How to use The Unconditioned to Escape from the Unsatisfactoriness of the fleeting, everyday Conditioned world that we live in – Ajahn Sumedho

There is an escape from sufferingfrom the conditioned – the born, the created and the originated.

To paraphrase the Buddha:

There is the Unborn, Uncreated, Unoriginated:

  • If there was not the Unborn, Uncreated, Unoriginated, there would be no escape from the born, the created, the originated.
  • But because there is the Unborn, the Uncreated, the Unoriginated, therefore there is an escape from the created, the born, the originated.’

This kind of escape is encouraged: to free oneself from being bound and caught up in the deathbound state.

We call it ‘deathbound’ because, when you really contemplate it, everything in these khandas:

  • the thoughts,
  • memories,
  • feelings,
  • the body

is going to die, to cease.

So if you’re attached to the five khandhas – and that’s all there is – actually, you’re attached to death. Although people think they’re attached to life when they’re fascinated by and attached to the conditioned realm, really they are attaching to death. They may say they love life, but isn’t what they consider to be life just a part of a bigger picture that is not admitted into full consciousness?

There’s always this kind of fairytale, or naive hope, that the fulfilment of desire will be the answer to our suffering:

  • If we meet the perfect person, then we’ll live happily ever after; or,
  • Once we get lots of money then we’ll be really happy; or,
  • Once we get everything we desire, we won’t have any more desires.

But consider: people who seem to have everything – how OK are they? Is it worth spending your life trying to fulfill all your desires? It doesn’t take much reflection to see that it’s a bit of a waste – because as long as desire is your attachment, your delusion, it will always perpetuate itself. You may get momentary gratification but that’s about the best you can expect. You get what you want, and for that moment you feel gratified but then it starts again, you’re looking for something else – and it goes on and on and on. This is because the basic problem is the identification with, and attachment to, desire. 

But our true nature isn’t that;

  • It isn’t desire,
  • It isn’t death. 

There is the Unconditioned, Unborn, Uncreated, Unoriginated: Amaravati – the Deathless Realm, which is timeless, apparent here and now.

So what can that be in terms of experience, now? If we practise in order to improve ourselves or to get something in the future that will always take us to suffering. In meditation, no matter how much you strive and work to be disciplined, how many hours a day you sit, if you still operate from this basic delusion you end up with suffering as a result.

You can’t get enlightenment through ignorance. The way to realise, or to be enlightened, is to awaken to the present – to trust in the ability to listen, to be in a state of simple awareness. This may be difficult to sustain, because we are programmed for passions – for going up and down the scale of greed, hatred and delusion in all its variations. However, there is that which is aware of the passions, that can be established through mindfulness – of body, feelings, mind states and mental phenomena.

Mindfulness and reflection on the five khandhas allows us to change our attitude towards them, rather than always seeing them as ‘me and mine.’   So the constant requirement in all these experiences is mindfulness:

  • We notice the arising of a condition, like an inhalation: it begins, reaches a peak,
  • And then the exhalation begins, and then ends.

Similarly, you can be aware of the mood as changing; when you are patient enough and willing to sustain attention, a mood is definitely impermanent – it isn’t a solid block.

If we don’t recognise our moods in this way, we’re always either indulging in them or resisting them, and they have a great influence on how we experience life.

But as soon as I awaken and pay attention, my relationship to conditions changes.

Instead of being deluded by the conditioned realm, I observe it. There is the state of knowing, of being aware of the changingness of conditioned phenomena – behind which there is the Unconditioned.

With intuitive awarenesswe find that silence, the unconditioned, as an embracing background, within which the conditions are in perspective. They are the way they are, they’re like this: but then they end, they cease.

–  Ajahn Sumedo.  Escape.  Forest Sangha Newsletter: October 2000, Number 54. Source :



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