SnowFlower Sun September 2020

APRANIHITI – the Third Door of Liberation

from a talk by Amy Krohn

Thay gives us many touchstones to rely on in our practice, so beautifully pulling profound concepts into simple explanations, and then encouraging us to practice and work with them ourselves. The basic idea of Apranihita, a Sanskrit word commonly translated as ‘aimlessness’, is that we don’t have to run after anything that is outside ourselves. All we have to do is be ourselves, fully and authentically. At the back of Thay’s early classic, The Miracle of Mindfulness, he gives a number of simple meditation exercises in which are embedded the concepts which form the foundation for our practice.

Take the example called “The Pebble”. While sitting still and breathing slowly, think of yourself as a pebble which is falling through a clear stream…Sink toward the spot of total rest on the gentle sand of the riverbed…where you remain at complete rest, watching your breath, free from thoughts or wishes. Speaking of apranihita, Thay asks, “Does the rose have to do something? No, the purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself. You are wonderful just as you are…Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.”

We usually try to hold on to life and run away from death. But, according to the teaching, everything has been nirvana from the non-beginning. So why grasp one thing and avoid another? We think there is something to attain, something outside of ourselves, but everything is already here. We already are it. Thay frequently uses a beautiful analogy about a wave to describe how we need suffering to find enlightenment, because enlightenment and suffering are the same. Enlightenment is when the wave realizes that it is water. The wave does not need to attain the state of being water – the wave is water.

We live in the historical dimension, in the world of existence and non-existence, coming and going, and, at the same time, we are always in touch with nirvana, our true nature. Just as a wave has always been water, we have always been in nirvana. All we need to do is touch the water in ourselves. When I find myself struggling, I return to this touchstone, “just touch the water.”

More from Thay on the subject of aimlessness. “These 24 hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only receive fully when we have opened the Third Door of Liberation, apranihita. If we think we have 24 hours to achieve a certain purpose, today will become a means to attain an end. The moment of chopping wood and carrying water IS the moment of happiness. To have happiness in the moment is the spirit of apranihita.”

In closing, one last touchstone in the form of Thay’s gatha:

Waking up this morning, I smile. Twentyfour brand new hours are before me.

I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.

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