A Heart Released

The Teachings of Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera

by Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera | 1995 | 9,299 words

Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu Copyright © 1995 Metta Forest Monastery PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082 For free distribution only. You may reprint this work for free distribution. You may re-format and redistribute this work for use on computers and computer networks provided that you charge no fees for its distribution or us...

Teaching 8 - The Stronghold

That Forms The Practice Area For Training Oneself.

In which set of principles did the Lord Buddha establish our stronghold? When we consider this question, we find that he established our stronghold in the great frames of reference (satipatthana).

To make a comparison with worldly affairs: In armed battles where victory is at stake, it is necessary to find a stronghold. If one obtains a good stronghold, one can successfully ward off the weapons of the enemy; and there one can accumulate great strength to launch an attack, driving the enemy to defeat. Such a place is thus called a stronghold, i.e., a place complete with strong stockades, gates, moats, and embattlements.

So it is with the affairs of the Dhamma when we take the great frames of reference as our stronghold, in that those who go into battle with the enemy -- defilement -- must start out by keeping track of the body as their frame of reference, because when such things as sensual passion arise, they arise at the body and mind. Because the sight of a body causes the mind to be aroused, we can conclude that the body is the provocation, and so we must examine the body as a means of stilling the Hindrances (nivarana) and calming the mind. This is a point that you should work at and develop as much as possible. In other words, keep investigating that point without giving way at all. When an image (uggaha nimitta) of any part of the body arises, take that part of the body as the basic theme for your investigation. You dont have to go shifting to other parts. To think that, Ive already seen this part. Other parts I havent seen, so Ill have to go and investigate other parts, isnt advisable at all. Even if you investigate the body until you have it analyzed minutely into all of its parts that are composed of the properties (dhatu) of earth, water, fire, and wind -- this is called patibhaga -- you should still keep examining the body as it first appeared in the original image until you have it mastered. To master it, you have to examine that same point over and over again, just as when you chant. If you memorize a particular discourse and then leave it, without chanting or repeating it again, you will forget it, and it wont serve any purpose, due to your complacency in not mastering it. The same holds true in your investigation of the body. Once an image of any part arises, if you dont investigate it repeatedly, and instead heedlessly let it pass, it wont serve any purpose at all.

This investigation of the body has many citations, one being in our present day ordination ceremony. Before all else, the preceptor must tell the ordinand the five meditation themes -- hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, and skin, i.e., this very body -- because of their importance. In the Commentary to the Dhammapada, it is said that an unwise preceptor who doesnt teach the investigation of the body may destroy his pupils potential for arahantship. So at present the preceptor must first teach the five meditation themes.

In another spot the Buddha taught that there is no such thing as a Buddha or an arahant who has not fixed on at least one part of the body as a meditation theme. Thus he told a group of 500 monks who were discussing the earth -- saying that such and such a village had red soil or black soil, etc. -- that they were discussing external earth when they should be investigating internal earth. In other words, they should have been investigating this body intelligently, penetrating it throughout and making it absolutely clear. When the Buddha finished his discussion of this topic, all 500 monks reached the fruition of arahantship.

From this we can conclude that the investigation of the body must be important. Each and every person who is to gain release from all suffering and stress has to investigate the body. If we are to accumulate great strength, we must accumulate it by investigating the body. Even the Lord Buddha, when he was about to attain Awakening, started out by investigating the breath -- and what is the breath, if not the body?

So the great frames of reference, starting with the contemplation of the body, are said to be our stronghold. Once we have obtained a good stronghold -- i.e., once we have put the principles of the great frames of reference into practice until we have them mastered -- we should then investigate things as they are in terms of the inherent nature of their elements, using the strategies of clear insight, which will be discussed next.

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