Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

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Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

Post by JohnK » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:58 pm

I'm in the middle of reading the story of Mae Chee Kaew, and thought I would share a fairly long excerpt -- it is the big turning point for her practice. Up to now, in meditation, her venturous mind keeps going "out" to her visions of other realms; she apparently has great psychic power to communicate with beings from those realms (there is a great story about her communicating with a recently killed water buffalo who wants some of her merit so it can be reborn as a human); she assumes this is the path. However, she meets Maha Boowa who tries to set her straight.

(Sorry for the odd formatting from the pasting from the pdf.)
The excerpt begins on p.163. ... e_Kaew.pdf
Withdrawing slightly from deep samādhi, she immediately
saw another vision. This time the vision was a portent of Dhamma.
Opening her inner eye, she saw Ajaan Mahā Boowa walking toward
h e r , c a r r y i n g i n h i s h a n d a r a d i a n t , r a z o r - s h a r p k n i f e . P o i n t i n g t h e
knife directly at her body, he announced that he was going to demonstrate the proper way to investigate the physical body. With that, he
began to methodically chop her body to pieces. Slashing repeatedly with the sharp knife, he dismembered her whole body, cutting it into
smaller and smaller fragments. Mae Chee Kaew stared transfixed as body parts fell to the ground around her. She watched as Ajaan Mahā Boowa dissected each part further until nothing remained of her body except a disjointed heap of flesh, bones and sinews. Addressing her internal awareness, Ajaan Mahā Boowa asked, “Which piece is a person? Look at them all — compare them. Which piece is a woman? Which is a man? Which one is attractive? Which one is desirable?”
At that point, she was faced with a bloody mess of body parts. They were so disgusting in nature that she was totally dismayed to
think she had clung to them for so long. She continued watching as the remains of her body were scattered about until, finally, nothing
remained. At that moment, her mind felt drawn back inside, and the fl o w o f h e r c o n s c i o u s n e s s d e c i s i v e l y r e v e r s e d d i r e c t i o n , d r o p p i n g t o
the base ofsamādhi, a n d c o n v e r g i n g t o t h e v e r y c e n t e r o f h e r b e -
ing. Only a simple and harmonious awareness remained, alone on
i t s o w n . T h e k n o w i n g e s s e n c e o f m i n d w a s s o e x c e e d i n g l y r e fi n e d
as to be indescribable. It simply knew — a profoundly subtle state of
inner awareness pervaded.
By decisively reversing her focus inward, Mae Chee Kaew halted
the normal flow of consciousness and realized the true essence of
mind — the very essence or source of awareness. Within the heart’s
central chamber, she experienced an ungraspable sense of vast space,
beyond measure — the wondrous nature of the formless essence of
awareness. When focusing inward, she suddenly forgot the focusing,
and entered utter quiescence. Not a single thought arose. Everything
was empty silence. Body and mind were in a state of great freedom,
and all objects — including her body — disappeared without a trace.
Utterly tranquil, her mind stayed for many hours bathed in its own
As soon as her mind began withdrawing from deep samādhi, she
detected a subtle movement of consciousness — almost impercep-
tible, at first — as it started to flow out from the mind’s essence, and
move away from the center. As the momentum of consciousness
grew, she clearly observed a strong and immediate urge for the mind
to turn its attention outward, in the direction of external perceptions.
The tendency was so much a part of her nature that she had hardly
noticed it before. Suddenly, this conscious outflow stood out clearly
against the background of the serene tranquility of the mind’s true
essence. In order to reverse the normal course of consciousness and
keep her awareness firmly centered inside, she was forced to put up
a mighty struggle against its out-flowing inclination. She thought of
Ajaan Mahā Boowa and reflected on his severe admonitions. Now
there are two main objectives for bringing thought to a halt.
One is to open up space to clarify the nature of thought, by dis-
tinguishing compulsive and habitual thinking from deliberate and
focused thinking. The other is to clear room for the conscious oper-
ation of non-conceptual insight. Both are indispensible aspects of
