Mistaken Sloth and Torpor as Serenity

revised on 2019-05-26

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 14th March 1959

Many yogis might mistake sloth and torpor (thīna-middha) as serenity (samādhi). Can’t overcome one’s mind is thīna-middha. In vipassanā the object of contemplation disappears can be mistaken as path and fruit. For the Path Knowledge to be appeared, impermanence should be clear before. Following by impermanence cease is also must clear. Follow by impermanence is not clear, and then it’s only sloth and torpor. If both of them are clear, then serenity and discernment (samādhi and paññā) are together. Sloth and torpor come in and pretend to be samādhi and paññā, but yogi doesn’t know it. Staying with the meditation object and without it is quite different. Sloth and torpor are two kinds and inclination to the pleasant and the unpleasant. The samādhi is equanimity. Samādhi is intensely looking at the object without pleasure or displeasure. It’s concentrating on the object pointing by sati. Therefore, you may differentiate between samādhi and thīna-middha by the object: if it is samādhi, you don’t want to get up from the sitting; whereas it's thīna-middha and you want to run away. If they come in contemplate impermanence, without it dependent arising continues. No contemplation and running towards your bed is like in the prison (The Buddha’s simile for sloth and torpor to king Ajātasattu). Sleeping beds are prisons, the places without the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. Sleeping is staying with the life-continuum (bhavaṅga-citta). It’s bad in refined nature and not in violent way. These are past kamma results (i.e., bhavaṅga-citta) and we are spending it by sleeping. It’s neither wholesome nor unwholesome minds. Sloth and torpor are not directly extracting the time but the bhavaṅga-citta is. When we are in sloth and torpor, a javana process (active phase of cognitive process) and then bhavaṅga-citta process, another javana and then another bhavaṅga…etc. (sloth and torpor is the javana mind process). If you go to sleep, bhavaṅga-cittas are arising and passing away continuously.

Of the 2 minds of sloth and torpor and bhavaṅga, thīna-middha is more fearful one, because it sends the mind into bhavaṅga. Thīna-middha is enemy, and sati is friend. (Sayadaw mentioned the important of sati with an example.) You remind yourself “when I will wake up” and go to sleep. And then when the time comes you wake up automatically. (We can also use this method in meditation. Remind us not to forget the object or objects, both samatha and vipassanā) (Sayadaw gave an important warning). With many difficulties before (i.e., with many past lives sufferings), now we are in the time of completing with the five difficulties to encounter it (1. Encounter the Buddha’s Teachings. 2. A teacher who can teach Sacca Dhamma. 3. The ability to understand the Dhammas. 4. Put into practice and discern anicca. 5. Realize Nibbāna.), but the majority of Buddhists who are wasting their time by sleeping and busying with lobha, dosa, and moha in daily lives are very foolish. Therefore, we must remember of what the Buddha said that the permanent dwelling places of living being are the planes of misery (apāya bhūmis).

revised on 2019-05-26; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4028&p=35570#p35570 (posted on 2018-12-14)

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