Phase Three: Learn from Your Experience & Transform Your Life

Week 6: Insight
Transformation through awareness of dhammas: the Sense Spheres, Factors of Awakening and Noble Truths

The study is on the final sections of the sutta (14, 15, 16, 17 and 18) and on the concluding chapters of Living with Awareness i.e. 13, 14, 15 and 16; looking at Sangharakshita’s idea of a spiral path towards a purified awareness.

Preparation

Continue the regular walking reflection practice, along with any other meditation you have been doing.
Read and absorb what Sangharakshita has to say in Living with Awareness Chapters 13: ‘Sensing’, 14: ‘Enlightening,’ 15: ‘Suffering, and ceasing to suffer’ and 16: ‘Concluding.’

Action

Read together the final part of the sutta: sections 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Study selections from Sangharakshita’s final chapters:
Final check-in on practice.

On the fetters and sense spheres:

Discuss, in terms of your own experience, Sangharakshita’s statement p.124: ‘(the eighteen dhātus) give us a closer analysis of experience than the hindrances or even the khandhas, and through them we can become aware of how mental states emerge into consciousness time and time again.’

Discuss any inklings of Sangharakshita’s notion of ‘pure awareness,’ the state the fetters hold us back from: ‘a pristine, non-deluded consciousness of reality’ (p.125)... ‘Give up the mental commentary, the ego-based, interpreting ‘thereby’. Just see. Just think. It sounds simple enough. But if you have ever tried to achieve such mental clarity, you will know exactly how difficult it is. Once it is accomplished, the awareness created is like a mirror, reflecting everything without distortion.’ (p.126).
Also, see Sangharakshita p.129, after quoting William Blake on the doors of perception: ‘When in the seen there is only the seen, consciousness ultimately opens out into a non-dual awareness.’
How are your own efforts progressing, in noticing the ‘gap’ arising in which particular fetters fasten themselves, ‘whenever an external sense base impinges upon one or more of the corresponding internal bases.’ (p.127)?
Do you understand Sangharakshita’s point (p.130 ff) about the first three fetters being one and the same mental attitude, seen from different angles, and, being more or less conscious (in contrast to the other seven fetters) best seen through using conceptual means?

Discuss this part of chapter 13 especially in relation to the fetter of restlessness (p.132-3).

On the enlightenment factors:
Discuss your experience of the way the path unfolds from establishing a practice of mindfulness: ‘(the bodhyaṇgas)... are simply the states that arise from establishing mindfulness more and more firmly.’(p.148); and also with reference to Sangharakshita’s idea of ‘progressive Enlightenment’ re-reading Buddhaghosa on ‘the liberated state’ (p.149).

On the noble truths:

Consider the experience of craving, i.e. the origin of suffering, in the light of Sangharakshita’s recommendation that we, ‘Experience that craving, or stifled energy, or inner void, and not try to satisfy it or release it or fill it. This sense of insufficiency of inadequacy goes very deep and it will take us a lot deeper into our experience if we can resist the lure of superficial pleasure.’ (p.154).
Also ‘(The idea that dukkha dissolves when craving ceases) ... runs counter to our instinctive response to dukkha. We tend to think of craving not as the root of the problem but as the pointer to its solution.’(p.154).
Sangharakshita gives (p.155) a valuable sense of what can be learned from noticing, during more precise observation of one’s mental life, the great diversity of forms and aspects of dukkha. How do we think we can best approach this?

On the prediction and conclusion:

Reflect on Sangharakshita p.164: ‘The reiteration of the point that “the way of mindfulness is the direct way” takes on a new significance... mindfulness ensures a gradual acceleration of the whole spiritual process, if you put enough effort into it.’

Consider the concluding paragraphs pp.165-6: ‘Work on the mind really is work, and full-time work too, both in meditation and outside it.’ and that: ‘once you are on your way mindfulness becomes steadily easier to sustain, especially if you have the moral support of your spiritual friends and indeed the whole spiritual community.’


Meditate – depending on the extra time available for more exploratory meditation, some practice could be done on the six sense bases. Karuṇābhāvanā would also be appropriate in relation to the Noble Truths. Another appropriate reflection could be the meditation on conditionality, i.e. the Twelve Links.

However if time is limited, it might be best to continue with mindfulness of breathing and walking reflection/meditation.


Final Ritual
dedication of merits and aspiration to continue the practice until full awakening.The ritual could centre around Vairocana, with perhaps Vajrasattva or Śākyamuni.