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Time is Change, Air is Change, Sound is Change.

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I stand watching the ocean and become aware of the sounds happening all around. I notice there is ringing in my ears, but instead of judging it, I just listen to it with gentle curiosity. Noticing how it keeps changing. How sound is change. How sound needs time, it can’t work without it.

We can preserve an image in a moment, but not sound. Without time, sound doesn’t work. What is sound? It is waves of vibrating air molecules hitting the eardrum, which then creates a sense impression in the mind.

I notice the sound of seagulls and feel the breeze and the cool air all around and within me. It feels invigorating, uplifts my mood, and my attention becomes centred on the air element.

Thoughts continue in the background like whispy white noise, and I notice how similar they are to the ringing in the ears, constantly changing. I feel grateful for the freedom to be able to disengage from them, to stop identifying with them. To be able to absorb my attention into something else instead, something more tranquil. Just that in itself can feel like freedom. It is no fun being caught up in the head. Constant thinking can be tiring and feel like torture.

I keep the body still and upright, enjoying the solidity, the weight, the feeling of the earth element grounding me. I feel the earth below spreading out boundless in all directions, and this helps to steady the mind and bring some composure.


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Asoka

The Five Precepts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 17 Oct 2023, 21:08

Upāsaka means male lay follower. A female lay follower is called an Upāsikā. We make the determination to follow the five precepts.

These (in no particular order) are:

  • To refrain from false and harmful speech.
  • To refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
  • To refrain from taking what is not given.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct (misconduct here is defined as infidelity or sexual abuse).
  • To refrain from consuming intoxicants that lead to careless behaviour and breaking the other four precepts.

They aren’t vows or commandments. They are training rules and guidelines that one strives to follow to live a moral life and maintain peace of mind.

The precepts are important for two reasons. First, by keeping them, you are no longer causing harm in society. This means you become a person that others can trust. Which is important. We all know stories of spiritual people who tarnish the reputation of spirituality by behaving in immoral ways.

The other reason is for one’s own benefit. By taking the precepts, one is training the mind to abandon unwholesome tendencies that lead to suffering (both for ourselves and others). By not engaging in immoral activities, one does not become stressed by the unwanted repercussions that come back at you (like a boomerang).

The precepts cover roughly a third of the noble eightfold path (right speech, right action, right livelihood).

The five precepts will also reveal the mental dispositions that keep causing us problems in life.

For instance, my biggest problem was with intoxicants. It was a long, hard struggle for me to become free of those. I used to be an addict and have had problems with substance abuse since I was a kid. I won’t go into details here because it will make this article too long. But I may perhaps share more about that in a future article when I am feeling braver.

Without a foundation in morality, one will struggle to make much progress on the spiritual path. Morality is an important component for developing peace of mind.

Without it, one will also struggle to meditate. Regret and remorse will prevent one from entering the deep states of absorption known as samādhi.



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Asoka

Pain, the power of intention, and Samadhi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 6 Oct 2023, 21:17

Quite fatigued today. Lots of rain here. I have a sore shoulder, the pain is unrelenting, it has been like this for weeks, I have no idea what I’ve done to it. I probably should see a doctor, but I really dislike using phones and making appointments and don’t feel up to the traveling, so I keep putting it off.

Whilst sat in meditation today I remembered the Buddha say that he suffered from backache almost constantly, and that the only time he got relief from it was when he went into samadhi. So, I tried that, but couldn’t get into samadhi. So, I turned to face the pain instead. Felt it throbbing in my shoulder and noticed how it spread down my arm with a buzzing sort of pain.

I tried to just see the pain as sensations without the perception of like or dislike. Exploring what happens when I move the breath energy through that area, using the breath to bring ease to it. Sometimes that worked and other times it didn’t.

It was hard to sit still for long as my arm kept needing to be moved into different positions as it got very uncomfortable. It was hard practising walking meditation also, as the movement kept jarring the shoulder. But there were moments where I stayed centred with the meditation object and remained there for a good while, and I did seem to enter a momentary samadhi and yes, the pain did go away. But maintaining that state was not always easy.

The mind would sometimes show a lack of inclination to practise, and thoughts about doing something else grabbed my attention. Then I remembered that this is one of the five hindrances, and I don’t have to follow these impulses or thoughts.

(n.b. the five hindrances are: greed, hate, sloth, restlessness, and doubt)

I have the power to choose, to set an intention. I can consciously choose to continue meditating and stay with the object of mindfulness. That’s where my power lies, in choosing. So, I choose to do so each moment, making that choice over and over instead of going along with the hindrances. That worked for a bit, but sometimes a loud noise would pull me out of it, and I had to start again. 

Samadhi is not easy, but it is a very important part of the noble eightfold path. That unification of mind is essential. I notice the difference on the days I don’t practise. It definitely helps. 

Movement is exercise for the body, and stillness is exercise for the mind. 

A mind that keeps wandering and has difficulty become still, is a sign that it is getting out of shape. Learning how to bring the mind to stillness and steadying it, strengthens the mind, it does it a lot of good.

Even if the meditation seems like a waste of time. One can learn a lot about how the mind works from the simple exercise of attempting to keep it centred on one thing. It reveals a lot about what makes us tick, what our desires are, our angst, our delusions. Can be very interesting.

 


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Asoka

Sickness Became my Teacher When I Changed my Perception About it

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 30 Sep 2023, 22:24


They say the body is a temple. I contemplate this as I sit here in stillness, connecting with the aliveness within. This mysterious vibrating energy. This interdependent flow. It's a causal stream that's different from one moment to the next. Physics tells us that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It just changes form.

A crow 'caws' in a nearby tree. And some jackdaws 'chack' excitedly. A pigeon coos. And a neighbour drives past in their car. All these are different expressions of life.

The air feels cool and refreshing. Each breath an intimate connection to the air element and also to life. Without air, we soon die.

I am sick today. The body feels weak and fatigued. There's a fever, and a thorny bush in my chest and throat. And I notice that wishing for the illness to go away just makes things feel worse. It adds mental suffering on top of the physical.

