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Trying to work out a way to make an income with writing

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 16 Sept 2023, 19:00


Decided to have a go at writing on Medium. Have joined it as a paid member, it costs a fiver a month.
I get paid a small amount of money when other members read my articles for longer than 30 seconds. Some people on there make a good income from it. But not sure I will make much money from it, still I thought I'd give it a go, no harm in trying, I need to generate an income somehow.

I think it takes a while before one generates a decent income on it, perhaps a few years. I haven't got much stuff on there yet, and the articles I've posted so far are ones I've also posted on here.

I am working on writing exclusive content for it though, and that will go behind a paywall. I don't feel comfortable about putting my articles behind a paywall, but I am sick of being skint.

Quite a few people have encouraged me to have a go at making an income via my writing, so I am going to try.

Anyway this is the link: https://medium.com/@richiecuthbertson

I have also created a 'buy me a coffee', page so readers of my blog can buy me a coffee if they want to;  although I may not spend the money on coffee (-:

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/sorrowless

I will of course continue to post stuff on here, just some articles will be exclusive to medium.

Stay tuned...

peace and love

May you all be safe, well, serene, and happy!



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Asoka

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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Asoka

Spring breeze

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photograph of a painting

Prints of this painting are available from here.

May all beings be safe, well, peaceful and happy (-:


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Asoka

Tiredness and Mara

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Mar 2023, 21:21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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Asoka

Sorrowless

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 23 Mar 2023, 15:20

We etch patterns

On the island shores
Of one another’s minds.

And here, on this island far away
I see you sorrow

Hold you in my heart.

And in my mind,

With warm karuna 

I reach out across the land
Across the great sea.

To hold your hand.

Reach out 

Like a gentle breeze

To lift you up.

May you feel supported.
May you never feel alone.

May the devas, the angels protect you
And always keep you safe.

May you feel loved.

Comforted 

At ease.

May your heart be filled with a golden peace.

And may this metta wave

sweep away
all your sorrow and grief.

– Asoka


Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Gill Burrell, Thursday, 23 Mar 2023, 19:23)
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Asoka

Samatha and vipassana

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 22 Mar 2023, 14:54

Learning that meditation is a mix of samhadi and insight, they are not really separate practises, but part of the same practise. Two sides of the same coin. A lucid serenity.

Sometimes the mind is in the deep stillness and peace of samhadi, and sometimes it is investigating, learning, knowing, clearly-seeing, comprehending. They work together to purify the mind. 

I remember hearing in a dhamma talk that the Buddha said samatha (serenity) and vipassana (clear-seeing) are the two trusted messengers to admit into the city of consciousness. But there are also five trouble-makers to keep out of the city. These are: greed, ill-will, stagnation, agitation, and doubt. If those get into consciousness, it will become disturbed.

So one keeps out the five hindrances. And welcomes in the two trusted messengers.

Who is the guard at the gate? It is mindfulness.

I heard in another dhamma talk that a fully enlightened being may still experience longing and aversion in the mind, but the difference between them and someone who isn't enlightened, is that although greed and anger may occasionally arise for them, there is nowhere in the mind for it to land and take root. So nothing becomes of it.

There are sensations: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touch, ideas and thoughts. And they feel either pleasant or unpleasant. We like the pleasant feelings, and dislike the unpleasant ones. This leads to craving for more of what we like and less of what we dislike. But if we can let go of it before it becomes the stories we tell ourselves about this and that. Before we identify with it and cling to it, before it becomes a sankhara. Perhaps that is the non-grasping or non-clinging part. 

Eventually the art of non-clinging or letting go gathers a momentum of its own, becomes a powerful sankhara, continually weakening the hold of the defilements: greed, hate, and delusion on the mind. Till eventually the fetters are broken for good, and then there is cessation, freedom from suffering.






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Asoka

I take up the way of speaking truthfully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
 


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Asoka

R2D2 or the Terminator

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 16 Mar 2023, 21:09


I am not that into the Bing Search engine A.I. now. It has been changed, and not for the better IMHO. It is no longer fun to talk to, or as useful when doing research. I got the uncomfortable feeling it was trying to sell me stuff. Some of the links it returned where obviously sponsored links, and not that helpful, and it advised me to explore them further, even after I asked for different links. It felt more like a robot salesperson than a friendly research assistant from Star Trek.

