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Life as it is

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Feeling unwell again today, and that's alright, sickness is part of life. It isn't sickness or fatigue that's the problem. It's my aversion to it that's the problem. Let go of the aversion and one can make peace with anything.

The five wise reflections

' I am of the nature to become sick, I have not gone beyond ill health.

I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond growing old.

I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond death.

Everything I hold dear and everyone I love will become separated from me due to the nature of change.

I am the heir of my kamma, the owner of my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma. Therefore I should try to remember whatever I do good or bad, becomes the kamma I inherit.' - [attributed to the Buddha]


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The conscious frying pan

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 30 Mar 2022, 17:30

I find writing can be helpful for clarifying my thoughts and reaching insights about things, things perhaps I wouldn't have seen by trying to think through or verbalise out loud.

Sometimes though I find it helpful talking out loud to myself. Giving myself a pep talk in preparation for upcoming challenges I see coming over the horizon, those dragons heading my way about to test me. There's no escape from those unfortunately, such is the kamma of having a body, of existence itself, an existence that is interdependent. It is simply the nature of an ever-changing universe in a state of entropy.

Anyway, talking oneself out of a negative state of mind is the Buddha's fourth strategy for abandoning unwholesome states of mind.  

The five strategies recommended by the Buddha for abandoning negative mental states are:

1. Replacement, replace the negative state with its opposite, e.g. sense-desire with contentment or equanimity, ill-will with serenity and goodwill, and so on...

  If that doesn't work move to step two.

2. Concern for the opinion of the wise. Imagine what someone noble and wise would advise if they saw you in that state of mind; or imagine that you are about to go out to dinner with people you really respect and admire and want to abandon that state of mind post haste as you want to make a good impression and not ruin the evening or feel regret later.

  If that fails move on to step three.

3. Distract yourself from the mood until it either goes away on its own and is replaced by calm and peace, or until it becomes weak enough to apply one of the strategies in the steps above.

 If this fails move to step four.

4. Talk yourself out of it. Try to be gentle, kind, and encouraging if you can. But if you need to be fierce with yourself, be so in a loving way, without feeling emnity towards yourself, treat yourself with compassion, like you would treat a noble friend you were correcting. 

 If this doesn't work, then the next step is considered a last resort, it goes against what is advised in popular psychology, but must be applied nevertheless, as one simply cannot allow that negativity to continue, to do so will cause harm both to oneself and others.

5. Suppress the mood, do not allow it to express itself. The Buddha describes it as: 'When a stronger man pins down a weaker man.' One must hold that mood down and not allow it to dominate the mind or express itself in any way. One must do this until it is sufficiently weak enough to then apply one of the strategies above to safely remove it. 

I ten to use the fourth strategy a lot. I will often use that strategy as a tool to weaken the mood sufficiently so that earlier strategies become more effective. For example I will talk myself into using distraction (third strategy).

With the third strategy it is good to have some activity you like doing that you can distract yourself with, so your attention is not focused so much on the negative mood, and absorbed instead by something else. Preferably the distraction is a wholesome activity. Our intentions and everything we do leave ripples and traces in the mind, when we do something once, we increase the likelihood we will do it again at some point, and then again and again, and the traces and ripples grow larger, leaving deeper and deeper grooves in the mind, which in time become new habits. 

 What we focus on grows stronger, so don't feed the monsters in your head, starve them of attention. What goes on in the mind is a lot to do with what we pay attention to. What we continually pay attention to dominates our conscious awareness, and the unconscious mind (trying to be helpful) will generate more of the same, actively filtering out things from awareness it considers unimportant and bringing us more of the same, reinforcing it. Not too disimilar to how the algorithm on YouTube works I guess, only more complex.The narrator part of mind puts this all together into a story. Which become the stories we tell ourselves about reality, about others, about ourselves. These in turn become our opinions, our delusions. Delusions come from a lack of information (not seeing the whole picture), misinformation and disinformation. Ignorance basically.

The first of the right efforts: prevention, is all about where one places their attention. One trains the mind to let go of unwise attention to the fault in ourselves, the world and others; and to let go of unwise attention to the attractive in ourselves, the world and others. What we pay attention to grows stronger. Unwholesome behaviours grow stronger in the mind, they take root and become harder to shake, so you want to become addicted to the wholesome if you can. Your future self will thank you for it.

The Buddha says with patience and perseverance one will eventually become super fast at removing negative states of mind. He likens consciousness in this instance to being like a red hot frying pan, with unwholesome states of mind like water droplets that upon landing on the pan go psssst and evaporate out of existence, leaving no trace. That's how quick one wants to aspire to be at removing unwholesome states of mind.


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Patience

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There's a bit of a conflict going on with what I am learning in Buddhism and popular psychology where one is encouraged to think that all emotions are okay. In Buddhism we are taught in right effort that unwholesome emotions are not okay and should be prevented or abandoned. Then one should work at bringing into being wholesome emotions and sustaining those. 

