That is what I remember from the interview with Anthony Markwell, the resident teacher at Wat Kow Tahm. I asked him three questions, and one was about preferences, i.e. about the belief that there should not be any or that there are no more preferences when you are, ohhoooo! enlightened. He said he’d use a simile because by way of a simile a wise man can understand the meaning of a sentence.
The simile revolves around playing football. I can play at a regional club or train hard and play in the national squadra or in the Champions League or Olympics or World Cuppp! Just be sure what league you wanna play in. Put in the effort necessary to do so. If you are content with playing with your homies once or twice a month on the field in the park around the corner, great! If you stop learning, however, you will lose dexterity and fervour. First the subtle tricks will go, and you won’t notice. Then you will even forget the gross ones, the kindergarten tricks. And maybe one day you will give your ten-year old son the time of his life when you try to impress him with your futile attempts to deal with the leather, stumbling over your own feet.
Same with bhāvana, i.e. mind training. If you are willing to put in the effort to train the mind, it will show. Slowly but surely. Preferences will diminish and vanish by themselves, leaving you with other frames of reference in order to be able to make decisions. Decisions based upon faith and not fear. Live life right now & right here.
If you stop practising, however, understanding won’t grow and you will be less mindful and less skilful in daily activities like eating, working, talking, driving, drinking coffee, having a smoke, a stroke, whatever. Meanwhile, you will probably start to think you’ve got it all under control and count yourself lucky as you compare yourself with others: ‘…at least i am not as miserable as they are…’ And if you neglect the practice for a long time, delusion will start clouding over again all the things you once understood. It will become what it used to be at the very beginning. A mere intellectual game and the self-satisfied complacency that one already ‘knows’ that everything is impermanent, unstable, unsatisfactory, and that we all gonna die because we were born. Welcome to samsara, then, the notorious “nothing new, what’s next” state of mind.
So when you accidentally stumble upon phrases like this..
“Even were bandits savagely to sever you limb from limb with a two-handled saw, he who on that account entertained hate in his heart would not be one who carried out my teaching.”
(MN Sutta 21)
…take it with a grain of salt.
Do not let it discourage you. Just know what league you wanna play in!
And let the dhamma play its own role.