Questions and Answers

Online Retreat

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)

Sometimes you five R, which means that you don’t have to Repeat. So long as you are staying with your object of meditation (OoM), so long as your attention, your awareness, is on it, you don’t have to Repeat. 6R’s are only used whenever you see that the mind was distracted. If you find that there are thoughts in the background of your mind, while you have your awareness on the OoM, you don’t have to 6R those. They will go away on their own, because they have no attention that will feed them. But whenever your attention is no longer on your object, you 6R. It’s always the same steps, and it’s a flow as you said. It happens in about three, four seconds at the most. As soon as you Recognized you were distracted, you don’t have to verbalize in your head ‘Oh, I Recognize’. You already know that you got distracted. Knowing that you were distracted, that’s recognition, that’s Recognizing. In putting your attention to the Relax of the 6R process, you have Released your attention from the distraction, and put your attention now on Relaxing the tension in the mind and in the body.

Now you’ve already done the first two Right Efforts, which is the preventing and the abandoning. And now bringing up the wholesome state, you come to your Smile and you come back to the Feeling, Metta (Loving-kindness), Karuna (Compassion), whatever it is. It’s always the same steps in the progression, but the Repeat is only whenever you get distracted again.

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Category: Online Retreat

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)

When you read Day 1 tomorrow, it will give a little more in-depth explanation. The 6R’s are the modern version, if you will, of the Four Right Efforts. The Four Right Efforts and the 6R’s are intertwined. The process of the 6R’s, when you start with Recognize, aligns with the First Right Effort.

Let me go through the Four Right Efforts:

  • The First Right Effort is the preventing of unwholesome states from arising. That is your hindrances and your distractions.
  • The Second is abandoning presently arise unwholesome states or hindrances.
  • The Third is to bring up your wholesome qualities of mind.
  • The Fourth is to maintain that wholesome quality of mind.

When you’re using the 6R process, you see that the mind has gotten distracted and is no longer paying attention to the object of meditation (OoM). When you see this and you Recognize this, you’re preventing the distraction to further flow with your attention. So, you prevent any further distractions from arising, when you Recognize.

When you Release your attention, you take your attention away from that distraction and bring it to the Relax process. Which is to Relax the craving, the tension, that is a result of the craving in both the mind and the body. You are using the Second Right Effort, which is to abandon the unwholesome states of mind, presently arisen.

When you come back to your Smile, making sure you are smiling, and come back to your OoM – which is Loving-kindness, Compassion or whatever it might be – you are then bringing up the wholesome quality of mind.

Finally, as you Return and stay with your object, you are maintaining that wholesome quality of mind. And then you Repeat whenever necessary, whenever your mind gets distracted yet again.

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Category: Online Retreat

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)

It really depends on the translations. Bhante Ananda’s translation likes to call it the Four Resting places of Awareness. That’s another way of looking at it.

This is, first and foremost the Body. Understanding how your body is feeling in any given moment.

The Sensations that are arising from the body is the second, the third is your mind, or consciousness they call it. I call it Mindset, because a mindset can continually change and is a collection of thoughts that creates a certain mindset.  When you get into the jhanas, each jhana is a particular kind of mindset, because it has different kinds of factors within each jhana.

And Dhamma is really phenomena. Any kind of phenomena related to the mind, whether it’s thoughts, emotions, memories, Formations, things like that.

These are the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

When you are practicing the jhanas, practicing Metta and you get into jhana, the way you know you are in jhana is that your mind is collected. Effective or Right Collectedness is being in one of these four jhanas, first and foremost.

Going back to Dhamma, you have other aspects of it; you have phenomena related to the five hindrances; you are aware if any of these hindrances are in the mind. Any time a hindrance is present, you are no longer in jhana. This is how you are utilizing Mindfulness. By seeing whether a hindrance is present or not in the mind, because when you are distracted, you know there is a hindrance there. So, you use the 6R’s to come back.

And as you are doing this, you are also starting to activate and balance the Seven Factors of Awakening. This is also part of the Dhamma aspect of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. When it comes to the Seven Factors of Awakening, they start to be utilized more and more as you get higher into the process, into higher dimensions of perception, beyond the four jhanas.

But for the time being, all you should know if you are starting on the Path, or you’re still working with the first four jhanas, is if your mind continues to stay with the object, and you are not pushing. Because if you push, you are not utilizing Mindfulness anymore, you’re using too much effort, too much one-pointed focus. You just observe.

In the observation of that, you are collectively being observant of the body, of the mind, of the sensations and of the mental contents within the mind. It’s an open awareness. In the awareness of that, you are being attentive to the feeling, but you are also aware if there are any thoughts in the background, or if the mind is being distracted.

Watch it here (start from 10.20 minutes)

Category: Online Retreat

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)

Sit for as long as you can. You can do an intention that you want to sit for an hour the first time. And the next time an hour 10 minutes, an hour 15 minutes.

If you have the inclination to sit for longer, that’s always good, that’s always suggested. If you want to sit for longer, do sit for longer.