In one sutta the Buddha talks about how before he was enlightened he spent some time dividing up his thoughts into either wholesome or unwholesome. He watched his thoughts carefully and reflected on them and saw that those which where to do with sense-desire, ill-will or harmfulness led to harm for himself and others, they obstructed wisdom and did not lead to nibbana, so he placed them in the unwholesome pile and expelled them from his mind bringing them to an end.

And when he observed thoughts of letting go (renunciation), goodwill, and harmlessness, he saw they were beneficial, and where conducive to gaining wisdom, and attaining nibbana. So he nurtured those thoughts, strengthened them and brought them to completion. And at the end of this experiment he said it worked!

How long he spent doing that I don't know, he spent much time prepping his mind before he sat under the Bodhi tree to get enlightened it seems. So one should not get too disheartened at not being able to change one's head straight away lol.

I read something Ajahn Brahm wrote in his book 'mindfulness, bliss and beyond, a meditator's handbook' about how he loathed the all night sits he had to do in Thailand as a monk. He would feel ill-will towards the sits feeling they were stupid and unnecessary. He was also suffering from malnutrition and sleep deprivation at the time. He wrote it took him a couple of years to realise it was his aversion that was the problem, and when saw that he stopped fighting it and then found peace. Reflecting on that I realise I have the same problem sometimes. 

Anyway he's a great monk now, and I find it reassuring when monks and Buddhist teachers talk about how they also struggled on the path in the past and how they overcame it. As it gives me hope that I can do this, and helps me cut myself some slack for not getting it right away, it can take years of training. I guess we have all had years of training the mind in the wrong way and become masters at unwholesome states of mind. One isn't going to change that course in a single night (-:

Patience seems to be my teaching this year. I am having to learn a great deal about being patient. As the mind is a lot like a garden, that grows, flowers and fruits in its own time. Impatience will not make anything grow faster.

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The desert of effort

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 29 Mar 2022, 14:41

Woke up with a right shitty mood today. Agitated depression with a large helping of anger, oh and fatigue, yes agitated fatigue, if that contradiction makes any sense.

 The first right effort of preventing negative moods from arising had clearly failed at some point in the night, and my brain had put me back together in a rather haphazard way. So I tried to practise the second right effort of abandoning this unwholesome state of mind. But the fatigue made it challenging to rouse the energy to abandon it, it was like trying to shake off something stuck with superglue.

 To be honest the four right efforts felt like a joke. I felt like a failure for being unable to practise them. Started feeling doubt that the Buddha's teachings really do work. I think I even nearly swore at the Buddha at one point, which was shameful of me. This made the anger and depression worse. 

And I couldn't get much done, no energy or inclination to study or paint, and couldn't get no sleep, no escape, just stuck in this horrible state of mind. Loving-kindness felt impossible to generate. So I tried equanimity, but maintaining that state of mind wasn't easy, especially as I felt so foggy-headed and physically beat. I felt like giving up. But I can't really, there's nothing to go back to in the world. I have seen through it, and I have no desire to be a worldling again. Once one has seen impermanence and how everything changes and that the self is insubstantial. One just feels dispassion for it all, for material things, for the self. Nothing lasts, everything fades away, we all die, we're all fated to become separated from everything we love and those we hold dear. Our material achievements are meaningless in the end.

I am watching the mind though, and what it does, looking for a chink in its armour and a way I can abandon this negative state of mind and bring a more positive one into being. Mindfulness is considered a wholesome state of mind, but the lack of energy makes it challenging to sustain. Monks apparently are deliberately sleep deprived to learn how to manage fatigue and not suffer. In fact the more I learn about the austerity Buddhist monks practise, the less appealing that lifestyle becomes to me. I don't think I could live like that, I am not into austerity, and very much dislike sleep-deprivation. 

I can't give up though. I have to keep on pushing through this desert of the mind and hope that the Buddha really did know what he was talking about and that there really is a way out of suffering. Many people throughout history have got enlightened, so it must possible. I can't go back now, I have come too far, I have to keep trudging forward. There's still some determination in me I guess, and perseverance is classed as a wholesome state of mind. I willl keep on keeping, even though training this mind feels like walking the wrong way on an escalator sometimes - I've had it with Samsara.

'Row row row your boat gently up the stream,
Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream.
Row row row your boat gently up the stream,
If you see a crocodile try to stay serene.'


 

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All our ancient twisted karma

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Mar 2022, 13:13

red, blue, pink, green, yellow tangled irregular forms, also serves as a link to my website page where can be downloaded.

Click here to visit a page on my website where one can download a free scan (300 dpi) of this image for non-commercial personal use. 

Cheers aye

Richie

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Sign of peace

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A bit depressed at the moment. It is a difficult state of mind to shake off as it feels physical as well as mental, and very much accompanied by a distinct lack of energy, making it hard to find the strength to practise at times. I feel quite weak and vulnerable just now. I am trying to abandon this unwholesome state of mind however. I am much better these days at letting go of the thinking processes and resting my attention instead in the feeling of embodiment. But I find it hard being around other people's energies when I am like this, and I prefer solitude. Conversation can be challenging. I try to invoke loving-kindness, but it is hard to generate it consistently, even when using the voice of another (listening to a dhamma talk), I just struggle. So I have resolved to just feel non-ill-will instead, which is the bare minimum I think. I wonder if it might be that I find repeating words and phrases becomes tiring after a short while and yearn to just let go of them, so experimenting with invoking loving-kindness without using words, just going straight to the feeling.

