Inner Tranquillity

The Buddha`s Path to Freedom

Author : James, Alan

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Inner Tranquillity

Book Details

  • Publisher : Aukana
  • Published : 2001
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 216
  • Size : 234 x 156mm
  • Category :
    Theravada Buddhism: General
  • Catalogue No : 10298
  • ISBN 13 : 9780951176986
  • ISBN 10 : 0951176986

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Synopsis

Inner tranquillity is a universal goal, or rather, it is THE universal goal - the goal of all existence, however various our attempts to reach it.

Drawing on over thirty years experience of teaching Theravada Buddhism in the West, Alan James illuminates the Buddha`s pathway to ultimate peace in this collection of inspiring lectures.

"The successful spiritual traveller completely understands suffering. He knows through experience its conditioned nature, its origins and its cessation. Having won to the deathless, he knows with a knowing that goes beyond words that he is free - that the universe is love - that the journey is ended - there is no more to do. He is finally at peace...Every living being that longs to avoid discomfort aims, however indirectly, at enlightenment, the cessation of suffering. We are in effect all on the same path, though of course many are currently lost and bewildered. For a minority in every generation with enough experience of suffering, the causes of distress gradually become more apparent. Those few always spurn conventional goals and set out on the search for true freedom. It is there to be discovered and it is worth any sacrifice one may have to make along the way. The quiet mind is without compare."Alan James.

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Inner Tranquillity

The Real Meaning of Grasping

Grasping and clinging restrict us enormously for we are unable to operate at our true potential if we grasp, if we cling to things. Clinging restricts our opportunities in the present, for we are never really 'here', preferring always to look somewhere else for solace and fulfilment.

In a factory, a worker's sole topic of conversation is his experiences in the army, when he was a young man. In a suburban house, the parents of a dead child have kept her room unchanged for years, as a shrine. A clinging mother will not let go of her grown sons and daughters, trying still to run their lives as if they were children. A lonely, ageing woman has never got over being jilted, fifty years ago.

Clinging does not operate solely on past objects, however; it is just as common to grasp at and cling to an imagined future. A man talks constantly about the book he is going to write, some day. A young woman has her heart set on meeting Mr Right, finding true love and having a marriage ceremony fit for a queen. Many spend hours planning what they might do with their winnings should they eventually win the Lottery. A man poisons his neighbour's small tree because he thinks that in a few years' time it might become tall enough to shade his conservatory.

The future we might cling to does not have to be so far away. A gambler bets everything he has on a throw of the dice or the turn of a card. A meditator strains every fibre trying to achieve his idea of concentration.

Many sports-people are fuelled by a passionate desire to be first, to win. If they allow that passionate desire to dominate, if the final goal is constantly before the mind's eye, then they cannot operate at their full potential. Driven by passion, they exert maximum effort causing the body to tense, movements to become erratic and performance, unpredictable. Indeed, it is well known that peak performance simply a question of speed, stamina and technique-there are psychological factors to take into account. The mind has tc focused without being anxious, determined without being tense, able yet supremely attentive. The contestant has to be psychologi prepared for battle and has to understand the psychology of pers combat, rather like the martial artist. If these conditions are met, t an athlete's performance improves greatly.

In essence, it is a question of restraining-setting aside for the ti being-obsessive grasping at the goal, at the prize. It means, in fact not to try so hard, to be more relaxed in exercising physical ski When grasping at the idea of success-with its concomitant fear failure-is removed from the mind, the resulting poise makes possible for the sprinter to shave a few vital split seconds off his tin for the tennis player to improve her service both in power ai accuracy, for the discus-thrower to get a few extra centimetres on I best throw.
Grasping is detrimental in any area of human endeavour. Wherev there is excessive personal attachment to or identification with ideal, there is grasping that is ruinous to health and mental balance.

Some people,- for instance, try to insure themselves against ar conceivable eventuality. The net result is that all spare cash is taken u by payment of premiums, leaving none for normal enjoyments, an there is constant awareness of potential danger from all sides. Graspir excessively at the idea of security, life becomes a prison.

