Questions and Answers

Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 0 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

This is a great opportunity to start to develop the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. You can start to slow your mind down and bring it back to the present, bring it back to the awareness of what you are doing with your mind, the body, the sensory experiences that are arising in whatever your activity you are doing, related to your work.

Instead of approaching it from what is not working out, flip the switch and pay attention to where your mind is and how it responds to it. Accordingly, if the mind has aversion to it, you 6R it and bring in your choice of Compassion, Loving-kindness, or practice Forgiveness if you do that. Consider everything you are doing in this retreat, as a way to develop the practice through the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and through practicing the 6R’s continuously.

Any time there is a situation that might not be going your way, or there is resistance, you want to be able to practice mindfulness. Slow things down, relax. Tomorrow you will read about react versus response. A reaction is really reflexive, without thinking, without reflection. It’s just the old part of our brain suddenly reacting and going into fight or flight mode. Which brings up anxiety and stress, which brings up a lot of different thoughts about the thing you’re doing, and so on. This creates a lot of mental proliferation and obviously a lot of mental suffering. If you respond, you pause, relax, slow things down and allow the mind to take some time to come up with a response, that comes from reflection, understanding and compassion.

That also means that if you choose to bring in some forgiveness or compassion, you are actually responding, because you have allowed the mind the space to take a pause and say wait, there is a hindrance arising here, an unwholesome state of mind. You use mindfulness to see that this is the kind of mind state that might be arising. Then you replace it through the 6R process with a more wholesome state of mind, while applying mindfulness. They are different parts of the puzzle and they all come together and culminate in every moment if you do it right.

Watch it here

Aquiring a pause when we respond

What’s the difference between a reaction and a response?

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 1 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

The practice is twofold; it’s the sitting and walking meditation, and applying that process of meditation and the 6R’s in daily living.

It’s basically a feedback loop. The more you’re able to use the 6R process effectively within the meditation, the more you’re able to create choices for yourself out of reflection, out of mindfulness and out of that pause.

That pause is all about the mindfulness of understanding where your mind is going towards, in term of the choices that you have. Once you start to see that the mind is perhaps tending towards something unwholesome, you use mindfulness to be able to 6R that, and then swerve your mind towards the more Effective Choice through Right Intention and Right Mindfulness.

The more you do that, the more it allows you to act and speak more in alignment with the Eightfold Path. As this happens, it allows the mind to have a stronger foundation in the meditation itself.

There is an inverse connection between following the Precepts and the Hindrances. The more you maintain the Precepts, the more you act from the alignment of the Eightfold Path, and the less the hindrances will arise in your mind, both in the practice and in daily living.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

Yes, when one applies the Four Right Efforts (or 6R), one activates the Seven Factors. 

Recognizing activates Mindfulness, when one sees mind was distracted, and Investigation when one sees tension has arisen

Releasing activates Effort (enthusiasm) when one lets go of the hindrance with Right Intention

Relaxing activates Tranquility when one relaxes the tension in Mind and Body

Re-Smiling activates Joy

Returning activates Collectedness and Equanimity

There is also Equanimity present when one doesn’t allow mind to take the craving personal. When one sees distractions and thus Repeats when necessary.

So, the Four Right Efforts disable the Hindrances and enable the Seven Factors. Then one is said to be in jhana.

Whenever the 6Rs are applied, mind is in jhana, even if for a moment. If one 6Rs and returns to mind’s object, so long as one remains with that object that jhana continues.

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

  You can’t change people, so the best thing you can do is be the example. Depending on the situation – every situation is different of course – you have to be wise, and you have to find the wise path. For you to be the wise example. When you can shine the beauty of the Dhamma – and that means Dhamma as virtue, generosity, Loving-kindness, Compassion, gratitude. When you yourself are so full of it, that it just flows out of you naturally, and you are very happy.

You see, when people see happy people, they want to be like them; monkey see, monkey do – I talked about that last sunday. When we see happy people, we want to be happy like them. So, when you will be happy and if someone tells you things that are not really respectful, or are unwise, and you’re not fazed by it and you respond instead of reacting; you respond with Love, you respond with Compassion, you respond with Sympathetic Joy, you respond with steady composure of your own mind; then they see the beauty of the Dhamma and you are in fact giving them the gift of your own presence, of your own wisdom.

  The Buddha said – like I wrote in the book – and he really said this a lot monks; be like islands on yourself. And this is what you have to do for others also, because you can’t help others if you’re drowning yourself. You have to be steady, you have to be firmly planted in the Dhamma, in virtue, in wholesome states. That’s what being planted in Dhamma means; being solid in wholesome mental states. And then you can hold out your hand and help others. Not trying to change them, but by being that island, and they will just swim to your shore [laughs] and stand up by themselves. That’s what you can do.  

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 4 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability 

  In that sutta [Majjhima Nikaya 9 Right View / Sammaditthi Sutta], Sariputta talks about how there’s an interdependent nature between the Projections and Ignorance.

