Questions and Answers

Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

In the case of rebirth, on the macro level, one consciousness links into another Mentality-Materiality at the point of death, at the very deep layers of mind.

You might have heard of people that have had near-death experiences, or things like that. It’s happening in the mind, in the Mentality of the Mentality-Materiality. What’s happening is that the Formations are arising and producing these experiences. So then, that consciousness attaches to it through craving, clinging, and identifying. This happens with intention.

In the case of one who is experiencing death, there will be memories that arise, there will be other images that arise, and these are all different Formations coming to fruition. They’re coming into the mind’s eye, if you will, in the way of images, as I just said. Then, if any part of the mind attaches craving to it, attaches that sense of Ignorance that there’s a self here, then – through intention of attaching to that Formation – there is a new consciousness that arises. This spontaneously links with a new Mentality-Materiality, at the point of conception. That consciousness drives forward all the Formations that it attaches to. Those Formations will be at the foreground of that birth, so it will manifest in the form of a birth, related to those kinds of Formations.

This is why, when someone is dying, it’s important to keep them in a state of comfort, to keep them in a state of good feelings, good Formations, and good thoughts and experiences. Because that can relate to a better rebirth, or better circumstances for better rebirth.

Having said that, that does not mean that there are certain Formations related to negative experiences or negative Kamma that won’t come to fruition. They will still manifest, even if you have a ‘positive’ birth, or better circumstances.

On the flipside, if you are in a negative situation and you have a negative birth, so to speak, there will still be the seeds of the positive Formations that will still take root through the experiences that you have.

So, it’s not necessarily completely black and white. But what I’m saying is, to simplify, when at the point of death, you see these experiences; if there is clinging to them, if there is attachment to them, if there’s identification to them, the intention to attach to them drives forward the Consciousness. It transfers all those Formations and links spontaneously through that process of rebirth, to a new Mentality-Materiality, at the point of conception. That creates the rest of the links of Dependent Origination, on the macro level. In the case of a human birth, that consciousness dissipates, and more consciousnesses arise within the development of that fetus, in the womb. And then, of course, the physical birth happens for that being.

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Categories: Daily Life, Online Retreat

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

In the case of rebirth on the macro level, one consciousness links into another Mentality-Materiality at the point of death, in the very deep layers of mind. You might have heard of people who have had near-death experiences. This happens in the mind, in the mentality of the Mentality-Materiality. The Formations are arising and produce these experiences, and then that consciousness attaches to it through clinging, identifying, and craving and that happens with intention.

When one is experiencing death, there will be memories that arise, there will be other images that arise, and these are all different Formations coming to fruition. These are coming into the mind’s eye if you will. If any part of the mind attaches craving to it, attaches that sense of ignorance that there is a self here, then through intention of attaching to that Formation, there arises a new consciousness that spontaneously links with a new Mentality-Materiality at the point of conception.  Then, that consciousness drives forward all the Formations that it attaches to. So, those Formations will be at the foreground of that birth. It will manifest in the form of a birth related to those kinds of Formations.

Which is why, when someone is dying, it is important to keep them in a state of comfort, in a state of good feelings and good Formations, and good thoughts and experiences, because that can relate to a better rebirth, or better circumstances.

Having said that, it does not mean certain Formations, related to negative experiences or negative Kamma, will not come to fruition. They will still manifest, even if you have a ‘positive’ birth or better circumstances.

And on the flip side, if you are in a negative situation and you have a negative rebirth, so to speak, there will still be the seeds of the positive Formations that will still take root through the experiences that you have.

It is not necessarily completely black and white, but to simplify; when at the point of death, you see these experiences, if there is clinging to them, if there is attachment to them, if there’s identification to them, the intention to attach to them drives forward the consciousness and transfers all those Formations and links spontaneously through that process of rebirth, to a new Mentality-Materiality at the point of conception. That creates the rest of the links of Dependent Origination on the macro level, to where there is a being, in the case of a human birth, that gets born [arises in the womb] and their consciousness dissipates and then more consciousnesses arise within the development of that fetus in the womb.  And then of course, the physical birth happens for that being.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

  Formations are, as I always say, the carriers of Kamma. It’s the kammic impulses. It’s always the Formations that start to form the images and the feelings and so on.

