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.
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.)
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.
A boundless emptiness not dependent on conditions
A state that isn’t born and doesn’t die
Relief from the pain of wanting.
Hard to put into words.
But I will keep trying.
“ The equality-conceit (thinking of oneself as the same as others).
The inferiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as lesser than others).
And the superiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as better than others).
This three-fold conceit
should be overcome.
One who has overcome this,
through the full investigation of conceit,
is said to have put an end to suffering.”
~ A 6.49
Investigation of the
conceit: ‘I am’
Can feel like trying to split a hair with a pin.
It can be very subtle
Hard to see.
Anatta (not-self) is a negation tool used in Buddhism to reveal what is not the self, like the practise of neti neti (not this, not that).
Anatta investigates the five khandhas (skandhas in Sanskrit), these are: the body; feelings; perceptions; mental formations; consciousness (of the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects).
The khandhas (also known as the five aggregates of clinging) are conditioned phenomena, uncertain, unstable, fragile. Changing. Interdependent. And largely outside our control. Their impermanence causes attachment to them to be bound up with the pain of wanting, frustration, dissatisfaction, stress and sorrow.
There is some gratification in them otherwise we wouldn’t cling to them. But that gratification is transient and when it goes, we suffer and thirst for more, feel pain at loss and separation.
Still, it's not all bad, because some of the aggregates are within our ability to change, we
can make a path out of them that leads to the end of suffering: the noble
Seeing the skandhas do not last, are empty of self, and bound up with suffering. One becomes less attached to them, less enthralled by them. One feels dispassionate towards them and stops identifying with them. Stops taking things personally.
Knowing the khandas are not me, not mine, not self, one lets go, stops clinging to them –
and what remains then is the deathless.
It is not meant to be depressing. If done correctly this will bring rapture and peace to the mind. Bliss. The relief of letting go, of relinquishment, of releasing it all. Liberation. Freedom. It's not a dry unemotional experience.
To think of nibbana or nirvana as annihilation is incorrect. If
this were the case, it wouldn't be called the deathless.
Nibbana is a conscious experience. Said to be the finest experience that any being can have. If it was about annihilation, it would not be an experience.
Meditated for an hour, it took a long time for the mind to settle, but eventually it did and there was a blissful moment of stillness. Was captivated at one point by a robin singing in the branches of the bush next to my open window.
Life doesn't always play ball with our preferences, so it is good to develop some equanimity towards the world, towards pleasure and pain.
Sometimes it is a relief not to think, to just silently pay attention to the sensations of the present moment as they rise and fall in the body. If you do it for long enough, you can let go of liking/disliking and get very still and unattached and feel like you are just a flame burning in each moment.
The Buddha said that Nibbana is not the end of the mind, it is what fire becomes when it is no longer held by its fuel.
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