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Sati-sampajanna and the six senses

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 10 Aug 2023, 15:33


Sati-sampajanna means mindfulness with clear comprehension (or knowing).

It is a useful exercise to practise while one goes about daily life. It can help calm and centre the mind and bring insight into dependent origination.

Basically, whatever activity one is engaged with becomes one's meditation.

One is aware of what one is doing, where one is. Of one’s behaviour, of that which is appropriate.

Aware of what is non-delusion. Abandoning the wanting, the angst, and the clinging.

Fully here in this present moment, with life as it is -- our dhamma teacher.

One can get into a light samadhi doing this. It can be a refuge from difficult thoughts and emotions. A way of releasing the past and the future by being fully present to whatever task one is doing here and now, without the self-centred dream blinding us to what is real.

There are many ways to practice this. Sometimes it's nice to have an expansive open awareness. Other times it's nice to keep attention fixed on one thing. Depends on the mood, and this is where one must use wisdom and discernment to know what is needed in each given moment. This wisdom and discernment grows with experience. We are all unique, we have all been conditioned differently, no two people are exactly the same. Each one of us must tweak the practice to suit us.

Try to find something in awareness that brings some relief to the mind, even if it just seems like small relief, stay with it, it will grow.

Each situation and circumstance are different. Different objects of meditation work better at different times.

For example, sometimes I will just stay with the feeling of my feet on the ground. When I first did this, the sensations in my feet were quite dull. But after many hours of practise, the soles of my feet have now become very sensitive to the point where I swear I can feel vibrations in the ground, can sense things I couldn’t sense before.

I also like the feeling of the whole body moving as one.

The feeling of movement, how the body feels when it is in motion.

Or the feeling in my hands when holding an object. Is it hot or cold, smooth, or rough, heavy or light etc...

I also like to pay attention to the feeling of the air element in the space immediately around me. Or remain centred with the breath, whilst also aware of everything else happening in peripheral awareness. Where I am, what I am doing.

Sometimes I like being anchored in the spine, that can feel very good. Or the top of my head, the face, the neck, the heart, the belly, the arms, the legs.

The touch of clothing on the skin.

The natural elements are great too. The solidity of earth. The fluidity of water. The cool invisible changing touch of air. The light and warmth of fire, the sun.

The expansive and open feeling of the space element.

The knowing of consciousness, of awareness itself.

Other times I will contemplate interdependence, change, impermanence.

Sometimes I will pay attention to two things at once, such as the breath in my belly and the breath in my nostrils at the same time. Or my feet and hands, or the air element around me as it touches the skin and the sensations in the body caused by breathing.

Sometimes I centre with the emotion of goodwill. With peace and calm. With equanimity.

It depends on what feels good at the time. Take any guidance and make it your own. Find what helps you. Each of us must be our own refuge.

It is not easy; it can be challenging to keep bringing the mind back over and over. One may sometimes need to talk oneself into doing it. Or use the voice of another if really stuck. Read a book, an article or listen to a dhamma talk.

Learn to recognise the hindrances when they are present in the mind: craving, ill-will, fatigue, worry, doubt.

Notice how we talk to ourselves, and how it feels when the hindrances are present in the mind. For me I start feeling unpleasant feelings and notice I am stressed, that for me is a clear sign I am absorbed in unwholesome thoughts. That craving is present in the mind.

During the day, notice if you are stressed. Pause and ask yourself, am I suffering? What is the cause of this suffering? What can I do to ease that suffering? What can I practise to bring relief?

Whenever suffering is present, the five hindrances will also be present.

Applied and sustained attention to something wholesome secludes consciousness from the five hindrances.

When the hindrances are absent, one will feel great relief. When that happens it can help to note how much better it feels when they are absent from the mind, this can help to train it to see the difference and become more willing to abandon unwholesome states of mind, knowing that they are causing suffering, and that it feels much better to let go of them.

Practising sati-sampajanna complements sitting meditation and makes it easier to transition from daily life to sitting, and from sitting to daily life. It keeps the samadhi going and keeps the sign of peace steady in the mind throughout the day.

Sometimes though I do like to think and ponder and reflect on things. Thinking isn’t wrong. It can be a helpful tool. The way we talk to ourselves is a powerful tool. We can talk ourselves into different states of mind.

It depends what mood I'm in. Thought can be used as a meditation object, and used to seclude consciousness from the hindrances by thinking on a topic that is wholesome and staying with that topic.

