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The idea of being a person is a mental construct

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 14 Oct 2023, 18:38

Sometimes, I notice the tendency of the mind to take things personally when things go wrong. Quite amusing really, how the mind assumes everything is about itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I sometimes hear people cursing the weather, as if it is a person. Or thanking the universe. This human tendency we have to personalise things.

Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to a god, animal, or object. -Oxford Language Dictionary

The other animals do something similar I’ve discovered but coming from their perspective. For example, our pets don’t see us as human they attribute feline or canine characteristics to us.

Identifying with things and taking them personally can cause us a lot of suffering. A lot of psychic energy is bound up in the story ‘I am’. When that psychic energy is released. It becomes unbound, limitless. No longer restricted by the rigid boundaries of an identity. Freed from those constraints. It becomes boundless.

Deathless.

A state of mind difficult to define and put into words. To define it is to attach conditions to it, and it is the unconditioned. Words cannot go there. They can only point to it.

...


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Asoka

Wise about mistakes

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 19 Aug 2023, 15:10



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Asoka

Conceit

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 The equality-conceit (thinking of oneself as the same as others).
The inferiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as lesser than others).
And the superiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as better than others).

This three-fold conceit should be overcome.
One who has overcome this,
through the full investigation of conceit,
is said to have put an end to suffering
.”

 ~ A 6.49

Investigation of the conceit: ‘I am’
Can feel like trying to split a hair with a pin.
It can be very subtle
Hard to see.

Anatta (not-self) is a negation tool used in Buddhism to reveal what is not the self, like the practise of neti neti (not this, not that).

Anatta investigates the five khandhas (skandhas in Sanskrit), these are: the bodyfeelingsperceptionsmental formationsconsciousness (of the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects).

The khandhas (also known as the five aggregates of clinging) are conditioned phenomena, uncertain, unstable, fragile. Changing. Interdependent. And largely outside our control. Their impermanence causes attachment to them to be bound up with the pain of wanting, frustration, dissatisfaction, stress and sorrow.

There is some gratification in them otherwise we wouldn’t cling to them. But that gratification is transient and when it goes, we suffer and thirst for more, feel pain at loss and separation.

Still, it's not all bad, because some of the aggregates are within our ability to change, we can make a path out of them that leads to the end of suffering: the noble eightfold path.

Seeing the skandhas do not last, are empty of self, and bound up with suffering. One becomes less attached to them, less enthralled by them. One feels dispassionate towards them and stops identifying with them. Stops taking things personally. 

Knowing the khandas are not me, not mine, not self, one lets go, stops clinging to them – and what remains then is the deathless.

It is not meant to be depressing. If done correctly this will bring rapture and peace to the mind. Bliss. The relief of letting go, of relinquishment, of releasing it all. Liberation. Freedom. It's not a dry unemotional experience.

To think of nibbana or nirvana as annihilation is incorrect. If this were the case, it wouldn't be called the deathless.

Nibbana is a conscious experience. Said to be the finest experience that any being can have. If it was about annihilation, it would not be an experience.

 

 


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Asoka

Psychic alchemy

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 22 May 2023, 22:02


Feeling a wee bit better today. Was in such a dark place for a while. These cycles seem to happen every now and then. My mind goes into shutdown, like when a computer updates its operating system. It can feel slow and frustrating, and there's an element of restlessness there on top of the fatigue, and that bossy part of the mind always tugging at me to do things. Reminding me of deadlines and things I should be doing.

 I kept reminding myself that I don't have to be bossed around by that part of the mind. After all it's me! And it isn't helpful, it can be so bossy and overly-critical. The inner tyrant. A real problem many of us have in modern day society, we've been conditioned that way.

 Actually when one is like that, the best thing to do is to do nothing, just be still, be silent, endure the restless feelings and don't react to the mood. Keep choosing not to get involved with any negative thoughts. They are mostly nonsense anyway, we often create delusional stories in our heads that are not in sync with what is happening in reality when our mood is low. But balance this by also forgiving oneself for having those thoughts, be gentle with the mind when one catches oneself absorbed in the negativity. Don't punish yourself for it, or be judgemental. Just be grateful you noticed, and then stop paying attention to the negativity. Look in a different direction, like you are turning away from a sight that you don't want to see. You don't have to pay attention to negative thoughts. Choose purposely to pay attention to something else, the breath, the feet, some part of awareness that is neutral and helps to calm and centre the mind. And give yourself permission to do that. You are allowed to.

The inner miser might say: 'I don't deserve to be happy, I don't deserve to enjoy myself.' that is just crap, don't listen to that. You are allowed to be happy, you are allowed to feel joy. Cut yourself some slack, one of the enlightenment factors is joy. It is part of the training. So stop listening to the miserly one within who tells you that you can't be happy, that you don't deserve it. And don't be content with just a little taste, ask the mind for more, until you couldn't ask for any more.

