Dhamma teachings of Ajahn Sumedho
Whatever you think you are, that's not what you are.
Whenever you suffer, ask yourself: "What am I attached to?"
People who are attached to life are actually attached to death: contemplate that.
The five khandhas are all about death.
Mindfulness is the way out of insanity. The whole world is insane! It's just that some kinds of insanity are agreed upon as 'normal', while those that are not considered normal -- especially if they get anti-social -- they will lock you up for those....
In meditation we are breaking down the illusion that the mind is in the brain. Actually, the brain -- and the whole body -- is in the mind! The brain is more like a radio receiver. Each of us is a separate conscious entity in the universe. We all see the world from here. Consciousness is like light which makes things visible. Each of us is the centre of the universe, the centre of the mandala. That's why we are ultimately alone. Nobody can help you do this practice, it's only up to you.
Learn how to trust and rest in this state of pure knowing: It is like this. It can't be any other way. You need mindfulness (sati) to keep remembering this state and returning to it. This stillness of the mind is non-critical, non-judgemental. It's an intuitive, direct knowing, it's not analytical. This is called nanadassana, or insight knowledge.
Discussing 'Transcendental Dependent Arising' (suffering --> faith --> gladness --> rapture --> calmness --> happiness --> concentration --> knowing and seeing things as they are --> disenchantment --> dispassion --> liberation --> destruction of the effluents): It begins with positive states like 'gladness' and 'happiness', so you would expect it to get better and better, but then it goes to ... disenchantment, or nibbida. It's like when you see some children playing on the sand, with buckets and spades, building sand castles and roads and bridges. I used to play like that when I was young! But then as you get older and you see small children playing in this way, you are no longer interested in it, you become disenchanted with it. And then dispassion arises, you can no longer get involved in the quarrelling and disputes among the children on the playground. You see society, people around you, getting upset and obsessed by such unimportant, trivial things.... That's how the arahant sees the world. And that's liberation. You are no longer fascinated by rebirth. "The holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is nothing more beyond this." You see the dukkha of all conditions, that your desires cannot be satisfied in this conditioned world. But it's not like rejecting the world, either. You still love the children playing with the sand, and you want to help them. Maybe you ask yourself: "So what happens after I die?" But you don't die. What dies? The body dies, but there is no attachment to it. ... Somebody said to me: "There are no arahants in the world anymore." I asked him: "How do you know? Are you omniscient? Maybe there are more arahants in the world than you think."
The jhanas are often spoken of in terms of 'attainment', but it's no attainment at all, it's more like abandoning, or relinquishing. Because jhana is a state when the five hindrances are suppressed or abandoned. By cultivating this spacious, expansive mind, you do actually develop the jhana factors -- like rapture, gladness, etc. -- but they arise naturally, without you trying to attain them.
I see samma-samadhi as wholeness, as a state of balance, or collectedness. Concentration which is dependent on special conditions is not sustainable, because those conditions are not always going to be there.
In Theravada Buddhism, we use words like Unconditioned, Unborn, cessation, or abandoning. But when we approach them with a Western-trained, analytical mind, it often ends up as annihilationism.
Speaking about psychotherapeutic meetings: It's like we take these heavy burdens onto our shoulders, and then we come together and tell each other about how we feel, carrying this weight on our backs! It tends to reinforce the basic delusion that "I am somebody who has a problem, and I have to do this and that in order to solve it." It does not cut off the problem at its root.
(Amaravati winter retreat 1999)