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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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Gradual incline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

 


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Asoka

What remains

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


The body
Sensations
Feelings
Perceptions
Thoughts
Sense consciousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What remains?

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

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



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Asoka

The five right exertions

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


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

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

The four right efforts are:

1. Preventing unwholesome states of mind arising

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

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

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

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

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

 When for you Bahiya there is:

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

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

2. Removal of unwholesome states of mind should they arise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Generating wholesome states of mind

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

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

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

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

4. Sustaining wholesome states of mind

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

In the words of the Buddha:

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

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

...



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Asoka

That moment

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When good music hits the spot
I like that feeling a lot
How it makes my spine shiver
Like a beautiful colour
Making me feel alive
And on some level we jive
Your vibe
like the
Touch of a breeze
Setting my energy at ease
Fills me with zest
And I feel blessed
By something real

That’s how you make me feel.

-Asoka




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Asoka

Ocean Spirits

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 6 Sep 2023, 17:03


Scan of an abstract painting


Painted in acrylic. Prints available from here.

and also from
here.

© Asoka Richie 2023 (all rights reserved)

...


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Joy

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 5 Sep 2023, 21:00

scan of a colourful abstract painting

Painted in acrylic. Prints available from here.

© Asoka Richie 2023 (all rights reserved)

...


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Asoka

New blog post

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The Buddha noted that dependent co-arising and the causes of suffering are like a tangled skein.

scan of an abstract painting

Painted in acrylic. Prints available from here.

© Asoka Richie 2023 (all rights reserved)



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Asoka

Grief

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Death’s hard to bear.
It feels cruel.
Not fair.

Grief is lonely.

Dad was a good man.
Loved by many.

Lots of different people
attended his funeral.
His life affected them all.
It was beautiful.

The world feels a lesser place
Now he has gone.
Just isn’t the same.
Feels wrong.

He made things better.

Why did he have to die?

Dependent origination.
That’s why.

I’ve read that the wise do not grieve.
But still the tears fall.
Perhaps that means
I am not wise at all.











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Asoka

The man with a pigeon living on his head

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Aug 2023, 19:25



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Aurora

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an abstract painting

Painted in acrylic. Prints available from here.


© Asoka Richie 2023 (all rights reserved)


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Asoka

Calming anger

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The touch of clothing on the skin.

A cool breeze can also help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 photo of a tree


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Asoka

Water

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 23 Aug 2023, 21:14

A photo of a barrel jellyfish


Rain drops fall like a tranquil melody. 
As I walk to take a break 
from a mountain of studying.
So much revision to do
for an upcoming exam.
And my heart is just not in it.

The green of plant life
is luminous in the rain.
Green shades of every kind.

I stop to watch a
huge jellyfish in the water
Pulsating rhythmically
as it swims back and forth.
A barrel jellyfish I think.
Beautiful being. 
Blind as a bat though
As it bumps into the sea wall.

I get back home.
Shake off my umbrella
Sit at the computer.
Log in.

Then the tears start...

It comes in waves.

...

A photo of a barrel jellyfish




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Asoka

Note to not-self

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

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

That's where your power is. '

- the Buddha (I think).

...


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Asoka

Wise about mistakes

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



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Conceit

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 The equality-conceit (thinking of oneself as the same as others).
The inferiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as lesser than others).
And the superiority-conceit (thinking of oneself as better than others).

This three-fold conceit should be overcome.
One who has overcome this,
through the full investigation of conceit,
is said to have put an end to suffering
.”

 ~ A 6.49

Investigation of the conceit: ‘I am’
Can feel like trying to split a hair with a pin.
It can be very subtle
Hard to see.

Anatta (not-self) is a negation tool used in Buddhism to reveal what is not the self, like the practise of neti neti (not this, not that).

Anatta investigates the five khandhas (skandhas in Sanskrit), these are: the bodyfeelingsperceptionsmental formationsconsciousness (of the six senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental objects).

