Pariyatti as Active, Applied Contemplation

Ajahn Viradhammo

Pariyatti as Active, Applied Contemplation

Applying the Buddha’s teachings to one’s own life is also an aspect of study. Pariyatti encompasses both intellectual study and the study of one’s inner world. So consider what it means to apply the theory of dependent origination, the three characteristics of existence, and so on, to your own conscious experience as viewed from a Buddhist perspective.

While it’s fine to read what Carlos Castaneda, Carl Jung, Rumi, or the Advaita Vedānta have to say about conscious experience, you don’t want to be entertaining too many different viewpoints at one time, since that can get quite confusing. If one has no solid grounding in intellectual principles on which to base one’s understanding of human consciousness, one can just keep getting inspired by new theories about it. Eventually, the intellect develops a need to be stimulated and inspired in ways that can be quite trivial or short-lived.

So take up the Four Noble Truths or the ideas around craving and look at your own mind through these specific lenses. Once you make these concepts and structures your focus, you begin to observe the fundamental truths about the way things really are that the Buddha is trying to bring to your attention.

Buddhist doctrine isn’t a philosophical body of knowledge that the Buddha dreamt up out of thin air. Rather, his teachings are the product of years of contemplative practice, and the simple but profound realizations that sprang from that practice. Thus they are reflective teachings as opposed to belief teachings.

So what if you believe in the Four Noble Truths or the law of impermanence? That won’t liberate you from suffering in any transformative way. In order for the Buddha’s teachings to be effective avenues for awakening to the true nature of things, they need to be actively contemplated and applied to one’s own life.

This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, The Contemplative’s Craft, (pdf) pp.161-162.