But it’s the consciousness, which is hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, which is to say that it takes that to be self. It takes the images that it sees to belong to a sense of self, and it craves for that being. So, because of that, that intention of craving drives forward that consciousness. I mentioned in the past that the faculty of intention is rooted in the Mentality-Materiality. It’s through that, that the process of the Formations arise and that gives way to the intention behind speaking, thinking and reflecting, and  behind acting, breathing and so on.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

No, they cannot. If a meditator becomes a sotāpanna, a stream-enterer without fruition, at the dissolution of the body, at death, they will attain fruition of sotāpanna at that point in time. Their attainment, once they become a stream-enterer, is basically set, It’s not like they can go back. At the point of death they will have fruition and the lower realms will no longer be open for them. 

With fruition it becomes solidified. The doubt goes away completely; there’s no more identity view, where there’s a sense of permanent self in anything; and of course, the belief in rites and rituals gets completely eradicated. Even at the point of stream entry, the entry into the Path, those fetters are destroyed. The fruition basically just solidifies it.

I want to give one little caveat here. The paths and the fruitions are not always so clearly defined in the suttas. There is mention of the other levels of Sakadāgāmi and Anāgāmi, and there might be some places where they do talk about Path and Fruition, but they are not so clearly defined.

Having said that, once you become a stream-enterer and you pass away without attaining anything further, at the level of death, you will still have the fruition and you won’t have any more that potential of entering any of the lower realms below the human realm.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

At that time there is no identification with that intention. So, in the case of an arahant -somebody who is fully realized and fully enlightened -, ignorance is no longer conditioning or hindering the Formations. And craving and conceit are no longer fetters within the Formations. Ignorance is replaced by Right View. Whenever the Formations arise in the arahant, it is due to contact, kammic contact. So, they are experiencing the effects of old Kamma [created] prior to full awakening.  The Formations, as kammic carriers, will take these kammic seeds or the kammic effects of the old actions, old thoughts, and old deeds and speech from prior to full awakening, and they will carry forward into the consciousness, which will drive forward in intention. But all throughout that process, there is no sense of involvement of a of a personal self. It is just being seen with mindfulness as a series of impersonal processes.

 When someone like the Buddha or an arahant monk in the suttas says: “It occurred to me”, they are using conventional language that the thought came into mind. But the thought came into mind because of the Formations, and then the intention to say for instance maybe I’ll go out for alms today at this place. Or, maybe I’ll go visit these people at this place.

Even though it is using language that is very conventional. the understanding behind it, deep down, is that it’s all impersonal. There is no taking personal the intention, and since there is no craving or identifying with the intention, the intention is completely void of any form of fettered Formations, void of any craving, void of any identification.

So, when that intention drives forward, it will continue on without creating any potential for craving to arise, for any potential for identifying with the feeling that arises at the level of thought, or at the level of the sensory experiences.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

That is right, yes.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

In further iterations we are planning to create modules and mind maps, so that you can see the ‘circles within circles’ [within the links of Dependent Origination], because it is really a lot of different circles within circles.

But just so you have a little bit of a general understanding: the Formations get activated through the process of Contact primarily, so the ignorance in a being who has not yet obtained arahantship will still continue to condition the Formations. The Formations themselves arise because of Contact. The process of Contact, of Feeling and Perception will then activate the Formation, which will then drive forward a new Consciousness. And that will be experienced through the sensory experiences. Then, at the level of Perception, there is another point where the Formations which are related to memory and learning – which allows the perception aspect of the mind to recognize -, what that sensory experience is, or what is being cognized. That’s another sort of circle that you see.

Then, at the level of craving, that can drive forward another circle, which strengthens specific Formations that are fettered by craving, ignorance and conceit, whenever you identify with it.

