Will James

Insight Meditation


"Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is.
In the very here and now, the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows how to dwell in mindfulness night and day,
'one who knows the better way to live alone."
(Bhaddekaratta Sutta)



Buddhaball The Emptiness of all things
ball The Spiritual Life
ball Not Self

The Emptiness of all Things

"Clinging is to insist on being someone; not to cling is to be free to be no one."††††††

Also we can see that everything depends on everything else for its existence. Nothing can be created or maintained in isolation therefore it is empty of any innate separate existence.

If we apply this to our own sense of self, we begin to undermine our very foundation and identity.

Where is the "I" or sense of separate self to be found and how is it constructed?

Thought claims ownership over all experience consolidating and confirming the self.

Where is the self?

Who controls thoughts and emotions? Who controls our body, who decides how we feel and who can stop the aging process?

The truth is we are an ever changing flow of experience. The self is not static or separate but part of the impermanent nature of existence.

When we try to control or stop the impermanent flow of life we only succeed in creating friction and suffering. There are no inherent separate things only the continuous interaction, the endless process of events. These events or movements of phenomena are all contingent and continually dependent upon all other phenomena. Normally we donít see the world or our self in this way. Our universe is usually divided into two distinctly separate entities of me and the world. However with understanding we see that we are just phenomena that arises and ceases dependent on conditions, and that apart from these conditions we have no separate or independent reality.

In Emptiness there is an incredible freedom from any fixed identity; no one to pin down, to define or to enlighten. It is an absence of clinging to the sense of a separate self and of what belongs to this self. It is a free flowing existence with no hindrance or obstruction to the natural flow of life. No interference, interpretation or distortion of our life experience. Emptiness is free of the conceit of I and mine.

Emptiness is free of limitations; it is the world of experience flowing freely through the sense doors, free of interpretation and judgment. It is a clear response to life; free of self justification or aggrandizement.

Emptiness is our natural state; we are always empty. Although the mind tries to fill the emptiness with constructs and a belief in someone, who has ownership over our experience, it still remains empty.

An understanding of emptiness frees one from the need to attain or acquire any state or knowledge in order to feel fulfilled.†

Emptiness is an understanding not a place or state. It is the inherent nature of things as they are, not bounded by time or space.

Emptiness is full of freedom.

As Nagarjuna said, "All things are empty, even emptiness is empty".

Emptiness is not an excuse for abdicating responsibility or for failing to respond appropriately to suffering as it arises. Emptiness expresses itself through love and compassion; these naturally arise when the "I" subsides. When I am not obsessed with my own wants then I am naturally concerned with the welfare of others.

Out of the awareness of the emptiness of all things flows a life of freedom, wisdom, creativity, compassion and a deep appreciation for all life.

May all beings realize the inherent emptiness of all things.

The Spiritual Life

"The spiritual life does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit,
or the attainment of virtues for its benefit,
or the attainment of concentration for its benefit,
or knowledge and vision for its benefit.
But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind
That is the goal of the spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end."

This is a quote from the Heartwood sutta where the Buddha explains just what is at the very core of Dharma practice.

Dharma practice is not concerned with any form of personal gain, it is not a practice of self help or self indulgence. Dharma practice is only concerned with freedom of being, freedom from all past habitual patterns of mind, from all reactions, from clinging to personal views and opinions and to any imagined fears of the future.

At the heart of Dharma practice is this unshakeable deliverance of mind.
When looking at our minds we may not be able to recognize this unshakeable quality just a scattered and confused quality. A quality of mind that is easily disturbed and affected by the world around us, a mind so easily attached to and affected by what the Buddha called the eight worldly conditions, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame and pleasure and pain.

†These conditions all revolve around the concept or construction of self, or who I think I am. This self with all its ownership, its problems, its worries, its failures, its accomplishments and its sorrows is continuously and subtly guiding our daily decision making.

It brings great freedom to see through the obsessive culture of success, to drop out of that mind stream that defines itself by how much money it has, what possessions it acquires, what job it holds, how much it knows or even how aware it is.

