Questions and Answers

Daily Life

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

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Aquiring a pause when we respond

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

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

[Question was posed by a little child]

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

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

Would that work? [Laughter]

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

Watch it here

See also this talk on happiness

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[person that asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

[Delson laughs]

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

Meditation

If it is at all possible, just continue like you do during walking meditation; Radiate Loving-kindness to all beings you encounter. Whenever you get distracted, you apply the 6R’s.

If you are doing extremely complicated stuff, you might still be able to radiate, though maybe not as strongly.

If you can’t practice, just Smile all the time. A little smile on the lips, and smile from the heart.

Category: Meditation

A reaction is immediate and filled with taking everything personal. There is a felt need to control the situation. It arises from ego, putting yourself first. Seen from Dependent Origination, it can be considered the link of Birth of action.

Therefore, it doesn’t provide a space for thoughtful reflection. In choosing to react, one acts out of Craving. When Craving overcomes one, one cannot act with wisdom and understanding. One might choose to cause harm, whether through thoughts, words, or actions.

A response is reflective, arising from wisdom and selflessness, provided through the Brahma Viharas. It provides a pause between what you have received through your senses, and the output you provide to the world. It’s like a little gap, giving a moment to reflect, which leads to a Response without ego.

Here, one acts from wisdom. As such, one is attentive to each situation as it occurs, always being understanding and mindful, speaking or acting out of Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity or Tranquility. In this case one does not harm another through thoughts, words, or actions.

An acronym that might be helpful to learn to respond, is PAUSE

P =  Patience

A = Analysis

U = Understanding

S = Stopping Thoughts, letting them go

E = Eradicating Reaction

Category: Meditation

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

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

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

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

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

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

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Aquiring a pause when we respond

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

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

[Question was posed by a little child]

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

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

Would that work? [Laughter]

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

Watch it here

See also this talk on happiness

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[person that asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

[Delson laughs]

Watch it here

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[person that asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

[Delson laughs]

Watch it here

Sutta Explanations

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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