The Buddha said that the Enlightened Ones were far from defilements. This doesn't mean that they ran away from defilements. They did not. Defilements were there. He compared it to a lotus leaf in a pond of water. The leaf and the water exist together. They are in contact but the leaf doesn't become wet. The water can be compared to defilements and the lotus leaf to the enlightened mind. The mind of one who practices doesn't run anywhere. It stays right where it is. Good and evil, happiness and unhappiness right and wrong they all arise, and he knows them all. The meditator simply knows them, but does not allow them to wet his mind. In other words, he does not cling to any of them.
In 1979, Luang Pu Dune went to Chantaburi to rest and to visit with Ajaan Somchai. On that occasion, a senior monk from Bangkok — Phra Dhammavaralankan of Wat Buppharam, the ecclesiastical head of the southern region of the country — was also there, practicing meditation in his old age, being only one year younger than Luang Pu. When he learned that Luang Pu was a meditation monk, he became interested and engaged Luang Pu in a long conversation on the results of meditation. He mentioned his responsibilities, saying that he had wasted a lot of his life engaged in study and administration work well into his old age. He discussed different points of meditation practice with Luang Pu, finally asking him, "Do you still have any anger?"
Luang Pu immediately answered, "I do, but I don't pick it up."
When Luang Pu Dune was undergoing treatment at Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok, large numbers of people came to pay their respects and listen to his Dhamma. Mr. Bamrungsak Kongsuk was among those who were interested in the practice of meditation. He was a student of Ajaan Sanawng of Wat Sanghadana in Nonthaburi province, one of the strict meditation centers of our day and time. He broached the topic of the practice of the Dhamma by asking, "Luang Pu, how does one cut off anger?"
Luang Pu answered, "There's nobody who cuts it off. There's only being aware of it in time. When you're aware of it in time, it disappears on its own."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/tha ... eleft.html
Recalling the anecdote of Ajahn Chah's interaction with a palm reader who read his palm and said: "You have a lot of anger!" to which Ajahn Chah replied: "Yes, but I don't use it."
https://www.abhayagiri.org/media/discs/ ... 20Chah.mp3
(Some Western monks asked Luang Por Piak about this passage. His reply was along these lines: "Luang Por Chah was very creative with his use of language, he wanted to shake people up sometimes. The mind of an arahant is totally free from defilements. What he was referring to was the results of past kamma that were still present.")
Ajahn Anan once asked Ajahn Chah what is the most direct way of practice. He replied: "Not to do anything at all is the most direct way." Ajahn Anan further explained what Ajahn Chah meant by that: The mind is like pure water and the various defilements are like colours mixed in with it. If we are able to maintain constant mindfulness and to observe these defilements come and go without letting the mind become soiled by them, then we don't need to do anything else. This is the shortest path of practice.
(79 ไม่ต้องทำอะไร ธรรมะโดย : หลวงพ่ออนันต์ อกิญฺจโน)
The calm mind is like a resting place for the practitioner. The Buddha rested here as it forms the base from which to practice vipassana and to contemplate the truth. At this point you only need to maintain a modest level of samadhi, your main function is to direct your attention to observing the conditions of the world around you. You contemplate steadily the process of cause and effect. Using the clarity of the mind, you reflect on all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations you experience, and how they give rise to different moods: good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant. It’s as if someone were to climb up a mango tree and shake the fruit down while you wait underneath to collect up all those that fall. You reject any mangoes which are rotten, keeping only the good ones. That way, you don’t have to expend much energy, because rather than climbing the tree yourself, you simply wait to collect the mangoes at the bottom.
