The Spiral Path
March 27, 2023
Eh. Coffee by the harbour and a good book. Can’t be bad. I was going to slow down with the reading but a Buddhist teacher kindly gave me a copy of This Being, That Becomes: The Buddha’s Teaching on Conditionality by Dhivan Thomas Jones and I found myself gently exploring it rather than voraciously devouring it like I sometimes do with books, and it might be just what I need.
One of the many gems in this book is an exploration of the “spiral path” teachings. I’ve been pointed in the direction of these teachings recently. There’s a collection of texts in Buddhist suttas that share a common pattern, but they’ve been hiding in plain sight, little mentioned by the orthodox traditions. It’s like an overgrown path that leads to a hidden treasure, in this case various degrees of psychological freedom.
One of the main texts in this group is the Upanisa Sutta. It shows a progression from the 12-link model of dependent arising. The well-known sequence ending in dissatisfaction and decline is followed in this case by a positive upward spiral that begins with saddha (faith, confidence, trust) and develops through joy, rapture, tranquility, contentment, and unification of mind towards deep insight and letting go.
Personally, I’ve discovered that faith in the teachings, in myself, and in this path does in fact lead to joy, and this factor of faith is something that has perhaps been underdeveloped in me. I can be a bit deliberative, though this has its positive aspects. In any case, it’s been good to reflect on faith and trust in myself, people, dhamma on and off the cushion. And a new experience to meditate by deliberately cultivating this confidence and have this reinforced by seeing some of its effects. It’s occurred to me that other religions perhaps stress faith for a reason. Maybe they have this factor covered in a way that my agnostic, materialistic upbringing and critical education did not.
It’s also interesting to me that the Upanisa Sutta ending the 12-link chain of dependent arising with dukkha (rather than the more common old age and death). And this dukkha is said to lead to faith. There could be many reasons for this but one that occurred to me just now in meditation was that dukkha could here refer to the process of mindfully being with the difficult, the resurfacing of old wounds, that happens in meditation, and the healing of these through kindness and attention. You can see how this would lead to faith and trust in the teachings and subsequently joy.
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