wisdom. Properly practiced, samādhi can stop thought temporarily,
but it does not distort reason. It enables one to think deliberately
rather than compulsively. This use of mind opens a wider space for
thought with the ability to think and observe with detached clarity.
Direct perception can see at a glance where a train of thought will
lead. Using independent and intuitive insight, one can put down use-
less thoughts and take up useful ones, thus building a firm basis for
transcendent wisdom. As long as the mind has not reached supreme
quiet, it cannot properly think. Thinking caused by the ongoing mo-
mentum of consciousness is random thinking, not essential thinking.
Knowledge gained from conceptual thought is superficial and un-
reliable. It lacks the essential insight of true wisdom.
A mind undistracted by peripheral thoughts and emotions focuses
exclusively on its field of awareness, and investigates the phenomena
arising there in the light of truth, without interference from guess-
work or speculation. This is an important principle. The investigation
proceeds smoothly, with fluency and skill. Never distracted or misled
by conjecture, genuine wisdom investigates, contemplates and under-
stands at a deeply profound level.
Because Mae Chee Kaew had been bound up with the products
of consciousness for so long, and thus alienated from its essence, it
was necessary for her to directly experience the mind’s true essence.
But experiencing the essence was a means rather than an end — a
means of freeing the mind from gross mental hindrances, and lay-
ing a solid foundation for further development. Ajaan Mahā Boowa
w a r n e d h e r t h a t t h e e x p e r i e n c e o f m i n d e s s e n c e c o u l d e a s i l y l e a d h e r
to a false sense of confidence in the knowledge arising from concious
perceptions. This made it imperative that everything flowing from the
mind be investigated carefully. Each time that she withdrew from deep
samādhi, it was necessary to examine the activities of consciousness
for the remaining taints of compulsive mental conditioning, ruled by
lingering attachments to physical form, mental imagery and thought
In this way, Ajaan Mahā Boowa taught Mae Chee Kaew how to
probe deeper into her mind so that she could learn to completely
uproot the mental defilements that were wrapped tightly around her
heart. He reiterated that this — and not the perception of countless
phenomena in the conventional world — was the essence of Buddhist
practice. He urged her to first turn her mental energy toward solv-
ing the enigma of physical embodiment, and the mind’s inevitable
attachment to form. He reminded her that the practice of wisdom
begins with the human body, the objective being to directly penetrate
the body’s true nature.
In investigating the body, he taught her to make use of the power
of spontaneous observation as a contemplative technique. So as to
avoid falling into conditioned patterns of thinking — based on
habitual interpretations and fueled by conjecture and supposition
— Mae Chee Kaew must employ the clear, unclouded mindfulness
present right where consciousness emerged from the mind’s true es-
sence. For spontaneous insight to arise, the limitations of ordinary
thinking and imagining must be overcome. That meant perceiving
the objects of investigation just as they appeared in her mind, all
at once without conceptualizing. If she allowed the conscious mind
t o d i s c r i m i n a t e , b y n a m i n g a n d l a b e l i n g m e n t a l f o r m a t i o n s , t h e n
normal mundane conditioning would generate a proliferation of
t h o u g h t , a n d l e a d t o p r o f u s e c o n f u s i o n — t h e v e r y a n t i t h e s i s o f t r u e
insight. By spontaneously observing phenomena with clear mindful-
ness, she could develop a sense of freedom from the things she
perceived, and attain wisdom’s natural, unobstructed clarity.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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Re: Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

Post by JohnK » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:43 pm

Another installment (excerpts from the Chapter Spontaneous Awareness).
She is now focusing on her own mind rather than going "out" to her visions.
…she spent the morning hours pacing her meditation path from end to end…Her awareness was so internalized that occasionally her body
veered off the walking surface and into the undergrowth. Without losing concentration, she instinctively steered herself back to the path
and resumed walking, her attention resolutely fixed on the flowing current of consciousness…