This means that when the mind is calm, all the mind-objects you experience bring you knowledge and understanding. Because there is awareness, you are no longer creating or proliferating around these things. Success and failure, good reputation and bad reputation, praise and criticism, happiness and suffering, all come and go by themselves. With a clear, still mind that is endowed with insight, it’s interesting to sift through them and sort them out. All these mind-objects which you experience – whether it’s the praise, criticism or things that you hear from other people, or any of the other kinds of happiness and suffering which you experience – become a source of benefit for you. Because someone else has climbed up the mango tree and is shaking it to make the mangoes fall down to you. You can gather them up at leisure. You don’t have to fear anything – why should you fear anything when it’s someone else who is up the tree, shaking the mangoes down for you? All forms of gain and loss, good reputation and bad reputation, praise and criticism, happiness and suffering, are like the mangoes which fall down on you. The calm mind forms the basis for your contemplation, as you gather them up. With mindfulness, you know which fruits are good and which are rotten. This practice of reflection, based on the foundation of calm, is what gives rise to pañña and vipassana. It’s not something that has to be created or concocted – if there is genuine insight, then the practice of vipassana will follow automatically, without you having to invent names or labels for it.
https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Ajah ... ration.htm
The most important point in developing right exertion is to realize that the effort to abandon unskillful qualities and to develop skillful qualities must be skillful itself. Unskillful efforts at eradicating unskillful states, even if well intended, can often exacerbate problems instead of solving them. Treating hatred with hatred, for instance, is less effective than treating it with the kind of understanding developed in the second stage of frames-of-reference meditation [II/B], which sees into causes and effects, and learns how to manipulate causes properly so as to get the desired effects.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ml#part2-c
The same point applies to the question of how much effort must be applied to the practice. The Buddha notes that some meditators will have to undergo painful and slow practice, while others will find that their practice is painful and quick, pleasant and slow, or pleasant and quick [§§84-85]. Thus each has to adjust the effort applied to the practice accordingly. This need for differing levels of effort depends not only on the individual, but also on the situation. In some cases, simply watching an unskillful quality with equanimity will be enough to make it go away; in other cases, one has to exert a conscious effort to get rid of it [§§58-59]. Thus, through observation, one will realize that skillful effort has no room for doctrinaire approaches. The polar extremes of constant exertion to the point of exhaustion and its opposite, a knee-jerk fear of "efforting," are both misguided here, as is the seemingly "middle" way of moderation in all things. The true middle way means tuning one's efforts to one's abilities and to the task at hand [§86]. In some cases, this entails an all-out effort; in others, simple watchfulness. The ability to sense what kind and what level of effort is appropriate in any given situation is an important element in developing the basic requirements for skill — mindfulness and discernment — by putting them to use.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ml#part2-c
§ 59. 'And how is striving fruitful, how is exertion fruitful? There is the case where a monk, when not loaded down, does not load himself down with pain, nor does he reject pleasure that accords with the Dhamma, although he is not infatuated with that pleasure. He discerns that "When I exert a [bodily, verbal, or mental] fabrication against this cause of stress [§223], then from the fabrication of exertion there is dispassion [fading away]. When I look on with equanimity at that cause of stress, then from the development of equanimity there is dispassion." So he exerts a fabrication against the [first] cause of stress... and develops equanimity with regard to the [second] cause of stress... Thus the stress [coming from the first cause] is exhausted... & the stress [coming the second cause] is exhausted.
'Furthermore, the monk notices this: "When I live according to my pleasure, unskillful mental qualities increase in me & skillful qualities decline. When I exert myself with stress & pain, though, unskillful qualities decline in me & skillful qualities increase. Why don't I exert myself with stress & pain?" So he exerts himself with stress & pain, and while he is exerting himself with stress & pain, unskillful qualities decline in him, & skillful qualities increase. Then at a later time he would no longer exert himself with stress & pain. Why is that? Because he has attained the goal for which he was exerting himself with stress & pain...
