Questions and Answers

Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 6 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Yes, even in other traditions of Buddhism, like in Tibetan Buddhism, they talk about the bardo, and everything.

 Those periods of intervals don’t happen outside of the Mentality-Materiality, they still happen within the same Mentality. It might seem like it’s an interval period between one death and the next rebirth, but that interval period is happening in the Mentality, where the Kamma is searching for a suitable rebirth, a suitable point of conception. But it’s still within the Mentality of that same being before they’re dying.

It’s incredibly fast, it could be split seconds, it could be even faster than that, but it might seem like it’s slower, where the Kamma is searching for within the Mentality of that being.

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  

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

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.

  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

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

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.

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

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. 

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.

  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

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

When I talked about sensory experiences, it’s the five physical senses – the eye, ear, smell, taste, touch – and the mind.

But there are also sensations in relation to Contact, internal and external contact of the body. That can also relate to the mind, particularly in the Five Aggregates.

 In either case, the sensory experiences are still part of the mental faculties, because all of this ultimately is experienced through the process of mind.

Watch it here

Sati – Mindfulness – is what sees Dependent Origination.

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

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.

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 

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.

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

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. 

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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.

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

Feeling itself is dependent upon contact, right. Feeling means the sensory experiences that you’re having, and the mind experiencing the mental objects. The mind and the sixth sense base – which are the five physical senses, and the mind – are rooted within the mentality and materiality. Mentality-materiality make up your mind and your body. This is one way of looking at it. The five physical senses – which are your sense faculties, the sense organs: e.g., your photo-receptors in your eye, the auditory nerves in your ear, the olfactory nerves, all of those different kinds of things – are all rooted within mentality and materiality. That’s why the sixth sense base is conditioned by, or dependent upon, mentality-materiality.

It’s only through the sixth sense base that contact can be made with the outside world, as it were. What we experience in the way of the sixth sense base, is the world. This is what the Buddha calls the ‘all’ or’ the world’. Which is to say that there is no one objective reality. Everything that we see as reality, is through our own individual sixth sense base. And because that is dependent upon those sixth sense bases, the contact that arises is dependent upon that. When there’s contact with the outside world, with the sixth sense bases – photons hitting the photo-receptors; sound waves hitting the auditory nerves; olfactory molecules hitting the nose; flavor molecules hitting the tongue, and so on and so forth -, these are all dependent upon contact. This hitting that I’m talking about is for example the sound waves making contact with, or stimulating, the auditory nerves. In that process, the experience of interpreting these sound waves – which are just waves in the air – as sound through the auditory nerves, is the feeling. It’s the bare sensation. Applying to that bare sensation the idea of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral – or neither painful nor pleasant – is the beginning of the perception aspect of the mind. So, the feeling is the sensory aspect, it’s the sensory experience of the mind. It’s after the contact is made, after the stimulation is made, you have the arising of the feeling. Perception is the naming aspect of what is being experienced, through recognizing what it is. As an example, that I often use; when you see the color blue, you immediately know it’s blue. Because you have recognized that it is blue through the Formations that created the memory. And that happens through having learned through your elders, through your parents, in a book, or whatever. It is that this is the color blue and now you always recognize it as the color blue, through the conceptual perception of it. So, perception begins at naming what that feeling is, and it continues on to conceptual or mental proliferation, which then can cause craving if taken personal. And if not, it’s basically stopped right there and then.

Mentality-materiality in more detail

The simple way of understanding mentality-materiality is that the materiality is this body. It’s essentially the form, it’s the four elements that make up this body. In modern scientific context you would say, it’s the four states of matter that make up this body. The solid molecules or atoms, the liquid atoms, the gaseous atoms, and the plasma atoms, which make up this body. that’s materiality. Mentality is what happens through the experience in the mind. You can say it’s stored in the brain, or however you want to put it, but it’s the experiences that you’re having in the way of the five factors of mentality:

  1. You have the faculty for feeling, which is your sixth sense bases, your five physical senses and the mind itself.
  2. The faculty for Perception, so you’re able to recognize through the process of memory, knowledge, and learning, what you are seeing, or what you are experiencing or cognizing.
  3. Then you have intention, which is through which the Formations are basically acting. When the Formations arise, that consciousness drives forward those Formations into the faculty of intention, creating the idea of saying a word for speaking, for doing an action, or for thinking and reflecting and feeling.
  4.   Then you have the faculty for contact, which is actually really the nervous system, if you will, which takes in that sensory information. It has the sensory input and creates the experience through that contact. It’s the bare contact between the photo-receptors and the photons for example.
  5. And then you have attention, which is what you’re doing when you’re applying mindfulness and that’s how the consciousness flows through attention. When you use your attention, you’re applying mindfulness in meditation. Attention really is to be able to understand and to let go of – through correct, proper attention -, the personalizing aspect of the other four factors of mentality.

