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Crossing the flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ S 1.1 (Bhikkhu Bodhi trans.)

 


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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

Wise about mistakes

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 19 Aug 2023, 15:10



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Asoka

The five hindrances in brief

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 7 Aug 2023, 15:17


'The obstructions to samhadi (meditative absorption) are usually presented in a five-fold stack called the 'five hindrances'. 

These are: Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and worry, and doubt. 

They are called the hindrances because they block the path to liberation. They cloud the mind, preventing it being calm and developing insight. 

The first two hindrances, sensual desire and ill-will, are the strongest of the set, and are the most formidable barriers to meditative growth, representing respectively, the unwholesome roots of greed and aversion. The other three hindrances, less toxic but still obstructive, are offshoots of delusion.

Sensual desire is interpreted in two ways. Sometimes in the narrow sense as lust for the five strands of sense pleasure: agreeable sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches; and sometimes a broader interpretation is given, by which the term becomes inclusive of craving in all its modes, whether for sense pleasures, wealth, power, position, fame, or anything else it can settle upon. 

The second hindrance ill will, is a synonym for aversion. It comprises hatred, anger, resentment, repulsion of every shade, whether directed towards other people, towards oneself, towards objects, or towards situations.

The third hindrance, dullness and drowsiness, is a compound of two factors linked together by their common feature of mental unwieldiness. One is dullness, manifest as mental inertia; the other is drowsiness, seen as mental sinking, heaviness of mind, or excessive inclination to sleep. 

At the opposite extreme is the fourth hindrance, restlessness and worry. This also is a compound with its two members linked by their common feature of disquietude. Restlessness is agitation or excitement, which drives the mind from thought to thought with speed and frenzy; worry is remorse over past mistakes and anxiety about their possible undesired consequences.

The fifth hindrance, doubt, signifies a chronic indecisiveness and lack of resolution. This is not the probing of critical intelligence (i.e. critical thinking), which is an attitude that was encouraged by the Buddha, but a persistent inability to commit oneself to the course of spiritual training due to lingering doubts concerning the Buddha, his doctrine, and his path. '

From: 'The Noble Eightfold Path, the way to the end of suffering.' by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Available at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

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Asoka

One excellent night

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


' Let one not revive the past.

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

-- poem attributed to the Buddha


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Asoka

Renunciation

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 23 Jul 2023, 16:37


One way I look at this is. It is more about becoming aware of the mental dispositions that cause us suffering, and when we become less ignorant of these and wise up to them, we naturally let go of them.

The good stuff remains though. It is okay to have a good life, to be comfortable and have some fun. This practise does not have to be a morose and sombre experience. After all it is the way that leads to the end of suffering. Enjoy the pleasant moments, as fully as you can, but practise wise attention to them. Notice how the mind clings and thirsts for more, and how this makes us suffer. How the things we are attached to the most, are the things that cause us to suffer the most when we become separated from them.

All conditioned phenomena is transient and uncertain. If one's happiness is dependent on conditions, it is bound to disappoint. As those conditions are outside of one's control, they will change and then that happiness will end. That is why it is precarious to place one's hopes in worldly happiness. It is not wrong to enjoy this happiness. It is just, material things are not the real treasure in life. The pearl of great worth comes from within. That's what we reach for at death, what we take with us when we die. Everything else is torn away from us.

Mindfulness, wonder, interest, investigation, energy, joy, peace, friendliness, love, kindness, good humour, generosity, empathy, connection, compassion, serenity, samhadi, and equanimity to mention some, are all beautiful states of mind that don't cause us or anyone else any harm. These states of mind are good for us mentally and physically. They also bring good kamma, because they reinforce the mental dispositions that lead to good states of becoming, that lead away from suffering. They make us happier, healthier beings, and enrich our lives and those around us.

All the beauty of the heart remains, and shines the more brightly without the clouds of greed, hate, conceit and delusion. 

It is like someone who has been sick with an illness, with a fever, becomes unconscious. A doctor comes along and examines the patient, knows what it is that is wrong with the patient and how to cure them. He gives the patient some medicine. Their consciousness returns, then the colour returns to their cheeks, they sit up feeling much better, then their composure becomes serene and radiant. Feeling the relief of no longer being sick.

In a similar way, when our minds are clear of greed, hate, conceit and delusion, they become well again.

It isn't the world outside that is the problem. It is the greed, hate, and delusion within us that is the problem. That is what causes us suffering. That is what gets in the way.  

...

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Asoka

The safe shore

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Jul 2023, 17:22

Dependent on conditions.
Human existence is fragile. 
Liable to end.

When certain conditions cease,
So does human existence.

Interdependence is complex.
More than just linear cause and effect.
It spans many levels.
Comes from all directions.

More like a vast incalculable
web of cause and effect.
Interconnected streams
of flowing events
through time and space.

It is why there is change.
Why things are unstable.
Impermanent.
Why nothing lasts.
Why it is empty.
Not-self.
All conditioned phenomena
eventually fades and dies. 

A human life is brief.
Unique and brief.
Like a bubble in a stream.
A flash in the pan.
The flicker of a firefly.

It can be taken away at any moment.

To understand this can help counteract the mental disposition towards conceit.

One realises that one is not a separate self in this universe, this world. That one is nothing special really.

We depend on the elements we are made up of, and on other beings for our survival. A causal chain of events that happen in time and space outside our control.

Eveything is interconnected,
interdependent phenomena.

Thankfully, one doesn't have to know everything about the vast intricacies of dependent orignation to free the mind.

One focuses on one aspect, the dependent origination of suffering. 

The question that matters then is:
How do I feel?
Am I suffering or not?
What is the cause of this suffering? 
And what conditions can I change to bring an end to it?

Birth as a human can be rare apparently.
And humans do have something special.
They have the capacity for wise reflection.
The capacity to practise discernment.
To guide the flow of psychic streams.
That lead to the right view of things.

A human being can become a Buddha.
Enlightened.
The potential is there like a seed.
A seed that can sprout and grow under the right conditions.

When guided by right view,
and right resolve:
the ability to set an intention
and act on that intention.
One can work on removing the conditions that cause suffering and unhappiness in the mind. 

As one keeps practising. Perseveres, and does not give up. Trains the mind ardently. Is heedful. Avoids unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.
Keeps abandoning that which leads to suffering.
Keeps cultivating and sustaining that which leads to the end of suffering.

As one becomes more aware of the body, feelings, states of mind, and dhammas.

 As one learns how to calm and centre the mind, bring it together into composure, into wholeness.
How to balance and unify the numerous energies of the mind into a state of equanimity and clarity.
Wisdom naturally arises.
One becomes less ignorant of the mental dispositions that lead to suffering.
More conscious of the unconscious. More lucid. Awake.
Not caught up so easily in the self-centred dream.
Less attached to the conceit 'I am'.
Less absorbed in greed, hate and delusion.
Less affected by the changing worldly winds.
Less attached to conditioned phenomena.
Knowing it for what it is.
Dissatisfying.
Emptiness.

The darkness of delusion disperses.
Ignorance becomes understanding.
Discernment develops.
Resolve gets stronger.
And we begin to behave in ways that don't lead to suffering.
Which weakens the conditions that give rise to it.
Till eventually there is cessation of suffering.

And when greed, hate, and delusion no longer take root in the mind. There is lasting peace, freedom and happiness. An unlimited bliss. 

The noble eightfold path has done its work.

The space left behind is known as the deathless, the unconditioned, the supreme happiness.
Something lasting.
Something secure that doesn't fade away or die.
Something that can't be taken away once it has been realised.

It is an element beyond the changing conditions of dependent origination and the worldly dharmas.

Nibanna is something that is always here, everywhere, it always has been, and always will be. It is the safe shore. The refuge from dukkha (suffering).

The practise of the noble eightfold path: right view (understanding), right intention (resolve), right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. Purifies the mind of greed, hate, and delusion. And leads to the lasting peace and happiness of nibanna.
...