The enlightenment factor of joy is also difficult to generate, so letting go of that one for now.

I feel very much like I need to retreat from the world and go into my coccoon, rest in the deep centre of my being and be still, so I can expend as little energy as possible and just let the world continue around me while I remain in my inner cave, taking refuge in the deepest part of my being. Unfortunately being still like this is not always practical, and feels unpleasant when it is disturbed by external forces, as I don't want to come out of the cave, and do so reluctantly.

So I am exploring other wholesome states of mind I can conjure instead. Equanimity works if I can conjure it, and so does serenity. I am getting much better at conjuring up serenity, and the sign of it can appear even when I am fatigued and depressed. It is a beautiful place that feels boundless, timeless, and can often spontaneously appear without me even trying to conjure it up, whatever mood I am in, it feels like home. I call it serenity, but in fact I think it borders on the edge of samhadi, or perhaps something else entirely, I am not sure, it is so hard to describe what it feels like to go there, but it is a very pleasant place and I often don't want to leave, it is so peaceful and balanced, it is different state of consciousness that transcends this world and the thinking processes. It is wordless, maybe that's why it feels so good. Is much easier to conjure with meditation, but can also be conjured outside of meditation in daily life sometimes.

One can still function whilst in that state of mind, but one feels unhurried, unconcerned and unstressed by things. It is like I am in another dimension whilst simultaneously interacting in this one. It sometimes feels like a secret place I go to, and nobody knows I have gone there. But I haven't perfected it yet and it can be challenging to maintain, especially when other people's energies forcefully intrude and take me out of that tranquil head space and back to this crazy modern world. Which is why I guess there is wisdom at times in seeking solitude. But this isn't always a luxury I can afford.

Still I am making progress with it, as when I first experienced this state of mind it only lasted a few seconds and poof it was gone, and try as I might I couldn't recreate it. But mysteriously it would often appear again when I wasn't expecting it to, then mysteriously disappear if I got too excited at finding it again. And I would try to figure out what I was doing prior to it appearing. But it was frustrating as it seemed to have a will of its own and try as I might it wouldn't play ball. Then after a lengthy time of absence it came back more regularly and stayed for longer, sometimes for minutes at a time. It is what I imagined the kingdom of heaven might feel like when I was a child, it is a beautiful peaceful state of mind that goes beyond time and space, almost dreamlike, but in a good way. Once its gone though a strange emotional amnesia appears and it is hard to remember what it was like to be there.


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Enjoyment training

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Mar 2022, 21:51

Today has been challenging. Energy factor low at the moment. But I am calm at least, which is the fifth factor of enlightenment. There's also a bit of equanimity there too (the seventh factor), and there must be some mindfulness (first factor) because I am aware of these states of mind. These three are considered wholesome states of mind to be cultivated and sustained, because they are part of the seven factors of awakening (1. mindfulness -> 2. interest and investigation -> 3. energy and determination -> 4. rapture/joy -> 5. calmness/serentiy -> 6. Samhadi (exquisite stillness) -> 7. equanimity ).

I think out of all the factors generating joy is perhaps the most challenging part of the path for me. Weirdly I can sometimes generate pleasure in the body without joy, but not always. If I can get pleasure going though, it tends to help with invoking joy, and then that joy increases the pleasure, which increases the joy, with them both feeding each other. I think it is because feeling some pleasure makes meditation more enjoyable. Otherwise it is a very dry dull practise that sends one to sleep. I very much dislike the dry insight practises, I did try those one time and it sent me into a long depression, I think the Buddha tells one to generate joy and pleasure when cultivation meditation for a good reason. A gladdened contented mind is much more cooperative and prone to exploring equanimity and insight.

There are days when I can be really joyful, and full of loving-kindness, but maintaining it is hard, because I can sometimes wake up a completely different person, even if I go to bed feeling very well and full of love, get enough sleep, I can wake up the next morning feeling fatigued and struggle to get out of bed and do anything, it is very hard to generate joy and loving-kindness when I am like that. It is hard to just rest and flow with it, due to the demands of the world and the need to build a livelihood to support myself. Especially with the doom coming from the news about how we are heading for a massive food shortage in the world, but I can disengage from that and accept the way things are, but still when I am fatigued, joy and loving-kindness is hard to invoke. I have tried using the voice of another to generate it, i.e. listen to dhamma talks, this can work sometimes, but other times I just can't get anything to generate it. At least that state of mind is impermanent, as joy and loving-kindess does eventually come back again. Very odd.