In terms of pushing, it is not necessarily pushing. Let’s say the body wants to stop, but the mind does want to meditate for longer. You cajole the body, saying: how about five more minutes. Let’s see what happens for five more minutes.

 Likewise, if the mind is restless and doesn’t want to meditate anymore, you can sit for five more minutes. Treat the mind like a little child. In that way the mind won’t be pushing, it will accept it, and you can continue on with the meditation.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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)

Yes. On day 2 there will be an entire focus on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. When you watch the video and read the material, it will go even more in depth into it.

 The two foremost suttas are the Satipatthana Sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya (number 10), and the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 22) – which is identical except for the elaboration of the Four Noble Truths.

There are different ways of doing it, you can also divide them into four categories. You can solely pay attention to what is happening in the body, the mind, or the sensory experiences that arise. And in just the observation, the pure awareness without trying to control it, you will start to see insights into the body, the mind, sensory experiences, and into the mental contents. You start to see the impermanence of these things, and you see there is no controller there. There is an emptiness of self in that.

It happens with continually being observant, being aware, mindful; whenever you do get distracted, you utilize the 6R’s. The Recognition part primarily is the beginning of that Mindfulness.

Whenever you are in the jhana, whenever you are staying with your object of meditation with an open awareness – that is: being attentive but not focused, not too concentrated – you are practicing Mindfulness. You are applying the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. So long as you are openly aware, you can know that a hindrance has arisen or not.

If you focus too much, you are actually suppressing the hindrances, you are not able to know when, where and how you got distracted.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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)

The materials – the suttas and the videos – are really to start to get an understanding of the different parts of the Eightfold Path. We start off with what is known as Effective Choice and Effective Application. That’s talking about Right Intention and Right Effort, that is really the basis.

As you get deeper, you’re going to Mindfulness, or Effective Observation; Samadhi, or what is the Collectedness – we don’t like to use the word concentration – and then you start to get into deeper subjects, like Kamma, Rebirth and Consciousness.

These are materials to help you on your own self-directed meditation. I won’t really be leading any kind of group meditation, this is more a path of self-discovery, in your own time and the amount of effort you put into it.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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)

No, you don’t want to look for any kind of tension in the body.

Earlier somebody asked a question about doing the Relax step, but not necessarily finding any tension in the body. That’s fine, you don’t need to. The Relax step is not only letting go of the craving in the form of that tension, another aspect is that it’s also tranquilizing the bodily Formations. It’s something that is mentioned in the Anapanasati Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 118); whenever you breathe in or out, you tranquilize the bodily Formation. This tranquilizing is the deeper effect of that Relax step.

If you are aware of tension and see that it’s there, you intend the Relax step to let go of that tension, which is that Craving.

Even if the tension is not there, utilizing the Relax step whenever you get distracted, will release Formations, will let go and relax the Formations, no matter how subtle they are.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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

Especially when you’re in the eighth level, when you’re in Neither-perception-nor-non-perception, you’re really playing with the Factors at that point in time, trying to balance them. If you notice that there’s a Factor missing, you need more Tranquility, you immediately create the intention for Tranquility to the point that it creates too much tranquility. What you’ll also notice is, you’re putting in too much effort. Which means, not only are you bringing Tranquility, but you’re bringing in too much energy. Energy is when you put in too much effort.

But the way to look at it is like a medicine dropper; have you seen those medicine droppers, where you drop one, bit by bit? When you notice that the mind is restless, for example, and you need Tranquility, you have a drop of intention. Now a little bit of Tranquility is required. That’s the way you do it; very small doses, very small drops.

Or if you’re coming into Sloth&Torpor, where the mind is becoming sluggish,  you bring in a little bit of Joy, just a  drop of joy, and then see what happens. So drop by drop, bit by bit.

It’s better to be more cautious in sending this out, rather than I’m going to push it and I’m going to put in the Tranquility. You just pull back in little by little, and if you see you need a little bit more, another drop, or another drop. Do it from that kind of a perspective.

[Person that asked the question replies, but the internet connection was weak]

In the discourse you mentioned how the Precepts are connected…so the explanation was pretty nice, it was like both things are perfectly connected.

[Delson]

Yeah, that helps you being more mindful of seeing; am I following this precept or not, and  likewise, when you go into the meditation, you see that there is this particular hindrance arising.  You can go back into your mind and say okay, did I follow this precept, or did I break it, or what happened? It really provides a little bit of a mindfulness of that.

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  

From what I understand, the traditional story is that the Buddha reminisced about the time when he was a boy. He was sitting under the rose-apple tree. He took that as an object, or at least as a way to get into an uplifted state.

It’s quite interesting, there are a lot of different ways that the meditation process is described in different suttas.

There is a sutta that is called the Bhikkhunis Residence, in the Anguttara Nikaya. In it, Ananda goes to visit the nuns and he asks them about their practice. Ananda then comes back and talks to the Buddha, and the Buddha says; yes, there is a way of doing it where there are the Four Resting Places of Awareness, or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. You are aware of body as body, mind as mind, sensations as sensations and mental contents as mental contents. And as you are aware of this, and you start to get distracted, you bring in an uplifting object. This is what is known as Development by Application, according to the Buddha.