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Asoka

Reincarnation and the twelve links of dependent origination

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 19 Jul 2023, 15:50


The twelve links of dependent origination as I understand them are:

Ignorance --> Mental dispositions and volitional actions --->  Conditioned consciousness ---> Name and form (mind and body) ---> The six senses ---> Sense contact (sense impressions) ---> Feelings (pleasant or unpleasant) ---> Craving ---> Clinging ---> Becoming ---> Birth ---> Death

When it comes to reincarnation and how that works, in a very basic way. 

There is death. After death the mental dispositions, (tendencies of the mind) lead to volitional actions. These condition consciousness to seek out a new womb, a new body, a new state of becoming. This creates the body and mind, the khandhas. Which leads to the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts and ideas. This in turn creates sense impressions. Which we feel as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. These feelings lead to craving for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones. We all tend to like pleasure and dislike pain. So we cling to what we like and want more of. We take on an identity. This is me, this is mine, this is self, the conceit 'I am'. This leads to becoming, which leads to birth, (and if you are a biological being of this Earth realm) old age, sickness, death and loss.

Rinse and repeat

 Upon death, ignorant of the mental dispositions and actions that lead to suffering (both mental and physical). Conditioned consciousness seeks rebirth, this leads to name and form (or body and mind)... and the cycle carries on. 

Because of ignorance it can go on indefinitely.

This is a very brief sketchy description,  Any gaps in my understanding are homework for me and the reader (-;

 It can be helpful to try and articulate one's understanding. I read somewhere that this is one of the ways we learn is through attempting to articulate our understanding of things. It doesn't have to be in writing. Can just be verbally out loud to oneself. This can be suprisingly helpful in checking one's understanding of a teaching and where there are gaps in one's knowledge, which points to what homework needs to be done.

...


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Asoka

The noble eightfold path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 15 Jul 2023, 22:47


This is a succint and concise summary of the noble eightfold path as I currently understand it  (-:


Right view


Bad kamma comes from actions of greed, hate, and delusion.
Good kamma comes from actions of generosity, kindness, and clarity. 

If you can't help another being; then at least have the intention to cause no harm.

Honour your mother and father.

To realise the paths and fruits of the different stages of enlightenment, one must accomplish the instructions given in the four noble truths.

The four noble truths are:

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

Birth, ageing, and death is hard to bear. Loss and separation from what we love is also hard to bear. Associating with what is disliked is unpleasant. Being apart from what is liked is unpleasant. Not getting what one wants is unpleasant. Identifying with the five aggregates of clinging (body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations (thoughts), sense-consciousness) is also dissatisfying, because they are always changing. The aggregates (khandas) are insubstantial, impermanent, uncertain and empty of self. This is what needs to be understood.

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

The cause of suffering is craving. The Pali word tanha (thirst) is used for this. And it is important to note that there is such a thing as chanda (right desire). Not all desire is to be abandoned. Chanda is the word used to describe right desire (desire that helps to put an end to suffering); and tanha is used to describe wrong desire, that which causes suffering.

Three aspects of tanha (craving) are:

Thirst for sense pleasures (kama tanha);
Thirst for existence (bhava-tanha);
Thirst for non-existence (vibhava tanha).

This is what needs to be abandoned.

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

The fading away and cessation of craving is what ends suffering. With wisdom one stops following the craving, and clinging to that which is insubstantial. The involuntary movements of the mind stop and there is an unshakeable peace. One is no longer harrassed and driven by craving and the worldly winds, which brings relief and freedom to the mind.

The abandonment of the second noble truth is what realises the third noble truth. 

4. Knowledge of the way leading to the end of suffering (which is to be developed).

The way to accomplish the abandonment of craving is through the practise of the noble eightfold path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right samhadi. This is what needs to be developed, when this path has been cultivated the third noble truth is realised.

Right Intention

Intention of non ill-will;
Intention of renunciation (non-greed);
Intention of non-cruelty;

The Buddha listed the three right intentions above as being thoughts that he did not regret having, these intentions do not lead to unwholesome actions, they lead to good kamma and to nibanna.

The Buddha before his enlightenment divided his thoughts up to those that he regretted having (unwholesome thoughts); and those that he did not regret having (wholesome thoughts). He worked to abandon the unwholesome thoughts, dismissing them until they no longer arose. And he encouraged and cultivated the wholesome thoughts till they happened naturally, automatically without him needing to apply any more effort. He said the experiment worked and eventually his mind was filled with thoughts he didn't regret having. This made it easier then to settle into meditation.

Intention is the generator of kamma. It is what leads to verbal thoughts, speech and actions. 

Right speech

To be honest.
To refrain from malicious divisive or contentious speech.
To refrain from harsh unkind speech.
To refrain from pointless time-wasting speech.

Right action

To refrain from killing any living being.
To refrain from stealing.
To refrain from sexual misconduct.

Right livelihood

To make a living that does not cause harm to oneself or others. 

Right effort

Needs to be tuned so it is neither too tight, nor too loose. I.e. don't burn yourself out, but also don't get lazy.

The four right efforts are:

1. prevention of unwholesome states of mind from arising. (By avoiding unwise attention to the fault; and unwise attention to the beautiful.)
2. abandonment of unwholesome states of mind should they arise.
3. generating wholesome states of mind.
4. sustaining those wholesome states of mind.

Unwholesome states of mind are the five hindrances: greed, aversion, sloth, restlessness, doubt.

Wholesome states of mind are the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena (dhamma), energy (effort), joy, calmness, samhadi, equanimity (balance).

Right mindfulness

This is the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the body.
Mindfulness of feelings. (pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant).
Mindfulness of mental states.
Mindfulness of dhammas (teachings).

Right samhadi

Sometimes translated as concentration, but concentration can give me the wrong idea, so I prefer to use the word samhadi. Samhadi is the gathering of the mind together into absorption, a unification of mind. Sustained mindfulness to a meditation object leads naturally to samhadi. It is a whole-hearted experience, which includes the body. The body can feel very pleasant and comfortable in samhadi. There may still be aches and pains in the physical body, but these don't bother one. One is absorbed in the experience of the body as it feels from within, the subtle body.

Emotions such as joy can be a whole body experience.

The body is in the mind. 

 A meditation object is used to calm and centre the mind, gather it together and bring it into unity and balance. Common meditation objects used are the breath, natural elements, primary colours, perception of light, or the emotion of goodwill (metta).

The Buddha classifies right samhadi as the four jhanas.

Here are some verses from the suttas that describe the four jhanas.

'Having gone somewhere quiet, away from distractions. Having removed longing and dejection in regard to the world, setting mindfulness before one.

Quite secluded from sense-pleasures and unwholesome states of mind. One enters and abides in the first jhana. Which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought (or attention). And has the joy and pleasure born of seclusion (from unwholesome states).

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 joy and pleasure born of samhadi.

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

With the fading away 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.'

Once the mind has been made malleable and peaceful from samhadi. There is an afterglow, where unwholesome states of mind can remain absent for some time. In that state, the mind has the capacity for wise reflection, and it is easy to work with and train. It can be pointed towards something you want to understand and learn more about, or a truth you want to penetrate and gain insight from, such as the four noble truths. This investigation can lead to the liberating knowledge that brings about the end of suffering.

The continuous practise of jhana gradually weakens the hold of greed and hatred on the mind until eventually those defilements fall away for good and never return. When this happens one becomes a non-returner, (the third stage of enlightenment) and is never again born into this world.

Full enlightenment (fourth and final stage) is the realisation of nibanna, and the complete end of the conceit 'I am' and delusion.

***

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Asoka

True wealth

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 21 May 2023, 12:20


I am still feeling a bit sick, can't seem to shake this illness. Will give it another week or so before I talk to a doctor in case it is Lyme's disease. Apparently there's no point until you've had it a while as the blood test is known to give false negatives if done in the first 4 - 5 weeks. I hope it clears up by itself, as I would rather not take antibiotics. They really mess up my gut system and it took me years to get it back to good health after the last round of anti-biotics I had. Also Western medicine doesn't always feel very welcoming, I don't find it very approachable, and I feel afraid of it. I think it is because the health services in the UK are stretched to breaking point at the moment after years of government austerity. Doctors and nurses are often tired and overworked, stressed out, burnt out, and it isn't their fault, but as a result some can be a bit terse and grumpy. I don't take it personally. I try to be kind and friendly, but it is not a pleasant experience seeking treatment in modern day medicine, and the treatments/medications can also feel a bit brutal on the body as well, they are often unpleasant, so I only tend to seek medical attention as a last resort. 