---

"When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. And he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if someone were to shoot a man with an arrow, and right afterward, the man shoots himself with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental." - SN 36.6

---

I can't do much about physical suffering, but the mental suffering I do have some degree of control over. I have the ability to change the way I talk to myself about the experience. Doing this can have a powerful effect on the mind. The stories I tell myself have the power to alter my perception. And perception is the bridge between the physical and the mental.

I can tell myself not to let this experience be a problem. There's not much I can do about it anyway, so what's the point in adding more suffering on top of it. I can just let these unpleasant feelings in the body be as they are and not take them personally. Choose not to feel any hostility towards them. I can choose to be compassionate towards myself instead and show kindness to the body. It is nothing personal. All living beings get sick. It is a dhamma that is largely outside my control.

---

When you can't do anything to change what is happening.
Challenge yourself to change your response to what's happening.
That's where your power is. '
- the Buddha

---

I can choose to let that which is sensed be only that which is sensed. Without labels, without the story. It just becomes sensations and feelings then. And I can go into a flow state just sitting here and watching them arise, persist for a time, and pass away. Like someone sitting serenely on a riverbank under a tree. Watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river. But not jumping in and getting involved with it, not getting swept away by the current.

Being sick is not my preference, but we're seldom given those in life. We have to work with the hand the universe has dealt us. And most of us get a pretty average hand. But still, we have to make choices. Life is the game that must be played.

Some people's gardens are rockier than others, but rock gardens can be beautiful.

We each have to do the best we can with what we've got.

And those who are given much have a great responsibility to use what they have been given wisely.

Be careful what you wish for.

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Asoka

Be your own Guru, your own refuge

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 25 Sep 2023, 15:09


It’s been a weird few days, man, not being feeling quite myself. Got a bit of a low-grade fever and no medicine. Practising the way of managing painful feelings without taking them personally or getting caught up in the longing, irritability, and delusion about them. Just letting that which is sensed be that which is sensed without adding more to it than what’s already there.

I think making a livelihood out of writing is going to be difficult, a long uphill journey, but I will persevere. One day, it will mature and bear fruit, I am sure.

Sometimes people can be a bit offish with me, and I don’t know why. Sometimes Christian friends get a bit weird with me, I guess, because they feel mistrust because I am a Buddhist. The thing is, Buddhism is just a path that leads to the end of sorrow and suffering, to the end of greed, hate, and delusion. Whether you are theist or atheist, you can walk this path. Indeed, there are many Christian Buddhists out there.

Whatever helps you to row your boat up the stream (-:

I used to be a Christian long ago. But I lost faith in that religion. I disagree that one has to put all their hope into a saviour. People then become less inclined to put in the effort needed to become a Christ themselves. Believing some supreme being will do the work for them. But doesn’t the word ‘Christian’ imply they are to be like Christ on Earth?

I don’t think depending on another being to be your saviour is how this universe works. I think God helps those who help themselves. In Buddhism, one very much has to pull oneself up by their bootstraps and make effort, noone else can do that for you. You can be a theist or an atheist and still be a Buddhist. A belief in a supreme being is not part of the path. You learn to become your own saviour.


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Asoka

Iluminating wisdom

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 18 Sep 2023, 22:06


I am learning to become more aware of the mental dispositions that cause sorrow and suffering. With repetive practice, not giving up, being knocked down and getting up again repeatedly. My awareness is getting stronger, and I am becoming less ignorant of these tendencies of the mind. I think as I become less ignorant, I will wise up to them more, and as I wise up to them, I will feel less inclined to go along with them, which will make it is easier to let go of them.

I have encountered a few situations today that would normally make me angry, but I was mindful and even though I felt the anger arise in me, I saw how it would lead to suffering in the end and chose not to go along with it, to just drop it. The same can be done with longing and conceit. 

Not saying it is easy. I think it is like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. It takes many hours of practise to fully uproot ignorance. It can be done in one lifetime, but it can also take many of them. There will also be many failures on the way. 

Another thing I am learning is it is very easy to have a profound meditation experience and think you are enlightened afterwards. Sadly, this wears off, and then when a difficult life event happens, one soon discovers just how unenlightened they are. 

It is a very humbling experience when this happens, but it can also be a great teacher. Never punish yourself for making mistakes. We all do it. There isn’t a single human on Earth who hasn’t made them. Even the Buddha himself made some daft mistakes on his journey to enlightenment. 

The difference is, as awareness grows (with practise), one learns to look at mistakes differently and develop from them, making them part of the path. One learns how to turn something bad into something good. Our failures then become the fertiliser that ripens the fruit. So don't despair. We can learn from it all. 

 Dōgen defined a Buddha as someone who has great realisation of delusion.

...

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Asoka

The Revolutionary

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 15 Sep 2023, 11:33


This world is not easy. Poverty is hard. It is so challenging to make ends meet these days. The cost of living is high, and finding a way to generate an income feels impossible. Every door I open seems to get slammed in my face. Especially when suffering with health problems, it is hard to put in the hours needed to survive. The gig economy is a joke, working for peanuts, and the competition is fierce.

Many who do find work are exploited and dehumanised. Society is broken. Greed has destroyed it.

And then there’s the heartbreak of watching the natural world go extinct. I have watched it here. The decline of insects. Species of wildlife have disappeared. The sea here, just over a decade ago, was full of life. Now it is like a watery desert.

Then there’s war, refugees fleeing the horror of it, only to be greeted by coldness and hostility at the places they seek sanctuary, the places where many of the weapons that destroyed their countries are manufactured. Many dying on their arduous journey to get there.

What a Hellish world we’ve created. Economics is a joke. It is no longer fit for purpose. The wealthy don’t understand what it is like for those in poverty. They patronise us and tell us to work hard. Clueless as to how hard people are working to keep them seated on their perches while they shit on us.

I long to escape this madness. Is one of the things that drives me to seek enlightenment. I never want to come back to this world again. It is a slaughterhouse. A horrible place full of cruelty.

Sorry to be so negative and to rant. The problem with this world is greed, hatred, and delusion. That is the destructive force behind it all. And it doesn’t come from outside ourselves, it comes from within us.

The goal of Buddhist practise is the uprooting of greed, hate, and delusion from the mind. This the Buddha said is the end of suffering, the end of sorrow, the end of stress, grief, and emotional pain. Nibbana/nirvana, the deathless, lasting happiness, perfect peace, and Buddhist enlightenment is what is left behind when the mind is liberated from greed, hate, and delusion.