In that sutta he says to bring up a wholesome object, an uplifting object. Once you bring up the uplifting object, you let go of anything related to it, meaning you let go of the image, the thought, the examination and the verbalization that led to that uplifting object. And you stay with the awareness of that uplifting object. This is known as Development by Application.

And then there is development without application, or the undirected meditation. In this one, it’s just resting mind’s awareness on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. And then you can actually take the factors of the jhana as your object. Meaning, you can go through each jhana – this happens later, when you make the determinations, when you’re quite developed in your practice of the jhanas. You can actually take the factors of the first jhana and be able to be in the first jhana, just by intending it. Making your object, so to speak, the factors of the first jhana. Likewise, with the second, the third, the fourth jhana, and then the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness, Neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

As far as I know, and as little as I know about the suttas, I don’t think the Buddha specifically mentioned anything related to taking an object for the jhanas. However, there’s one specific sutta, in fact, it is one of the suttas that is in the curriculum for this retreat*.   I cannot tell you by memory exactly what the name of the sutta is, but it is related to Metta, and in that, the Buddha is talking about the different jhanas. He is talking about how each of the Brahma Viharas is tied to each of the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness and Neither-perception-nor-non-perception. He talks about Loving-kindness with the first four jhanas, and then he talks about Compassion with Infinite Space, Empathetic Joy with Infinite Consciousness and Equanimity with Nothingness. This is also in relation to the Seven Factors of Awakening.

As far as the object of meditation is concerned, all you need to know is; once you have your object of meditation, whatever it is, it’s important to be with it, to stay unified around it, so that you can continue to be in that jhana. That’s a way for the mind to be tied with the present moment. Aware of what is happening in the present moment, while allowing the mind to start to develop – through that awareness – the different factors of the jhana, and then experience it one by one as they arise.

[Person asking the question]

Thank you. You said, some object to get a child – I couldn’t hear properly?

[Delson]

 I was saying that the traditional story is – and I may be mistaken – that the Buddha pondered back to when he was a child, sitting under the rose-apple tree. And he was thinking about how happy he was in that state. This was at a time when his father was visiting some place, and he sat at the foot of the tree. He remembered how easy his mind was, while he was meditating, and he then contemplated; what if I were to do that again?

This was on the night before his Enlightenment, and he used that same process to get into this jhana with that ease of mind.

*Delson probably refers to the Samyutta Nikaya, 46.54 Accompanied by Loving-kindness, which is part of the materials offered for Day 3.

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  

Essentially, Equanimity goes as far as Perception, any of the Brahma Viharas go as far as Perception. Once you get into the territory of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception, it gets a little subtler than that, and the subtler part of that is the tranquil mind. It’s not necessarily tranquility as an object, but it’s more the still mind itself, the still awareness of mind itself. And though it is not explicitly mentioned in the suttas, it is mentioned in some ways as the luminous mind, the radiant mind. This is the mind that is starting to become void of coarser and subtler Formations and finally the Defilements. What you’re doing is, as you get deeper and deeper into each level of Awakening, you’ll find a difference in the quality of that quiet mind. It becomes closer and closer to the luminous mind that the Buddha talks about.

[person who asked the question]

Did the Buddha say you can attain Nibbana in these other realms as well, or was it just in Neither-perception-nor-non-perception? Considering the fact that these other sects ask about what the differences are with what the Buddha is teaching; do you think the Buddha was hinting at that you can attain Nibbana through the Loving-kindness practice, through the jhanas, and that stops at Equanimity?

[Delson]

[Reads out loud from chat: You can attain Nibbana in every jhana and Brahma Vihara and nods]. What Nibbana really results from so to speak – because Nibbana is unconditioned – is the removal of all conditions. Because you’re using this as the starting point. Even the jhanas, even the Cessation of Perception and Feeling is fabricated. It’s still related to Formations. It’s still related to certain causes and conditions and factors for those to be present. Whereas Nibbana is all about non-grasping, all about letting go completely. So, you can attain Nibbana even from the first jhana onwards. It’s not that you need to go all the way to Cessation. It’s a matter of having an understanding to the point that you let go, that you don’t grasp at all. And by not grasping, that’s when the mind is so quiet, that it is able to see with wisdom. It’s able to understand with wisdom, let’s go and experiences Nibbana.

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 5 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

 It’s one of a few examples of where, having heard the talk, that for such beings, by not grasping, the Taints were destroyed, the defilements were destroyed, and thus they were then arahants.

 It’s interesting, there are a few other suttas, like the Bāhiya sutta [Udāna 1.10], which is very similar to another one in the Majjhima Nikaya, where it’s very similar in content as well, and style. Upon listening to the Buddha’s talk, and really contemplating what he says, they become arahants right there and then.