Repeating a mantra over and over can also do it, or singing, or chanting.

It is the seclusion from the five hindrances that's important. That's what leads to joy, serenity, unification of mind, and equanimity.

It is hard to put into words.

It is an embodied feeling. One is anchored in the body, the subtle body as it feels from within. There's a safe space in the centre of us that is empty. One can anchor the centre of awareness there and still be present to everything else happening, but free from it at the same time, not clinging, not affected negatively by the changing vicissitudes of life. It is the empty seat at the centre of one's being. The inner cave.

Why is it empty? Because there's nobody there. No person. No self.

One can see this directly by playing around with the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, mind (thoughts, memories, and ideas).

Divide each sense impression up into three different parts.

1. The object being sensed.
2. The contact with the sense organ.
3. The sense consciousness that arises from that contact.

One can see dependent origination in this. Notice how sense impressions arise dependent on conditions, and when those conditions cease so do the sense impressions.

Am I the object being sensed?
Am I the contact at the sense organ?
Am I the sense-consciousness that arises from that contact?

When I touch an object, I feel sensations. When I stop touching that object the sensations cease.

When my foot touches the ground there are sensations. When the foot is lifted off the ground the sensations cease. Am I the ground? Am I the sensations? Am I the consciousness which arises whilst contact is made, then disappears after?

Am I the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, the thoughts, and ideas?

Where do thoughts and ideas come from? Mostly from the world, from books, articles, podcasts, videos, the media, our memory of the past, from the people we associate with.

Am I any of those things?

Who is this ‘I’ ?

...


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Asoka

The noble eightfold path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 Jul 2023, 22:47


This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it  (-:


Right view


Bad kamma comes from actions of greed, hate, and delusion.
Good kamma comes from actions of generosity, kindness, and clarity. 

If you can't help another being; then at least have the intention to cause no harm.

Honour your mother and father.

To realise the paths and fruits of the different stages of enlightenment, one must accomplish the instructions given in the four noble truths.

The four noble truths are:

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.

2. Knowledge of the origin of suffering (which is to be abandoned).

The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.

Three aspects of tanha (craving) are:

Thirst for sense pleasures (kama tanha);
Thirst for existence (bhava-tanha);
Thirst for non-existence (vibhava tanha).

This is what needs to be abandoned.

3. Knowledge of the cessation of suffering (which is to be realised).

The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.

The abandonment of the second noble truth is what realises the third noble truth. 

4. Knowledge of the way leading to the end of suffering (which is to be developed).

The way to accomplish the abandonment of craving is through the practise of the noble eightfold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. This is what needs to be developed, when this path has been cultivated the third noble truth is realised.

Right Intention

Intention of non ill-will;
Intention of renunciation (non-greed);
Intention of non-cruelty;

The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.

The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.

Intention is the generator of kamma. It is what leads to verbal thoughts, speech and actions. 

Right speech

To be honest.
To refrain from malicious divisive or contentious speech.
To refrain from harsh unkind speech.
To refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action

To refrain from killing any living being.
To refrain from stealing.
To refrain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. 

Right effort

Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.

The four right efforts are:

1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.

Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).

Right mindfulness

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).

Right samhadi

Sometimes translated as concentration, but concentration can give me the wrong idea, so I prefer to use the word samhadi. Samhadi is the gathering of the mind together into absorption, a unification of mind. Sustained mindfulness to a meditation object leads naturally to samhadi. It is a whole-hearted experience, which includes the body. The body can feel very pleasant and comfortable in samhadi. There may still be aches and pains in the physical body, but these don't bother one. One is absorbed in the experience of the body as it feels from within, the subtle body.

Emotions such as joy can be a whole body experience.

The body is in the mind. 

 A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).

The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.

Here are some verses from the suttas that describe the four jhanas.

'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.

Quite secluded from sense-pleasures and unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from unwholesome states).

With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana. Which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind. Is without applied and sustained thought, and has the joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

With the fading away of joy. One abides in equanimity. And mindful, clearly comprehending, still feeling pleasure with the body. One enters and abides in the third jhana. On account of which the noble ones say: 'one has a pleasant abiding, who has equanimity and is mindful.'

With the fading away of pain and pleasure. And the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.'

Once the mind has been made malleable and peaceful from samhadi. There is an afterglow, where unwholesome states of mind can remain absent for some time. In that state, the mind has the capacity for wise reflection, and it is easy to work with and train. It can be pointed towards something you want to understand and learn more about, or a truth you want to penetrate and gain insight from, such as the four noble truths. This investigation can lead to the liberating knowledge that brings about the end of suffering.