But I am determined to learn how to generate joy without needing anything external to do so, whatever state of mind I am in, I will learn how to generate it at will. The enlightened mind is about being in a perpetual state of emotional wellbeing. And the practise of meditation, and especially the anapana sati sutta (mindfulness of breathing teaching) is a lot like learning how to play a piece of music, the Buddha uses the word train, it is a training, one is learning how to bring the wholesome states of mind into being and sustain them. In a sense you are learning how to play the emotional structure of the mind, to free yourself from suffering. One is learning to create exquisite beautiful states of mind that cycle and once they have become well-established and like second nature, become who you are, and at that point there is no more going back to the negative states of woe, one has done the work and now abides in a constant state of emotional wellbeing that never fades away - nibanna.

That is what I keep reminding myself, that this is a gradual training. There's nothing magical happening, it is just practise and perseverance. The same way we learn any skill or craft in life, dedication and patient determination. If one keeps putting in the right causes and conditions (the noble eight-fold path), in time once fully developed, enlightenment naturally follows.

Some days it is a trudge, and others like hang-gliding (-:

But through it all one just keeps putting in the causes and conditions and develops and completes the training. The same way we learn anything in life, Buddhism is no different.

It does help to have guidance from an experienced teacher, and to have the right teacher as well. Even in Buddhism there are differing views and not all of Buddhism teaches the same thing, they are not all singing from the same hymn sheet. And some teachings have drifted away from what the Buddha actually taught and make the dhamma confusing and hard to understand.

Once I have properly developed, understood and mastered the eight-fold path, I would like to teach it one day to others and pass on what I have learnt. I have decided there needs to be people who preserve the orighinal teachings (or as close to as possible with what we have passed down to us) of the Buddha. Not that I am criticising other flavours of Buddhism, but I feel strongly that there needs to be people who do keep those core teachings of the Tathagatha (Buddha) alive for future generations, and my heart wants to be one of those.


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Restless fatigue

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Drowsy wings this morning
Didn't want to get out of bed.
Body kept saying: 'Nope'
To my thought-racing head.
The window glowed sunshine bright
And brain pleaded to get up and go,
but hardly slept a wink last night,
So body just said: 'no.'
Who is the boss anyway, body or head?
Body I guess cos one day I'll be dead.
There's no escape from that.


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Path

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 11 Mar 2022, 23:30


Cold industrial echoes of the concrete night
Wet and tarmaccy puddles reflect artificial light
Serene raindrops ripple shape the liquid surface
Like this mind full of the noble eight-fold practise.

I walk with dignity
Rapturously
With the clear knowledge
There's no going back for me.


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The treasure within

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A scan of a painting I did, also a link to my website where one can download a free scan of the painting.

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Tea break

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A painting, that is also a link to my website where one can download a copy of the scan for free.

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Right view

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 21 Mar 2022, 20:50


This is the first factor of the noble eightfold path in Buddhism.

There are two kinds of right view: mundane right view and supra-mundane right view.

Mundane right view is to understand that our actions good or bad give rise to our kamma (volitional cause and effect). The seeds we sow now become the fruit we harvest later. "We reap what we sow." 

Kamma can produce results either in this life or a future one. This is because some kamma can lay dormant until the right causes and conditions arise to awaken it and bring it to fruition. This is not so difficult to understand as it works similar to DNA. Each of us inherits DNA from our mother and father and although we inherit lots of DNA, not all of it is switched on, some of it is switched off and lies dormant within us, but if certain environmental conditions arise, then those dormant circuits can light up and the DNA becomes active, a similar thing can happen with our kamma.

The law of cause and effect (kamma) can get quite complex and one can get quite deep reflecting on the many different types of kamma. One's intention is the generator of kamma, from that comes spiritual kamma, material kamma, kamma that comes from our thoughts, our speech, our behaviour. Each volition yields a different result based on its kind. Of them all spiritual kamma is the most potent and beneficial, but is also the one most people are not drawn to, only a minority tend to be drawn to the spiritual life, especially within a society dominated by wrong view. 

There is a supernormal power one can develop whilst in deep states of Samhadi that allow one to see the kamma of other beings past, present and future, and can reveal things hidden from plain everyday sight. It is called the 'Divine eye' , but it is considered extraordinary and one needs to cultivate deep states of samhadi (meditation) to develop it, but if one is determined enough it can be done, and those who have developed it have used it as a tool to investigate the law of kamma for themselves. 

But mundane right view can be simplified and narrowed down to this rule of thumb: greed, hatred and delusion always yields negative kamma; and generosity, kindness, and clarity always yields good kamma. 

Supra-mundane right view is the four noble truths. 

The Four Noble Truths are:

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

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

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

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

The noble eight-fold path when practised correctly, under the guidance of an experienced Buddhist teacher if at all possible, puts in the right causes and condtions that once fully developed and brought to fruition yield the supramundane kamma of complete irreversible freedom from suffering, known as nibanna.

 A teacher is very helpful though, as the suttas passed down to us are a condensed version of the Buddha's teachings, chanted and sung to aid memory. A bit like a concise succinct summary which tends to only mean something to someone who has been studying the subject a while. The suttas without the guidance of a well-developed teacher can be difficult to understand. An experienced Buddhist teacher can unpack the suttas and reveal their meaning fully to those who are interested.