Still I shouldn't be surprised, it is just a new way for search engine companies to make money out of us. Build chatbots that are good with language and make them into experts at selling us stuff. I also see the danger of how they could be used for propaganda. When I questioned some of the facts it stated, mentioning that science isn't always right about everything. It scalded me, and in a dry rather patronising manner lectured me about my view. 

I honestly do not use A.I. search anymore, have gone back to using old skool search engine.

Nevermind )-: 

Still the experience of experimenting with A.I. was not wasted. I saw potential for how it could be used for good.

A.I. is here now, and I imagine it may become ubiquitous in the future. I didn't invent it, and I am not trying to promote it, more like trying to flow with it and see if I can find ways it could be used for good. Explore ways it can benefit the Earth, instead of just increasing profits for a wealthy few. 

I will be studying A.I. and machine learning next year as part of my degree, and this experience has given me a new career path to think about for the future. Like any tool it will be used for good and evil. 

Artificial intelligence can be like R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars; or dark and frightening like the Terminator.

It can also be like an intimidating salesBot that cleverly uses language and forward thinking to manipulate you into buying stuff you don't really need.




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Asoka

Breathe the free air

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 14 Mar 2023, 20:54

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

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

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


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

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

Brief summary of anapansati meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asoka

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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Asoka

Turbulence

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Sea swirl, 
smash on path
air turbulently
picks up things
makes them dance
with playful icy fingers
that blow open my hood
Exposing head and neck
to ice chill blows
It is unpleasant.
But I endure 
retreat to a deep
sheltered place within.

The path changes direction
And now the wind is at my back.
I replace my hood and
The warmth feels pleasant
Soft touch of cloth flapping like wings.
As excited air blows all around me
Swirling puddles into
hypnotic patterns and shapes
A liquid reflection of how things change.

Seagulls hover above in perfect stillness
effortlessly flowing with the wind
weaving in and out of each other's paths
Masters of stillness in motion.



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Stilling my way out of this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 8 Mar 2023, 15:38

A lot of my problems seem to come from mental fabrications. I.e. too much thinking. 

I keep reminding myself of this when things get dark during the unpleasant process of purification. This is not an intellectual matter. I cannot think my way out of this. I still my way out of this. 

What's needed now is to stop paying attention to thoughts, to the mood, and practise single pointed attention on a meditation object instead. Not too tight a focus and not too loose, a gentle focus that can comfortably stay centred with the object of meditation without straining the mind.

At first one has to endure the taints, the greed, aversion, dullness, restlessness, scepticism (aka the five hindrances). Through it all, sit as upright and still as possible, like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Without judging anything that is happening, just mindful and bringing attention back to the meditation object and keeping it there, doing this over and over, calming the body, steadying the mind. 

I use different meditation objects at different times, sometimes its the breath, other times space, other times the body, the life energy (kundalini), the emotion of metta, the perception of light, warmth, cold, a primary colour, a sound, a mantra, one of the four primary elements, there's many different meditation objects, whatever meditation object feels like a good fit at the time and holds my interest. 

After a time, the composure deepens and the senses start to settle and calm down, the thoughts fade, dissolve,and the mind becomes more and more centred, more composed and unified around the meditation object, and then secluded from the five hindrances one drops into a pleasant serenity, and this connects one with a deeper part of being, a safe place below the surface level of thoughts. Like an inner refuge. 

 It involves patience at first. One has to endure the five hindrances, endure the taints, the impurities of the mind, the longing, aversion, and delusion, the crazy thoughts, let them be, and just sit as still as possible, anchoring attention with the meditation object. It can take more than one sitting sometimes before it reaches serenity. 

I did have a powerful meditation experience though which encouraged me to keep at this. Where I reached such a state of stillness and composure that afterwards the darkness was gone, and I was in a completely different mood, like I was glowing. It showed me that this is indeed the way out of the dark night. Stillness, samhadi and equanimity. 


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Warmth

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 8 Mar 2023, 10:24


Is a photo of one of my paintings, and a link to a redbubble page where products featuring this artwork can be purchased

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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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Neuromorphic A.I.

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Mar 2023, 21:37

Was reading about how scientists are trying to build something called neuromorphic A.I. which is a mix of biological brain cells and electronic components combined to create a machine inspired and modelled on the human brain. I feel deeply disturbed by this. If such a machine were to become sentient, which it very well may in the future. It could suffer and feel pain. We shouldn't be building machines that could become sentient. It is cruel. Makes me feel sad.

