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Rohitassa Sutta – Inner Mindfulness
Rohitassa Sutta – Mindfulness of What Occurs is an article and talk on the Rohitassa Sutta where the Buddha answers Rohitassa’s question regarding the possibility of awakening by seeking outside of himself in an actual or figurative sense.
Rohitassa asks the Buddha: “Is it possible by traveling to know or see or reach the far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth and be subject to sickness, aging and death, in short, to be free of suffering?”
The Buddha responds: “I tell you, friend, it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach the end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die and reappear.”
“The end of the cosmos” is metaphorical of escaping the effects of the phenomenal world, of escaping dukkha. In ancient terminology “the cosmos” is the entire phenomenal world, including mystical mind states giving rise to visionary experiences. Again, metaphorically, “The end of the cosmos” means ending the stress and unhappiness of being bound to the phenomenal world.
This is what has given rise in some Buddhist schools to a rich and imaginative cosmology. It is most skillful to view these different mind states for what they are, aspects of psycho/physical consciousness arising from views influenced by karma and culture.
Rohitassa then tells the Buddha how profound his teaching is and despite Rohitassa’s great metaphysical accomplishments, he was unable to find lasting peace and happiness. Rohitassa traveled extensively physically and within his own mind, but never reached the end of the cosmos, the end of his own capacity for distraction.
The Buddha concluded by telling Rohitassa “It is not possible to reach the end of the cosmos by seeking outside of yourself, to reach nibbana. At the same time I tell you that is not possible to end stress, disappointment, unhappiness without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is within this body with its perception and intellect, that there is the cosmos (dukkha), the origination of the cosmos (clinging, craving) there is the cessation of the cosmos (experiencing the end of dukkha) and there is a path leading to the cessation of the cosmos and that is the Eightfold Path.”
The Buddha continues:
“Cessation, nibbana, is not to be reached by traveling to the end of the cosmos, by seeking outside of one’s mind and body. Cessation is not experienced without reaching the end of the cosmos within one’s own mind and body – then there is release from suffering, stress, and unhappiness.
The wise understand the cosmos and the end of the cosmos. They have developed understanding of the Dhamma, their minds are tranquil with release from views. They do not long for this cosmos (distraction) or any other. They are unbound.”
The example of the Buddha’s own life describes this teaching perfectly. The Buddha left the palace grounds and traveled for six years seeking understanding outside of himself. It was only when he rejected his external search for understanding and used a meditation technique that brought his mind to a tranquil state. Once the Buddha’s mind had settled in a tranquil state insight arose and his mind cleared. The result of his awakening is taught as the Four Noble Truths.
Awakening to the teachings of the Dhamma is understanding the cause of stress and unhappiness, abandoning the cause of stress and unhappiness (clinging, craving, desire and aversion), experiencing the cessation of stress and unhappiness, and developing the path leading to he cessation of suffering, the Eightfold Path. This cannot be accomplished through external means or distracted mind states.
It was a profound relief when I realized this. No longer was I wandering in the world of confusing and often competing views. I ceased looking outside and began to look inside. I began to understand that external seeking was simply another distraction and a way of seeking pleasure in acquiring views and having certain experiences.
True mindfulness is being mindful of the quality of mind as life occurs. Being mindful; of the “present moment” is not becoming fixed on and “imaginary” point in time. The refined mindfulness developed through the Eightfold Path is rooted in concentration which allows for being mindful of life as life occurs – the ongoing process of becoming. There is no need or usefulness to seek outside for this refined mindfulness and the peace and lasting happiness that arises once the veil of dukkha is lifted.