This essay focusses on saṅkhāra, the use of will. In spiritual circles, relinquishing will is often touted as the route to enlightenment, whereas in fact it is an essential part of healthy human development.
While the abhidhamma is presented as being based on the Buddha’s ultimate discernment of ‘mind & matter’, in reality the classical Theravādin abhidhamma is a scholastic philosophy which is little understood, and which, if examined critically, is full of incoherencies. Within Buddhist tradition, however, the abhidhamma is perhaps more significant for its purely religious or mystical significance, rather than as a guide for practice or understanding.
The basis of insight meditation is the contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and not-self. Yet even here we are faced with a tricky interpretive problem: for while all saṅkhāras are said to be impermanent and suffering, all dhammas are said to be not-self. Why this subtle, enigmatic shift, and what are the implications for meditation?
The term akālika, ‘timeless’, is one of the most familiar in the whole Dhamma. It is recited as part of the daily chanting as a fundamental aspect of the Dhamma. And yet its meaning is far from clear, and so it has attracted many interpretations. Rather than being a philosophical notion, it seems that is a call to action: if you practice, you can see the results for yourself.