…Late one evening Mae Chee Kaew had a vision. The vista of a spacious pool filled with golden lotus blossoms stretched before her mind’s eye…As Mae Chee Kaew watched in quiet awe, a small golden duck glided down from the sky…After consuming four petals it stopped, satisfied, and remained perfectly still…she realized that she herself was the golden duck…She understood that the four lotus petals were the four ariya magga, the four milestones on the noble path to arahantship. Like the golden duck, Mae Chee Kaew radiated the clear, luminous light of understanding: knowledge that in this lifetime she would surely complete her journey along that noble path.

Mae Chee Kaew’s meditation had reached a decisive phase…[realizing that] the flow of consciousness was consistently steeped in a proliferation of mental imagery and attending emotion. Her mind painted elaborate pictures all the time — pictures of herself and pictures of the external world. It then fell for its own mental imagery, believing it to be substantially real.

…Gradually the illusion of cohesive mental images began to break down as well. Within the flowing current of consciousness, myriad amorphous
forms and fragmentary shapes arose, coalesced into images, and then broke apart…Before a particular desire or expression could fully formulate, the source of awareness simply enveloped it, causing it to dissolve into emptiness and disappear…Habitual concepts of bodily existence expressed a desire to take form…,but the knowing essence dissolved them all…forms flickered on and such rapid succession that their meaning was no longer discernable. After each disappearance, awareness experienced profound emptiness – emptiness of imagery, and emptiness of attachment…An extremely refined essence of pure knowing stood out within the mind. As each new image flashed and vanished, the mind felt the resulting emptiness more profoundly. From that point on, Mae Chee Kaew’s mind was wondrously empty and clear.

This insight occasioned a momentous revolution of Mae Chee Kaew’s entire being. She understood the truth with absolute certainty: delusion about imagery produced by the flow of consciousness leads to feelings of repulsion and attraction…the external world of appearances collapsed, and her attachment to it ceased of its own accord…The mind’s usual sense of physical limitation and embodiment completely disappeared. She felt her being dissolve, expand outward and merge with all things, as though forming one essence with the universe; resting within, unfettered by any dependency, was a supreme emptiness — clear, bright and still.
This however is not yet the end of the story.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

Post by JohnK » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:55 pm

Mae Chee Kaew had learned to examine phenomena using the specific perceptions of consciousness in tandem with the expansive awareness of intrinsic mental essence. She realized that consciousness flowed naturally from the mind essence to initiate perceptual activity. And perceptions were defined and interpreted by the mind’s conceptual movement, which had its origin in the motionless essence. So she focused exclusively on the moment that the conscious flow stirred and emerged from the stillness of her mind’s vital center.

Each thought, each spark of an idea, ripples briefly through the mind, then ceases…Fragmentary ideas — the elements of thought — flash on and off with distinct beginnings and endings, like flashes of lightning…But the mental recognition that interprets their significance disperses more slowly through the mind, blanketing the flowing consciousness like a moving fog, before coalescing into distinct conceptual forms. Together, memories and thoughts combine to conjure up the concepts and notions of personal existence.

…mental phenomena…possess no awareness of their own. The awareness that knows them is the mind essence…The flow of consciousness from the knowing center creates the illusion of duality, of inside and outside, of knower and known.

…Because of a subtle and pervasive delusion…the awareness that knows forms and concepts becomes attached to these creations of consciousness.
Grasping at an individual, personal identity, the mind turns feelings, memories and thoughts into self. That grasping turns the mind itself into a personality. But thinking and feeling are actually just conditioned functions of the mind; not its original essence. Essence turning into consciousness creates conceptual reality, not an essential one. And the conceptual reality of self is the object of deep-seated attachment.