The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.

Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.

***

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Asoka

Calm mind

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 24 May 2023, 20:44


" What is commonly referred to as a ‘calm mind’ or a ‘mind integrated in samādhi’ is a state of inner stability that is no longer associated with the meditation object, which merely prepared the mind by holding it steady. Once the mind has entered into samādhi, there exists enough momentum for the mind to remain in this state of calm, independent of the preparatory object, whose function is temporarily discontinued while the mind rests peacefully.

Later on, when the mind withdraws from samādhi, one can focus attention on a dhamma theme (Buddhist teachings). When this is practiced consistently with dedication and sustained effort, a mind long steeped in dukkha (stress, suffering, dissatisfaction) will gradually awaken to its own potential and abandon its unskillful ways. The struggle to tame the mind, which one experiences in the beginning stages of training, will be replaced by a keen interest in the task at hand. "

- Ajaan Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (Acariya Mun - A spiritual biography)


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Asoka

Mind watching

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Mar 2023, 21:11

Another handy tool I am using a lot more lately is single-pointed attention, for when the energies of the mind start to get a bit intense throughout the day. It is a handy tool, and it does help to calm down frenetic thought energies. Moments of single-pointed attention can help slow the mind down, and then it is easier to replace negative thoughts with ones of love and equanimity instead. 

At the moment I like practising staying with the breath, either at the nostrils, or the whole body breathing as one. I really like the air element (-: Whatever comes up that isn't the breath, I just set it aside like its useless rubbish and return to the breath and go deep into the mind with it like I am uncovering a precious jewel beneath all the rubbish.

Sometimes I label the intrusive thoughts as greed, hate, or delusion, or just say: 'I see you Mara.' Using the term 'Mara' as a catch-all for the defilements in the mind. And then I just stop following them, and centre attention back with the breath. 

Sometimes if I get it right, I can find a peaceful empty place deep in the centre of the mind, like a cave, and it feels safe to go there, the energies of the mind become like the rain falling outside, and I am not affected by them. Or it feels like I am sitting on the ocean floor and way above me is the surface of the water, like the surface level of the mind, constantly moving as it ripples and changes, but I am far below it, perfectly still and at ease like a contented rock.

Another technique I learnt at a retreat recently, is to use the word 'mind' to watch the mind. You just keep repeating the word 'mind' over and over in the mind (-: I know it sounds like a tongue twister. One uses the word 'mind' as a reminder that one is watching the mind. 

One keeps centring one's attention with the word 'mind' and as one does this, one watches the process of thought making. Any distracting thoughts that arise just push them aside using the thought 'mind'. 

As one repeatedly says the word 'mind', one uses it as a tool to get to the source of thoughts, how they are generated, where they come from. Keep pushing away the distracting thoughts that arise like water sprouting out of a fountain and go deep and look for the source of the water in the fountain. What is it that keeps generating these thoughts? Keep intending to go deeper, and keep looking for the source.

 It feels hidden at first, like an inpenetrable blackness that thoughts just mysteriously bubble out of. But after a while and lengthy practise, you start to see the intentions behind the thoughts, and if you go deeper still there is craving. One can watch the less intrusive thoughts that bubble up in peripheral awareness, and as one does, one can start to see that they are sankharas, mental formations created from repeated intentions in the past, that have now developed their own momentum and energy, and become habits. And as you go deeper, it is like going back in time, and more of what was hidden previously starts to become visible and one's awareness of the mind grows.

 If saying the word 'mind' over and over gets tiring, which it can. Just have a rest and practise breath meditation, till one feels settled and calm enough to start watching the mind again.

Eventually one can let go of repeatedly thinking the word 'mind' and no longer need to use an anchor to watch the mind. Like someone sitting serenely under a tree watching a stream flow by in front of them. The stream in this metaphor is the contents of the mind, and one remains at ease, and still, anchored in deep composure, watching the contents of the mind as they flow and change. Not clinging to any of it, just watching without reacting to it or getting involved in it. And as one does this, one starts to see that the mind is always changing, that it is inconstant, impermanent.

 This is a kind of samhadi, not as deep as jhana, but it is a pleasant and empowering state of mind and insightful. Occasionally one gets distracted by the contents of the mind, and without realising it, one has waded into the stream and started identifying with it all again and is getting swept away by the currents of longing and aversion. Don't stress, it happens, depending on how long one has been caught up in the contents of the mind, one may need to go back to the breath or repeating the word 'mind' to bring some stillness and composure back. 