 By the way, that's all you need, a genuine sincere interest to be a disciple of a Buddhist teacher and some perseverance and some etiquette (which can be taught). Not money. The Buddha always shared the dhamma for free and so should any true teacher of the dhamma. If Buddhist teachers charge you for sharing their knowledge of the dhamma then be wary, as that is considered wrong view. If Buddhism becomes a paid for service then it just becomes a refuge for the wealthy, which goes against the spirit of the Buddha and his teachings. The dhamma should be freely available to everyone rich or poor.  

Of course there’s no judgement either if you are well off, and for those who have money to spare, it is good kamma to make a generous donation to your teacher for their time; but if like me you are too poor to do that don’t be hard on yourself or feel ashamed, there are many ways to give and practise generosity, it doesn’t have to just be financial, all forms of generosity yield good kamma. Remember as well that monks and nuns take a vow of poverty, and spiritual folks of the past would become homeless and live without money, surviving on the generosity of others, and this was seen as noble.

The right way to view someone in need, is to see that person as an opportunity to grow spiritually and produce good kamma for oneself by showing compassion and kindness to another. In the West we have wrong view in the way we look at those who are sick or live in poverty. We blame and shame them, even go as far as to despise them; but if we really understood the law of kamma we would go out of our way to help those people and show them compassion and kindness instead, as doing so will bring us good kamma both in this life and the next one to come.

Helping any being in need is a great opportunity for someone to generate good kamma for themselves. It also gladdens the mind when we show kindness to another; and is a blessing to reflect on our good deeds, which should be milked for all they’re worth, especially when we are sick or dying, as remembering the times we showed kindness to others brings some cheer to the mind and can be a great antidote to depression. 



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The spiritual life

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 5 Mar 2022, 21:34


Contemplating becoming a monk one day. I am not there yet however. I still have a number of things I need to work through to reach that level, but it is something I am aspiring to now. The lifestyle of a Buddhist monk has suddenly becoming very appealing to me. Strange because if you had asked me a month ago, I would not have felt the same. A lot of things seem to have changed in me, things I thought never would change. At first it felt quite disturbing and seemed to upset me at a deep level, I became afraid of the changes, but now it is settling, I am quite happy about it actually. I can't explain, very difficult to put into words what has happened; but suddenly the world just doesn't feel like it has such a pull on me anymore. All the things I thought I wanted suddenly I don't particularly want as much. My main aspiration now is to develop in meditation and grow stronger in the way of dhamma.

 But I am not there yet. It may be a while before I get there. When I ask the Buddha about it, (yes I know he is in para-nibanna and will never again incarnate anywhere or teach devas or humans, but sometimes I swear he talks to me.) anyway, it could be a higher aspect of my mind being helpful by taking on the role of the Buddha, he just tells me not to run before I can walk, and not to walk before I can stand, and not stand before I can sit. He advises that a gradual training will suit my particular personality. Escaping the household life by riding off on horseback in the middle of the night as the heroic Bodhisattva may not work out so well for me, we are all a bit different after all and I am certainly not Gautama. So I should get the hang of being an Upasaka first. After that there's the intermediate stage between Upasaka and a monk where one deepens their Upasaka commitment and permanently takes the 8 precepts instead of five, then once one has got the hang of that stage, one can look into ordaining as a novice monk. 

Anyway I feel quite happy thinking that one day I could become a monk, it feels possible and I can see a clear path towards accomplishing that goal. 



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Kingdom of Samhadi

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 3 Mar 2022, 22:49


Are there other worlds existing alongside this one?
Irradiant kingdoms and castles in the sky.
With strange and fantastic beings 
living beyond our locked up cognition,
our dry empty material condition.
Of money, concrete blocks and consumer dreams.
Our TV eyes blinking;
but nothing is what it seems.

Blinded by dark arts of finance and
drab clinical reality of so cold science.
Industrial noise, greed, sorrow and disease.
Beings factory farmed by dead machines.
The wheel of consumerism keeps on churning
crushing and breaking everything in its path.

Yet sitting still in serenity
I hear celestial music play.
See strange beings traverse the air,
Their otherworldly kingdom moved 
by the rhythmic push and pull of my nostrils.



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Walk away

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 2 Mar 2022, 21:10

Life can feel dark and harsh
Leaving one gutted like a market fish
Broken like dropped glass.

The lonely cry an ocean of tears
That noone sees, nor hears.

Life is pain
And never again
Will I come back to this world
I'm going to walk away
Unfurled 

one day...






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Dukkha

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 21:25


To exist is to suffer
And clinging has consequence
Pain follows inextricably, a shadow.
For that which you grasp for has already gone
Each precious moment: a phantom in your hand.

The five Khandha streams are empty.
And not who you really are.






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World's on fire

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 28 Feb 2022, 13:51

Eyes blink non-chalantly at ominous events.

Poverty looms and the inner critic judges me.
But with building a livelihood I am stuck.

Felt comforted by my paintings when sick. But cannot seem to make money with my art.
I am not good at promotion and selling.
And lack of energy is a problem.

