I’ve been looking back on my diary from the retreats I attended with Sayadaw U Tejaniya this summer. It is so easy to forget the significance of the practice, and I find re-reading what happened puts me straight back in touch with an enthusiasm and sharpens up my motivation to practice.
This year I drew out a number of things that I wanted not to forget. They seemed really significant to practice and a couple were very relevant to patterns I had been observing unfolding in my life. I have those on a piece of paper that I try and carry with me when I know I’ll have a bit of time to reflect further on them. Train journeys are good for that. But what struck me on this read back was something that although significant at the time hadn’t made it to my top ten things. It was to do with craving (lobha) and delusion (moha) and a particular way of them interacting.
The diary excerpt was from the early days of the second retreat held in Finland. There had been a period of retreat and then relaxation during the transition between one retreat and another. I can often find that little insights happen early on during times of more formal practice precisely because the mind is still thinking it is early days and therefore is relaxed and not expecting much. The freezing factor of expectation hasn’t yet crept in narrowing down the possibilities to what it already knows.
I was walking up the stairs to go to my room after some time in the meditation hall. The thought arose ‘ooh, I could have a little bit of time reading’. There was some pleasure that arose with the thought but not a lot. So I recognised there was a bit of craving there but it really wasn’t strong.
All quite familiar so far. Then something new happened.
When I recognised the pleasure and craving even though it wasn’t very strong I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t act on it. This was because, and this was the new bit, there was nothing opposing the craving. It felt like a vacuum in the mind. This is hard to explain, it’s a bit like 2 Sumo wrestlers; they are locked together and one is pushing the other, though not that hard. The other isn’t doing anything. And because he wasn’t doing anything, he’s offering no resistance, the first one would be able to push him over much more easily than he should have been able to.
So in my mind, on the one hand there was lobha, craving and on the other, nothing! Nothing putting the other side and recognising that to act on this lobha was not helpful and would reinforce craving down the line. And this lack of opposition made it more likely that I would act on this quite half hearted wanting state. There was no wisdom putting the other side, seeing clearly what was helpful to practice in that moment.
But then I realised that actually there was something else which was wisdom and awareness which was recognising both these states in the present moment, and then there was a lot of energy and interest in the mind. Another thought popped into my mind that I recalled about moha. Delusion covers everything with delusion. So craving doesn’t need to be very strong when moha is masking or blanketing everything else. Moha paves the way for lobha to be acted upon.
I realised that this particular configuration happens a lot. There’s the feeling of craving, and even though it’s not very strong I end up doing the thing anyway – eating it or watching it or thinking it usually. The alternative used to be wilfulness but I gave up on that. That day in Finland I got a glimpse of craving and delusion from wisdoms perspective, and the understanding that without wisdoms presence moha will cover everything like a thick black slurry that makes everything smell of shit.
When this happens there is nothing standing in the way of the constant realising of pointless desires.