To strive for this is a noble act, especially nowadays when there’s so much poverty and inequality, when much life on this planet is going extinct. It is a compassionate thing to do for ourselves and others, including the myriad beings we share this planet with. And perhaps the most compassionate thing we can do for future generations who will inherit this Hell we’re creating.

We are not completely powerless. We may not be able to change the greed, hatred, and delusion out there in the world. But we can change it in ourselves. This is where our power lies.

And as each of us changes ourselves, we gradually change the world around us. It becomes a domino effect. For the evil currently destroying our world is dependent on causes and conditions.

This is what gives me hope. All conditioned phenomena are interdependent. Including our economic system that is causing so much harm not just to society but to the many other beings we share this planet with. If enough people choose to overcome the greed, hatred, and delusion within themselves, the world will change for the better, this is the real revolution.

...

Music video by Tracey Chapman "Talkin' About A Revolution"



...

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Asoka

Happiness more spiritual than the spiritual

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" And what, bhikkhus, is happiness more spiritual than the spiritual? When a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed reviews his mind liberated from lust, liberated from hatred, liberated from delusion, there arises happiness. This is called happiness more spiritual than the spiritual.

~ S 36.31 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)


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The four roads to psychic power

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 11 Sep 2023, 22:39



Four Bases of Psychic Power (satara iddhipada)

Desire or zeal (chanda)

Effort (viriya)

Mind (citta)

Investigation (vimamsa)


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Like a tusker in the wild

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I am going through another dark night. I feel this oppressive vibe crushing down on my mind. I am trying not to take it personally. It felt like some people were being a bit off with me today, but I am determined not to let other’s moods affect mine.

If other people judge me, well that’s their problem. I know I have been far from perfect in the past, but that is the past. It is not who I am now, I am not the same person I was back then.

I have done my best to learn from past mistakes but reliving them over and over is not going to help anyone. The best thing I can do is resolve never to make those same mistakes again and move on, keep persevering on the noble eightfold path. Turn something bad into something good. That’s how I make amends and put right the bad kamma from the past. But I won’t punish myself anymore for mistakes I made when I was younger. I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. It is cruel to punish oneself for the past. Noone can go back and change it. What good does it do to continually relive it. I am not that person anymore. I’ve changed.

I will just allow myself to be misunderstood by others without worrying about correcting them. I know what’s in my heart and where I am in my spiritual development, as do my deva friends. What others think of me is their business. I don’t have to take on board anyone else’s negativity. I am not responsible for what others think. I am only responsible for what I think. And I don’t want to think negative thoughts or feel ill will.

I remember something a Buddhist teacher said once, that when difficulties like this arise, remember it is just the Buddha testing you, to see how far gone you are (-:

I have been here before, and the dark night usually happens just before I am about to make a sudden transition and make progress. It often feels darkest just before the light returns and becomes brighter still.

The dark night can be a sign one is making progress on the spiritual journey. I am getting familiar with this pattern. What I must do is try very hard not to react to it. No matter how uncomfortable and agitated I feel. I must not say or do anything I will regret later. Try to find some stillness and equanimity.

The truth is that I am the cause of my suffering, no one else is. It is the craving within me that causes my problems. The greed, hate, delusion, ignorance, and conceit. It isn’t something outside the mind, it is something within it. And that means I have the power to change it.

 If I react to the dark night, it will only increase the tendency of the mind to react negatively to it again in the future. But by choosing not to react, to patiently endure the unpleasant feelings and practise the four right efforts. That negative tendency of the mind gets weaker, and the power of right effort and mindfulness gets stronger.

This world can make you feel ashamed to be alone. But it is okay to be alone. I can be my own best friend. My own teacher, my own refuge. There’s great power in seeing that.

The noble eightfold path goes against the stream of this modern world, and the further one gets on the path, the lonelier it can feel.

 It has always been that way though, only the minority of people search for the higher paths and fruits. The majority just want the world and are content to spend their days chasing after sense-impressions and never going beyond that. But I no longer find excitement in the world. The things I used to enjoy; I have lost interest in now. I hunger for higher things. For nibbana, for liberation from craving, relief from the pain of wanting.

And this spiritual hunger is not a bad thing. Some people criticise me for having the desire to liberate the mind. But the Buddha encouraged it, he talked about right desire, he called it chanda. If one does not aspire to realise nibbana, one will never make effort, and if one never makes effort, one will never realise the paths and fruits of enlightenment. Effort is fuelled by desire. It’s what keeps you walking. It is only when the work has been done, that one lets go of the desire for liberation.

Do not be afraid to be alone. Sometimes solitude is the wisest course of action to take when the world is on fire with greed, hate and delusion. Sometimes solitude is the only way to make progress on the path.

In the words of the Buddha:

If you find an alert companion, a wise and virtuous friend, then, overcoming all adversities, wander with them, joyful and mindful.

If you find no alert companion, no wise and virtuous friend, then, like a king who flees his conquered realm, wander alone like a tusker in the wilds.

It’s better to wander alone, than have fellowship with fools. Wander alone and do no wrong, at ease like a tusker in the wilds.

[MN128] 

https://suttacentral.net/mn128








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Asoka

The Buddha's teaching to Vaccha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 10 Sep 2023, 18:07


Vaccha, “speculative view” is something that the Tathāgata has put away. 

For the Tathāgata, Vaccha, has seen this:

 “Such is material form, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such is perception, such its origin, such its disappearance.
Such are mental formations, such their origin, such their disappearance.
Such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.”

 Therefore, I say, with the destruction, fading away, cessation, giving up, and relinquishing of all conceivings, all musings, all I-making, mine-making, and the underlying tendency to conceit, the Tathāgata is liberated through not clinging.

~ M 72.15 (Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi trans. With the word 'excogitations' changed to 'musings' by Upasaka Asoka.)






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Crossing the flood

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The onus is very much on oneself to do the work, no one else can do it for us. None but ourselves can free our mind. One must make effort.

Bear in mind it is said there are 84 0000 dhamma doors that lead to nibbana. The Buddha taught many paths and skilful means over his 45-year teaching career. We are all different, with different interests and dispositions, and so we must make our own raft out of the huge amount of teachings passed down to us over the ages, find the ones that suit us. There isn't one size that fits all. 