We've all done crappy things that we regret. Many great saints and noble people weren't always that way, some were rascals. Everyone on this planet is a mix of good and bad. We make amends for our past mistakes by training our minds now. It is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and others is to train the mind.

Take comfort in the knowledge that the inner critic is entirely a mental construct and not real. It is a phantom. There is nothing substantial there. When one stops paying attention to it, it gets weaker and eventually subsides. It is merely a sankhara, a tape loop from the past, a conditioning that can be unconditioned. It isn't permanent, it isn't self, and it can be changed into something better. And all the psychic energy that went into that sankhara can then be freed up, and with some clever dharma alchemy become something more friendly and supportive on your journey. 

Turn that inner critic into a sankhara of inner friendship. When one becomes a good friend to oneself, one will then naturally become a good friend to others. Friendliness makes one less judgemental, less selfish. Love dissolves the separation between self and other. And without all our inner angsty wanty needy stuff getting in the way, one can properly listen to others and be there for them wholeheartedly. It doesn't make you a doormat though, always at everyone's beck and call. You still assert your boundaries, you don't have to associate with the foolish, the toxic, and don't let yourself be taken advantage of. You have to take care of yourself too.

But when you feel comfortable in yourself, secure, it is easier to be with others and be a friend then, to be a good listener, because your insecurities aren't getting in the way.

It takes work though, a lot of work. Like learning to be skilled at any craft, it doesn't happen over night. When learning any new skill, it is consistent daily repetitive practice that gets you there. Perseverance, endurance. The mind is also lazy, it doesn't like to change habits and make effort. Even if the behaviour is killing us, it prefers to stick with its grooves and keep things the way they are. We can get set in our ways because change feels uncomfortable, unpleasant at first. But the thing to keep in mind is it is possible, these unhelpful habits can be changed. And done without straining the mind, a gentle kind effort that doesn't burn you out is what's needed. Tuning the energies so they are balanced. A middle way, avoiding the extremes. Not too energetic and not too lazy. Be kind to the mind, this is how we train to be friendly, by being a friend to ourselves, which is another meaning of the word: metta, friendliness. Becoming mindful of kindness, or as Ajahn Brahm puts it: kindfulness.

It is a lot about how we talk to ourselves, this is what changes our perceptions of things, and reprograms the sankharas (mental formations).

The mind is an immensely complex, mysterious and powerful thing that we all have, but hardly any of us know how to use it properly. How to train it, how it works. We allow ourselves to be driven around by it. For many of us it is wild and chaotic, not unified, contradictory, pulling us this way and that. A monkey swinging from branch to branch. The mind can be a lot like a wild animal and rebellious, and sometimes it won't play ball and be deliberately difficult, resist the training. It takes patience. In fact there's a set of pictures in Zen called the Ox-herding pictures which puts across this idea of training the mind really well.

There's some beautiful bird song at the moment as I write this. 

I was reflecting on how music is all about change. I do like music. Sometimes if my energy is low I put on my headphones and listen to some music, and that can help uplift me a bit. It Is interesting how music has that effect on the mind. Sometimes when I get an earworm after listening to music, I will meditate on the ear worm and it grows clearer and more otherworldly. A bit like when one pictures a sight they've seen in their mind's eye and it becomes more sharper and colourful. For any readers who are wondering what an earworm is. An earworm is when a piece of music keeps looping over and over in the mind after one has listened to it often. It is not an actual worm that lives in the ear. It is a metaphor for when you can't get a tune out of your head. Although why a worm is used as a metaphor for this I couldn't say for sure.

I have decided to keep writing my blog. I also feel like the devas (shining ones/angels) are encouraging me to keep writing it. It seems to help me. Something about attempting to articulate what I am learning helps me remember and understand it better and absorb the knowledge.




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Asoka

Love's vessel

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The heavy baggage of the ego.

Full of compulsive,
wants,
demands,
and criticisms.

These restless involuntary movements of the mind.
That lead to confusion,
delusion,
and a whole mountain of suffering in the end,
all for just a teacup of pleasure,
made of fragile bone-china.

When one sees 
That everything we cling to
Is empty of self.
One lets go and
That psychic energy is freed up
Available,
Unbounded,
Limitless,
Empty of conceit. 
Serene and
Boundless.

The compulsions cease,
and there is peace... ah..

Then the self returns.
And one gets deluded once more.
Caught up in the things of the world.
Swept this way and that by the changing winds.
Pain and pleasure,
Gain and loss,
Success and failure,
Fame and disrepute.
These are the eight wordly winds.

Then one sees again that it is stress,
Understands this is suffering,
Remembers. 
The emptiness of self.
Lets go of the trash
Sweeps it aside
All that silly nonsense.
Returns to calm
Composure
Centred
Lucid 
One wakes up from the self-centred dream.

And there is cessation, relief, a moment of bliss.
No longer driven, one rests in peace.

Till thwarted again
by one's past conditioning.
The ego pops back up
like a jack-in-a-box.

Rinse and repeat.

