Sorrowless, stainless and secure are three attributes of an Enlightened One (Arahant). Sorrowless: no dukkha; Stainless: no defilements; and Secure: no fear. Obviously these three are extremely desirable, as they make for happiness. When we think that they are characteristics of an Arahant, we might wonder: "This is so far removed from me, how can I even aspire to that?" The conviction might arise that it's too immense to consider for one's own achievement.
We all know what it means to have sorrow (dukkha). We are familiar with our defilements, when we get upset, worried, anxious, envious or jealous. We have all experienced fear. It can be fear of death of oneself or of loved ones, or fear of not being liked, praised, accepted, or fear of not reaching one's goals, or of making a fool of oneself.
We can also experience the opposites of those three states. The seeds are within us, otherwise Enlightenment would be a myth. It is possible to have moments of being sorrowless, stainless and secure. If one has a really concentrated meditation, momentarily dukkha doesn't arise. Only one-pointedness. No defilements can enter because the mind is otherwise occupied. It can either have defilements or be concentrated, which is wonderful, though may last only one single moment. There can be no fear because all is well at such a time. The more often one regenerates these moments of being sorrowless, stainless and secure, the more they become part of oneself and we can revert to them again.
Even just remembering that it is possible and trying to bring up a little of these feelings, enters into a person as part of his or her makeup. Just as a person with fear of not being accepted, or worried about achievements, experiencing a lack of self-confidence, will always act accordingly. He or she doesn't even have to make an effort, but remembers his or her fears and re-enacts them. The same goes for the liberated mind-states.
Every moment of concentration during meditation is a moment of no defilements, no sorrow and no fear. That sort of experience must be duplicated over and over again. Thereby we reinforce our liberated mind-states and as we remember them we can retain them and act in accordance with them even under ordinary or trying circumstances. Defilements need not arise constantly, there are pauses when there is no ill-will, only loving-kindness (metta), no sensual desire, only generosity and renunciation.
Sensual desire means wanting, renunciation means giving up. When one gives, one isn't desiring, unless one is wishing for applause or gratitude. If one gives for giving's sake, then there is a moment of no defilement. The same holds true for loving-kindness, compassion and helpfulness, which are all opposed to greed.
When we have no doubt, being absolutely sure of what we're doing -- and these moments do arise -- that too is an instant of being stainless. No worries, no restlessness also add to our freedom. Not wanting to go anywhere or do anything; not worrying about what was done or left undone in the past, which is absurd anyway, when one realizes that nobody cares a year or even a month from now, least of all oneself.
We all know moments without all this dukkha. When those moments arise, we are "stainless," without any blemishes, sorrowless and fearless. We feel at ease and secure at such a time, which is difficult to find in the world. There are so many dangers threatening our desire for survival, and they are constantly with us. But when heart and mind are fully occupied with purified states, fear does not have a chance to arise.
On our way to the "deathless," we need to regenerate these liberated moments and bring them up over and over again. We can relish these mind states, enjoying the knowledge that they are possible. It is a natural tendency to resurrect our moments of freedom again and again, so that we stay on the path to liberation.
Concentration in meditation brings a quiet and joy with it which prove with absolute certainty that they have nothing to do with outer conditions. They are strictly factors of the mind, which are our doorway to freedom. We cannot cultivate them successfully if we neglect them during those hours when we're not meditating. We need to guard and protect the mind from evil thoughts at all times.
When we do experience liberated mind-moments, we must not think they have come to us from outside. Just as we cannot blame the external trigger for what goes wrong in the mind, so we cannot praise it for the opposite. Outside occurrences are quite unreliable and beyond our control. To depend on anything so unreliable is foolishness. Our practice is to generate the undefiled states in our mind, which opens the way to successful meditation and is the pathway to liberation. When the mind is without defilements, clear and at ease, without the convolutions of discursive thinking, simply aware, happiness and peace arise. These moments, though short-lived, are like a light at the end of a tunnel, which appears dark and suffocating. It seems never ending, because for the lack of light, one cannot see its length. If we cultivate and make much of these single moments, then there is an illumination and we can see that the tunnel does have an end. Because of that, joy is generated in one's heart, which is an important adjunct to practice.
The Buddha taught a balanced path, namely to see reality for what it is, to know that dukkha is inescapable, but to have the counterbalance of joy from knowing that there is a way out. If we are too imbued with sorrow and are feeling weighed down under that, believing only that to be the path, then our actions and reactions will have to be based on our suffering. Being oppressed with dukkha doesn't make for successful meditation, nor for harmonious living. If we try to negate dukkha, and suppress it, then we are not facing reality. But if we see dukkha as an universal characteristic, knowing we can do something about its abandonment then we are keeping in balance. We need equipoise in order to practice successfully.
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A Remedy for Despair by Bhikkhu Bodhi