In the metaphor of the raft, it isn't a fancy raft that gets us to the other shore. It is just a bundle of sticks placed under the arms to keep us afloat while we paddle across the flood using the four limbs of right effort.

We don't have to know it all. Just grab a bundle of teachings from the huge pile handed down to us, those that resonate with you and make those into your raft. 

And gently paddle, pace yourself, tune, and balance the energy of right effort:

 Thus, have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Then, when the night had advanced, a certain devatā of stunning beauty, illuminating the entire Jeta’s Grove, approached the Blessed One. Having approached, he paid homage to the Blessed One, stood to one side, and said to him:

“How, dear sir, did you cross the flood?”

“By not halting, friend, and by not straining I crossed the flood.”

“But how is it, dear sir, that by not halting and by not straining you crossed the flood?”

“When I came to a standstill, friend, then I sank; but when I struggled, then I got swept away. It is in this way, friend, that by not halting and by not straining I crossed the flood.”

~ S 1.1 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)

 


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Gradual incline

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The reason Buddhist teachings are often in the form of numbered lists is because at the time of the Buddha things weren't written down. The Buddha and the monks couldn't read or write, so they memorised the teachings. Making them into numbered lists made them easier for memory and recall. Then on their own, a person would contemplate and reflect on their meaning, unpack them, investigate them, fill in the details through their own practise and experience of life. 

 The reason we can't go straight to the deathless, why we need to study and practise, is because the concept of letting go is easy enough to see intellectually, but we are all conditioned and have formed habits that get in the way and make it hard to let go. That's why one must undergo training to decondition the conditioning. Then old habits gradually fall away, and new ones develop that help us to realise the state of non-clinging, or non-attachment. The end of suffering.

 The intellectual thinking part is also important as it helps us understand where we are going and what the teachings are for, why we are practising and what the practise is leading towards. Another translation of right view is right understanding.

But it is a gradual process. Which involves making the five aggregates into a path, the noble eightfold path. The robe of liberation. The Buddha likened the path to the continental shelf of India, that gradually slopes down, and eventually reaches a point where it suddenly drops off into the abyss. That's what the path does, it gradually leads us in the direction of nibbana (the end of suffering). And when the path factors are sufficiently developed, there comes the sudden insight, the Eureka moment, were we see something we cannot unsee - that's the drop-off point, enlightenment. From there, there's no going back, one will never see things the same way again. 

It doesn't mean one is separate from the world though, it just means one stops clinging to it, stops yearning for things. The pain of wanting is gone. Craving is extinguished. Conceit is seen through, and the involuntary movements of the mind cease - which brings profound relief. A peace and happiness not dependent on conditions, independent of the world. And because it is not dependent on conditions, it lasts, and doesn't end. 

But love and compassion for other beings is still there. Friendship and connection are still there. That doesn't go. If anything, it grows. Loving-kindness becomes unlimited, immeasurable, abundant.

Without the ego placing limitations on it, one's compassion becomes boundless. 

The whole process is illustrated nicely in the ten Ox-herding pictures in Zen.

...

 


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Asoka

What remains

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 8 Sep 2023, 23:11


The body
Sensations
Feelings
Perceptions
Thoughts
Sense consciousness.

It all comes from what is sensed in the world around.

The world of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, words and ideas.
 
But I am not any of these things.
They are not me or mine.

Am I the objects in the world?
Am I sense-impressions and words?

Dependently originated they do not last.
As conditions change so do they.

This body is not mine. It grew by itself.
A biological process I have no control over.
It changes whether I like it or not.
It ages, gets sick, will one day die.
If it was mine, I would be able to tell it to stop ageing, to not die.
To be handsome, not ugly.
But it changes regardless of what I say.

If I was to chop off a body part and lay it on the ground.
Is that body part the self?

Where is the self in these five streams?
These five aggregates of clinging:
body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, sense-consciousness.

When one lets go of identifying with them
Filters out all that is not self.

What remains?

A boundless emptiness not dependent on conditions
A state that isn’t born and doesn’t die
The unconditioned
Peace
Liberation
Relief from the pain of wanting.

Hard to put into words.
But I will keep trying.



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The five right exertions

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 7 Sep 2023, 19:37


In the Noble eightfold path, the sixth factor is Right Effort. It has five aspects to it. 

 These are the four right exertions, or four right efforts, and the tuning of energy so that it is neither too lax, nor too tight. One learns to tune the energy of effort so that one doesn't become too lazy in their practise, whilst also avoiding the other extreme of over-exertion, overdoing it, and straining the mind. Both extremes are to be avoided. A bit like tuning a guitar string, so that it sounds just right. You want to tune effort so that you don't stagnate in your practise, but you also don't burn out either. If you try too hard you will end up feeling aversion towards meditation practise and dhamma, and if you don't make effort, you will not develop or make progress.

The four right efforts are:

1. Preventing unwholesome states of mind arising

This involves talking to oneself in the morning when you get up to start the day. You prep the mind and tell yourself: 'I will avoid the folly of the fault-finding mind; and I will avoid the folly of the greedy/lustful mind."

 As one goes about the day one aspires to hold on to the sign of peace and keep one's consciousness secluded from anger/hate and lust/greed. This is done by avoiding unwise attention to the fault (both in oneself and in others); and by avoiding unwise attention to the beautiful. 

 One cannot avoid sensing things in the world, we can't walk around with our eyes closed etc, we will be bombarded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, words, and ideas. It isn't about shutting off the senses, it is about practising wise attention to them, so they don't lead us to greed, hate and delusion. One senses what is sensed without adding any more to it.

I find the teaching the Buddha gave to Bahiya helpful here: 

'In the seen, there is only the seen.
In the heard, there is only the heard.
In the sensed, there is only the sensed.
In the cognized, there is only the cognized.
This Bahiya is how you should train yourself.

 When for you Bahiya there is:

 In the seen, only the seen.
In the heard, only the heard.
In the sensed, only the sensed.
In the cognized, only the cognized.

