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Grasping Karma

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If someone does evil, don’t feel you have to punish or hate them. That will only hurt you. The universe has a way of balancing things out, and those who do wrong will eventually face the consequences of their actions. Either in this life or a future one. Nobody escapes their karma, not even those who are enlightened.

The difference between the enlightened and the unenlightened is that the enlightened don’t add any more to their karma. They do not hold onto the greed, hate, or delusion associated with it. By not holding onto it there is nowhere in the mind for it to land and take root. And the karma ends right there, in that moment because the enlightened being does nothing that will cause it to rise again.

Everything we do has an effect on the mind and leaves traces on it. The tendencies we indulge in become our karma. They grow and gather a momentum of their own, whether they are good or bad. 

Knowing this, a wise person cultivates wholesome tendencies. 


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The Heart of the Matter

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 4 Oct 2023, 21:56


The world judges by outward appearances.

But it's what's on the inside that counts.

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New blog post

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 21 Sep 2023, 08:35


Dhamma isn't that popular, the vast majority of people don't want to get enlightened, there are a few that do, but most don't. I have little passion for writing about much else though, the world just doesn't interest me anymore. The elephant in the room when it comes to worldly success is: Death.

One works hard for what? In the end all that one has achieved gets taken away. Sometimes quite suddenly, people can die unexpectedly both young and old. For me, death, is the most pressing concern. It renders everything else meaningless.

The world also changes quite rapidly and things one worked hard to learn years ago, are no longer relevant now, automation makes learning skills feel pointless. The ups and downs of the economy mean banks and countries can go bankrupt. Placing all your hopes in a career or finance is a risky bet, and in the end the house always wins, Mara (death) takes all. Even our memories get taken away from us, or change.

The only thing that I really like to write about is dhamma, and connection. But even friendships don't last, these too are impermanent, friends come and go. People change, relationships break. Placing all one's hopes in connection is also a risky bet.

The only thing that feels like it is worth making effort for is the dhamma. That's why I work so hard at practising it. For me it is the only thing that matters now. Life is uncertain. But if I can get enlightened then I will have found something secure, something that can't be taken away by Mara.

Death comes for all, and when it comes for me, I will take refuge in the dhamma.

 

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What heartbreak taught me

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 2 Oct 2023, 07:45


There was a time I yearned for romance. But that has passed now. I am not looking for that anymore. Falling in love is suffering, and I will never fall in love again. I did fall in love, but she didn’t want me. And when that happend, happiness left me like breath evaporating from a mirror.

Relationships are suffering. I don't need anyone’s emotional support; I don’t need a partner. I don't need anybody. I am okay by myself. And it is okay to be alone.

Besides, I am no one special, I am not particularly attractive, I am nearly 50, and financially unstable, I can barely make ends meet. It wouldn’t be fair on anyone else, but by myself it doesn’t matter if I am poor. I often contemplate becoming homeless because I struggle to live the household life, it is stressful trying to survive and live in these dark times. There’s a longing in me to escape it all, to leave the dusty household life behind and live simply, with few cares and burdens.

I have nothing to give anyway, nothing to offer in a relationship. I am not what women want in a man. And that's fine, I don’t care anymore. That’s why love can be cruel, because not everyone gets that happy-ever-after that Hollywood sells. And those that do often pay a great cost for it in the end.

 Perhaps it is a blessing to be alone. Without anyone to think about. I have the freedom to decide how I best want to use what little time I have left on this Earth.

It is one reason I write so much. Maybe these pieces of writing will help someone else out there. I feel if it helps just one person, it was worth it. 

I have not enjoyed my life; it has been mostly shit if I'm honest. Those brief drops of happiness are just not worth it in the end. The pain far outweighs the pleasure. The thought of coming back here and having to go through all this again, the thought of living another life is unbearable. It is that thought that keeps me making effort.

I am done with wanting things. I relinquish it all. All desire, all longing, all attachment. I release it all.

This world is a slaughterhouse, a cruel and brutal place for most of us. There’s much suffering here, so many beings suffering, and there’s a heartbreaking mass extinction event happening. That one just feels completely powerless to do anything about.