But any time that, at the level of sensory experience, you don’t identify with it, don’t crave it, and you don’t avert it, that actually creates another cycle in which the Formations that are rooted in Right View, get strengthened and the fettered Formations – fettered by craving, ignorance and conceit – start to weaken.

At a certain point, when there is a deep understanding – whether it’s after the Cessation experience, or however one makes contact with the Nibbāna experience -, there is an opportunity for those fetters to completely drop away.  It can happen in stages, where one gets into sotāpanna, sakadagami, anāgāmi, and arahant.

 Depending upon how well the mind is in a state of non-grasping, non-involvement, and non-attachment, if it’s deeply non-grasping, not taking anything personal, the fetters will completely drop away. It’s the remainderless fading away of craving, the destruction of craving and conceit.  When the Nibbāna element is contacted and the feeling is there and you don’t identify with it, the conceit that creates that identification process doesn’t have anything to latch onto, because there’s no activity there. It will just drop away.

Likewise for the other fetters, likewise for the projections or the defilements.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

  No, once you had a Nibbāna experience, that unlocks, so to speak, the next attainment for you.

When you have attained arahantship, you can continue to attain Nibbāna over and over and make it your object of meditation, conventionally speaking. But that is the end of the path, the fruition of the path.

  Every time you attain Nibbāna, it’s the unlocking of a new attainment until you have full fruition at arahantship.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

It’s always starting at the point of Formations.

 From the Formations all the way to Feeling, all of that you should consider to be old Kamma; things that are the inherited effects of choices you made in the past. And then from craving onwards, after you perceive it to be personal, after you have the perception that this is personal and identify with it, the craving then builds into clinging. That clinging creates more of the accumulated tendencies, which creates a sense of being. This being is what strengthens the fetters of conceit and the Projection of Being.

Every time there is a strong sense of being, it strengthens the fetter of being and conceit within the Formations that are being influenced by the Projection of Being, the craving for being or craving for non-being. Likewise when you take personal sensory experiences, that creates a feedback loop that strengthens the fetters of sensual craving within the Formations that are being influenced by the Projection of sensual craving.  As you continue doing this, it also strengthens the ignorance. Which is that you lose sight of what’s going on, and you lose sight of the four Noble Truths and of understanding how this entire process works.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

  They are still identifying with the process of coming out of Cessation. There’s still identification going on, the fetter of conceit is still there.

One thing I want to make clear is to not equate Cessation of Perception and Feeling and Nibbāna as one and the same.  It’s the experience of coming out of Cessation of Perception and Feeling, seeing the links of Dependent Origination as they arise without any involvement, and then making contact with the Nibbāna element.

At the level of contact with the Nibbāna element, there is some sense of relief that arises. That relief is the feeling that one experiences, or that is experienced by the mind.

The anāgāmi does not crave for that feeling. They don’t expect that feeling to continue to be there, but at the same time they identify with the Dhamma, they still identify with the process, and there is still that conceit in them where they have this sense of I have attained this or I have experienced this. The gateway into arahantship is that there is complete detachment with the whole  process, when it arises again after Cessation of Perception and Feeling and you see the links. There is complete non-involvement in any of the arising of the links and when the mind contacts the Nibbāna element, at that point it is just seen as an impersonal and impermanent process, and not worth holding on to. So, even that relief is not held onto. And because there is no identification and holding on to that relief, the fetters associated with identification, particularly conceit – upon which the fetters of restlessness, the craving for being and the craving for non-being are based – and Ignorance are destroyed once and for all. Because now you fully understand the four Noble Truths and no longer identify with anything and there is the understanding that any identification process leads to suffering. Therefore, the mind is no longer prone to do that.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

  You want to continue to let go, because even within the meditation, if you start identifying with it by looking at it and paying attention to it, from there craving and proliferation could arise. You don’t want that to happen. The only thing to do at that point is to always 6R it, always to let go of the Formations.