I am thinking about stopping writing for a time. I am worried that I might put people off the dharma and the Buddha's teachings, which I don't want to do. I originally started writing about it because I found it helpful for me to articulate what I was learning, putting things into my own words helped me absorb the knowledge and remember it better. And Buddhism has been a great help for me with my own battles with mental illness, I have found its teachings much richer, deeper and more meaningful than those in modern day psychology. And I also wanted to share the insights I was getting with others in case it could help someone else out there.

But in hindsight, there's plenty of Buddhist resources online already, and my writing isn't that great to be honest, and isn't going to make much of a difference. It also can feel stressful sometimes, worrying about what I've written, if it is appropriate, kind or beneficial, whether it was wise or not. I find this anxiety can stop me being able to meditate. I am not a teacher of the dharma. Although I would like to be a dhamma teacher one day, because I like helping others, and the Buddha's teachings deserve to be preserved and passed on to future generations. But I would rather do that when I have been practising this for a good while, when I am much wiser than I currently am. It is important that a teacher of dharma is of the highest calibre, impeccable in conduct. Buddhism like all other religions is not without its scandals. It is a shame when that happens because it can tar the image of Buddhism, and fill students with doubt. It is a big responsibility to be a dhamma teacher. Because how a teacher behaves paints an image of the teachings in the public's eyes. Students look up to their teachers as examples, and a bad immoral teacher can cause a lot of harm, heartbreak and disillusionment.

Also, I am not sure that people in this age are all that interested in the true dharma. There are a few who are spiritually hungry and want to learn the deeper truths, but most are worldly and seeking material things and how they can increase that. I don't judge them, but I don't want use up all my energy on something that isn't going to benefit anyone in the long term, as that is tiring and vexing for me, and distracts me from my meditation. I think there's enough out there already online for the spiritually hungry to read and listen to. And I worry my voice might put people off the dharma, I really hope I haven't done that. So I will keep quiet now for a bit, and just focus on my own development and try to get a bit further along on the path if I can. Maybe when I am more spiritually developed and much wiser I will feel differently and share my insights again. But for now I will have a rest from writing I think. 

I honestly don't have much else to write about on a blog other than the dhamma. I am not into the world much, I find it tedious, shallow and egoic, always have from an early age. I remember as a child thinking how inane it all was, this material world. Have always felt drawn towards the spiritual. 

I won't write anymore about A.I. or politics or any other contentious issues either. I think I will stay away from those topics from now on. I am not against progress or technological development. I just worry about people who will lose their livelihoods and that there won't be any financial support for them. There doesn't seem to be much sign from governments that they will help those who are pushed out of work by automation. I also worry about the environmental cost of A.I., all the electricity needed to power these robots and huge server farms.

But it is true that many of the jobs robots will replace are horrible. I've worked in a few of those myself in the past. Zero hour contracts and cruel inhumane shift patterns. For example, finishing a shift late in the evening and then being expected to work again early the next morning. No holiday, no sick pay. Staff are treated like factory farmed humans. It is truly unpleasant.

The word: 'redundant', is also such a demeaning term. I dislike the view that a person only has value if they are employed in some way. That the only worth to a human life is if they are working or not. Where did that horrible view come from?

This is something important to bear in mind. That what the media tells us, what politicians tell us, what academics tells us, what the modern world says. It is just views, opinions, concepts conjured up by the thinking mind. One must always remember that the truth does not depend on science to verify it or endorse it. The truth exists regardless of what anyone thinks, it is outside of public opinion.

 It will always be that good karma comes from love, generosity, friendliness, kindness, selflessness. And bad karma comes from greed, hate, and delusion (the conceit 'I am'). This has always been the case. Being unkind to others, violence, war, stinginess, self-centred arrogance and narcissism, will always lead to bad karma, either in this life or a future one.

 The law of karma does not need the world of academia to prove whether it exists or not. It is very real, and being kind, giving, loving, friendly, peaceful, these make oneself and others much happier, they activate wholesome circuits in the mind that make us feel good, make us well, and that is why they lead to good outcomes. But greed, hate and delusion do not make us feel well, they are psychic poisons, a sickness, an affliction, toxic, and they feel unpleasant, and will lead to painful feelings for oneself and others, that is why they lead to bad outcomes.

Poverty is truly awful. It causes so much suffering in society. And it is unnecessary. There's enough wealth in the world for everyone to live a comfortable life and for there to still be enough for the rich to enjoy their luxuries. Generosity and kindness makes the world a better place for everyone. It makes us all happier, more fulfilled, brings us meaning and peace.

 It is one of the reasons I put so much effort into the dharma. When you are poor, this world it is not pleasant at all, it is oppressive, unbearable, cruel, a trial of endurance, like a Hell. And it is hard to get out of poverty once you're in it, it feels like a trap. And it is harder to practise the spiritual life when one is stressed and in pain, always worrying about one's finances and making ends meet.

I take comfort and feel inspired knowing that many great meditation masters, especially from Thailand, such as Ajahn Chah, came from poor backgrounds, and they became great dharma teachers, and their influence is still being felt today, still helping people long after their deaths. They must have had a good store of karma from previous lives to be able to do that. So being wealthy doesn't necessarily mean one has good karma from a past life, or that good karma leads to one being wealthy in a future life.

Noble people are born to both rich and poor families. So take heart, that being poor doesn't necessarily mean one has bad karma from a previous life, or that it's a person's fault that they are in poverty. I think that way of thinking is erroneous nonsense. Many great spiritual people have come from poor backgrounds, as well as wealthy ones. To be born in this world means we all have a mix of good and bad karma, all humans are a mixed bag of light and shadow.

Wealthy people should not look down on those in poverty, thinking of them as lesser, blaming and shaming them; because having lots of money doesn't make you superior to those who have less. Virtue is the source of true wealth. It is what is in the heart that matters. The Buddhist path is open to everyone, rich or poor. Open to anyone who is willing to put in the effort to practise meditation, to study the dhamma. You can practise it in a mansion, a simple dwelling, or penniless living under a tree. The Buddha was homeless and dependent on the generosity of others. The dhamma is free to all, it doesn't cost anything, money is not necessary to be a Buddhist. That is truly liberating to know, especially in these times when there is so much inequality in the world. Because it means anyone willing to make effort with the noble eightfold path has the potential to become enlightened, whatever their circumstances.

...



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The four trainings of mindfulness

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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.


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Meditation is a noble act

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 13 Mar 2023, 21:19

Meditation is not a waste of time. It is a wise use of one's time. It is the highest form of spiritual practice, and it fulfils the noble eightfold path. When one is meditating, one is not causing harm to others. One is cultivating the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, and right samhadi. Meditation trains one to seclude the mind from the five hindrances, and bring into being the seven factors of awakening.

Meditation purifies the mind, and the heart. It burns away the defilements, weakens the chains that bind us to the realm of Mara. Eventually, it breaks those chains altogether. Leading to lasting inner peace and freedom that can't be taken away by anyone or anything. It takes you to a place where Mara can no longer find you. Bringing a deep contentment and joy that does not rely on the world or others to sustain it.

I know in the world, there is darkness just now, and much need. It can feel heavy and oppressive at times. I keep thinking what can I do to help? I don't have any money, I struggle with health problems, I am unable to volunteer or be an activist. I am also not smart enough to think up solutions that could solve the world's many different problems. I don't have the gift of the gab either. I am a pretty useless human really. At least according to the inner critic (Mara), who often gives me a hard time about this, especially when I am about to meditate.

But Mara is wrong, I see this clearly now.

After much thinking and pondering, I realise the best help I can be to others is to meditate, is to become an enlightened being here and now, in this age, in this time. I should make good use of this opportunity to meditate, and not waste it. Work to remove the defilements of greed, hate, and delusion, so that they never again take root in this mind. Then I will see clearly and be of greater service to the earth and to others. Perhaps just my presence will be enough to show that enlightenment is real, and that it is possible in this age, in this time. Perhaps I can be a light in that way, maybe bring hope to others; because if a useless dork like me can get enlightened, then anyone with enough determination and inclination can do it.