Mass extinction of life on this planet for what? A plastic deluded modern existence. The empty consumer dream of Ken and Barbie. Killing the forests, killing the oceans, and killing ourselves for what? Why? How did it come to this? What good has come from the insatiable greed of our modern times?

It is all so inane, tragic and vacuous. 

I plan to make this my last lifetime; I don’t want to return here. To incarnate here means another being will have to suffer so I can exist, that is the sorrow and horror of interdependence. It isn't beautiful, it is deeply disturbing. For one lifeform to exist it must feed on another. And no lifeform wants to be eaten. All beings value their lives. The cycle of life is not unicorns and rainbows. It is a horror show. 

 Even if you are one of the lucky few who succeed in this challenging modern world. If you do get to live that over-hyped American dream. It all one day gets taken away from you, torn away. All that effort, all that hard work to build the perfect material life is for nought in the end. It is a con. A scam.

What really matters in the end? What doesn't get taken away from you when you die?

When I sat next to my dad, holding his hand, while he fought for his life in that hospital room. I clearly saw anicca, anatta, and dukkha. The three characteristics of conditioned phenomenon. Translated as: impermanence, not-self, suffering.

I finally understood dependent origination. Life is fragile, the body is fragile. When those conditions that support it cease, so does life.

What is there to cling to?

What is real?

What is non-delusion?


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Equanimity towards formations

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 4 Aug 2023, 09:59


Equanimity is a pleasant emotion. It is not dry at all. It is better than you think. You may be forgiven for having the impression of equanimity being a dry scientific sort of apathetic state. But it is not like that. It is a very rich emotion, and the freedom it brings feels slightly ecstatic actually.

Equanimity is a balance of all the different energies of the mind all tuned so that they are in sync and working together harmoniously. It is flowing through life without clinging. A state of non-attachment.

One doesn't care for pain or pleasure anymore. It just doesn't bother one. You can be walking with pain in the joints and it just doesn't matter. One still feels pleasure, but when it ceases one doesn't cling to it, or want it back. It is no big deal anymore.

Equanimity is neither love nor hate.
Neither greed nor self-denial.
It avoids all extremes.

What is love anyway? 
What is hate?

The eight worldly winds of pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, praise and blame just don't matter when one is equanimous. The worldly winds can blow and blow but the house of cards isn't there anymore. There's nothing to defeat. Just emptiness.

One no longer cares about impressing people, or pleasing anyone, or trying to tick another's boxes, or being perfect. One just doesn't give a shit about that anymore. Worldly views are just those, they change like the wind. They're insubstantial, empty, not-self.

 There's no ill-will towards anybody though, no conceit. Just a sweet freedom from being concerned about the opinions of others. One still listens to the opinions of the wise however, the noble ones. Those who have more experience on the spiritual path. To not take on board their advice would be foolish. But the opinions of the world, they no longer matter or effect one. 

Praise and blame is like honey and bee-stings. Both can be dangerous. Praise can get to our heads. It gives us a dopamine hit, excites us, fluffs up the ego. Which can compel us to behave in unskillful ways, cause us to make poor choices, and crave more praise. This feeds the unwholesome roots of greed and delusion.

Blame can make us feel like shit. Dampen our spirits. We take it personally, and resentments can arise and fester. This feeds the unwholesome root of hate.

To walk the middle way. Is to stand outside of the extremes. To look at both from a vantage point that is beyond good and bad. To see both sides clearly and understand them.

It is to pay wise attention to the fault, and wise attention to the beautiful. 

With equanimity one can feel okay whatever happens, one's peace remains unshaken.

A good spiritual exercise to practice sometimes is to allow ourselves to be misunderstood by someone else and not feel the need to correct them. Not feel bothered at all. One can learn a lot about how we crave praise and construct the self from this exercise.

With equanimity one stops taking everything so seriously, so personally. It just doesn't matter, because one clearly sees that all formations are empty. Conditioned phenomena is transient, dissatisfying, insecure, it doesn't lead to lasting happiness and wellbeing. It just leads to more suffering. Attachment is suffering. The things we are the most attached to in the world, are the things that cause us to suffer the most. 