Mae Chee Kaew realized that the true mind had no form, and formed no conceptions…she attained freedom from conceptual thinking, which allowed the knowing essence to relinquish mental constructs before they could establish a definite presence in the mind’s conscious continuum…the knowing essence simply let go, causing mental formations to dissolve…Eventually, the detached nature of the mind’s true essence became…all encompassing…

As profound emptiness constantly dissolved countless forms of emerging existence, the mind’s knowing essence gained the upper hand, increasing in brightness and purity.

When insight thoroughly penetrated the illusory nature of mental phenomena, the knowing essence relinquished all concepts, fully recognizing that they were merely ripples inside the mind and had no real substance…Mae Chee Kaew’s meditation was destroying mental patterns that have dominated saṁsāric existence for eons…The mind’s spontaneous observation was pure, undiluted attention, that led naturally to clear and penetrating insight. When the mind understands clearly with intuitive wisdom that no self can be found within mental phenomena, liberating detachment occurs of its own accord…Thought and imagination within the mind had come to a complete halt. The mind’s essential knowing nature stood out alone, on its own.

…A luminous essence of being that seemed boundless, yet wondrously empty, permeated everything throughout the universe…

When the offshoots of delusion were completely cut, her mind converged into a nucleus of sublime radiance — a radiance so majestic and mesmerizing that Mae Chee Kaew felt certain it signaled the end of all suffering…the subtle radiant splendor at the center of the mind became her sole remaining focus. The focal point of her awareness was so exceedingly delicate and refined as to be indescribable, and emitted a happiness
that was unprecedented and so wondrous that it seemed to entirely transcend the realm of conditioned phenomena. The luminous mind exuded a strong sense of power and invulnerability. Nothing seemed capable of affecting it. Mae Chee Kaew was now certain that she had finally reached the ultimate goal, Nibbāna.
But this is still not the end of the story.
Mae Chee Kaew felt the time was right to inform Ajaan Maha Boowa about her crowning achievement.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
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Re: Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

Post by JohnK » Wed Aug 08, 2018 8:26 pm

The crucial meeting with Maha Boowa:
Seeing Ajaan Mahā Boowa seated at the cave’s entrance, Mae Chee Kaew prostrated before her teacher…and asked permission to speak. She spoke of her progress over the past year, carefully detailing the consecutive stages of her experience, and concluded with her “lion’s roar,” the radiant emptiness of mind that permeated the entire cosmos and transcended all conditions.

When she stopped speaking, Ajaan Mahā Boowa looked up and calmly asked, “Is that all?” Mae Chee Kaew nodded. Ajaan Mahā Boowa paused for a moment and then spoke:

“When you investigate mental phenomena until you go beyond them completely, the remaining defiling elements of consciousness will be drawn into a radiant nucleus of awareness, which merges with the mind’s naturally radiant essence. This radiance is so majestic and mesmerizing that even transcendent faculties like spontaneous mindfulness and intuitive wisdom invariably fall under its spell. The mind’s brightness and clarity appear to be so extraordinary and awe-inspiring, that nothing can possibly compare. The luminous essence is the epitome of perfect goodness and virtue, the ultimate in spiritual happiness. It is your true, original self — the core of your being. But this true self is also the fundamental source of all attachment to being and becoming.

“…that radiant emptiness should not be mistaken for the pure emptiness of Nibbāna. The two are as different as night and day. The radiant mind is the original mind of the cycle of constant becoming; but it is not the essence of mind which is fully pure and free from birth and death…When the mind finally relinquishes all attachment to forms and concepts, the knowing essence assumes exceedingly refined qualities. It has let go of everything — except itself...the radiant essence has turned into a subtle form of self without you realizing it. You end up believing that the subtle feelings of happiness and the shining radiance are the unconditioned essence…you accept this majestic mind as the finished product. You believe it to be Nibbāna, the transcendent emptiness of pure mind.