What are the Projections? There’s the projection of sensual Craving, Craving for sensory experiences. That could mean both Craving in the way of wanting something, or not wanting it, and identifying with that Feeling, with that sensory experience.

The second projection is the Projection of Being, which is related to conceit and to that sense of self, which keeps being built up, based on how you accumulate certain tendencies. The sense of self that arises, arises at the level of Birth of action, but it’s being built up through Clinging, which is the accumulation of certain tendencies, accumulation of certain stories and ideas about whatever is being experienced or felt. That gives way to Bhava, which is Becoming or Being, which are the accumulated tendencies. At that point in time, the self has become solidified by taking those accumulated tendencies.

Whenever you see individuals, or a sense of a self in individuals, all these senses of selves are nothing but bundles of Kamma, bundles of associations, bundles of different desires, wants and ideas and concepts. And they’re all interacting with one another, but they are always in flux, because in every given moment it arises and passes away.

The accumulation of tendencies also changes, based on the input of the sensory experiences, as well as how one craves or how one perceives.

The third projection is Ignorance itself. Ignorance as we traditionally know it, is the Ignorance of the Four Noble Truths:

  1. not understanding suffering
  2. not understanding the cause of suffering
  3. not understanding the cessation of suffering
  4. and not understanding the way leading to the cessation of suffering

What happens is, as you progress through the Paths and the Fruitions, as you start to see the links of Dependent Origination, and understand with Wisdom, you are bit by bit eating away, or you could say, breaking apart, or weakening the fetters within the Formations.

The Formations are up until the level of the arahant. At the level of the arahant, Ignorance is completely destroyed. So, up until that point you still have some form of Ignorance, which is conditioned by the Projections, but depending on what attainment you’re at, that Ignorance will continue to fetter the Formations. Those Formations will still continue to fetter Consciousness, and the rest of it, and still continue to have some form of Craving or Clinging.

 in the case of a sotāpanna [Stream-enterer], there is still some Craving going on.

In the case of a sakadagami [Once-Returner], very little Craving is going on, very little ill will is going on; as soon as it arises, the sakadagami is able to see it and let it go, but it still arises.

At the level of an anagami [Non-Returner], that is destroyed, which means, at that point the Projection of sensual Craving is also destroyed. What remains now, is the Projection of Being and the Projection of Ignorance. For the anagami, that Being influences the fetters, which are in the Formations, through conceit, which continues to condition such a Consciousness which continues to take things personal. Still takes them personal in the way of identifying with them, meaning there is still conceit there. In the case of an anagami, they still take some sense of delight in, for example, the jhanas or Cessation. There is still a sense of I – that I am entering the jhana, or I am entering cessation. There is still some form of delight in certain things, but there’s no Craving there. Meaning; there is no attaching the desire for certain things, in the way of sensory experiences, in the way of sensual experiences.

When you destroy the first three fetters – this is going to be a little bit of a long answer, so bear with me – you basically enter the attainment of sotāpanna. That means, you have closed off the potential for rebirth in a lower realm.

In the case of a sakadagami, you have weakened the fetter of the Craving and the ill will, the Craving or the aversion. As long as you’re a sakadagami, you will still return to the earth, or one of the sense realms, because you still have sensory Craving.

But when you destroy the sensual Craving, the Projection of sensual Craving, then you no longer have the potential of taking rebirth in any of the sense realms, in the sense spheres. You will take rebirth in one of the Pure Abodes, and from there attain arahantship. If you continue onto arahantship in the same life, you then destroy the conceit, having destroyed the Projection of Being.

 The Projection of Being, as I said, is all about taking personal the accumulated tendencies, that has been built up through that sense of self. And taking personal the experiences to the level of identifying with them, saying that I am in jhana, and so on and so forth. But there is no central Craving operating in that kind of a mindset.

At the level of an arahant, when you destroy that Being and the sensual Craving, you have destroyed the fetters that influence those Formations. When you destroy the fetters that influence that Formations, you’re also destroying the Ignorance that conditions those Formations. Instead of Ignorance, at the level of an aharant,  you have had the complete Right View, have understood the Four Noble Truths, have understood the links of Dependent Origination.

At the level of the anagami, the Craving link of sensual Craving is destroyed, but there is still some Clinging to a sense of self, in the process of the links of Dependent Origination. But at the level of the arahant, the link of Craving will never arise. Only at the level of Feeling, there will be some sensory experience, but there will be no reaction to it that will create Craving, and new kamma and suffering.

When you destroy Ignorance once and for all, what is replaced by it is Right View, the elevated Right View; the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, the understanding of the links of Dependent Origination, the understanding of rebirth and Kamma. The Formations are now pure, and that means that the Formations are no longer chained by the Projections, no longer chained by the Defilements, because now they are, in some sense, conditioned by Right View, they are rooted in Right View.

Those Formations that arise and give rise to the next Consciousness, that Consciousness will not take anything personal through any kind of intention. When that arises, when at the level of Feeling, that sensory experience is felt, there’s nothing being taken personal; it’s just a series of processes. The automatic view of an arahant is; they take, whatever is there, to be impermanent, impersonal and not worth holding on to. They don’t hold on to it, and they just let go of it. As soon as it arises, it passes away and there’s no Clinging onto it, there is no identifying with it. Therefore, no Craving, no Clinging and so on and so forth.