With equanimity one feels undisturbed by anything. One can walk passed a corpse smiling serenely. It is a freeing emotion, and one I am keen to explore more in my practice.

How to get there? The practise of samhadi naturally leads to it. Equanimity is the seventh factor of enlightenment:

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy --> Rapture --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

Wanting things is stressful. It is tiring and unpleasant. Through our day to day experience, through being mindful and investigating. One starts to understand this at a deep level. Then the mind reaches a point where it feels fed up with yearning, sick of craving and naturally becomes dispassionate towards worldly formations. Without the pain of wanting, freed from the feeling of lack that comes from craving. One becomes content and one's mind feels invincible, unshakable. At peace. It's not dangerous, the feeling of equanimity doesn't get to one's head. It is not apathy, it works well with the emotion of kindness, kindness and equanimity complement one another.

Equanimity is a pleasant cooling of the senses. A relief. A harmless state of non-grasping. Of non-acquiring, non-hating. There's no conceit there at all. One sees clearly that the self is a delusion. And that seeing is truly liberating for the energies of the mind.

To be a person, to have an identity, to be somebody is tiring. It is stressful, dissatisfying. Being caught up in the self-centred dream is to suffer. How wonderful it feels to let all that go.To go beyond all of it and taste true freedom. Freedom from the prison of the self. The psychic energy involved in this delusion becomes unbound, limitless, no longer subject to conditions -- deathless.


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Asoka

One excellent night

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 Jul 2023, 10:21


' Let one not revive the past.

Nor upon the future build one's hopes.
For the past has been left behind.
And the future's not yet reached.
Instead with insight let one see,
Each presently arisen state.
Let one know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakeably.
Today the effort must be made.
Tomorrow death may come.
Who knows?
No bargain with mortality can keep him and his hordes away. 
But for one who dwells thus ardently. 
Keeps at it, does not give up.
Practises by day, by night ---
It is those the peaceful sage has said
Who have had one excellent night. '

-- poem attributed to the Buddha


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Prepping

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Preparing myself for another all night sit under a tree at the next full moon. I think I will try to make it a regular event every full moon, to go and spend a night of meditation in the wilderness by myself.

The all night sit I did in May really helped improve my meditation practice. It was an interesting experience. There's something about being alone in the woods at night which creates a sense of fear. But if one centres with the dhamma, practises metta bhavana (loving-kindness meditation), and samhadi one feels safe and the fear goes away and the mind becomes confident and at ease. So one keeps practising for that reason. When sitting at home alone one can find excuses not to meditate, and books and devices can become a distraction; but being alone at night in the woods really enhances one's mindfulness, because if it slips one becomes afraid and then the mind starts conjuring up all sorts of nonsense, and you start believing your erroneous misperception of things. But mindfulness of the dhamma (Buddhist teachings) keeps you safe, it makes you feel fearless. It is an interesting experience.

I must find a way to repel insects though as some carry diseases and this is a very real danger I need to find a way to counteract, especially when it comes to ticks. Lyme's disease is no fun at all. I am wondering about trying some essential oils on my clothing to see if that puts off biting insects.

I will continue to have a flask of coffee or tea with me to get me through the night, and not feel guilty for that. Very much a believer in practising the middle way, and having a cup of coffee really helped warm me and gladden the mind at times, and I was grateful for the kindness to myself in packing the flask. 

To be honest, the biggest fear of being alone in the woods at night is encountering other humans. I am far more afraid of people than I am of animals, insects or spirits. The devas will be with me though and the psychic energies of my friends will also be with me, so I shouldn't be afraid. If I stay centred with metta I will be safe. Wherever I am in the world, being mindful of metta will keep the mind clear of the hindrances.

No matter what someone does to me, even if they kill me, if my mind remains centred in metta, I will be fine, a consciousness filled with metta leads to a good rebirth.

