Is there Any Hope?

Ajahn Pasanno

Ajahn Pasanno

One of the Thai women meditating here had an insight into the quickness of the mind. Even meditating with the wholesome desire to bring the mind to a place of peace, tranquility, and clarity, she could see the mind go out to the sound of a dog barking. Then there was some other sound or distraction and the mind went out to that. The mind doesn’t stay still, even when we have the intention to train the mind. It’s just so quick.

She wanted to know if that insight, according to the Buddha’s teachings, is what constitutes becoming and birth. I explained that it does. In terms of analyzing the movement of the mind, when the mind moves, there is a becoming, and when it becomes something, it fastens onto an idea, a concept, a sound, or a place—it takes birth there.

Given that the mind moves so quickly, she also wanted to know, “Is there any hope?” Yes, obviously there is hope. Otherwise, the Buddha wouldn’t have taught us how to train our minds—to find that point of stillness where there is no birth and no death. But it’s about learning to understand how the mind moves like it does and what it fastens onto. We need to see what it’s drawn to and what it’s repelled by, because that in itself is a becoming as well. We take birth on a moment-to-moment basis according to our likes and dislikes.

That same process generates birth at the death of the body. Even though the overwhelming tendency of the mind is towards goodness, we still need to incline and condition the mind in that direction. During the death process, the senses naturally start to break down and attention turns inward to the heart itself. A strong practice carries that momentum of attention so that we are focused on that which is clear, steady, and peaceful. We naturally relinquish the things that create dissonance and discontent within the mind.

This kind of letting go is what the Buddha referred to as Right View from a supramundane or transcendent perspective.

The supramundane aspect is couched in a more visceral, experiential mode. The foundation of one’s entire being is on a moment-to-moment basis and embodies the Four Noble Truths. There is a natural, unshakeable recognition of the nature of dukkha, its cause, its cessation, and the path leading to cessation.

This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Don’t Hold Back, (pdf) pp. 93-94.

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