Wise Attention to Eliminate Aasava-Taints

Majjhimanikaaya MN.2. Sabbaasava Sutta: All the Taints (สัพพาสวสังวรสูตร)

3. “Bhikkhus, I say that the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see. Who knows and what? Wise attention and unwise attention. When one attends unwisely, unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase. When one attends wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are abandoned.


4. “Bhikkhus, there are taints that should be abandoned by seeing. There are taints that should be abandoned by restraining. There are taints that should be abandoned by using. There are taints that should be abandoned by enduring. There are taints that should be abandoned by avoiding. There are taints that should be abandoned by removing. There are taints that should be abandoned by developing.

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.

Noting the Object

I read a few pages from Ven. Saydaw U Pandita’s book The State of Mind Called Beautiful. This is a great book for yogis practicing the technique of Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. I found many excellent passages. The following instructions struck a chord with me.

p. 88. A meditator’s mind must continuously enter and penetrate the object. The mind should sink into its object (
pavattati) at all times. When an object arises the mind has to be with it all the time, second by second, not losing sight of it. This is the function of mindfulness called asammosa rasa, meaning non-forgetfulness or keeping the object in view. One must no longer miss or forget the object, and not slip off from it.

p.89. A meditator who makes an honest, respectful effort to note each arising object will attain concentration and wisdom – – provided that his or her mindfulness is also strong in the preceding and succeeding moments. Then, too, he or she will gain the power to note the object automatically. This happens particularly at the time of the fourth insight knowledge (the fourth naana), the insight into the arising and passing away of objects. One sees dramatically the rapidity with which objects arise and pass away.
Between this and the fifth insight knowledge, which focuses on the dissolution of all objects, mindful noting still seems to be moving slower than the objects themselves. This is true for everybody during those stages of practice, no matter how diligently and continuously they are practicing. It is simply part of the unfolding of the insights.

Strategic Intent Supported by Attention

Our habitual mental states, our daily intentions and inclinations generate kamma. Lord Buddha encouraged us to diligently restrain the six sense doors and to wisely attend the skillful mental states that lead away from suffering and toward liberation.

Samyuttanikaaya SN.II.12.38. Volition (เจตนาสูตรที่)

At Saavatii. “Bhikkhus, what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is a basis there is support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is the production of future renewed existence. When there is the production of future renewed existence, future birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

“If bhikkhus, one does not intend, and one does not plan, but one still has a tendency towards something, this becomes the basis for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is a basis, there is a support for the establishing of consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

“But, bhikkhus, when one does not intend, and one does not plan, and one does not have a tendency towards anything, no basis exists for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is no basis, there is no support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is unestablished and does not come to growth, there is no production of future renewed existence, future birth, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”

Samyuttanikaaya SN.IV.35.97. Dwelling Negligently (ปมาทวิหารีสูตร)

“Bhikkhus, I will teach you about one who dwells negligently, and about one who dwells diligently.. Listen to that…

“And how, bhikkhus, does one dwell negligently? If one dwells without restraint over the eye faculty, the mind is soiled among forms cognizable by the eye. If the mind is soiled there is no gladness. When there is no gladness, there is no rapture. When there is no rapture, there is no tranquillity. When there is no tranquillity, one dwells in suffering. The mind of one who suffers does not become concentrated. When the mind is not concentrated, phenomena do not become manifest. Because phenomena do not become manifest, one is reckoned as ‘one who dwells negligently.’

“If one dwells without restraint over the ear… nose…tongue…body…mind faculty, the mind is soiled among mental phenomena congnizable by the mind…. Because phenomena do not become manifest, one is reckoned as ‘one who dwells negligently.’

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that one dwells negligently.

“And how, bhikkhus, does one dwell diligently? If one dwells with restraint over the eye faculty… ear faculty … nose faculty… tongue faculty… body faculty… mind faculty, the mind is not soiled among forms cognizable by the eye. If the mind is not soiled, gladness is born. When one is gladdened, rapture is born. When the mind is uplifted by rapture, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body experiences happiness. The mind of one who is happy becomes concentrated. When the mind is concentrated, phenomena become manifest. Because phenomena become manifest, one is reckoned as ‘one who dwells diligently.’

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that one dwells diligently.”

Majjhimanikaaya MN.19.11. Dvedhaavitakka Sutta: Two Kinds of Thought (เทวธาวิตักกสูตร)

“Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of renunciation, he has abandoned the thought of sensual desire to cultivate the thought of renunciation, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of renunciation. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of non-ill will…upon thoughts of non-cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of cruelty to cultivate the thought of non-cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of non-cruelty.

Samyuttanikaaya SN.V.45.91. Dwelling Diligently (วิรัทธสูตร)

At Saavatii. “Bhikkhus, just as the river Ganges slants, slopes, and inclines towards the east, so too a bhikkhu who develops and cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path slants, slopes, and inclines towards Nibbaana…

Samyuttanikaaya SN.V.45.152. The Tree (อัตตสัมปทาสูตรที่)

“Bhikkhus, suppose a tree were slanting, sloping, and inclining towards the east. If it were cut at its root, in what direction would it fall?”

“In whatever direction it was slanting, sloping and inclining venerable sir.”
“So too, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who develops and cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path slants, slopes, and inclines towards Nibaana….

Samyuttanikaaya SN.V.46.23. A Basis (ฐานิยสูตร)

“Bhikkhus, by frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for sensual lust, unarisen sensual desire arises and unarisen sensual desire increases and expands. By frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for ill will, unarisen ill will arises and arisen ill will increases and expands. By frequently giving attention to things that are the basis for sloth and torpor, unarisen sloth and torpor arise, and arisen sloth and torpor increase and expand. By frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for restlessness and remorse, unarisen restlessness and remorse arise and arisen restlessness and remorse increase and expand. By frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for doubt, unarisen doubt arises and arisen doubt increases and expands.

“Bhikkhus, by frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for the enlightenment factor of mindfulness, the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development … By frequently giving attention to things that are a basis for the enlightenment factor of equanimity, the unarisen enlightenment factor of equanimity arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development.”

Samyuttanikaaya SN.V.46.24 Careless Attention (อโยนิโสสูตร)

“Bhikkhus, when one attends carelessly, unarisen sensual desire arises and arisen sensual desire increases and expands; when one attends carelessly, unarisen ill will arises and arisen ill will increases and expands; when one attends carelessly, unarisen sloth and torpor arise and arisen sloth and torpor increase and expand…restlessness and remorse…doubt… Also the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness does not arise and the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness ceases … the unarisen enlightenment factor of equanimity does not arise and the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity ceases.

“When one attends carefully, bhikkhus, unarisen sensual desire does not arise and arisen sensual desire is abandoned. When one attends carefully, unarisen ill-will… sloth and torpor… restlessness and remorse.. doubt does not arise and arisen doubt is abandoned. Also the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to fulfilment by development… the unarisen enlightenment factor of equanimity arises and the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to fulfilment by development.

Majjhimanikaaya MN.2. Sabbaasava Sutta: All the Taints (สัพพาสวสังวรสูตร)

3. “Bhikkhus, I say that the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see. Who knows and what? Wise attention and unwise attention. When one attends unwisely, unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase. When one attends wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are abandoned.

4. “Bhikkhus, there are taints that should be abandoned by seeing. There are taints that should be abandoned by restraining. There are taints that should be abandoned by using. There are taints that should be abandoned by enduring. There are taints that should be abandoned by avoiding. There are taints that should be abandoned by removing. There are taints that should be abandoned by developing.