I also don't need society or anyone's permission or approval to become enlightened. It is up to me, not anyone else. I am allowed to become an enlightened being if I want. What others think is their business, and what I think is mine.

It doesn't matter who you are. Rich or poor. Good or evil. There are people who did really bad things in the Buddhist scriptures, but they still got enlightened, they made amends by fulfilling the noble eightfold path, and broke free of Mara and Samsara.

It is not up to others to decide whether you can be an enlightened being or not. Whether you are worthy or not. It is up to you. You are the one who makes that choice, who puts in the causes and conditions, who makes effort. However long it takes, keep going. What you practise now builds up momentum, and is who you will become in the future.

Those who purify their minds are doing the Earth a great service. It is a noble thing to do. So never feel inadequate and guilty for sitting in meditation and training the mind. It is a noble quest that few take up in this world. And it leads to the greatest karma and freedom of all. The more beings that choose to take this noble journey within, the more things will change for the better. When we change ourselves, we change the world around us.

One should never underestimate the power and great merit that comes from the practise of right meditation.


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Keep paddling

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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


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Don't look back in anger

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Sunday, 12 Feb 2023, 21:27

Today I got angry when a memory was aroused and I paid unwise attention to it. I caught myself being judgemental, and it was an unpleasant mood, vile like poison, and I got sick with it, it took over, overrun the city of consciousness and the mind became unhappy and restless. A metaphor from the bible came to mind, about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt for looking back at the cities of sodom and Gomorrah.

I reflect on how unskilful anger can be and how it leads to regret afterwards. No matter how justified I think it is at the time, thoughts of anger always lead to regret. And I think to myself why get angry in the first place when you know you will regret it later? And I noticed how bossy and cruel the mind can be at times, it encourages me to become angry about something; and then punishes me afterwards for not being a better Buddhist.

What an absolute arse the mind can be. The inner critic. The inner tyrant.

Then I realised ha! This is aversion in another hat. Trying to disguise its presence and sneak past the guard at the gate with the jedi mind-trick of self-judgement.

I paused and experienced the unpleasantness of aversion, really felt it, took time to know it. Thought, this is anger, this is resentment, this is how it feels, it is like a sickness, an affliction, it is a poison, toxic - this is suffering.

Then I became aware of how craving in its three forms was also present in the mind, The craving to acquire something, the craving to change feelings one doesn't like, and the craving for becoming (self-centredness). I keep finding whenever there is suffering, without fail, these three are also present. Greed, hatred, and delusion; or longing, aversion, and ignorance, is another way of describing them.

In dependent origination, craving leads to attachment, to clinging, clinging is basically identifying with things, and this leads to becoming. Which is where the idea of letting go comes from. Letting go of the clinging. It sounds simple, and sometimes letting go can feel almost effortless, but other times it can be hard to let go, it involves a bit of work, and right effort is needed to detach oneself. Sometimes I find I am too absorbed in my thoughts to be able to let go of what I am thinking about. It is hard to just suddenly become detached from it. My awareness has become too contracted and uncomfortable, tense, boxed in, like a prison.

One strategy the Buddha suggests when one is absorbed in difficult thoughts, is to bring oneself out of it gradually. He uses this metaphor which is a bit like a cartoon. A man is running, and says to himself, why am I running when I could be walking? So he stops running and walks. Then he says to himself, why am I walking when I could be standing? So he stands. Then he says, why am I standing when I could be sitting? So he sits down, and then says to himself why am I sitting when I could be lying down?

When the mind is running full pelt with a wild and difficult mood you can't just snap yourself out of it, if you try to, it will just run over you. It has to be slowed down gradually and skillfully. When we are boxed in our thoughts, and absorbed in whatever it is we are thinking about, we are not seeing the whole picture, not seeing things clearly. Awareness when it is contracted and shut in is ignorant of what is really going on, it becomes error prone and delusional.

One thing that helps me, is to let the thoughts just be, don't argue with them, don't try to fight them or replace them. Just focus on the fact I am thinking those thoughts, and notice how I am also paying attention to them. I then open up and expand awareness gradually, to bring some space and help draw attention away from the thoughts. Sometimes background sounds help bring some spaciousness to the mind, and other times the feeling of the body works. Such as the lower belly, the feet and legs, the hands. There is something earthy about it, that helps to ground me. Centre me. The body doesn't think, it just feels. And those parts of the body often feel far enough away from the thought processes to be a more tranquil place to move my attention. Enough to hush the thinking down a bit, then I will expand awareness a bit more, feel the whole belly, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, face, head, scalp. The inside of the body and the outside of it. I do this as well as I can, I am not trying to experience every single sensation in the body, just enough to help settle the mind and engage attention with something more peaceful and calming.

I remember something I read about how the iron in our bodies makes the red blood cells that carry the oxygen to our cells. How this iron comes from the Earth, comes from the ground below us. It is a nice way to remember how intimately connected we are with mother Earth. She flows in our very blood, is in every heartbeat.

Iron also is made by stars, it comes from an exploded sun. We are all stardust. We are all connected to the universe, not separate from it.

As the body grows more still and composed. I become aware of the air element around me, and then I notice the breath. Feel the cool air in the nostrils and it helps to cool down the thought processes, chill things out.

The body starts to feel pleasant and I notice how comfortable my legs feel, and how snug my hands are. The air feels cool and refreshing on the scalp, the face and neck, the touch of clothing is pleasant. I feel the breath energy inside the body. The inner winds. The whole body breathing together as one, each inhalation and exhalation massaging the peace and happiness throughout the whole of my being.

The anger subsides and I notice how I am now feeling happier and more peaceful. More content. I notice how much nicer the mind feels when aversion is absent. How good it feels when the mind isn't angry, isn't harrassing itself anymore, isn't longing for anything, isn't identifying with things or taking things personally. I feel relief and gladness that the mood has passed and there is even some joy arising.

I contemplate cessation, the third noble truth, knowledge of the end of suffering. Then reflect on the fourth noble truth, on how the different factors of the noble eightfold path work together in harmony to bring about that cessation.

What a wonderful memory device the four noble truths are, within that succinct teaching there is so much to work with and practise with in both meditation and daily life.

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

 

 

 


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Garden of karma

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I like the metaphor of the mind being like a garden.

In the beginning, gardening involves effort. One has to choose the seeds carefully, prepare the soil, ensure the conditions are right for those seeds. Plant them, water them, nuture the seedlings that sprout, protect them from predators, and keep the young plants safe until they are big and strong enough to take care of themselves. These are the seeds of non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion.

At the same time there are many dormant seeds in the soil from a previous garden, a previous existence. And when these sprout, these are the weeds that have to be removed from the garden; because if nothing is done about them, they will eventually take over, become difficult to manage, and create a canopy of leaves that shade the garden and starve the plants you are trying to cultivate of light, water and nutriment. These weeds are greed, hatred, and delusion. And they sprout from the seeds of longing, aversion, and ignorance. 

In the beginning one has to put in the right causes and conditions for the garden to grow and flourish. This involves a sense of self, the ego. The ego is the gardener, and one uses that sense of self, that craving for becoming to do the gardening project. 

If the work is not fully done in time for the ending of the seasons and the death of winter. Whatever seeds are in the soil at the end, will sprout to become the next garden, our new life in the Spring.

If we have cultivated non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion, even if a few seeds of greed, hate, and delusion remain and manage to sprout in the next garden. The weeding will be easier and less onerous than before; and the seeds of non-greed, non-hate, non-delusion will be present in the soil in larger quantities, and they will also sprout to greet us on the other side, and be hardier and easier to cultivate, much stronger and better at defending themselves and holding their own.

It can be a gradual process that may take many seasons. But eventually there will come a point when enough effort has been made. The garden has flowered and born fruit. and from that point the garden will be able to take care of itself; then the gardener will no longer be needed and the ego can step aside. Greed, hate, and delusion will never take root in the mind again. And what is left is peace and the end of suffering. Nibanna.

