We reflect on the teachings, participate in Dhamma discussion, listen to the elders, the findings of our Dhamma-mittas, and we discover, we learn from daily life.
Daily life includes our periods of stillness and investigation/observation. We could say this is all a process of active engagement. Particularly, if we insist that there is a ‘somebody’ who is ‘doing’ all this daily living.
There is ‘action’ (kamma) taking place - intentions and what follows - but there is no ‘doer’ of actions. Bare awareness, just seeing, hearing … thinking - without a thinker - reveals the fact that there is no ‘doer’, no central locus of experience, no need to take anything personally.
“When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises.
When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases. That is: Ignorance is a condition for choices. Choices are a condition for consciousness. …” - SN12.37
In the Vissudhimagga it states there is the path but no traveller on it can be found. There are no footprints on the other shore.
There is no contradiction in all this, no either/or! We have many examples of active engagement in the Dhamma in service, in the expressions of kindness and generosity. All of this can take place in an atmosphere of reaction-free attention, bare awareness, relinquishment, letting go.
It’s only when we equate bare awareness with a state of passivity, as if it leads to inactivity, indifference, inertia, that confusion arises.
Bahiya woke up - on the spot - not by endlessly ruminating on the literal meaning of the words, the sentences, spoken to him by the Blessed-One. He did hear what was said and what it meant - in theory.
Bahiya also saw - directly - where the teaching was pointing. He saw ‘barely’ - without fabrication - with immediacy, the Dhamma which liberates. It’s not a matter of time - plain and simple. We can think it over till the cows come home - they may decide to stay in the field?
In Ajahn Chah’s simile of the still forest pool* we have a teaching on bare awareness. Without reacting the meditator simply observes what comes and goes at the pool. Rare exotic and very shy creatures - formless jhanas - eventually make an appearance and then dissappear.
The meditator simply attends to all this coming and going and then, what happens when the meditator gets up - takes another posture? Standing, walking, moving about, engaged in every form of activity, resting, in order to stay alive until the body drops?
What happens when daily life takes a different form? Ajahn Chah didn’t say we should start reacting to everything that happens, practice bare awareness on the cushion and elsewhere resume ‘business as usual’?
What happens to the meditator, ‘the one who knows’ if reaction-free attention is sustained and unbroken?
From the Bahiya Sutta: “When there is no you in terms of 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 dissatisfaction (dukkha).”