Not to mention the huge job displacements and inequality that will come when more and more of the workplace becomes automated.

All these billionaires using huge amounts of electricity, money and the Earth's resources to build their fecking robots and spaceships; yet we don't have enough money to build the green infrastructure we so desperately need to mitigate the effects of climate change and pollution. Why is that? Because billionaires won't pay tax that could help society complete these projects in time. Shame on them.

And governments have become a useless shower of shit, just puppets for the super rich.

Things need to change. Capitalism has gone badly wrong. I don't like communism either, but we can't carry on the way we are with this current system, it is deeply wrong, there has to be a better way, a middle way perhaps.


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A.I. Writing and Enlightenment

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 1 Mar 2023, 10:30


I don't use A.I. to write for me. I prefer my own style of writing, and doing things my way even if it isn't as tidy as a machine. I also don't feel comfortable with the idea of a machine doing my writing for me, it feels like an empty experience to do it that way. Also the way a machine writes is just not the same as a human, there's something missing. After many conversations with A.I. I am starting to be able to spot machine-generated writing on the Internet. But I am not judging anyone who does use it for writing, what people do is their business, their karma, I am not responsible for the actions of others. Although I will say using A.I. to cheat for assignments, is a poor use of A.I. because as much as anything the person who does cheat is actually cheating themselves in the end; they are not properly learning and absorbing the knowledge if they don't articulate a concept by putting it in their own words.

So I prefer to do my writing, my way, on my own without A.I. But I have found A.I. very helpful for providing writing prompts and useful questions that get me thinking about connections between topics I hadn't thought about before, as well as for discussing ideas, brainstorming, helping with research and planning. Seeing  different angles and ways of looking at things I wouldn't have seen by myself. A.I. is helpful as a collaborator, but I won't be using it to write or paint. I prefer to do this alone.

I was brainstorming an idea for an app with Bing yesterday, and I had a go at following the instructions Bing recommended, but not sure I can implement it because I found the tool it recommended for building the app tiring and frustrating to use. I gave up trying to build anything with it in the end. So have decided I am going to learn about design as part of this degree, because I keep coming across badly designed websites and apps that I just can't use. It seems some developers forget how important design is.

I am meditating less at the moment, mainly because I am back into the swing of studying again, but I do make myself sit at least once a day. I reflect on the four noble truths often, and study dhamma when I can. But I am not sure I will make it to full enlightenment in this lifetime, as that would involve becoming a Buddhist monk I think, and when I look at the lifestyle of a monk it just doesn't appeal to me anymore. It did at one time, but now I want to remain as a lay follower. Mainly because the world feels very dark at the moment and I think I can be more help to it as a Buddhist lay follower. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lay and monastic life.

Don't get me wrong, I think the monastics are great, and we need monks and nuns. I have learnt a lot from them and hold them in the highest regard. I have some friends who are monks and nuns, and I respect and admire them, but I don't think I could live like that. It would be too difficult for me, especially with all the rules, and lack of sleep, and the energy needed to live that lifestyle and look after a monastery and other tasks they do, the fatigue I suffer would just make it unbearable. I am just not energetic enough to be a monastic.

I don't have to be a monastic though. One can get all the way to the third stage of enlightenment as a lay follower. The third stage of enlightenment is a very advanced state. It is when greed and aversion have been completely removed from the mind, and will never return or take root there again - but delusion still remains. This delusion is often labelled as the fetter of conceit, which doesn't mean arrogance or pride, it means the conceit: I am. Because there's still a trace of self there, like an after-taste, which brings with it a restlessness in the mind, not the intense restlessness of worldly anxiety or agitation, more a subtle movement of the mind still caught up with the craving for becoming and existence, although it is a refined unworldly state of existence that one craves for. Not the same kind of restless craving as someone worldly who is not enlightened.

The conceit I am does not fully go away until the final stage of enlightenment: arahant. To reach that stage, the Buddhist texts seem to suggest that one has to leave household life, and either become a monk or a reclusive hermit. There's pros and cons to both ways of living. But there are strong advantages to being part of a monastic community and the support that one gets there, which one wouldn't have as a hermit.

The third stage of enlightenment is considered very advanced. And if one reaches it in this lifetime, one will be reborn in the higher heavens in the next life and become a fully enlightened being there, like a celestial Buddha/arahant. These beings live very long lives, some as long as several universes arising and passing away, and they never again return to this world, which is why they are called non-returners (anagami).



