The Coolness of Atammayata
[MwB p99 of 161]
“This is the way” means after completing the 4 tetrads of MwB, and the following is a take on some of the meaning of emancipation – a meaning that hopefully will always develop.
As part of MwB we have developed an understanding of the 3 characteristics (of anatta, dukkha and anicca) and the 4 foundations (tetrads) of mindfulness. Through the 4 foundations we have integrated fragments thus releasing these burdens of daily life and personal history meaning that in personal terms we can be 100% aware as opposed to being less through fragmentation. With the 4 dhamma comrades we can now be 100% dedicated to the path.
Through being aware of the 3 characteristics we become more conscious of Nature and its laws, Buddhadasa variously calls this idappaccayata or idappaccayata-paticcasamuppada. Here are the laws of nature - dhammajati:-
Through dhamma we know we are part of nature, we are from nature, our paths are what nature requires, and our duty is to find our paths; hopefully this trilogy including the companion helps us through MwB to follow our paths.
Let us take some time to look at the law of conditioning – paticcasamuppada. We touched on it when looking at sampajanna importantly focussing on sati-sampajanna at the point of contact.
(1). With ignorance as a condition, mental concocting arises;
(2). With mental concocting as a condition, consciousness arises;
(3). With consciousness as a condition, mentality/materiality arises;
(4). With mentality/materiality as a condition, the six sense bases arise;
(5). With the six sense bases as a condition, contact arises;
(6). With contact as a condition, feeling arises;
(7). With feeling as a condition, craving arises;
(8). With craving as a condition, attachment arises;
(9). With attachment as a condition, becoming arises;
(10). With becoming as a condition, birth arises;
(11). With birth as a condition, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and tribulation arise. Thus the mass of suffering arises.
There is much that can be understood from this law of conditioning but let’s give attention to two things. We have spoken of phassa on sampajanna but also give attention to ignorance. This ignorance could be the ignorance of this law, ignorance of the dhamma, ignorance of the path, or just simply the ignorance that is delusion that comes from conditioning. Giving attention to these two aspects is recommended because these can be controlled. We can apply sati-sampajanna at the point of contact, we can learn what is what to overcome ignorance.
According to this natural law conditioning gives rise to suffering because of upadana, the clinging I have discussed as attachment to egos. Let us examine how conditioning arises in our society, this examination is important for the pathtivist because we are concerned with complete engagement. The natural law above describes how we can deal with conditioning individually especially by using sati-sampajanna at the point of contact and by overcoming our ignorance, but how does this conditioning show in society.
Let us start by considering how conditioning first arises, it comes initially as nature’s gift for survival from birth. We are given instincts, and through these instincts we develop an egoic strength that leads to survival through childhood. This could reasonably be called instinctive conditioning. By natural law as we mature we let go of the egos coming from instinct and follow our paths. At the same time in maturity (with the 4 dhamma comrades) we learn not to attach to any new egos. But what is happening in our society now is that we are not encouraged to follow this process – it is not natural for us in society. There are few that mature and follow their paths.
It is worth trying to see why few follow what nature intended. This is because our world is effectively a defiled world where the instinctive conditioning has led to the defilements of greed aversion and delusion throughout society. These defilements can be recognised in ego but mature people let them go. However within society there are people who have indulged their greed, and through this indulgence have amassed huge wealth. Further they have used their power and influence to help increase their wealth to such an extent that their accumulation is obscene and the power and influence they exert to further accumulate produces a defiled world. Within this defiled world the instinctive conditioning is propagated instead of maturely falling away, and this unnatural conditioning could be seen as societal conditioning. The societal conditioning is little different to instinctive conditioning except that it works against the natural law of maturing that would let the instinctive conditioning go. This societal conditioning can be seen in the worship of wealth, governments in the time of crisis give money that come from taxes to the wealthy, and in an unsustainable economic system that encourages wars for profits and wage-slavery. On occasions it even attacks the process of maturing deriding those who express the joys of the fruits of the path and mocking people who express the inner truth of compassion that comes from maturity as well as mocking good people as SJW for no reason other than shame.
But worst of all this societal conditioning has distanced itself from Nature. Through childhood survival the ego is created providing itself with a protective cocoon within family and society that enables natural growth. This egoic growth is separate within its cocoon until in maturity it returns to the path, its place in nature where there is no separation, where the understanding of dhamma follows the path nature intended for us. In following the path there is no distance, and there is harmony for ourselves and in society there would be harmony too.
But instead of social harmony the intense egotism of societal conditioning is leading to the destruction of Gaia. As has been shown by the Covid pandemic, nature was not affected and will survive, it is just our society’s way of life that will suffer so destruction of Gaia is emotive – but it is worth being emotive about this.