It isn't loss of life that one should fear, it is loss of peace of mind. The defilements within (greed, hatred, and delusion) are far more frightening to me then anything else in this world. They are the real enemy, and they never tire, they're always waiting for me to show a moment of weakness. I have to be careful not to let my guard down, because if they enter my heart, they start to suffocate it with craving, and drag me down into the darkness. The impurities of the mind are no joke. They are far more dangerous than anything else out there. This is where wisdom, morality, mindfulness, right effort, and the stillness of samhadi becomes one's protection. They help prevent greed, hate, and delusion from taking over the mind and leading one into suffering.

I am debating with myself whether to pack some headphones and a device so I can listen to a downloaded dhamma talk. Sometimes if things get difficult it is good to be able to listen to the voice of another, as they can talk one out of a negative state of mind and encourage one to keep going.

This is okay for me as I am a lay follower, not a monastic, so I can do this if I decide it would be beneficial to do so. 

...




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What knowledge matters in the end?

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 26 Mar 2023, 17:59


Back to studying today. Currently learning about cryptography and how it is used in cyber security. Very tiring to learn actually. Involves a lot of reading, making notes, and trying to understand at times difficult concepts. Feels like wading through treacle.

I have fallen behind by about a week now. And the amount of studying that still needs to be done feels daunting. I talked myself into soldiering on with it though, despite the great reluctance I felt to continue.

Cyber security will be a useful skill to know. So much of our world is run by computers now. And it could be of service to others, to good people, such as Buddhists and other noble organisations that have websites. They are just as vulnerable to cyber attack as anywhere else online. So learning this is not a waste of my time.

I just keep thinking, when death comes cyber security will be the last thing on my mind, it won't mean anything then. My career is not what I will turn to when the body begins to shutdown, when consciousness has to leave this body. It will be all the time I spent learning dhamma that matters then.

It is one of the sufferings of the world I guess, this need to have a livelihood and make an income.

'It's a bitter-sweet symphony this life.
Try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money - then you die.'

The worldly winds..... blowing one this way and that.... that way and this.... pain and pleasure, gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame... these winds blow one across the treacherous seas of Samsara.



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Shephard of thoughts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 3 Feb 2023, 14:42

I am learning how to notice my moods better, and if my state of mind is unwholesome, I will look at what my thoughts are doing. And like a shepherd guarding his sheep, I try to steer them back in the right direction, towards the wholesome. Towards non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion.

I use the word 'non' because there are many wholesome mind states that are not greed, hate, or delusion.  And it is helpful to have many wholesome states to choose from. It can be tiring to feel kind, loving, or joyful all the time, and that's alright, because there are other wholesome states one can cultivate and use instead. It is good to have a wide palette to choose from and experiment with.

If my thoughts have strayed into the territory of greed, hate, and delusion, depending on the mood I am in, steering them away from those fields, can be as simple as interrupting the herd of thoughts with a gentle nudge, whereupon they will immediately stop what they are doing and happily go back in the right direction.

Other times it can involve the need to talk the thoughts into wanting to go back in the right direction, which means learning ways of talking to myself that helps to change the state of mind I am in, this sometimes results in me giving myself a dhamma talk, or writing an article like this. Or if I am not feeling I can do anything like that, I will use the voice of another, ( i.e. listen to a dhamma talk, a podcast, read an article or book) and use their voice to talk me into a better state of mind. 

But there are times when my thoughts can be racing and chaotic. And then it is like trying to shepherd a stampeding herd of buffalo. On those occasions I will practise something I dub the megaphone technique.

Named after scenes in movies where there's a crowd of people all talking loudly and at once. Perhaps they are excited about something, or argueing over this and that, perhaps they're panicking. Someone then walks into the middle of the group with a megaphone and makes it squeek loudly and everyone suddenly stops talking and turns to face the person with the megaphone.

My megaphone is to attempt to become aware of all the bodily sensations happening at once in the present moment, and flood the mind with these sense impressions, and keep bringing my attention back to this experience, so that I am constantly interrupting the thought processes with this sensory overload. It can work, and help bring some relief and composure back to the mind.