 This is also the operation of Kamma. The Formations are kammic impulses, they are carriers of Kamma. An arahant will still experience the effects of kamma produced previously, prior to full Awakening, prior to attainment of arahantship. So, the effects of that Kamma, is the old Kamma that you’re experiencing. That will be experienced for the Formations, but it will be terminated at the level of Feeling, because there’s no identifying with it, there’s no personalizing it, there’s no Craving or Clinging there. Because of that, the old Kamma will be worn away, it will be destroyed bit by bit, so it starts to weaken every time it is felt, but no new Kamma will be produced.  

That is the understanding of the Projections. Number one, sensual Craving has a connection with the link of Craving. So, the more one has the link of Craving, the more one builds up the Projection of sensual Craving. This, in turn, builds up the Craving. The more one identifies with it, the more one identifies with the accumulated tendencies, with Being, the more one builds up the Projection of Being. And the more one does this, obviously, the more one builds up the Projection of Ignorance. So, there is, again, a feedback loop process going on, in that regard.

This is why it’s always important to understand Right Intention. The more you let go of it, the more you have the intention of letting go, and understanding that the choices you make now, will produce the old Kamma that you inherit in the future. Any choice you make, depending on how you take it; if you start to make choices that are rooted in Right View, choices that are aligned with the Eightfold Path, they will not produce any suffering, they will not produce any Kamma. Every time your choice is aligned with the Eightfold Path, it just nullifies whatever is happening, right there and then. But if your choices are rooted in any of the Projections, it will continue to build up the Ignorance, it will continue to build up the Craving, it will continue to strengthen the fettered Formations, the Formations that are fettered by Craving, conceit and Ignorance.

Every time you have a choice, whether it’s in the meditation practice where your 6R, or whether in daily life when you 6R; you are determining, that you are weakening those Formations from arising, in the next moment on.

Watch it here

The first step is in fact to learn to see this. They are reactive states. They are not thoughtful states, but impulsive. By definition, they are not mindful. And that is where the trick is. These are conditioned behaviors within ourselves, and however the mind has been conditioned in the past, is how we will react. Some people have certain inclinations of the mind towards certain specific situations, some people are more of the lustful kind; really drawn to food, strong craving. There are also more angry kinds of people, – or they could be both. There are people where the mind is just naturally inclined to be angry. Or people naturally inclined to sorrow, to sadness.

These are simply mental conditioned behaviors. This is why we practice meditation; to be able to let go of some of the hindrances that are clouding the mind. They are clouding our awareness.

When we get angry, when we don’t get served [food] properly, and we see this, we have a chance to have a crack at our own personal behavior. Now ‘m stepping a little bit more into the wisdom that was going to be for a later talk, but this is the core of the Buddhist teaching. This is Awakening, which is the Four Noble Truths.

Learning to first recognize hurt, the unwholesome. That means recognizing the impatience or the anger arising. Second, to understand where it comes from and that is our own clinging, our own attachments, that come from our own mental habits that have been build up in the past. Third, when we see that, we can then release, we can then let it go. Know the end of the unwholesome, know the release from the unwholesome. This is the cornerstone of the Buddha’s teaching. It is a teaching about freedom, about release, about happiness. And that third Noble Truth is basically Happiness.

We learn to recognize what is not for our own good, not for the good of others around us either. Once we see that, we are not likely to want to keep these going; this is Wisdom. This is what the Buddha talked about when he talked about wisdom, letting go and knowing the fourth Noble Truth, which is this Noble Eightfold Path, the virtue, the meditation. So, we can learn to let go of the hindrances and have more mental clarity, more mental awareness, so that we can catch these states before they arise, and change for the better. And be happier, better people.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

Caffeine affects some people more than others. Generally speaking, it also depends on the source and amount of caffeine consumption. 

Tea is generally less stimulating to the mind, than coffee. Green tea is better. Having said that, some people don’t seem to have a problem with drinking coffee, and the effect on the meditation. You have to find what works for you. 

 Generally, caffeine being a stimulant is what causes too much thought-energy in the mind, so there should be a balance. This is why I recommend tea, especially green tea, as this balances out the caffeine with something known as L-Theanine. This activates alpha brainwaves, which are associated with mild meditative states.

 My statement about caffeine is to not allow it to become an addiction. Meaning, don’t get cranky if you don’t have coffee around 🙂

 Don’t allow any form of consumption to become a crutch for the mind or body. What’s more important is to find internal sources of pleasure and joy and energy, i.e., the mind itself. The way to do that is through meditation.

