Questions and Answers

Online Retreat

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 6 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

  They are still identifying with the process of coming out of Cessation. There’s still identification going on, the fetter of conceit is still there.

One thing I want to make clear is to not equate Cessation of Perception and Feeling and Nibbāna as one and the same.  It’s the experience of coming out of Cessation of Perception and Feeling, seeing the links of Dependent Origination as they arise without any involvement, and then making contact with the Nibbāna element.

At the level of contact with the Nibbāna element, there is some sense of relief that arises. That relief is the feeling that one experiences, or that is experienced by the mind.

The anāgāmi does not crave for that feeling. They don’t expect that feeling to continue to be there, but at the same time they identify with the Dhamma, they still identify with the process, and there is still that conceit in them where they have this sense of I have attained this or I have experienced this. The gateway into arahantship is that there is complete detachment with the whole  process, when it arises again after Cessation of Perception and Feeling and you see the links. There is complete non-involvement in any of the arising of the links and when the mind contacts the Nibbāna element, at that point it is just seen as an impersonal and impermanent process, and not worth holding on to. So, even that relief is not held onto. And because there is no identification and holding on to that relief, the fetters associated with identification, particularly conceit – upon which the fetters of restlessness, the craving for being and the craving for non-being are based – and Ignorance are destroyed once and for all. Because now you fully understand the four Noble Truths and no longer identify with anything and there is the understanding that any identification process leads to suffering. Therefore, the mind is no longer prone to do that.

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Category: Online Retreat

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 6 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Not every Cessation will be followed by Nibbāna, especially in the case of an anāgāmi [who can, after practicing, enter Cessation at will for a long time].

What’s important to see is the contact with the Nibbāna element. You don’t require Cessation to attain Nibbāna. Nibbāna can occur from the first jhana onwards. If you can be in a state where you are completely letting go and not grasping onto anything, not grasping onto any of the Formations that create the factors of the jhana, you can attain Nibbāna from that point on.

 And then of course, there are cases in the suttas where there are beings who attain arahantship by just merely listening and reflecting deeply on the Dhamma. So, Nibbāna can happen even without Cessation. 

[Comment]

To add to that, in the Therīgāthā and the Theragāthā, which are suttas from the earliest arahant nuns and monks, often they see for instance a bucket with water falling over and seeing the water flow out, they attain arahantship. I’m guessing they are in a permanent meditative state with that, but it’s not always in sitting meditation.

[Answer]

 Exactly, that is true. And just to round out what you just said regarding just seeing something and being able to reflect on it without having to be in sitting meditation, in the case of  beings like Bahiya [Ud 1.10] who went to the Buddha and just by listening to the Buddha’s discourse on not self, and seeing not self in any aspect of the seeing and the cognizing and so forth, he was able to let go of all his attachments, let go of all the defilements, and then attain arahantship.

So, there are different ways that this can happen. It’s not just precluded by Cessation.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong.

Day 7 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

After cessation you have the arising of the links, you have the formations and so on arising. And then at the level of contact – it happens so fast – it’s contacting the unconditioned element, the Nibbāna element.

There is a way to influence that by continually letting go. This means there’s a non-involvement with the links of dependent origination as they arise, but you continually have that intention of letting go and not grasping, even at the level of contact. So, you can have the ability to get into that nibbāna element at the level of contact intentionally, if you continue to let go. At the level of an anāgāmi it will happen automatically and the contact with the nibbāna element will happen automatically. What happens after contact from that understanding is very crucial. The contact with the nibbāna element will create that relief that one feels. That relief is from having broken the fetters. In the case of a sotāpanna, it’s breaking the three fetters; in the case of a sakadāgāmi it’s weakening two of the fetters; and in the anāgāmi breaking the last two of the lower five fetters. So, that relief that’s experienced is of having let go completely, and then having that nibbāna experience.

 If there is an identification with that, it will create craving again. This happens quite naturally in the case of a sotāpanna. When that relief arises, there is that natural, immediate sense of what was that, wow! You know it was amazing and immediately you have this craving for it, in the sense of delighting in it and then identifying with it.

In the case of a sakadāgāmi, that relief becomes weaker, so there’s not much craving in that relief and it might weaken the fetter because of less identifying with it.

At the level of the anāgāmi, there is no craving, in the sense of delighting in that relief. You know there was that relief, but there’s still identification with it, meaning there’s the I just  had a nibbāna experience.

 Finally, with the arahant, because everything is seen as impersonal from the get-go, everything is just understood from complete non-involvement. That relief also is seen as impersonal, impermanent, and not worth holding on to. In that process the fetter of conceit is completely destroyed and the other fetters – the craving for existence, the craving for non-existence, and restlessness, which are actually dependent upon the conceit – are also destroyed. And of course ignorance. Once one has understood that craving and identification have completely been destroyed, that there is no more becoming, that the birth has been destroyed, and so on. This is the reason why the contact with the nibbāna element is crucial.

So, your question is: “Can it be influenced, can you have the contact with the nibbāna element after the cessation, without having it been automatic.” You can, to the extent that you continue to let go. Because the more you’re able to let go and not grasp, the easier the mind inclines towards nibbāna. You see, after cessation, at that point, the mind naturally inclines towards nibbāna. But in so far as continuing to incline there, it’s a matter of letting go, of not grasping onto anything.

[Continued question]

 So, if cessation happens without nibbāna, one grasped at the cessation experience?

  Yes, that’s right.

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Category: Online Retreat