There are other megaphones that also work, some are gentle, such as surrounding myself with the colour red, yellow, or blue, like an aura. Some soothing like paying attention to the air element, or water element, the solidity of earth, the warmth and energy of the body, or just being aware of my feet, hands, or any part of the body that feels better than being in the head. 

It's basically just something to distract the mind and help it settle into a more tranquil state and regain some composure. Tranquility is a wholesome state of mind. One can be creative with this. These examples are just things that work for me, everyone should experiment and find what helps them. It is our subjective experience that matters here, forget about trying to make it fit in with any scientific theory, this exercise isn't about that. It is about taking what comes naturally to us, and making it into something supernatural.

Sometimes the thoughts don't respond well to anything, so I will let them continue in the background, but choose not to let them bother me, I become unattached to them. I choose not to judge them, not to follow them or identify with them. Just let them be, like background noise, and choose to place my attention on something else that is happening in awareness, something in the present moment that helps bring some peace and composure back to the mind, and then I can focus on a task at hand better without feeling harrassed by the thought processes.

The ability to choose where we place our attention is something we can all learn. And it is an aspect of the mind we can have some control over. It is also useful to learn how to tune the energy of attention so it is neither too forceful, nor too lax. Like cupping a little bird in your hand, if you cup it too tightly it will hurt the bird; but if you cup it too loosely it will fly away. How do you make attention comfortable and stable. How do you get into a flow? How do you keep the mind interested in something so that attention wants to stay there willingly and not want to be anywhere else? That's the questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to train the mind. 

It is challenging, so remember to cut yourself some slack. Try not to compare yourself with others, be okay with where you're at in your practise. Don't judge others or yourself when failure happens, which it will. And if another judges you, just remember that other people's practise is their practise. Some people have been at this a while and are advanced. Others are just starting out. We are all at different levels, and that's okay, let others be where they're at, and concentrate on your own practice. Go at your own pace. Be comfortable with where you're at. That is where you come from and meet the world. Development is a gradual process, and that's okay, it isn't a race, nobody gets extra brownie points for getting there before anyone else, the prize at the end, nibanna, is exactly the same experience for everyone. If you persevere in a way that doesn't stress or break the mind, you will get there, in your own time, in a way that works for you. It is important not to strain the mind, to take care of it, rest it, nurture it, to be gentle, be kind to it, a friend, it is not your enemy, it is where you live. If you are making progress you are making progress. Whether that progress is fast or slow doesn't matter. Enlightenment is not a race or a competition. It is a gift that you give to yourself, and noone else can give it to you. Others can guide you, share their wisdom, but the onus is on you to do the work, noone else can.

 


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Asoka

Right mindfulness (part four)

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MIndfulness of dhamma categories

This is the fourth foundation of mindfulness. There are five categories here to be mindful of: the five hindrances; the five aggregates of clinging; the six external and six internal sense bases; the seven factors of awakening; and the four noble truths. 

What follows is my current understanding of the fourth foundation of mindfulness:

The five hindrances

These are: greed, aversion, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt.

They are called hindrances, because they are what stop us from reaching the deep states of meditation and prevent us from seeing things clearly, they distort our perception of reality.

Greed/lust is like being in debt, one feels a sense of lack and does not feel happy until one gets what one wants, this longing, this wishing is unpleasant and creates a feeling of disatisfaction and dis -ease in the mind. Like when coloured dye is added to water, the water looks attractive but it distorts things and makes them unclear.  

Aversion is like being afflicted by a sickness. Anger/hatred is painful, it literally poisons the body with harmful toxins, like a burning coal that one picks up and throws, which burns oneself as well as where it is thrown. It is like boiling water that distorts the surface so one cannot see clearly. 

Stagnation is like being in prison. One feels stuck and unable to escape the dullness and drowsiness, the fatigue. Like a stagnant pond with slime and algae growing over the surface, one cannot see the water clearly. 

Restlessness is like being a slave to a control freak of a boss, who never leaves you alone, is always making demands on your time and pushing you. It is like the wind blowing ripples and waves across the surface of water making it difficult to see it clearly. 

