OU blog

Personal Blogs

Asoka

Iluminating wisdom

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 18 Sept 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.

...

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Note to not-self

Visible to anyone in the world


' 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).

...


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Wise about mistakes

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 19 Aug 2023, 15:10



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Just this

Visible to anyone in the world
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

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Teaching given to Bahiya

Visible to anyone in the world
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

...

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

One excellent night

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 25 July 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


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Understanding suffering

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 11:45


Grief seems to have returned. Lots of tears at the moment. Still processing things it seems.

So many unwanted events happening at once just now, coming into a convergence. I feel this longing to escape from it all, to be free from this world. Is that the thirst for non-existence (vibhava-tanhā)?

Have been reflecting on the first noble truth, the knowledge of suffering.
The instruction given for this truth, is that it needs to be understood.
How does one understand suffering?

' The noble truth of suffering (dukkha) is this: birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, pain, loss, grief, and despair are suffering; association with what is disliked is suffering; separation from what is liked is suffering; not getting what one wants is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering. '

— DHAMMACAKKAPPAVATTANA SUTTA

Understanding comes from investigation of the four noble truths in one's own life, in one's own experience. That's how true knowing develops.

A definition of the word 'Buddha' is 'One who knows'.

Some intellectual knowledge is needed. There has to be the capacity for wise reflection, and for critical thinking. You also need a map, a description, some guidance to point you in the right direction. So you know where you are heading with all this. Understand what needs to be accomplished, what the work is. The task at hand.

Then one sets the intention. Resolves to do the work. Consulting the map when one gets stuck. The true knowledge and wisdom is learnt from experience. From the present moment, life as it is, this is our dhamma teacher. With patience, gradually, over the course of many hours of repetitive practise. By being our own refuge. Experimenting, tweaking things, tuning them, one develops the eight factors of the noble eightfold path.

The five aggregates of attachment are: 1. The physical body 2. Feelings 3. Perceptions (memory) 4. Mental formations (such as thoughts), and 5. Consciousness (which arises due to contact with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and mental objects).

The five aggregates are always changing. Like a flowing stream. One never sees the same stream twice, even though it looks like the same stream. The water molecules you where looking at a moment ago are no longer there.

In a similar way, the five aggregates are a complex process, a flowing stream of events, of cause and effect. Everything conditioned is interdependent. When the right conditions are present something will arise; And when those conditions are no longer present, that something will cease.

For example, fire is dependent on conditions such as dryness, wood, oxygen, tinder, and a spark. Take away any of those conditons and the fire won't start.

The five aggregates (the khandhas/skandhas) are fragile and uncertain, dependent on changing conditions that are largely outside our control. Which is why clinging to them, and identifying with them causes us suffering. There's nothing there to cling to. They are impermanent, insubstantial. Empty.

The things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us the most suffering.

The twelve links of dependent origination, (ultra-concise version):

These are a representation of the links in the chain of dependent origination (causation) which lead to suffering and rebirth.

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --> Conditioned consciousness --> Mind and body (aka name and form) --> The six senses --> Sense impressions --> feelings (of like or dislike) --> craving --> clinging/identifying --> becoming --> birth --> death.

It is a continous circle, so death circles back round to ignorance and the circuit begins again...

i.e., becoming --> birth --> death --> Ignorance --> mental dispositions and volitional actions ... and so on -- the cycle continuously goes round and round in a circle.

Need a better way to describe 'mental dispositions and volitional actions.' It is about how our mental dispositions, our intentions become mental and physical actions which condition our consciousness (form habits).

The links are all points where the circuit can be broken. Much of the links are outside our control. But we can work on ignorance, on our intentions, on our volitional actions. Use wisdom and knowledge to weaken the tendency to cling and identify with things. Till eventually one realises a state of non-clinging and stops grasping the seeds of greed, hate and delusion. Then the fuel line to craving is cut off and suffering stops.

Physical pain can still happen, that is the kamma of having a body, of living in an uncertain world full of threats and danger that come in all shapes and sizes. But mentally, emotionally, one can feel okay, can feel free, at ease. Secure, safe, not clinging to anything in the world. Then whatever happens in the body and the outer world, one's peace remains unshakeable. There is no more mental suffering.

It can sound a bit dry and serious, it is serious, but not dry. It is important not to take it all too seriously. Find a middle way through it, a balance. I think a gentle sense of humour can be helpful, especially towards oneself. As well as goodwill towards other beings, of all kinds, in all worlds. This brings joy and wellbeing, gladdens the mind, makes it fearless and golden. The beautiful emotions are part of the path too. Kindness, generosity, goodwill, friendship, compassion, joy, calmness, clarity, equanimity... and so on, non-greed, non-hate, non-conceit. These states strengthen the tendencies of the mind that help with the realisation of nibanna, generate good kamma and make everyone feel better. You don't have to save the world or do anything dramatic. If you can't help; at least cause no harm. That's good enough. The huge problems facing the world just now can feel overwhelming. So much suffering everywhere. But in the darkness, the beautiful emotions are like a light to ourselves and those around us. They make us feel well, like nourishment for the heart and mind.

One definition of the third noble truth, is it is realised when greed, hatred, and delusion are no longer able to take root in the mind. In the space left behind is an unshakeable peace. The psychic energy bound up in greed, hate, and delusion, becomes unbound, freed, limitless. Descriptions of nibanna in the suttas say: 'It is the highest state of happiness. The supreme state of bliss.'

Sounds good to me. I could do with some of that.

During the Buddha's time people from all walks of life and age groups where getting enlightened (by the boat load). Most of them couldn't read or write.

It is a practical path. I think that's why I like it.

...



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Grief

Visible to anyone in the world


My father's death has hit me quite hard today. It has been a struggle. I am not sure how long grief takes. I still seem to be processing it and finding it hard to concentrate on much. It is hard to get anything done.

Perhaps it is because it will be his funeral next week. I feel this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, part of me doesn't want to go. But there will be family there, so that will be good, and I want to be there for them. Perhaps my Dad's consciousness will be there also in some form. He might be watching us all and listening to what we say. I want to be there for him too.

I keep remembering a story, I can't remember for the life of me where I heard this, or what sutta it is from. But there's a story where one of the Buddha's lay disciples was very sick with a horrible illness and he was struggling with pain and contemplating suicide. The Buddha went to see him and kept encouraging him to live. It was said that his presence brought comfort to the disciple and he felt at peace. But eventually the Buddha had to go and travel somewhere, as a Buddha has to keep their word when it comes to honouring invitations they have accepted.

When the Buddha left, the pain of the illness came back and the lay disciple committed suicide. When the Buddha heard about this he went back to the village to attend the funeral. And afterwards he stayed in the village with the relatives and offered them comfort and support while they grieved. 

It is a side of the Buddha one doesn't often hear about, but it moved me. 


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 24 June 2023, 12:05)
Share post
Asoka

I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 10 June 2023, 20:27


I find myself in tears every so often. I just let them fall without trying to resist them.

It is hard to think I will never see Dad again. I talk to him on my walks in the quiet of the woods. Some part of him lives on inside me.

It is a kindness to myself to give the grief space. To hold it all without judging it, or adding any more to it, or taking any of it personally. Just flowing with it, letting it be.

 Life as it is, the only teacher.

I am learning it is okay to not know what to say at times. Sometimes being a silent presence is enough. 

I centre with the breath, and let everything happening around me be as it is. I breathe through it, flood my whole field of awareness with the breath, so it feels like the whole cosmos is breathing with me. 

When the mind is more serene I fill my awareness with love, with compassion, with peace, or equanimity. 

When not in sitting meditation. I take refuge in what is known as sati sampajanna, mindfulness of the present moment. Knowing where I am, what I'm doing. Whatever activity I am engaged in, I try to stay centred with it and with the feeling of embodiment. 

 When I notice I am getting absorbed in thoughts to do with greed, aversion, or conceit. I label them as such and then brush them aside like useless rubbish. Nonsense. Not worth investing in, or wasting psychic energy on. I let them be in the background, but I stop engaging with them, and keep centering the mind with some aspect of mindfulness instead, that feels calming.

It isn't easy. Sometimes I can dismiss thoughts quickly. Other times I have to talk myself into a better state of mind. And sometimes I have to do it gently in stages. 

Mindfulness, effort, samhadi they work together. Both in sitting meditation and in daily life.

It is difficult. But worth it in the end I am assured. Although not liberated yet, I am noticing benefits to dhamma practise, which keep growing steadily. Benefits in terms of increased peace of mind. So I am slowly but surely developing, and seem to be going in the right direction.

 The problem can be narrowed down to just greed, anger, and conceit. These are what harrass the mind. And when those three psychic irritants are absent, there is a feeling of great relief. The mind stops harrassing itself and there is peace.

 It just takes time to get there, perseverance, patience, sometimes endurance. But one day our future selves will be glad we took the time to train the mind - when it all bears fruit.

 What we practise now grows stronger and is who we become.

It is exhausting being someone, being a person. Maintaining an identity. It is a heavy suitcase we carry around. Our moods change, as does the world. And one's ego inevitably falls apart. A fragile house of cards swept up by the worldly winds.

A lot of psychic energy is bound up in the story 'I am'. 

When that psychic energy is released. It becomes unbound, limitless. Free. 

Deathless.

An energy no longer subject to conditions. Something difficult to define and put into words. To define it is to attach conditions to it. 

Anyway that's all I've got just now, and what I am currently working with in my practise.

Here's a poem attributed to the Buddha I have going through my head at the moment:

' Let not a person revive the past   
Or on the future build one's hopes, 
For the past has been left behind 
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let one see 
Each presently arisen state; 
Let one know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably. 
Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come, who knows? 
No bargain with Mortality 
Can keep him and his hoards away. 
But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night 
It is those, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who have had one excellent night. '

- the Buddha.