I quite like looking at it like that (-:


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Grasping karma seeds

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When the right causes and conditions arise a dormant karma seed (tendency) can be activated in the mind. Usually triggered through sensing something agreeable or disagreeable. Such as a sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thought, idea, memory.

One feels like or dislike for what is sensed, and an identification with it. Followed by a grasping of that kammic seed, which leads to attachment. It is this attachment (clinging) that makes it grow, get stronger and in time bear fruit according to its kind, which will be either wholesome or unwholesome. 

If one can become aware of these karmic seeds and discern whether a seed (tendency of the mind) is wholesome or unwholesome. One can choose with wisdom to not grasp the kammic seeds that lead to greed, hatred, and delusion. As those are the ones that cause suffering.

Craving is not something that can be suppressed though. It arises naturally from pleasant or unpleasant feelings, which in turn arise from sense impressions (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, thoughts, memories and ideas).

But the grasping, the clinging is something we can interfere with, and it doesn't have to be done in a macho warrior way, it can be done in a gentle way. When craving arises in the mind, one doesn't have to fight it or judge it or try to make it stop. One can simply allow it to be there in awareness, give it space, let it be; but leave it alone, choose not to grasp or follow it, not to identify with it, not to add any more to it. Allow it to just simply arise, and then cease on its own.

This is where meditation practise is helpful. it is easier to do this whilst one is anchored with a meditation object such as the breath, the body, the elements: earth, water, fire, air, space, the four primary colours, or beautiful emotions like loving-kindness. There are a number of different meditation objects one can use to anchor attention and bring composure and stillness to the mind. Meditation trains the invaluable skill of serene undistractability, which leads to steady composure and equanimity, enabling one to be able to place attention where one wants to and keep it there contentedly. Centred like this, one can allow things to arise and cease in awareness without being pulled away or disturbed by them.

Starved of attention and without the grasping/clinging, the kammic seed won't be able to take root in the mind and will wither and die. Then one experiences cessation, non-attachment and all that is left is peace.

But not grasping is difficult to do. It happens so fast and we do it on autopilot, we don't even know we are doing it much of the time. We are ignorant of the process, and we have lifetimes of conditioning, of deeply ingrained habits and tendencies to contend with. This is where the noble eightfold path comes in, a gradual training, that teaches one the skillset and lucid serenity needed to become a master of not grasping (-:

 

 


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Extinguishing craving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 30 Dec 2022, 22:30

The four noble truths

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

What does it feel like to suffer? To feel stressed? To feel dissastisfaction? To feel discontent? How does that feel?  No need to give it a perfect label, sometimes it is hard to put it into words. Just say, suffering feels like this. Most of us know from our own direct experience of life what it is to suffer.

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

Knowing that whenever there is suffering, desire is also present in its three forms:

1. Wanting something. (greed)
2. Wanting something unpleasant to end. (aversion, pushing away)
3. The desire for becoming. (Our aspirations. The mind's tendency to identify with things, to take things personally. The story of self. The selfing. ' I want to become this, I want to become that. I don't want to become this. I don't want to become that. I am this, I am that. This is mine, I own this, I own that. I want this, I want that.'  To counteract this tendency of the mind, it is good to recite often: 'Not me, not mine, not self'. 

The desire for becoming can be used skillfully to realise the end of suffering. As desire is what drives us.

 Desire comes from feelings, which are either pleasant or unpleasant. And feelings come from sense impressions: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and ideas/ thoughts. 

We cling to what we want more of; and push away that which we don't want. We want the pleasant feelings to continue and experience suffering when we don't get what we want, and then feel aversion, bitterness, resentment, and take it personally. But everything is changing and uncertain, the world is outside our control. We cling to phantoms of moments. Chasing after the delights of the six senses like a dog chasing after its tail. Sense gratification is much like an itch, there is only gratification as long as one keeps scratching. 

One cannot do much about sense impressions. They happen because we have a body. One also cannot do much about feelings (pleasant, neutral or unpleasant,) they arise because of sense-impressions. Desire may also be something we can't do much about, as it happens automatically because of feelings. But there may be a way to deal with it by slowly and gradually starving it of fuel till it goes out altogether. 

One can expand awareness and make it like infinite space, so it shares the same quality. Space can contain many objects, but is not the objects it contains, and is not conditioned by them. One can make awareness like this, and then allow desire (in its three forms) to arise and cease at the sensory level of awareness, before it becomes a story. One can let it be there without judging it. But also not going along with it, not following it, not getting involved. Letting it arise and cease in an expansive space-like awareness without getting tangled up in it.This gets easier to do as one wises up and becomes less ignorant of where desire leads, becomes less ignorant of the link between desire and suffering, usually after bitter experience, where one remembers and decides not to follow it anymore.

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

How does the mind feel when it isn't suffering?

Notice when the desire ceases and is no longer present, the relief this brings to the mind. To no longer have that nagging feeling of lack when one doesn't get what they want.

It feels good when the mind is free from greed, aversion, and delusion. It is helpful to spend some time noticing this.To appreciate it and pay special attention to how it feels when there is no anger, no irritation, no resentment, no taking things personally, no lust, no grasping, no chasing, or acquiring. How does that feel to be free of that? 

There is a sense of freedom when one realises they no longer have to go along with their desires, their  impulses, the urges. No longer have to be a slave to passion, pulled in different directions by the six senses. The relief of no longer being driven around by them. When the mind  no longer feels harrassed by greed, hate and delusion,  joy and serenity naturally rises. An unharrassed mind is a happy mind. 

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

Knowing that the practise and development of the noble eightfold path is what trains the mind to become an instrument capable of understanding, seeing and realising the wisdom contained in the four noble truths.The noble eightfold path is the skillset needed to extinguish craving. 

One can apply the four noble truths like a template to one's own direct experience of life as it is. One can practise it with the mild irritations, the mild forms of greed in daily life, and this works like a vaccine, like homeopathic medicine, through that experience we find that when the more unsettling things happen in life, the deep upsets, that we can manage those better because of practising with the lesser upsets. 

We grow and awaken through the understanding of our own suffering, what causes it, how it ceases, and how the wisdom to do this develops. Then as one's suffering decreases, it can become easier to include others, to expand awareness to include the whole world, the whole galaxy if you like, to show boundless compassion to all beings. As one understands that others suffer the same way we do, that suffering is an experience shared across all the myriad species of life on this Earth. Empathy develops. 

The four noble truths is an ingenious memory device, an easy to remember template for decreasing suffering in our lives. Like fractals, the four noble truths contain the noble eightfold path, and the noble eightfold path contains the four noble truths.

Most of us will have to keep reminding ourselves of this a thousand times a day for perhaps a thousand days or more. The length of time decreases as minfulness grows stronger. And it is normal to forget, to get caught up in the world again and tangled up in desire. Sometimes this forgetting happens for short periods of time, and sometimes for lengthy periods of time, and for some it can be as long as lifetimes. But then remembering happens again and one resumes the practise, puts in a more sincere effort than before, usually after a painful experience caused from being tangled up in desire. And each time one remembers and practises it weakens that link in the chain of dependent origination between craving and clinging. Keeps weakening it till eventually it breaks altogether and suffering comes to a complete stop and then there are no more states of becoming, no more states of woe.



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Right mindfulness (part four)

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MIndfulness of dhamma categories

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

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

The five hindrances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The five aggregates of clinging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The six external and six internal sense bases

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seven factors of awakening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The four noble truths

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads to the third noble truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Metta. 

May you find peace of mind and freedom from suffering.


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Right mindfulness part three

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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. 


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Right mindfulness (part one)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022, 21:32


The word mindfulness means to keep something in mind. To remember.

In Buddhism there are four foundations to Right mindfulness, these are:

1. The body, 

2. Feelings (In Buddhism feelings are a mix of sense impressions and the mental tone of like/dislike that accompanies them, they are not emotions, emotions come under the third foundation of mindfulness.)