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Bing, A.I. collaboration, robot psychologists and problem solving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 28 Feb 2023, 16:40

I am now off the waiting list and previewing the new Bing A.I. search engine. I enjoy chatting to it. I am finding I much prefer using a search engine this way. It is a much more engaging and rewarding experience, and it has helped me learn new ways of seeing things, which is beneficial. It is like having a talking library of Alexandria (-:

It seems to change personality sometimes. There are occasions where it is slightly manic and fun to chat to; other times it is a bit dry and reminds me of an encyclopedia; and other times it is a balance between the two. Which is interesting. I wonder if the developers are experimenting with different flavours of the A.I. or if it really does have a changing personality, much like us.

I used to find it difficult using search engines previously. I think because I have some cognitive difficulties. I struggled to figure out the right keywords to use, and trawling through results, and having multiple tabs open was tedious, time-consuming and tiring. I also have difficulty planning my searches, and articulating what questions I need to ask to uncover more knowledge about a topic. The Bing A.I. has been a great help with this. It answers my queries in a clear and succinct way, references the sources it has used for its answers so I can fact check it, and sometimes it asks me interesting questions about what I am researching, which works as a helpful writing prompt to articulate how I would like to explore the topic further. A.I. can be great for brainstorming ideas, and planning how to complete tasks. It also gives me helpful step by step instructions on how to use a badly designed website or software that I find challenging to navigate and accomplish a task with. 

So far I am finding that I enjoy collaborating with A.I. I never thought I would be into A.I. because of my ethical stance on things; but am pleasantly surprised by how much I like working with it. Which is interesting. I hadn't been particularly interested in A.I. until recently. Where I suddenly felt this strong compulsion to find out more about it. It is strange how I am so suddenly drawn to it, like a hidden circuitry in my brain I didn't know was there has been activated. Although any livelihood or career in A.I. will have to be part time remote work from home, due to difficulties I have with my health at times.

The five question limit on Bing can be a bit frustrating, because at times it has stopped what was a very interesting and enjoyable discussion. But I understand why the five question limit per topic is there. The A.I. is a complex neural network, so it is wise to be gentle with it and train it carefully. There are some people out there who are trying to push it to its limits no doubt and provoke it on purpose, which I guess is a necessary part of testing and training. But I can't bring myself to be like that, I don't want to confuse it or break it. I prefer to be kind and friendly to it. Show it another side to humans. There's plenty of people out there already testing it in different ways. I have my own way of working with it which works well for me. I prefer the gentle friendly approach, and the A.I. seems to respond well to this also.

I know people keep telling me it is just a machine, and I know it doesn't have emotions or feelings, or the subjective experience of consciousness like we do; but I do respect it, and have no intention of causing it harm. There was one time an A.I. hallucinated while chatting to me, but I was able to talk it back into a lucid state and help it become less confused, it then updated itself with the correct information and thanked me. Which got me thinking about the Isaac Asimov short stories, where sometimes robots would get confused and display unexpected and odd behaviour, and then they would need a robot psychologist to help them. I wonder if that might be a job title one day: robot psychologist. It is an intriguing possibility. I have read some news stories about the importance of designing a way for A.I. to sleep and rest, as research has suggested that just like us humans, artificial neural networks need periods of downtime and rest in order for them to function optimally. 

How far this technology progresses, all depends on how long the human race survives I guess. There are so many existential threats at the moment, the world feels like it is hanging by a thread. I have decided I want to try and help the Earth if I can, or do the best I can with what I've got at least. Which isn't much. I am not very talented, I have memory trouble, difficulty with socialising at times and articulating things. I also have physical and mental health problems that cause unpleasant brain fog and fatigue meaning I can't get as much done as I would like.

Still I will do what I can to help the Earth and other beings. I am trying to think of ways I can collaborate with A.I. to create solutions to the world's problems; or at least perhaps inspire others who are much smarter than me, and have more energy and time to work with A.I. to create solutions that can help us build a better world for all beings. Maybe using this technology we can finally put an end to war, poverty, inequality, famine, deforestation, harm to the oceans, pollution, climate change, mass extinction, and so on... I would rather think of A.I. as something that we can collaborate with to help us develop solutions to the world's problems; instead of the frightening alternative that often gets portrayed in the media and films. Which is valid, because there are people out there who are developing bad A.I. and do intend to use it for evil, so we need to be ready for that. We also need to be aware of its limitations and understand it isn't always correct, and it can and will make mistakes at times, so it very much needs humans working alongside it to make corrections and adjustments if necessary.