So, that’s how you should see mentality-materiality. It’s all one thing; it’s the mind and the body. The materiality is just this body, it’s just the different four elements that make up the body. And mentality is all that is basically making you speak, making you think, making you act, making you feel, making you experience things.

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  

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.

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 6 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Yes, even in other traditions of Buddhism, like in Tibetan Buddhism, they talk about the bardo, and everything.

 Those periods of intervals don’t happen outside of the Mentality-Materiality, they still happen within the same Mentality. It might seem like it’s an interval period between one death and the next rebirth, but that interval period is happening in the Mentality, where the Kamma is searching for a suitable rebirth, a suitable point of conception. But it’s still within the Mentality of that same being before they’re dying.

It’s incredibly fast, it could be split seconds, it could be even faster than that, but it might seem like it’s slower, where the Kamma is searching for within the Mentality of that being.

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  

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

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.

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.

  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

Sutta Explanations

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.

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 

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.

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

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. 

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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.

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

Feeling itself is dependent upon contact, right. Feeling means the sensory experiences that you’re having, and the mind experiencing the mental objects. The mind and the sixth sense base – which are the five physical senses, and the mind – are rooted within the mentality and materiality. Mentality-materiality make up your mind and your body. This is one way of looking at it. The five physical senses – which are your sense faculties, the sense organs: e.g., your photo-receptors in your eye, the auditory nerves in your ear, the olfactory nerves, all of those different kinds of things – are all rooted within mentality and materiality. That’s why the sixth sense base is conditioned by, or dependent upon, mentality-materiality.

It’s only through the sixth sense base that contact can be made with the outside world, as it were. What we experience in the way of the sixth sense base, is the world. This is what the Buddha calls the ‘all’ or’ the world’. Which is to say that there is no one objective reality. Everything that we see as reality, is through our own individual sixth sense base. And because that is dependent upon those sixth sense bases, the contact that arises is dependent upon that. When there’s contact with the outside world, with the sixth sense bases – photons hitting the photo-receptors; sound waves hitting the auditory nerves; olfactory molecules hitting the nose; flavor molecules hitting the tongue, and so on and so forth -, these are all dependent upon contact. This hitting that I’m talking about is for example the sound waves making contact with, or stimulating, the auditory nerves. In that process, the experience of interpreting these sound waves – which are just waves in the air – as sound through the auditory nerves, is the feeling. It’s the bare sensation. Applying to that bare sensation the idea of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral – or neither painful nor pleasant – is the beginning of the perception aspect of the mind. So, the feeling is the sensory aspect, it’s the sensory experience of the mind. It’s after the contact is made, after the stimulation is made, you have the arising of the feeling. Perception is the naming aspect of what is being experienced, through recognizing what it is. As an example, that I often use; when you see the color blue, you immediately know it’s blue. Because you have recognized that it is blue through the Formations that created the memory. And that happens through having learned through your elders, through your parents, in a book, or whatever. It is that this is the color blue and now you always recognize it as the color blue, through the conceptual perception of it. So, perception begins at naming what that feeling is, and it continues on to conceptual or mental proliferation, which then can cause craving if taken personal. And if not, it’s basically stopped right there and then.

Mentality-materiality in more detail

The simple way of understanding mentality-materiality is that the materiality is this body. It’s essentially the form, it’s the four elements that make up this body. In modern scientific context you would say, it’s the four states of matter that make up this body. The solid molecules or atoms, the liquid atoms, the gaseous atoms, and the plasma atoms, which make up this body. that’s materiality. Mentality is what happens through the experience in the mind. You can say it’s stored in the brain, or however you want to put it, but it’s the experiences that you’re having in the way of the five factors of mentality:

  1. You have the faculty for feeling, which is your sixth sense bases, your five physical senses and the mind itself.
  2. The faculty for Perception, so you’re able to recognize through the process of memory, knowledge, and learning, what you are seeing, or what you are experiencing or cognizing.
  3. Then you have intention, which is through which the Formations are basically acting. When the Formations arise, that consciousness drives forward those Formations into the faculty of intention, creating the idea of saying a word for speaking, for doing an action, or for thinking and reflecting and feeling.
  4.   Then you have the faculty for contact, which is actually really the nervous system, if you will, which takes in that sensory information. It has the sensory input and creates the experience through that contact. It’s the bare contact between the photo-receptors and the photons for example.
  5. And then you have attention, which is what you’re doing when you’re applying mindfulness and that’s how the consciousness flows through attention. When you use your attention, you’re applying mindfulness in meditation. Attention really is to be able to understand and to let go of – through correct, proper attention -, the personalizing aspect of the other four factors of mentality.