 A great caffeine replacement is to do Compassion meditation in the morning. This activates and arouses the gamma field of brainwaves. These are associated with more energy, that is stable, non-stimulating, and keeps the mind in a process of a flow state. Plus, it feels good! 🙂

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

Yes. This is development really, and one of the things that’s happened is, that it has become mostly fixed one-pointed awareness practice in many cases. This is causing problems, sometimes, because it creates some rigidity. We are becoming, we are training ourselves, to become wiser, to become more aware and cultivate wholesome states.

 For some people that have maybe more of an angry character, it is really beneficial to develop for example Loving-kindness. For the restless, or people that have a lot of thinking going on, there is the meditation using the breath as a reminder. Some people with really high anxiety sometimes, also find this very helpful to cut through all of it. Whereas some people are really doing well with other practices, like the Satipatthanas, the four Resting Places of Awareness.

 In fact, I am breaking them down a little bit here in these four sessions, but they’re not necessarily completely different from one another. The common denominator of all four of them is Right Effort, the effort of letting go, of not holding to any of that experience. Simply resting the mind onto what is happening, but to also let go and bring up Joy. That is why I read the sutta tonight; the sequence that is very important to understand is, to bring up Joy and to let go. That is how the mind becomes collected. Once we understand that, then we understand the practice.

One thing that I can say though is, that sometimes the mind, because it is a bit restless, wants to change object. It wants to change subject of meditation, so it might be a hindrance also, at a certain point. If the mind wants to try so many kinds of meditations at the same time, then it creates confusion. Of course, when we’re with the Love, we’re with the Love. Or when there is Compassion, we use Compassion. But there are 24 hours in a day, so there are many situations that are going to happen. So, we learn to practice with every situation that we have, responding with wholesome intention and action. That is the meditation also.

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

Yes!

This is a little bit deeper into the Eightfold Path. We have not discussed much about this, yet.

In the fold of Wisdom, are two things; Wise View – or Wise Understanding – of things, which are the four Noble Truths. This is how we are developing our wisdom. When we are very young, we learn not to touch a fire, because it hurts. That’s the first, building wisdom; it hurts, move away from it.

The second is Wise Attitude. Once we have the knowledge of these Four Noble Truths, that are the core of wisdom, then we can go forward in life with the right attitude. These are the intentions of

  1. letting go
  2. practicing Loving-kindness
  3. not harming

These are the three opposites to greed, hate and delusion.

We learn to walk forward in life with the right mindset, the right intention, which is about letting go of always having this selfish view of things, only about me and myself. To move into an all-inclusive kind of happiness that comes from wisdom. This is simply due to the fact that we are tricked to believe that our own happiness is about getting things for me, right now. And that is true; we need certain things, but our happiness is very, very much supported and dependent on all beings’ happiness. The Buddha’s teaching is to also realize this and to develop the right kind of attitude and intention.

Letting go is the whole of the Buddha’s teaching, and what he discovered is that craving is the root of all suffering. And to let go, to relinquish, is the completely other kind of the spectrum. It is the complete opposite.

Sometimes this concept is hard to understand for a lot of people, and not really tangible in the here and now. That’s why I directly relate it to generosity and meditation. Meditation is basically not depending on anything, anyone outside.

Craving is the root of the unwholesome, and selfish desire, anger and impatience; all these unskillful unwholesome states all arise from that. When we practice meditation, we actually practice letting go of that, because these states are all included – now we’re getting a little deeper in the Path – in this me, my selfishness. And we are letting go of that.

 Anger; where does it arise from, who is angry; it’s not going the way I want it to go. This is a little bit later in the Path and I’m not going to go into these grounds yet, but it’s all rooted in this me, myself and I. Truly, liberation comes about when we learn to not take things so personal, and not to take ourselves so seriously, and relinquish these unwholesome states.

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

All of these senses are happening constantly. There is not much we can do about it. In fact, they’re just there.

Though we can skillfully develop awareness. Awareness that is open, that is accepting and that is not focusing on any particular one, but simply accepting reality as it comes.

 Sometimes, there might be more a predominant touching sensation, a predominant hearing sensation, a predominant smell, or whatever it may be. The important thing is that we remain within awareness. That means; making sure that we are not grasping at the experience, or pushing it away, but the experience rather is happening yathā-bhūta; as it is.

Without having an opinion, a judgment, without criticizing it, but accepting it, welcoming it for the better, for the worse. Whether it’s a good or a bad experience simply staying with a steady mind, a joyful steady awareness, with whatever vehicle of meditation that you are cultivating at this point. 

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

There were, and there still are, lay people that are Aryas [having attained one of the four stages of Nibbana]. I say quite often that the Buddha did not only teach a kind of sitting meditation practice. He taught a way of life and when he was in northern India at that time, it was a very specific context; bodhisattvas need a very specific environment to come down, to do their thing and to take their final birth. At that time, there were very conducive conditions, very conducive environment and for spiritual growth, for the spiritual practice. This is a way of life that he was teaching to a lot of monks. At that time it was fairly normal to become a monk, or to dedicate their lives to this kind of practice. There were also countless virtuous lay people, and still are today, that are practicing. What it comes down to is, that it is an all-the-time practice, this is a life practice, this is how to be happy. It is how to be happy and wise all the time. To understand the Buddha’s teaching, is to understand all these tools that he gave. He explained how the mind works, and how to develop the mind, and how to develop discernment and wisdom. To understand what states are wholesome, and what states are unwholesome. Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, all these things cause us so much suffering in the first place. They cause so much difficulty, so much tension. Just to let them go, we can then experience Nibbana and Release, here and now. Nibbana simply means the letting go of, the blowing out, the cooling down.