...


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Karma coma

Visible to anyone in the world


Woke up feeling a bit feverish. Meditating in the woods is not without its dangers it seems, I've had a few tick bites, so hope it isn't that what's made me ill. 

Just wasn't feeling like meditating today, mind was hard to still, so I didn't sit this morning, but I got some studying done. I've almost jumped through all the hoops for an assignment due next week. 

Read how BT are planning to axe 55 000 jobs here in the UK over the next ten years in order to replace the staff with A.I. And Vodafone have announced they're going to axe a tenth of their staff and replace them with A.I. over the next three years.

This technology in all honesty, I don't think we need it. It is just another way for a few people to become more wealthy. Or is it? You have to wonder about the intelligence of these corporate CEOs. If they're all for profit, they aint gonna make much if we're all too poor to afford their products and services.

 I imagine it will mostly be customer support they lay off. And customers will phone in to get help with problems they are having, and the A.I. will only help in the way it has been programmed to, which I imagine will be blanket responses that aren't very helpful at all, designed to lead customers into dead ends, unable to resolve their queries. It will leave many people feeling powerless. I wonder if all this rush towards A.I. will blowback up the government and corporation's arses one day.

People may get angry, there could be unrest, riots. Society will come for those in charge, and it will all get ugly in the end. Ultimately you have to feel sorry for them. Their greed and stinginess will come back to bite them on the backside, either in this life or in a future one. There's no escape from the law of karma. The universe will have its pound of flesh to balance the scales. A wise corporate CEO should take heed of this and renounce their greed and delusion. Practise generosity, kindness, and selflessness instead as that will lead to better outcomes for them. Karma is no joke, it is very real.

I am reading a free book at the moment, which helps take my mind off being sick. It is the biography of a famous meditation master from Thailand in the Forest sangha, called Ajahn Mun. It is reassuring to hear the honest accounts of the times he struggled, and accounts of how other meditation masters also had their moments of doubt and weakness. They all made mistakes, and failed at times, did things they regretted. But instead of letting that defeat them, they got back up on their feet and kept going, learnt from their mistakes. Using them as fuel to practise harder, grow wiser and stronger. It reminds me that meditation is something that one practises for the whole of one's life, right up to death, even the Buddha in his last moments meditated.

It is inspiring hearing how these meditation masters lived in the forests of Thailand. They were hardcore meditators. Sadly, Thailand is very different now, the forest is much less than it was, being cut down as the country modernises, it seems no part of the world is safe from the greed of this right-wing capitalism that is causing so much harm to the life on this planet. I am not sure there will be much future for forest monks with the way things are going in the world, there might be city monks still. But I think the future of Buddhism may well be down to householders (lay followers) at this time, to keep the dharma alive for future generations. Perhaps one day when this relentless crazy destruction of the environment stops, and governments, corporations and shareholders start to see sense, perhaps the forest will grow back then, and one day the monks will return.

I experienced a fair bit of pain in the body today. It is unpleasant. But I keep remembering it is nothing personal. Most, (if not all) beings on this planet get sick. I have not gone beyond that. I remind myself of this periodically, and it can help me feel mentally okay with it. Makes me feel more determined to practise, remembering how cruel sickness, ageing, death, and separation is (SODS law). This is what keeps me motivated to practise, the suffering, because it really hammers home how much I really don't want to come back to this world, and have to go through all this again. This is were the law of karma gives me hope. One can use the power of karma to put in the right causes and conditions now, so that one day their actions will bear fruit and eventually bring about the permanent end of suffering.

l am worrying about a cat called Rango at the moment who has a bad eye. It has got really swollen and infected and he is not looking well. I worry it is going septic and needs medicine. But he is a large stray cat and wild, I don't think I will be able to catch him and take him to the vet. He sometimes hangs out in the woods where I meditate and often comes to our garden where I give him some food. A beautiful large ginger cat, with a peaceful temperament. Not sure what to do. It is hard watching him decline and feeling powerless to help him. I am worried the infection will kill him if it isn't treated. I have grown quite fond of him. Another reminder of how cruel and brutal nature can be. This world really is a slaughter house. The challenge for a meditator is how to feel well amidst all the sorrow and suffering of this world. It can feel like a koan. It is hard to feel empathy without also feeling the other's pain and suffering.

 Been working with a low mood today. Very unpleasant at the moment. It seems the kleshas  (The various negative mental states that cloud the mind and lead to unwholesome thoughts, words, and actions. They can all be narrowed down to the three roots of greed, hate, and delusion.) The kleshas tend to come out in force when one is sick or tired. It might sound crazy, but something I picked up both in my own practise and from reading about Ajahn Mun is that the kleshas do fight back, they don't want you to purify the mind, they don't want to be uprooted, they want to keep you trapped in Samsara, and they will even go to the extreme of killing you if they can get away with it, to stop you purifying the mind. It is a serious business this purifying the mind and taking on the kleshas, one should be aware of this. But one can protect oneself by practising mindfulness, right effort, samhadi and also the brahma viharas (loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity), and not taking anything personally, it is all bound up in the conceit 'I am.'

I keep sweeping the negative thoughts aside like useless rubbish, dismissing them, refusing to get into a discussion with them. If I notice I am absorbed in negative thinking, I give myself permission to not have to engage with them or debate with them anymore, no matter how dark, or how much I feel I need to tie up any loose ends to tidy them up. No matter how ashamed I feel for thinking those thoughts. I drop them, ignore them, centre my attention away from them. There's nothing to be solved by continuing to pay attention to them or have a dialogue with them. It doesn't lead to any resolution. One does not think at their best when the mood is low, the thoughts will be coloured by whatever mood one is in. So when depressed, it is best not to think then. I try to watch the sensations and feelings in the body as they are, with acceptance and equanimity, as they manifest in the present moment. The aches, the creaky pains in the joints, the feeling of weakness and dullness. I let it be there, accept it without following it, fighting it or wishing for it to go away. Just noticing it all without the story, without the mental proliferations about it. Without feeling attached to the body and the sense of 'I', seeing it as all empty of self. This can help.

Just letting things be as they are. It is all just sensations at the end of the day. Outside my control. I can't tell the sensations to stop, it doesn't work. They're nothing personal. They arise, persist for a bit, then cease. I can choose not to judge them though, not to follow them, or identify with them. 

 I can get into a bit of a flow doing that, just watching sensations as they arise and cease without adding any more to them, without liking or disliking them. Ignoring the thought processes. Just watching the contents of the mind flow by like a river, but not jumping into it and getting involved with it, not holding on to any of it, not clinging to it or taking it personally, without the story. And this can help decrease the suffering somewhat.

I also practise kindness towards the body. I don't despise or mistreat it, that is wrong. It is the home of many different beings and consciousnesses, this organic walking bag of interdependence. It should still be taken care of and loved, but without clinging to it or identifying with it. It is not me, it is just a vehicle for consciousness, a vehicle that has the potential to set one free, so one should look after it as best they can, make good use of this opportunity I have now, as nibanna is reached through the body. It is the vehicle of a bodhissatva (seeker of enlightenment). We borrow the body for a time from mother nature, but one day we have to return it. It isn't ours to keep.

Death is quite normal, nothing to fear really, except the fear itself. All one needs to remember is, when one is dieing, one wants to be in a good state of mind. Peace, love, kindness, compassion, gladness, joy, serenity, mindfulness, meditation, samhadi, and equanimity, these are all good states of mind to be in when dieing. There are other beautiful emotional states too. The rule of thumb is, if you have a good state of mind in your final moments, you have a good chance of either realising nibanna at death (if you are a Buddhist) or at least getting a more fortunate rebirth in the next life.

Easier said than done though. That's why one practises now, begins training the mind while one can. If one puts it off for too long, and waits till one is old and infirm, one will struggle then, it will feel impossible to steady the mind. The body gets tired as it gets older, wears out, and one's energy to practise will diminish somewhat. If one hasn't trained the mind, a lifetime of unhelpful conditioning will thwart one, and the negative thoughts will be hard to resist in one's final moments. All the meditation we do now, is like a rehearsal, and death is the moment when we have to perform for real. But it will be difficult to perform well if one has not practised and rehearsed beforehand. The monkey mind will be all over the place and the Kleshas will make sure you remain in the realms of Mara. That is why it is a good idea to practise the spiritual life now, because it gets harder to do it when you're older.

We are apparently living in an auspicious aeon just now, one where there will be five Buddhas. This is rare according to the ancient texts. As there can be aeons where there are no Buddhas at all or there may be just one or two. To have an aeon with five Buddhas is quite unusual. Gotama Buddha (our current Buddha) was the fourth. And we are lucky to be around at a time when his teachings are still available. Because they will disappear in time and the true dharma will become lost eventually. The world of humans is prophesised to decline considerably in the period of time between Gotama and the next Buddha and then rise again to happier times. The next Buddha is said to arrive at the tail-end of that golden era, just as things are beginning to decline in the world once again, and it is said the next Buddha will live to reach the ripe old age of 84, 000 years old. Anyway, it is safe to bet it will be a very long wait till the next Buddha arises in the world. Could possibly be millions of years in the future.

So the way I look at it is, use this rare opportunity now to get as far along as you can in the dharma, while the current Buddha's teachings are still available and accessible in the world. All you need these days is an Internet connection and some critical thinking to help you navigate through the thicket of views online. I recommend learning the early Buddhist teachings first, the suttas of the Pali canon is a good start, a good foundation. Then after that explore the later developments in Buddhism if you wish to; but use the early teachings as a reference and guide, a touchstone to check you are not being led astray by the myriad views out there. It really is a jungle of views out there, and the early Buddhist teachings are in danger of becoming lost to future generations if we are not careful. They are gradually becoming more and more watered down and changed to suit a worldly material agenda. I keep coming across memes with a picture of the Buddha on, attributing a quote to the Buddha which he didn't say at all. So one has to be careful of misinformation and disinformation, even in Buddhism. 
...


















Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Vesak day

Visible to anyone in the world


I am planning on meditating all night tonight, by myself under a beautiful old tree in some ancient woodland. In honour of the Buddha, and to celebrate Vesak day which happens to be on my birthday this year because of the full moon. So it feels like an auspicious night. Fifth day of the week, on the fifth day of the month, on the fifth month of the year.

 A wee bit afraid because the woods can feel a bit spooky in the dark when you are by yourself, also I haven't spent all night in meditation before. I will practise metta (loving-kindness meditation) to start to help bring good energy to the area around me. It is a lovely quiet spot with a good vibe, no sound of cars, no people, lots of pleasant breezes, no biting insects, or dangerous animals. I feel very fortunate to live near such a tranquil place.

It feels like a golden opportunity, and is just one evening of my life. Losing out on some sleep is worth it I think. Many Buddhists in different parts of the world will be celebrating tonight, remembering when the Buddha himself sat under a tree in May on a full moon and got enlightened over 2500 years ago. So I imagine there will be good energy from that. I will sit in honour of his memory, and make a real effort to practise samhadi this evening. And dedicate the practise to all beings everywhere, with the wish for all of us to be free from suffering, free from sorrow, to know peace of mind, serenity and wellbeing wherever we are.

I also feel inspired by stories I've read of others in the past who spent all night meditating under a tree and gained liberation from suffering. I will think of them all to help keep me going. And I will think of my friends, and imagine their energy like a protective loving circle around me, keeping me safe.

I have no expectations, and I'm not attached to any outcomes. But I will have a go, give it my best shot, without straining the mind. 

Whatever happens tonight, I think it will be a good learning experience for me. 

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

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 7 May 2023, 14:57)
Share post
Asoka

Meditation and enlightenment

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 28 Apr 2023, 17:20

There's a breath meditation I have been practising lately which I enjoy. It seems to have some health benefits as well, and is effective at flushing out the five hindrances (worldly-desire, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness, and doubt). When those unpleasant states of mind are no longer present, it brings a feeling of relief, and the body feels lighter, freer, and clearer. Joy naturally arises from an unhindered mind and this leads to samhadi. 

I practise this either sitting or standing in a comfortable upright position.

And, to quote the suttas, I: 'Put aside longing and dejection in regard to the world.' I give myself permission to put down that heavy suitcase for a moment. Disengage from the story of self with its longing and angst.

I become mindful of the feeling of the feet on the ground, the Earth below, feel the connection to the Earth, feel it as boundless in all directions. Centre with the perception of Earth. It's stability, strength and solidity. I feel it ground me, and absorb the uncomfortable excess energies of the mind, balancing them out. Earthing myself. I imagine roots going out of my feet into the ground below.

On the in-breath I draw energy up through my feet, legs, the torso, up the length of my spine. The energy illuminating the sensations of the body as it makes its way upwards. When it reaches the top of the head. I feel the connection to boundless sky above, and the air element all around. Then on the out-breath I release that energy and let it fall like rain, like a sprinkler or a fountain down across and through the entire body, all the way back to the feet and down into the Earth again. Lighting up the sensations of the body as it does.

On the next in-breath I rinse and repeat the instructions in the paragraph above.

I do this for as long as feels good. Then when it feels natural to do so, I stop moving the energy up and down the body and feel all the sensations in the body together at once. Feel them get more vivid and stronger with each breath.

The body at this point feels very comfortable and at ease, pleasant, and easy to centre with. The breath starts to slow, and can get very shallow, until it seems like the breath stops altogether and then there is a profound stillness that is hard to put into words, where the sense of self disappears. It is like being in a deep refuge within, a safe inner cave, where the energies of life continue around one, but one is unconcerned by them, there's a feeling of deep contentment and peace and a feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. The mind feels unified, together, whole, but awareness is still present, one is lucid, it is not a hypnotic trance.

It wears off after a time, and then to get back there one repeats the steps above to build the momentum up again. I find I don't need to spend as long building up the momentum the second time round, and can get back easier to the stillness on subsequent goes. Each time the experience of the inner body becomes deeper and more and more exquisite.

If you get it right, you will come out of it and feel on top of the world, and you'll have a great day. Everything will feel like it's in sync. There is an after glow that can last a while, depending on how long you have spent meditating.

The after glow does wear off as the day goes on, and the hindrances return. One notices when they do, as it feels unpleasant. The hard part then is convincing yourself to meditate again.

One can keep the afterglow going for longer by practising mindfulness in everyday activity. Known as sati-sampajanna, mindfulness and clear comprehension (knowing). Where one is aware of what one is doing, the body, what sensations are present, how one feels, anchored in the inner experience of the body. But also aware of what is happening around one in the present moment with one's peripheral awareness.

We have two brain hemispheres. One hemisphere likes to focus on something in detail, and the other hemisphere is more holistic and provides context to the detail, it looks at the bigger picture, and what is happening in the background. It probably evolved this way, so that one didn't get eaten by a predator whilst focused on a task such as gathering food. One side of the brain is focused on the food, and the other side of the brain is watching for danger. Like a deer eating grass.

One can find a refuge in this mindfulness during the day, and even go into a light state of absorption and flow with it. It can be helpful to notice and play around with these two different kinds of awareness. Tweaking them so that they have a good balance that feels pleasant to work with.

There can sometimes be resistance in the mind to meditate. Some part of the mind may even try to convince you that you don't deserve to feel serenity or joy. It will insist on going over your faults and past mistakes, make you feel worthless and ashamed. Don't let that bossy part of the mind bully you. You don't have to keep listening to that voice. You are allowed to ignore the inner critic. After all it is you!

The less attention you pay to that voice the weaker it gets.

There is something called a healthy sense of shame though, that one can use as a tool to help dismiss negative thoughts if they arise, and not hold onto them. Such as imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in an unwholesome state of mind. That can help generate the desire to abandon it and generate something more wholesome instead. No need to judge and punish yourself for having those thoughts though, that's overly excessive. Once the healthy sense of shame has done its work, stop, put the tool down and focus on the good stuff.

If you get caught up in that quagmire of negativity. And if it is strongly present in the mind, and hard to ignore. Try to bring yourself out of it gradually in stages. But don't spend too long doing it, don't engage in lengthy debates with the hindrances. Don't spend any longer dealing with them than you need to. It is like putting out the trash, you don't want to hold onto the trash for any longer than necessary, just get it done with so you can get back to the good stuff, back to the peace and serenity, to the love.

Love and serenity makes everyone feel better, it heals the world. It is actually the best thing you can do to help yourself and others. It is easier to deal with the world in a serene state of consciousness, as things won't seem so overwhelming. It is hard to deal with anything when in a negative state of mind. So it is a good thing to take some time out and retreat from the world to meditate, it isn't selfish.

In fact I am starting to think that meditation is the key to going beyond the first stage of enlightenment. Apparently people can get stuck at the first stage of enlightenment for a long time, as long as seven more lifetimes.

I think this is because the next fetters to go are greed and aversion. And these are hard to let go of. The second stage of enlightenment is all about weakening those. Greed in particular is very hard to overcome, but it is a lesser stain on the personality than aversion is.

Greed here refers not just to the extreme of billionaires, but also its milder forms, such as eating more than one intended to, craving for entertainment, sex, intoxicants, fame, fortune, luxuries and so on. The attachment to worldy-pleasures is hard to let go of, and doesn't go completely till one reaches the third stage of enlightenment. The mind won't want to let go of wordly pleasure unless it has something better to take its place. When the mind finds something better then it naturally lets go. And when greed goes, so does aversion. Greed and aversion are interlinked, they both feed into one another. They are like two dogs, one barks and it sets the other one off. There is always going to be aversion present when there is longing. Such as impatience and irritability when there are delays in getting what one wants. 

I think what weakens greed and aversion is the practise of meditation, and the development of samhadi. When meditation becomes pleasurable, enjoyable and a richer experience than anything the world can offer. The two fetters of greed and aversion will get weaker, and keep getting weaker until eventually they fall away altogether. I think the second stage of enlightenment is all about mastering samhadi.

Once one reaches the third stage of enlightenment there is no going back to greed or aversion ever again, those two fetters are gone for good and they will never arise again. At the third stage one then works to lose attachment to the bliss of samhadi, which paradoxically is needed to reach this stage. So one should not be afraid of becoming attached to the pleasure of deep meditation in earlier stages, thinking they should avoid that fetter. It is a golden chain, but a necessary one, as one cannot completely overcome greed and aversion without it. The Buddha said it was a pleasure not to be feared.

If one dies whilst at this stage, in the next life they will be reborn in the higher heavens and gain full enlightenment there, and are never again born into this world. They live extremely long lives and many of them become protectors of Buddhism, like celestial Buddhas. They are very powerful beings, and are able to visit any of the lower worlds at will and can take on many different forms. Many are compassionate beings and help those in the lower worlds who are on the path to enlightenment, including the Buddha himself on his journey. It was a deva that had reached the third stage of enlightenment under a previous Buddha who appeared before Gotama Buddha after his enlightenment to encourage him to teach the dhamma out of compassion for the world.

I think these devas/spirits work in very subtle ways though, one may not even realise they are being helped by them. They don't directly interfere, and cannot make anyone become enlightened; but they can leave subtle hints, and gently guide one's intuition, set up helpful encounters, to steer us in the right direction. And if one looks back on one's life, there are moments that are hard to explain, and one wonders if a deva perhaps helped in some way. Who knows, I like to think so.

