Visions par excellence to live fearlessly | Daily News

Visions par excellence to live fearlessly

The anthology of articles, speeches, interviews, notes and other brief documents of Ajahn Sumedho who was Abbot of Amaravathi Buddhist Monastery, Hemel Hempstead, London, is compiled in five volumes by Ajahn Sucitto. Several years ago, I had the chance of possessing these five volumes as gifts given to the visitors of Amaravathi Monastery. On taking time off to read three of these volumes, I found them quite resourceful and packed in multi-faceted doctrinal insights for our living conditions today.

The said documents have been laid down for a particular purpose in talks, newsletters and periodicals. Later, this well-known scholar monk Ajahn Sucitto had the good willing to compile them into those volumes containing at least forty-five to fifty documents on various subjects. Ajahn Sucitto attempts to express his inner feelings as a monk in the following words.

“It gives hope and inspiration to others, not necessarily to become monks and nuns, but to live, more skilfully and aspire towards something higher than just getting along in the system.”

Far from inactive life

Furthermore, the compiler states that for him and perhaps for many others, just floating along in the stream of the system is a hell realm. It is such a depressing idea to do so. The human life just floating along is futile. The mind that does not act in the wellbeing of life is inactive. Then you don’t offer anything worth. You don’t aspire to anything.

For the sake of clarity and content embedded in the collected material, the scholar editor Ajahn Sucitto has taken the effort to classify the documents into five volumes:

Peace is a simple step. Volume One.

Seeds of Understanding. Volume Two.

Direct Realisation. Volume Three.

The Sound of Silence. Volume Four.

The Wheel of Truth. Volume Five.

Furthermore, the contents of the selected volumes too are classified into smaller groups that take the original epic of the documents as a reader I felt that the two volumes four and five contain some of the teachings of the Buddha as interpreted to suit the living conditions of the contemporary stance of the human existence and for all times. The short essay on the topic denoted as ‘Body Contemplation’ takes the cue from the much-discussed Citta Vagga of the Dhammapada. But the interpretation of the issues pertaining to the mind is quite enlightening from a more modern point of view.

Habits to develop

For instance, the original contents are retained interpreting them to the conditions as found in events such as revolts, sickness, social upheaval, debates and controversy. Ajahn Sumedho states thus: Thinking is a habit that we have developed. In order to think you have to remember its language; the language and memory are mind-made entities. Then comes awareness; ideas and thoughts, all humans who possess a mind are event creators.

The discussion is extended into a cognitive frame where the types of human events are explained and in simple terms analysed. The topic is extended in the short but analytical essay titled Here and Now. In the contents, Ajahn Sumedho attempts to interpret the less-discussed terms of Here and Now. As he states, there is no particular imminent danger around here that I am aware of. There is also no threatening possibility of danger that we have to prepare ourselves against right now, as in the case of an air raid or terrorist attack.

He refers here to the monastery Amaravathi from where he addresses. He takes the moment of living as the most significant point of view. He says: “So we come to a meditation centre like Amaravathi and it’s a fairly a safe place. Nothing really all that dangerous ever happens here – as yet – so it’s a Buddhist centre, a Buddhist monastery.”

In this manner, a single term is taken seriously into analysis that helps the reader, as well as the listener to whom the talk was given, is conditional, in order to keep him or her in a fearless state of mind. This, then, is interpreted sensitively in the contribution titled ‘Interactive Awareness’. The contents revolve around the need for the conquest of the mind or the way into the meditation that discards all fears in existence.

Awareness not so vague

Ajahn Sumedho uses the term ‘Sampajanna’ in order to explain the hidden layers in the subject of intuition and its awareness. The term when translated into English according to him may sound like ‘clear comprehension’. But he says that it is too vague, even though it says ‘clear’, it does not give a sense of the broadness of that clarity. In most of the contributions, Ajahn Sumedho says that the teachings of the Buddha have given way to clearer thinking. He states that when you have clear definitions of everything, then you have clear comprehension. That’s why we tend to avoid confusion.

As a reader, I felt that most high flown areas in Abhidhamma are explained in simplistic terms. Most of them are embedded in the short essays, the reader comes across in Volume Five, The Wheel of Truth. One good example is Being the Knowing where the following concept is laid down:

“There are desires that come and go; there are fears. And all these things come and go in the mind. Then there is the emptiness (sunyata), where conditions arise and cease. We can know mentally where things begin and end. So we use mentality as a study of the microcosm; being the knowing, being that which is alert to the arising and ceasing of mental states.”

Metaphysical mental state

According to the term and concept of a higher study plane of the mind and its functions could be known as Abhidhamma or the study of the metaphysical form of the mental states. A reader will encounter quite a number of metaphysical epithets, phrases, poetic visions, dictums and dialogues.

The five volumes need not be taken at one whole but could be reckoned as five types of collected works of a single scholar over the years. There are quite a number of Dhamma anecdotes.

Most questions raised by us in our day-to-day behaviour are responded in the pages of these five volumes, I wish to quote one.

“The future remains unknown and mysterious. But by taking refuge in the Buddha, we gain presence of mind at this moment, learning from life as we live it.”

I now feel happy that I paid a visit to Amaravathi monastery. If time permits, I may pay another visit one fine day.