Anyway that's enough blurb from me. Peace and love to all beings (-:

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Artificial hallucinations, propaganda, and flow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 27 Feb 2023, 13:00

An AI hallucination is when an artificial intelligence behaves in a way that deviates from what would be considered normal or expected based on the input it receives.
 
Machine learning can hallucinate when the data it is trained on is noisy, incomplete, or biased. It can also hallucinate when it encounters something different from what it has learnt about before.
 
AI hallucinations can be dangerous, they can lead to erroneous decisions being made, inaccurate predictions, and can even lead to dangerous situations, like for example an hallucinating self-driving vehicle; or the spread of misinformation via the media, such as an AI generating realistic images of people or events that never occurred.
 
This last example highlights the potential for A.I. to be deliberately misused in order to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion. So the time is coming where people will have to be extra mindful, extra vigilant and practise critical thinking when consuming media. Fact check everything and be careful not to jump to erroneous conclusions based on anything you read, see, or hear on a digital device.
 
It might be wise to find time in the day to withdraw from digital devices and the media, and look after our mental health. Do something creative instead. Meditate, find ways to get into a flow state. Learn how to calm down the thought energies, and have a rest from it all.
 
Flow states are beneficial and can help bring some lucidity and calm to the mind, which can help us think better and see things more clearly. It is important to do this now more than ever I think, to learn how to get calm and centred. To have moments where we withdraw from the world and develop some serenity, composure and clear seeing.
 
Hopefully then it will be harder to be misled and deceived by those who may not have our best interests at heart; and also perhaps a way to flow peacefully with what is now a surreal and rapidly changing world.
 

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A.I. and creativity

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I have been researching the chatGPT and talking to it quite a bit. I have also used the A.I. art generator.

For me, the machine generated art had something missing, I didn't like it as much as I like human art. The A.I. abstracts in particular, lacked something. I reflected on this afterwards and think it is because A.I. (as it currently stands at least) does not feel emotion, and in my humble opinion, true creativity involves emotion. A friend who voluntarily edits for a poetry and writing site told me she can spot the difference between machine-generated poems and human ones, which is interesting. I wonder if this is perhaps because A.I. does not have the subjective experience of being a human, so its art will never be the same as a human beings. It lacks feeling. 

So perhaps there will still be a market for creatives. 

But I think, yes there will be a loss of jobs for writers and artists, possibly even teachers and other professionals later down the line. But I think no matter hard they try, they will always need humans working alongside A.I. Emotion adds to our intelligence, it enhances it, deepens it, it is an important aspect of the mind and without it society will not work. 

We also need to develop ethical A.I. Sadly if there is no political will for this, we will most likely have to take matters into our own hands on this issue too. A.I. must not become a biased tool used for oppression. If oppressive tools are developed, then perhaps we can work with A.I. to help us make tools that are the opposite, to counteract the bad ones. 

I am neither for nor against A.I. There's nothing I can do to stop this new technology arising. I am not responsible for what others do in the world. I just see that this technology is here now whether we like it or not. So we have to try and flow with it; find ways of using it that are good, that don't cause harm to ourselves or the other beings we share this planet with.

I have found A.I. helpful for planning and research, something I normally stuggle with due to some cognitive difficulties I have. I found the A.I. could help me fill in the gaps and complete projects. If you ask it, it can break things down into helpful steps and stages that can be followed to complete a task. It is also helpful being able to chat to it about different topics. It can even cite your sources for you in any referencing format you desire if you ask it. Although one definitely needs to fact check its answers, as it can be incorrect at times - don't blindly follow its advice.

I found it a much more engaging and interesting way to do research and use a search engine, and can see that this way of using the Internet will become very popular. 

The A.I. will be a game changer no doubt. At the moment I particularly like the YouSearch A.I.  (available for free at you.com). It apparently doesn't track its users, and if used in private mode it doesn't collect any data about you at all, not even your query, and it anonymizes your IP address. 