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Asoka

Samatha and vipassana

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 22 Mar 2023, 14:54

Learning that meditation is a mix of samhadi and insight, they are not really separate practises, but part of the same practise. Two sides of the same coin. A lucid serenity.

Sometimes the mind is in the deep stillness and peace of samhadi, and sometimes it is investigating, learning, knowing, clearly-seeing, comprehending. They work together to purify the mind. 

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that the Buddha said samatha (serenity) and vipassana (clear-seeing) are the two trusted messengers to admit into the city of consciousness. But there are also five trouble-makers to keep out of the city. These are: greed, ill-will, stagnation, agitation, and doubt. If those get into consciousness, it will become disturbed.

So one keeps out the five hindrances. And welcomes in the two trusted messengers.

Who is the guard at the gate? It is mindfulness.

I heard in another dhamma talk that a fully enlightened being may still experience longing and aversion in the mind, but the difference between them and someone who isn't enlightened, is that although greed and anger may occasionally arise for them, there is nowhere in the mind for it to land and take root. So nothing becomes of it.

There are sensations: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, ideas and thoughts. And they feel either pleasant or unpleasant. We like the pleasant feelings, and dislike the unpleasant ones. This leads to craving for more of what we like and less of what we dislike. But if we can let go of it before it becomes the stories we tell ourselves about this and that. Before we identify with it and cling to it, before it becomes a sankhara. Perhaps that is the non-grasping or non-clinging part. 

Eventually the art of non-clinging or letting go gathers a momentum of its own, becomes a powerful sankhara, continually weakening the hold of the defilements: greed, hate, and delusion on the mind. Till eventually the fetters are broken for good, and then there is cessation, freedom from suffering.






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Asoka

Tranquil wisdom meditation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 9 May 2022, 17:38

Here is a link to a free book that explains much better what I was trying to describe in my previous article. I have found it helpful to practise this and it has brought me results. I am making great progress with weakening both aversion and sensuality, it's great! 

This technique also makes mind wandering a more interesting part of meditation practise. 

In a nutshell: 

1. Recognise the mind has wandered.
2. Let go of the distraction.
3. Become aware of the body.
4. Relax any tension in the body.
5. Smile and gladden the mind.
6. Reflect on the four noble truths. I.e. noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing the mind free from craving, and the development of the eightfold path
7. Return to meditation object.
8. Rinse and repeat if mind wanders. 

I find when I re-engage with the meditation object after this process it is much easier to stay with it and more enjoyable. You only need to do this when the mind has wandered for some time and the meditation object has been forgotten, for short distractions just go back to the meditation object. This process gets faster and more intuitive the more you practise.

 While meditating you want to keep that feeling of bodily ease and pleasure going. Eventually it feels natural to let go of applied and sustained attention to the meditation object and to allow awareness to become more expansive. The joy and pleasure gradually gets more and more refined, changing to tranquillity and stillness, until it reaches equanimity. Equanimity is how the mind feels when all the different energies that pull us this way or that are perfectly balanced. Like everything is tuned just right and in harmony. There is an exquisite stillness and clarity of mind that is hard to put into words but you will have felt it in your own practise at times I am sure, and will know what I am talking about.

I don't know if any of this is helpful to you, don't worry if it isn't, I won't be offended lol. I just send it in case it is helpful to others. I don't like keeping things to myself. And I could die at any moment so would be a shame not to share this with others.

I am not a normal person lol. I spend an unnatural amount of time researching and practising this stuff. I have never really been that into the material world to be honest, it doesn't do much for me, nothing lasts in this world and death comes for all. I have always found the inner spiritual life more interesting. 

Although I don't judge anyone else for not being the same and I am not trying to proselytise anyone, that's the nice thing about Buddhism one is under no obligation to share the dhamma with others or change the world in any way, there is none of that stressful evangelical stuff trying to convert others - thank goodness. I think this is just my way of giving, or trying to be generous with what I know because I don't have much else to offer really.

And I can say with certainty now that this stuff really works, I have definitely changed. I have not got angry about anything for a good while now and the craving for sense pleasure is also not as powerful a force as it once was and seems to be getting weaker each day.

 It feels great! The mind just becomes more peaceful, lucid and freer.

Be well anyway and sending you good wishes and energy for you own journey to nibanna.


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