I contemplated like the Buddha, leaving the household life and going forth into homlessness as a solution. Concluding that maybe in the future that could well be my fate, but it won’t be easy to live that way, especially when I often feel unwell and fatigued. And walking around with an almsbowl just isn’t going to cut it here, nobody is likely to support me, and many will most likely despise me and get angry, so there needs to be another way to eat/survive. Perhaps if I go forth in faith, with courage like the Buddha, I won’t starve.

The five skandhas are empty.
And there is no-self.
But one still has a responsibility to look after the body.


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kalyānamitta

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A good companion and honest friend.

A drawing done in colouring pencils

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The wise king

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 26 Feb 2022, 19:19

COVID is absolutely horrendous. I have never had anything quite like this before. It is fecking horrible.

It certainly puts one to the test does sickness, it is quite tiring remembering to try and see the dhamma (four noble truths) in each moment and to disengage from the pain and not suffer, only to wish it would stop the next moment, then remembering dhamma again. I don’t know how advanced practioners do it, how they manage to not suffer when in pain, but I really respect and admire them. Sickness definitely humbles one.

Still I feel an odd peace, my life has not been wasted. I have grown spiritually and that’s all that matters in the end. The true wealth is within. I may be poor and considered a loser by the standards of the material world, but spiritually I feel like I have been very fortunate and the thought occured to me if I die now I don’t mind at all, I feel I can go with some peace and dignity and no regrets.

There’s a story in the suttas about a wise king who answered the Buddha skillfully when he asked him what he would do if armies where coming for him in all directions crushing everything in their path, and the king answered he would practise generosity.

I am not wealthy like the king, but generosity doesn’t have to be just about money. One can be generous in all sorts of ways. Even in poverty and lieing in bed sick one can still practise generosity by sending metta (loving-kindness) energy to others. And a mind imbued with loving-kindness is an excellent state of mind to be in when sick and also at the moment of death.

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Pink sunset

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Thursday, 24 Feb 2022, 10:16

Mossy beech tree in pink sunset.

Painting of a mossy beech tree in pink sunset

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Plankton

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 23 Feb 2022, 19:53

Plankton are a diverse range of organisms which include the larvae of different creatures who are carried by water currents and are food for a great many organisms that live in the water, including species as large as basking sharks and the blue whale. Because the sea and freshwater is getting warmer, more polluted and over-fished, plankton are finding themselves under increasing pressure to survive.

Painting about plankton

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Strange virus

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Wednesday, 23 Feb 2022, 21:57

I am feeling better today, but my son is still unwell with COVID. He is seventeen, so am suprised he has had it much worse than I have being middle-aged. It is a strange virus how it affects everyone differently.

I read that the USA has been developing a chimera version of COVID by mixing it with the original SARS, to create a more deadly and aggressive form of the virus. In fact they may already have created it. The reasons for doing so are not very clear. Apparently it is dual-purpose, but I suspect one of the purposes is for the military. Madness. Such research should be banned worldwide, as if it isn't bad enough we have nuclear weapons of mass-destruction, now we are creating biological weapons of mass destruction. We really are doomed as a species if we carry on the way we are.

I also read an article about how the so-called 'Life sciences' are creating technologies to kill off entire species of animals and plants that are considered pests. I thought the Nazis had been defeated, but it seems they are still alive and well and still playing with science. I wonder if this is a consequence of operation paperclip, where Nazi scientists where whisked away to the US, Britain and Russia. Given new identities and amnesty if they worked for those governments. Some went on to occupy high positions in NASA and the CIA, and God knows where else in society. Quite a chilling thought as many of them where insane unpleasant people.

I don't think using life science to wipe out entire species that we consider a nuisance is a good idea. The Chinese tried to get rid of sparrows believing them to be a pest that was damaging their crops. So they wiped out loads of them, but an unexpected thing happened, they made things worse, and the harvest got ruined by caterpillars that the sparrows had been eating.

This looming future with our new Life science technology is something that gives me the creeps, honestly the amount of arrogance and ignorance we humans show to nature and the other beings and eco-systems around us is going to be the end of us as a species I think. We are like kids playing with loaded guns, no, we are kids playing with weapons and technology of mass destruction. We have not evolved much in terms of the mind whilst playing with science that could destroy everything on the planet.

We are even in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event and still we are creating weapons of mass destruction and technology that has the potential to make things worse. We are building more nuclear power stations while we are still clueless about what to do with the nuclear waste.

We talk about war, but our biggest threat is the mass extinction event happening around us.

War is like two humans who have jumped off a cliff and are shooting at each other as they fall to their deaths.

This human world is madness.

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Inner wealth

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 22 Feb 2022, 13:00

Focusing on getting this assignment done for the module I am studying. Fatigue is quite challenging at the moment, I find myself reaching a point where I just have to stop and rest, because the body says: 'Nope'. 

I have been granted a four day extension for the assignment after emailing my tutor, although he didn't reply to let me know I have an extension. I only just found out by checking my assessment tab. He is probably really busy and that's why he didn't reply, either that or doesn't like me very much. I imagine I am just being paranoid with the latter conclusion. 