'Suppose that a fletcher were to heat & warm an arrow shaft between two flames, making it straight & pliable. Then at a later time he would no longer heat & warm the shaft between two flames, making it straight & pliable. Why is that? Because he has attained the goal for which he was heating & warming the shaft... In the same way, the monk... no longer exerts himself with stress & pain. Why is that? Because he has attained the goal for which he was exerting himself with stress & pain.' (MN 101)
Some commentators have suggested that, in practice, this fivefold perspective can be gained simply by focusing on the arising and passing away of these aggregates in the present moment; if one's focus is relentless enough, it will lead naturally to a knowledge of drawbacks, allure, and escape, sufficient for total release. The texts, however, don't support this reading, and practical experience would seem to back them up. As MN 101 points out, individual meditators will discover that, in some cases, they can develop dispassion for a particular cause of stress simply by watching it with equanimity; but in other cases, they will need to make a conscious exertion to develop the dispassion that will provide an escape. The discourse is vague — perhaps deliberately so — as to which approach will work where. This is something each meditator must test for him or herself in practice. ...
The overall point is that the ways of the mind are varied and complex. Different fermentations can come bubbling up in different guises and respond to different approaches. One's skill as a meditator lies in mastering a variety of approaches and developing the sensitivity to know which approach will work best in which situation.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... etool.html
When you listen to Dhamma talks in Thailand, it's rare to hear one in which there's no mention of defilements. The fact that greed, aversion, delusion defile the mind is a constant theme, and that the practice is all about cleansing the mind of those defilements, doing battle with the defilements, finding ways to not fall for their tricks. As Ajahn Lee says, "To study is to know the texts, but to practice is to know your defilements," the purpose of which is to know them and let them go, eventually, go beyond them.
But if you listen to Dhamma talks in the West you never hear about this, the word is never mentioned. It's interesting. There's some aspects of the traditional teachings that modern Western teachers like to brag about, saying that they're going to drop this or drop that, they're gonna drop karma, they're gonna drop rebirth, they don't even mention the word defilement. You would never know that it was part of the Buddha's teachings. There's a passage that they like to quote which says that the mind is luminous, and they stop there; to give the impression that your mind is basically pure and clean and there's no real problem there; just realize that you're already pure and clean, and that's it. But the whole passage says a lot more. It says the mind is luminous, but it is defiled by visiting defilements. And if you don't notice, there's no training of the mind. Then you look at the Buddha's teachings, and one of the basic analogies that he uses is that the practice is a kind of cleansing, it's a kind of purification. So if you don't appreciate the importance of the defilements, you can't really train the mind. ...
So when you look at the way the Buddha talks about cleansing, he's not saying the mind is basically defiled in its nature. He's saying it's the actions that are defiled. And what's defilement? It's this ability to cause affliction. It's even though you should be acting for the purposes of happiness, you turn around and act for the affliction of yourself or others or both. That's the defilement.
And as for the luminosity of the mind, it's your ability to see that. OK, you have caused affliction and you can do something about it. It's not that there's an innate bad nature to the mind or an innate good nature. As the Buddha said, thinking "I am bad" or "I am good", either one of those is simply and expression of craving or clinging. You want to look at your actions. And he's right, if your actions are causing this kind of affliction, the actions are dark and they darken the mind. They make it more difficult to see what you're doing, and if you do see what you're doing and you try to pretend that you didn't cause any affliction, that's darkness as well, that's denial. ...
The most basic of the Buddha's teaching, which is the four noble truths, when he talks about the fact that it's not the innate nature of your mind, but your actions, he's talking about the second noble truth. The fact that defilement is affliction relates to the first noble truth. The luminosity of the mind is that your able to see there is affliction and that it is related to your actions. That's what enables you to follow the path. So if you can't admit these things, it's not healthy. It's narcissism and it's repression. So it's important that you learn to keep this concept in mind, and realize that what we are doing is a kind of cleansing. There is this darkness in the mind. Fortunately it's not innate to the mind, it can be cleansed. And we can cleanse it away ourselves. That's what the luminosity is all about.
http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/18835 ... thanissaro