There’s even, and it’s very interesting, Sariputta who has two different accounts of how he sees through wisdom. There is, as we know traditionally, the Majjhima Nikāya, which is the Anupada sutta, One by One as they Occurred [MN 111] and when you read that, you see that it just goes through each of the jhanas and then the mind is liberated at the end, having seen with wisdom. But there is another sutta in Majjhima Nikāya, in which the Buddha is talking to Sariputta’s nephew, I believe, MN 74 To Dighanaka/Dighanakha Sutta. In that, Sariputta is fanning the Buddha, and upon listening to Buddha talk about the level of Feeling, and contemplating on that, Sariputtas Taints are destroyed and he attains arahantship.

 That means that there is a potential, if the mind is serene enough, if the mind is collected enough, if the mind is already mindful enough to be able to listen to it, and in that process apply what the Buddha is saying, upon listening to it.

For example, in the case of Sariputta, having understood the phenomena of Feeling, and understanding how on letting go of the phenomenon of Feeling, and by not grasping, he understood how it was impermanent, how it was impersonal. He let go of any attachment to it, and then was able, through seeing the links of the Dependent Origination in the next moment, to just let go of all the Taints. In that wisdom, the Taints were destroyed.

In the case of even Bahiya, I would say that that was what happened upon listening to it, with deep insight, with deep reverence and deep Mindfulness. Upon listening to it and seeing when he says about the self, in not being before or after the seeing, and there’s just pure seeing or pure experiencing, he was able to see and not involve his mind in the links of Dependent Origination, as they arose.

Whether it’s through the jhana practice – meaning, whether it’s through samadhi, Collectedness, that then you go through the four jhanas and then the higher states, and then enter Cessation and upon that, see with a clear mind and understand with wisdom –  or upon listening with deep reverence and allowing your mind to be free of any hindrances, essentially your mind is  collected while you’re listening.

We have some interesting comments; they’re talking about that it’s possible that these people were meditating while listening. In some sense they could have been, because they were listening so deeply, that their mind was quite serene and tranquil.

And another individual says that Mindfulness, Collectiveness, and the Four Right Efforts is meditation. Yes, in having that application of Mindfulness – seeing the body, seeing the mind, seeing the sensations – and understanding it as the Buddha is relaying the information, using the Right Efforts, whenever the mind might be distracted, and coming back to that Collectedness in that meditative state while listening; they were able to see the links of Dependent Origination as they arose, without having to go through the entire process of getting into Cessation and coming out of it. It is quite possible, but for that you need very good Collectedness, very good and very sharp Mindfulness. And good Kamma.

Watch it here

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 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability  

It’s something similar to how you do the 6R process. When you are doing the 6R’s, you Recognize that you were distracted, but you don’t say I’m Recognizing now or say the rest of the steps in that way.

It’s more about when you Recognize it, it’s just the mind understands it, in a way without words; OK, this is the factor. It might seem like it’s verbalizing, but it’s just a recognition that happens. And that recognition is really Perception, of the factors of the jhana. It’s like, when you see the color blue, that’s one of the examples that I use, your mind does not necessarily say; that’s the color blue, but somehow you just know that that’s blue, without verbalizing that’s blue.

[person that asked the question]

So, it’s practice, basically, just like the 6R practice.

[Delson]

It is practice, like the 6R practice, but remember; when you have that open awareness, you are able to be unified around the object. Your mind is open, not closed off. It’s not contracted, it’s open and therefore it’s able to be observing other things around the object.

This is one of the reasons why, for example, during an interview one will ask you ‘did you feel this, did you feel that’; you’re able to recognize that, yes, there was some change in the quality of the feeling, or there was a sensation arising, things like that. When you’re able to notice those things, it’s because the awareness was open, and because, while your awareness around the object, around the feeling, it’s also open for any insights that might arise. And its open enough to be able to see a hindrance arising and be able to Recognize it as quickly as possible and using the 6R process.

The more you’re able to do that, the more you recognize; oh this is the factor involved in the fifth jhana, or the fourth jhana, this is the factor involved in Infinite Space, and so on.

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

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 5 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Oh yeah, I would say there is definitely something to be said about meditating in numbers, if you’re meditating in a group.

I’ve had situations where even not necessarily meditating in a group physically, where you’re with people but meditating on an online group. Where just people’s meditation together, on that online group, had quite an effect on people there.

There is something to be said about meditating together, It definitely starts to strengthen the quality of the Metta, for example, or whatever the Brahma Vihara is. It is quite useful to be able to meditate in large numbers.

Watch it here

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

To the extent to when you’re balancing the Factors. When you require a little bit of Joy, you can bring in the internal smile to bring up the Joy.

But in terms of a physical smile, at that point I would say, when you’re in Nothingness, Neither-perception-nor-non-perception especially, you’re not so much in contact with the physical. Actually, pretty much not. It’s mostly mental, like 95% mental.

In that process, when you are dealing with the Factors of Awakening, and when you require any kind of Joy to be put in there, it can help to maybe use the smile, as it can help to use a smile as an anchor, as a carrier for that Joy. It will help to that extent.

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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.

