delora wrote:I get the impression (this may be wrong) that people, incl Ajahn Sumedho, do see them as ends in themselves. If it is not, then what is the purpose?
I doubt the Ajahn sees it as an end in itself... the purpose is to contemplate the impermanence of things (anicca), the unsatisfactoriness of things because of that (dukkha), and about whether you should view them, or cling to, as a self (anatta).
The result of this should be a reduction of the greed, hate, and delusion (and their eventual eradication if you manage to get that far). Also, you achieve nibbāna... which is the "unbinding", or a freedom from being "born" again, the constant "becoming", and then the eventual "death", etc. People usually view these as literal things, but I think it's fine to view them as just metaphorical.
"There were dangers. I remember once trying to cross a mountain road, holding my two-year-old's hand, and realising that I simply could not judge the speed of the oncoming cars. In the present moment they were frozen, and the next moment was not in my mind. I decided I must have gone a bit too far. I have no idea what happens if you push this even further, or let go of even more of the mind. I have no idea whether continuing this kind of practice all of one's life is either feasible or desirable, although there are many who advocate it. I only know that I worked hard at it for seven weeks and then stopped. Indeed the whole process seemed naturally to come to an end. "
That's an odd quote. Usually when you're mindful (or paying attention) you will not let these sort of things happen (i.e., let your own mind go in that state).
I've already mentioned the "seven factors of awakening"... one of the factors is "dhamma vicaya." This is the discrimination of states. You figure what state is good (and therefore conductive for the awakening), and what is bad (unconductive for the awakening). You try to pursue the good, and abandon the bad (of course). That person's vicaya seems like it could be underdeveloped, or else he wouldn't have let himself get to that point where he couldn't judge the car's speed.
Another good factor is pīti... your practice is supposed to give you joy. Of course. If you don't experience this, then you'll not do your practice as well (and then not attain the awakening). The pīti is also an useful hint about whether you're on the right track or not... just a few things for you to think about.