Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mindfulness (3): Developing Awareness

The problem of awareness, or lack of awareness, as I see it, is not primarily a psychological problem but is primarily a developmental problem.

So when the Buddha exhorts Nanda to rid the mind of polluting influences bhāvanayā (see 15.5 and 16.5), the meaning of bhāvanayā might be "by means of development" and at the same time "by developmental means."

For the last 40 years all my efforts in the direction of developing awareness have been hampered by, and at the same time motivated by gradually developing awareness of, a very imperfectly integrated Moro reflex (baby panic reflex).

One person who really understands what I am on about, from the inside, is my brother Ian, who shares my genetic inheritance and earns a crust as an Alexander Technique teacher working with nervous and phobic swimmers in the water.

If some desirous idea, a fever of the mind,
Should venture to offend you,
Entertain no scent of it but shake it off
As if pollen had landed on your robe.//15.3//

Even if, through insight,
You have dropped off desires,
You must, as if lighting up darkness,
Abolish them by means of their opposite.//15.4//

What lies behind them sleeps on,
Like a fire covered with ashes;
You are to extinguish it, my friend, by developmental means
As if using water to put out a fire.//15.5//

Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind,
Getting rid of something and gathering something together,/
The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own,
And duly acquires the five powers of knowing: //16.1//

The principal transcendent power, taking many forms;
Then being awake to what others are thinking;/
And remembering past lives from long ago;
And divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. //16.2//

From then on, through investigation of what is,
He applies his mind to eradicating the polluting influences,/
For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest,
The four true standpoints: //16.3//

This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;
This is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;/
This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.
And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. //16.4//

Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning
While getting to know the four as one,/
He prevails over all the influences, by developmental means,
And, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming.//16.5//

For by failing to wake up and come round
To this four, whose substance is what is,/
Humankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace,
Hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra.//16.6//

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