Then there is no you in connection to that.
And when there is no you in connection to that.
There is no you there.
And when there is no you there.
You are neither here nor there, nor in between the two.
This, just this, is the end of suffering.'

2. Removal of unwholesome states of mind should they arise

The second right effort is used when the first right effort: prevention, fails. This is about removing (letting go of, abandoning) greed, aversion, and delusion, (aka the five hindrances: longing, aversion, sloth, restlessness/worry, and doubt) should they arise in the mind. The Buddha suggests five strategies for doing this.

The first is dismissal and replacement, i.e. replacing the unwholesome state of mind with its opposite. Such as replacing anger with calmness or loving-kindness (metta). Like a carpenter knocking out a peg by replacing it with another.

 If that fails then one uses a healthy sense of shame, reflecting on how for example, anger is a great stain on the personality, how it is ignoble and leads to painful states of mind for oneself and others. This sense of shame can help one let go of it. The Buddha likens it to a person about to go out to meet some people they respect and admire. They look at themselves in a mirror and see the corpse of a snake hanging round their neck, and feeling repulsed by it they immediately remove it, as that is not how one wants to appear in front of people one respects and admires. 

If that fails then one is to ignore the unwholesome state of mind, not pay attention to it, as if turning away from a sight one does not wish to see. A Nun described it during a retreat I attended, as being like walking down the street and seeing some dogshit on the pavement, one is careful not to step into it. One can also use distraction as well, find something that distracts the mind from the unwholesome feelings, till they cease.

If that fails one turns to face it, looks directly at it. And then brings oneself of it gradually in stages. The Buddha uses a cartoon metaphor of a man running, who says to himself, why am I running when I could be walking? Then he says to himself, why am I walking when I could be standing? Then why am I standing when I could be sitting? Why am I sitting when I could be lying down? At each stage one reviews if it is working, noticing if the unwholesome state of mind is weakening, if it is that means you are going in the right direction and should keep doing what you are doing, eventually it will cease.

If that strategy fails then the Buddha suggests as a last resort one suppresses the unwholesome state of mind. He uses the metaphor of a strong man pinning down a weaker man. He makes it clear one must not allow that unwholesome state to express itself as it can lead to suffering for both oneself and others.

There are other strategies for abandoning unwholesome states of mind. One must experiment and find what is helpful for you. Investigate in your own life, see what works. We are all unique and conditioned differently. The way I do things, may not necessarily work for everyone else. We must know ourselves and find our own way. It doesn't matter what strategy you use. The main thing is to be mindful, investigate and make effort. Find ways of bringing yourself out of destructive states of mind before they cause harm to oneself and others, before they cause suffering, that's the main reason. It is not a commandment; it isn't about judging anyone or being authoritarian. What other people do is up to them, it's their business. The reason one abandons greed, hate, and delusion is because they cause us suffering, and the noble eightfold path is about putting an end to suffering.

3. Generating wholesome states of mind

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: 1. mindfulness, 2. investigation, 3.effort (energy), 4.joy, 5. calmness, 6. samadhi (aka collectedness, concentration, composure, unification of mind, stillness), and 7. equanimity (Balance). 

The Brahma viharas are also wholesome states of mind, these are: loving-kindness/friendliness/goodwill (metta), compassion (karuna), joy in the happiness of others (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha). In fact, practising the brahma viharas fulfils much of the eightfold path and can take you to the doorstep of nibbana. The brahma viharas fulfils, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (concentration). When one has perfected the brahma viharas, one then needs to look again at right view and penetrate and understand the four noble truths,

1. Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood)
2. Knowledge of the cause of suffering (which is to be abandoned)
3. Knowledge of the end of suffering (which is to be realised)
4. Knowledge of the way that leads to the end of suffering (which is to be developed)  

One can unlock the door to nibbana with a key that has three teeth which fit the lock. The three teeth that fit the lock are the understanding of: anicca (impermanence, change), dukkha (stress, sorrow, unsatisfactoriness, grief, suffering), and anatta (not-self). One investigates conditioned phenomena, investigates the five aggregates (body, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, sense-consciousness), and observes the three characteristics in them. And when with wisdom and insight, with direct knowing and experience in one's own life, (not just an intellectual understanding). The mind stops clinging to conditioned phenomena, and what remains then is the deathless, the unconditioned, nibbana. Which is an experience, it is not annihilation. It goes beyond concepts of existence and non-existence. Beyond all views. I think in the Mahayana tradition it is known as Buddha nature, or the original mind. And from there without the ego getting in the way and attaching conditions to things, no longer caught in the self-centred dream, unlimited, immeasurable, boundless compassion for all beings can flow. 

4. Sustaining wholesome states of mind

The fourth right effort is about keeping the wholesome states of mind going continuously, throughout the day. On and off the cushion.

In the words of the Buddha:

'One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and persevering.
One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and full development of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
 '

Hope this helps others out there. I have found the teaching on right effort to be very helpful and empowering for me. If one keeps practising, the effort builds up a momentum and energy of its own and it then gets easier, becomes more automatic. It is just building habits really.

 I still have much work to do, but I can testify that this works. It is powerful stuff, and the Buddha's teachings on right effort are not often taught in the West, which is a shame, because they are so important. Right effort is the third factor in the seven factors of enlightenment, aka energy, and the Buddha mentions this factor more times than any other factor, even more so than mindfulness. It is very important, and one won't make much progress without making effort.

This isn't me teaching or anything. I am not a teacher, and I am not telling others what to do with their lives. It is just my perspective and what I practise with in my own life that I have found helpful. It may or may not be helpful to others. And I honestly won't take it personally if it isn't anyone else’s cup of tea. 

I find it is useful for keeping the precepts, as well as developing the other aspects of the path, or any other skill in life you want to learn actually. 

Take care.

May we all be safe, well, peaceful and happy.

...



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Calming anger

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Aug 2023, 21:02


" When angry states of mind arise in meditation, balance them by developing feelings of loving-kindness. If someone does something bad or gets angry, don’t get angry yourself. If you do, you are being more ignorant than they. Be wise. Keep in mind compassion, for that person is suffering. Fill your mind with loving-kindness as if he were a dear brother.”  -Ajahn Chah

Anger is suffering. It feels unpleasant. Like a sickness. A poison. Harming the body.