So, that’s how you should see mentality-materiality. It’s all one thing; it’s the mind and the body. The materiality is just this body, it’s just the different four elements that make up the body. And mentality is all that is basically making you speak, making you think, making you act, making you feel, making you experience things.

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  

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.

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 6 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Yes, even in other traditions of Buddhism, like in Tibetan Buddhism, they talk about the bardo, and everything.

 Those periods of intervals don’t happen outside of the Mentality-Materiality, they still happen within the same Mentality. It might seem like it’s an interval period between one death and the next rebirth, but that interval period is happening in the Mentality, where the Kamma is searching for a suitable rebirth, a suitable point of conception. But it’s still within the Mentality of that same being before they’re dying.

It’s incredibly fast, it could be split seconds, it could be even faster than that, but it might seem like it’s slower, where the Kamma is searching for within the Mentality of that being.

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  

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

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

Consciousness can only be reckoned, measured, through the experience of the Six Sense bases. There is the consciousness that arises from the Contact. You have the sensory consciousness of the eye, you have the consciousness of the visual object – that is in the external reality, so to speak – and then you have the consciousness of the seeing itself. So, in each of the six sense bases there is a triad of consciousness, you could say that there are altogether 18 different types of consciousnesses, depending upon where you put your attention to.

When the suttas talk about that – and in particular Sariputta talks about that – he says that it’s sort of an interlinking between Consciousness and Mentality-Materiality. You cannot really experience the eye without consciousness, for example, but at the same time you are conscious of something through the eye.

On a broader scale, on a macrolevel, through the process of Rebirth, it’s consciousness that then gets linked with a certain Mentality-Materiality. It gets linked at conception with the fetus or whatever it might be; Mentality or Mentality-Materiality. As the experience of that Mentality-Materiality starts to arise, there is a consciousness which links through it and experiences that Feeling. There is a consciousness before Mentality-Materiality and there is a consciousness that arises after it links with that Mentality-Materiality. However, it’s the same consciousness in the flow of that consciousness.

And when I say that, in the Mentality-Materiality, when you have the experience of the eye, that same consciousness arises, or is conditioned by Formations. Formations in this regard, unless you become an arahant, are conditioned by Ignorance. But how does the Formation arise? It arises through Contact, through Feeling and Perception. Primarily through Contact and Feeling, in that when you have contact with the outside world, let’s say you have the visual sensation, you have the visual object; upon having that contact, the Formations related to seeing that arise, then activate the consciousness and that consciousness links with the six sense base. Particularly with the eye, and that same consciousness experiences the triad of the eye consciousness, the visual object consciousness, and the Feeling or the sensation of seeing consciousness.

It always begins with Formations and you have to see that it happens so fast. At the level of the Base of Infinite Consciousness, you experience something like up to two million per second of consciousnesses arising and passing away. The actual links of Dependent Origination are several, several times faster. As soon as you make contact with light, as soon as the photons hit the receptors, you have already activated Formations, which activate Consciousness and through attention you experience, whether it’s the eye, whether it’s the photons or whether it’s the seeing of whatever is being shown. So, it’s one and the same thing; they are interdependent.

You will read in a later sutta, which is part of this program, where Sariputta talks about Ignorance and the Defilements, or the Taints. He says those two are interdependent; Ignorance is conditioned and caused by the taints, but at the same time the taints arise because of Ignorance. There is always an interdependency.

As I said earlier, the Formations will arise, based on Contact. This means that the flow of Dependent Origination, while on a broader scale might seem linear, is actually cyclical. But within that cycle of DO, are smaller cycles, from Contact to Formations and so on. And within that is embedded the cycle of the Five Aggregates, which are then embedded within the Mentality-Materiality, so it’s circles within circles within circles; it’s a spiral thing.

Watch it here

Category: Sutta Explanations

Short overview of The twelve links of Dependent Origination:

Ignorance – Not understanding the Four Noble Truths

Formations – verbal, mental and physical

Consciousness

Mentality-Materiality

Six Sense Base

Contact

Feeling

Craving

Clinging

Being / Habitual Tendencies

Birth

Aging and Death – the entire mass of suffering

Dependent Origination in ordinary people

With Ignorance as condition, the Formations that arise are already fettered with craving and sense of self. With these Formations as condition, Consciousness that arises, is taken to be “mine” and then the six Sense base is also taken to be “mine.”

