Sunday, July 12, 2009

Three Teachers or Buddhist Addiction Therapy

"tayo khome, mahānāma, satthāro santo saṃvijjamānā lokasmiṃ. katame tayo?

Indeed, Mahanama, there are these three teachers to be found existing in the world. Which three?

idha, mahānāma, ekacco satthā kāmānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti; na rūpānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti, na vedanānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti.

Here, Mahanama, some teacher declares the full understanding of sensuality; does not declare the full understanding of form, does not declare the full understanding of feeling.

idha pana, mahānāma, ekacco satthā kāmānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti , rūpānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti; na vedanānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti.

Here, Mahanama, some teacher declares the full understanding of sensuality, declares the full understanding of form; does not declare the full understanding of feeling.

idha pana, mahānāma, ekacco satthā kāmānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti, rūpānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti, vedanānaṃ pariññaṃ paññāpeti.

Here, Mahanama, some teacher declares the full understanding of sensuality, declares the full understanding of form, declares the full understanding of feeling.

ime kho, mahānāma, tayo satthāro santo saṃvijjamānā lokasmiṃ.

Indeed, Mahanama, there are these three teachers to be found existing in the world.

-- The Buddha (AN 3.3.13.4 Bharaṇḍukālāmasuttaṃ)


I was struck when I first read this passage in the Book of Gradual Sayings by the close proximity it has to my own experience and teaching on sensual desire. In my own experience grappling with the monster of sensual desire, I had searched through the Tipitaka at great length, to no avail, to find something that would shed light on this dark corner of the soul. Eventually I realized that the teaching of Paticcasamuppada (dependent origination) explained things quite well, if one analyzes it in this way. With said teaching and my own meditation experience, I subsequently formulated my own understanding that addiction seems to have three main parts, taken from the teachings on salayatana - six sense bases and phassa - contact (taken together as ruupa - form), vedana - feeling (taken as vedana - feeling), and tanha - craving and upadana - clinging (taken together as kaama - sensuality).

This, I found worked extremely well as a model for meditation practice contemplating on addiction; one could switch back and forth between contemplation of one of the three quite efficiently, as each becomes prevalent at different moments in the process of addiction. When craving becomes unclear, one returns to feeling (ie pleasure); when feeling becomes unclear, one returns to the form (ie sight, sounds, smell, taste, sensation). This year I began teaching thus as a basic part of addiction therapy and it seemed to have good results with others as well. It was only by chance that I happened to pick up and read the above quoted passage at random in the library under Wat Thai of Los Angeles. So, I'm sharing it with you all tonight.

Now if that hasn't pooped all over your party, have a wonderful Saturday night... I know I will, I spent it with a woman...

...teaching her sitting meditation over the Internet... what were you thinking?