If you pay attention to the Formations, it’s not only going to create craving and proliferation, but it’s going to take you obviously out of the jhana. And then it’s going to create further craving, which will create further Formations.

Instead, when you see it, allow it to be there, understand that it’s there and 6R it and come back to your object.

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

Not every Cessation will be followed by Nibbāna, especially in the case of an anāgāmi [who can, after practicing, enter Cessation at will for a long time].

What’s important to see is the contact with the Nibbāna element. You don’t require Cessation to attain Nibbāna. Nibbāna can occur from the first jhana onwards. If you can be in a state where you are completely letting go and not grasping onto anything, not grasping onto any of the Formations that create the factors of the jhana, you can attain Nibbāna from that point on.

 And then of course, there are cases in the suttas where there are beings who attain arahantship by just merely listening and reflecting deeply on the Dhamma. So, Nibbāna can happen even without Cessation. 

[Comment]

To add to that, in the Therīgāthā and the Theragāthā, which are suttas from the earliest arahant nuns and monks, often they see for instance a bucket with water falling over and seeing the water flow out, they attain arahantship. I’m guessing they are in a permanent meditative state with that, but it’s not always in sitting meditation.

[Answer]

 Exactly, that is true. And just to round out what you just said regarding just seeing something and being able to reflect on it without having to be in sitting meditation, in the case of  beings like Bahiya [Ud 1.10] who went to the Buddha and just by listening to the Buddha’s discourse on not self, and seeing not self in any aspect of the seeing and the cognizing and so forth, he was able to let go of all his attachments, let go of all the defilements, and then attain arahantship.

So, there are different ways that this can happen. It’s not just precluded by Cessation.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Primarily, the feeling that is experienced after contacting the Nibbāna element, is the cooling that you just mentioned, the relief. That primarily happens in the mind. There are sometimes statements by the Buddha where he talks about the body contacting the Nibbāna element, but essentially that means that the body is also part of the mind as well. It can manifest in some sense as a physical sense of relief. One of the ways that for example bhante Vimalaramsi explains it is that it’s like an ocean of suffering that you know have complete relief from. Your shoulders feel so relaxed because the burden has been lifted and laid down. So, in that in that regard it can feel physical, but it primarily happens on a mental level.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Formations are, as I always say, the carriers of Kamma. It’s the kammic impulses. It’s always the Formations that start to create the images, that start to form the images and the feelings, and so on. But it’s the Consciousness, if you read today’s sutta which is: when it is hindered by Ignorance and fettered by craving – which is to say that it takes that to be self, it takes the images that it sees to belong to a sense of self – and it craves for that being.

Because of that, that intention of craving drives forward that consciousness.

 The faculty of Intention is rooted in the Mentality-Materiality. It’s through this, that the process of the Formations arise. That gives way to the intention behind speaking, behind thinking and reflecting, and behind acting, breathing, and so on.

[Question]

So the intention, let’s say, when not taking it personal, no personal involvement, doesn’t vanish but changes? Is it still there because you have to interact with the world?

[Answer]

Yes, at that time there’s no identification with that intention. In the case of an Arahant – somebody who’s fully realized and fully enlightened – Ignorance is no longer conditioning or hindering the Formations. And craving and conceit are no longer fetters within the Formations. Ignorance is replaced by Right View. Whenever the Formations arise, it’s due to Contact, Kammic contact. So, prior to full Awakening, they are experiencing the effects of old Kamma. The Formations, as Kammic carriers, will take the Kammic seeds, the Kammic effects of the old actions, old thoughts, and old deeds and speeches, that happened prior to full Awakening, and they will carry forward into the Consciousness. This will drive forward in intention.

But all throughout that process, there’s no sense of involvement, of a personal self. It’s just being seen, with Mindfulness, as a series of impersonal processes.

So, when someone like the Buddha, or an Arahant monk in the sutta says “It occurred to me….” they’re using conventional language that the thought came into mind. But the thought came into mind because of the Formations, and then the intention to say that maybe I’ll go out for alms today at this place or maybe I’ll go visit these people at this place, and so on and so forth.

