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

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

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

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

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

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


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Asoka

The Five Precepts

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

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

These (in no particular order) are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Asoka

Not Holding On

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 18 Oct 2023, 11:22


Instead of letting go or not clinging. I prefer the term 'not holding onto' that seems to work for me. Just let things be without holding onto them. I can still enjoy things then, and live, but if I don't hold onto them, then I don't have to worry about letting go of them later, because I never became attached. 

I've done some pretty stupid things in my life and made some poor choices. When I try to let go of the regret I feel for that, it doesn't seem to work for me. I find that although I seem to let go for a moment, I find myself clinging again the next moment.

When I think instead about not holding onto anything, then that makes it easier. I don't know why, it means the same thing as not clinging, but a different use of wording has a magic effect on the mind. 

There's nothing to hold onto, everything changes from moment to moment, this moment is already gone, and the next, and the next... and everything and everybody is destined to die one day. I don't mean that to sound depressing. On the contrary, it is a relief to know this. Nothing matters then. One becomes like a peaceful life stream just flowing from one moment to the next without stressing.



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The idea of being a person is a mental construct

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deathless.

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

...


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Grasping Karma

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

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

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

Knowing this, a wise person cultivates wholesome tendencies. 


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Duck 'em

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 11 Oct 2023, 19:56


Be like a broken gong when it comes to the opinions of the world. The words may strike the mind but they don't have to reverberate inside. Let the opinions of fools be like water falling off a duck’s back. 

Perceive the voice of a worldling as if it is the wind blowing through leaves, or the strange vocalisations of a creature that arises and ceases. Just sound, nothing more.

One doesn't have to follow the herd if it's going in the wrong direction. Choose your own way.



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The Effects of Kindness are Incalculable

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 7 Oct 2023, 10:55


We may not be able to change the universe, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves. We can direct our thoughts and actions. Which means we can make informed choices. And if the choices we make are based on the right view of things, which is that there are some actions that lead to good outcomes, and other actions that lead to bad outcomes. Then that becomes a condition that can bring about the end of suffering.

In a nutshell, greed, hate, and delusion are what lead to bad outcomes; and generosity, kindness, and clarity are what lead to good outcomes.

When we become more aware, we start to wise up and notice the recurring patterns and cycles that lead to unhappiness. We become more aware of our triggers and how we respond to things; aware of how our reaction can either lead to more suffering or can lead to peace. We can then choose (intend) to react differently to our circumstances, guided by wisdom and discernment.

Unfortunately, the world is dependent on conditions, it is uncertain and changing. We can’t do much about that. But we can change the way we react to it. Choose to be kind, and not let the darkness take away our light. Then our peace remains unshaken by things outside our control. We don’t have to go along with the stream of the world and do what others do. We can choose to be different. This is where our power lies.

A Zen teacher told a story about a lady on a checkout who went out of her way to help a customer. He was in the queue watching her kindness, and it touched him deeply. It moved him enough to talk about it in a dharma talk, which I and many others attended. And now I am writing about it here in this article. The person who performed that act of kindness created ripples that she is completely unaware of. This is why the results of any act of genuine kindness are incalculable. Who can predict where they will lead, what changes they can make, and who they may affect? By changing ourselves, we can change the world without trying to change the world.




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Asoka

Pain, the power of intention, and Samadhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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The Heart of the Matter

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


The world judges by outward appearances.

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

...

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Sickness Became my Teacher When I Changed my Perception About it

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


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

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

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

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

---

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

---

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

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

---

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful what you wish for.

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Be your own Guru, your own refuge

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Iluminating wisdom

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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The Revolutionary

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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



...

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Asoka

Bad beat

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 13 Sep 2023, 19:53


Life can be unpleasant
Dark times happen
whether I like it or not

Exams are cruel.

I woke up sick
Struggled.

I am not sure I will pass.

Not just the academic exam.
But the exam of life.
I failed in every aspect today.

Got angry this morning.
Couldn’t let go of it.
The horrible mood was sticky like glue.
And the body felt like shit.
A fatigued mind.
With all lucidity gone.

The thirst for non-existence was strong.

I burst into tears at one point.
This world can be harsh.
I hate money
Hate economics
Hate poverty.

I can’t get my head around it at all.
I long to escape.


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Mind Storms

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 12 Sep 2023, 22:37


It has been a dark few days within this fathom length body.

This morning I was once again pummelled by the dark forces of the kilesas (greed, hate, conceit, and delusion). They have become my relentless teachers these days. They hit me with everything they got today. Brought me to tears if I am honest.

Revealing to me just how much work there is still left to do on this mind.

I attended a dharma inquiry this evening that really seemed to hit the nail on the head of how I was feeling. I left seeing things more clearly.

I now understand this Buddhist practise is not just about the intellect, it is as much about the heart. Both work together. Complement one another.

Cool head, warm heart.

Friendship is important, as challenging as it can feel at times to relate to others, it teaches me things I miss when practising alone. I think I am a mix of classical Buddhism and Zen, although not the authoritarian kind of Zen. The friendly Zen (-:

I am not really into the Bodhisattva vow, though I respect it. I just feel uncertain about vowing. 

I have decided I want to go for full enlightenment, and if I reach that, it will be impossible to help all beings then; but that does not mean I don't feel love for them, I feel compassion, and when wise enough I will try to keep the true dhamma alive for future generations, if I live that long. I want to help as many beings as I can. But not proselytising,  not conceited, just living from the heart, and out of compassion teaching those who ask, and only when asked.

But I am getting ahead of myself, I still have much to learn before I realise that lofty aspiration.

I have a three hour exam tomorrow on the topic of cyber security. I am not looking forward to it. Wish me luck!

May all be safe, well, peaceful, and 😊




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Happiness more spiritual than the spiritual

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

~ S 36.31 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)


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The four roads to psychic power

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



Four Bases of Psychic Power (satara iddhipada)

Desire or zeal (chanda)

Effort (viriya)

Mind (citta)

Investigation (vimamsa)


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Like a tusker in the wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of the Buddha:

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

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

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

[MN128] 

https://suttacentral.net/mn128








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The Buddha's teaching to Vaccha

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


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

For the Tathāgata, Vaccha, has seen this:

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

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

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






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Asoka

Crossing the flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ S 1.1 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)

 


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Asoka

Gradual incline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

 


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Asoka

What remains

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


The body
Sensations
Feelings
Perceptions
Thoughts
Sense consciousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What remains?

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

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



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Asoka

The five right exertions

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


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

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

The four right efforts are:

1. Preventing unwholesome states of mind arising

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

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

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

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

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

 When for you Bahiya there is:

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

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

2. Removal of unwholesome states of mind should they arise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Generating wholesome states of mind

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

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

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

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

4. Sustaining wholesome states of mind

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

In the words of the Buddha:

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

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

...



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Asoka

Calming anger

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The touch of clothing on the skin.

A cool breeze can also help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo of a tree


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Asoka

Note to not-self

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

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

That's where your power is. '

- the Buddha (I think).

...


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