Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 12/27/2019

Dāna, Sīla, Bhāvanā

For the first time in years I feel more at ease in the practice despite the fact that I will need to keep up my intensity. Let me, again, preface this by saying I don’t intend to give up my bhāvanā practices; I will continue aiming for an hour or more of seated, formal meditation per day. What I am giving up is any expectation of progressing to jhāna. And, this expectation has tortured me for over a decade.

I think it’s important to point out that jhāna may, in fact, be attainable for particularly skilled practitioners so it makes sense that Western teachers don’t necessarily attempt to dissuade their students from taking such a lofty goal in mind. In my case, I took hold of the metaphorical snake in the wrong way and have been repeatedly bitten due to my unfounded expectations. I am almost certain that there are no small number of Western Buddhists who are doing and have done the same. Sadly, I fear that many simply fall away from the Teachings when they fail to make progress pursuing a bhāvanā-only approach. This may be the biggest pitfall of Buddhism being viewed solely as a meditative discipline rather than a complete path.

Turning back to myself, I intend to spend much more time and give more careful scrutiny to my sīla then I have hitherto. I have been, on the whole, good about keeping the precepts but I want to close those tears and holes that arise time and again.

The one aspect of my practice that I feel I need to address more than any other is study or pariyatti. There is a sutta that discusses the effects of learning and listening well to the Dhamma in one’s next birth and it has given me a lot of confidence as well as a new direction to take. Along with the disciplines of dāna, sīla and bhāvanā, I intend to spend more time revising and memorising Buddha-vacana than I have been in order to condition the mind and prepare it for the flowering of wisdom. Trying to pursue higher goals of being a bodhisatta when I can’t even keep pure sīla is just folly. For now I will simply focus on the abbreviated threefold training.

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