Metta (loving-kindness) feels good. It feels pleasant. Like a medicine. It helps heal the body. Metta fosters connection and friendship. Is good for our health and wellbeing, as well as everyone else’s. 

Anger harms the body; metta heals it. 
Anger harms society; metta heals it.

It can feel extremely challenging to go from anger to metta (loving-kindness) though. Sometimes I can't just snap myself out of an angry state.

Something interesting about feelings: a neutral feeling feels pleasant after a painful feeling. Knowing this can be helpful.

It takes a bit of effort, and some will power at first. One must refuse to enter into any dialogue with the mind. Ignore thoughts. This is not an intellectual matter. For me, anger is a state of emergency, a dangerous fire I need to put out ASAP.

I must forget the past, forget the future, forget the self, forget what the anger is even about, forget it all, words are not what’s needed. There’s no reasoning with a mind absorbed in anger. Keep attentive to the neutral feeling, which becomes easier to do as the mind notices it feels more pleasant than being angry

Let what is sensed be just what is sensed, without adding anymore to it. 

Awareness of space. Of the elements, earth, water, or air.

The touch of clothing on the skin.

A cool breeze can also help.

Half-closing my eyes reduces the visual information coming in.
Which can ease agitation. It is amazing how much difference half-closing one’s eyes makes. It helps reduce sensory input, which can be calming.

Pacing back and forth, and gradually slowing my pace down, till it becomes a calm serene walking pace. Imagining myself walking like a Buddha.

Walking can feel good, because it has this feeling that you are walking through stuff, walking it out of your system. I like the feeling of motion, the sensations in the feet, the feeling of the space around the body.

When the mind is calm, metta is easier to practise which brings pleasant feelings.

The neutral feeling like a bridge from anger to loving-kindness.

There's a quote I remember, but not sure who said it. (I can't find it anywhere online.) But it was by a forest monk (I think). Someone asked him if greed, anger, and conceit still arose in his mind. He answered 'yes, but there isn't anywhere for it to land, so nothing becomes of it.'

Sometimes I can centre on an empty space within. When I go there the fire of anger can’t take a hold and goes out. Same with wanting, conceit and delusion. They don’t affect me when I am centred with emptiness. It all just stops, ceases before it can take a hold. There’s a lovely feeling in the heart space then. It becomes a place of no fear and can feel freeing and peaceful.

 photo of a tree


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Note to not-self

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' When you can't do anything to change what is happening.

Challenge yourself to change your response to what's happening.

That's where your power is. '

- the Buddha (I think).

...


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Just this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 16:36


Sitting here
Sounds all around.
Seagulls sqawking,
Dogs barking,
Cars trafficking.
People talking.
Construction work
and the odd chainsaw.
Cars scrunching the gravel
as they come and go.

I meditate.
Investigate.
The Buddha's teaching to Bahiya.

To let a sound be just a sound.
To let that which is sensed
be only that which is sensed.
Awareness and knowing,
being just that.
Without adding any more to it.
Without the 'I' making.
The story of
the person.

Neither here, nor there, nor inbetween the two.
This, the Buddha said, is the end of suffering.

It's the longing, the loathing, and conceit.
The impatience.
The angst.
The getting stressed
and taking it personally.
That's what gets in the way.
That's the problem.
That's what I need to let go of.

Without that there is just this.
And when there is just this.
there is no subject, no object.

The self disappears.

And when that happens there is peace.

...

-Asoka

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Satta bojjhanga (The seven factors of awakening)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Aug 2023, 10:44


'Herein the disciple rouses his will to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.' - The Buddha

Simultaneously with the removal of the defilements (craving, ill-will, dullness/drowsiness, restlessness/worry, doubt). Right effort also has the task of cultivating wholesome states of mind. This involves two divisions: the arousing of wholesome states not yet arisen and the maturation of wholesome states already arisen.

Though the wholesome states to be developed can be grouped in various ways --- serenity and insight, the four foundations of mindfulness, the eight factors of the path, etc. --- the Buddha lays special stress on a set called the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration (samadhi), and equanimity.

The seven states are grouped together as 'enlightenment factors' both because they lead to enlightenment and because they constitute enlightenment. In the preliminary stages of the path they prepare the way for the great realization; in the end they remain as its components. The experience of enlightenment, perfect and complete understanding, is just these seven components working in unison to break all shackles and bring final release from sorrow.

The way to enlightenment starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness clears the ground for insight into the nature of things by bringing to light phenomena in the now, the present moment, stripped of all subjective commentary, interpretations, and projections.

Then, when mindfulness has brought the bare phenomena into focus, the factor of investigation steps in to search out their characteristics, conditions, and consequences. Whereas mindfulness is basically receptive, investigation is an active factor which unflinchingly probes, analyzes, and dissects phenomena to uncover their fundamental structures.

The work of investigation requires energy, the third factor of enlightenment, which mounts in three stages. The first inceptive energy, shakes off lethargy and arouses intitial enthusiasm. As the work of contemplation advances, energy gathers momentum and enters the second stage, perseverance, wherein it propels the practise without slackening. Finally, at the peak, energy reaches the third stage, invincibility, where it drives contemplation forward leaving the hindrances powerless to stop it.

As energy increases, the fourth factor of enlightenment is quickened. This is rapture, a pleasurable interest in the object. Rapture gradually builds up, ascending to ecstatic heights: waves of bliss run through the body, the mind glows with joy, fervor and confidence intensify. But these experiences, as encouraging as they are, still contain a flaw: they create an excitation verging on restlessness. 

With further practice, however, rapture subsides and a tone of quietness sets in signalling the rise of the fifth factor, tranquility. Rapture remains present, but it is now subdued, and the work of contemplation proceeds with self-possessed serenity.

Tranquility brings to ripeness samadhi (concentration), the sixth factor, one-pointed unification of mind. Then, with the deepening of samadhi, the last enlightenment factor comes into dominance. 

This is equanimity, inward poise and balance free from the two defects of excitement and inertia. When dullness prevails, energy must be aroused; when excitement prevails, it is necessary to exercise restraint. But when both these defects have been vanquished the practice can unfold evenly without need for concern. The mind of equanimity is compared to the driver of a chariot when the horses are moving at a steady pace: he neither has to urge them forward nor hold them back, but can just sit comfortably and watch the scenery go by. Equanimity has the same "on-looking" quality.

