Questions and Answers

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  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

Watch it here

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 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

Meditation

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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  

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Person asking the question]

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

[Delson]

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

[person who asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

[person that asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

 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 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  

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Person asking the question]

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

[Delson]

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

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

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

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Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

[person who asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

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Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

[person that asked the question]

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

[Delson]

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

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

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

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Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

 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]

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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.

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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  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 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