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Manasikara literally means; taking to heart. Unifying, in that sense, your mind with that object. Or with the understanding of that object. It’s taking to heart what you’re seeing.

The root of the word yoniso is yoni, which means the source, the origin point. There are a lot of different ways to look at this word. Like a lot of words in Pali or Sanskrit, it’s polysemous, which means that one word can have multiple shades of meanings and variations.

If you look at the text of the book you guys are using as part of this retreat, it was chosen to be translated as: attention rooted in reality.

Yoniso manasikara really is right attention. You are really paying attention. And what you are paying attention to is the things that arise in the reality of the situation. So, it is along with this unified attention, unified mind set.

Ayoniso manasikara means unwise perception, or inattention, or unwise attention. Meaning, you are not paying proper attention to your object. When that happens, that gives rise to hindrances, gives rise to distractions. Whereas correct attention is not focused, it’s not full-fledged focus but it is more about understanding how things are arising in the present moment.

Another variation of this meaning is also when the Buddha, or any of the monks use yoniso manasikara, they use it in a way to find the cause of something. For example, in the line of Dependent Origination, the Buddha will say: Birth having come to be, what is the origin of Birth, what is the cause of Birth. And then he says: Being come to be, and so on. That is another variation on yoniso manasikara.

But for the purpose of practice and the purpose of the meditation, whether it is in sitting practice or in your daily life, you have to pay attention, meaning you have to understand, how reality is arising as it arises. How it’s unfolding and, accordingly, make changes to your meditation practice, in the way of using the 6R’s, or whatever it might be.

It is actually through this yoniso manasikara that you are aware of, to link back to the previous question, what certain jhana factors are present. Or aware of what certain mind objects are present, what distractions, or what insights might arise. Or anything else like that.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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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.

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All aspects are Samma Ditthi – Right View – and the reason why is because it’s replacing the unwholesome with the wholesome. This is arguably the most important part of that sutta. The more you understand how to cultivate the wholesome and uproot the unwholesome, the more you’re establishing Right View, because you’re using Right Intention – or Effective Choice. The more you do that, the more you are embedding mind with Right View.

 There are levels of Right View, which is the mundane Right View and the supramundane Right View. The mundane Right View is in relation to the Precepts, keeping the Precepts, knowing that our actions have consequences, that there is Kamma and Rebirth, and so on and so forth. When you know that, you understand that it’s important to cultivate wholesome mindsets, wholesome qualities of mind, wholesome actions, and wholesome speech, because that will result in wholesome rebirth in the next moment, etcetera.

Once you start to see this, you’re starting to practice Right Effort, Right Intention, apply Right Speech, Right action, and Right livelihood. This is all done when you have Right Mindfulness, when you’re observing in every moment the choices that you have available to you. With the Right Mindfulness, you’re making the choices that are rooted in Right view. So, already you’re taking care of a majority of this Eightfold Path, and that culminates in Effective Collectiveness, where you then take it into your meditation practice, go through the jhanas and then experience Nibbana.

It always starts with cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome. Once you start doing that, you are starting to bring in choices for yourself, you’re starting to bring in situations for yourself, that lead you towards the Right View. Every time you make a wholesome choice, you’re reconditioning the Formations for the next moment. So, you’re weakening the fetters in the Formations that create the Conceit, the Ignorance and the Craving, and you’re strengthening the Formations that help you to make more wholesome choices in future moments. The more you do this in your daily living, the more it translates to a better meditation in your sitting practice. That allows you to let go of even deeper and subtler Formations, as you get higher and higher into the levels of meditation. Until you finally are able to destroy some of the fetters.

There is a chance you can destroy all of the fetters all at once, but you need a mind that is quite sharp, quite deep, and a very deep understanding of Right View for that to occur. It might happen in different stages.

However it happens, the most important part is that you have to follow the Eightfold Path in this way, which is always rooted in cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome, establishing Right View bit by bit. Reconditioning the Formations through Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood, with Right Intention in mind, using Right Mindfulness. And then allowing all of that to come to fruition in Right Collectedness.

When Right View is fully established, it continues to influence the Formations, which are now pure; they’re purified of the fetters from the Projections of Craving, Being and Ignorance. That then unlocks, so to speak, the two Path factors, or the fruition of the Path; the Right Knowledge and Right Liberation, or Effective Insight. You know that the Projections are no longer active and will no longer be active. Through that knowledge, you have the experience of the liberation of mind, Vimutti, of Nibbana.

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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.

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Observation is just another synonym that I used for Mindfulness. This is knowing that your attention was swerving from one place to another, and then bringing it back to your object of meditation.

 Investigation is more in relation to bringing up and understanding how this phenomenon was caused. It can be used in conjunction with attention rooted in reality, yoniso manasikara. Investigating into the phenomenon of Sloth & Torpor is essentially utilizing observation.

First and foremost, you have seen and recognized that your mind is tending towards Sloth & Torpor. You then investigate into what Factor needs to be brought up. In other words, whether you need to bring up Joy or a little more Effort and put more attention towards the object.