“But emptiness, radiance, clarity and happiness are all subtle conditions of a mind still bound by delusion. When you observe the emptiness carefully, with sustained attention, you will observe that it is not really uniform, not really constant. The emptiness produced by primal delusion is the result of subtle conditions…all conditioned phenomena — no matter how refined, bright and majestic they seem — invariably manifest some irregular symptoms…its radiance has the same characteristics — of being transient, imperfect and unessential — as all the other phenomena that you have already transcended. The only difference is that the radiance is far more subtle and refined.

“Try imagining yourself standing in an empty room…Admiring its emptiness, you forget about yourself. You forget that you occupy a central position in that space. How then can the room be empty? A long as someone remains in the room, it is not truly empty…until you depart, that is the moment when that fundamental delusion about your true self disintegrates, and the pure, delusion-free mind arises.

“The self as reference the essence of all false knowing…Its presence represents the difference between the subtle emptiness of the radiant mind and the transcendent emptiness of the pure mind…

“Delusion is an intrinsically blind awareness, masquerading as radiance, clarity and happiness. As such, it is the self ’s ultimate safe haven...True emptiness occurs only when every single trace of one’s conditioned reality disappears.

“As soon as you turn around and know it for what it is, that false awareness simply disintegrates…that luminous deception has all along been concealing the mind’s true, natural wonder.”
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: Mae Chee Kaew meets Maha Boowa

Post by JohnK » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:47 pm

Following Maha Boowa's guidance:
Returning to the nunnery that evening, Mae Chee Kaew reflected on how the radiant mind had become her sole lingering attachment. Cherishing and safeguarding it more than anything else, she hardly wanted to interfere with it…It provoked such a riveting sense of inner amazement — and consequently, such a protective feeling of attachment — that she wanted nothing to disturb it.

Because of Mae Chee Kaew’s delusion about the mind essence that knows all things, she forgot to investigate and pass judgment on the true nature of that essence...she now realized that it was actually the nucleus of the origin of suffering.

Fearless and unshakable, Mae Chee Kaew began to meticulously scrutinize her mind’s extraordinary radiance, looking for any signs of imperfection…she began to notice that an equally refined dullness occasionally emerged to tarnish that radiant, crystal-clear essence of knowing. This irregularity caused an equally subtle form of dissatisfaction and uncertainty to slip in. The minute fluctuations that she observed revealed enough variance to make her suspicious and to encourage her to persevere. Eventually she became so absorbed in attending to those fluctuations that she lost all sense of time...Without letting up, she continued for days on end, noting the slightest inconsistencies as they arose, until all certainty about the radiant awareness eroded and disappeared.

With the first light of dawn on November 1, 1952…She walked slowly to the bamboo platform under the tree, and sat perfectly still for a long moment — a moment of deep, still, unfocused calm. A prolonged lull ensued where nothing moved forward, nothing moved back and nothing stood still. Then, aware but knowing nothing in particular, suspended in emptiness, the crystal-clear radiance of mind she had treasured for so long suddenly turned and dissolved — revealing a pure, all-knowing presence that filled the heart and pervaded the entire universe. The knower was everywhere, but nothing was known. Without characteristics and without source, emanating from no point in particular, knowing was simply a spontaneous happening of cosmic expanse. The radiant awareness had dissolved in an instant, leaving only purity of mind and the essential freedom of pure Dhamma — an absolutely unconditioned knowing that entirely transcended all forms of human conception.

For days, the enlightened essence completely absorbed Mae Chee Kaew’s attention. The radiance of mind that she had valued so highly now appeared coarse and sullied by comparison.

From Mae Chee Kaew:
“Body, mind and essence are all distinct and separate realities.
Absolutely everything is known — earth, water, fire and wind;
body, feeling, memory, thought and consciousness; sounds, sights,
smells, tastes, touches and emotions; anger, greed and delusion —
all are known. I know them all as they exist — in their own
natural states. But no matter how much I am exposed to them, I
am unable to detect even an instant when they have any power
over my heart. They arise, they cease. They are forever changing.
But the presence that knows them never changes for an instant. It
is forever unborn and undying. This is the end of all suffering.”

"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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