When the other factors are balanced the mind remains poised watching the play of phenomena.

Maintain Arisen Wholesom States

Herein the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.  
- The Buddha

This last of the four right efforts aims at maintaining the arisen wholesome factors and bringing them to maturity. Called the "endeavour to maintain", it is explained as the effort to "keep firmly in mind a favorable object of concentration that has arisen." The work of guarding the object causes the seven enlightenment factors to gain stability and gradually increase in strength until they issue in the liberating realization. This marks the culmination of right effort, the goal in which the countless individual acts of exertion finally reach fulfilment. "

By Bhikkhu Bodhi (Excerpt from the book, The Noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering)

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Teaching given to Bahiya

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 17:41


The Buddha to Bahiya:
 
' In the seen there is only the seen,
in the heard, there is only the heard,
in the sensed there is only the sensed,
in the cognized there is only the cognized:
This, Bahiya, is how you should train yourself.

When, Bahiya, there is for you
in the seen only the seen,
in the heard only the heard,
in the sensed only the sensed,
in the cognized only the cognized,
then, Bahiya, there is no 'you'
in connection with that.

When, Bahiya, there is no 'you' in connection with that,
there is no 'you' there,
When, Bahiya, there is no 'you' there.
then, Bahiya, you are neither here
nor there
nor in between the two.
This, just this, is the end of suffering. '

--- Ud 1.10

...

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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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Five strategies for mastering the pathways of thought

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 9 Aug 2023, 17:22


' Just as a skilled physician has different medicines for different ailments, so the Buddha has different antidotes for the different hindrances, some equally applicable to all, some geared to a particular hindrance.

(N.b. The five hindrances are: 1. craving, 2. ill will, 3. dullness and drowsiness, 4. restlessness and worry/remorse, 5. doubt.)

In an important discourse the Buddha explains five techniques for expelling distracting thoughts.

1. The first is to expel the defiled thought with a wholesome thought which is its exact opposite, analogous to the way a carpenter might use a new peg to drive out an old one. For each of the five hindrances there is a specific remedy, a line of meditation designed expressly to deflate it and destroy it. This remedy can be applied intermittently, when a hindrance springs up and disrupts meditation on the primary subject; or it can be taken as a primary subject itself, used to counter a defilement repeatedly seen to be a persistent obstacle to one’s practice.

For craving a remedy of general application is the meditation on impermanence, which knocks away the underlying prop of clinging, the implicit assumption that the objects clung to are stable and durable.

For craving in the specific form of sensual lust the most potent antidote is the contemplation of the unattractive nature of the body.

Ill will meets its proper remedy in the meditation on loving-kindness (metta), which banishes all traces of hatred and anger through the methodical radiation of the altruistic wish that all beings be well and happy.

The dispelling of dullness and drowsiness calls for a special effort to arouse energy, for which several methods are suggested: the visualization of a brilliant ball of light, getting up and doing a period of brisk walking meditation, reflection on death, or simply making a firm determination to continue striving.

Restlessness and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out flow of the breath.

In the case of doubt the special remedy is investigation: to make inquiries, ask questions, and study the teachings until the obscure points become clear.

Whereas this first of the five methods for expelling the hindrances involves a one-to-one alignment between a hindrance and its remedy, the other four utilize general approaches.

2. The second marshals the forces of shame (hiri) and moral dread (ottappa) to abandon the unwanted thought: one reflects on the thought as vile and ignoble or considers its undesirable consequences until an inner revulsion sets in which drives the thought away.

3. The third method involves a deliberate diversion of attention. When an unwholesome thought arises and clamours to be noticed, instead of indulging it one simply shuts it out by redirecting one’s attention elsewhere, as if closing one’s eyes or looking away to avoid an unpleasant sight.

4. The fourth method uses the opposite approach. Instead of turning away from the unwanted thought, one confronts it directly as an object, scrutinizes its features, and investigates its source. When this is done the thought quiets down and eventually disappears. For an unwholesome thought is like a thief: it only creates trouble when its operation is concealed, but put under observation it becomes tame.

5. The fifth method, to be used only as a last resort, is suppression — vigorously restraining the unwholesome thought with the power of the will in the way a strong man might throw a weaker man to the ground and keep him pinned there with his weight.

By applying these five methods with skill and discretion, the Buddha says, one becomes a master of all the pathways of thought. One is no longer the subject of the mind but its master. Whatever thought one wants to think, that one will think. Whatever thought one does not want to think, that one will not think. Even if unwholesome thoughts occasionally arise, one can dispel them immediately, just as quickly as a red-hot pan will turn to steam a few chance drops of water. '

- by Bhikkhu Bodhi (from, The noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering ) available for free at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

'Herein the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil, unwholesome states that have arisen and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives. He does not retain any thought of craving, ill will, or harmfulness, or any other evil and unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.' - The Buddha

...

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Five and Seven

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 25 Aug 2023, 20:19


Craving
Ill-will
Sloth
Agitation
Doubt

These are the five hindrances. The enemies of rapture.
When these five are dissolved, there is an upwelling of relief. 
This relief produces joy and pleasure in the mind.

The Buddha then advises one to spread that joy and pleasure throughout the entire body. Till it is saturated with it.

But this is hard to do when the hindrances are present. So one needs the seven enlightenment factors: 

Mindfulness --> Investigation --> Energy (aka effort) --> Joy --> Calmness --> Samhadi --> Equanimity.

These seven are the nemesis of the five, working together to seclude the mind from their influence.

The five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment are mutually exclusive. 
Only one of them can occupy a single mind moment at a time. 

We don't actually multi-task, we just have very fast discrete moments of consciousness. 

Each mind moment is a bit like an old fashioned movie projector, that reads one slide at a time, but goes so fast as to seem like it is all happening at once. 

Each slide of the movie projecter is like a single mind moment. A mind state.

With perseverance and effort, one keeps bringing mindfulness back to the meditation object and sustaining attention to it. This recreates the same mind moments over and over. Which steadies the mind and creates a perception of stillness. This isolates consciousness from the five hindrances. Which brings relief from the emotional stress that comes from those states of mind. 