The Mentality-Materiality link is where concepts take hold, and one is then identifying the sense of self with those concepts, checking through the self and other, or the world. The world is made to be experienced through the senses, with Mentality-Materiality as the operating system.

When anything is experienced through the six Senses, Contact arises. When Contact arises, Feeling and sense Consciousness arise. Now, even before the Craving of “I am”, one has already considered self in the Senses, Contact, Feeling and Consciousness. Thus, this produces a painful or pleasurable feeling to “me”.

 Going back to the Feeling; this identification of that Feeling is Craving.

 The Clinging aspect is where self has now taken complete hold. Here, one “owns” the feeling and will not let it go. This is an instinctual grasping, that causes one to become fully established in the sense of self. It is a result of a deep sense of survival, from where the illusory sense of Craving for Existence arises.

Bhava [Being; Becoming; Habitual Tendencies] is the establishment in that illusion. It is the storing up of experiences that stick to a mis-perceived sense of self. It is the sense of comfort that exists for, and in, the delusion of self. Here, Kamma ripens.

For example, one eats chocolate ice cream. One craves it by identifying with it, by liking it. It pleases “me”. Now, one has grasped onto that Feeling and made chocolate ice cream a part of the self, of an identity. Here, if one is given anything other than chocolate ice cream, one is not fully satisfied as the self would see it. This is Bhava. These are the Habitual Tendencies where self has taken hold, and is then Born through an action, words or thought, causing suffering to the self. 

 Bhava is the reactionary aspect of self that causes Kamma.

Dependent Origination in a fully Awakened being

With Ignorance destroyed, no tainted Formations arise. Consciousness occurs without Craving or self. Nama-rūpa [Mentality-Materiality] has become reformatted as it were, to use the OS analogy. Here, the Senses are pure. When then the Feeling arises, it is taken to be an occurrence, and not belonging to a self. Thus, Craving cannot occur. Craving gone, how can one Cling? When one doesn’t Cling, how could any self become established? With no reaction occurring in Bhava, Kamma cannot stick. Suffering cannot take hold.

The pure Mind of the Arahant

In such a mind, there is pure occurring. Pure action, void of self. Tendencies have been rooted out, because Ignorance has been uprooted. This whole mass of suffering has been seen, and its machinery has been seen. How then can one continue to see self, or permanence in anything?  Here, Bhava can no longer have an establishment. Hence, there is the birthless. Hence, there is the deathless. Hence, there is the Unconditioned, Nibbana.

Category: Sutta Explanations

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.

Watch it here

Psychic abilities are a result of Kamma.

An example of that can be found in the case of Anuruddha. In the Therāgāthā – the stories of the early arahant monks – it says that Anuruddha lit an oil lamp for one of the previous Buddhas, Sumedha, while the latter would meditate beneath a tree. As a kammic result, in his final rebirth, Anuruddha was praised by the Buddha Gotama, as being foremost in developing the Divine Eye. He was able to see beyond the physical eye, viewing beings in a thousand world-systems.  

One may be able to develop such psychic abilities, whether one has entered the Stream or not, and whether one has completed the Noble Eightfold Path or not. 

 It is a matter of practice and unlocking such abilities through the development of mind, using the jhanas. 

 However, final knowledge of the Destruction of Craving / Ignorance / the Fetters and Taints, supersedes all other abilities.

An arahant could develop them, but would not have an inclination to develop these abilities. 

Category: Sutta Explanations

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

Movement is a bodily Formation.

 I would not say the three Formations are necessarily interwoven. They are categorizations of different experiences that are caused by them.

In the case of mental Formations, they cause the Feeling and Perception. The sensations, the experience within and without the body and mind, and the perceptions that are tied to it.

The physical Formations, generally and traditionally speaking from the suttas, are related to the breath, first and foremost. But there is also the decision-making process arising from that Formation to move a limb, for example. I would also categorize that under the physical Formations, but that is the way I would view it.

The vocal or verbal Formations are really the Formations that arise from your Perception. What I mean by that is; right now, you perceive that I am speaking to you. And you are listening to what I say. In your mind you might start to be making thoughts, as a response to what I’m telling you. So, the perception that you experience in the way of listening and understanding what is spoken, then conditions or activates the Formations, that create or condition the speech that you may have in the way of responding to what I might be telling you.

They are not interconnected, but they arise so quickly, in the way of how Contact arises, that they seem like they may be interwoven.

