Aasava – Taints are like a Seeping Abscess

There have been moments when the mind is relatively clear and concentrated, peaceful and calm. Then an object that activates lust or anger arises and with that a subtle sensation in the chest area and at the back of the throat reminiscent of sickness also arises. Then sati-mindfulness and samaadhi-concentration declines and awareness becomes cloudy as the mind follows the train of thought prompted by the lust or anger object. Swamped by delusion, the now weaker sati-mindfulness and samaadhi-concentration is less able to restrain the senses and the tendency to indulge in sensual pleasure or self-righteous anger proliferates. The weakened sati-mindfulness plaintively reminds “this is not right – there will be more suffering…” but the empowered lust/anger now belligerently pursues gratification.

Later while reflecting on the sensation in the chest I was reminded of a wet cloth or like a sponge seeping dirty fluid. It rose up the throat like bile though not bitter or sharp. The sensation was momentary partly because sati-mindfulness diminished simultaneously. As the noting mind declined the papanca-proliferating mind dominated.

Another time reflecting on this I visualised the sick feeling in the chest as a large abscess full of pus that had been latent until the contact with the lust/anger inspiring object squeezed polluting pus from the pregnant abscess. There was some relief from pressure from the build up of pus (kilesa-defilements) but this was unsatisfying as the pus spread seeping outwards and dulled the mind. I’ve been told I have a vivid imagination.

Based on my reading of suttas and Dhamma books and listening to Dhamma talks by venerable monks, I speculate that with stronger sati-mindfulness and samaadhi-concentration, the mind would have sufficient equanimity to note this and not lose the momentum of noting. The aasava-taint would not have the same effect and a yogi could avoid the dispersal of kilesa-defilements or if the aasava-taints were already eliminated.

Note that the intention to persist in noting and not allow the mind to be flooded by the defilements is skilful and to be cultivated. Conversely the intention to allow the mind to be flooded with defilements, or simply being unaware that there is a choice, is unskilful and to be avoided. In popular discourse these intentions are good karma and bad karma respectively.

A good friend suggested the chest sensation might be a form of tejodhaatu-heat element that is relatively cool and clammy compared with a normal warm sensation when the mind is relatively clear and bright. The tejodhaatu-heat element sensation arises in the chest area near the heart which is the life force of the body. I didn’t have time to ask more detail on this point though the good friend did say it is good for yogis to think of the sensation as just tejodhaatu-heat element being active and not to be concerned about it as a problem. It is a natural element. Just keep noting the sensations and other phenomena arising and passing away. All these phenomena are not-self, impermanent and unsatisfactory.

When discussing it I hadn’t told him about the visualisation of the aasava-taint as an abscess. After talking with him I thought about it again and realised the visualisation is a speculative concept and not real. He suggested focusing on what is real: the heat element or the wind element etc. Noting the three characteristics of all phenomena as they arise and pass away. Nothing is worth clinging to. Strive for liberation.

Another yogi friend suggested the vision of an abscess may have some element of truth to it. Perhaps I have a latent illness. She, being an experience meditator, suggested I keep noting the sensation, look deeply into it the way we look into the pain arising in the knee after sitting for a while.

The vipassana technique for dealing with knee pains is to observe it very closely. If there is sufficient sati-mindfulness and samaadhi-concentration there may also be a moderate degree of upekkhaa-equanimity. The pain is there and the noting observes the pain but the mind is not disturbed. In a similar way, I will try observing the chest feeling with equanimity and sustained mindfulness and concentration and then see what happens. In theory the chest sensation will change either into another kind of sensation or disappear altogether.


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