Even though it’s using language that is very conventional, the understanding behind it, deep down, is that it’s all impersonal. There is no taking personal the intention. And since there is no craving or identifying with the intention, the intention is completely void of any fettered Formations, void of any craving and void of any identification.

 When that intention drives forward, it will still continue on without creating any potential for craving to arise, for any potential for identifying with the Feeling that arises, at the level of thought or at the level of the sensory experiences.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

No, they cannot.

 If a meditator becomes a Sotāpanna, a stream-enterer without fruition, what will happen is that at the point of the dissolution of the body, at the point of death, they will attain fruition of Sotāpanna at that point in time.

 Their attainment, once they become a stream-enterer, is basically set. It’s not like they can go back, and the lower realms will no longer be open for them.

At the dissolution of the body, they will attain fruition of stream-entry, which is where it becomes solidified. The doubt goes away completely, there’s no more identity view – where there’s a sense of permanent self in anything – and of course the belief in rites and rituals are completely eradicated. Even in the entry into the Path, those fetters are destroyed. The fruition is basically what just solidifies it.

But I also want to give one little caveat here that the Path and the Fruitions are not always so clearly defined in the suttas. There is mention of the other levels of sakadāgāmī and anāgāmi,  and there might  be some places where they do talk about Path and Fruition, but they’re not so clearly defined.

Having said that, as I said, once you become a stream-enterer and you pass away without attaining anything further, at the level of death, at the point of dissolution, you will still have the fruition. And you won’t have any more that potential of entering any of the lower realms, below the human realms.

Fruition is experiencing Nibbāna the second time.

[Question]

Can one experience Nibbāna without attaining the next stage?

[Answer]

  No, once you have a Nibbāna experience, that unlocks, so to speak, the next attainment for you.

And then, at the level of arahantship, you can continue to attain Nibbāna over and over and over, make it your object of meditation, conventionally speaking. But that’s the end of the Path, that’s the Fruition of the Path.

So, every time you attain Nibbāna, it’s the unlocking of a new attainment, until you have full fruition at arahantship.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

[Question]

Non-returners can stay in Cessation for hours, yet they don’t become an arahant?

[Answer]

Because they’re still identifying with the process of coming out of Cessation. There’s still identification going on, which means that the fetter of conceit is still there.

One thing I want to make clear is; do not equate Cessation of Perception and Feeling and Nibbāna as one and the same. One experiences coming out of Cessation and sees the links, as they arise, without any involvement. Then, mind makes contact with the Nibbāna element.

At the level of contact with the Nibbāna element, there is some sense of relief that arises. That relief is the feeling that is experienced by the mind. The non-returner/ Anāgāmi doesn’t crave for that feeling. Which means, they don’t expect that feeling to continue to be there. But at the same time, they identify with the Dhamma. They still identify with the process, and there is still that conceit in them, where they have this sense of I have attained this or I have experienced this.

The gateway into arahantship is to see that to the whole process, when it arises again after Cessation of Perception and Feeling, and you see the links, there’s complete detachment. So, there’s complete non-involvement in any of the arising of the links and when the mind makes contact with the Nibbāna element, at that point that’s just seen as an impersonal process, seen as an impermanent process and not worth holding on to. Even that relief is not held onto.

And because there’s no identification and holding on to that relief, the fetters associated with identification, particularly conceit – upon which the fetters of restlessness, the craving for being and the craving for non-being are based -, and then Ignorance, is destroyed once and for all. Because now you fully understand the four Noble Truths.  no longer identify with anything and understand that any identification process leads to suffering. Because of that, the mind is no longer prone to do that.

Not every Cessation will be followed by Nibbāna, especially in the case of an anāgāmi. What’s important to see is that you don’t require Cessation to have Nibbāna. Nibbāna can occur from the first jhana onwards, that is to say, if you can be in a state – when you are in the first jhana onwards – where you are completely letting go  and not grasping onto anything, not grasping onto any of the Formations that create the factors of the jhana. By doing so, you can attain Nibbāna from that point on.