To reach the fourth and final stage of enlightenment, the attachment to blissful states of meditation is let go of, when one sees that these states are also subject to change, do not last, and are not self, the last remnants of the conceit I am disappears. The idea of a separate self is seen through completely, and when that happens the restless involuntary movements of the mind stop altogether and they never arise again, and there is perfect peace.

The very last fetter to go is ignorance, (or delusion). When one fully realises delusion, one becomes the one who knows, no part of the mind is hidden then. One is lucid and serene, completely free from suffering, dwelling in a state of lasting emotional well-being. They still partake in the pleasure of meditation though, as often as they wish to, whenever they wish to, as it is one of the fruits of the path, one of the seven factors of enlightenment, and available to them any time they want, the Buddha continued to practise meditation and samhadi throughout his life.

A fully enlightened being also naturally shines with love and compassion for all beings. And although not everyone is able to teach, those that can teach, and have capacity for it, in the spirit of the Buddha, do teach others and it is not a chore for them to do so, it is a joy. An unharrassed mind naturally feels empathy and compassion for other beings. It is a sorrowless empathy, one that shows love to those that are suffering, but does not suffer with them. The peace of a fully enlightened being is undisturbed by anything that happens in the world. They do not cling to anything in the world. This doesn't mean they won't do things to help the world out of compassion for others, just they are not attached to outcomes, and do not suffer when things don't go to plan.

Knowing about the four stages of enlightenment can be a helpful guide to where one is at, and what work needs to be done to develop further on the path. One can look at the mind and see which fetters are still present, and what one needs to do to progress.



Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Watching ourselves and others

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 Apr 2023, 14:08


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Air kasina

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 31 Mar 2023, 15:39

The breezes at this time of year are very pleasant.  And the blackbirds and song thrushes are singing all around and it is beautiful. I enjoy having my window open or sitting outside, and being absorbed in it all, lifts up my heart.

The air kasina is great to practise at this time of year, in the Northen hemisphere at least. We have lots of breezes at the moment. Air kasina is basically breath meditation, but there's a component to it which isn't often taught. Which is to focus on the sensation and feeling of the air element as it touches the skin, and notice how that affects the mind. Apparently in ancient times a monk wanting to learn the air kasina would find a cave high in a mountain where there was a breeze and practise there. In modern times, one can practise this in any location with a plug in fan (-:

The fresh air can feel invigorating, and this feeling of invigoration is a breath nimitta. A tactile nimitta, some people get a visual nimitta, but for me the nimitta is always a tactile feeling. In Pali, nimitta means sign. And in this context it is the sign of the air element in the mind; or the effect that the air element has on the mind. It is a mind-generated phenomena, an internal feeling created in response to the air element.

If you stay centred with the nimitta it grows stronger and will expand and fill the whole body, which feels very pleasant and healing. One then keeps intending to stay with it, sustain it, soak the entire body with the tranquility and happiness. This can be challenging to do at first, but it gains momentum over the long term. With consistent practise the nimitta and the feeling of joy and pleasure grows, snowballs, and becomes more effortless and automatic. This is how the mind works, how we create sankharas. Samhadi begets more samhadi, i.e. what we practise grows stronger and becomes a habit, which then carries a momentum and energy of its own that continues and grows deeper.

After many hours of practise, one will be able to bring the air nimitta up at will, without needing a breeze. One can just incline the mind towards it and it will appear. Even the slightest zephyr of air movement in a room will bring it up. Sometimes one can go into absorption just watching the air blowing through the leaves of the trees and plants, or from the ripples it makes on the surface of water. It feels like magic, but it is just how the mind works. The same thing can happen when meditating on any other element, a colour, or on love. One will start to notice it more and more in the world around them and find this will bring up the samhadi associated with it. 

A teacher told me that for those brief moments when people take a break from being in a stuffy room and stand outside and enjoy the feeling of the breeze on their faces. For those brief moments those people have been practising breath meditation. He added that when it comes to samhadi, the Buddha says, use the low-hanging fruit. Find that which comes natural and then make it into something supernatural (-:

 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

The four trainings of mindfulness

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Mar 2023, 17:53


'
This is the direct path for the purification of beings. For the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation. The disappearance of pain and grief. And the realisation of nibanna.

Namely the four foundations of mindfulness.' - the Buddha

Foundation number one: Mindfulness of the body

  • Awareness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
    ..
  • Mindfulness of breathing. (anapana-sati)
    ..
  • Sati-sampajanna. Awareness of the present moment. Knowing where one is. What one is doing. One's behaviour, of that which is appropriate, that which is non-delusion.
    ..
  • Reflection on the 32 parts of the body:
    Head hair, Body hair, Nails, Teeth, Skin
    Flesh, Sinews, Bones, Bone Marrow, Kidneys
    Heart, Liver, Diaphragm, Spleen, Lungs
    Large Intestines, Small Intestines, Stomach, Faeces, Brain
    Bile, Phlegm, Pus, Blood, Sweat, Fat
    Tears, Grease, Saliva, Mucus, Oil of the Joints, Urine
    ..
  • Analysis of the four elements: earth, water, fire, air. (Both within the body and outside the body.)
    ..
  • The cemetery contemplations and marana-sati (mindfulness of death).

Foundation number two: Mindfulness of feelings

1. Mindfulness of pleasant feelings, mindfulness of neutral feelings, mindfulness of unpleasant feelings. Awareness of them both within oneself and within others.

2. Mindfulness of pleasant wordly feelings, neutral worldly feelings, unpleasant wordly feelings. Both within oneself and within others. I find contemplation of the eight worldly winds can be helpful here:

pain and pleasure,
gain and loss,
success and failure,
praise and blame.

3. Mindfulness of pleasant spiritual feelings, neutral spiritual feelings, and unpleasant spiritual feelings. Both within oneself and others. This is to do with the spiritual path and its fruits.

Awareness of the rising, flowing, and fading away of feelings.

Foundation number three: Mindfulness of the mind

Knowing when the mind is:

Greedy or not
Lustful or not
Angry or not
Hateful or not
Conceited or not
Selfish or not
Deluded or not
Confused or clear
Collected or scattered
Expansive or contracted
Developed or undeveloped
Meditating or not
In samhadi or not
Liberated or not

Awareness of the rising, flowing, and disappearance of these states of mind.

Foundation number four: Mindfulness of dhammas

1. The five hindrances to samhadi:

1. Longing, 2. aversion, 3. stagnation, 4. agitation, 5. doubt.

Awareness of the manifestation, origination, and disappearance of the five hindrances.

'And when one knows that these five hindrances have left the mind. Gladness arises, and from gladness comes delight, from delight one's body becomes tranquil, and with a tranquil body one feels happy.

And with happiness one's mind easily enters samhadi. And being thus detached from unwholesome states of mind one enters and remains in the first jhana...' - the Buddha (D. 2:75)

2. The five aggregates of clinging:

Identifying with the body.
Identifying with feelings.
Identifying with perceptions and memory.
Identifying with mental formations.
Identifying with consciousness.

Awareness of the manifestation, arising, and dissolution of the five aggregates of clinging.

3. The six external and six internal sense bases:

1. Eye and visual objects.
2. Ear and sounds.
3. Nose and smells.
4. Tongue and tastes.
5. Body and tangible objects.
6. Mind and mental objects.

Knowledge of them, of their arising, and the letting go of them. And through not clinging to them, the future non-arising of the fetters that originate dependent on both.

4. The seven factors of enlightenment:

Mindfulness -> Investigation of dhammas -> Energy (right effort) -> Joy -> Calm (serenity) -> Samhadi (deep stillness) -> Equanimity.

Knowledge of their presence, their arising, and their development.

5. The four noble truths

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

Old age, sickness and death is suffering.
Separation from those we love is suffering.
Identifying with the body, feelings, perceptions, memories, thoughts, ideas, moods/emotions, and consciousness is suffering.
Feeling regret and remorse for past actions is suffering.
Not getting what one wants is suffering.
Depression and fatigue is suffering.
Taking things personally is suffering.
and so on... 

In short, clinging to and identifying with changing (impermanent) phenomena that is outside our control, is suffering. We are all fated to become separated from what we love and hold dear. None of us have the power to stop that. Everything is transient.

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

The three aspects of craving are the cause of suffering. The Buddha describes them as:

1. craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha), which feeds the defilement of greed.
2. craving for non-existence (vibhava-tanha), wishing for things to be different, wishing for something not to be, not to exist. This feeds the defilement of hate or aversion.
3. craving for existence (bhava-tanha). Feeds the defilement of delusion.

(N.b. Tanha is a Pali word often translated as either craving, thirst or desire.)

(N.b. II - The five links at the centre of dependent origination can be helpful to keep in mind here: ..  sense impressions -> feelings -> craving -> clinging/identifying -> becoming ...)

When one has seen the sign of anicca (change and impermanence) at a deep level. It is hard to un-see it. It has a profound change on one. Wherever one looks, one sees the transient nature of things, and starts to naturally become disillusioned with materiality; and not as caught up by the things of the world anymore. One sees through it. Sometimes from bitter painful experience, by making poor choices and having to live with the results, which is part of learning too. Don't beat yourself up for that, we all do it. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we learn our greatest lessons from failure. 

As one gets less ignorant and wises up, one stops clinging to things, realising it is changing phenomena that is outside one's control. And then the craving starts to fade.

And with non-attachment, letting things be, letting them go, cessation occurs.

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

Lasting peace of mind and contentment. Freedom from suffering. The realisation of nibanna, the deathless. The happiness of no longer being driven around and harassed by the defilements: greed, aversion, and delusion. This stopping, this ceasing of tanha brings relief, and frees the mind of stress and sorrow.  

The mind in its un-harassed original state is luminous, radiant like the sun coming out from the behind the clouds. (The clouds in this metaphor being greed, hate, and delusion.)

