Be Here Now [ III ]

Q.: Is it possible to have directed awareness?

Bhikkhu: There really isn't any directed awareness. We only have the
illusion that it is directed because of our wrong understanding. Awareness
must arise because of conditions. Awareness is wholesome. It does not
arise because of attachment. It arises because of right understanding. It
cannot arise otherwise.
If we develop samatha and we have not developed the eightfold Path at
all, then we could not possibly have any idea of the true nature of reality.
So there is bound to be a wrong understanding of self who does it, time
and again. There is also awareness in the development of calm, but it is
not right awareness of the eightfold Path. It only arises in the development
of calm because there are the right conditions for it, and one of them is
right understanding of the way to develop calm. There is understanding in
samatha but it is different from right understanding of the eightfold Path.
The object of right understanding in samatha is a meditation subject and
the object of right understanding of the eightfold Path is any reality which
appears now through one of the six doors.
If we have the idea of being able to direct our awareness or our
concentration it is only an idea. Because there is absolutely no lasting
quality to stay around, that can do any directing of any kind. At each
moment there are different mental factors (cetasikas) which perform
different functions, and intention or volition is one of them. In a way, it
directs the accompanying cetasikas, in the sense of being like a
“supervisor”, but it cannot direct the arising of any mental factor such as
panna. It cannot say, “Now panna, arise and do your work.” But when
panna has already arisen because of all the conditions necessary for its
arising, then the volition which has also arisen because of conditions at
that moment is directing the task of panna . Intention or volition only
directs at the moment it has arisen and it only directs the other mental
phenomena which have arisen together with it. It cannot at this moment
direct something which has not yet arisen to arise and to do something.
So here are all the different mental factors at this moment. They are
being urged to perform their task by this mental factor which is intention.
But only those mental factors which are present at that moment and no
others. Intention cannot make other mental factors arise which have not
arisen, or stop other mental factors from arising, because there is nothing
that carries on. The intention arises and falls away completely.
So, if you have not got as much awareness as you would like there is
nothing that you can do about it. Do you want more? You can't have more
because of your wish. There may be more, but this depends on the level
of one's understanding, and we may not know what understanding we
have yet. We may have wrong understanding about our understanding and
take it for true understanding.
Q.: The problem is that there is so much distraction.

Bhikkhu: What does this indicate? We don't like to be distracted, do we?
We would prefer to be able to go about our business calmly, peacefully
and in an organized way. We want to get on with the practice, be aware
and understand. Is it self or not-self who thinks like that? It is a
misunderstanding based on our dislike of the way things are at the
moment. We don't have the understanding, the calmness, the steadiness
we would like to have. Very often our aim is not really to understand
whatever appears right now, but to get rid of distraction, to be calmer, to
be steadier, to be more organised, to be somehow other than we are.
What is that, if it is not attachment?
Q.: Distraction is just the opposite of what we want.

Bhikkhu: So, be aware of distraction.
Q.: It is the main thing that makes awareness impossible.

Bhikkhu: No. The main thing that makes awareness impossible is
misunderstanding. There is always restlessness with wrong
understanding. At the moment we don't like our distraction are we then
not distracted by our distraction? Why can't we just be aware of
distraction? But, oh no, we don't like distraction and there we are,
thoroughly distracted from awareness. This happens because of our
attachment to a self who does not want to be distracted.

Topic 49