See, there were lazy monks too and they didn’t make a lot of progress. And there were diligent laypeople who made a lot of progress. If you choose to dedicate your life to it, well, that’s that much more that you get. If you practice generosity, the mind is not clinging, the mind is always giving, the mind is liberated in the first place.  When a generous mind is a liberated mind, then the virtues are strong, they’re established, you’re protected by your own virtue, and this is very uplifting for the mind.

This might not be in one or two days, but the people that have been practicing this for a long time, they know the power of virtue.

Looking back five years ago, ten years ago; I have not hurt consciously any living beings; I have not told any lies; I have not hurt anybody sexually; I have not spoken behind anyone’s back or anything. This is just very wonderful, and this is really uplifting. As we practice that, as we are devoted to that, then we align with the Dhamma. We straighten our view, we align with the Dhamma.

However committed we are to this, is how much progress we will make, and that depends on you. If someone chooses to go to the movie theater and watch a big movie, very noisy, and eat popcorn, that’s great, sure. But if that person chooses instead to practice for two hours, and to develop their mind, to sharpen their mind and make their mind bright and beautiful, that will follow them everywhere. Whatever they’re going to do then, they’re going to be happy. This is our choice, this is everyone’s choice.

   In so many ways the Buddha told the disadvantages of sensual pleasures. We do as much as we can, and especially in the lay life, there’s so many things. But this is out of compassion to people. The Buddha was saying: Be careful, this is not where the true happiness lies, this is where you will be tricked. When we put our happiness into this, then we invest our happiness into something that can be taken away at any time. It is not reliable; we don’t know whether causes and conditions will support that for a long time.

 The Buddha always praised the advantage, the benefit of letting go the sensual pleasures, and enjoying the bliss of mental development – bhavana – and the higher mind. However anybody wants to partake in this, that’s everybody’s choice. We align with as much of the Dhamma as we can.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

In the beginning Loving-kindness needs to be really strong, like a fully blazing fire, because the mind tends to be distracted easily.

Also, at the beginning sometimes we do our things during the day and mindfulness slips a little bit. We are dragged into these more automatic states of mind. To really break away from these automatic reactions, or automatic mind goings, sometimes we need a bit of a stronger Loving-kindness feeling, at the beginning. So that our mind can really feel it, it’s really tangible and really embodied also.

But if someone holds on to this really strong feeling, this becomes a kind of force, it becomes a hindrance in itself, if there is no allowing it to fade after a while.

Some people might try too hard to really make it strong all the time, which is not a bad thing either, but it might become a bit more difficult. It’s good to know that during the meditation, maybe after half an hour, the feeling will start to stick a little bit more, and in fact we do want to allow it to fade a little bit and become more established.

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

You’re talking about sensual craving, which is the hindrance related to sexual misconduct, right? When you have sexual misconduct, that means you are committing a sexual act in a way that is harmful to yourself, and harmful to the other individual. In a way, your senses or the pleasure that is derived from the sexual act, you identify with it to such a level that your mind identifies with that sensory experience of the sexual nature.

By doing that, your mind also starts to cling and attach to other sensory experiences in the same way. For example, if you start to find craving in your visual forms, and in the other five senses, as well as the mind, the mind will attach to those senses, will attach to those sensory experiences. Because it attaches to it and craves it, this causes heedlessness in the mind. Heedlessness means carelessness.

Because of that, there is lack of judgment, lack of understanding, and then a person acts in a way that creates misconduct. Not only sexual misconduct, in which you harm yourself and the other, but even in sensory craving, where you become careless to the point that you just crave for those sensual experiences.

And in doing so, you commit other acts that are not in alignment with the Noble Eightfold Path. And you break further precepts because of it.

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 4 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability 

The Mindfulness is a factor present in all states where attention is given. Whenever you are in jhana, the enlightenment Factors are present. Anytime you are distracted, the enlightenment Factors are not present, especially Mindfulness. But Mindfulness is always there, whether you are meditating in a sitting practice, or in daily living. This is why there’s the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in everyday living; you are mindful of the body as body; you’re mindful of sensations as sensations; you’re mindful of mind as mind; and you’re mindful of phenomena as phenomena. Every time you use your Mindfulness, you are activating the enlightenment Factor of Mindfulness, which means that you are able to see when a hindrance is arising and quickly let go of it, quickly use the 6R process to let go of it.

When it comes to the other enlightenment Factors that need to be balanced, just know that when you are in the jhana practice, the enlightenment Factors are already present in there.

