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Liberation and Finality: Does this Path have an end?

A series of talks on the difficult descriptions of liberation in the Theravāda system: the Four Paths and Fruits. We talked mostly about Stream-entry, emphasizing some of the most mysterious aspects of this idea. Finality. Completion. Perfection. To engage or not? Is that even the right question?

We’ll talk about “enlightenment” all month at Satsang, using a text called “The Longer Discourse with Māluṅkya” (MN 64) as our framework to start with. (Quote below.)

Fetters! Escape! Yes, non-enlightenment is considered to be like bondage in chains, slavery, like being in prison. Metaphor will be unpacked.


Meditation: Presence as the knife edge between past and future (11.27.18)

Talk: Stream-Entry, Personality View (sakaya ditthi), and an intro to the 10 Fetters. 7 more lifetimes at most? What does that mean? (11.27.18)


Meditation: Sitting as the Middle Way, balancing comfort and alertness (12.4.18)

Talk: Liberation, part 2. The horrid Fetter of Doubt. Uproot it! (12.4.18)


Talk: Liberation, part 3, Finality! One core formula is that we suffer when we crave things and so the end of suffering is when we stop craving them. Is it still true? Is this the best model now for us? Are there other ways of conceiving the project of responding — in an absolute or final way — to human pain besides, or in addition to, this? Are “absolute” and “final” terms we can relate to? (12.11.18)


Almost Solstice. We finish our conversation on Enlightenment/Liberation with a discussion of the word arya or “Noble,” which originally was used to identify those who had realized at least Stream-Entry, and so were the saṅgha members most worthy of Going For Refuge to. I’ll retranslate Noble, which in an age of hopefully continuing-to-fall kings has a taint, as Dignified, since dignity is perhaps the core quality Liberation bestows. I tell a bunch of Zen stories that might be about posture, might be about freedom.

What does it mean to have dignity, to cultivate dignity?

I see it in the story this week of Jazmine Headley, responding to standard-order racist inhumanity with maternal ferocity, and a persistence born of long experience with a soul-crushing system.

Hannah Gadsby radiates it in Nanette, peaking with “There is no way anyone would dare… test their strength out on me, because you all know… there is nothing stronger then a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.” Dignity.

Talk: Liberation, part 4. (12.18.18)


Blessings, everyone. Happy Solstice & New Year!

We’re off now till Jan 8. See you then. May you all be safe and at ease through the end of this wild year in saṃsāra.

…But an educated noble disciple has seen the noble ones, and is skilled and trained in the teaching of the noble ones. They’ve seen good persons, and are skilled and trained in the teaching of the good persons. Their heart is not overcome and mired in identity view, and they truly understand the escape from identity view that has arisen. That identity view, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.
Their heart is not overcome and mired in doubt, and they truly understand the escape from doubt that has arisen. That doubt, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.
Their heart is not overcome and mired in misapprehension of precepts and observances, and they truly understand the escape from misapprehension of precepts and observances that has arisen. That misapprehension of precepts and observances, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.
Their heart is not overcome and mired in sensual desire, and they truly understand the escape from sensual desire that has arisen. That sensual desire, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.
Their heart is not overcome and mired in ill will, and they truly understand the escape from ill will that has arisen. That ill will, along with any underlying tendency to it, is given up in them.
There is a path and a practice for giving up the five lower fetters. It’s not possible to know or see or give up the five lower fetters without relying on that path and that practice. Suppose there was a large tree standing with heartwood. It’s not possible to cut out the heartwood without having cut through the bark and the softwood. In the same way, there is a path and a practice for giving up the five lower fetters. It’s not possible to know or see or give up the five lower fetters without relying on that path and that practice…
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The Longer Discourse with Māluṅkya (MN 64)

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