s no suffering in that. There’s no stress in that. There’s no holding on in that. There’s no need to hold it.

And doubt (vicikiccha), which is the final fetter that’s eliminated at “stream-entry”, is just the lack of understanding. Where we don’t really realize that there is a place beyond thought and beyond attachment, that you can rest in.

Because of not knowing that, we’re always creating something to hold onto, something to name, something claim, something to dispute. Because we haven’t really understood that there’s a place where none of that need happen. And where that doesn’t happen, there’s confidence. Confidence that isn’t about being right. It’s about having no right or wrong, just: This is true; It’s like this.

A lot of people are looking for the right opinion. You don’t need an opinion. Well, sometimes you do. But with the truth, you don’t need an opinion.

You just need to know: This is where the suffering stops; the stress stops; the pressure stops; the holding on stops. This is where it stops. And this is where it happens; this is what causes it to happen; and this is what causes it to cease.

Now any system, any way you can do that — that’s fine. That to me is the Dhamma world. Who’s in it? I don’t know. Buddhist? Sufis? Jews? I don’t know. But if you can get there: Good!


(You can listen to the entire Q&A session with Ajahn Sucitto here.)

12 Mar
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Personality View

I love the very accessible explanation of “personality view” (sakkayaditthi), which Ajahn Sucitto gave during a recent Q&A session in response to a question about whether or not a “stream-enterer” could ever lose contact with the Dharma. (“Stream-enterer” is the term traditionally used to describe someone who has reached the first stage of enlightenment.) Ven. Sucitto says:

“The stream-enterer has some realization, but not complete realization, so, yes, they could lose the precepts. But the stream-enterer is of the quality that they could acknowledge this — and return.

“The stream-enterer has not eliminated greed and hatred, or passion and craving. But they have eliminated the personality view. The personality view is gone, so they’re not proud; they’re not defensive; they’re not justifying themselves. The stream-enterer is always someone who can be corrected. But they can make mistakes.

“The stream-enterer has essentially lost the first three “fetters”. The first of these is sakkayaditthi (personality view), which is the belief in being an independent entity. A personality. Meaning that the thing that makes us different — we take that to be the foundation of our life. Rather than taking the thing that makes us NOT different.

“That which makes us different — different faces, different attitudes, different personalities — that becomes the reference point. With personality view, that’s what I take a stand on; that becomes what I take as most important. That’s always going to cause division. Because there’s only one like ME!

“But if your reference point is the universal — which is the quality of goodwill, the quality of truthfulness, the quality of patience, etc. — there’s no person in that.”


The next two “fetters” are: silabbata-paramasa (attachment to rites and rituals) and vicikiccha (usually translated as “skeptical doubt”.) I’ll post Ajahn Sucitto’s explanation of those tomorrow.

Can’t wait? Click here to listen.