[ Sitting Practice ]
Sitting under the Tree of Knowledge
"This, Aggivessana, occurred to me: 'I know that while my father, the Sakyan, was ploughing, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, entering on the first meditation, which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful, and while abiding therein, I thought: 'Now could this be a way to awakening?'"
This short passage, which is not obviously deep in meaning, was the one that gave me my first real look-see into Dhamma as I see it. This is from [MN 36] The Middle Length Sayings I, #36, The Great Discussion with Saccaka (Quoting the PTS Horner ed because that was the way I read it first - This after a lengthy discussion often quoted of the extreme austerities undertaken by Gotama prior to his enlightenment. It is the thought which turned his attention away from austerities and onto the method that worked):
The picture of the scene came into my mind (I was trying to understand the Mulapariyaya at the time). Then it occurred to me: 'The Plowing Ceremony!' And I remembered the meaning.
The Plowing Ceremony was the "Coming-of-Age" ceremony; "plowing the field" being in this culture as in many others, symbolic of fertility and procreation. Sitting under an Apple Tree, no less! (I know! ... don't spoil the story! - and don't limit the possible foresight of the Buddha! or the possibilities of cross-cultural ... um ... fertilization) And I understood that what was being talked about as a method was not the acquiring of some mysterious state or another, but the rising above or letting go of a state that was not mysterious at all.
There comes a time when sexual desire raises it's head, as it were. At such a time if the mind can be distracted and one can pass passed this urge, a profound sense of release permeates the body. A very similar condition occurs if one skips a meal, the body at first experiences disruption of it's habit, and then a sort of healing takes place.
This is the meaning of "aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind". Something accessible to one and all right from the get go if I am not mistaken.
Don't sit under the Apple Tree with anyone else but ... um, well, He!
There is a very popular saying about the Buddha not teaching with a closed fist. I don't dispute the statement. What I am suggesting here and throughout is that this Dhamma is Deep! A questioner gets his question answered directly which is the open hand; but the meaning can never be simply left to rest at the surface, there is almost always hidden, deep, subtle meaning to be found.
This is no one-dimensional thing we have here in the Dhamma, it is a complex work, (someone said "holographic", I agree, I usually say "Multidimensional", but holographic is the meaning - even a small fraction of it reveals the totatality of its meaning if one is willing to look deeply enough); it is a monumental work of literature; it is a mental gymnasium; it is deep psychology; it is a Master Sorcerer's Spell and simple common sense; it is the Truth; and it is "helpful in the Beginning, helpful in the Middle, and helpful at the End."
So: Dig in, my friends, take a good healthy bite of that appa!
Open Hand Deep Meaning
In the process of cleaning up the code for The Gotamaka Sutta in the Mulapariyaya section, two issues presented themselves:
First, I think that the statement: "I teach dhamma in a wondrously deep way, not in a way that is not wondrously deep." is saying what I mean when I speak about reading the Pali ... and as often as not even when we are reading the translations ... and finding that the answer given to some questioner fits the question on a matter of fact level, but also can be read at several far deeper levels. (And that this is what is intended by the statment "This Dhamma is helpful at the beginning (to the beginner, to one first hearing the word), helpful in the majjhima (in the middle, to someone somewhat along the path, to one practicing magic powers), and helpful at the end (making for living at peace in the hear and now - ditthadhammasukhavihara - even for the Arahant).")
It is necessary to continue to bring up this issue because many of the teachers out there are denying that there is a deeper (not hidden, but not obvious) meaning to just about every word in this system and are teaching it in a flat, lifeless boring way that is ignorning the great adventures/magic/power made possible by a deep examination of the meaning of this Dhamma.
The other thing was that I heard new meaning in the often repeated statement: "Well taught is the Dhamma by the #1 Wide-Awakened One" "Properly conducted is the Order" I have usually heard "Properly conducted is the Order." as a statement indicating that the Bhikkhus in the order are well behaved. Today I heard it: "I am running this order in the correct way." In other words once again he is suggesting that where one has the thought (as did the Bhikkhus who first heard the Mulapariyaya; and as do some schools of Buddhism out there today state) that the Teacher has not taught well, one should, think again.
"Hoeing the row (the pali: the row);" "Sowing his wild oats."