Secluded from Entanglement

อาจารย์ ปสันโน

Secluded from Entanglement

As we settle into the retreat and keep bringing our attention and intention inwards, using the breath as an anchor, remember that our meditation is something we have to engage with. Just the physical act of sitting in one posture is not necessarily going to make the mind peaceful. Ajahn Chah used to say that he’s seen chickens sit on their nest for a long time and doesn’t see them get either wise or peaceful. As we engage the mind with our meditation object and are attentive to that which is wholesome and skillful, the mind will naturally settle.

There’s a stock phrase in the suttas that comes up over and over again, when the Buddha is describing the movement of the mind towards peacefulness: “Secluded (or withdrawn) from sensual pleasures, secluded (or withdrawn) from unwholesome mental states.” We have to withdraw or pull the mind back from its impulses towards that which stirs it up or gets it entangled in negativity. We need to yank it back and withdraw, recognizing that there’s a different result when the mind is engaged in its fantasies of gratifications of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, or is caught up in the various kinds of negativity—worry, fear, irritation, or dullness.

It’s also important to recognize the function of desire in how we measure experience. On the material level, of course, there’s never enough to fulfill desire, but it’s similar on an internal level. If you’re driven by unskillful desire, grasping, and attachment, then you’re always going to feel you’re coming up short: “Just a little bit more peaceful!” You have to be alert and formulate an intention to apply the mind and also learn how to recognize your own temperament. Some people have a discursive temperament; some people settle easily; some people reflect.

The nature of desire is that it’s always going to feel like it’s not enough. Just direct attention to: “Do I feel at ease? Can I release, relinquish, and become settled enough to contemplate the experience of peace and the limitations of impermanent, unsatisfactory, not-self phenomena?” One keeps directing thought and then letting go, without getting too obsessed. As Ajahn Chah said: “There are only two things a practitioner has to do: just know and let go.” There’s knowing, awareness, alertness, and presence, and then there’s also releasing, letting go, and dropping, so that one’s building a momentum of well-being and clarity.

This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beneath the Bodhi Tree, (pdf) pp. 37-38, 39-40.