Letters on Vipassana V, 2.
- Dear friends,
Lovingkindness is one of the four "Divine Abidings", Brahmavihåras.
The other Brahmavihåras are: compassion, sympathetic joy and
equanimity. These are subjects of samatha or tranquil meditation.
Through the development of samatha there can be temporary freedom
from akusala. However, samatha cannot be developed without right
understanding. Paññå must know the characteristic of true calm which
is kusala. When we hear the word samatha we may think that we have to
go into seclusion in order to have concentration and that we should
recite for example the "mettå sutta". However, the development of
mettå is not a matter of trying to concentrate or reciting. Mettå
must be developed in daily life when we are with others; then we can
come to know its true characteristic. Foremost is right understanding
which knows the characteristic of mettå when it appears.
We read in the scriptures about people who developed samatha to the
degree of jhåna, absorption, but we should know that not everybody is
able to attain jhåna. People who had accumulated great skill for
jhåna could attain different stages of jhåna, but, as the
"Visuddhimagga" (Ch XII,7) states, jhåna is extremely difficult and
only very few people can attain it. One has to live in seclusion and
many conditions have to be fulfilled in order to attain it. At the
moments of jhåna there are no sense impressions and the "hindrances"
are temporarily subdued. The "hindrances" are: sensuous desire, ill-
will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. However,
through samatha defilements cannot be eradicated.
Through right understanding developed in vipassanå defilements can be
eradicated. We think of ourselves and others as persons, we cling to
a concept of "self", but through vipassanå we learn to see what we
really are: only citta, cetasika and rúpa which arise and then fall
away immediately. When someone goes away or dies, we can think of a
name, but also a name is forgotten soon. We read in the "Sutta
Nipåta" (on Decay, vs. 807-809):
As a man awakened from sleep no longer sees what happened in his
dream, similarly one does not see a loved one who is dead. Those
people who were seen and heard and called by their names as such and
such, only their names remain when they have passed away.
When we are reborn there is another life and we are no longer "this
person", but also right now there isn't "this person" who exists.
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