The khandhas (also known as the five aggregates of clinging) are conditioned phenomena, uncertain, unstable, fragile. Changing. Interdependent. And largely outside our control. Their impermanence causes attachment to them to be bound up with the pain of wanting, frustration, dissatisfaction, stress and sorrow.

There is some gratification in them otherwise we wouldn’t cling to them. But that gratification is transient and when it goes, we suffer and thirst for more, feel pain at loss and separation.

Still, it's not all bad, because some of the aggregates are within our ability to change, we can make a path out of them that leads to the end of suffering: the noble eightfold path.

Seeing the skandhas do not last, are empty of self, and bound up with suffering. One becomes less attached to them, less enthralled by them. One feels dispassionate towards them and stops identifying with them. Stops taking things personally. 

Knowing the khandas are not me, not mine, not self, one lets go, stops clinging to them – and what remains then is the deathless.

It is not meant to be depressing. If done correctly this will bring rapture and peace to the mind. Bliss. The relief of letting go, of relinquishment, of releasing it all. Liberation. Freedom. It's not a dry unemotional experience.

To think of nibbana or nirvana as annihilation is incorrect. If this were the case, it wouldn't be called the deathless.

Nibbana is a conscious experience. Said to be the finest experience that any being can have. If it was about annihilation, it would not be an experience.

 

 


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Asoka

Just this

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 16:36


Sitting here
Sounds all around.
Seagulls sqawking,
Dogs barking,
Cars trafficking.
People talking.
Construction work
and the odd chainsaw.
Cars scrunching the gravel
as they come and go.

I meditate.
Investigate.
The Buddha's teaching to Bahiya.

To let a sound be just a sound.
To let that which is sensed
be only that which is sensed.
Awareness and knowing,
being just that.
Without adding any more to it.
Without the 'I' making.
The story of
the person.

Neither here, nor there, nor inbetween the two.
This, the Buddha said, is the end of suffering.

It's the longing, the loathing, and conceit.
The impatience.
The angst.
The getting stressed
and taking it personally.
That's what gets in the way.
That's the problem.
That's what I need to let go of.

Without that there is just this.
And when there is just this.
there is no subject, no object.

The self disappears.

And when that happens there is peace.

...

-Asoka

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Satta bojjhanga (The seven factors of awakening)

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Aug 2023, 10:44


'Herein the disciple rouses his will to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.' - The Buddha

Simultaneously with the removal of the defilements (craving, ill-will, dullness/drowsiness, restlessness/worry, doubt). Right effort also has the task of cultivating wholesome states of mind. This involves two divisions: the arousing of wholesome states not yet arisen and the maturation of wholesome states already arisen.

Though the wholesome states to be developed can be grouped in various ways --- serenity and insight, the four foundations of mindfulness, the eight factors of the path, etc. --- the Buddha lays special stress on a set called the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration (samadhi), and equanimity.

The seven states are grouped together as 'enlightenment factors' both because they lead to enlightenment and because they constitute enlightenment. In the preliminary stages of the path they prepare the way for the great realization; in the end they remain as its components. The experience of enlightenment, perfect and complete understanding, is just these seven components working in unison to break all shackles and bring final release from sorrow.

The way to enlightenment starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness clears the ground for insight into the nature of things by bringing to light phenomena in the now, the present moment, stripped of all subjective commentary, interpretations, and projections.

Then, when mindfulness has brought the bare phenomena into focus, the factor of investigation steps in to search out their characteristics, conditions, and consequences. Whereas mindfulness is basically receptive, investigation is an active factor which unflinchingly probes, analyzes, and dissects phenomena to uncover their fundamental structures.

The work of investigation requires energy, the third factor of enlightenment, which mounts in three stages. The first inceptive energy, shakes off lethargy and arouses intitial enthusiasm. As the work of contemplation advances, energy gathers momentum and enters the second stage, perseverance, wherein it propels the practise without slackening. Finally, at the peak, energy reaches the third stage, invincibility, where it drives contemplation forward leaving the hindrances powerless to stop it.