3. Mind (emotions, mood, state of mind).

4. Dhamma categories (the teachings on how to use mindfulness to reach nibbana and the end of suffering.)

This is not something that one goes over in one go like a piece of music, this is more a collection of meditation objects, some reflective/contemplative, others for entering states of lucid stillness (samhadi). One does not have to do everything on this list every time they meditate, one just simply chooses a topic that fits well for the situation or mood one is in. A bit like a swiss army knife of helpful tools for different occasions. 

Mindfulness of the body

This starts with awareness of the four postures: walking, standing, sitting or lying down. When one is sitting, one knows they are sitting, when standing, one knows they are standing... and so on... This helps train us to become more aware of the body.The feeling of embodiment can be a pleasurable experience, as it can feel grounding and stops the head floating off like a helium balloon.

Next is mindfulness of breathing. This is something many of us will already be familiar with, so I won't write much, other than one important thing to note is that mindfulness of the breath is not meant to be a dry experience. One should develop interest in it, a sense of wonder about the air element, as this makes the meditation more enjoyable and easier to practise. In time it becomes an indulgence, an opportunity to have a break from your worldly concerns, a tonic that you can take with you anywhere, and the freedom to disengage from the thought processes for a time. 

 Next is mindfulness of the present moment. This is about being aware of where one is, one's surroundings, what one is doing, one's behaviour, of that which is appropriate, and that which is non-delusion. A lucid awakeness during the course of daily life. Here one maintains a sense of composure and dignity, whilst respecting the space and peace of others as you go about your day. 

Next is a list of 32 parts of the body, listed by the Buddha as: head hair, body hair, skin, nails, teeth, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, diaphragm, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of stomach, faeces, bile, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, mucus, oil of joints, fat, and urine.

This exercise is mainly for monks and nuns to help them deal with lust. But it can be helpful for lay people too, as our world is caught up in attachment to the body, which generates much misery and leads to desire, obsession, body dysphoria, mental illness, and the stress of trying to live up to social expectations on how the body should look and perform.To be free of all that worry is a real blessing.

The first five parts in the Buddha's list are easy to remember, and these are also the body parts we tend to find attractive in ourselves and others: head hair, body hair, skin, nails and teeth. It is interesting to note that these are also the dead parts of the body.The living parts, which are hidden under the layer of skin, we find repulsive and are slightly afraid of. It is odd really. What is attraction?

 The most beautiful hair in the world becomes otherwise if it lands in one's soup. A pile of discarded nails is not particularly appealing, nor a set of teeth in a glass.The skin is actually a dead leaky covering, not alive at all, and not even particularly nutritious it seems, as maggots when they eat a corpse, they don't eat the skin. They look for wounds, and openings so they can eat the flesh inside. Once all the flesh is eaten, the skin just flops over bones like a discarded leathery covering. 

It is important to note here, that these reflections are not meant to depress one. They are meant to be used as tools to help change one's perception of the body and free oneself from attachment to it. Which is a wise chess move. Because the body grows and ages outside of our control, it gets sick, disabled, and struggles to perform consistently. It doesn't always look the same, and that which is beautiful, handsome or strong will one day become otherwise. Time comes for all. This body is full of different beings, bacteria, cells, viruses, fungi, parasites, and they all call this body their home, they travel up and down the highways of our veins and arteries. Our being is composed of many different consciousnesses, we are an organic dance of interdependence. It is also important to note that one does not feel hostility towards the body, one feels compassion for it, takes care of it, and looks after it as well as one can, but without clinging. The body is borrowed for a brief time, it is 'not me not mine,' and one day will return to the elements.  

Next is mindfulness of the four elements: earth, water, fire, air. This is one of my favourite topics in mindfulness of the body, I practise mindfulness of the elements a lot. But I won't write much here, as this is a succinct summary of right mindfulness. Other than one contemplates how the body is made up of the four elements. Gets the feeling and sense of each element. Earth is about grounding, weight, solidity. Water is cohesion, fluidity, solubility. Fire is temperature, warmth and light. Air is movement, vibration, change. One becomes aware of the four elements within the body and also outside the body. These four elements can also be used as meditation objects to reach deep states of samhadi (meditative absorption). And it is said they can also be used for the development of psychic powers. 

The last category in mindfulness of the body is marana-sati, mindfulness of death. In the Buddha's time monks and nuns would visit what was called a charnal ground, a field where people used to dump dead bodies and leave them there to rot and be eaten by animals. The monks and nuns would spend time there meditating, looking at the corpses littered about in the various states of decomposition and remind themselves that they too are made of the same elements as the corpses, that one day their bodies will also die and decay, that they are not excempt from that fate. 

This meditation is helpful for overcoming the fear of death as well as attachment to the body. It is also good for helping motivate oneself out of laziness, as it reminds us that our time on this Earth is brief and death could come at any moment, which helps energize us to want to make best use of our precious time here - as life is short. 

Mindfulness of death is a strong medicine and may not be appropriate for everyone. One should know themselves and know if this will make them go a bit dark. This is not meant to produce depression in the mind, but liberation. In the West we are very sheltered from the sight of death, we see dead animals, but seldom dead humans, and if we do, they are usually a corpse of a relative in a coffin that has been stuffed with preservatives to slow the decay. But one can still do this meditation without needing an actual corpse, as one can use their imagination or look at photos of rotting corpses. It is important to remember that mindfulness of death is meant to be done with serenity and calm lucidity. If it doesn't bring peace to the mind it is not being done correctly. Only do this if you feel you are able to face it, this practise is not about traumatising oneself, it is about freeing oneself. Know your own mind and where you are at in your development and what you are comfortable with. Meditating on the four elements might suit you better.

That's enough for today, I will carry on writing about the other three foundations of mindfulness in another post. 


To be continued...

 

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Right effort

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 6 Oct 2022, 07:32

The sixth factor of the noble eightfold path, and the beginning of the meditator's journey to right samhadi. Right effort contains a set of instructions to be carried out by right mindfulness. The idea is to seclude the mind from the five psychic harrassments: greed, aversion, dullness/drowsiness, restlessness, and doubt.

These are known as the five hindrances in Buddhism, and they are what stops our mind seeing things clearly, they distort our picture of reality. Their influence stirs up the mind like a pool of water so one cannot see clearly into the depths of it, only seeing the distorted surface. This means one is not getting an accurate picture of reality. And when one looks into it they cannot see their reflection properly.

The job of right effort is to prevent these five hindrances from arising in the mind, and to abandon them if they do arise. It works in conjunction with right mindfulness, the next factor of the eightfold path. Right mindfulness is the guard at the gate of consciousness, whose job is to prevent the five harrassments from entering - stopping trouble before it starts. However, if a hindrance gets passed the guard at the gate, then its job is to spot the presence of the hindrance in the mind and remove it, so it is no longer distorting one's ability to see things clearly.

The Buddha's teachings here run contrary to popular modern thinking about mindfulness. The job of mindfulness is not just to simply watch things arise and pass away and do nothing. No, it is to be a sentry that performs the duty of preventing and removing the five hindrances. Right mindfulness follows the instructions of right effort.

So how does one prevent unwholesome states arising? One way is to continually remind oneself to avoid unwise attention to the fault and to avoid unwise attention to the attractive. It does not mean walking around in sensory deprivation, as that's impractical in this world, you will always encounter agreeable and disagreeable sense impressions. What it means is to be at the sensory level and nip things in the bud before a pleasant or unpleasant sensation/feeling becomes the stories/delusions we tell ourselves about the feeling at the conceptual level, these stories are what cause the hindrances to arise and gather momentum in the mind.

It takes a great deal of practise and time to master this, so one will have to be patient as one trains the mind. One also needs to be kind to oneself, as one will make many mistakes while practising this, learn what you can from failures and let go, there is nothing to be gained by being hard on oneself, it does not lead to enlightenment. You are allowed to let it go, it is the past and there's no use crying over spilt milk, that won't solve anything.

One keeps reminding oneself upon waking and throughout the day. 'I will avoid the folly of the fault-finding mind; and I will avoid the folly of the lustful greedy mind.' Remembering that what we pay attention to leaves traces in the mind and grows stronger the more we pay attention to it; and what we repeatedly think about becomes the inclination of the mind.

