Questions and Answers

Meditation

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Birth can be looked at in two different ways. That is to say, death is just determination of life, the termination of the bodily processes, and the mental processes. That’s the dissolution of the body, let’s make sure that we’re clear on that, first and foremost.

Birth can be seen as birth of action, which is the Kamma coming into play, where you are having a sense of self that you are doing something. That’s the birth of action in one regard, and that happens continuously through just one lifetime. It can happen a trillion times because of the different actions that are happening with the intention, and so on and so forth.

Then the birth of, let’s say, a being. Being is basically bhava, which is really the accumulated tendencies. When you see the idea of a sense of self, it’s really all just this bundle of Kamma. It’s a bundle of different associations, a bundle of different ideas and concepts and mindsets, that create the sense of self. It’s all of these tendencies that you take together and that’s the accumulated tendencies that creates this sense of being. But you take that all away and there is no being, there is no permanent being there. It’s always changing, so when you have that sense of being and act from that sense of being. there is the birth of action.

 In the case of rebirth on the macro level, where you’re looking at Dependent Origination from that viewpoint, there is the being that is being conceived in the womb, in the case of a human birth. In the previous life, what happens is because of the Formations that arise at the point of death, in the deep layers of mind, there is craving or attachment to one of those Formations.  The consciousness that is carried forward through those Formations, then intends for rebirth. That creates the intention for rebirth. Then, those Formations are carried forth by that consciousness, which spontaneously links at the point of conception, which will then create the mentality and materiality. Which is in this case the fetus that grows in the womb. And there is already a sense of being and the Formations are starting to grow, and different Formations are starting to come into being, based on the experience of the fetus in the womb. So, there is still craving, there is still clinging because of the sensory inputs that start to arise when the sixth sense bases start to become developed, during the nine-month process of the conception of that being, of the making up of that being. That is ‘being’, that is becoming. Now that being is becoming, that’s the process of becoming a bhava. And then, birth happens, which then creates the birth of that being into this world, into this physical world. That’s one way to look at it through the process of macro level rebirth.

There’s a comment here in the chat that says: Even earlier than the fetus, the Buddha talks about the descent in the womb.

 Basically, that’s referring to when the consciousness that arises because of taking the previous Formation as personal and craving for it. That carries forward the consciousness, which will then descend into the womb. That will create, at conception, that being, that sense of being. But as soon as that consciousness takes root in that new mentality-materiality at conception, that consciousness dissipates and a new consciousness arises, based on the experience of that being. Even within the womb, already at conception, there’s trillions of arising’s and passing away’s of consciousnesses going on within that womb. It’s not the very same consciousness that continues to be experiencing things within the womb. It’s just that consciousness keeps arising and passing away in that fetus as well.

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Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Attention rooted in reality, which is how I chose to translate yoniso manasikara, is more related to being present, using the mindfulness of the present. To know what is arising in terms of the reality that’s unfolding. That’s how you should see attention rooted in reality. But then there is the evolution of that, as it starts to progress to attention, informed by the four Noble Truths, or attention informed by Right View.

In the case when Right View is established in an arahant, at the level of feeling, they see what is arising with that attention rooted in reality. They automatically understand it to be impersonal, to be impermanent and not worth holding on to.

  Mindfulness is translated from sati, which comes from the Sanskrit Smṛti. It is related to the English word of recollection, or memory. It’s remembering to keep one’s attention, or understanding where one’s attention is going, and then bringing it back to the object of meditation, in the case of meditation. Attention rooted in reality is just, in the passive sense of the word, the attention that one is using. But the mindfulness is the application of that attention to the mental object, or the object of meditation. So, when you have the application of using that intention towards the meditation object, that is mindfulness.

And then you have collectedness, which is the samadhi aspect. When that attention continuously flows towards the object of meditation, that creates a collected mind.

[Question]

Attention, in that sense, is triggered, or kicked off, by mindfulness?

[Answer]

 Yes, you can say that in the beginning it’s starting off with mindfulness. The mindfulness is the intention of paying attention. In the beginning process of meditation, when you start your meditating, you’re having the intention to pay attention to your object. That kicks it off. As your attention sways, you’re using the mindfulness to bring it back again.

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Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

The yogic concept of manas is mind. Buddhi is intellect, chitta in this case is consciousness, and ahamkara is the I-making, it’s the ego.

  Whereas vedana is feeling, sanna is perception, Saṅkhāra is more related to formations, and viññāṇa is consciousness.

So, there’s a difference between citta in the Sanskrit which translates to awareness, or consciousness, and viññāṇa in Pali. Viññāṇa, in Pali and Sanskrit, means the consciousness that divides. Meaning, it’s a consciousness that’s divided by the six sense bases. It’s a consciousness dependent upon the six sense bases. 

So, you can’t really equate them in the same way, because number one the philosophies behind yoga, and the yoga sutras, are different, than the philosophies behind the Buddha Dhamma. Even though they might use very similar or synonymous words, that might seem like they have the same meaning, in the context within each philosophy, they will have a different application. 

[Question]

Can you please explain that dividing consciousness?

[Answer]

Viññāṇa means, first of all: ñāṇa means knowledge. And vi is what is the dividing knowledge. It’s the knowledge of the sensory experiences. An easier way to understand it is cognition. That which cognizes, is consciousness, that’s always what’s said in the suttas. Cognition is the process of bare awareness of the object, or of the sensory experience, or of the six sense bases. This is viññāṇa.

 Citta, in the context of yoga, is more about the overarching consciousness that’s related to an eternal sense of the word, eternal sense of consciousness.

In the Buddhist context, consciousness is the consciousness that is dependent upon the six sense bases, and the experience of the six sense bases. There is also citta in Pali, in the Buddhist terminology and context, which I translate as mindset. I mean, there is citta which is very fast, and it’s really equated to the process of thinking, or the process of thought. But i see citta also as being a mindset, which is to say, a collection of thoughts. Mindsets can arise in a moment and disappear in a moment, or it can be there for lifetimes. It doesn’t matter .

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Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Yes, volition and Saṅkhāra are different. Sometimes the translations will, for whatever reason, say that Saṅkhāra are volitional activities, or volitional formations, or sometimes even equated to intention. But the Pali translation of volition, or what is intention, is cetanā.

The five factors of mentality, in mentality-materiality, are feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention. Through the faculty of feeling – and that is the six sense bases-, the process of feeling occurs. Through the faculty of perception – that is memory and recognition -, the process of perception and recognition occurs. Through the process of intention, this is how the formations flow through the consciousness. So, the consciousness carries forward those formations, and then is lodged into the faculty of intention, which creates the intention behind acting, behind behaving, behind speaking, and behind thinking or reflecting.

And then you have what is the process of contact, which is happening through the faculty of contact, within mentality. The process of contact is the stimulation that occurs when the outside world meets with the six sense bases. This happens through the faculty of contact and mentality. Attention, manasikara, is what you’re using for mindfulness, to be able to collect the mind towards an object and unify it around it. Attention doesn’t control but is able to perceive and understand whether to take any of these other four factors of mentality, and their processes, as permanent or impermanent, impersonal or personal, or worth holding on to or not worth holding on to.

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Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Meditation, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

Mentality-materiality in more detail

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

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

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

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Sutta Explanations

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

Mentality-materiality in more detail

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

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

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

Watch it here