An imaginary friend

Ajahn Brahm makes it clear in his Jhana teachings. The abeyance of the ‘doer’ is a key-insight that arises as a consequence of samma-samadhi. This is an unmistakable happening - that comes and goes.

The sense of self, the basis of the delusion of the ‘doer’, comes and goes. When reaction-free attention is sustained, its unbroken, there comes a point where this delusional ‘presence’ may drop out of awareness.

This gives rise to a radical-shift in awareness during periods of stillness and, in daily life.

This ‘absence’ is a clear indication that something very-different is available here-and-now. What would it be like to lose our imaginary-friend, permanently?

A jhani understands the meaning of the following poem - directly:

“Sitting quietly, ‘doing nothing’, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.” - Basho

The Dhamma is clear and undisguised!

If we simply live our daily lives with awareness in a kind way everything will be revealed in its own time and place.

Its never really doing something, its a process of not getting in the way. When we try to hold our attention on something the mind never really settles down.

When there’s genuine interest and a natural curiosity investigation takes place all by itself. There’s no need to direct the mind to focus on something if your heart is in it.

Natural stillness is not a process of doing something because the ‘doing’ makes the mind unstable.

We don’t need to try and hold the mind still. It’s nature is to move like a stream or river. We can simply let it go, let it be.

The holding, the attachment, fuels the movement of the mind.

‘Doing’ is a continuity of movement in the mind.

What else could it be?

Bare awareness is a shift from identification with doing to mere presence, close attention to what is happening without clinging or, identification with that which comes and goes.

The quality of attention feeds the momentum or, allows the mind to move towards stillness - towards cessation. Nibbana is the stilling of all formations.

“The escape from that is calm, permanent, beyond inference, unborn, unproduced, the sorrowless, stainless state, the cessation of stressful qualities, the stilling of fabrications, bliss”* - 43 Itivuttaka

In order to pacify a child we give them care-ful loving attention. The same with the mind - this :heartbeat:/mind - the same with everything.

What are the natural stages of letting go**?

*43 Itivuttaka

**T_The-Basic.pdf (132.9 KB)

1 Like

I do like that turn of phrase.
I have found that fear arises when there is a doer.
Doers grasp and fear the losing.
No doer–no fear.

1 Like

No fear-no control.
No control-no fear.

Freedom is a consequence of emotional intelligence, sensitivity, a good heart and, a sound mind.

Let it settle itself :heart_eyes:

It’s best to keep it simple in order to avoid confusion. It’s best to side-step the control-freaks*. They tend to complicate things for all the wrong reasons.

“Abandon learning and your mind will not be vexed by doubt
Though tight the net of words may bind
How surely
Truth slips out” - Lao Tzu

*“several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of (getting themselves) made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” - Douglas Adams


1 Like

What do the suttas tell us about letting go, I wonder?

1 Like

The suttas explain it in terms of the stages of letting go i.e initial settling-in, 1st jhana, 2nd jhana… through to liberating insight. This standard formula is a major theme in the suttas?

When quoting from Suttas, I often find that it is more meaningful if a larger section is cited, and giving the overall context as well. Otherwise it could be applied in so many ways to so many things. Eg, from the above quote; escape from what exactly? and how was this escape orchestrated according to the Buddha?

Remember this is an EBT forum, to further understandings of those texts.

NB/ this is also a discussion about Dhamma, and as such should really be in the discussion category rather than the water cooler - I’ll just change the category, to try and maintain consistency :slight_smile:



But isn’t letting go something that can be started long before starting Jhanas? I was wondering if there is advice for beginners about letting go during the initial settling-in available in the EBTs. Anyone?

1 Like

I think we have guidance that is relevant to your question in the ‘Bahiya Sutta’?

*“Then, Bāhiya, you should (train) yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen… In reference to the cognized, only the cognized… then, Bāhiya, there is (no you) in connection with that. When there is (no you) in connection with that, there is (no you) there. When there is (no you) there, you are (neither) here nor yonder (nor) between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress.”- Bahiya Sutta

This teaching - above - was meant to be taken literally. Bahiya saw the truth of it - directly.

Why is this teaching relevant to settling-in when it comes to periods of stillness?

This kind of reaction-free attention to the thought process, to cognition, can be a preliminary stage that leads into a natural quieting and stilling of the mind.

Through a choiceless awareness of the mind, while sitting in stillness, thoughts may come and go without interference. They may then begin to occurr less frequently. This gives rise to extended periods of inner-silence between thoughts.

This bare awareness, attending to thoughts - thinking themselves - can result in the quieting, the stilling of thoughts.

In the spaciousness that ensues after the natural abeyance of the thoughts that come and go, other phenomena may arise and cease.

The breath may spontaneously appear in this state of quiescence, it can then be observed without reactivity. This leads to deepening stillness.

If, the breath does not arise, appear in the field of attention, there may be a ‘nimitta’ - a unique joy - that arises as the perception of a clear mind deepens.