Doubt is like being at a crossroads and not knowing which way to go. If the wrong choice is made it could be disastrous. One cannot stay choosing for long as that is also dangerous because their are bandits about. So one has to make a choice and hope they pick the right direction. Doubt is like muddy water, where one cannot see clearly into the depths. 

Mindfulness is being trained to notice a hindrance when it is present in the mind, note what caused it to arise, learn what makes it tick, and how to remove it from the mind and prevent it from arising again in the future. The instructions on how to deal with the five hindrances are in right effort, the sixth factor of the noble eightfold path. Mindfulness is to carry out the instructions of right effort and become the sentinel of consciousness.

One way to observe the hindrances is through watching one's thoughts. Interrupting them if they manifest any of the hindrances, then replacing them with thoughts which are the opposite.This is hard work, but eventually with persistence and determined effort, the mind when freed from the hindrances will be full of happy peaceful thoughts. It then becomes easier to settle into meditation and the thoughts will naturally calm and grow quiet. Continually bringing one's attention back to the meditation object is also a way to seclude the mind from the hindrances.

The five aggregates of clinging

These are the five streams that come together to make up a living being: The body, feelings, perceptions, mental volitions, and consciousness.

They are called the five khandas in Pali, and the five skandhas in Sanskrit.

They are streams because they are always changing with nothing lasting or substantial behind them. Just like one never sees the same stream twice. A stream can give the illusion of looking the same as it flows past, but the water molecules one is observing are different each moment. 

The five aggregates are just processes rising, flowing, fading outside of our control. The body ages, changes, gets sick and dies whether we like or not. Feelings come from sense impressions which happen because of the environment around us. Perceptions change.Thoughts and emotions change. Consciousness just reflects all this, constantly changing from moment to moment. Non of it is the self. Not me, not mine.The five aggregates arise because of causes and conditions. When one looks closely with a mind that is serene and lucid, one cannot find a substantial self in any of them, it is all just process flowing and changing from one moment to the next.

It can be helpful to become aware of how we cling to these streams and identify with them. And how this clinging causes us suffering. 

This lack of substance applies to other beings as well. Our connections with others are also insubstantial. Everyone is changing. When we get attached to and cling to other beings, this causes us suffering, because when the inevitable happens and we eventually become separated from them it can cause us great emotional pain and distress when they are no longer around; or when they change and are no longer the same person they were.  

Every being we meet leaves an impression on the mind. Their voices and energies make their home there in some fashion. Our heads becoming a mix of all the different beings we meet. The traces they leave on us shaping who we are, and who we become. 

The mind is always needing to cling to something. I think because of the uncertainty impermanence creates. Meditation is a form of clinging. It creates a state of mind that does not last, but it is a useful illusion of stability, one that secludes one from the five hindrances to help one see things clearly and decrease one's suffering. 

This huge web of interdependence, a complex weave of cause and effect, constantly changing, with nothing substantial behind any of it. 

Who am I? Who are you? What is the self?

The six external and six internal sense bases

These are the six senses, both the contact and the impression that contact makes on the mind. The six senses are: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and the mind sense (called the mind sense because it is able to look at itself and get a snapshot of one's mood, emotions, one's state of mind). 

The Buddha gives a simile of six animals all pulling in diferent directions at the same time on ropes that are tied to a common knot in the centre. The six animals represent the six senses, the ropes tied together is a metaphor of how they are all connected together and pull the mind in different directions. 

There is a meditation one can practise here, where one can place one's awareness in the body and use that feeling of embodiment as an anchor. To stake and peg the communal knot to the ground. 

The six animals continue tugging on the ropes but are no longer pulling you off in different directions. You keep grounded in the body and remain still and calm, allowing  those sensations and feelings to just be without creating a story out of them anymore. 

Eventually the six senses start to settle down and stop pulling. They go quiet and things get very still and pleasant. This can bring a feeling of liberation and a reduction to suffering. 

With much practise it starts to feel like a super power, especially in this modern world. The ability to become still and content while the world goes on around one, no longer feeling the need to get involved with it. Not always easy to do, it takes patience and perseverance, and playing the long game, but in time it can become a supernormal power that brings with it a freedom from clinging to the world of the senses.

