Is Inappropriate Attention the Cause of Samsara?

Once while listening to a teaching on ‘Inappropriate Attention’, the teacher asked me, “Sonam, do you think inappropriate attention is the cause of samsara?” I was distracted at the time regarding the Buddha images and chose not to answer. But after, over tea, I answered in the following way:

Subtle appropriate attention would be the ‘abandonment of grasping at inherent existence’ (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind, chapter: virtue,non-virtue,& delusion). By following appropriate attention I would be led to that. Appropriate attention being ‘not exaggerating the attractiveness or unattractiveness of objects’. Pure contact is not perceiving the attribute like-neutral-dislike to appear when looking at any object. If I watch the sense doors with pure contact I will perceive the equanimity of objects with regard to this attribute, and because I do not exaggerate them, I will have gross appropriate attention.

True origin is the seed that causes me to perceive objects as being in the nature of like-neutral-dislike. True origin causes me to possess attachment, ignorance and hatred at all times through my inappropriate attention. By ending gross inappropriate attention I begin the process of abandoning these three poisons and developing their counterparts non-attachment, non-ignorance and non-hatred. My contact is not yet pure with regard to inherent existence, but it is pure with regard to the basis of developing the three root poisons. I refer to this fruit as selfless in that all phenomena are the same with regard to this quality (though not in regard to other qualities such as form and number) and suggest this as pure Discrimination since it leads to non-delusion (defined as no pain in the mind when observing objects). I further suggest that this would cause a washing of the mind with regard to other attributes of inherent existence in a way similar to that suggested by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in the book Clear Light of Bliss as being the special function of Great Bliss. That is, that by holding objects, in and out of meditation, with gross appropriate attention (pure view with regard to the function of contact) this would cause the inherent-existence of all attributes of the object to wear away. This process would result in the breaking of the cycle of dependent-related links at the link dependent-related contact. The final fruit of this meditation would be subtle appropriate attention, the direct perception of the lack of true-existence of all phenomena, known as emptiness.

Now this posting could not be understood by the Teacher. So, I doubted the clarity of my expression. However, I felt it was no different in quality to dozens of discussions held at Maitreya Buddhist Centre since I arrived. Thus I present it to you as an offering for the future of Maitreya Buddhist Centre. Please enjoy. I also considered, The Object, The Seed, and The pursuit of Happiness as possible causes of Samsara, so I will leave it with you to pursue down the causes of Samsara!

Sonam

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