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

This is the noble eightfold path. The way that leads to the cessation of suffering. All the path factors are important. Leaving any of them out is like leaving out an important component of a motor vehicle, it won't start or be able to reach its destination if any are missing. All these parts need to work together in harmony.

1. Right view: in brief, mundane right view is knowing that good karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of giving, kindness, and clear-seeing.
And bad karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of greed, hate, and delusion.

Supra-mundane right view is the four noble truths. It's called supramundane because it is what leads to the four classical stages of enlightenment.

2. Right intention: Non ill-will, non-greed, non-cruelty. (The practise and cultivation of the brahma-viharas (The sublime abidings) is helpful here.)

3. Right speech: to speak truthfully, to avoid malicious and divisive speech, to refrain from harsh unkind speech, and to refrain from idle pointless speech.

4. Right action: To refrain from taking the life of any living creature. To refrain from taking that which is not given. To refrain from sexual misconduct.

5. Right livelihood: Having abandoned wrong livelihood. One continues to make one's living with right livelihood. This is an occupation or lifestyle that does not cause harm to one self or others.

6. Right effort:

In the words of the Buddha:

1. One generates the desire for the prevention of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

2. One generates the desire for the abandonment of unwholesome states of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

3. One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind. By making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind, and striving.

4. 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 striving.

Right effort is also about tuning the energy of effort and attention so it is niether too tight, nor too loose. One has to experiment and find a sweet spot that works just right. It is like tuning a musical instrument, when you get it in tune it makes sweet music and there is progress and flow.

7. Right mindfulness:

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world.

1. One abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, clearly-comprehending (knowing), and mindful.
2. One abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly-comprehending, and mindful.
3. One abides contemplating mind, as mind, ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.
4. One abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas. Ardent, clearly-comprehending and mindful.

8. Right samhadi:

This is defined by the Buddha as the four jhanas. Four deep states of meditative absorption. The joy and pleasure described in the verses is a whole body experience. It is the feeling of the inner body.

1. First jhana: Quite secluded from the world, secluded from unwholesome states of mind (the five hindrances). One enters and remains in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from the five hindrances).

(There is a bit of a wobble in the first jhana, as one keeps applying and sustaining attention to the meditation object. But after a time there comes a point when the attention becomes stable and centred with the object, then it becomes effortless. One can let go of the applied and sustained attention then, take off the stabilizers and just flow with the momentum as a mindful passenger. Mindfulness is what leads to the jhanas and remains present throughout them all.)

2. Second jhana: With the subsiding of applied and sustained thought. One enters and abides in the second jhana. Which is accompanied by self-confidence and unification of mind (deep composure). Is without applied and sustained thought and has the joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

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

4. Fourth jhana: With the dissolving of pain and pleasure, and the previous disappearance of sadness and joy. One enters and abides in the fourth jhana. Which has neither pleasure nor pain. And has mindfulness purified and born of equanimity.

Hopefully I haven't got any of that wrong. I am going from memory. This is something I chant to myself every now and then to remember the practise, it is an evolving chant, that changes and grows as I learn more.

But I find it helpful to go over what I have learnt like this. It can also help bring some faith, courage, energy and determination when I feel disheartened, or lack the motivation to practise.

After some lengthy chanting like this, it can feel easier to settle into meditation. It is a bit like sweeping the floor of the mind to make it more inclined towards samhadi.


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Tiredness and Mara

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Mar 2023, 21:21

Quite tired today. Couldn't sleep much last night. Went for a walk this morning in a surreal haze of uncomfortable brain fog; barely managed to put one footstep in front of the other. Felt like an extra for a zombie movie. 

When I became mindful, I remembered to stop paying attention to the feeling of being tired and dull, as it intensifies the experience and makes it much worse, adding unbearable mental suffering on top of the physical suffering. So when I became mindful of it I would intentionally move my attention to something different in awareness, away from the unpleasant feeling of tiredness and the thoughts. And just kept doing that when I remembered to.

The breeze felt pleasant, so I focused on that. It was lovely. I stopped and stared at the water for a while. Watched the ripples in amazement, chasing each other across the surface like excited air spirits. I felt a synchronicity between me and the water. And again noticed how it keeps changing, how everything around me keeps changing.

The defilements in the mind are much worse when I am tired. And Mara tends to pop up then with the inner critic hat on. As always he is keen to point out all my faults, like a long rolling list that drops to the floor. I try not to pay attention to him. So he then gets right into the pit of my stomach and starts twisting and knotting my energies this way and that. I focus on the air element, and then I feel a lush breeze come along and it passes right through my being and blows Mara away.

 He really does not like it that I am trying to purify my mind.

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that samhadi (aka jhana) is a protection against Mara. Mara is very good at manipulating thoughts, he's a rascal. But the stillness of samhadi can protect you from that. It calms down the thought energies. It is challenging to learn, but well worth the effort, as it becomes a very useful part of one's mental toolkit.

Mara frequently appears in the Buddhist suttas trying to tempt, frighten or discourage those on the spiritual path. 

On the night of his awakening the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and for the first part of the night, his mind became dark as Mara threw everything he could at him, tried to pummel him with negative thoughts and aversion. But the Buddha sat there and endured.

Next Mara tried to seduce him with his daughters. Again the Buddha remained still and did not follow the lust. 

Then Mara tried to appeal to his sense of honour and compassion. Saying that if he didn't go back and be a prince, there would be noone wise enough to rule the kingdom after his father died and the kingdom would fall apart. But the Buddha reasoned back there would come a point as a ruler, when he would have to make a decision about taking another being's life, and as he now practised non-violence, he would be unable to defend the kingdom from an opposing army. He also reasoned that it would not solve anything anyway. Because he too would die eventually and then the kingdom would be vulnerable to falling apart again after his death. However, if he became a Buddha, it would be of greater benefit to other beings than becoming a king; and his teachings would survive longer than any kingdom and thus be able to help future generations. This was 2600 years ago. 







Permalink
Share post
Asoka

I take up the way of speaking truthfully

Visible to anyone in the world

I take up the training to be truthful.
And to speak from a deep place within.
To listen from there as well.

May I always receive others with a warm presence.
So they feel comfortable speaking their truth.

Truth is the antidote to delusion.
If there is no honesty when looking at the mind,
not much progress can be made on the spiritual path.

May I transform all these feelings of regret
for lies I've told in the past.
Into wisdom, that informs my discernment here and now.

Let me only speak the truth if it is kind, beneficial, and appropriate;
Otherwise let me wholeheartedly practise noble silence.

May I have the mindfulness and discernment
to know the right time to speak;
and the right time to remain silent.

The power of a truth can heal. There are stories in the suttas where the Buddha's disciples spoke or chanted a truth to people who were sick, (one time this included the Buddha himself when he was sick) and the power of that truth healed them.

The power of a spiritual truth can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

How does one know such a truth?
Because it resonates deep within,
Rings your entire being like a bell.

When a person hears a truth like this it can heal them.
 


 
 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Breathe the free air

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 14 Mar 2023, 20:54

I woke up in a strange mood today. I tried to study and just couldn't get into it. Decided in the end to have a break from studying and just focus on meditation. I think I was getting tired of all the reading and note-taking. There's some practical activities sprinkled here and there in the module, which feels like relief, but it is mostly reading, researching, note-taking and writing, and it gets a bit tiring, and I find my mind does not willingly incline towards it.

There's a famous Buddhist text called the 'anapanasati' sutta which is translated as 'mindfulness of breathing'. There's actually quite a few ancient Buddhist texts that talk about anapansati. So it is a teaching that must have been popular back in the Buddha's day, and still is now.

I have been practising this meditation a fair bit lately. It is a complete training for the mind. It fulfils all the factors of the noble eightfold path; secludes consciousness from the five hindrances, fulfils the four foundations of mindfulness, and brings into being the seven factors of enlightenment and can lead to deep samhadi and liberating insight. It is a neat, practical and thorough training for the mind, that can be easily remembered and become part of your daily routine, carried with you wherever you go.


It doesn't cost anything. You don't need to travel to the other side of the world to learn it from a master or a guru; you don't have to pay a premium on a meditation app; join an expensive course; go on retreat; or doing anything other than sit in your room, on a balcony, in the garden, or outside in nature somewhere. And just breathe the free air (-:

Anyway, I found that practising this for a while, cleared my head and then I managed to get some studying done. 

Brief summary of anapansati meditation

Sitting down, with body straight, one establishes mindfulness in the here and now.

Mindful, one breathes in. Mindful, one breathes out.

(Mindfulness of the body)
If the in-breath is long, one knows the in-breath is long. 
If the out-breath is long, one knows the out-breath is long. 
If the in-breath is short one knows the in-breath is short.
If the out-breath is short one knows the out-breath is short.

One trains thus, I will breathe in and out sensitive to the whole body. 
One trains thus, I will breathe in and out calming the body. 

(Mindfulness of feelings)
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to joy. 
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to pleasure. 
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to thoughts. 
One trains, I breathe in and out calming thoughts. 

(Mindfulness of mind)
One trains, I breathe in and out sensitive to state of mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out satisfying the mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out steadying the mind.
One trains, I breathe in and out releasing the mind.

(Mindfulness of dhamma)
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating change.
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating fading away (of craving).
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating cessation (of suffering).
One trains, I breathe in and out contemplating letting go (of clinging).

'Samhadi due to mindfulness of breathing when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four kinds of mindfulness. And the four kinds of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven awakening factors. And the seven awakening factors, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and freedom.' - The Buddha [SN 54.15]

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

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Keep paddling

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 2 Mar 2023, 14:19

Feel quite depressed today. The fatigue is overwhelming, tried to meditate but it was hopeless, I just can't seem to do it when I feel like this. I don't know what to do when I feel like this. I feel tired of everything.