As energy increases, the fourth factor of enlightenment is quickened. This is rapture, a pleasurable interest in the object. Rapture gradually builds up, ascending to ecstatic heights: waves of bliss run through the body, the mind glows with joy, fervor and confidence intensify. But these experiences, as encouraging as they are, still contain a flaw: they create an excitation verging on restlessness. 

With further practice, however, rapture subsides and a tone of quietness sets in signalling the rise of the fifth factor, tranquility. Rapture remains present, but it is now subdued, and the work of contemplation proceeds with self-possessed serenity.

Tranquility brings to ripeness samadhi (concentration), the sixth factor, one-pointed unification of mind. Then, with the deepening of samadhi, the last enlightenment factor comes into dominance. 

This is equanimity, inward poise and balance free from the two defects of excitement and inertia. When dullness prevails, energy must be aroused; when excitement prevails, it is necessary to exercise restraint. But when both these defects have been vanquished the practice can unfold evenly without need for concern. The mind of equanimity is compared to the driver of a chariot when the horses are moving at a steady pace: he neither has to urge them forward nor hold them back, but can just sit comfortably and watch the scenery go by. Equanimity has the same "on-looking" quality.

When the other factors are balanced the mind remains poised watching the play of phenomena.

Maintain Arisen Wholesom States

Herein the disciple rouses his will to maintain the wholesome things that have already arisen, and not to allow them to disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity, and to the full perfection of development; and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.  
- The Buddha

This last of the four right efforts aims at maintaining the arisen wholesome factors and bringing them to maturity. Called the "endeavour to maintain", it is explained as the effort to "keep firmly in mind a favorable object of concentration that has arisen." The work of guarding the object causes the seven enlightenment factors to gain stability and gradually increase in strength until they issue in the liberating realization. This marks the culmination of right effort, the goal in which the countless individual acts of exertion finally reach fulfilment. "

By Bhikkhu Bodhi (Excerpt from the book, The Noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering)

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Asoka

The wishing jewel

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If there is to be just one desire, just one wish, let it be this:

May all beings be free from suffering. Free from sorrow.

Me included. I also am a being.

All of us wherever we are.

Every being in every direction.
Of all different kinds, shapes and sizes, in all places, in all worlds.

If I was to be granted only one wish.

Let it be the wish that all beings be happy.

May we all be free.
May we all have peace of mind.
May we all be safe.
May we all be well.
May we all be at ease.

May we all feel loved.
May we all be golden.
May we all be radiant.

May every single being everywhere experience bliss.

May we all be serene
May we all be boundless.

Free of sorrow and unhappiness.

- Asoka.

That is my wish.

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Asoka

Teaching given to Bahiya

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 16 Aug 2023, 17:41


The Buddha to Bahiya:
 
' In the seen there is only the seen,
in the heard, there is only the heard,
in the sensed there is only the sensed,
in the cognized there is only the cognized:
This, Bahiya, is how you should train yourself.

When, Bahiya, there is for you
in the seen only the seen,
in the heard only the heard,
in the sensed only the sensed,
in the cognized only the cognized,
then, Bahiya, there is no 'you'
in connection with that.

When, Bahiya, there is no 'you' in connection with that,
there is no 'you' there,
When, Bahiya, there is no 'you' there.
then, Bahiya, you are neither here
nor there
nor in between the two.
This, just this, is the end of suffering. '

--- Ud 1.10

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Asoka

Sex and Buddhism

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 12 Aug 2023, 11:14


I realise I haven’t really touched on this subject much. It is an important topic, so will write a little about it.

It is very challenging to become free of the desire for intimacy. The Buddha said if there was another energy as strong as sexual desire, no one would ever get enlightened, including himself.