As you get into deeper levels, you will see that, for example in Neither-perception-nor non-perception, your mind usually tends to slope either towards Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness. These are the two hindrances that are most dealt with, when it comes to the Neither-perception-nor non-perception. You will not see sensual craving in there, you won’t see ill will there, you won’t see doubt there as a hindrance.

Know this; whenever the hindrances are present, at that point the enlightenment Factors are not present. But as soon as you bring in Mindfulness, you start to bring in the other enlightenment Factors, depending upon which jhana you’re in; the level of the jhana that you’re at, determines the amount of enlightenment Factors that are present. For example, when you are in the first and second jhana, the enlightenment Factor of Joy and Energy are more prevalent. As you get deeper and deeper, certain other Factors are more prevalent. Once you get into quiet mind, as you’re just observing quiet mind, everything has been sort of aligned and balanced, and now smoothly flows. So, those hindrances of sensual craving, the ill will, and the doubt have been completely dealt with, and then, all you’re dealing with are the Sloth&Torpor and Restlessness. Whenever you see this happening, know that you’re not in jhana. When you use the 6R process, every step of the 6R process is in alignment with one of the enlightenment Factors. So, every time you use the 6R process, you are activating or reactivating the enlightenment Factors. And by doing so you’re coming back into jhana.

Watch it here

It’s very similar, but the feeling that we have for someone is contained, channeled into this one person. That is wonderful, that is great, there is very little difference. I would say though that to compare it would be like comparing it to a flower that’s just budding. You see the beauty just in one little place here [the bud]. It’s just there.

But the Loving-kindness in the meditation that we’re practicing, and that the Buddha taught, is like full bloom; there is no restriction, it’s completely open. This kind of Loving-kindness, that is fully open, also supports this kind of love that we have for loved ones.

 Slowly we start to understand how this feeling works, how the mind works, and how it can be fully mature, so that this feeling can in fact feed the love that we have for the people that we already love.

It also has a chance to open up and not only contingent to a fistful of people, but to all living beings around us. The Buddha in fact said that to have loved, to experience love and Loving-kindness for someone in particular is very wholesome, but to develop Loving-kindness for all living beings in all directions is some of the highest merit that a human being can do.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Sometimes the energy will bring restlessness for beings. That restlessness can result in acting in ways that can cause harm emotionally. Or it can create energy that creates anger, or whatever it might be. First and foremost, what you have to see in relation to the Seven Factors, whether you are balancing Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness; there is always Mindfulness used, there is always observation used. Even in daily life, first and foremost, mindfulness must be there. When there is Mindfulness, there is awareness of what the situation requires.

 And more importantly, when you’re dealing with situations where you need to be a little more energetic, and you need to be a little bit more active – in whatever it is that you’re doing – it’s important to turn that mindfulness internally. To see okay, if I am acting in this way, is it causing restlessness in me? So, by using the Mindfulness, you can see whether it’s creating a restless nature in the mind. If you see that it’s creating a restless nature in the mind, then you know Well, now I need to bring in some tranquility.

 There again you use the pause to take a few seconds to bring in the Tranquility, to bring in the Equanimity and then wait, and then act from that. While you need to be energized, while you need to be active in whatever it is you’re doing, or implementing for the situation, that energy is infused with Tranquility. That energy is calmer, and so it’s more stable and not as erratic.

Watch it here

Yes exactly, there’s some wise words and I can only agree.

To have this feeling of love for the people that we love, is truly wonderful, but sometimes it comes with other things, and that’s where the trick is.

 That’s why Loving-kindness to all living beings, is such a wholesome thing to develop. We tend to only look at things in the close-up view, and sometimes that doesn’t allow us to see the whole field of perception of what’s really happening. To develop this really broad expansive awareness, is truly also the Buddha’s teaching; opening up the mind and allowing a clear bright and open awareness.

Also, continuously practicing in this way, we start to see the little tendencies in the mind, that lie behind these habits that we have sometimes. This is another reason why to develop the mind in this way.

 In fact, this is simply to grow into more love and more Compassion, so that we can be an even better generator of Loving-kindness for the people around us.

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability  

This is a very interesting understanding that you’re having. This is one way of understanding it.

If you notice, in your day-to-day life, when you’re thinking about things, or you’re having memories; if you are, let’s say, in a bad mood, or if you are in a state of mind which is unwholesome, and you think back about things that were not so wholesome, you have a certain perception of it.

But then you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion, and you think back of those things again, you’re going to have a different perception of that. It could be anything as simple as a relationship you had with a friend, a family member, or whatever it was. If you are in a bad mood, you’ll start to think about that memory, and you see it in a way that is unwholesome. But when you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion and you think about that memory again, then you are more compassionate and understanding and say: well, maybe they weren’t feeling so well and that’s why they behaved this way. Or maybe they were unhealthy or not fully there, fully present, you know, you sort of have an understanding mind set of whatever that memory was. That’s one way of looking at it.