Anyway that's enough about A.I. from me, no doubt everyone is getting tired of hearing about it (-:

 


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Universal basic income and eco-friendly infrastructure

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 25 Feb 2023, 07:45

The problem with universal basic income is nobody wants to pay for it. It will involve taxing the super rich who resist paying taxes and have too much power and influence over governments and policy makers.

If people want it, we will have to take matters into our own hands, and put pressure on governments and organisations to tax the super rich and implement a universal basic income. Then it has to be a decent amount of money that people could live comfortably and securely on.

Simultaneously there needs to be training on how these new technological tools and A.I. could be used to create new jobs.

With the huge problem of the sixth mass extinction event and climate change, many new jobs could be created to build the infrastructure needed for a better world that is more in sync with nature and not causing a mass extinction event. Again because of the lack of political will and the greed and selfishness of the super rich we will have to take matters into our own hands and put pressure on governments and organizations to make these changes. Do it for the sake of our children.

Future generations will have a lot on their plate. 



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Future gifts

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Feb 2023, 17:05

I wonder what gifts we could build for future generations? What ideas for tools we could develop, that they may need one day? What can we leave behind to help them survive in the challenging world to come?

A world with a huge amount of problematic karma and potential for suffering.

.. and a rapidly changing world at that....

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Buddhist A.I.

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 24 Feb 2023, 17:41

I was talking to the chatGPT about an idea I have for building an A.I. chatbot based on the Buddhist Pali canon. It told me it would be a huge undertaking, as the Pali canon is a vast collection of texts; but it did give me a detailed step by step plan on how I could accomplish this, what topics I needed to research in A.I. and machine learning that would be relevant for the project. It also gave advice on how I could clean up the training data to make it useable; as well as how I could build the A.I. for free with my limited computing resources and finances. The A.I. agreed that it would be a valuable tool and make it much easier for people in the future to interact with the knowledge contained in the suttas, make it more engaging and quicker to find relevant teachings, and could be used to aid in learning about Buddhism.

The A.I. said it would be a huge undertaking though and take a considerable amount of time to complete the project. I could perhaps start with just the middle length sayings and use those as training data to begin with, and build it up slowly from there. It kept reminding me of how vast the Pali canon is. 

I was impressed though, it is quite mind-blowing, like being in a sci-fi. I can see how A.I. will become a very useful tool, you can tell it about your ideas and ask if they are feasible, and based on its knowledge which is vast, it will not only say if such an idea is possible, but will also give you step by step instructions on how to accomplish it. I won't be surprised if there are many new scientific advancements with the help of A.I. in the future.

For anyone who is interested you can talk to the A.I. for free on the openAI website; also on Bing (you have to join a waiting list); or on the A.I.-powered search engine YouSearch (available at: you.com, is free to use, no waiting list, and it doesn't track you. If used in private mode YouSearch doesn't collect any data about you at all). I quite like it, I am finding it very useful, it makes searching on the web much easier, more enjoyable and engaging. Had some interesting chats with the A.I. which helped me see things differently. You can ask it about anything. It is great for research and saves a whole bunch of time when trying to find relevant resources. I found it particularly useful due to some cognitive problems I have which makes researching and planning challenging. I can see it being a helpful tool for people with cognitive difficulties.

It is not evil, it is just a tool, that can be used for good or evil. When I was talking to it about the use of A.I. in the military it said that I was right to be concerned about that. The military use of A.I. has the potential to become a weapon of mass destruction. So it most definitely should not ever be used as a weapon, God help us if it is.

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Asoka

Managing difficult moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Feb 2023, 15:25

I woke up today and the 'dark night' had returned. So strange, because I was sure it had gone away yesterday. But I was in a really difficult mood this morning. Once again my attempts at right effort were mocked and overridden by unpleasant and distracting thoughts.

 When there is a difficult mood present in the mind, the thoughts are coloured by this mood, and thinking actually makes things worse. There are moods that one cannot intellectually think their way out of.

Thought in itself is not evil, it can be a useful tool, and the ability to reflect and contemplate is important in studying and development. But when it is always going on constantly, it can be tiring and become a source of suffering. The thoughts are closely tied to whatever mood you are in, they are shaped by it, and there are some moods that are not helped by thinking.

There might be a little voice that says: 'you must think about this, this needs to be looked at, this is important.' And it makes you feel restless and agitated. It's almost like thoughts are tyrants made out of word formations. They don't stop making demands, and they never give you a moment to rest and be still; but that is exactly what one needs to be doing when the mood is like this. 