For someone trying to go beyond, it can be helpful to look at the drawbacks of romantic relationships. But there isn't anything wrong with romance. It is not evil. And a lay Buddhist is not expected to be celibate, only monastics are.

The instruction in the noble eightfold path under right action just says to refrain from sexual misconduct, i.e., don’t cause harm with sex.

To be honest I am a bit afraid of sex now, afraid of romance. Which might be a strange thing for a bloke to say. But there you go...

It depends on what people want.

Intimacy is not wrong, and neither is celibacy.

Platonic relationships are one way to connect with someone and fall in love without the biology getting in the way. And you can have as many of those as you like.

What matters in the end is one's inner development and spiritual progress, that's the real treasure in this life. The tendencies of the mind we have cultivated, the beautiful emotions such as generosity, kindness, goodwill, compassion, equanimity, samadhi and peacefulness, among others. That is what we take with us when we die. Everything else gets separated from us.

For those on the bodhisattva path, there's a story of when Gotama in a past life under the name of Sumedho made a vow to become a Buddha in front of Dipankara Buddha. Dipankara predicted he would be successful and would one day become a Buddha called Gotama.

A woman who overheard this was so moved by Sumedho's wish to become a Buddha, she offered to help him perfect the qualities of a Buddha (the paramis) over the course of his many lives. Sumedho declined her offer and said he was going to live in solitude as an ascetic in the forest. Dipankara Buddha cautioned him however and told Sumedho not to reject her offer as he would need her support. He said all Buddhas in the past have relied upon the support of a spiritual partner to help them develop the paramis. So perhaps for a bodhisattva a partner is a part of the path, at least until the very last lifetime when one becomes fully enlightened and reaches Buddhahood.

When someone ordains as a monk or nun it isn't because they are looking for sex or food. It is because they are searching for higher things, they want to go beyond all that. So, monastics are expected to be celibate, but they get support from the monastic community to help them get over the difficulties of it.

It is much harder to do this by oneself as a lay follower. It is not impossible though.

But I don’t think lay followers should get too hung up about sex. Just follow the precept about avoiding sexual misconduct. Don’t cause harm with sex. Anger and hate are a far greater stain on the personality than desire.

There is a story in the Pali canon of a woman who reached the first stage of enlightenment (stream-entry). She then got married and had ten kids. That was after realising stream-entry.

In fact, it is not until one has reached the third stage of enlightenment (non-returner), that lust and aversion completely go from the mind for good. But that is an advanced stage of enlightenment, and there are few like that in the world. To reach that stage one needs to master right samadhi. When one masters samadhi and can enter it at will and remain in that state for as long as they wish, they have a pleasure that is not dependent on anything outside themselves. It is said the bliss of right samadhi is greater than any pleasure offered by the world, and one naturally becomes a celibate then.

Overcoming the sex drive is not an easy thing to do. It's part of our biology. Part of our nature, our bodies and minds. There are whole sections of the mind devoted to reproduction. We release chemicals and hormones that alter our mood and behaviour when we are attracted to someone. The urge to reproduce is innate in us all, and a very powerful force. Whether we like it or not it is part of the human experience.

For a lay follower, this doesn't have to be a problem.
My thoughts are, if two people love each other and they want to be together, then why on Earth shouldn't they? What's wrong with that?

It’s okay to enjoy life, to enjoy intimacy, just be mindful of the craving and clinging, that’s what causes unhappiness.

Nothing conditioned lasts, it is empty. Empty of self.

Sense impressions create either pleasant or unpleasant feelings.
The mind craves for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones.
This leads to the clinging, identification and becoming which causes suffering.

One can enjoy the pleasant moments, but when they’re gone don’t pine for them, let them go. Not because it is a commandment or anything like that. It’s because our attachment to things and the pain of wanting makes us unhappy. Peace of mind can be found by not clinging to conditioned phenomena, knowing it is impermanent and not-self.

