Ajahn Tate
The Autobiography of a Forest Monk

Ajahn Tate 294

Steps along the Path
1 A basic tenet of the Buddhas teachings is: that the mind and body work together, but that the body lies under the control of the mind. The mind is what orders the body to this or that activity.

2 In order to do away with unawareness, craving, attachment and kamma, we must first of all practice abandoning the elementary evils of word and deed by observing the principles of morality that corresponds to our station in life. The next step is to train the mind to develop concentration (samadhi) and absorption (jhana) through the practice of Tranquility Meditation. Once the mind is adept at maintaining a steady focus, we can then develop clear insight (vipassana) based on an understanding of the Three Characteristics of inconstancy, stress and not-self. This will lead us to pure knowledge and vision of things as they really are.

3 For Buddhism, the true aim in developing concentration (samadhi) and absorption is to gather ones mental energies and make them steady and strong in a single point. Stillness of mind. Stillness of mind is developed for use in cleansing the heart of such defilements as the five Hindrances ( nivarana – sensual desire, ill will, lethargy, restlessness and anxiety, uncertainty).

4 In training the mind – which is a mental phenomenon – material objects such as chains and leashes are of no use. The mind has to be trained by tutoring it. Any beginning exploration of cause and effect is usually a matter of looking at things from the outside, following external influences – this person says that, that person says this. But to investigate cause and effect (Dependent Origination – paticcasamutpada) exclusively within the bounds of the body and then going to mental phenomena: Do greed, anger, delusion, love, hatred arise at the body or at the mind? What do they come from? – to reason and explore things strictly internally in this way is, in and of itself, training the mind.

5 The mind which is investigating in line with its own personal reasoning will tend to focus on examining a single spot in a single object. This is called one-pointed concentration. This is a gathering of the minds energies so that they have great strength, able to uproot attachments – mistaken assumptions, - and to cleanse the mind so that it is, for the moment, bright and clear. You will experience peace – an extreme sense of well-being in body and mind. You will say to yourself with a sense of deep satisfaction, So that is how it is!

6 Focus the mind on bare awareness itself - for the mind is something that cannot be seen with the physical eyes. If it is not focused on a single spot, you will not know whether or not it is present. The mind is like the wind: If the wind does not come into contact with anything, you will not know whether or not it is there. In focusing, examine the object in line with the principles of the foundation of mindfullness (sattipatthana). Sort out the bodys various aspects until you can see: This is not me! This is not myself!

When focused exclusively on the target, do not give any thaught to what the target is or who is focusing.
Let there simply be awareness. Do not let there be any naming or labelling of anything at all. When focused on the target, at the same time keep yourself aware of that: this is the target of the mind. This is the mind examining.

7 Do not let yourself wonder about whether or not you are going to attain concentration and discernment. Put aside all desires.

8 While you are training the mind, the mind will withdraw from its external objects and gather into a single whole, letting go of all labels and attachments dealing with past and future. There will be bare awareness with its preoccupation in the present. This is the mind coming to its own level, the bhavanga, everything has reference only to the mind. The mind when it reaches this level, lets go of all attachments to the body, and goes inward to experience nothing but its own object, all by itself. This is called bhava-citta.

9 When you have trained the mind to be firmly established in concentration, then you should work at developing clear insight. See clearly the truth that all conditioned things (sankhara) which arise are bound to disintegrate and pass away. When this sort of knowledge arises, it will make the mind dispassionate towards all conditioned things. This is called clear insight occurring together with tranquility.

10 When you examine things in this way, using the power of a fully concentrated mind, you will reach the goal of the minds training. The light of discernment will arise, complete with the insight into cause and effect you have discovered totally on your own.
This is something which arises not from theories remembered from other people, but from realizing the causes and effects that are entirely within your own heart. The mind will never again be deluded into becoming attached, passionate, pleased or displeased with any conditioned thing at all.

Let us all work with our own objects of meditation so as to reach fixed penetration with a fair mind free from bias – compare what we experience with what has been formulated in the various texts. Our knowledge will then be paccatta – arising exlusively from within ourselves.

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The Meaning of Anatta

Anything fashioned by conditions, whether physical mental, is called sankhara.
All sankharas are unsteady and inconstant (anicca) because they are continually moving. All sankharas are incapable of maintaining the lasting oneness: This is why they are said to be dukkha – stressfull. No sankharas lie under anyones control. They keep changing continually, and no one can prevent them from doing so, which is why they are said to be anatta – not-self.

Even the quality of deathlessness – which is a phenomenon free from fashioning conditions, and which is the only thing in a state of lasting oneness – is also said to be anatta – not-self, because it lies above and beyond everything else. No one can think it or pull it under his control.

Only those of right view, whose conduct lies within the factors of the path, can enter in to see this natural quality and
remove their attachments to all things – including their attachment to the agent which goes about knowing those things. In the end there is no agent attaining or getting anything.

When meditators practice correctly and have the discernment to see that quality of deathlessness as it really is, the result is that they can
withdraw their attachments from all things – including their attachment to the discernment which enters in to see the quality as it really is. The practice of all things good and noble is to reach this very point.