So, looking at the repulsive and seeing the unrepulsive in that, or looking at the unrepulsive and seeing the repulsive in that, is also a more advanced way of playing around with your aggregate of Perception. Meaning, you are able to see what is repulsive to others and change our mind set about that and see the unrepulsive in that. It’s a practice of changing your Perception, it’s an intentional practice of being able to exercise your perception, so that the mind is so malleable that it develops a very strong sense of Equanimity. Whether something is repulsive or unrepulsive, it doesn’t matter. It just is able to stay in an equanimous state, without attaching to the unrepulsive or averting from the repulsive.

This is a conscious exercise, a conscious kind of meditation practice that certain monks will do, or certain practitioners, in order to make their perceptions malleable.

But I’m saying, on the practical level, you can see it for yourself, you can reflect on your own mind and see that the very same memories that you have, will have different feeling tones, a different sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness, based on the moods that you have, the mind sets, and your perceptions will change, based on that.

You can make it a conscious exercise, if you wanted to, but that starts to happen on its own, when you start cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion. When you start getting into places, situations and interacting with people, which may be repulsive and what I mean by that, difficult or that could create aversion in the mind, because you have cultivated Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, in those ‘repulsive’ states, it’s easy for you to see the good in that. It’s easy for you to then be able to let go of what might be difficult, let go of the aversion that might be arising from the difficult.

Conversely, when you are in a pleasant state of mind, or you come to places, situations or deal with people who are pleasant, but then you start to attach a sense of self to it and then create craving for yourself, by attaching and wanting more of it; by understanding and using Equanimity, and seeing the impersonal and impermanent nature and the suffering aspect of what is arising, what would generally be unrepulsive, you don’t necessarily consider repulsive, but you don’t attach any sense of desire to it.

[Reads from a chat in the video call: yes, exactly; that’s how Metta destroys ill will, it just fades away, replaced by Loving-kindness, that’s right.]

Watch it here

[Question was posed by a little child]

Well, that’s why it is such a good meditation, because we’re really learning to feel the feeling of happiness. Happiness is really something that you can feel within yourself, within your body.

Do you sometimes feel happy when you go play outside? How does it feel inside? It’s like this whoo-hooo feeling, right? Do you smile sometimes? I’m sure you do, I’m sure you smile, and I’m sure you laugh quite a lot. Well, when you smile and when you laugh, that’s a very good indicator, that’s very close to happiness, I would say. It’s my humble opinion.

Would that work? [Laughter]

Good, that’s your homework for the week; it’s to be happy. Feel how it feels when you smile, when you laugh, when you play.

Watch it here

See also this talk on happiness

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability  

If you go back to Right Intention – which I call Effective Choice – there is the intention to let go, the intention of renunciation. And the intention of non-harm and non-cruelty. Which essentially means to cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion. Wholesome really is anything that is in alignment with the mundane Eightfold Path. What I mean by that is, while you’re still on the Path, you are utilizing the Path and you are acting, speaking, and thinking in alignment with the Eightfold Path. You speak in loving terms, in kind ways. You refrain from using harsh speech, from any false speech. Cultivating wholesome speech, or Right Speech, means you know when to speak and when not to speak. When to speak in a loving way, when to refrain from speaking at all, because it may harm the individual mentally or emotionally. Likewise, for action. So, wholesome means, in this context, especially for the purpose of this practice; developing the Brahma Viharas, first and foremost.

And the unwholesome really is eradicating that, to replace the unwholesome. Replacing the ill will with Loving-kindness; replacing the cruelty with Compassion; replacing jealousy with Empathetic Joy; and indifference, greed, and resentment with Equanimity. So, there is that context within that.

But more than that, once you elevate from the unwholesome to the wholesome, the work that is remaining, is to elevate from the wholesome, to that of the mind of the arahant, who does not even remain attached to the wholesome either. The Kamma that one produces is wholesome, and still is personally identified with a self. So that continues to create wholesome Kamma, which means that it will continue to create Rebirth.

But in the case of one who is an arahant, the actions that they produce are not based on any sense of self. They are more in relation to what is situationally needed. They respond according to the situation, without personalizing, and so they won’t produce any new Kamma.

It’s getting a little deeper than that, but generally speaking, what one should focus on, or understand in this regard, is; in this practice, what one is doing is uprooting the unwholesome and replacing it with the wholesome. The unwholesome is generally ill will, greed, aversion, hatred, and delusion. Consider those to be the unwholesome. And the wholesome are the Brahma Viharas, Tranquility and Wisdom.

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

Someone in the chat mentions which sutta relates the Brahma Viharas to the different jhanas. It’s called the Mettāsahagata Sutta/Accompanied by Loving-kindness. Samyutta Nikaya 46.54. This is already in the curriculum.

And earlier, I was talking about intelligence [where Delson told someone who was asking many questions, that bhante Vimalaramsi says: “If you ask many questions, you will be reborn as someone who is very intelligent.”] and that person in the chat said, it’s mentioned in the Cūlakammavibhanga sutta [Majjhima Nikaya 135 The Shorter Exposition of Action] that questioners are reborn as intelligent persons. So, if you want to take a look at those, you can take a look at that.