Peace and love to everyone. I am going to have a rest from blogging for a month or so. Got a lot of catching up to do with studying. My father’s death caught me out and I fell behind. I have been struggling to get back into it, and there’s loads of revision to do for an upcoming exam in the middle of September.

Here is a good article for anyone interested in exploring this topic further:

https://www.againstthestream.com/read/buddhism-sexuality

I think it is a good thing for a person to learn how to be okay on their own. When one feels comfortable and secure by themselves; then if they meet someone they really like, and it becomes romantic. That person will be coming from a stable place. Building the relationship on solid ground. There won't be the wanty, clingy, angsty stuff that often kills relationships. It will make that person easier to be with, to talk to, and hopefully then the relationship will be a serene and happy one – easy-going. A blessing and not a needy painful experience.

May we all be safe, well, happy and feel at ease.
May all beings know peace of mind.

...

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New blog post

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 10 Aug 2023, 20:02


That's enough blogging for a bit. Went a bit mental there with all my posting. I read somewhere that the ideal amount of times to post to a blog is about 2 - 4 times a week. Otherwise readers get over saturated.

I'll try to keep that in mind in future. I get a bit carried away sometimes.

Anyway back to the studying, got an exam to revise for.

Right livelihood is part of the noble eightfold path too. I need to find some way to make a living.

Peace and love to all beings.

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

...

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Sati-sampajanna and the six senses

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 10 Aug 2023, 15:33


Sati-sampajanna means mindfulness with clear comprehension (or knowing).

It is a useful exercise to practise while one goes about daily life. It can help calm and centre the mind and bring insight into dependent origination.

Basically, whatever activity one is engaged with becomes one's meditation.

One is aware of what one is doing, where one is. Of one’s behaviour, of that which is appropriate.

Aware of what is non-delusion. Abandoning the wanting, the angst, and the clinging.

Fully here in this present moment, with life as it is -- our dhamma teacher.

One can get into a light samadhi doing this. It can be a refuge from difficult thoughts and emotions. A way of releasing the past and the future by being fully present to whatever task one is doing here and now, without the self-centred dream blinding us to what is real.

There are many ways to practice this. Sometimes it's nice to have an expansive open awareness. Other times it's nice to keep attention fixed on one thing. Depends on the mood, and this is where one must use wisdom and discernment to know what is needed in each given moment. This wisdom and discernment grows with experience. We are all unique, we have all been conditioned differently, no two people are exactly the same. Each one of us must tweak the practice to suit us.

Try to find something in awareness that brings some relief to the mind, even if it just seems like small relief, stay with it, it will grow.

Each situation and circumstance are different. Different objects of meditation work better at different times.

For example, sometimes I will just stay with the feeling of my feet on the ground. When I first did this, the sensations in my feet were quite dull. But after many hours of practise, the soles of my feet have now become very sensitive to the point where I swear I can feel vibrations in the ground, can sense things I couldn’t sense before.

I also like the feeling of the whole body moving as one.

The feeling of movement, how the body feels when it is in motion.

Or the feeling in my hands when holding an object. Is it hot or cold, smooth, or rough, heavy or light etc...

I also like to pay attention to the feeling of the air element in the space immediately around me. Or remain centred with the breath, whilst also aware of everything else happening in peripheral awareness. Where I am, what I am doing.

Sometimes I like being anchored in the spine, that can feel very good. Or the top of my head, the face, the neck, the heart, the belly, the arms, the legs.

The touch of clothing on the skin.

The natural elements are great too. The solidity of earth. The fluidity of water. The cool invisible changing touch of air. The light and warmth of fire, the sun.

The expansive and open feeling of the space element.

The knowing of consciousness, of awareness itself.

Other times I will contemplate interdependence, change, impermanence.

Sometimes I will pay attention to two things at once, such as the breath in my belly and the breath in my nostrils at the same time. Or my feet and hands, or the air element around me as it touches the skin and the sensations in the body caused by breathing.

Sometimes I centre with the emotion of goodwill. With peace and calm. With equanimity.

