In any journey of acquirement, whether it is manifestation of any kind or working towards achieving one’s goal in term of material or spiritual gains, there is always some kind of “practise” needed to arrive at the goal of what one wishes to experience. The word “practise” already implies making perfect or developing a certain skill for the sake of arriving at a target result which is usually somewhere in the near future, except now. The end result can never be in the now so long as the meaning of practise is still in progress. In other words, practise and result are two different things altogether. Hence each moment of perfecting the practise is a step closer to the goal, but the practise is not the goal itself.
Can you think of any path that does not involve “practise” and hence the result is constantly in the now? Yes, there is and it must only be one that has no acquirement at the end, to mean nothing to arrive at or nothing to gain in the near future, except end itself, in the here and now of each moment. What kind of journey would that be? It is the journey of dismantling the egoic framework, or undoing the self, sometimes also referred to as the pathway to enlightenment.
But, you may question, is it not practise that finally lead us there? Strictly speaking, there is in reality no “practise” involves as enlightenment is not a kind of place or something that one will “arrive” at. It is not a goal of some kind or an achievement of some sort as there is in truth nothing to achieve, nothing to gain. That is why it is sometimes referred to as relinquishment or undoing, for a better word.
The word “sati” in Pali, to mean “not forgetting”, or “recall” if I am allowed to redefine it, is the most appropriate and closest definition needed to express this particular path. Many translate that word sati as awareness which I find it inaccurate as it implies a kind of doing that needs to be perfected, hence the meaning practise has to come into picture. But isn’t it a contradiction then when practise implies there is something to achieve or to get when the whole purpose of undoing or relinquishment is its end itself?
These two Pali words will lend further insight to this unique journey itself – “sanditthiko” (to be seen here and now) and akaliko (not delayed in time). Both words obviously point to the fact that the journey is the result itself, not a lofty experience that is in the near future, for it is not delayed in time. So what does “recall”, or “sati” does? Each time when you recall, you are bringing wakefulness to what is already present here in the moment, hence passively disengaging or undoing whatever conditioning, that in the past due to unawareness, drives you to repeated traps in similar reactions again and again, albeit in different storylines. Doing is active, undoing is passive, to mean, stepping back without interfering what is already in the now.
Recall is not a form of practise as it does not involves mastering. Recall involves confidence and interest based on a certain new information that one has personally heard, read and understood and hence putting it into observation and investigation in the here and now so as to confirm what he or she has come to know. Thus in each moment of recalling, a certain level of relinquishment or undoing is already taking place, when wakeful is no longer about wanting to get anywhere or desiring to get anything, except to be in the moment, awake, watching. Hence the journey is about acknowledging conditioning and the end of conditioning, to be seen here and now and not delayed in time. Isn’t that liberating?
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(10 Sept 2011) Note: Since the above entry was posted, there were varied opinions that “practice” is necessary for beginners. I appreciate the comments given and wish to share my view that this entry is directed specifically only to the journey of undoing, nothing further than that. Hence the word “practise” in any other form of practices is not intended here. Secondly I am not suggesting giving up “practise” as many seems to have misread, but rather the meaning one gives to the word “practise”. For how one means it, directs the mind to a specific direction, as intention is key to all mind experiences. Hence if one unknowingly intend the path with error, due to either misinformation or ignorance, the result would be misdirected. As such, I am merely pointing out that the word “not forgetting” or “recall” cannot be equated to “practise”, as in the example of remembering, it is either you remember or you forget – it is not something you can do (as what the word “practise” implies) about it, except conditioning the cause(s) for it to arise. With this right context in mind, “recall” itself (with non-interference) is already in process of undoing. Is consistency in recalling a choice of practice so that undoing too is consistently occurring? No, not until one’s faith is ascertain and even this cannot be “practiced”. Only through much right view and right understanding would one’s faith increased – hence the importance of kalyanamitta (wise spiritual friends).