The synonym for Investigation, that I use, is understanding. The end result of investigation is understanding. Once you have investigated what is required in that process of the meditation, where you’re leaning towards Sloth & Torpor, you then understand that this is the Factor you need to bring up a little more, in order to balance it. With that understanding, you apply the effort to bring in Joy, Energy or Effort.

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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.

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I’ll break it up into a couple of things. When I was mentioning yesterday about moving, I was talking about number one; intentionally moving out of Restlessness, or intentionally moving because the body feels like it needs to move, when it’s not necessary to move.

Secondly, when it comes to where you open up your eyes; if you’re doing it because it’s just a process. In some cases, when somebody is in Infinite Consciousness, the eyes might just open up. Or, if they’re experiencing lots of joy in the sixth jhana, the eyes might just open up. That just happens as an automatic reflexive process. So, it’s not necessarily coming from your intention to open the eyes.

But in relation to what I was telling earlier about the smile, I’m referring more to seeing, and using, the smile to the extent that you need the Joy there. It can be the internal smile, or to see if you need the smile from the physical level, to bring up that Joy. But that I would not consider to be a physical movement, as compared to something like moving your limbs, or moving your posture, or something like that. Remember, when you’re doing the 6R process, there is still the movement of the mouth, there is still the movement of the lips, in order to come to the smile. To that extent you can move, if you need to smile, but beyond that you don’t want to move intentionally.

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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.

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What I’m referring to is the brightness of mind, as opposed to the dullness of mind. Meaning, a mind that is well collected, well unified, and is constantly aware, constantly attentive, without distraction. It is constantly collected around that quiet mind, that awareness.

But the light objects, the signs of Formations or images that arise, are not part of that bright mind. They just arise as part of subtle Formations, that are rooted through our processes of Kamma, and things like that, that will just come about and will arise.

 But that is different from what is the bright mind. The bright mind is generally a mind which is fully attentive, fully conscious, and unwavering. It has a steady presence of mind.

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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.

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Self identity view is the view that there is a permanent sense of self, and that the permanent sense of self continues to take rebirth. So, that it’s the very same self that continues to take rebirth, lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, and that same sense of self is the inheritor of the past deeds, the effects of karma.

Whereas conceit is one of the higher fetters. When you become a Sotāpanna [Stream enterer], you destroy any sense of that kind of view, the identity view, and the idea that any of the Five Aggregates are self, or permanent self. When you destroy that fetter, there is still that sense of conceit. That conceit is the idea of attaching some sense of self, even if it’s impermanent, and identifying with that sense of self in any action, thought or word. Identifying it in the sense of any activity of the mind, whether it’s going into jhana, or doing anything else. And also comparing a sense of self with the outside world, comparing one’s sense of self with the other’s sense of self, so having the idea that there are other people who have a sense of self.

The difference is really this; the identity view, or the self-view, is the view in a permanent self. Once you destroy that, the conceit that’s there is still identifying with it, even though you know that there is no permanent self. There is still this sense of identification with it, there is still this attachment with it, and there is this still this use of I, me or mine with that sense of self, attaching and identifying with it.

An arahant [one who has attained full Awakening] can also use the words I, me or mine, but they use it for conventional purposes; behind those words there is no sense of any kind of self, permanent or impermanent, or whatever it might be.

 There’s another sutta that you might want to read called the Khemaka Sutta [Samyutta Nikāya 22.89] and in that, he talks about how the Five Aggregates arise and pass away. Briefly put, he talks about how the identity view is destroyed, but the conceit is like a underlying scent. It’s like the scent of a lotus, so there is still the sense of self, there’s still sense of identification, which is the result of having been going through lifetime after lifetime of the identification process.

It’s a matter of reconditioning the mind, reconditioning the Formations, by continually following the Eightfold Path, by continually establishing Right View by following the Eightfold Path. And then ultimately making choices, where one does not identify or cling to the jhanas, or cling to any sensory experience.

The more one does this, sees it and experiences the Three Characteristics of Existence [impermanence, impersonal and suffering] at the level of Feeling, the more one weakens the fetter in the Formations, and the Projections that fetter those Formations, that create that sense of being, that create that sense of self, in that conceit. Finally, that is destroyed when, at arahantship when you have that experience; there’s no identification anywhere happening with that experience.

Up until the level of an Anāgāmi [Non-Returner], the relief that is felt after Nirodha, after Cessation, there is still some identification there. Because of that identification, there is still Craving in the case of a Sotāpanna. And then at the level of a Sakadāgāmī [Once-Returner], that relief is felt, but not so much attached to, and therefore there is a weakening of the sensual Craving and the weakening of ill will.

At the level of an Anāgāmi, there is only the identification there, but there is no taking relief, in the sense of that being a sensory relief. It’s just understanding that it was a series of processes, a series of causes and conditions, but there’s still identification with the relief. There is the idea that the being says that I just experienced Nirodha.