I know the Buddha was right about the four noble truths. But for some reason I just really struggle with the practise. I guess I'm just not noble. I am trying, my heart wants to get there, but greed, aversion, and delusion is not easy to remove from the mind. 

I am growing increasingly jaded about everything, even the spiritual. It is so hard to generate and feel joy at the moment. Yesterday I got so angry about stuff. I felt disheartened, and thought I should be better than that, I am a Buddhist and I have been practising this for a few years now and I know better, yet I couldn't seem to help the angry outbursts. It is the same with greed, It is like there is an override switch in the mind and I can't help but grab an extra handful of peanuts, or say yes to intoxicants. I really hate the fifth precept, I enjoy intoxicants and wish the Buddha hadn't created that precept. I do not enjoy being sober. Even with meditation, its not as good as getting high. 

I doubt I will get enlightened in this life. I think I might be a bodhisattva. I keep seeing signs of this, and I had a spontaneous moment of what is called bodhicitta, many years ago, before I even knew about the Buddha's teachings. I want my enlightenment to be for the benefits of as many beings as possible; yet at the same time I feel reluctant to spend aeons perfecting my character so I can become a Buddha one day. I am really tired of existence now, I long for nibanna. I am starting to see that existence itself is suffering. Yet I do care for the Earth and other beings. But I also see I am identifying with this and that is delusion.

I need to practise some single-pointed attention and get away from the thought energies and the world. It is so hard to do this when I am fatigued, but I can't sleep either, so I am stuck in this limbo of being unable to find any relief from this unpleasant state of mind. Then I remember the four noble truths:

Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood)

This is suffering alright, this is how it feels to suffer.

Knowledge of the cause of suffering (which is to be abandoned)

The three kinds of craving: greed, aversion, and the self.

greed is the desire to acquire something
aversion is the desire for things to be different than what they are
delusion is the desire to become something; or to not become something. The way we identify with things and take it all personally. This is also to do with the desire for existence, the conceit: I am.

Yes those three are definitely in the mind just now, and I can see that suffering arises from them. So how does one abandon them?

 Well first off I should stop judging the contents of the mind, as that is not helpful and is actually feeding the unwholesome problem of aversion. I reflect some more... craving for intoxicants is present in the mind which is unpleasant and dissatisfying... there is aversion towards the default consciousness as it feels like a prison and inhibited, dull and there is this feeling of wanting to hammer a masonry nail through my temples... there's a longing for things to be different... and delusion is present in the mind. I am taking it all personally, identifying with it, making it into a story of self, there is the conceit I am, I exist. 

I need to stop fighting it, let it be, but that doesn't mean I should continue to go along with it either. I can give it room to be there without judging it or identifying with it, and just gently abandon it, by placing my attention somewhere else. This mood is not something that can be solved intellectually, whatever I think about will be coloured by my mood. So thoughts are not helpful now, I must withdraw from the thought processes and settle the mind. Try to find some equanimity and let go of the craving, the clinging and identifying.

The body feels unpleasant to pay attention to at the moment, it aches, there's pain and the fatigue is unbearable. So I decide to use space as a meditation object, be anchored with the sense of space, let the thoughts, sensations and feelings continue, but choose not to react to them. infinite space is large enough to contain everything, but is not the things it contains.

This sort of helps me to find the resolve to sit and meditate. At first it is not easy. I feel aversion towards meditation sometimes, especially when depressed. So I have to endure the taints, the greed, aversion, and delusion, and make a determintation to sit there very still and not follow it or get involved with it. Keep returning my attention to the meditation object. 

It is hard, and takes a while, but there comes a point when the longing, aversion and self-centredness starts to dissolve and then the mind becomes more still and starts to enjoy the stillness, and the restlessness calms and the mind doesn't want to be any place else. The sense of self disappears, there is just change, energy flowing from one moment to the next, time is change. This thing I call a self is just a flow of processes brought about by causes and conditions. It feels good to forget the self, I realise I am one with the universe, I am made out of elements that come from the universe, I am not separate from the universe, I am not separate from nature. 

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

I notice greed, aversion and delusion is no longer present in the mind. I feel the relief that comes from this. To no longer be driven around by desire, to just stop. How wonderful it feels when the mind stops harrassing itself. I ask myself what is nibanna? What is the unconditioned? The deathless? The Buddhist suttas define it as the mind unhindered by greed, hate, and delusion. Nibanna is the end of suffering. The end of craving. It is an element that is always here, it doesn't go anywhere when the Buddha's teachings disappear, but it takes a Buddha to find a way to realise it again when the dhamma gets forgotten.

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

I notice after the meditation that slowly but surely the craving and conditioning starts to come back again. It was only a temporary relief, oh and there is the self again... I am not yet fully liberated from suffering. This is going to take time and I will have to be patient. The way out of suffering is the noble eightfold path. This is what needs to be developed:

Right view:

This is the law of karma, that good karma comes from thoughts, words and actions of generosity, kindness and clarity. Bad karma comes from thoughts, words, and actions of greed, hate, and delusion.

Supramundane right view is the four noble truths. They lead to the four paths and fruits of enlightenment.

Right intention:

Sometimes called right thought. The three right intentions are: intention of non-greed, intention of non ill-will, and intention of non-cruelty

Right speech:

Is to abstain from false speech, to refrain from divisive and harmful speech, to refrain from harsh and unkind speech, and to refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action:

To abstain from taking the life of any living creature. To abstain from taking what is not given. To abstain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood:

One should abandon wrong livelihood and take up right livelihood. Earn a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. It can also be lifestyle, as some people are retired or out of work for other reasons. So right lifestyle is another way of looking at it. One should live comfortably, and avoid the extremes of austerity as that can generate aversion and agitation in the mind. But one should also be careful not to over indulge in luxury as that can generate greed and laziness in the mind. Find a middle way as best one can with one's circumstances.

Right effort:

These are the four right efforts

1. One generates the desire to prevent unwholesome states of mind arising, by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering. To do this one avoids unwise attention to the attractive and unwise attention to the fault (both in oneself and in others). Nip it in the bud before it takes over the mind. Stop trouble before it starts. 

2. Should an unwholesome state of mind arise, then one generates the desire to abandon that unwholesome state of mind by making effort, rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering. Sometimes this is merely a dismissal and it is gone, and other times it needs to be brought down in stages.

Unwholesome states of mind here refer to the five hindrances: greed, aversion, dullness/laziness, agitation, and doubt.

3. One generates the desire for the arising of wholesome states of mind by making effort rousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering. 

4. 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.

Wholesome states of mind refer to the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, interest and investigation of right view, effort and energy, joy, calmness and serenity, samhadi, equanimity.

Other wholesome states of mind to cultivate are kindness, generosity, friendliness, sorrowless empathy, joy in the happiness of others.

Right mindfulness:

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world. One abides contemplating the body as the body, ardent clearly comprehending and mindful.
 One abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful.
 One abides contemplating states of mind, as states of mind, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful.
One abides contemplating dhammas as dhammas, ardent clearly comprehending and mindful.

Right samhadi

The Buddha defines right samhadi as the four jhanas, or four stages of meditative absorption.

Quite secluded from worldly pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind (the five hindrances). One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought. And has the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion from the world and the five hindrances.

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

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

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

These four stages of meditation must not be rushed. The Buddha recommends mastering each stage before moving on to the next. Right samhadi is a difficult factor of the path to learn and master, it is also one of the fruits of the path. Indeed I am still trying to learn this one, which is why I have not written about the eighth factor of the path yet. When I am more experienced with right samhadi I will right an article about it one day. Apparently even people at the first and second stages of enlightenment find right samhadi challenging. It is not until one reaches the third stage of enlightenment that one can successfully enter and remain in the jhanas at will. Which makes me think the jhanas are an important skill for completely removing greed and aversion from the mind. From there delusion is also weakened significantly, but doesn't go away completely until the fourth and final stage of enlightenment is reached.

Sorry for this long piece of writing. I think this will be the last thing I write for a while. 

Peace and love


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 2 Mar 2023, 17:17)
Share post
Asoka

The Deathless

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 20 Feb 2023, 21:19

Went out for a walk in the rain. Felt like there was a horse race of thoughts going on in my head. I watched them patiently, and noticed how I felt as well, how the thoughts affect the body; and vice versa how the body affects the thoughts. I felt restless and agitated, anxiety was present in the mind, and I noted how unpleasant these feelings are. Suffering feels like this.

I observed that the cause of it was once again thoughts to do with greed, hatred, and delusion. I reflected on what is meant by delusion, and there was this Aha! moment and I suddenly saw that the root of all delusion is the conceit: I am. 

I noticed then that whenever I felt suffering present in the mind, thoughts about the self were also present. This mental construct we carry around with us like a heavy suitcase: the self. It is unpleasant, it is stressful, bossy as well, has all these wants and needs, and resentments, it is tiring having a self... and... how nice it feels when one puts it down like a heavy bag one has been carrying without realising. How pleasant it feels to stop identifying with things, to stop taking things personally, to stop longing, to stop feeling angry. How happy it is to forget the self. I think the happiest moments in my life are when I have forgotten the self. 

I then reflect there never actually was a self, it was all a mental construct, an illusion, when one looks closely at it, it can't stand up to the light of day. But the sense of self is still needed to function in the world, so I must use it like a tool to survive; but how nice it feels to not cling to it, to not identify with it anymore (-:

I think that's the reason for the dark night, to see the self for what it is which can be hard to see; but then it is liberating, when one sees how it is this clinging to this delusion of self that causes us suffering, and the realisation that one doesn't have to hold onto it, it is perfectly okay to let go of it, because it was never there in the first place. 