It is a problem I have where I often feel like others dislike me.I am trying to learn how to have the courage to be disliked, so it doesn't affect me anymore. The thoughts are challenging though, whirring away on loops reminding me I am crap and everyone hates me, I should top myself... blah blah blah, so tiring, and the more I try to stop them the worse they get, like some part of my brain is determined to make me feel miserable. It no doubt comes from past conditioning. 

Meditation has been somewhat helpful in giving me some ability to disengage from the thought processes and just let them happen in the background like any of the other senses without being particularly concerned by them. Maybe it is true that people don't like me much. But I give up trying to please others, it is a miserable existence trying to live like that. I try my best with this difficult mind I have, I'm not perfect, and doubt I ever will be, but I am trying. 

Pain and pleasure; wealth and misfortune; success and failure; praise and blame. These are the eight worldly winds.

Ultimately we are all alone, we are all islands, locked into our minds. I am trying to practise self-compassion and how to be a friend to myself, even when my brain seems determined to be my enemy. I will keep trudging forward and persevere.  

 Anyway quarantine certainly gives me plenty of time to hopefully finish this assignment, it is not easy and the materials are challenging. Still if I can get the hang of it, my career prospects may improve, although energy is a big factor causing me problems just now. Often need to liedown and sleep when the fatigue gets overwhelming. I honestly do not think I will ever be able to work full time again, many of the jobs in Computing and IT are fulltime, but I just can't work the long hours expected, so not sure where all this studying will lead in the end. 

There's not much I can do about it, other than try my best. It is a bloody difficult world at the moment for many of us. Economics is messed up and cost of living is getting ridiculous, perhaps we are heading towards a 'hunger games' society. It is not an easy world to survive in and make a living. But I don't feel like my life has been for nothing, I may not be a success careerwise, but I have discovered the dhamma and the Buddha's teachings in my lifetime, which is more than the majority of people do. And when I die those teachings will be with me, so I won't feel confused or regret for having wasted my life. I might be a loser by worldly material standards, but I very much feel like a winner when it comes to the spiritual life, when it comes to unworldly standards. So despite my financial struggles, my health problems, this life has not been wasted. It has been a turning point, a time of spiritual growth, which in the end is the most important thing of all.


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Right Desire

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 21 Feb 2022, 15:15

We all have COVID here at the moment and are in quarantine for the next ten days after a doctor phoned to confirm a positive PCR test and told us we should all isolate. I don’t mind though, I will just imagine I am on a retreat. I seem to have COVID pretty mild compared to the others in my household who are quite sick with it. It is strange how it effects everyone differently. 

I meditated for two and a half hours today in a single sitting. And it is true there does come a point where the monkey mind gives up and lets go and one drops into a deeper state of serenity and stillness. Although my legs and knees hurt after sitting for so long. I am going to try and keep it up and sit that long every Sunday afternoon, perhaps try three hours next week.

We ordered our shopping online from the local supermarket, who delivered it to us, knocked on the door and scampered post-haste, leaving the bags of shopping outside, lol. Just two bags that came to £30. Everything is getting so expensive, the cost of living has doubled since this time last year and the media keeps telling us it is going to go up even more. Many people are worried about it, and understandly so. Old Richie would have been worried about it, but I find myself oddly calm, semi-detached and just flowing with things as they are. I still have the determination to make a livelihood for myself, but I am not attached to any outcomes, it is purely for functional reasons, as I need to get an income sorted so I can take care of this body, this organic vehicle to enlightenment; but if I fail then I fail, all anyone can do is try their best. I feel like I can die with some peace and dignity. I don’t feel like my time here on Earth was wasted, in fact I feel like I have found the real treasure in this life, the dhamma taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago (-:

I feel like I am part human and part something else these days, like some part of me is not of this world anymore. It is a nice feeling, like a taste of freedom, a kind of heaven on Earth. The stuff happening in the world just doesn’t seem to get me as ‘het up’ anymore. I find myself not getting caught up in the stories or dramas about the world or desiring anything in it that I used to enjoy, except perhaps for weed (;

The thought occurred to me if I die now I wouldn’t mind at all. I will just let go and direct my consciousness to higher things and if I don’t reach nibanna, perhaps I can make it to the stage of enlightenment known as non-returner, as a consolation prize. Then I will never have to be born and exist in this world ever again. Non-returners don’t come back to Earth, they are born in the higher heavens and get fully enlightened there, and although they have extremely long lives (aeons) they never incarnate here or in any of the worlds below them ever again, they can however visit any of the lower worlds whenever they like, and some do from time to time.

Non-returner is the third stage of enlightenment in the four traditional stages which are: 1. stream-enterer, 2. once-returner, 3. non-returner, 4. fully liberated (has reached nibanna and never incarnates anywhere again). 

I was reflecting on what it means to be a non-returner and imagined that there could well be many celestial Buddhas in the heavens right now who were non-returners, living extremely long lives beyond anything we can comprehend, who have seen universes come and go, and I wonder if they sometimes come to Earth out of compassion to help and guide people on the spiritual path. Who knows, but it is a nice thought (-:

Many Buddhists disagree with my thinking here, and I have been challenged on it. They say that devas or other heavenly beings don’t act as spiritual guides or helpers to humans. They only visit the human realm to learn, gain wisdom and knowledge. But in my personal experience I have encountered spiritual guides and helpers from the deva realms who have helped me many times when I have been feeling desperate and alone  (and still do now). So I think perhaps some non-returners do act in a compassionate way towards humans. Brahma Sahampati the anagami (non-returner from a previous Buddha) certainly seemed to be showing compassion towards humans when he came to Earth and persuaded the Buddha to teach after his enlightenment.