The choiceless observation simply moves to whatever makes an appearance. Beginning with less refined phenomena.

As natural stillness deepens more subtle phenomena comes and goes.

After a nimitta arises there can be a major phase-shift in awareness. When the attention is ‘absorbed’ in the nimitta, the meditator - the sense of subjectivity - vanishes.

This can be an abrupt shift, something very different can take place in the ‘beautiful’ silence of the mind.

Then, jhanas arise and cease and, so it goes…

In hindsight, after jhanas, the mind does it’s best to understand what happened. This is a cognitive reconstruction of happenings that don’t really fit into an ordinary frame of reference.

Depending on where the process has ended, whether it has been a shallow or deep jhanic unfolding, different perceptions ‘arise’ as to ‘what’ has taken place.

This is how bare awareness, if sustained in daily life, seemlessly moves into periods of deep natural stillness. This becomes unbroken practice, periods of rest are also transformed.

At some point in the process the seperative self-sense ceases to arise - while sitting, walking, lying down, getting up, in every situation, in every moment of existence.

This is a radical-shift in awareness that is deeply transformative. A previously obscured field of discovery opens up.

The Dhamma comes alive, there is vitality, energy, the awakening factors.

The Dhamma finds expression through our lives in new and profound ways.

*Ud 1:10 Bāhiya Sutta | Bāhiya


I have found that the thoughts that arise while meditating are frequently of the five hindrances – desire, ill-will, anxiety, sloth, and doubt. It is valuable to confront these thoughts, to understand what they are, and to set them aside for as long as I can. “Oh,” I often think to myself, “that’s a thought about food. I recognize it as a type of desire, and I know that I can set it aside for now.” And then I do. It is a diversion from the breath, but one that allows a greater focus to develop.

This is absolutely not a meditative attainment, but it is a letting-go. It’s also character training for times when I’m not meditating. And I find it clear from the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta that we’re supposed to be doing this work and practicing to get good at it:

And how does a mendicant meditate observing an aspect of principles? It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the five hindrances. And how does a mendicant meditate observing an aspect of principles with respect to the five hindrances?

It’s when a mendicant who has sensual desire in them understands: ‘I have sensual desire in me.’ When they don’t have sensual desire in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have sensual desire in me.’ They understand how sensual desire arises; how, when it’s already arisen, it’s given up; and how, once it’s given up, it doesn’t arise again in the future.

When they have ill will in them, they understand: ‘I have ill will in me.’ When they don’t have ill will in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have ill will in me.’ They understand how ill will arises; how, when it’s already arisen, it’s given up; and how, once it’s given up, it doesn’t arise again in the future.

When they have dullness and drowsiness in them, they understand: ‘I have dullness and drowsiness in me.’ When they don’t have dullness and drowsiness in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have dullness and drowsiness in me.’ They understand how dullness and drowsiness arise; how, when they’ve already arisen, they’re given up; and how, once they’re given up, they don’t arise again in the future.

When they have restlessness and remorse in them, they understand: ‘I have restlessness and remorse in me.’ When they don’t have restlessness and remorse in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have restlessness and remorse in me.’ They understand how restlessness and remorse arise; how, when they’ve already arisen, they’re given up; and how, once they’re given up, they don’t arise again in the future.

When they have doubt in them, they understand: ‘I have doubt in me.’ When they don’t have doubt in them, they understand: ‘I don’t have doubt in me.’ They understand how doubt arises; how, when it’s already arisen, it’s given up; and how, once it’s given up, it doesn’t arise again in the future.

And so they meditate observing an aspect of principles internally, externally, and both internally and externally. They meditate observing the principles as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. Or mindfulness is established that principles exist, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world. That’s how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of principles with respect to the five hindrances.


Thankyou Gus, the Satipaṭṭhānasutta also gives guidance on tranquilising the breath during anapanasati. I believe this instruction is given to help the meditator to calm down, to settle-in, to invite deeper stillness and tranquility. :blush:

We also have the ‘Anapanasati Sutta’ that may provide many helpful teachings about calming, settling and, letting go?


On a whim I typed letting go and found this:

Now, some ascetics and brahmins, letting go of theories about the past and the future, shedding the fetters of sensuality, enter and remain in the rapture of seclusion:

In summary, “no-do is less doo-doo” :poop:

But more seriously, one of the oddest things I learned from climbing is how to let go. This is such a strange thing to learn given that we all know that holding on is so very important on a cliff. But even if we are standing on a ladder, with each step we take we do indeed have to let go. For those with fear of heights (or anything really), it is very difficult to let go. SN12.23 highlights this as craving/grasping/continued-existence/rebirth/suffering.

