I have often seen this type of clinging (silabbata-paramasa
) described as an attachment to practices which are believed to be supernaturally effective in themselves, and which require the addition of no further effort for the practitioner to achieve liberation. The type of religious or magical practices described by above by Ben, for example. This is certainly true, but it might be worth considering whether the notion can be broadened a bit.
I have heard monks describe it as any type of clinging to personal practices which one believes to be effective. The type of thinking along the lines of "If I can just get to two long retreats a year, I'll continue to make progress...", or "I've got to get eight hours sleep a night, and make sure I avoid sugar, and aggressive people, and then I'll be OK". Along these lines, Ajahn Thanissaro talks of
clinging to precepts and practices — i.e., fixed ways of doing things
as opposed to an attachment to practices which are supernaturally effective.