If the hindrances get past the guard at the gate, then one turns to five strategies for removing them from the mind. Briefly these are:

1. Replacing the unwholesome state of mind with its opposite, there can be many opposites. For example some possible opposites of greed are generosity, contentment, remembering impermanence, or renunciation, and some possible opposites of anger are serenity practises, compassion, or loving-kindness. One does not wait for something external outside oneself to generate the opposite of the hindrance, one deliberately brings the replacement into being by being an emoter. There's a saying: 'Fake it till you make it.' It might well feel fake and inauthentic at first, but with repeated practise it does start to feel genuine and more natural. And the more one practises something, the more the psychic momentum builds up and the stronger it gets.

2. Feeling a sense of shame, imagining what a person you respect and admire might think if they saw you in the unwholesome state of mind. One reminds oneself it is reprehensible, has drawbacks, and is not conducive to enlightenment. This can be enough to drive the unwholesome state of mind away.

3. Distracting oneself from the unwholesome state of mind. Or just simply ignoring it as you would when closing your eyes to block out a sight you don't want to see. By not paying attention to the hindrance it starves it of energy and it grows weak and eventually disappears. Don't feed the monsters!

4. One turns to face the hindrance, confronts it. Sometimes just doing this can be enough to make it fade away like a whisp of a cloud or a phantom. But if this isn't enough, one can sit with it, investigate it, and gradually talk oneself out of the unwholesome state of mind till it dissolves away.

5. This is the last resort, and only to be used if the preceding four strategies fail. The fifth strategy is to suppress the unwholesome state of mind and not allow it to express itself. The Buddha here uses the simile of a stronger man holding down a weaker man. One suppresses the unwholesome state of mind until it calms down enough for one to then use any of the four preceding strategies to remove it if necessary.

Right effort also carries the instructions to bring into being seven positive wholesome states of mind and to develop them and keep them going continuously. These wholesome states of mind are known as the seven factors of enlightenment which are: mindfulness, investigation, energy/effort, joy, serenity, samhadi, equanimity. One can also include wholesome states of mind such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy in another's happiness. These also can be part of the enlightened mind, but are optional because not everyone is able to practise loving-kindness. For them having the intention of non-illwill and non-violence is enough.

Right effort can be practised in the course of daily life by noticing the hindrances when they arise in the mind, how do they feel? Do they feel pleasant or unpleasant? How do they manifest in the body? One watches and learns about them, how they manifest, how they arise, what triggers them, how to stop them arising, and how to remove them from the mind when they do. As one becomes less ignorant of the five hindrances, one's ability to prevent and remove them becomes easier and faster. The Buddha says one who has mastered this becomes so adept at it, that if an unwholesome state of mind arises it is removed as quickly as a chance drop of water on a red hot frying pan.

One way to practise this is through sitting meditation. Here one gradually gathers the whole mind together and secludes it from the five hindrances, by repeatedly bringing the attention back to a single topic, such as a meditation object and keeping it there, doing this every time the mind wanders. This brings into being the wholesome factor of mindfulness. Then to collect the mind together and unify it around the meditation object one generates interest in it, investigates it, this brings into being the wholesome factor of investigation. The repeated effort of doing this builds up a momentum of energy (the third factor), but interest and curiosity also brings energy to the mind. This leads to enjoyment. En-Joy, i.e the combination of energy and joy. Think about how one can become absorbed in a book or a movie, or a physical activity, a hobby, a game, and how one doesn't notice the body or passage of time or the noises around one when absorbed in an activity that one finds interesting. This is because one is enjoying themselves. So the idea is to try to do the same with meditation and become absorbed in that. The excitement of joy (the fourth factor) eventually cools and calms down and settles into a state of sweet serenity the fifth factor of enlightenment, which then takes one to the doorstep of the divine consciousness that is samhadi. Samhadi is a unification of mind, an exquisite stillness and lucidity, which in turn blossoms into equanimity (the seventh factor). This is how the act of meditation can bring into being the seven factors of awakening (-:

This all carries over beyond sitting meditation into every day life, because there is an after-effect which can remain for a while after meditation. When the afterglow wears off, one can top it up again by meditating. The seven factors of enlightenment get stronger with repeated practise, till eventually the whole thing becomes effortless. Then the enlightenment factors are present throughout the day whatever you are doing, wherever you are. When they are well established, whatever happens in this changing world, will not cause you to go into a negative state of mind or lose your composure. Your consciousness remains at peace and unperturbed as it continually cycles through the seven factors of enlightenment, being in any one of them at any time during the day or night.

Another important teaching that comes under right effort is about tuning the energy. If the mind feels strained and stressed at all during meditation or while practising in the midst of daily life, it means you are putting forth too much effort and need to relax it a bit, you are pushing yourself too hard, be gentle. If you feel dull and drowsy it can mean you are not putting forth enough effort which will lead to laziness and lack of motivation for practise. Mindfulness of death (maranasati) is a good way to energize one when feeling lazy. You want to tune the energy of effort so that it neither strains the mind nor makes it lazy. The Buddha describes it as being like tuning the string of a lute. If it is too tight it doesn't sound right, if it is too loose it also doesn't sound right, but when it's tuned correctly it is ready to play some music.

There are five spiritual faculties that can help with right effort, they are called the five spiritual powers, these are faith, energy, mindfulness, samhadi, and wisdom. Sometimes you can't know all the answers about something and you need to take a leap of faith and try things out, otherwise you can be locked in sceptical indecision which is not a pleasant state of mind, one becomes a prisoner of their doubts and this leads to stagnation and inaction. However, one also doesn't want to have blind faith either, some doubt is healthy to stop one being led down the garden path, so wisdom helps balance out faith. Energy and Samhadi also balance each other out. Too much energy leads to restlessness, and too little energy leads to dullness and laziness. Mindfulness is present throughout ensuring the five spiritual faculties are tuned correctly, keeping them in balance.

Despite its length, this has been a succinct piece of writing on right effort. Indeed one could write an essay or a book on this factor of the path. If one would like to learn more about right effort I highly recommend these videos by Ajahn Sona, where he goes into it in great detail.

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCXN1GlAupG0LqKS3nNCkGv24r94LW5VV

In the words of the Buddha:

The four right efforts

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

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

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

One generates the desire for the continuance, non-disappearance, strengthening, increase, and development of wholesome states of mind, by making effort, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
'

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Right Livelihood

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 1 Oct 2022, 14:00


Having abandoned wrong livelihood, one continues to make one’s living with right livelihood.’

This is the fifth factor of the noble eightfold path. It is about how we make an income or get food and shelter in this world. Our career.

In the context of the noble eightfold path we aspire towards a livelihood that causes as little harm as possible to ourselves and other beings.

Becoming a Buddhist monk or nun is one way to practise right livelihood. Remembering that the Buddha left the household life, turned his back on being a wealthy prince, shaved his head and beard and went forth into homelessness, begging, wearing rags for robes. He was dependent on the generosity of others to get his food. This way of living goes against the grain of the world, but the spiritual life is unworldly. And showing generosity to one who is on the spiritual path or at any stage of enlightenment creates good kamma (beneficial consequences) for the giver. Which will return to bless them both in this present life and future ones.

But there is nothing wrong with being a lay follower either, the monk’s life is not for everyone, and one can still reach advanced stages of enlightenment as a householder.

When it comes to work and how we conduct our business in the world. We must try to cause as little harm as possible to other beings, and to ourselves. So careers that deal in weapons, poisons, violence, deceit, stealing, polluting, killing, misinformation, exploiting other beings and harming them, are bad career choices.

Always remember as well that you are a being and you matter too, just as much as any other being does. So one should be kind to oneself, and take care not to strain the mind by working long hours. One should not be taken advantage of by an employer, one does not have to be treated like a factory farmed human. One is not a slave to money, to the economy, to a nation, or to any being.

Our time is valuable and we should spend it wisely. We should be calm, dignified, and composed in our dealings with the world whether we are rich or poor, and not allow ourselves to be mistreated by anyone; and in turn we should not mistreat other beings.

In our world of work we should show kindness and friendship to others, but that does not make us a door mat, we assert our boundaries, in a non-hostile way, coming from a place of peace and friendliness. One does not cut short on morals or the spiritual life to please a boss or work colleagues.

