Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ajahn Brahm: Letting Go vs. Clinging (video)

Seth Auberon, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ajahn Brahm (BuddhistSocietyWA); Ven. Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Doctrines and Terms
(Poh Ming Tse Temple, 2014) Ajahn Brahm: Freeing Our Minds from Our Mental Prisons

BuddhistSocietyWAVen. Ajahn Brahm, an ennobled and very humorous Western monk who emerged from the Thai Forest Tradition in Isan under Ajahn Chah, now lives and teaches in Australia. He had just come from teaching at a retreat when he chose to explore ways of letting go in the Buddha's teaching. Indeed, there is danger in clinging (upadana) and liberation in letting go, internally renouncing, and freeing ourselves from suffering.

Orange is the new black, but for free robes not bound jumpsuits (

Prison is a scary place yet not nearly as fearful as our mental prisons, ones we've created as terrifying places we are imprisoned even as we walk around free to do as we like. In this video teaching by the ennobled and humorous Western Theravada monk, brought to us by the Buddhist Congress and Angulimala Fellowship, Ajahn Brahm shares his insights and wisdom on the most important prison break we can attempt. It is peppered throughout with the distinctive flavor of Ajahn Brahmavamso's trademark humor. See video below from 2010 when he began this thread.

MENTAL PRISON: Some of us are as tortured and trapped as prisoners in prison cells.
Non-clinging (nekkhamma) is a Buddhist Pali term translated as "the pleasure of letting go" or "renunciation." It conveys, more specifically, "giving up worldliness and leading a higher life" or "freedom from crippling lust, craving, and addictions." In the Noble Eightfold Path, it is the first practice associated with "Right Intention."
In the Theravada list, it is the third of the Ten Perfections, involving non-attachment and non-clinging to suffering. How do we cling to suffering? The root of our self-injury is clinging to the Five Aggregates, to wrong views of self.

Milarepa's Tibetan Vajrayana writings are canonical Mahayana Buddhist texts that emphasize the temporary nature of the physical body and the need for non-attachment.
Non-clinging is also a central concept in Zen Buddhist philosophy. One of the most important technical Chinese terms for "non clinging" is wú niàn (無念), which literally means "no thought." This does not signify the literal absence of thought, but rather not clinging to or identifying with thought, the state of being "unstained" (bù rán 不染) by thought -- like a lotus flower born in water and grown up in water rising above water and remaining unstained by water.

Therefore, non-clinging is being detached from one's thoughts. That is, it is to separate oneself from one's thoughts and opinions [of course, they are not actually one's own] in detail as to not be harmed mentally and emotionally by them (see The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch translated by Philip B. Yampolsky).

I can do this monastic stint standing on my head...because I'm free (
"Freedom from sensual lust"
Ven. Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Doctrines and Terms
Gokyo Ri peak (Hendrik Terbeck/flickr)
The real meaning of "renunciation" (nekkhamma) is an internal act not an external one.

It is not by shaving one's head and face and donning saffron robes that one moves toward enlightenment (bodhi, awakening) and nirvana (moksha, liberation from all suffering). There are many monastics who yet cling and are therefore no closer to freedom than householders).

The word is apparently derived from nir + Ö kram, "to go forth (into the wandering, left-home-life of an ascetic)." But in Pali language texts, this term is nevertheless used as if it were derived from lust (kāma as in Kama Sutra) and always as an antonym to kāma (craving for sensuality). 

It is one of the Ten Perfections (pāramīs or pāramitās as in the Prajna Paramita, the famous "Perfection of Wisdom" literature).
Nekkhama-sankappa, the "intention of renunciation" -- thoughts free of lust, thoughts of renunciation, is one of the three kinds of right intention or right thought (sammā-sankappa), the second factor in the Noble Eightfold Path (see Magga, 2), its antonym being kāma-sankappa, lustful thoughts and intentions.

Four Ways to Let Go and Get Free

What is clinging?
Maitreya Buddha, Gandhara (wiki)
"Clinging," according to the Path of Purification (Vis.M. XVII), is an intensified degree of craving. The four kinds of clinging are:
  1. sensual clinging,
  2. clinging to views,
  3. clinging to mere rules and rituals [as if they could ever in and of themselves lead to or result in enlightenment],
  4. clinging to personality-belief.
(1) "What now is sensual clinging? Whatever with regard to sensuous objects there exists of sensuous lust, sensuous desire, sensuous attachment, sensuous passion, sensuous delusion, sensuous fetters, this is called sensual clinging.
(2) ''What is clinging to views? 'Alms and offerings are useless [without karmic benefit to the giver]; there is no fruit and result for skillful and unskillful deeds: all such views and misconceptions are called clinging to [wrong] views.

(3) "What is clinging to mere rules and rituals? Holding firmly to the view that through [the observance of] mere rules and rituals one may reach purification [enlightenment and liberation, bodhi and nirvana), this is called clinging to mere rules and rituals.
(4) "What is clinging to personality-belief? The 20 kinds of ego-views [beliefs about self, identity, ego] with regard to the groups of existence, these are called clinging to personality-belief" (Dhs.1214-17).
This traditional fourfold division of clinging is unsatisfactory. Besides clinging to lustful objects of the sense, we would expect either clinging to fine material spheres and immaterial spheres of existence or simply clinging to continued existence (bhava-upādāna, continued being, which can never be static, and is therefore translated as becoming).

Although a non-returner, a person who has gained the third stage of enlightenment, is entirely free of the traditional four kinds of clinging, that person is not yet freed from rebirth, as one still possesses clinging to continued-becoming. The Commentary to the Path of Purification (Vis.M. XVII), trying to get out of this dilemma, explains sensual clinging as including here all the remaining kinds of clinging.
"Clinging" is the common rendering for upādāna, but "grasping" would come closer to the literal meaning of it, which is "uptake" or the habit of repetitive craving; see Three Cardinal Discourses (Wheel 17), p.19.

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