Q and A with Lay Disciples 2021
Answers by Ajahn Anan Akincano
Q: Can you please explains about letting go versus contemplating?
A: If one can let go, then one just lets go. If one can’t let go, then one contemplates for the sake of then letting go. In the end, one lets go.
With sufficient wisdom, one lets go already. If one cannot let go, then one uses contemplation.
Upadana, attachment, is the cause of suffering, which is a lack of letting go, where one clings to arammanas. One contemplates and investigates in order to let go, and in this way one is able to let go a bit at a time.
I used to practice in this same way, myself. One contemplates to the point of reaching a subtle level first. Then, when one is ready, there is no need to contemplate anymore, the mind can accept letting go. One simply tells the mind: “It’s impermanent, it’s unstable, don’t cling”, and that is enough.
However, when the mind is not yet ready, one needs to explain to the mind more first. This is like a child who does not understand their homework – one explains to the child about the homework first.
Then, later, the mind can accept that materiality is impermanent.
Some of the savakas, enlightened disciples, listened to the Dhamma and understood clearly during the first talk they heard. If one does not understand yet then one contemplates a lot – contemplate a little bit at a time.
One makes one’s mindfulness and awareness stronger, contemplating in an ongoing way. Sila and samadhi then improve, then one contemplates again. Just this much. This leads to true understanding.
If one has sufficient strength and energy of mind then the mind realizes emptiness quickly.
One contemplates, and sometimes one can let go, sometimes one cannot. Sometimes one has clinging, attachments, and doubts. One practices to understand clearly one bit at a time.
What follows is an abbreviated summary of a question and answer session with Ajahn Anan Akincano:
Q: What should I do when I feel tense while watching the breath?
A: You can change your meditation object to a mantra, such as “Buddho” or “anicca, dukkha, anatta” or “empty” and repeat that word. You can also recollect goodness and merit that you have done in the past in order to bring about happiness and fullness of heart at the beginning of the meditation session. If one controls the breath, then one can feel too tense.
Q: What is the difference between sati (mindfulness) and sampajanya (clear comprehension)?
A: We can look at the example of picking up a glass. Remembering and recollecting to pick up the glass is sati, and knowing that one is holding the glass in one’s hand is sampajanya. It is the same with the breath – one remembers and recollects to take the breath as the object of the mind which is sati, then one knows the breath which is sampajanya. These two qualities go together. To know the breath as anicca, dukkha, and anatta is wisdom. Then one has sati and sampajanya with the impermanent, suffering, and not-self (anicca, dukkha, anatta) nature of the breath. Another example is if we feel unhappy, we know this unhappiness with sati and sampajanya. Then we use sati to recollect merit and goodness that we have done in order to bring about fullness and happiness of heart. Then we see the unhappy mood as impermanent, as something that arises and ceases – this is wisdom.
Q: Can you please explain how patient endurance (khanti) is the ‘supreme incinerator of defilements’?
A: When anger arises, we practice not to act on that anger. Anger burns our own hearts, so we endeavor not to have that heat burn others, as well. Not to act out our moods is khanti, patient endurance. This restrains the fire in our hearts and gradually reduces that fire. Therefore we see how patient endurance burns away, incinerates, the defilements.