To say I have loved books from early childhood is, I realise now, a wrong understanding of love. I began devouring words off the back of packs of cereal at the tender age of four and it took another twenty-five years to recognise that they were devouring me. The turning point came during my first year as a bhikkhu in England. Recognising how rabid my verbal appetite was, I decided to fast from reading for the three months’ Rains Retreat. At first my mind got extremely bored and dull, but then I began to notice the other senses more, and enjoy just looking at life as it happened, without it having to fit some map or system or agenda in my head. This lead me to an all-important connection to being embodied – to feeling the breathing steadily and sensitively, rather than ‘trying to meditate and get concentrated’, and to sensing what happens in the body when it walks, rather than ‘doing walking meditation.’ It was a movement to something more whole and present: experiencing directly rather than through the medium of ideas and strategies.
starter wrote:Hello Farmer,
Thanks a lot for your very helpful post. Indeed I need to remove my attachment to reading and thinking, but I wonder for a lay person if it's better to do it during a retreat instead of during daily work life. I almost didn't read for 4 days during the retreat, and it was fine for me to just walk, sit and do some service. I feel the need to read/think about the dhamma to feed and calm my mind and wash away the taints from the daily work life since it is impossible to stop reading/thinking about work and daily life in my case. Of course I can practice the restraint of the reading/thinking.
All the best,
I wonder why "right contemplation" or "right study" aren't components of the path. In the suttas, it is very clear that the early bikkhus spent a lot of time discussing dhamma, and would ask each other and the Buddha highly analytical questions like this one:
"Friend, are vitality-fabrications the same thing as feeling-states? Or are vitality-fabrications one thing, and feeling-states another?"
Study and analysis seem to have been an important part of their approach to the dhamma, but the Buddha never taught "right contemplation" as a part of the path. At the same time, he never chastised the monks for "thinking too much," or discouraged them from discussing dhamma among themselves. What did the Buddha teach about the proper role of study and contemplation? To put it another way, what is the proper role of the intellect in developing the path?
Unlike Starter, I haven't worried about reading too much, but I have had a huge problem with thinking when I should be meditating. The thoughts are mostly connected to dhamma, and fairly innocuous in themselves, but part of my mind just can't bear to drop them when it is time to focus exclusively on the breath. Whether or not there is such a thing as "right contemplation," this is obviously "wrong contemplation." On the other hand, there have been many occasions where this sort of cogitation has helped me see important things that I hadn't understood before. Where is the right balance? I can't think of anything in the texts that answers this question.
farmer wrote:Thereductor: thank you for taking the time to transcribe that
Matheesha: Translating yonisomanasikara as "appropriate contemplation" is very helpful. I've been following Ajahn Thanissaro's "appropriate attention," a translation which led me to conceive yonisomanasikara as an matter of how we attend to the senses. In passages like this one from the Nagara sutta, it seems "appropriate contemplation" would be a more natural translation:
"Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death exist when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death exist when birth exists. From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death.
For the time being, I am practicing without access to teachers, so it is very beneficial to have virtual admirable friends to straighten out these misunderstandings.
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