Art of Disappearing – Ajahn Brahm

Just finished one of Ajahn Brahm‘s books, the Art of Disappearing, and since I keep thinking about it and I have a chance to toss some quick notes (mostly quotes from the book) here, voila:

“We expect and ask impossible things from this world”

“By practicing and deepening your meditation, stage by stage, your sense of self, your ego, starts to vanish…monastic life is set up for you to disappear..And as you practice your meditation, you see that when even a little bit of you disappears, you have more peace, freedom, and joy.”

“In meditation, when things get still, they disappear.”

“…it’s useful to practice skillful means like anatta-sanna, or nonself perception. It’s very clear in the suttas that there’s no such thing as a self; indeed, that’s basic Buddhism. In scientific journals, too, psychologists tell you that there’s no self; it’s just a construct…It follows that an arahant gets into jhana very easily and that even the anagami, a nonreturner, does so without problems or difficulties.”

Wikipedia has a neat entry on anatta-sanna, here is a small part, “If the word “soul” refers to a non-bodily component in a person that can continue in some way after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of a soul.[4] In fact, persons (Pāli: puggala; Sanskrit, pudgala) are said to be characterized by an ever-evolving consciousness (Pali: samvattanika viññana),[5][6] stream of consciousness (Pali: viññana sotam;[7] Sanskrit: vijñana srotām), or mind-continuity (Sanskrit: citta-saṃtāna) which, upon the death or dissolution of the aggregates (skandhas), becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new group of skandhas. However, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent or static entity that remains constant behind the changing bodily and non-bodily components of a living being. Reportedly, the Buddha reprimanded a disciple who thought that in the process of rebirth the same consciousness is reborn without change.[8] Just as the body changes from moment to moment, so thoughts come and go; and according to the anattā doctrine, there is no permanent conscious substance that experiences these thoughts, as in Cartesianism: rather, conscious thoughts simply arise and perish with no “thinker” behind them.[9] When the body dies, the incorporeal mental processes continue and are reborn in a new body.[4] Because the mental processes are constantly changing, the new being is neither exactly the same as, nor completely different from, the being that died.[10]…Neuroscientists and philosophers of conscious have started incorporating the notion that there is no self in to current theory with Daniel Dennett being a well known advocate of this position in his theory of consciousness.”

This one is taking some thinking for me. I am thinking are we all like a part of an ocean, the waves are showing up and changing constantly and everything being a part of everything (literally we are all a swarm of molecules and energy) there is no one separate self.

“You just watch and gather the data…We all have our escape strategies. But remember: when you use those escapes, you’re not learning anymore; you’re just wasting time. It’s important to observe your reactions to things. This practice is wise in itself, and it develops further wisdom; it helps you go far deeper in your meditation. Whenever anything comes up that is unsatisfactory – that’s when you observe…and gather data because you want to understand…to learn from your experiences…Here is the data for insight, the dung for your garden…you don’t own them. You don’t escape from suffering on a retreat; you face it and disengage from it.”

“Be with [frustration] for a long, long time, until you know it thoroughly. When you do, you become free from it.”

I think it’s important to add you are doing that with a lot of compassion and non-judging.

“Always remember that it’s not that you can do it [meditate]; it’s that you aren’t getting in the way. The process happens when “you” disappear. When you’re demanding, you are there. When you have ill will, you are there. When you have craving, you are there. When you have boredom, you are there. All these things create a sense of self that thinks it owns thing and gets involved. You are the problem. And you can’t just go somewhere else: wherever you go , you take you with you. So everyone should disrobe: take off the “I-garment.” That which you take yourself to be, that sense of self, should leave and vanish. When the sense of you disappears, there’s no ill will or desire, because they’re part of the ego and the illusion of self. Then there can only be contentment and peace.”

“When you see clearly, you stop expecting things from life that it will never be able to give. That’s my definition of suffering: expecting from life what it can never provide. If you want too much from life, you suffer. You create that suffering with your expectation. When you understand the limitations of life and the limitations of your abilities, you know that all you can do is try your best to be helpful and not harm others. But even with the best of intentions, sometimes you won’t succeed. That’s life; you can’t do anything about it. A wise sensitivity to the world around you comes from seeing things as they truly are-seeing that the nature of the jungle is harm and suffering. Right now, we all have old age, sickness, and death latent in our bodies. This is the nature of our bodies. ”

“The Buddha said that the amount of tears you’ve cried is more than all the oceans of the world (SN 15:3). You’ve died so many times that if you piled up all your bones, the heap would be greater than a mountain (SN 15:10)…Fortunately, there’s a way out…”

There is a concept in Buddhism that your consciousness can be released after the body dies and not return to a new body, instead stay out of the cycle of samsara and move into a great and beautiful other realm.


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