At the level of arahantship, there is no identification with any of that process. The idea of I, me or mine is completely destroyed, so that sense of relief has no identification. The Nirodha, the Cessation has no identification, the process of contact with Nibbāna has no identification. Because there’s no identification, the fetters have no fuel to continue and just drop away. This is the remainderless fading away of desire, remainderless fading away of conceit, remainderless fading away of Ignorance. This is how it is processed.

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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

I look at Formations as carriers of Kamma, meaning they are the ones that provide the kammic impulse. You will see this later on as we progress with the retreat, that in relation to the level of Contact, is where you have all the old Kamma.

There is the Feeling that arises. What you do with that Feeling will then determine whether new Kamma is created or not. Whatever we are experiencing up to the level of Contact and Feeling, is old Kamma. It’s the effects of choices we made in past lives, whether it’s just a split second ago or eons ago. Whatever we are experiencing in the way of our six senses, and in the way of our experience with the mind and body, is all the inherited effects of Kamma. So, I would shift the perspective in looking at Formations from that angle. And then see that whatever we experience, is a result of our choices. That is why I began with Effective Choice.

 Going back to the question; it’s a matter of the Formations deciding in that moment, because they were conditioned by a previous choice we made. They are not deterministic, they are rather conditioned by our choices we made in the past. Because of that, we can change the Formations. We can strengthen certain Formations, based on choices we make in this present moment, or we can weaken them.

That is why the Noble Eightfold Path is called the cessation of Kamma. Because when the Formation arises, as the carrier of Kamma, it then is activated through the process of Dependent Origination, to the level of Contact and Feeling. At that point you have the old kamma, which is the effects of choices you made previously. Once you have this Feeling, it’s how you perceive it, how you take it. Is it through Wise Perception and letting go of any attachment and craving to that Feeling right there and then; that will determine the next set of Formations, which will allow you to continuously let go in the next set of choices.

But the more you attach a sense of self, the more you crave that Feeling by attaching a sense of self, the more you are determining, from your present choices, the future Formations which will be strengthened. Those will then determine the choices you make, which are tending more towards creating more Craving for yourself.

Formations are always conditioned by choices. And choices, in that regard, are conditioned by old Formations.

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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.

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For some beings, when they get into Infinite Space and they’re sending out the Metta, and then sending out the Compassion, that they completely sometimes bypass even Compassion and bypass Joy. If it is there for a few moments, that’s fine. If it’s not present, that’s fine. So long as you are sending out something. Whether it is Compassion or Metta, or whatever it is in that moment – while you’re experiencing Infinite Consciousness – that’s okay, that’s all right.

 Traditionally speaking, the empathetic Joy that arises, this pure joy that arises at the ability to celebrate people’s successes, and the ability to celebrate their joys, is something that can be cultivated just as an exercise in your daily life. When you see somebody happy, when you see somebody smiling, you return that generosity with the smile. You empathize with their ability to be happy, you empathize with their successes, and so on and so forth.

That’s one way of cultivating in practical life. But it doesn’t always need to translate into, or be connected with the sixth jhana of Infinite Consciousness. So, if that’s not arising, I would not consider that to be an issue.

As long as you’re radiating something, whether it’s Metta, Compassion or Equanimity, that’s all that really matters.

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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  

For one, if you jump from one and a half hour to two hours, it’s quite a jump for the mind to get used to. So, you do it in increments of five to ten minutes. So, an hour thirty-five minutes, an hour forty minutes. That works better than jumping from one to another like half hour scales. It’s better to do in those more manageable ways. You might find it easier for your mind to say: ok, one hour thirty-five minutes, rather than jumping from one and a half hour to two hours straight.

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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.

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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

I see that in one way, where it can be related to external phenomenon outside of the body. It can also be related to the input of the five physical senses and the sensory experiences that arise from it. So that can be the external aspect of it.

 The internal is really more related to the mind, and the mental contents of the mind. But also the physical sensations that happen within the body itself  – which is in relation to feeling – for example the heartbeat,  you’re feeling the blood rushing through the veins, the digestive processes, different parts of the functions that happen within the  body; that’s another internal aspect of  it.

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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 are on the right track. In the beginning, what will happen is; these movies, these little disconnected thoughts that arise, they are part of the entry point into Neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And slowly, little by little, they start to gradually go away as the mind continues to let go of these Formations, let’s go of these perceptions on an automatic level. There can be a point, where you mentioned you consciously bypassed it. What did you do, you ignored it, or you just let it go, what did you do?

[Person asking the question]

I think it was a combination of them both, having ignored and losing interest in it.

[Delson]

We have to make sure, it’s getting into semantics, but I want to make sure if you are ignoring it; is it ignoring in the way of suppressing it? Or allowing it to be there, just not having your attention there?

If your attention is not on it, and that’s what you would consider ignoring, and becoming disinterested in it, I see no problem with that. But if you’re intentionally forcing it down, or intentionally suppressing it, then two things:

One, that would be the wrong way of doing it, and secondly; you’re no longer in the jhana, when you do that. Because now you’re using much coarser aspects of the mind, to do that.

