Don’t you love this:
Here, o monks, a monk does train himself thus: – “Had it not been it would not occur to me; if it will not be it won’t occur to me; whatever there is, whatever appeared (came into existence) that i will give up” – thus he develops equanimity.
We would call it these days “sankharupekkha nyana” or the insight knowledge of equanimity towards formations.In MN the Buddha adds this valuable information after using exactly the same meditation instruction:
So taṃ upekkhaṃ nābhinandati, nābhivadati, na ajjhosāya tiṭṭhati. Tassa taṃ upekkhaṃ anabhinandato anabhivadato anajjhosāya tiṭṭhato na tannissitaṃ hoti viññāṇaṃ na tadupādānaṃ. Anupādāno, ānanda, bhikkhu parinibbāyatī’’ti.
He does not delight in this equanimity, does not agree, does not stay overwhelmed by it. Him who does not delight, does not agree, does not stay overwhelmed with this equanimity his consciousness is not leaning on this equanimity, is not attached to it. Without attachment, Ananda, that monk completely ceases (parinibbāya – this word, in fact, does not mean he dies, but experiences nibbana, pari- completely).”
The beauty of this instruction is that it makes almost only sense to you if you practice this or a similar method of insight meditation where you do not allow the mind to follow impressions but stop mental activity right after the object “was born” (yadatthi yaṃ bhūtaṃ) just in order to “give it up” – right there and then, immediately.
Such a short seemingly contradictory or mysterious instruction which in itself is clear, precise and to the point but unreadable for the outsider does make it sound very ZEN like.
But usually – and in contrast to ZEN – the suttas go on and give the additional background information so that even “newbees” can understand what is meant. Enjoy the rest of this amazing sutta:
“Now, a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones … does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He does not assume feeling to be the self… does not assume perception to be the self … does not assume fabrications to be the self… He does not assume consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.
“He discerns, as it actually is, impermanent form: ‘impermanent form’ … impermanent feeling: ‘impermanent feeling’ … impermanent perception: ‘impermanent perception’ … impermanent fabrications: ‘impermanent fabrications’ … impermanent consciousness: ‘impermanent consciousness.’
Note how this last paragraph gave a complete meditation instruction for simply noting form, feeling, etc. whenever they arrise with clear attention as “impermanent”. See here for a discussion on this topic.
Now a monk asks the Buddha whether a person training like this would fear this experience of nibbana. Buddhas response:
“There is the case where an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person … falls into fear over what is not grounds for fear. But an instructed disciple of the noble ones does not fall into fear over what is not grounds for fear. There is no fear for an instructed disciple of the noble ones [who thinks], ‘Had it not been it would not occur to me; if it will not be it won’t occur to me; whatever there is, whatever appeared (came into existence) that i will give up.’
Rūpupayaṃ vā, bhikkhu, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya, rūpārammaṇaṃ rūpappatiṭṭhaṃ nandūpasecanaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyya. Vedanupayaṃ vā, bhikkhu… saññupayaṃ vā, bhikkhu… saṅkhārupayaṃ vā, bhikkhu, viññāṇaṃ tiṭṭhamānaṃ tiṭṭheyya, saṅkhārārammaṇaṃ saṅkhārappatiṭṭhaṃ nandūpasecanaṃ vuddhiṃ virūḷhiṃ vepullaṃ āpajjeyya.
“Should consciousness, when standing (still), stand attached to (a physical) form, supported by form (as its object), established on form, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation. “Should consciousness, when standing (still), stand attached to feeling, perception, fabrications, supported by fabrications (as its object), established on fabrications, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase, & proliferation.
Now comes the peaceful crescendo. An Arahants consciousness becomes anidassana / illustrous like the sky. Now, with consciousness ceasing its normal operation, even feelings cool down and contact ceases and extinguishes like a fire:
viññāṇadhātuyā ce, bhikkhu, bhikkhuno rāgo pahīno hoti. Rāgassa pahānā vocchijjatārammaṇaṃ patiṭṭhā viññāṇassa na hoti. Tadappatiṭṭhitaṃ viññāṇaṃ avirūḷhaṃ anabhisaṅkhārañca vimuttaṃ. Vimuttattā ṭhitaṃ. Ṭhitattā santusitaṃ. Santusitattā na paritassati. Aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati.
“Were someone to say, ‘I will describe a coming, a going, a passing away, an arising, a growth, an increase, or a proliferation of consciousness apart from form, from feeling, from perception, from fabrications,’ that would be impossible.
“If a monk abandons passion for the property of form, feeling, perception, fabrications …If a monk abandons appeal for the property of consciousness, then owing to the abandonment of appeal, the support is cut off, and there is no base for consciousness. Consciousness, thus unestablished, not proliferating, not performing any function, is released. Owing to its release, it stands still. Owing to its stillness, it is contented. Owing to its contentment, it is not agitated. Not agitated, he (the monk) is totally ceased.