For example, when you’re in meditation, or when you are just sitting down and you make a body movement, you move a limb. You notice that it also creates thoughts in the mind, or it creates other kinds of mental Formations, but that is caused and conditioned by the Contact. It will actually spurt out, if you will, two different types of Formations. First of all, the physical Formation had already taken place when you moved the limb and as a reaction to that, you had the thought of moving the limb. That created further thought patterns.

These two things are like forks in the road; you started first with moving the limb, but that process was conditioned by a physical Formation. That process of movement didn’t cause or condition or activate a physical Formation; it was the other way around. The other fork in the road is a result of having moved. They are thoughts that arise, based on the mental Formations, that come from the Contact of having moved the limb.  

Watch it here

Category: Sutta Explanations

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.

  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

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 process of Feeling is such that Perception and cognition follow it right after. In the case of the links of Dependent Origination, when you have Feeling, the feeling itself when the Buddha describes it – and this is how I view it – before the bare sensation or the bare feeling that arises, it is just that; Feeling. But as soon as you apply onto it the concept of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral – or neither painful nor pleasant – that naming, that understanding of it, is the Perception that’s tied to the Feeling.

In the case of the links of Dependent Origination, as you have Contact and Feeling, you recognize the Perception that is in the Feeling. Meaning, you recognize through the perception, whether that feeling is painful or pleasant. If you take that to be personal, and if you start to attach to it, that’s when the Craving arises.

Perception can lead to two; it can either lead to more mental proliferation, in the way of Craving, Clinging and so on, by taking it personal – and taking it personal is another kind of perception that arises. Or you can have Wise Perception, or the attention rooted in reality – in Pali that’s yoniso manasikara – which is to say; you see through that Feeling, you see the Emptiness of that feeling. You see the not-self aspect, the impermanent aspect and you see it’s not worth holding on to. Therefore, that whole process is Perception in and of itself. It’s inherent within the Feeling when you name it.

In the chat is mentioned a very good point; Feeling can condition Craving or from Feeling can arise insight, or Wisdom. That’s a very good observation, two roads from Feeling.  

Watch it here

Category: Sutta Explanations

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

When I talked about sensory experiences, it’s the five physical senses – the eye, ear, smell, taste, touch – and the mind.

But there are also sensations in relation to Contact, internal and external contact of the body. That can also relate to the mind, particularly in the Five Aggregates.

 In either case, the sensory experiences are still part of the mental faculties, because all of this ultimately is experienced through the process of mind.

Watch it here

Sati – Mindfulness – is what sees Dependent Origination.

It is Mindfulness that views Dependent Origination.

This mindfulness is rooted in the faculty of Attention.

Category: Sutta Explanations

Consciousness is dependent upon the six Sense Bases.

It is the process of Perception that understands the arising and passing away of consciousness.

This perception is dependent upon Feeling.

Feeling is dependent upon Contact.

Contact is dependent upon the six Sense Bases.

The observation that arises happens through Mentality, which encompasses the faculties of Contact, Feeling, Perception, Intention and Attention.

It is specifically Attention through which the arising and passing away of Consciousness is observed.

Category: Sutta Explanations
  1. Ignorance
  2. Formations – physical, verbal and mental
  3. Consciousness
  4. Mentality-Materiality (also called Name-and-Form, or Nama-Rupa)
  5. Six Sense Bases
  6. Contact
  7. Feeling
  8. Craving
  9. Clinging
  10. Being (also called Becoming or Habitual Tendencies)
  11. Birth
  12. Aging and Death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair

In the future we will explore what Dependent Origination is, the importance of it for the practice and an in-depth look at each Link.

Category: Sutta Explanations

The Buddha used the Pali word  “Dana” to describe generosity. Activating generosity within us is the first instruction the Buddha gave to lay people. It was his first step teaching us to open our hearts to help make us successful in life and in spiritual development.

The Buddha taught three kinds of Dana: Generosity of Mind, Generosity of Speech, and Generosity through Bodily actions. 

Generosity of Mind means to cultivate wholesome thoughts to support yourself and those around you.

Generosity of Speech means to use kind and wise words with good intention to help yourself and others to be successful in life. 

Generosity of Bodily Actions means the direct act of offering Dana as described above or doing those deeds that help your family, teachers, and others in your life whenever there is need.

Dana for the monastic community

In Asia, lay community members support programs and activities at monasteries and meditation centers. They provide goods and services to sustain their highly valued role in society. These traditional communities make it possible to build housing; provide transportation; clothing; food; and medicine to monastics, so that they can dedicate themselves full time in teaching and preserving the riches of wisdom and compassion found in the Buddha’s Teachings.

Category: Sutta Explanations

Here you can find a huge list of interesting Sutta References.

They contain proof, definitions and hard to find references.

Category: Sutta Explanations