But if you’re allowing your attention to just be on quiet mind, and just not paying attention to those subtle Formations, allowing it to be let go of, and losing interest in it, that’s a step in the right direction. That’s getting into dispassion, getting into disenchantment.

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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  

Up to the level of anagami [or Non-returner, the third stage of the four stages of Nibbana], there is an attachment to the Dhamma. This will be a little deeper, once you get into day seven and eight, but essentially, it’s about understanding the purposes of the Dhamma.

Understanding the Dhamma is meant to be a raft, it’s the simile of the raft; you use the Dhamma to get across to the other shore, to get to Nibbana, to get to arahantship. But if you take the raft with you, when you get to the other shore, and start carrying it on your back while you’re walking; that doesn’t make any sense.

In the same way, once you have used the Dhamma, utilized the principles of the Dhamma to get to the goal, – which is arahantship – you no longer even have any attachment to the Dhamma itself. The Dhamma also is an impersonal phenomenon.

But for the anagami , it’s said they will be an anagami because they keep relishing in the Dhamma. In a lot of different suttas, you’ll see it says; by not grasping even to the Dhamma, their minds will be liberated from the Taints, the Defilements. There were some who relished, or took delight in it, and so became anagamis. So, that’s really dhammaraga, the passion for the Dhamma.

When you get to the stage of an anagami, that’s what you need to work on; relieve the mind from its attachment to the Dhamma.

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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 

That’s a very good observation, and from experience you can see that that is the case.

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Category: Online Retreat

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

The interesting thing about the Satipatthana sutta – the four Foundations of Mindfulness – is that within each Foundation there are different ways to develop mindfulness. And in all four categories, in all four Foundations, you will notice there is the mindfulness of the arising and passing away of the feeling within the body, of the sensory experiences. There is the arising and passing away of the processes of the phenomena, that are happening within and outside of the body. There is the arising and passing away of the thoughts.

So within the context of the meditation, you are applying mindfulness to the extent that you are aware, or you are observing the object. You are just staying present with the feeling, whatever the Brahma Vihara might be. As you’re staying with it, you might see thoughts arise and pass away in the background. Your awareness is so open, your mindfulness is there to the extent that you can see these things, but because you’re not so fully focused, you’re not suppressing the ability of the mind to be able to apply this observational power.

That’s one reason why I translate, for example, mindfulness as observation, because observation is all about being aware and observing all of the phenomena that are happening, with this unification of mind around the object. While the mind is unified around the object, while it’s aware with its attention around the object, it’s still mindful of things that might arise in the way of hindrances, or insights that might arise, or what kind of factors might be present.

It’s not to say that you’re looking for it. That’s the bare knowledge, that’s the bare awareness which is; it arises when it arises, and it comes into your field of knowledge when you notice it, when you see it. But only  to the extent of you seeing it, not  looking for it, not trying to find it. It will come to you, as long as you keep your awareness  open. 

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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  

I would say that, if you want to just choose one and stay with that, and if there’s some piece of information that really resonates and pick up on that, that’s fine.

I do understand, because we were doing like a focus group for the text, before the retreat. It was not intended for this retreat primarily; it was going to be for the retreat that I was going to do in Europe. But since we had the opportunity to do an online retreat, I then divided it up for that.

But basically, the focus group said the same thing, which is that there’s quite a lot of stuff in there. It would take some time to really decompress it for people’s minds.

But if there’s certain things in there, that you pick up on, that you really want to just explore on your own, you’re welcome to.

It’s not like you need to necessarily follow along. If you need more time to develop your practice around certain elements of the text, or it feels like you need to slow down your pace, that’s fine too. So, you should do this at your own pace.

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Category: Online Retreat

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.

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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 

When you have one-pointed concentration or one-pointed focus, you’re actually suppressing the hindrances. So, you’re also suppressing the mind’s ability to see the hindrances. After you come out of that one- pointed focus or that one-pointed concentration, what one will notice is that, for a period of time, it may seem all well and fine. But then the hindrances arise with a vengeance, and there are still those hindrances present.

Whereas, if you’re using an open awareness in the case of the TWIM practice, using attention rooted in reality, and using this open Mindfulness you are already able to see how the hindrances are arising. And able to deal with them with Mindfulness, and then therefore activate the other enlightenment Factors.

In the case of the one-pointed focus or one-pointed concentration, none of those Factors are even present. There may be, sometimes, joy arising because of that one-pointed focus, but that is the wrong kind of joy. You can say it’s ineffective joy, it’s not necessarily the same Joy that you see with the enlightenment Factors. The mind may seem like it’s collected, but it’s not collected; it’s suppressed, rather than collected.

Collected mind and unification of mind, or unified mindset, is an attention around the object of meditation – or the vehicle of meditation, as it’s sometimes called – and so when you’re around it, you have a more clear and open awareness to which you can now recognize when hindrances might arise. And when they do, you can quickly 6R them. Or when insights arise, like insights into the Three Characteristics of Existence, insights into the links of Dependent Origination, insights into the Four Noble Truths, and so on. This is the way that the Path would be most effective.

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