It depends on what feels good at the time. Take any guidance and make it your own. Find what helps you. Each of us must be our own refuge.

It is not easy; it can be challenging to keep bringing the mind back over and over. One may sometimes need to talk oneself into doing it. Or use the voice of another if really stuck. Read a book, an article or listen to a dhamma talk.

Learn to recognise the hindrances when they are present in the mind: craving, ill-will, fatigue, worry, doubt.

Notice how we talk to ourselves, and how it feels when the hindrances are present in the mind. For me I start feeling unpleasant feelings and notice I am stressed, that for me is a clear sign I am absorbed in unwholesome thoughts. That craving is present in the mind.

During the day, notice if you are stressed. Pause and ask yourself, am I suffering? What is the cause of this suffering? What can I do to ease that suffering? What can I practise to bring relief?

Whenever suffering is present, the five hindrances will also be present.

Applied and sustained attention to something wholesome secludes consciousness from the five hindrances.

When the hindrances are absent, one will feel great relief. When that happens it can help to note how much better it feels when they are absent from the mind, this can help to train it to see the difference and become more willing to abandon unwholesome states of mind, knowing that they are causing suffering, and that it feels much better to let go of them.

Practising sati-sampajanna complements sitting meditation and makes it easier to transition from daily life to sitting, and from sitting to daily life. It keeps the samadhi going and keeps the sign of peace steady in the mind throughout the day.

Sometimes though I do like to think and ponder and reflect on things. Thinking isn’t wrong. It can be a helpful tool. The way we talk to ourselves is a powerful tool. We can talk ourselves into different states of mind.

It depends what mood I'm in. Thought can be used as a meditation object, and used to seclude consciousness from the hindrances by thinking on a topic that is wholesome and staying with that topic.

Repeating a mantra over and over can also do it, or singing, or chanting.

It is the seclusion from the five hindrances that's important. That's what leads to joy, serenity, unification of mind, and equanimity.

It is hard to put into words.

It is an embodied feeling. One is anchored in the body, the subtle body as it feels from within. There's a safe space in the centre of us that is empty. One can anchor the centre of awareness there and still be present to everything else happening, but free from it at the same time, not clinging, not affected negatively by the changing vicissitudes of life. It is the empty seat at the centre of one's being. The inner cave.

Why is it empty? Because there's nobody there. No person. No self.

One can see this directly by playing around with the six senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, mind (thoughts, memories, and ideas).

Divide each sense impression up into three different parts.

1. The object being sensed.
2. The contact with the sense organ.
3. The sense consciousness that arises from that contact.

One can see dependent origination in this. Notice how sense impressions arise dependent on conditions, and when those conditions cease so do the sense impressions.

Am I the object being sensed?
Am I the contact at the sense organ?
Am I the sense-consciousness that arises from that contact?

When I touch an object, I feel sensations. When I stop touching that object the sensations cease.

When my foot touches the ground there are sensations. When the foot is lifted off the ground the sensations cease. Am I the ground? Am I the sensations? Am I the consciousness which arises whilst contact is made, then disappears after?

Am I the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, the thoughts, and ideas?

Where do thoughts and ideas come from? Mostly from the world, from books, articles, podcasts, videos, the media, our memory of the past, from the people we associate with.

Am I any of those things?

Who is this ‘I’ ?

...


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Asoka

Connected

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 9 Aug 2023, 20:54


I feel your love still.
Coming at me from afar.
Is it really you?

I am sorry I doubted our connection.
That I got things wrong.
I love you too.

I will always be your friend.
I care for you.
That is real.
And I'm sorry things have been shit.
For us both.

I feel your vibe within me.
Like beautiful magic.
Lifting this heart to lofty heights.
That I did not know it could reach.

Your energy pervades this being.
Is like I'm walking on air.

Your loving energy touches,
Lighting up my scalp
My neck.
Making me tingle with joy.