To back away from suffering, we have to back away from rebirth (i.e. “I want more of that yes!”) and continued existence (“i am just fine and don’t you mess with me here”) and grasping (“this will be mine!”) and craving (“I need X”) and feeling (“X is pleasant”) and …

So the odd bit of letting go is actually teasing out and understanding just exactly where the contact cement has caught us up. The point of contact has to be relinquished. That moment of contact when we conceived any phenomenon in a “certain” way.

For example, one might see “luxuriously smooth silky cool cloth”, which is a rich thought arising to trap us. And then we might hestitate to use that cloth to bandage a bleeding friend. That to me is the crux of letting go, which is dialing back on the grasping by letting go of contact. Seeing a wound, all we really need to see is a clean cloth.


The ‘quality of attention’ is related to the movement and continuity of what is experienced. It fuels the momentum of the mind or, allows the mind to move toward stillness - towards cessation.

When the field of attention is affected by greed, hatred and, ignorance - to varying degrees - it gives rise to worlds of experience that are coloured by the three-roots.

The impact of these defiling influences on our shared world i.e. on society, culture, the economy and, environment is devastating.

Nibbana is the stilling of all mental fabrications, the made-up worlds in which we live, the ‘personal story’ we have a tendency to get lost in when there’s a lack of clear knowledge and vision.

When ‘sakaya-ditthi’ (personality belief) is seen-through a change takes place in cognition and perception. Things don’t look quite the same. We may begin to question many ‘givens’ that were previously taken for granted.

Contact then feeling, when the feelings are allowed to come and go without interference, without attachment there’s relinquishment.

When this is not interfered with - the non-attachment (moment after moment), in every conscious-moment, there’s an unbroken continuity of bare awareness.

If this continues over a number of days the content of consciousness parades through awareness without fear or favour. This continues until it stops in periods of stillness and, in daily life.

It may not be clear, at first, if any grasping and clinging remains. There’s bliss, a sense of release, all tension - physical and mental - dissolves and, many new insights appear.

1 Like

The smooth silky cool cloth - the rich thought - doesn’t arise to trap us. It simply arises and ceases and, if the ‘mind’ becomes infatuated by that thought, it ‘grasps’ it.

Through grasping and clinging we buy into it. We accumulate stuff! The mind is a ‘seemingly’ endless stream of accumulations, skillful, unskillful or, neither.

Contact conditions feeling, feeling conditions craving, craving conditions clinging and… it just gets messier.

When we’re done with the silk-cloth the mind moves to the next experience and repeats the process over and over again.

I was in Varanasi and, the tour operator had arranged a visit to the silk-quarter. After seeing how the silk was made and, learning about the history, my daughter and I were taken to a silk-merchant.

It’s standard practice, when a tour in India is organised by a business-operator, that they take you to places where people try to sell you stuff.

The merchant flicked through a pile of silks and told us he would stop when a particular silken cloth caught our eye. We were then meant to haggle over a price.

I was committed to not buying anything and, had said as much. The last piece of cloth in the pile really stood-out as incredibly colourful and unique.

That was the ‘pièce de résistance’ and, I very nearly ‘bought it’. I thought it would make a beautiful gift. This is how cyclic existence works in real-time. We buy into it - come in ya gallah, have a cigar!

It is so amazing how well India souvenir trade works. They are exquisitely brilliant in the incessant, gentle prompting to reward their attention. Fortunately, having lived in Pakistan previously, I was allowed to escape with a sad, “Very sorry, we already have such art.”

1 Like

In a developing nation with an enormous population and, next to no social safety-net, if can mean the difference between eating or starving, between life and death.

1 Like

Well yes, but we had already bought our wedding clothes at the same store, so no.


I don’t mean for the foreigners, I meant, for the millions of people who need to generate an income through constant wrangling or, end up penniless and destitute.

In countries like Australia you will still be given assistance to pay your bills, provide for your basic needs and, medical needs if, you cannot generate an income.

In India and, Pakistan, it’s not like that. Staying ‘alive’ can involve a daily struggle to meet your basic needs.

Those who have a business-opportunity, who are are prepared to wrangle incessantly, who can ‘grease the wheels’ i.e. you scratch my back… can make a lot of money :zipper_mouth_face:

While blind and/or crippled beggars struggle to survive and, impoverished farmers try to feed their children - occasionally.

I visited the Buddha-rupa site near the ruins of Nalanda. I had no idea how desperate the few locals were, old people and children. It was a quiet desperation.

I produced some bananas to share. The children fell on them like hungry wolves while the elderly looked on and, refused to eat.

These were their ‘grandchildren’ and a banana was ‘fruit’ - not much of it about, it seemed.

This happened at a Buddhist shrine - an unearthed Rupa from Nalanda’s hay-day.

There we were - good Buddhists - bowing to a Rupa and enjoying the day, while people were falling to pieces around us. :pensive::disappointed_relieved::thinking:


Thank you for sharing this experience. We also encountered this jarring chaos. The only way we found to go about in peace was to be mindfully kind as circumstance permitted. The suffering was too great for any person to solve in any day.

1 Like