The seven factors of awakening

These are the support beams that hold up the awakened mind. One is to cultivate and develop these till they become second nature. One becomes mindful of their presence in the mind, and how to keep them going continuously in a constant cycle. Which is the second set of instructions in Right effort. 

The seven factors of enlightenment are: mindfulness, wonder, energy, joy, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity.

Mindfulness is the first factor of awakening, and also stays present throughout the whole cycle. The whole process of awakening starts with remembering, being mindful. 

Wonder is the second factor of awakening. Often translated as investigation of dhamma, or investigation of phenomena, but I find these translations remind me too much of the dryness of school,which doesn't really enthuse me all that much. I prefer wonder because the word brings back to me the feeling of being a child and looking at the sky and the clouds, the wonder of life, of earth, the water, the feeling of air on my skin, seeing its invisible presence as it moves through the plants and trees, the wonder of fire, of light and colour, and the warm energy of the sun. The wonder that there is even such a thing as sky, water, earth, air, life, the sun, and stars in the night sky. Wonder brings interest which gathers the mind together into a state of absorption and brings into being the next factor of awakening...

Energy. When one is interested in something one feels energised and enthused. It is the opposite of boredom which creates dullness and a lack of energy. Energy in this factor is also the momentum built up by repeated effort, and the drive and motivation to succeed at something. Energy is closely linked to the next factor of awakening...

Joy. Energy and joy go together. Which is where the word enjoyment comes from. Joy is an important component of the enlightened mind, if one skips this step, it can lead to drowsiness and one may fall asleep before they reach the later factors. For many this is one of the hardest factors to bring into being. But if done right, wonder, interest and energy should naturally bring some joy to the mind. And one starts to enjoy oneself.

Serenity is the fifth factor of awakening. The excitement and rapturous energy of joy naturally starts to calm and grow quiet, leading to a feeling of tranquility and calm. This is a very pleasant feeling, like relaxing on the porch at the end of an exciting day, it can feel satisfying to chill out when the excitment of joy has settled down. Which takes one to the doorstep of the next factor of awakening...

Samhadi. Samhadi is a difficult word to translate from Pali. It is a combination of meditation, composure, centredness, collectedness, wholeheartedness, flow, stillness, unification of mind, serenity and lucidity. It is also an emotional experience of beautiful states of mind, an experience of the deep, of the divine, of the higher states of consciousness. In the Buddha's teachings there are four stages to samhadi, called the four jhanas, which are covered in the eighth factor of the noble eightfold path so I won't go into them here. A rough translation of the word jhana is meditation. The four jhanas (meditations) naturally lead to the seventh factor of awakening...

Equanimity. This is where all the energies of the mind that pull us this way and that are perfectly tuned and in balance, in sync and pacified. It is where mindfulness becomes purified by a state of perfect equipose. It is from this state of mind that one can see things clearly and penetrate the truth of them without the distortion caused by disunity of mind. 

Then the whole cycle of the seven factors of enlightenment begins again. As one gets better at cultivating this, one starts to develop the wisdom faculty. Where one wonders about and investigates the three characteristics of phenomena which are: change/impermanence (both in the short term and long term), that there is no substantial self, and how clinging to this changing phenomena brings us suffering. Which gradually leads to the insight and the wisdom that changes one permanently and begins the irreversible process of awakening.

The four noble truths

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

Understanding how the mind is always wanting to cling to something. And how clinging to things that change, is suffering.

2. Knowledge of the cause of suffering. (Which is to be abandoned.)

Understanding that the cause of suffering is greed, hatred, and delusion. Which correspond to the three kinds of craving: craving for things we think will make us happy (grasping); craving for something unpleasant to be otherwise (pushing away); and craving for becoming, for continued existence, the delusional story of self.

 The three are tangled up with one other, and feed off one another, creating a momentum that strengthens and reinforces one another. Greed and hatred both spring from delusion (also known as ignorance). One weakens greed and aversion first, which then makes it easier to get to the root of the problem, delusion. 

