In the inquiry into the 7. fetter, the world as we knew it ends. It becomes clear that the assumption of a substantial and permanent outside world, appearing in time and space, is an interpretation of what is actually experienced.
Working in this fetter, I realized that I was entering an experience that I could never have predicted.
The 7. Fetter – Desire for the Formless
Often the desire for the formless is seen as the desire for the formless absorptions, the arupa-jhanas, but that’s not the case.
It is easier to understand this fetter when you look from the perspective of the 8th, which developed before the 7th fetter.
In the 8th fetter, the subtle sense of ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ is created because all the restless search for something substantial and permanent that would finally make us always feel good failed. Out of desperation, something permanent was simply assumed: The subtle sense of ‘I am’.
In the 7th fetter, this budding sense of ‘I am’ is ‘equipped’ with the assumed faculty of perception. This is the first support structure for the subtle sense of ‘I am’. Through adding more scaffolding (the fetters 7-1), the fully developed sense of self emerges.
Assuming that everything is perceived, a world outside of us seems to appear with objects arising in time and space, noticed within a limited consciousness.
If you experienced the arupa-jhanas already, the meditative absorptions, you might have experienced the space beyond perception as long as the jhanas lasted.
The Inquiry into the 7. Fetter
Perception is the basic phenomenal faculty. To inquire into this fetter, look for the faculty of perception itself.
With perception, I don’t mean the sensory function of seeing and hearing. Whatever is seen or heard, is not what is seen. The eye can only register light waves, which then turn into electrical impulses in the retina.
Where in you is the chip that turns these electrical impulses into trees or music?
Where in you ist the place where everything is perceived. How do you know it is perceived? Where in you arises the thought first, ‘the tree’?
If you can’t find the place or the faculty of perception, could it be that perception is an assumption just like the self?
Breaking the 7. Fetter
When I did the inquiry into the 7. fetter and it fell away, it was earth-shattering in the literal sense. I was just sitting on my stationary bike because I didn’t want to go outside, it was raining, and getting wet from the outside while working out, is only something for me when I’m swimming.
Pedalling away on my stationary bike, I looked at my organ. Was this a perceived organ or just an organ? Suddenly, a subtle shift happened and I realized that this was only an organ that appeared. Perception had been another assumption!
In the next days, I grieved. This was the end of the world as I had known it before. Whatever I experienced only happened in my experience. There was no way to know more. I would never able to stick my head out of my experience and have a look at what was actually going on.
It was literally true what the Buddha had said.
“It is in this very fathom-long physical frame with its perceptions and mind, that, I declare, lies the world, and the arising of the world, and the cessation of the world, and the path leading to the cessation of the world.”
Samyutta Nikaya 2.26
Did you already look into the 7th fetter. What was your experience? Please write it in the comments.
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Space: Alex Myers
House with scaffolding: bernswaelz