Nibanna (Nirvana) is an element that is always here, it always has been here, and always will be. Another name for it is 'the deathless' because unlike conditioned phenomena it is permanent, it never ceases, and it is unaffected by change. Another name for it is the unconditioned.

 The noble eightfold path is the training that frees the mind from greed, hatred, and delusion. Which then enables one to experience the deathless, nibanna.

The knowledge of nibanna disappears and gets forgotten in time though, and it can remain unknown for very long stretches of time. And then apparently it takes a Buddha, a Tathagatha to re-discover it and teach other beings how to experience it again.


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Right mindfulness part three

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 3 Nov 2022, 23:54

Mindfulness of the mind (citta-anupassanä)

The third foundation of right mindfulness is about being aware of our state of mind, our mood, emotions, attitude. 

It is a wonder that the human mind is able to look at itself and know its state at all. That it is able to both observe itself and act at the same time. In Buddhism there are six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mind. The sixth sense is called the mind sense because it is able to look at itself. The mind can be detached from the five senses of the body, but it cannot be detached from itself. 

Consciousness happens in distinct and discrete moments, but happens so fast that it gives the impression those separate moments are happening at the same time. And perhaps what is happening when the mind is watching itself, is there is a discrete moment of consciousness, followed closely by another where the mind is noting that moment of consciousness, like the mind playing a game of tennis with itself. 

These mind moments are always changing, and the feeling of there being a permanent observer watching the mind is just an illusion, the observer is not really there, it is just a transitory conscious moment in a sequence of discrete causal events. A  stream of conscious moments with no substantial self behind it. Not me, not mine, not self.  

Thankfully the Buddha keeps the task of watching the mind simple and advises us to keep track of just eight states of mind and their opposites. He teaches us to note whether the mind is:

  • greedy or not,
  • hateful or not,
  • deluded or not,
  • collected or scattered,
  • developed or undeveloped,
  • surpassable (easily overcome) or unsurpassable (invincible),
  • in lucid stillness (samhadi) or not,
  • liberated or not.

The Buddha purposely says greedy or not, hateful or not, deluded or not, because there are many wholesome emotional states that are not greedy, hateful, or deluded. So one can replace the word 'not' with any of those.

The Buddha advises one to note the manifestation, arising and passing away of these states of mind, as well as to contemplate these states of mind internally and externally. I think when he says internally and externally he means to contemplate and understand the state of mind of other beings as well as one's own. 

However one should remember that just mere awareness and noting states of mind is not all there is to this practise. Noting can be helpful in the beginning to help one become aware of these states of mind and get skilled at spotting them quickly. But ultimately one is training to remove these negative states of mind altogether and bring into being wholesome ones to replace them, such as the seven factors of enlightenment which is covered in the fourth foundation of mindfulness.  

Much of our suffering comes from these negative states of mind. In fact the cause of suffering is greed, hatred, and delusion. And the end of suffering, nibbana is when these three poisons have been permanently removed from the mind. When the mind is no longer harrassed by greed, hate, and delusion it is luminous and shines like the moon that comes out from behind the clouds.

To free the mind is no small task though. It is challenging, as these tendencies of the mind are strong, and they will resist your efforts to remove them, so one has to do this gradually and pace oneself. Avoid straining the mind by exerting too much effort, as this is counterproductive and will lead to more harm, more suffering. This path is not a quick fix, it takes time and patience, and perseverence. So be gentle with yourself, be compassionate and kind. There has to be some effort, else nothing will change, but too much effort will cause burnout and psychological distress. So one needs to tune the effort so it doesn't strain the mind nor make one lazy and unmotivated. Those negative states will keep coming back over and over, and often one's progress and development comes from making mistakes, from one's failures. So don't be hard on oneself for not being perfect and not knowing everything, just keep persevering and being patient. Learn from mistakes and try try try again. As one makes progress and gets more developed, one gets faster at removing and replacing these negative states, until it becomes like second nature, and then a new habit structure of the mind is formed and then one becomes unsurpassable. 

The Buddha said that anger is a great stain on the personality but fairly easy to get rid of. Greed is a lesser stain on the personality and hard to get rid of. Delusion is both a great stain on the personality and very hard to get rid of. 

Anger is painful, so it is easier to motivate oneself to get rid of anger, it is always accompanied by an unpleasant feeling. Anger can arise from sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and ideas in the world around one. And the world can try to make one angry on purpose. It will say you should be angry about this, angry about that, why aren't you angry? If you are not then there must be something wrong with you. Everyone else is angry about it, you should be too. There can be pressure sometimes socially to be angry. But one does not have to follow the rest of the world. You do not have to reflect the world or other people's anger. The Buddhist path is all about how you feel, are you suffering or not? To feel anger and hatred is suffering. There's enough anger and hatred, enough suffering in the world, why add to it. One is actually doing a service to the world when in the midst of all the craziness, anger, and hatred, one remains serene, at ease, and filled with loving-kindness and compassion. 

Greed is hard to remove and is also a bit trickier to spot as it is a mix of pain and pleasure. Greed here is a general term that also covers lust and craving for intoxicants.There is pain in wanting something and not getting it, but there is also gratification when one does get what one wants, even though that gratification is transient, it is still not easy to motivate the mind to get rid of greed. Again the world will be advertising, pushing the buttons of craving, telling you that you need this or that, that your life is not complete without something it is trying to sell you. But again one does not have to be greedy, does not have to want these things, can find contentment without them. Even if the rest of society thinks you are strange for not wanting those things. One has to look at the drawbacks of greed, how hard one has to work for worldly-pleasures, how expensive they are, how the material things you accumulate can be taken away from you by others, how they are impermanent, can break and don't last, how they do not lead to lasting happiness, how it all leads to misery in the end, all that is beloved and pleasing to us will become otherwise, one is fated to become separated from all one loves and holds dear. If one is serious about ending suffering, one has to decide: do you want money, sex, and intoxicants? Or do you want enlightenment? 

Delusion is the root of both anger and greed. And delusion comes from ignorance. In Buddhism it is knowledge of the four noble truths and the deep understanding of them which brings wisdom and deliverance from ignorance.

Samhadi or lucid stillness, is a state of mind where greed, hatred, and delusion is temporarily suspended, it is not permanent and the negative mind states will return, but in samhadi one gets a taste of what the mind is like when it is not being harrassed by these psychic irritants. Right samhadi is a composed state of mind, serene, wholehearted, lucid and still. A mind collected and unified, the connection to big mind and divine consciousness, and the next factor of the noble eightfold path. Right mindfulness takes you to the doorstep of right samhadi and also stays throughout the experience of it. 

I will stop here as I am feeling a bit tired and think perhaps I have written enough for a brief summary of what I am learning. Mindfulness of the mind should always be practised in the context of the noble eightfold path and not separate from it. All factors of the path must be practised together to reach the destination. If any of the factors are left out, the vehicle to nibanna won't work. 

May you feel safe, well, happy, and peaceful. 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

New blog post

Visible to anyone in the world


“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear such a grudge, hatred never ends.

“They abused me, they hit me! They beat me, they robbed me!” For those who bear no such grudge, hatred has an end.

For never is hatred settled by hate, it’s only settled by love: this is an eternal truth.

....

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

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Serenity practise

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 7 May 2022, 22:52

This is something I have been practising during my own meditation and it has been very helpful and I quite like it.

When the mind becomes distracted in meditation and loses awareness of the meditation object, follow this simple algorithm below:

1. Notice with friendliness towards the mind, without any judgement or shame towards oneself, (always be gentle, be a friend to the mind and it will be a friend back) just become aware that the mind has wandered from the meditation object. Then...

2. Let go of whatever the distraction was, it doesn't matter what it was, the details are irrelevant, there's no need to tie up any lose ends or tidy up the thoughts. Just let go of the distraction and become aware of the body.

3. Relax any tension you feel in the body, remembering also to relax the face and head, as thoughts can bring tension to those areas. Spend some time doing this, take as long as feels natural. One is purposefully calming the body, and bringing into awareness a sense of bodily ease and pleasure.

4. Gladden the mind, like the zesty zingy feeling of a refreshing spring breeze. Kindle some joy in the mind. Smile inwardly, smile with your heart, and turn the corners of your mouth up, even if it's just a little, teeny slight barely-noticeable smile. That'll do! It doesn't matter if at first it feels fake, smiling releases endorphins and the mind will catch on and the smile will eventually become genuine. Then let that warm pleasant energy spread throughout the whole body. Saturate the entire body with it.

5. Then reflect for a moment on how the mind feels when it is lucid, serene and free from craving.

There are two sides to craving: craving for sense pleasure, and craving for circumstances to be different. They are both two sides of the same coin.

These are the four noble truths:

Knowledge of suffering (which is to be understood).

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

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

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

Can you see the four noble truths in your meditation practise: noticing the craving, letting go of the craving, experiencing freedom from the craving, and the cultivation of the noble eightfold path that leads to the end of craving. 

6. Return to focusing on the meditation object.

7. Rinse and repeat every time the mind wanders.

Samma Samhadi (Right Concentration) can be translated as lucid serenity. Unfortunately, Right Concentration can create the wrong impression of meditation practise. Samma Samhadi is not a hard tunnel-vision focus. One is not concentrating so hard that it blocks out everything else from conscious awareness, that just creates tension in the mind and the body. No, Samma Samhadi is a still, calm, lucid, relaxed, expansive and serene awareness. Anchored in the body, so the mind does not float off like a helium balloon. One meditates with awareness of the body in the background. This is what is meant by one pointed attention, it means wholehearted attention grounded in the body, it is an embodied attention. A unification of mind, all of the mind collected and gathered together, attending to the meditation object together as one. The four jhanas which the Buddha defined as Samma Samhadi are known as the rupa jhanas because they are embodied, i.e. awareness of the body is present throughout. 

