Being Patient with our Inability to Forgive
by Ajahn Sumedho
In Buddhist meditation, the emphasis is on mindfulness. There is a beautiful phrase in the Dhammapada, 'appamado amatapadam'. 'Appamado' means 'heedfulness', 'paying attention' or ' mindfulness'. 'Amata' means 'deathless'; 'amatapadam' 'the deathless way' or 'the way to the Deathless'. 'Appamado amatapadam' is therefore literally: 'mindfulness - the way to the Deathless' .
Mindfulness is to pay attention and in the Heart Sutra this is expressed as pure awareness: 'gate, gate paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha!' ('pure presence is transcending, ever transcending . . . '). This is what we are reiterating over and over again: attentiveness to life - awakened awareness, mindfulness - whereby we realize the Deathless, because until then all our identities are with death. If we identify with the body as that which we think we are, then we are identified with death, for what is the body going to do: live forever? If we identify with our emotions, feelings, thoughts, memories, which are all deathbound, which all constantly change, arise and cease, then we are identifying, out of ignorance, with what is dead or dying.
But mindfulness, paying attention, is the way to the Deathless. We can see that for so much of our life we are really quite deadened. We can drift along putting in no effort, taking no interest: we get up in the morning, drag around, do this, do that, maybe sexual desire and good food give a bit of ' umph ' in life but even that sensation stops after a while. Life seems to be an experience of trying to stave off boredom. Our focus is always going outwards, trying to be stimulated or awakened by external things: television, people, riding in fast cars, drugs, drink, sex. And so we're very dependent, always needing something out there to wake us up because when it's not we sink into depression or boredom - into a deathlike state.
Meditation, in terms of worldly values is boring, isn' t it? Nothing could be more boring than watching the breath, or looking at the body sitting for an hour, or listening to the sound of silence. We notice the neutral feeling of our clothes touching our skin's a boring sensation, isn't it? But what we are doing is paying attention, and the effort is coming from within. We're not being stimulated by this attention. If we wanted stimulation we wouldn't come here, we would go to London where fascinating, exciting things happen.
But the practice is about developing this attentiveness here and now. We are not here to have an entertaining time, but to develop and practise this way of mindfulness: and we realize that we can pay attention to life, that we don't need stimulating things all the time, and we are not dependent on good health, fascinating friends, success or pleasant activities for our happiness. We find that we can use whatever experience we have in life and, no matter how unpleasant it is, we can still pay attention to it; we can still accept it. This is metta practice.
(From The Middleway )