Watch it here

Let’s look at it from the context of Right Effort. These are the four Right Efforts to uproot the unwholesome and generate and maintain the wholesome.

 The first two Efforts deal with the unwholesome – preventing the hindrances from further arising, and abandoning hindrances that have already arise.

The third and fourth Efforts deal with the wholesome – bringing up the wholesome and maintaining the wholesome.

What is the wholesome? The wholesome is comprised of the seven Awakening Factors. So long as one is developing one or more or all of the enlightenment factors, with proper attention – that is to say with conscious effort – and later on automatic when one reaches higher states, then one is developing the wholesome. When any of these factors are present, then one’s state is said to be wholesome

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

Greed, hatred, and delusion are just our selfish desires, impatience or anger, and lack of mindfulness. These are the three unwholesome roots, that the Buddha discovered and taught. These are the root of all things unwholesome, of all things that are bound up with tension.

 We basically learn through the threefold training – Sīla / Virtue; Samadhi / Collectedness; Pañña / Wisdom – how to deal with this. This is the Eightfold Path that we’ve been studying a little bit.

The goal of the entire Eightfold Path is to first learn to see the greed, the hatred and the delusion. These are big words, but really, it can all be boiled down to tension. These unwholesome states are obsessive, they are not mindful, they have lack of mindfulness within them. They are conditioned in our own behavior through time, through repeated action and reaction. So, we learn to see the very strong desires, that are not so wholesome, not so good for ourselves. They’re simply pulling us out of contentment all the time.

 It’s not to eradicate all kinds of desires at all, that’s not the Buddhist teaching. It’s about cultivating wholesome desire, which gradually will bring up Liberation. We learn to discern these states with wisdom and see when we get angry; I’m not very happy, when I’m angry.

 We learn to wisely abandon these, and that’s the practice. To see first – because that’s the tricky part – that anger is reactive. Anger is an obsessive state; we’re not mindful when we get angry, we’re just reacting. We are in full-on reaction mode and the problem lies in this.

That first step is that we need to see this, we need to have the mindfulness, the openness of mind, the clarity of vision to see; oh I’m getting angry here. That’s the first Noble Truth. we have to see it, we have to recognize it, and then we can let it go. That’s the third Noble Truth, the end of tension, and that’s really the Buddha’s teaching.

It’s not just about mindfully seeing things; it’s about letting go of the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome. Then mindfulness arises. Mindfulness is a byproduct of Right Effort, which is abandoning anger and unskillful states – anger and strong outward desires – and replacing them with wholesome states. We recondition our minds, so that it is present, happy, aware, uplifted, with Loving-kindness, with generosity, with virtue, with non-harming, with compassion and equanimity. They’re not an equanimity that is indifferent; an equanimity that is very happy and uplifted, a blissful equanimity. It’s a very mindful state.

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability  

 Nibbana is the end goal. And then, the final, ultimate goal is arahantship, which happens not only by destroying the Defilements, but also by having a profound and deep experiential understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

Nibbana has so many different connotations; it’s the extinguishment of the Five Aggregates; the extinguishment of the fuel for craving; non-proliferation; non-craving; the cessation of Being; cessation of the six Sense Bases. There are so many different ways to explain it. And even if you use those words, those are still all concepts. Nibbana is beyond all concepts, it’s the non-conceptual reality, if you will. And even that is a concept. You have to go beyond all concepts. That’s why Nibbana is not experienced in a way that you can conceptualize it. You can only bring it down back to the level of the mundane with these descriptions, these poetic descriptions and understandings.

But yes, the primary activity of the one still in training, is to cultivate the Path. Because, when you are cultivating the Path, you are doing two things;

Number one, you are understanding the fourth Noble Truth, which is that the path to the cessation of suffering, is the Noble Eightfold Path. The more you cultivate it, the more you are living the fourth Noble Truth.

And then, the more you are doing that, you are also living the third Noble Truth, which is; every time you do the 6R’s, every time you let go of the craving, let go of the stories, ideas and thoughts around the craving and the feeling, you are enacting, acting out, understanding and applying the third Noble Truth.

In essence, when you are doing this kind of meditation, you are applying all four Noble Truths, because you understand; craving has arisen. You Recognize there is a distraction, you understand the cause of it, you let go of it and by using the 6R process, by understanding and walking the Path, you’re letting go of it in your daily life as well.

Once you start to do this more often, once you are able to put this on auto pilot, that’s when you become an arahant. An arahant’s behavior, an arahant’s way of living, is nothing but the Eightfold Path. It’s nothing but understanding from the realm of the Four Noble Truths. It’s nothing but acting from Right Action, speaking from Right Speech and using the Eightfold Path in a way that continues to help other individuals. To help other beings through Wisdom and Compassion.

[person that asked the question]

Thank you. So, Nibbana cannot be communicated through words. That’s why the Path is the only way, right?

[Delson]

Exactly. The more you are able to more closely follow the Path, the quicker it is for you to reach Nibbana and then tell others about it.

[Delson laughs]

Watch it here

Load More