The timeless freedom teachings of the Buddha are endlessly deep and widely applicable. They support more focus and presence, more empathy and compassion, more patience and dedication. Yet, perhaps at times, we overlook the subtleties in the Buddha’s profound teachings.
The story of the Buddha’s awakening includes a parable anticipating as much. The freshly awakened one is hesitating on the threshold of decades of devoted teaching that will turn the wheel of Dharma, so powerfully we can still explore these liberating insights thousands of years later. A deva (Brahma Sahampati) comes to the Buddha and implores him to teach, for there are some with just a few specks of dust upon their eyes who will otherwise not hear of such freedom. The Buddha sees this to be true. But he was not surprised to find a tough crowd, and we should not be surprised to find ourselves unaware of just how much dust we’re looking through!
I hope your practice is developing creatively, sustaining well-being in your day-to-day relationships. Yet, I also hope you feel inspired to consider what more can be done to unbind subtler dukkha. Due to their endlessness, these teachings can’t be summed up in a pithy quote. But just consider that the Buddha resolved to offer a teaching of profound peace that was not easy to see: a reliable well-being in an unpredictable world beyond the comings and goings of everyday existence; a radical new way of relating to the appearances we habitually take as independent.
Still, we don’t need to abandon the more accessible freedoms we gain through mindful presence. Thankfully, freedom tastes sweet in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end. This is at least one meaning of a teaching that meets us where we are, and leads onward. Let’s follow the Buddha’s compassionate invitation to see where freedom can go.
“Deep is this dependent origination, and deep its appearance.”
– Buddha (DN 15)
The Noble Search | Ariyapariyesana Sutta (MN 26), in which the Buddha recounts his awakening, translated by Bhikku Bodhi
An article by Thānisarro Bhikku: The Meaning of the Buddha’s Awakening
Visit my website for more about the teachings and practices of dependent origination:
Practice Tip: The Power of Posture
Mind and body are in conversation (they dependently arise): how we place our body, and how we breathe during our meditation sessions really changes things. As you start your practice, explore how your posture can give your belly the most space imaginable.
Add cushions under your buttocks until your hips are higher than your knees. See how this brings space to the lower belly to relax and expand.
Then take a rolled hand-towel, as you lean slightly forward, pop it under the space that was just revealed at the back of the buttocks. Sit back on it, and see how this can support a straighter back. Extend this by rolling the shoulders up and back, and then relaxing the neck muscles by bringing the head back over the body. Invite awareness through the whole body, softening all the muscles you can without collapsing this noble posture: for example, the face and hands can be completely soft.
Practice mindful breathing, or listening to sounds. When you return from mind-wandering, check if your belly can soften and be more spacious. Notice if this changes anything in your practice. Perhaps more openness in the posture brings a noticeable openness in the mind.