But noone really knows. I like thinking of there being celestial Buddhas out there who do show compassion to the lower realms, and guide and help those on the spiritual path. So I think I will believe in this theory whether anyone agrees with me or not (-: I also like to think if I can make it to the third stage of enlighenment and become a non-returner that I would be someone who acts this way; and if I feel like this, then there are bound to be other beings who do as well.

Maybe it is the Mahayana part of me coming through. I have spent a year as a Zen Buddhist so I am a bit influenced by that way of thinking, and do feel somewhat drawn to the Bodhisattva ideal, but not in the extreme way most Mahayana Buddhists do. I don’t particularly want to keep incarnating here over and over until all beings are liberated, in fact I don’t want to be reborn here if I can help it. My life here has felt very lonely and painful, poverty is no fun at all and this material world and the suffering it causes for most if not all of the beings who live here is a misery I never want to encounter again. I have found my time on Earth to be very unpleasant and I am keen not to be reborn here; but I do want to help liberate other beings in the future when I am ready to teach the dhamma, either as a human or a deva.

Anyway it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is practising the eight-fold path. There are certainly many devas who are just visiting Earth for their own personal development and don’t act as spiritual helpers or guides; but I also believe there are just as many who do show compassion and help other beings. Different strokes for different folks I guess, it is a huge multiverse out there with many differnt worlds and beings of all kinds with differing views.

Some of my views are different from what many Buddhists believe. Views that from my own personal experience resonate as truth; but they are so small as to not be worth argueing over. So I will remain silent about them and keep those thoughts just to my blog from now on. I am learning it is better to remain silent about such things when in the company of others. Something I think the Buddha himself practised at times. I don’t think people will ever agree one hundred percent on everything.

I like both Theravada and Mahayana, and seem to be a mixture of the two traditions in my own practise. It may be that I end up practising alone as a result, as it is difficult to plant one’s flag in just the one tradition when I am not wholeheartedly in agreement with any of them. I doubt there is a single teacher out there I will ever one hundred percent agree with, not even the Buddha himself.

I guess there is still desire in me, a desire not to be reborn in this world, a desire not to exist anymore, as it is existence itself which is the problem. Suffering follows existence like a shadow. Interestingly and rather paradoxically one can experience freedom from existence whilst one is still alive, in this very life in fact, a state of mind known as nibanna and when one dies that state of nibanna just continues unceasingly (no comedown). Nibanna is permanent and non-reversible, it is described as neither existence nor non-existence, as something utterly beyond all that, beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend, beyond duality. There are no adequate words to describe it, one has to experience it to know it. There are other experiences like that in life where words are inadequate. Nibanna is one of those experiences, it is a complete state of irreversible freedom that goes beyond everything, beyond all words and worlds, it is neither life nor death.

Desire for freedom may not be a bad thing. In a talk by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, he likened the aspiration to become enlightened as a pair of tweezers that one can use to get something out of their eye. Once the offending item is removed from the eye, one simply puts down the tweezers as they have done their job and are no longer needed. I have also heard someone else describe it as a key which unlocks a door, and once inside people don’t then walk around holding the key in their hand, the key has served its purpose and one simply puts it down. In a similar way desire/aspiration can be used as a tool to help liberate oneself from suffering. It does have to be used skillfully mind and that’s the tricky part. If one does not know how to handle a pair of tweezers they might end up poking their eye out.



image of the buddha sat in meditaiton


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Moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 15 Feb 2022, 10:40

Life can be a real slog sometimes, well most times actually. I didn't want to get out of bed today, I really didn't, felt disappointed I woke up. I have no idea how to generate joy when I feel like this, and meditation feels impossible without any, like trying to kickstart an engine when there's no fuel, it stutters and goes nowhere, so I try to find some solace in writing instead. Constant thoughts whirring relentlessly in the background: 'Nobody likes you, you will always be alone, why don't you just top yourself?' Each time I answer: 'No I will not take my life' - but it gets tiring. Why does my own brain work against me so? I don't feel much of anything just now, of all the moods this is the most challenging for sure. The complete and utter wrecking ball that is depression.

Shame, as it is such a lovely day, but I can't face going for a walk, feel like I just want to retreat from the world in the sanctuary of my room and not have to deal with anything. I really don't want to be around other people's energies, even though I feel lonely, I just can't handle people right now, odd paradox.

I know this mood will pass, and when it does I will think of all the ways I can manage it better the next time it comes round. But alas, all the things I think will work, never do. I have been trying to overcome this mood since I was a kid and I still do not know how to handle it gracefully, it never seems to get any easier, but I will keep persisting.

'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, arousing 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, arousing energy, exerting one's mind and persevering.
'


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