When there is Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, then one is fearless. There is fearlessness because there is nothing to be frightened of. One has the guts to look at things and not take them in the wrong way; one has the wisdom to contemplate and reflect upon life; one has the security and confidence of sila, the strength of one’s moral commitment and the determination to do good and refrain from doing evil with body and speech. In this way, the whole thing holds together as a path for development. It is a perfect path because everything is helping and supporting; the body, the emotional nature (the sensitivity of feeling), and the intelligence. They are all in perfect harmony, supporting each other.
Without that harmony, our instinctual nature can go all over the place. If we have no moral commitment, then our instincts can take control. For example, if we just follow sexual desire without any reference to morality, then we become caught up in all kinds of things that cause self-aversion. There is adultery, promiscuity and disease, and all the disruption and confusion that come from not reining in our instinctual nature through the limitations of morality.
We can use our intelligence to cheat and lie, can’t we, but when we have a moral foundation, we are guided by wisdom and by samadhi; these lead to emotional balance and emotional strength. But we don’t use wisdom to suppress sensitivity. We don’t dominate our emotions by thinking and by suppressing our emotional nature. This is what we have tended to do in the West; we’ve used our rational thoughts and ideals to dominate and suppress our emotions, and thus become insensitive to things, to life and to ourselves.
However, in the practice of mindfulness through vipassana meditation, the mind is totally receptive and open so that it has this fullness and an all-embracing quality. And because it is open, the mind is also reflective. When you concentrate on a point, your mind is no longer reflective – it is absorbed into the quality of that object. The reflective ability of the mind comes through mindfulness, whole-mindedness. You are not filtering out or selecting. You are just noting whatever arises ceases. You contemplate that if you are attached to anything that arises, it ceases. You have the experience that even though it might be attractive while it is arising, it changes towards cessation. Then it’s attractiveness diminishes and we have to find something else to absorb into.
The thing about being human is that we have to touch the earth, we have to accept the limitations of this human form and planetary life. And just by doing that, then the way out of suffering isn’t through getting out of our human experience by living in refined conscious states, but by embracing the totality of all the human and Brahma realms through mindfulness. In this way, the Buddha pointed to a total realisation rather than a temporary escape through refinement and beauty. This is what the Buddha means when he is pointing the way to Nibbana.