By abandoning greed, hatred, and delusion we abandon the cause of suffering in the mind. As craving is the cause of clinging. When we become less ignorant of this, and remind ourselves of it over and over again, using the three characteristics as a tool to help one develop dispassion and disenchantment towards the changing things of the world, one begins to start naturally letting go.

Which leads to the third noble truth.

3. Knowledge of the end of suffering. (Which is to be realised.)

As one lets go of the clinging to the world, one starts to experience greater and greater states of liberation, till eventually there is no more clinging at all, and no more suffering. Just a mind perpetually at ease, at peace, cycling through the seven factors of awakening, not clinging to anything in the world. 

Realisation of this truth is a complete and permanent end to suffering. And one experiences nibbana, which is the mind freed from greed, hate, and delusion. The goal of the path. A mind no longer shaken, disturbed or unsettled by the changing nature of phenomena. A mind that does not suffer anymore.

4. Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering. (Which is to be developed.)

However in the meantime you need to cling to something to get to nibbana: the raft that gets you across the river: the noble eightfold path. This is what trains and conditions the mind to become an instrument capable of penetrating and understanding the four noble truths and fully letting go and realising the third noble truth.

The eightfold path both works together as a cohesive whole, each factor supporting the others. As well as cycling through each factor in a linear fashion over and over. The wisdom, understanding and development of the mind growing deeper and more profound with each cycle till it is fully liberated.

But until the mind is fully liberated one clings to the path and doesn't let go till the end. The raft is a bundle of sticks one holds onto while in the water. The sticks symbolise the teachings contained in the eightfold path. The paddling that gets you across the river is right effort. If one lets go of the raft before one reaches the other shore, then one will be carried and swept away by the current of greed, hate, and delusion. 

It is only when one reaches the other shore, that one can put down the raft. Then one can let go of the path and chill out on the shores of nibbana knowing that what needed to be done is done, that there is nothing further to do, freed permanently from clinging and suffering. .

How long  this takes varies from person to person, their inclination and motivation, and how much dust is in their eyes. It might take lifetimes, years, months, weeks, days, a night, a dhamma talk, or the time it takes to shave one’s head. The current world record holder for full enlightenment is recorded in the suttas about  a twelve year old boy who became fully enlightened in the time it took to shave his head (-:

And of course like the Buddha, out of compassion, one can then choose to share the teachings with others and guide them to the end of suffering, but only if they ask and want to know, Buddhism is not a proselytising religion.

If one would like to learn more about right mindfulness I recommend this series of talks by Ajahn Sona recorded during a virtual mindfulness retreat that took place during the pandemic:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCXN1GlAupG0D2tTYFGurLptbA4pTB4k6

With Metta. 

May you find peace of mind and freedom from suffering.


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Asoka

The wise king

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 26 Feb 2022, 19:19

COVID is absolutely horrendous. I have never had anything quite like this before. It is fecking horrible.

It certainly puts one to the test does sickness, it is quite tiring remembering to try and see the dhamma (four noble truths) in each moment and to disengage from the pain and not suffer, only to wish it would stop the next moment, then remembering dhamma again. I don’t know how advanced practioners do it, how they manage to not suffer when in pain, but I really respect and admire them. Sickness definitely humbles one.

Still I feel an odd peace, my life has not been wasted. I have grown spiritually and that’s all that matters in the end. The true wealth is within. I may be poor and considered a loser by the standards of the material world, but spiritually I feel like I have been very fortunate and the thought occured to me if I die now I don’t mind at all, I feel I can go with some peace and dignity and no regrets.

There’s a story in the suttas about a wise king who answered the Buddha skillfully when he asked him what he would do if armies where coming for him in all directions crushing everything in their path, and the king answered he would practise generosity.

I am not wealthy like the king, but generosity doesn’t have to be just about money. One can be generous in all sorts of ways. Even in poverty and lieing in bed sick one can still practise generosity by sending metta (loving-kindness) energy to others. And a mind imbued with loving-kindness is an excellent state of mind to be in when sick and also at the moment of death.

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