Samhadi (lucid serenity) and vipassana (insight) are actually one and the same, they are not two distinct separate practises. They are part of the same meditation. They are like two wings of a bird that take you to nibanna. Nibanna in a nutshell means irreversible freedom from suffering. I.e. there's no comedown from it, the freedom is permanent. And nibanna can be experienced here and now in this very life if one practises ardently enough. Different stages of enlightenment bring progressively greater freedom from suffering. 

In Buddhist practise there's nothing magical happening, although it can certainly feel like that at times, (encounters with the unconscious parts of the mind can often feel magical,)  one is just simply training the mind. If one puts in the right causes and conditions, one gets the results. In the case of Buddhist training, the final result is irreversible freedom from suffering. 

Right input equals right output. Bad input equals bad output.

Having a good teacher helps immensely, but the training is doable on one's own if one is  determined enough, but honestly find a teacher and some good spiritual friends, it will save you a lot of time and make the practise much richer and joyful. There are many Buddhist teachers and groups available online and one does not need to travel great distances to find one anymore, one can now train virtually via the Internet for free from one's home without having to travel anywhere or go on a lengthy retreat. All my teachers and spiritual friends are online.

The noble eightfold path is the training one undertakes to become a Buddha. The Buddha famously once said: 'One who sees the dhamma sees me. And one who sees me sees the dhamma.'  The dhamma is the mind of the Buddha, and one who has mastered the dhamma, becomes a Buddha. 

Not a clone though, one still has whatever personality traits one had before, but now freed from greed, hatred, and delusion. A bit like how there is a recipe to bake bread, but there can be different kinds of bread, they all however follow the same basic recipe and use the same core ingredients. The loaves of bread can look different when they come out of the oven, but despite their difference in appearance, one can still see and know it is bread. 

Peace and metta!

Permalink
Share post
Asoka

A good home

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 23 Apr 2022, 13:10

Was ruminating just now over feelings of regret and longing. These can pop up and disrupt the flow of peace at times. How to deal with those?

 I have been practising telling myself each time that I can't change the past. What has happened has happened, there's no super-power I have that can turn back the clock and make me do things different. And even if I could, would I want to?  

Past mistakes were done by a younger self that didn't know any better. But now you do know better, and it is because of your younger self that you know better. So stop punishing yourself, take a bow to your younger self and resolve to honour the mistake by being wiser from now on. And remembering your less-than-graceful moments can help one to be humble, which is helpful for overcoming conceit. But the guilt, longing, aversion, anxiety and remorse is not helpful, that can be let go of.

Your younger self is not who you are now. And it is who you are now that's important. Who you are now is what's generating the kamma for your future self.

Putting oneself down and feeling guilt, shame and anxiety will become a habit when repeated over a lengthy period of time, and it is a habit that is no good for the mind. It depresses it, and a depressed mind is no fun to be in at all. Our mind is our home, and so we should make it the kind of home that is warm, friendly, welcoming, wise, peaceful, and a refuge even when times are shit.

Unfortunately pain, sickness, fatigue, loss and separation is inevitable in this world. That is the kamma of having a body. Noone escapes this, not even enlightened beings. The Buddha aged, got sick, had back problems, had a toxic cousin intent on murdering him, and he died. 

It is the fate of all living beings.

What is the most important thing to have with us when we die? 

 Our time here is short and one could die at any moment, old age is not guaranteed, people die at different ages and that's normal; across the many species of life on Earth both young and old die. Noone knows how much time they have here.

And it isn't these things that are the problem. They are inevitable, they are outside our control, that's the way it is in a changing universe of interdependence and entropy. 

The problem is how we feel about these things. It is the hostility in the mind towards them that is the problem. Aversion is an unpleasant emotion, it comes with unpleasant sensations, unpleasant feelings and thoughts. It makes one's consciousness feel toxic and unhappy. To the point where one would do anything to get rid of it. And it brings us negative consequences - one's kamma, setting us up for more misery in the future. And yet we can't see that it is this hostility in the mind, this craving for things to be different that causes the suffering.

The good news is that aversion is not necessary and can be removed from the mind. And why wouldn't one want to remove it from the mind? It is not helpful, and one can live perfectly well without it. 

Aversion is generated by the mind. And because it is generated by the mind, it is possible to train one's mind to let go of it, and feel the relief of a mind that is not hostile. A serene happy mind filled with unconditional love instead of fear. It is easier to feel love for others when the mind is less hostile, when you realise all beings value their lives. That all beings want to feel safe, loved, and at peace. Just like you do.

Our mind is our true home. It is what we take with us when we die.

It might take time, a lot of practise, perseverance and a huge helping of patience. But continue putting in the right causes and conditions even when it feels like a desert and a trudge, and eventually the garden will flower and fruit all by itself. But remember to be gentle with the mind, a friend to it, take regular breaks and rest from the work. Impatience and overdoing it won't make anything grow faster.


 


Permalink
Share post
Asoka

Right intention

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 22 Apr 2022, 17:28

What is intention?

Does intention come before thought, like a wordless impulse?

For me it feels like that, but thankfully one does not need to understand what it is to any great depth. Basically what we need to remember is: intention is the generator of kamma. Our intentions lead to actions, and repeated actions become habits. From intention comes speech and action -- our behaviour. What we think about reflects our intentions, and we can change our intentions by changing our thoughts.

Changing our thoughts can also alter our perceptions. For example, Ajahn Sona in a talk during a mindfulness retreat (available both as a podcast and on YouTube), talked about how as a monk one of the first things they are taught is to break the body up into the five parts we are most attracted to and memorise them. This becomes a mental tool one can use to help free the mind of lust and attachment to one's body. These five parts are: head hair, body hair, nails, skin, and teeth. When you separate them by themselves, they are not that attractive or appealing really. Our perception of them changes. There's something else interesting about them as well, they are also the dead parts of the body. And isn't it odd how we are not attracted to the live parts of the human body? The squishy inners underneath the skin, we find the living parts of the body repulsive and horrifying. One never praises one's romantic love's kidneys or the shape of their pancreas, or finds the real beating lump of their heart that appealing. When you break it down the whole thing about attraction can be turned on its head and one's perception can be altered.

During the talk Ajahn Sona likens skin to being like a leaky spandex suit. And I carried out a thought experiment with this whilst I was watching a movie with my family, and as I looked at the Hollywood actors and actresses on the screen I kept thinking: 'Leaky spandex suit', and you know what it worked! My perception was altered and the human body suddenly became quite repulsive to me, I even excitedly shared this with my family, who looked at me strangely lol. Alas they do not share my enthusiasm for the spiritual life.

Anyway to return back to topic, right intention is the second factor of the noble eight-fold path and is guided by right view. These two folds of the path are known as the wisdom faculties. They come at the beginning for a reason, because they act like a compass to steer one in the right direction. They are also at the end of the path after right samhadi and grow deeper and wiser as one's practise of the noble eightfold path develops. The noble eight-fold path cycles, and one's understanding of it grows deeper on each iteration. The eight path factors also support each other outside of the numbered order. I.e. the work of right intention is supported by the four right efforts, which in turn instruct right mindfulness.

Luckily the Buddha simplifies what one needs to remember to just three right intentions. These are: the intention of renunciation (letting go), the intention of non-illwill, and the intention of harmlessness. These are the three directions one should steer the herd of thoughts towards.

It doesn't have to be a stressful exercise, and one does not need to be an enemy or control freak with oneself. I sort of imagine it as a sailing boat following a course bearing. And at times I might go off course, but once I am aware I am going in the wrong direction, I simpy correct course and bring the herd of thoughts back in line with the three right intentions.

I don't judge myself for going in the wrong direction, I don't punish myself, or feel I have to tie up any loose thoughts I was having. I just simply interrupt the thought processes, let go of whatever it was, and simply steer the herd back in the right direction without an iota of judgement for having those thoughts. The Buddha is kind in that he gives us a 'get out of jail free' card which lets us out of the dungeon of guilt and shame. We are allowed to not ruminate over our mistakes. Gleam what wisdom one can from them and let them go. They were done by a younger self and are not who you are now. So let go of aversion towards oneself. Try to be a friend to the mind instead, don't fight it, train it gently with kindness, and it will be a friend back to you. It will become your best friend (-:

In fact metta practice (metta means friendship and loving-kindness) can help weaken the mind's tendency towards aversion, which is helpful for bringing into being the three right intentions. So metta can be part of the practise of right intention also.

It can help also to think of right intention as being like guiding a herd of cattle, when one notices the thoughts are going off course, one imagines oneself to be like a cowherd steering them back in the right direction. This metaphor comes from the Buddha in the Dvedhavitakka sutta - Two sorts of thinking (MN19).

The Buddha also mentions in the sutta that excessive thinking, even about good things, can be tiring after a while. And encourages one to quieten down the thought energies when one is tired and rest in Samhadi. This lucid stillness refreshes the mind and brings relief to the body, which helps with the work of right intention, so the eighth factor: right samhadi is also supporting it.

Calming thoughts down is not always easy though, the habit of thinking can be a hard one to shake, especially for us modern humans. We are conditioned by this industrial world to live constantly in our heads, and the constant thinking becomes a torture. Which is why it feels such a relief when one can let go of the thought processes for a bit and just dwell in another consciousness outside of speech. It feels freeing, refreshing.

To be able to stop thinking when I want, and to only think what I want, when I want. To train and master the thought processes. That is the noble aspiration here with right intention.

The Buddha says that training one's thoughts to follow the three right intentions will lead one to helpful kamma that is conducive to reaching the goal of realising nibanna. Whilst allowing them to wander about untrained in the opposite directions of: craving, hostility, and harmfulness will lead one to unhelpful kamma. 

The three right intentions:

Intention of renunciation.
Intention of non-hostility.
Intention of not causing harm.

Permalink
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 432267