This is the work of purifying the mind
of greed,
hate
and delusion.

It can take lifetimes for some.

But as mindfulness develops,
And one's ability to calm and centre the mind gets stronger.
The untangling gets easier.

And through it all one must not strain,
just the right amount of effort is needed.
Just what you can
The best you got,
At your pace.
That's enough
That will get the work done,
not too tight,
not too loose,
gradually,
patiently,
gently.
One steers one's course through the middle way,
avoiding the extremes.
Centred, composed.
Let love be your compass.

When one realises that nothing is personal.
One's sense of humour returns.
One stops taking it all so seriously.
One feels at peace.
And from that freedom,
joy naturally rises,
Independent of the world.

And love rises too.

Unbound
A greater love.
A love without conditions attached to it.
An unselfish love.
A love without a trace of the conceit 'I am'.

The happiest, most beautiful love of all. 

A vessel emptied of self
can manifest that.

...

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Asoka

Emptiness

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 15 May 2023, 11:54


There is no 'I',
No 'us',
No 'them'.
Whatever I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think about.
It is not me, not mine.
Just stories I weave in the mind.
Delusion.
Empty of self. 
Insubstantial.
Everything is just emptiness.
Beautiful emptiness.
That's all it is. 

Nothing to fear really.
Except not understanding what is meant by emptiness.
It is our ignorance of this that makes us suffer.

- Asoka




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Asoka

Time is change

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 23 Jan 2023, 22:21

The mind is a mix of positive and negative tendencies. Some of which can remain dormant for long periods of time until the right causes and conditions in life occur to activate them. The potential for both good and bad lies dormant in us like karmic seeds. I think from what little I know about biology, DNA works in a similar fashion. We all have strands of inactive DNA which remain dormant until the environment around us changes in such a way that the conditions are ripe to activate it.

When a tadpole becomes a frog. During the different stages of mutation in the biological flow, what is it that transfers from one moment to the next?
What is left of the caterpillar when it becomes a butterfly?

This mysterious flow of life has no discernible beginning, even the Buddha said he could not see the beginning of Samsara, no matter how far back in time he looked he found no beginning to it. We have been entangled in this cycle of birth and death for an incalculable amount of time, becoming different beings over the course of our endless rebirths, playing different roles in this neverending story of self.

The Buddha said that the problematic behaviour that keeps us bound to Samsara springs up from three unwholesome roots: greed, hatred, and delusion. But because we are ignorant of their presence in the mind, these three poisons keep creating problems for us. And until we have properly uprooted them we are a mixed bag of karmic seeds, some of which can lie dormant in us for a considerable length of time, some for as long as lifetimes, waiting for the right conditions to sprout. A moral person can become immoral; and a bad person can become good. Beings can turn, sometimes quite suddenly. Angels can become devils, and devils can become angels.

There's a story in the Buddhist suttas which is a dramatic example of the way people can change suddenly when dormant karma becomes activated. (The story can be read here: Angulimala: A murderer's road to sainthood ) Angulimala went from a peace-loving model student, to a serial killer who tried to make the Buddha his 1000th victim, but after his encounter with the Buddha he became his disciple, and after a period of training Angulimala became a fully enlightened being that wouldn't harm a fly.

This story shows the fluidity of self, that nothing is set in stone, things arise and cease due to the causes and conditions that shape them. This knowledge can bring hope, because it means that we are not completely powerless, we can put in the right conditions to activate the wholesome tendencies of the mind and use those to put a stop to the unwholesome tendencies for good. When the mind is no longer clouded by greed, hatred, and delusion, it naturally becomes light and free, luminous like the moon coming out from behind the clouds.

The self is not what we think, whatever we identify with, that is not the self. The self is not a static entity. It is changing. Each mind moment a new moment of becoming. What went before has gone. We try to make the nice moments last, relive them, preserve them, but looking at a photograph is not the same, there's a kind of sadness with photographs, you see something that has passed, has changed, a moment that no longer exists. If you were to stitch photographs of your life together you would see the way we change from one self to another. We are a flow of energy. What we identify with changes. Our passions change. Everything changes. Even if you preserve a moment, and keep trying to relive the pleasant feelings associated with it, eventually it becomes tiring, one gets bored, this can happen with music, movies, books, video games, relationships, drugs. Our senses grow jaded, and our interests and personalities change, and what once excited us we no longer find interesting. This too is change.

I am a different person than I was when I first sat down to write this, and that moment has now gone, it no longer exists.

We die in every moment. Each tick of the clock is a new self.

Time is change.

There's something exhilarating about knowing that, it feels freeing when one can flow from one moment to the next without clinging to anything. In our day to day life, we do not realise how the sense of self with its identifying, its cares, woes, wants, and resentments weighs us down, we carry this stuff around with us like a concrete block that just gets heavier and heavier to carry, the story of self is tiring and burdensome; but when one lets go of the story. One feels lighter, freer and happier. Time feels different then.

 


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