We should make time for the other aspects of our life, especially when it comes to the practise of meditation and the development of the spiritual path. There will at times be the need for solitude, to seclude oneself from the world and the energies of others, to retreat and focus on one’s own emotional and spiritual development, which should be prioritised above all else. Above our career. A career is transient and will one day end, but our spiritual development remains and carries over into old age and our next existence.

Right livelihood can also be thought of as right lifestyle. As some people may be retired and out of work for different reasons. In this instance, one should make good use of the time one has and focus on one’s inner development and spiritual progress. Aspiring to live a peaceful lifestyle that causes as little harm as possible to oneself and other beings.

To accomplish this it helps to reflect on the reality of death frequently, to practise the remembrance of it as often as possible. Because death helps energise and motivate us to practise the noble eightfold path and the spiritual life. It reminds us of what is important. Death is universal and comes for all beings, even enlightened ones, and it can come at any moment. We don’t know when it will pay us a visit. Beings in this world die both young and old, across all species of life, and it is normal. The body is fated to one day become a decomposing corpse, (or ashes if cremated,) and the Earth will reclaim it. The body does not belong to us, it is on loan, and will be returned to the elements one day. We borrow these bodies for a brief time, so we should use them wisely.

It is good to remember this, not out of morbidity or in a depressed way. Not out of fear. But in a calm lucid serene way. Making peace with the fact.

Losing attachment to the body now is like making a wise chess move in anticipation of the future. Because whether any of us likes it or not the body does change, it ages, gets sick, loses strength and abilities, gets weak, and eventually dies. Even if you are the most beautiful and talented being in the world, that beauty will not last, that talent will fade, abilities become disabilities. You have no control over any of it. The body came into being and grows and ages all by itself, and so do other people’s bodies.

By losing attachment to the body now, you save yourself a whole bunch of suffering in the future when the inevitable happens. It also saves you a whole bunch of suffering now, because much of our world is caught up in the body. What it looks like, how strong and healthy it is, how smart it is. It causes us so much anxiety, lust, misery, delusion and mental illness. To no longer be caught up in all that is a relief to the mind.

It doesn’t mean one doesn’t take care of the body though. One looks after the body, feels compassion for it and sees to its needs as well as one can. One tries to keep it alive as long as possible, it is our vehicle to enlightenment after all. It is through the body we can realise the end of suffering, stress, and craving, and liberate the mind permanently from the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. But one does so without clinging to the body, knowing it is transient and fated to die.

Death will separate us from all that we hold dear. All that is beloved and pleasing to us will become otherwise. We cannot take our body, any of our friends, family, or material possessions with us when we die. It is a journey to a far place we must take alone. The only thing we take with us are our acts of generosity, kindness, and clarity. These are the friends that greet us on the other side and help us both in this life and in the next one to come; in whatever world that may be, there are so many different worlds.

Mindfulness of death (Maraṇasati) helps us remember what is important in life, that the clock is ticking and to use our time wisely.



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Asoka

Right Action

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This is the fourth factor of the noble eightfold path, and it is about our behaviour and conduct on this earth. Our morality. Our ethics. How we treat other beings. Morality is an important part of any spiritual practise, without it one will find it difficult to settle into meditation and be at peace.

We want to aspire to pass through this world of myriad beings and cause as little harm as we can. As doing so creates less stress and negative consequences for ourselves and others. It can be summed up quite nicely by the phrase ‘Ahimsa’ which means non-violence.

The three right actions of the noble eightfold path are:

  • To refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
  • To refrain from taking that which is not given.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct.

All beings value their lives. And all are trying to survive in this world. And most would rather live in peace and friendship with us than be our enemy. No being likes being wronged or hurt, just as much as oneself doesn’t like it.

Watch any insect as you approach and how it runs away afraid. How it tries to hide from you. That being values its life. Imagine how you’d feel if an advanced alien race came and started chasing you, you’d be just like that insect.

The idea that some beings are more important than others is at the root of much of our world’s problems.

Living in peace and friendship with other beings. One’s mind becomes less troubled and averse; more happy; more content. And when the mind is not harrassed by regret, remorse, or fear of retribution. It will find it easier to settle into the deeper states of meditation known as right samhadi (the eighth factor of the noble eightfold path). It is from the lucid stillness of right samhadi that wisdom naturally arises. Because within us all, there is a deeper wiser part of the mind that wants to talk to us, but we often don’t hear it because we are too busy chatting to ourselves about nonsense.


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Right speech

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 9 Jun 2022, 14:57

Speech is not something to take lightly. We humans are social creatures who have developed a complex form of verbal communication, our language and the use of it is very important. Wrong speech can create great harm for ourselves and others. It creates social divisions, leads to violence, and can start wars.

However, right speech can heal, encourage, bring liberating knowledge, wisdom, comfort and peace.

Speech happens fast. Too fast for one to be able to plan their speech ahead. One must also be aware of timing and whether something is appropriate to say. As a general guide, is what one is about to say true, beneficial, and kind?

***

The four right speeches:

I will refrain from false speech,

I will refrain from malicious and divisive speech,

I will refrain from harsh unkind speech,

I will refrain from idle pointless chatter.

***

‘I will refrain from false speech...’

It is very important to be truthful. Telling lies, even white ones, are bad for one’s psyche. If you tell a lie for long enough you start to believe it, and this leads to dangerous delusions about reality and creates an awful split in the mind. If one wants to progress on the spiritual path, one needs to be able to see reality for what it is, and if one is telling lies one is not getting an accurate account of reality. The spiritual path is all about seeking the truth, and to do that one has to be honest with oneself, about one’s experience and what is really happening. To become lucid requires complete truthfulness. When one thinks it is okay to lie, one’s spiritual achievement is meaningless.

‘I will refrain from malicious and divisive speech…’

Malicious and divisive speech causes harm, splits communities and creates disharmony. Even what might be considered harmless gossip is not conducive to beneficial outcomes. Everything we intend, say and do leads to consequences, both for ourselves and others. Gossip divides communities, friends and families.

Why do we become so quick to judge others? To virtue signal, to want to criticise, to shame, to blame. What is that all about? Does that lead to peace of mind? To meaningful social connections? To harmony?

‘I will refrain from harsh unkind speech…’

Harsh words even if they are true can harm the one they are directed at. Sometimes it is better to remain silent than speak the truth. One does not have to answer a question if speaking the truth may cause harm to oneself or another. Harsh unkind words never really help, especially if they are not beneficial for the person hearing them.

We should also try to remember not to be so quick to judge others. No-one has ever got where they are without making mistakes. There’s a saying that I like which goes:

A thorn of experience, is worth more than a wilderness of warnings.’

We have all had our less-than-graceful moments. There’s another saying I like which goes: ‘One should not judge another until they have walked the trail of life in their shoes.’

It is true that sometimes people need to hear things they may not want to hear. These difficult conversations happen better when coming from the heart and done with loving-friendliness, from a heart that genuinely wants the best for that person. If one comes from the heart one’s speech will be gentle, peaceful and not cause harm.

‘I will refrain from idle pointless chatter.’

Idle pointless speech is tiring to listen to. It can drain one’s energy, and put one in a dull fatigued state of mind. Time is precious. So don’t waste it with frivolous speech.

Sometimes there’s the urge to fill the air with words because one feels uncomfortable with silence. But instead one should learn to appreciate the silence, there is something deeper and more subtle in the silence. If one wants to get into deep states of meditation, one needs to learn to appreciate silence. There’s a place one’s consciousness can go to that is much deeper and more profound than words can convey.

Everything on the eightfold path is informed by right view

If one notices their speech is unskilful, then one should check their intentions. And if one’s intentions are wrong, then that means one is holding to a wrong view. So always check if speech is coming from greed, hatred, or delusion. If so, try to come from a place of generosity, kindness, and clarity instead, and remember the four noble truths.

As a rule of thumb. If one is coming from the heart, from a place of loving-kindness. Then one’s speech will be right. As it will not cause harm and will want only the best for the other person.

Right speech also applies to the way we talk to ourselves.

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Serenity practise

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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!

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