Others, in complete contrast, grasp more strongly at enjoyment i the present, spending all their hard-earned wages on entertainmer and enjoyment. Often borrowing to satisfy their desires, the constantly juggle their debts, getting deeper and deeper into troub] until they run out of friends or have to declare bankruptcy.

Some take as their ideal the perfect relationship-constant, lovin{ eternal. But relationships, even 'perfect' ones, break down. Why then? With excessive grasping there is a definite tendency to refuse t recognise signs of disharmony or breakdown and, when it does finall become unavoidable, the suffering is immense.

A woman described her husband as a brute who would neve speak to her unless to criticise or to complain. She came to believ that she could be happy only if they separated. The trouble was that she also believed that she could be happy only with the material support his income provided. She was convinced she could not live with him and convinced she could not live without him. Trapped between the two conflicting desires, her confusion produced total stasis; she could do nothing.

If she had been able to restrain the grasping after security, or the grasping after freedom-one or the other, a number of possibilities would have become immediately apparent. She could have left her husband and accepted living in reduced circumstances until she made a new life for herself. She could have sought formal divorce with maintenance payments. She could have stayed and lived her own life, seeking fulfilment in activities outside the home. She could have accepted her difficult circumstances and tried to learn from them.

In any failed or failing relationship, there are innumerable opportunities. If one of the parties is prepared to let go of a previously entrenched opinion then a great deal can be done. If both parties are prepared to let go of their entrenched opinions, then it is possible to build something wonderful out of the wreckage. It all depends on letting go, on controlling the grasping after the things you believe you want above all else.

The folly of refusing to let go can also show itself in the commercial world, especially in times of recession. A man spent years building up a successful company. Recession came along, orders fell off and the continued prosperity of the business came under serious threat. He retrenched, made a few token redundancies, dug in and prepared to wait out the recession. He kept on telling everybody that everything would be fine if only they could get that one big order; they would not have to close the factory, they could keep everything going. He drove his sales force unmercifully. They responded with enthusiasm and did indeed get some orders, but the recession deepened and, not having bottomless capital reserves, he was eventually forced into receivership, into bankruptcy. He lost everything.

He had resolutely ignored changing conditions, and had grasped at, clung to, his vision of the successful business he had built up. In consequence, he lost the lot. Had he heeded the signs, matters could have turned out very differently. He could perhaps have sold up, even at a loss, and salvaged a substantial part of what he had worked so hard for over the years. He could have shut down, laid everyone off and waited for the economic tides to turn.

Hindsight is, of course, a dubious counsellor, but signs of imminent disaster are nearly always available if we are clear-sighted enough to observe them and, perhaps more importantly, to act on them. The trouble is that much of the time such indicators are obscured by grasping. Refusing to contemplate loss and grasping at continued success ensures that we ignore portents of disaster.

One sure way to success in any field, given adequate skill and hard work, is in fact to remove grasping or at least suppress it for the time being. This allows us to maximise our potential in almost any area of endeavour. Restraint of grasping is a difficult task that needs great attention to mental detail and an ability to change mental behaviour patterns. When approached properly, however, successful restraint brings great rewards.

Another area of human activity that suffers when grasping is present is communication; any breakdown of communication-and the battles that ensue-is always due to grasping. Say, for example, someone asks his manager for a pay rise. So concerned is he about the outcome of the interview, so strongly does he grasp at the idea of success (or failure), that he can hardly talk. His request rejected, he knows that he has not presented his case well and feels that he has let himself down. Falhng into self-hatred, he decides that, if trying to get more money is going to be so painful, he is probably better off without it.

Grasping cripples us in so many different ways. Removing grasping is the single most effective way of unlocking our potential. It is not that new opportunities are created-not at all; it is simply that opportunities already in existence are seen and can be acted upon. Nowhere is this truer than in meditation. In meditation, the understanding of grasping is crucial to progress.

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