Can we let go of the societal conditioning and allow people to follow their paths? Can we reconnect with Gaia – Mother Nature?
Understanding the natural law of conditionality leads to the possibility of what we want - following nature’s laws through being in a state of atammayata. In atammayata we move beyond conditioning following the natural law (of maturity) where we let go of all old conditioning (detachments) and do not attach to any new conditioning.
Let us look at conditioning in another way – positive and negative, and an easy way to understand this is to go back to the conditioning of early childhood. Negative – we don’t like something, we are not satisfied – dukkha. Positive – we like something eg fruit, we are satisfied – not dukkha. But at that age we like something, we want more, we can’t have it – dukkha. Negative is dukkha, positive leads to dukkha. This is the basis of conditioning though positive and negative in childhood, and leads to the conditioned egos of adulthood that we can let go through detachment. But because of natural law conditioning is always present. Through our sense we become conscious of sense objects, this is a natural process that we do not necessarily give thought to such as I hear the bird singing; what we can become aware of in this situation is known as ayatana. Through the law of conditionality these ayatana create reactions in our minds that can cause attachments depending on our personal history. In the past we have attached to such ayatana causing egos, so that can continue to happen. Unless we apply sati-sampajanna at the point of contact, phassa; unless we are in a state of atammayata.
Our minds can react positively or negatively to these ayatana, and so we create dukkha through the law of paticcasamuppada. If we are in a state of atammayata we do not react positively or negatively to ayatana, the ayatana happen but there is no upadana – clinging. The ayatana happens, and that’s it – atammayata.
In shadow work (integrating fragments) as discussed in the last chapter, there are various techniques to deal with the negative shadows. Integration engages with these shadows, and we cannot engage with them if we run away through positive focus ( discussed by Teal Swan). Let’s consider this positive focus further. What if we start attaching to the results of this positive focus? What if we require positivity and become disappointed if there is not a positive outcome? This could be a personal demand on the law of attraction for positive results – an egoic attachment. Through the 4 dhamma comrades there is the natural “positivity” of life, when we are liberated and not conditioned there is a sense of peace that could be described with positive attributes. But because of atammayata we do not attach to this natural “positivity”. This sounds a little pedantic – nit-picking, but it is not. For those who focus positively can become attached to positivity so it is important for me to point out the dangers of positive thinking; positive thinking has a great risk of egoic attachment. What would be the results of the law of attraction if through MwB we develop the 4 dhamma comrades? In the state of atammayata we develop the 4 dhamma comrades without attachment – without the positive and negative.
Atammayata is the state that is beyond conditioning, not concocting ayatana, not attaching to positive or negative feelings - the 3 prongs of atammayata:-
At the end of the second tetrad we can reach a state of cooling. In meditation this means that we go through the states of piti and sukha, then calm. After the calmness deep inside maybe we can find glimpses of coolness (nibbana-dhatu); in Nibbana for Everyone Buddhadasa talks of nibbana-dhatu, the natural state of coolness inside when we remove defilements. If there is no defilement there is nibbana-dhatu, with atammayata - no concocting based on ayatana, no attaching to egos of conditioning, no attachment to positive or negative feeling - there is no defilement. This is the coolness of atammayata.
Oneness, there is no separation. Sunnata, emptiness, voidness of self, there is no separation. There is no boundary between sunnata and atammayata, this is oneness, breathe in sunnata and there is no difference between atammayata and sunnata. Insight - perfect atammayata is sunnata. Of course this is not my experience, it was an insight. But what it does make clear to me is that building atammayata is the way to go. Sunnata is, the state of atammayata is something we can work towards. Our path is what we do, building the state of atammayata is what we can do if we try.
It is at this point that Zandtaomed cannot advise further because he only speaks of experience. I have experienced glimpses of nibbana-dhatu, so therefore I can say to you with complete authority that if you work towards a state of atammayata through no concocting of ayatana, through no attaching to conditionality or positive and negative vedana then you can experience glimpses of the coolness of nibbana-dhatu. There is no boundary between sunnata and atammayata so if we can work towards this state there can be the oneness that is sunnata, void of self. Presumably we can reach a state of Nibbana as described by Buddhadasa in Nibbana for Everyone but I cannot attest to that. In my judgement the teachings of the Buddha that Buddhadasa's life and work is based on point to this Nibbana but I cannot know - it is not my experience. But I can say for certainty that if you improve your state of atammayata then there can be no separation and there will be increased coolness - nibbana-dhatu, and that is enough for me - a good state to be. Practising MwB can develop atammayata, and I hope the Companion can help you practise MwB. Be cool.
Here are Buddhadasa papers on atammayata.