Phoenix fireworks of love.
Bursting 
With happiness.

Is this all in the mind?

If so, why does this heart feel so bright?
So clear
So calm.

Within it burns something new.

I think it is you.

...

..

.


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Asoka

Five strategies for mastering the pathways of thought

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 9 Aug 2023, 17:22


' Just as a skilled physician has different medicines for different ailments, so the Buddha has different antidotes for the different hindrances, some equally applicable to all, some geared to a particular hindrance.

(N.b. The five hindrances are: 1. craving, 2. ill will, 3. dullness and drowsiness, 4. restlessness and worry/remorse, 5. doubt.)

In an important discourse the Buddha explains five techniques for expelling distracting thoughts.

1. The first is to expel the defiled thought with a wholesome thought which is its exact opposite, analogous to the way a carpenter might use a new peg to drive out an old one. For each of the five hindrances there is a specific remedy, a line of meditation designed expressly to deflate it and destroy it. This remedy can be applied intermittently, when a hindrance springs up and disrupts meditation on the primary subject; or it can be taken as a primary subject itself, used to counter a defilement repeatedly seen to be a persistent obstacle to one’s practice.

For craving a remedy of general application is the meditation on impermanence, which knocks away the underlying prop of clinging, the implicit assumption that the objects clung to are stable and durable.

For craving in the specific form of sensual lust the most potent antidote is the contemplation of the unattractive nature of the body.

Ill will meets its proper remedy in the meditation on loving-kindness (metta), which banishes all traces of hatred and anger through the methodical radiation of the altruistic wish that all beings be well and happy.

The dispelling of dullness and drowsiness calls for a special effort to arouse energy, for which several methods are suggested: the visualization of a brilliant ball of light, getting up and doing a period of brisk walking meditation, reflection on death, or simply making a firm determination to continue striving.

Restlessness and worry are most effectively countered by turning the mind to a simple object that tends to calm it down; the method usually recommended is mindfulness of breathing, attention to the in-and-out flow of the breath.

In the case of doubt the special remedy is investigation: to make inquiries, ask questions, and study the teachings until the obscure points become clear.

Whereas this first of the five methods for expelling the hindrances involves a one-to-one alignment between a hindrance and its remedy, the other four utilize general approaches.

2. The second marshals the forces of shame (hiri) and moral dread (ottappa) to abandon the unwanted thought: one reflects on the thought as vile and ignoble or considers its undesirable consequences until an inner revulsion sets in which drives the thought away.

3. The third method involves a deliberate diversion of attention. When an unwholesome thought arises and clamours to be noticed, instead of indulging it one simply shuts it out by redirecting one’s attention elsewhere, as if closing one’s eyes or looking away to avoid an unpleasant sight.

4. The fourth method uses the opposite approach. Instead of turning away from the unwanted thought, one confronts it directly as an object, scrutinizes its features, and investigates its source. When this is done the thought quiets down and eventually disappears. For an unwholesome thought is like a thief: it only creates trouble when its operation is concealed, but put under observation it becomes tame.

5. The fifth method, to be used only as a last resort, is suppression — vigorously restraining the unwholesome thought with the power of the will in the way a strong man might throw a weaker man to the ground and keep him pinned there with his weight.

By applying these five methods with skill and discretion, the Buddha says, one becomes a master of all the pathways of thought. One is no longer the subject of the mind but its master. Whatever thought one wants to think, that one will think. Whatever thought one does not want to think, that one will not think. Even if unwholesome thoughts occasionally arise, one can dispel them immediately, just as quickly as a red-hot pan will turn to steam a few chance drops of water. '

- by Bhikkhu Bodhi (from, The noble eightfold path: the way to the end of suffering ) available for free at: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html

'Herein the disciple rouses his will to overcome the evil, unwholesome states that have arisen and he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives. He does not retain any thought of craving, ill will, or harmfulness, or any other evil and unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.' - The Buddha

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