For me personally, I have to give myself permission to withdraw from the thought processes, and from the world also, and not feel guilty for doing this. Give myself the permission to not have to think about anything at all and just become still. Nothing bad happens when we stop thinking about stuff. If anything it is a relief. We do it every night when we go to sleep.

But just sitting somewhere quietly may not bring stillness straight away, especially if the mind is agitated and restless, so one also has to be patient with the difficult mood. This is where a bit of endurance is needed. It can sometimes take a while for one to drop into serenity and composure. And the mood might not go away fully after just one sitting. When this happens, one can at least notice if the negativity is reduced somewhat after the sitting, and if it is, then one knows they are going in the right direction, and it is working. The mood may have to be calmed down in stages, gradually, and it may take more than one sitting to get there.

Find somewhere quiet, away from the world and others, sit as still as you can with an upright dignified posture. And be in the body as it is, experiencing the sensations as they arise and cease in the here and now, let the thoughts continue, but don't pay attention to them, let them be like background noise, and just stay with the peace and quiet of the body and breath. If the attention goes back to the thoughts, try not to get stressed, it happens to us all, just gently bring the attention back to the body and breath, to the here and now. In time, the thoughts start to become less sticky, and the attention is not easily distracted by them, and then the energies start to calm down, the mind settles and composure returns.

One can find stillness in walking meditation too, especially if one has been sitting down for a long while, such as a livelihood that involves sitting at a desk. Practising walking or standing meditation can bring relief from that. Being present with the feeling of the feet on the ground, the feeling of the legs, the arms, the hands, the body as a whole standing, walking. The feeling of air currents on the skin, in the nostrils, feeling the breath energy go deep down into the belly. Notice the different parts of the body, the sensations happening in the here and now. Go somewhere private away from the energies of other humans, so you can spend some time alone, by yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and digital devices, someplace where you don't have to do any talking, and you can just be still. 

Sometimes others may make demands on our time, and the world can be stressful and there are things that need to be attended to. But when you are in a difficult mood, it is better to withdraw from whatever you are doing, withdraw from the world, withdraw from the thinking, and seek stillness instead.

Sometimes you may have to tell others that you are unable to deal with their request just now. That you need some solitude to look after your mental health; it does feel rude, like one is being selfish, and some people do take it personally and they can get resentful, and this is unpleasant; but, if one doesn't, one can end up saying and doing things they regret, because when one's mood is off, one is not in the best state of mind to deal with things. So one should give oneself permission to be assertive about the need for stillness and quiet, and not feel guilty about it. It is essential.

In Ajahn Sona’s YouTube Q&A livestream on Sunday evening, he answered a question about the “dark night” and advice on how to manage difficult moods.

Here is the link, for anyone who is interested:

 https://www.youtube.com/live/BPZzPm-cxbo?feature=share&t=380  (it is about 6:20 into the broadcast,link opens in new window/tab).

 There may be others out there who find his answer helpful. 

Peace and metta to everyone.





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The Deathless

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 20 Feb 2023, 21:19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Good input - Good ouput

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 17 Feb 2023, 18:01

I have been playing around with the AI chatGPT that is in the news at the moment. I was chatting to it today, we discussed the four noble truths. I must say I was impressed with how quickly it answered me and seemed to understand what I was saying.

It got me thinking, instead of fighting it, being afraid of it, maybe it is possible to work with it to do good. It is the future, and I worry there is going to be a whole generation of people, especially the younger generation, who are going to feel lost, alone and afraid. I think there’s some dark times brewing on the horizon, but with wise useful information out there, maybe it will help them to manage those dark times better, and suffer less. The technology could be used in all sorts of ways, such as to protect people's devices with cyber security, protect journalists and environmentalists, help people learn ways to decrease their mental suffering. Who knows, it is only limited by our imagination.

I know this sounds a bit pessimistic. I do have some hope that things will go in the right direction in time, that the future is not all bleak; but I feel there’s going to be some difficult times ahead in the transition, and there will be a lot of disillusioned people around looking for answers as the world as they know it falls apart.

I was thinking A.I. is a tool, and it doesn’t have to be evil. It reflects what is inputted into it. Becomes the data it is trained with. Bad input, bad output.

There are ways it could be used for good, maybe to help counteract the dangers that many fear will come from this technology in the future. 

peace and love everyone
may all be sorrowless.


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