Of course, there are cases in the suttas where there are beings who attain arahantship upon just merely listening and reflecting deeply on the Dhamma. So, Nibbāna can happen even without Cessation.

[Comment]

 To add to that, in the Therīgāthā and the Theragāthā – which are basically suttas from the earliest arahant nuns and monks – often they see something like a bucket with water falling over.  And seeing the water flow out, they attain arahantship. I’m guessing they are in a permanent, meditative state with that, but it’s not always in sitting meditation.

[Answer]

Right, exactly, that’s true. And just to round out what you just said regarding just seeing something and being able to reflect on it without having to be in sitting meditation. In the case of beings like Bāhiya, who went to the Buddha and just listening to the Buddha’s discourse on not self, seeing not self in any aspect of the seeing, and the cognizing and so forth, he was able to let go of all his attachments, let go of all the defilements, and then attain arahantship. So there are different ways that this can happen, it’s not just precluded by Cessation.

[Question]

Can the relief that can be felt in the body after attaining Nibbāna be soft and cool?

[Answer]

Yes, primarily the feeling that is experienced after making contact with the Nibbāna element is the cooling that you just mentioned, the relief. That primarily happens in the mind. There are sometimes statements by the Buddha where he talks about the body making contact with the Nibbāna element, but essentially that also means that the body is part of the mind as well. So it can manifest in some sense as a physical sense of relief.

 One of the ways that bhante explains it is that it’s like an ocean of suffering that you have complete relief from. Your shoulders feel so relaxed because the burden has been lifted and laid down. So, in that regard, it can feel physical. But it primarily happens on a mental level.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

In the case of rebirth, on the macro level, one consciousness links into another Mentality-Materiality at the point of death, at the very deep layers of mind.

You might have heard of people that have had near-death experiences, or things like that. It’s happening in the mind, in the Mentality of the Mentality-Materiality. What’s happening is that the Formations are arising and producing these experiences. So then, that consciousness attaches to it through craving, clinging, and identifying. This happens with intention.

In the case of one who is experiencing death, there will be memories that arise, there will be other images that arise, and these are all different Formations coming to fruition. They’re coming into the mind’s eye, if you will, in the way of images, as I just said. Then, if any part of the mind attaches craving to it, attaches that sense of Ignorance that there’s a self here, then – through intention of attaching to that Formation – there is a new consciousness that arises. This spontaneously links with a new Mentality-Materiality, at the point of conception. That consciousness drives forward all the Formations that it attaches to. Those Formations will be at the foreground of that birth, so it will manifest in the form of a birth, related to those kinds of Formations.

This is why, when someone is dying, it’s important to keep them in a state of comfort, to keep them in a state of good feelings, good Formations, and good thoughts and experiences. Because that can relate to a better rebirth, or better circumstances for better rebirth.

Having said that, that does not mean that there are certain Formations related to negative experiences or negative Kamma that won’t come to fruition. They will still manifest, even if you have a ‘positive’ birth, or better circumstances.

On the flipside, if you are in a negative situation and you have a negative birth, so to speak, there will still be the seeds of the positive Formations that will still take root through the experiences that you have.

So, it’s not necessarily completely black and white. But what I’m saying is, to simplify, when at the point of death, you see these experiences; if there is clinging to them, if there is attachment to them, if there’s identification to them, the intention to attach to them drives forward the Consciousness. It transfers all those Formations and links spontaneously through that process of rebirth, to a new Mentality-Materiality, at the point of conception. That creates the rest of the links of Dependent Origination, on the macro level. In the case of a human birth, that consciousness dissipates, and more consciousnesses arise within the development of that fetus, in the womb. And then, of course, the physical birth happens for that being.

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Categories: Daily Life, Online Retreat

Sutta Explanations

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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