As the Buddha says the spiritual life does not have gain or attainment as its benefit so the question arises how is this unshakeable deliverance of mind to be achieved.

Dharma practice is the path that cultivates the environment that enables the natural letting go of all constrictions, all tension, all stress and all suffering. However clinging to or giving too much importance to these techniques or practices undermines any possibility of freedom arising. Meditation cannot be attained; it doesnít exist in the world of achievement, comparison or division.

Sitting, standing, walking, working or playing, every moment, every experience and every action can be an opportunity for meditation.

As Krishnamurti said;
"Meditation is that light in the mind which lights the way for action; and without that light there is no love."

†When the self that is constantly judging, comparing and commentating on the world, falls away and recedes into the background then the mind is open, like a room on a hot summerís day, the sense doors and windows are wide open allowing a cool breeze to flow through and life is free to unfold naturally.

Meditation has a taste of stillness and silence and in this sense of spaciousness freedom and love blossom.

All addictions, be they habitual patterns of thought or emotional reactions or modes of behaviour, consumerism or addiction to substances enslave and bind us. We need freedom from our dilemmas and freedom from relying on any conditions for our happiness.

This unshakeable deliverance of mind is not dependent on any conditions or constructions. It is what remains when all forms of clinging are abandoned.†

The goal of the spiritual life, this unshakeable deliverance of mind is to be realized and the Buddha described the expression of this mind as having the qualities of the divine abodes.
†Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy and Equanimity

So let us recognize these qualities in ourselves and in each other and in so doing express this unshakeable deliverance of mind.†

May we all taste this unshakeable deliverance of mind.

Not Self

This teaching of not self or anatta is difficult to understand, it is not as some people think a teaching of no self but the teaching of the emptiness of self. In other words there is no innate separate substance or permanence to the self. This is seeing into the ever-flowing changing phenomena of self.

This seeing allows for a great freedom to enter our lives, we donít need to take ourselves so seriously. It allows for more spaciousness and lightness of being.

Life as the Buddha said is uncertain and all things are impermanent (Anicca).
He described life as "like a dew drop on the tip of a leaf on a summerís morning", and "like a line drawn on waterĒ.

The idea of a fixed self is unnatural due to its rigidity and sense of permanence.† When we understand the impermanent, constructed nature of self then we begin to get a sense of not self (anatta) or a self that is empty of the fascination with I and mine.

In meditation we get a sense of the emptiness and insubstantiality of the self. We can rest in the spaciousness of being, just allowing all phenomena to arise and pass away.†

Also in moments of creativity or in making love or in nature we experience a falling away of the identification with self. This brings us in touch with the immeasurable nature of not self, the natural joy, creative energy, love and compassion.

The self is a captive of time but by not clinging to the idea of self there arises a freedom from any limitation of time, free from any becoming. Awakening and freedom have absolutely nothing to do with becoming.

Letting go of the construction of self opens the doorways of the heart, and with the opening of the heart the duality of self and other begins to dissolve.† We feel a deep connection with life; realizing the interconnection and interdependence of all things.

We then embrace the paradox; on the one hand the miracle of this conventional, conditioned self, this unique being, a one off, never to be repeated in the history of the universe and on the other hand its boundless empty nature, intimately connected to all beings.

"Above, below and everywhere released.
One not observing, "I am this"
Has crossed the flood not crossed before."
Freed with no renewal of being or becoming.Ē† (Buddha).

So with a letting go of clinging to I and mine comes the possibility to live in a radically different way, to live†† free of the past, free of self-obsession and free of living in reaction to life. Then we have the chance to touch that which is not constructed, the immeasurable, timeless nature of this unfolding life. That which the Buddha called the Deathless

"View the world, as empty ó the Buddha said,
Always being mindful to drop any view or idea about self.
This way one is above & beyond death."

By not clinging to the construction of self and other, and by seeing into the empty nature of not self the doorway to freedom and true liberation opens.
So may your self be always empty and your heart filled with wonder and mystery