Joy is an important ally, it uplifts us. Joy brings good energy which can help stop one getting drowsy in meditation. 

We naturally generate joy when we become interested in something. When we find something interesting, we get absorbed in it. How does one generate interest in something as simple as the breath, so that the mind wants to stay with it contentedly and doesn't wander off anyplace else?

Joy naturally leads to serenity (calmness), which is still joy but a calmer more refined joy. The excitement has settled but everything still feels very pleasant. 

Samhadi is when the mind becomes unified, all of it gathered together, collected, composed, centred. It is whole-hearted. All of you is present. The mind is happy to be meditating, and doesn't want to be anywhere else. 

The unification of samhadi naturally leads to the different energies of the mind becoming balanced in a state of equanimity. Which is an exquisite expansive state of mind. A wonderful coolness, spaciousness, emptiness, freedom, clarity. It is not dull and unemotional, far from it, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful states of mind one can experience in this life. Hard to get to though, which is a shame, because it is so useful for us. It is the mind tuned into beautiful harmony, no longer clinging. Non-attachment feels like freedom.

This state of equanimity persists for a time after meditation. Whereupon one can direct the mind towards anything and the mind will see it all clearly. 

One simile the Buddha uses is of someone looking at their reflection in a pool of water. The water symbolises the mind. Desire is like dye on the water which distorts the reflection; ill-will is like boiling water; sloth is like stagnant water; restlessness is like water agitated by the wind; and doubt is like water that is clouded with mud making it hard to see anything. Each of these stop the person being able to see their face clearly in the water. When the five hindrances are no longer present, the water becomes clear and still, and then the person is able to see themselves clearly. 

One thing I have found helpful to do sometimes after meditation, or sometimes before is to listen to a dhamma talk.This can bring insight and also rouse up the desire to practise when the inclination isn't there.

Meditation for me is a mix of walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. It is good to remember that one can meditate in any of those four postures, because it can become uncomfortable to stay in the same posture for too long. Changing postures is helpful.


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Summary of stages in Mindfulness of breathing, anapanasati (ultra-concise version)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 30 Jul 2023, 16:16


This is a gradual training. 

Find somewhere secluded where one won't be disturbed.

Putting aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.
Setting aside all worldly concerns. 

One trains thus:

Mindfulness of the body

1. To begin just simply notice if the breath is long or short.

2. Then pay attention to the whole of the breath from start to finish.

3. Become sensitive to the body as you breathe in and out. 

4. Breathe calming the body. 

Mindfulness of Feelings

5. Breathe sensitive to joy.

6. Breathe experiencing pleasure. 

7. Breathe sensitive to thoughts.

8. Breathe calming thoughts.

Mindfulness of mind states:

9. Breathe sensitive to one's state of mind.

10. Breathe satisfying and gladdening the mind.

11. Breathe steadying the mind.

12. Breathe releasing the mind.

Mindfulness of dhammas:

13. Breathe contemplating change. (impermanence, anicca, dependent origination). 

14. Breathe contemplating the fading of craving. (Dispassion)

16. Breathe contemplating cessation. (of suffering).

17. Breathe abandoning greed, hate, and delusion. (renunciation).

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Psychic weather front

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Sometimes I feel alive, enthusiastic, full of excitement and wonder. Other times I am like a flat battery that can't seem to hold its charge or see much hope in anything. Other times there's an odd mix of brain chemistry that is so horrible I can't put it into words. 

It is helpful for me to remember the brain is the body. It is dependent on conditions largely outside my control, meaning it will change. It won't always function in the way I wish it would, and eventually it will cease when the conditions it depends on cease.

That is the way of things with dependent origination. Conditioned phenomena is impermanent. It isn't gloomy to think this way. It can be a helpful tool to bring some equanimity to the mind. It helps me let go of the clinging and aversion towards things, and to stop taking it personally. Which decreases the suffering somewhat.

Sometimes difficult things happen that are outside our control. And sometimes it’s our own fault, we behave in unskilful ways and reap the kamma for it. Whatever it is, we then go and add more suffering to the situation with the longing, aversion, and taking it personally. This is the mental pain we add to physical and worldly difficulties. This is what makes us suffer.

I remember one night I got stranded on the mainland after missing the last boat back to the island. I had just completed a lengthy 10-hour journey coming back from my dad’s funeral. And I arrived at the ferry terminal late due to a delay with the coach. I felt exhausted and a bit unwell. There was nowhere to stay, and a long wait till the next ferry in the morning. So I went to sit on the beach, tried to roll a joint to make myself feel better. And I'd almost finished rolling it, when there was a huge gust of wind that blew it all away, and then it started raining. I felt like the person off the Hamlet advert, but without the cigar.

Then the day of the funeral all came back to me, and I burst into tears. It all just gushed out. I felt so lonely.

Then I saw my dad’s face in the sea. And I said I was sorry for not getting chance to speak to him before he died. I wished him well and told him he was loved.

Then the wind and rain became unbearable, so I went to find some shelter. I spent the rest of the night alternating between walking, standing, and sitting meditation.

I went through so many mood swings in that one night. Like the mind was changing, morphing into all sorts of different shapes and patterns. I was even seeing things that weren't there. It was challenging.

Through it all I tried to remain still and not get disturbed by the changing psychic weather. I just kept bringing my attention back to the breath and body to calm and centre the mind. Not engaging with anything else. Meditation felt like a refuge. There were strange eerie sounds at times like banshees wailing. (They turned out to be seabirds, the tunnel making their calls echo in ghostly ways).

 Eventually after many hours of this, the mind converged into a oneness, and it all disappeared. The psychic weather passed. Leaving behind a stillness and beautiful emptiness that I can't put into words. 

I was greeted at sunrise by a friendly pigeon watching me intently with smiley eyes. Then it vocalised a set of patterns, and some moments later another pigeon responded in the distance with a different set of vocal patterns.

The pigeon flew away. 

The wind and rain outside had stopped. It also dependent on conditions.

I went to get a coffee and my card was declined by the reader. I laughed, and the cashier laughed as well. She said that happens to her all the time, and that she keeps a supply of cash with her just in case.

Luckily, I had a few coins on me and managed to buy the coffee.

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