During Buddha’s time, there lived an erudite scholar monk named Pothila, who was an authority on Buddhist ‘doctrinal’ teachings. He was also like the present day masters of chronicle studies [a Tripitaka Wagishvara], ‘proficient’ in all facets of training and guiding others on the practice.
Pothila also possessed an in depth ‘knowledge’ of every discourse of the Buddha. For this reason Pothila became a respected ‘Guru’ to a large number of monks. However, Bhikku Pothila never practised the Dhamma and never practised Buddha’s advice. Following failure of numerous persuasive efforts, finally, the Buddha began addressing him, Tuchcha Pothila (Empty Pothila), the trick worked.
Reading, writing or interpretation of the Dhamma phenomena only lead to confusion: there is no substitute for practice.
Over the past 26 centuries hundreds of thousands Polithas, both types of disciples the lay and the priests, had been born in to the Buddha Sasana and the world is not scarce of them even today. It must be stressed that a mere academic acquaintance of the chronicle, however deep and philosophical may be, his ‘knowledge’ of tripitakas, it is of no substitute for practice. In the Maha-satipatthana sutra the Buddha specifies the course of practice in no uncertain terms and emphasises the fact with the famous ‘inscription’ ekayano maggo Sati-pattana
The Enlightened One said:
“This is the only path for the purification of beings, for the overpowering of sorrow and lamentation, for the desertion of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right technique, and for the realisation of Liberating — in short, the four frames of reference.
Which four? There is the case where a monk rests focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, attentive, and mindful — putting aside greediness and distress with reference to the realm.
He remains focused on feelings, the mind, the mental qualities in and of themselves — ardent, alert and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world.”
Sati-pattana is the only way leading to the correct path and final emancipation. Mindfulness or awareness is a non-physical or psychological capacity that forms a vital part in practice. There is no other way; it is a positive ‘state’, which has to be realized by own individual effort.
"Preaching and enlightening on ‘Nibbana’ has a folktale in ‘Amphibian turtle’s unsuccessful attempt to explain the familiarities on land to a fish.’ The turtle was back to the water after a sojourn around the land, to be questioned by the fish, why he was not around for a while. Turtle rejoined that it had been on dry land. The fish who was oblivious about ‘dry land’, yelled:"
Mind, the forerunner
Mano pubbangama dhamma mano settha manomaya--Manasa ce padutthena bhasati va karoti va
Mind is the precursor of (all immoral) states. Mind is foremost; mind made are they.
Nibbana can be attained in this very birth. Is it mere cessation of passion or an ‘emptiness’, a result of blowing out the flame? It is not ‘nothingness’ or a ‘Zero-state’ either.
The real meaning or sense of Nibbana cannot be comprehended until and unless we have attained it.
It is not a thing that words can express in their conventional language or by the use of similes. No scholar can interpret it. The Dhamma is not meant for interpretation.
It is not a place or a situation comparable to a plane of existence such as ‘heaven’. It is not a mere extinction of ignorance and craving, the path leading to it.
Amphibian turtle and the fish
Preaching and enlightening on ‘Nibbana’ has a folk-tale in ‘Amphibian turtle’s unsuccessful attempt to explain the familiarities on land to a fish.’ The turtle was back to the water after a sojourn around the land, to be questioned by the fish, why he was not around for a while. Turtle rejoined that it had been on dry land. The fish who was oblivious about ‘dry land’, yelled:
“What do you mean by land? Or dry land, it is not possible”.
Turtle replied, “How can I make you cognise, but I just returned from dry land.”
The fish was absolutely baffled; needed to know what precisely dry land meant.
“Can I spin and whirl in it? Is it cool; can I swim there, is it wet? Does it move or flow? Does it form waves?”
The turtle replied, “No” to each query. A triumphant fish acknowledged, “There is no such entity as dry land”.
Turtle said, “There is dry land, regrettably you have no experience of it. You recognise only water so you discard it, because the features of water are not there; or it is not comparable with water”.
Likewise, Nibbana cannot be described even by an ‘Arahant’ to a non-arahant, since the latter can only grasp things in terms of mundane footings! One cannot use reasoning to explain Nibbana, for the reason that it is outside anybody’s vocabulary; cannot be explained in common parlance. It is like ‘Space’, which can be observed or rather perceived only as the non-existence of objects, Nibbana cannot be measured or distinctively defined. Questioned about the nature of Nibbana, the Buddha observed silence, realising that further clarifications would lead to confusion. When asked where the world’s termination was; the Buddha responded:
“It is in this one fathomed body with consciousness, that I declare the existence of the world’, its cessation, the path leading to cessation”.
Thus Nibbana does not occur apart from us. The root of Buddha’s teaching is the need of understanding the reality not merely at the intellectual level, but by direct involvement and experience.
“This, O monks truly is the peace, end of all formations, the forsaking of rebirth, fading away of craving detachment, extinction; Nibbana”-Buddha
An aspirant must wisely explore, examine and scrutinize things with Bare attention, mindfully applying ‘Sathi’, without application of conceptual ways. Understand your nature minus any distortions; without any prejudices; without any responses or feedbacks to what you discover you are. The seeing, the mindfulness and awareness of every thought, every sensation not to contain it, not to control it, but just watch, without one’s own prejudices and distortions.
Origins of Nibbana lie outside existence and non-existence, as both are provisional and relative to each other. Nibbana can only be grasped by those who have conquered it, just as the fire is not kept in a place but arise when necessary circumstances are present. To entertain different plans was as meaningless as to speculate about the direction in which a fire had disappeared once it was doused. Just as a blind man does not know what light is, the mind clouded by greed, resentment and illusion will not be able to observe the reality of Nibbana. It cannot be compared to anything which comes within the reach of our senses.
"This is the only path for the purification of beings, for the overpowering of sorrow and lamentation, for the desertion of pain and distress, for the attainment of the right technique, and for the realisation of Liberating — in short, the four frames of reference."
Ekayano ayam maggo- The only way or direct path
All that we experience are events that arise and pass away in a moment: without a time lag. It is a mental condition attempting to disguise itself as a solid object or a thing that subsists independently, outside of I/ME. Mindfulness is a straightforward ‘authority’, a defensive cover and refuge for the mind. The role it plays in the conversion from unawareness to awareness depends on the condition of mind.
It is indeed a difficult task to maintain a continuous watch of the mind that is adapted to wrong opinions and wrong views. If you pay attention now with all your being , with your intellect with your concerns, with your total vigour and vitality; listening, not relating, not equating, not accommodating, not denying, not opposing but essentially with far-reaching consideration: is there any being who is listening, who is perceiving or observing? If you are listening to the violent howling of dogs at nightfall, listen with your mind, with your heart and emotions, with your whole physique, never say I like the sound or it is disgusting; just listen considerately mindfully , then there is no observer or observed. See an image minus the intervention of thought. No spectator! It is the spectator or observer who generates fear, observer is the epicentre of thought, it is the ‘Me’, the ‘I’ and the ‘Self’, the ego; the viewer is the sensor. When there is no thought there is no viewer, onlooker or an observer.
The way is clear; the ekayano maggo, the only path or the direct way is open for us, and when we have turned out to be as calm, as pure, as sensible, as concerned, and as impeccably self-controlled as an Arahant, then shall we recognize, then shall we comprehend ‘Nibbana’.
‘May all beings be happy’