It’s when a mendicant develops the awakening factors of mindfulness, investigation of principles, energy, rapture, tranquility, immersion, which rely on seclusion, fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go.
What is meant by “seclusion”? Does it mean the 7 factors referred to happen during meditation, and that meditation requires physical seclusion?
If so, how does that square with the advice of many meditation teachers, including some famous monastics, who advised monastics that is useful to learn to meditate, as well as be cool despite noise?
I am no expert, but quite interested in this sequence too, looking forward to an answer from someone with more expertise. I try to make sense of the sequence and the meaning of cessation via the meaning of “fading away” (virāga) as disappearance of and dispassion toward the 5 senses.
The awakening factors are developed by the seclusion to letting go sequence. For some reason I would have thought the awakening factors would lead to this sequence rather than support them.
Here is some more questions and possible meanings with the Pāli as the heading:
… upekkhāsambojjhaṅgaṁ bhāveti awakening factors development
vivekanissitaṁ - Reliant on seclusion
I think of this as the seclusion of the mind from the senses - you have cittaviveka (mind seclusion) and kayaviveka (physical seclusion) as separate elsewhere in the canon but maybe this just means broad seclusion, or both. I take it to mean cittaviveka shutting off of the 5 senses, just mind active.
virāganissitaṁ - Reliant on fading away
Also disappearing, and in other contexts without desire (vi - without rāga - desire). The word that Ajahn Brahm is referring to in the title of his book “The Art of Disappearing”. Bhante Anālayo in an early book “From Craving to Libration” (p. 36) suggests that virāga can refer to the experience of fading away of phenomena (implying the senses?) which would necessarily move toward dispassion. He mentions there is also rāgavirāga, the fading away of passion so virāga has this different sense to dispassion; is context-reliant, here it’s always translated as the ‘fading away’ version.
nirodhanissitaṁ - Reliant on cessation
What ceases? Could it be the sense-world, the experience of kamaloka? Could it mean kamma or conditions? I wonder how nirodha is used in other passages not as something specific ceasing. The dictionary seems to support that it means cessation of conditions/sankhāra, and also suggests it sometimes is a synonym for nibbāna: nirodha . In this Sutta venerable Ananda defines cessation as referring to the 5 aggregates: sn22.21
vossaggapariṇāmiṁ - Ripen in letting go.
pariṇāmiṁ marks the end of the sequence, perhaps it means “final letting go” or “final knowledge of letting go” too? When I read this in context of this sequence I think of letting go as no longer able to grasp at experience that would move one towards a next birth.
“That I have stated simply in connection with the nature of fabrications to end… in connection with the nature of fabrications to fall away… to fade away… to cease… in connection with the nature of fabrications to change.”—SN 36.11
The process refers to the removal of fabricated views. Although this sutta refers mainly to jhana, it applies also to insight, and this is indicated in its last sentence:
“When a monk’s effluents have ended, passion has ceased, aversion has ceased, delusion has ceased.”
Conditioned (fabricated) phenomena used skilfully form the basis of the path, so removal can only be a gradual process.
This removal is achieved through mindfulness, and encompasses arising also. This means with the hindrances it should be noticed what events cause them, as well as what tactics lead to their eradication:
“In other words, while maintaining any of the four frames of reference as a
framework for your attention, you keep watch over how events arise from
causes and how they pass away, all with reference to that frame. This is
particularly clear in the context of the body: You aren’t interested in looking just
at the role of food in sustaining the body, for that would trivialize the practice.
Instead, you watch how the experience of the body has an impact on the
origination and passing away of physical or mental phenomena experienced in
the present, and how their origination and passing away have an impact on the
Seclusion refers to mental seclusion. Some folks beginning to meditate can find mental seclusion sufficient for meditation (bhavana) amidst noise and busyness but most require retreat conditions including the keeping of noble silence. Retreat conditions promote progress in the beginning stages. A mind that is truly secluded has dropped the hindrances.
Fading away is quite literal. The objects of the senses fall away. The mind doesn’t seek the habitual sensual indulgences that occupy it.
Cessation is the natural progression of fading away. Because the mind is no longer interested, the clinging that was feeding that loop of conditioned contact - conditioned feeling tone - conditioned tanha - conditioned upadana (clinging), ceases too.
Clinging fades away. Clinging ceases. And that habitual tendency toward that loop of sense indulgence also ceases.