Where Buddhism Meets Gendlin

Month: May 2010

In Whatever We are Doing

Continuing with MN 119, Kāyagatāsati Sutta… In the following passage I took the liberty of replacing the usual “carrying her robe and bowl” with a more neutral reference, “in respect of clothing.”

“Furthermore, seekers, a practitioner is fully aware when going forward or stepping backward. When looking at (something) or looking away – she is fully aware. When moving or extending her limbs – fully aware. In respect of clothing – fully aware. In eating and drinking – fully aware. While chewing and tasting – fully aware. While urinating and defecating – fully aware. Walking, standing, sitting; asleep or awake; speaking or silent – she is fully aware.

As she dwells thus, ardent, diligent and committed, her thoughts about mundane concerns are abandoned and hence the mind becomes inwardly steadied, quieted, unified and collected. In this way a practitioner develops mindfulness of the body.”

Mindfulness of the Fragility of the Body.

Going into hospital this week for a small operation on this body. How fragile, how vulnerable, it is to the illnesses typical of old age. I think of that description by the Buddha of his body before he died. Ananda suggested he stay longer, don’t die now, but the Buddha said:

“Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable.

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

I find that so moving, that he counsels Ananda to take up his practice, at this point.

(By the way, often this and similar passages are rendered as “be a light unto yourselves.” However, I go with Thanissaro’s translation, here: ‘island.’ The ‘island’-translation is not only more likely, but it has phenomenological and psychological implications that are more helpful to our practice. One of the issues met on the path is the unwillingness to feel the separation that comes with increasing differentiation. “Island” raises the issue of ‘independence.’)

Anyhow, all that said, off to hospital to have them cut up this composite body of organs.

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