Questions and Answers

Meditation

One is in jhana when the hindrances are absent and when the Enlightenment Factors are present to some degree. For example, in the first and second jhana, there is present Joy. In the third and fourth jhana, there are more prevalent the factors of Equanimity and Tranquility. But in all jhanas, there is always present Mindfulness, Collectedness, Enthusiasm, and Investigation. As one reaches the arupa jhanas, these Factors become more refined and more balanced. 

In terms of conceit, being, ignorance and delusion, they will be present insofar as one considers a sense of self to any of these factors. However, that does not make the jhana unwholesome or ineffective. It is the insight of this, that arises from jhana itself.

Let’s break it down in the context of kamma. There is the wholesome kamma and the unwholesome kamma. At the mundane level of the Eightfold Path, one endeavors to scale up from the unwholesome kamma to the wholesome kamma. But even wholesome kamma creates an effect. It is a good effect, but nonetheless an effect that causes rebirth. This is because there is still Bhava – sense of being there – due to clinging to the factors of jhana, which can cause rebirth in the Formless Realms.

However, once one sees through this, letting go of conceit, then such activity of entering jhana, and other activities in general, do not produce more seeds of rebirth. Such activities are non-abiding or unconditioned, or simply understood as wholly impersonal. They can be labeled neutral to the extent that there is no sense of doer, or being, in those activities. Then one is functioning at the supramundane level of the Eightfold Path. Through such jhana practice, there is no sense of a meditator – just the meditating happening as an impersonal activity.

In short, so long as one is not absorbed and the enlightenment Factors are present, such jhana is wholesome, with potential to create positive states of existence.

When the arahant meditates, such jhana is also wholesome, but without the potential to create any state of existence.

If one is to extend this understanding towards the levels of awakening, it can be understood in this way:

For a worldling, they may produce wholesome actions, but without Right View, they have the potential of lower rebirths.

The Sotapanna [Stream-enterer], has Mundane Right View and has eradicated Doubt, Attachment to Self-Views and Attachment to Rites and Rituals, so they produce wholesome actions as well. Their future states of existence, if not having crossed further, will be in a human realm or higher, within the sensual planes of existence.

The Sakadagami [Once-Returner], has further reduced Craving and Ill Will. But since these are still present, if not having crossed further, they will also take rebirth in a human realm or higher, within the sensual planes of existence.

The Anagami [Non-Returner], has eradicated Craving and Ill Will. But because they still have Ignorance, Conceit, Restlessness, Craving for Existence and Non-Existence, while their actions are wholesome, and because they still have tendencies towards Conceit, Being and Ignorance, they will take rebirth beyond the sensual realms, into the Pure Abodes.

 An Anagami may cling to the jhanas, but not because of Mentality attaching Being to the relief. Rather their clinging is to the Dhamma itself, and because jhana is contained within the Dhamma, there is relishing for that sake, not for the mental relief itself. Thus, the Formations that arise are void of the craving arising because of the feelings from jhana, but they are still fettered by identifying with the jhana, and by extension the Dhamma. 

For the Arahant, because they have let go of all tendencies and fetters and defilements, no more potential for rebirth arises. Even if they produce wholesome actions, such actions don’t arise from a mentality that is rooted in Conceit or sense of doer.

In short, one is to understand that wholesome activities produce wholesome effects (and rebirths) only if they contain the sense of Being and self in them. Only at the level of Arahantship, the tendencies of conceit, being, and ignorance are fully destroyed, so any wholesome action taken is considered fruit-less, unable to produce any further new kamma.

This is why it is recommended that 

1) one doesn’t get absorbed in jhana [one-pointed concentration] because then, while no hindrances are present, no Factors of Awakening are present either. Or if they are, they are not observed and developed in a fruitful and effective manner. 

2) one doesn’t cling to jhana with a sense of self so that no Formations, rooted in the mental craving for jhana, can become strengthened and create the possibility of rebirth in a jhanic realm. Beyond this, no Formations rooted in the identifying with the Dhamma will arise either. 

The more one understands this, and the more one enters jhana without grasping and clinging, the more one wears away the fetters, Formations and tendencies. Because these would cause rebirths, related to that jhana that is being clung to. Or to the Dhamma itself, which causes rebirth in the Pure Abodes, which in turn leads one closer to Arahantship.

Category: Meditation

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

Self identity view is the view that there is a permanent sense of self, and that the permanent sense of self continues to take rebirth. So, that it’s the very same self that continues to take rebirth, lifetime after lifetime after lifetime, and that same sense of self is the inheritor of the past deeds, the effects of karma.

Whereas conceit is one of the higher fetters. When you become a Sotāpanna [Stream enterer], you destroy any sense of that kind of view, the identity view, and the idea that any of the Five Aggregates are self, or permanent self. When you destroy that fetter, there is still that sense of conceit. That conceit is the idea of attaching some sense of self, even if it’s impermanent, and identifying with that sense of self in any action, thought or word. Identifying it in the sense of any activity of the mind, whether it’s going into jhana, or doing anything else. And also comparing a sense of self with the outside world, comparing one’s sense of self with the other’s sense of self, so having the idea that there are other people who have a sense of self.

The difference is really this; the identity view, or the self-view, is the view in a permanent self. Once you destroy that, the conceit that’s there is still identifying with it, even though you know that there is no permanent self. There is still this sense of identification with it, there is still this attachment with it, and there is this still this use of I, me or mine with that sense of self, attaching and identifying with it.

An arahant [one who has attained full Awakening] can also use the words I, me or mine, but they use it for conventional purposes; behind those words there is no sense of any kind of self, permanent or impermanent, or whatever it might be.

 There’s another sutta that you might want to read called the Khemaka Sutta [Samyutta Nikāya 22.89] and in that, he talks about how the Five Aggregates arise and pass away. Briefly put, he talks about how the identity view is destroyed, but the conceit is like a underlying scent. It’s like the scent of a lotus, so there is still the sense of self, there’s still sense of identification, which is the result of having been going through lifetime after lifetime of the identification process.

It’s a matter of reconditioning the mind, reconditioning the Formations, by continually following the Eightfold Path, by continually establishing Right View by following the Eightfold Path. And then ultimately making choices, where one does not identify or cling to the jhanas, or cling to any sensory experience.

The more one does this, sees it and experiences the Three Characteristics of Existence [impermanence, impersonal and suffering] at the level of Feeling, the more one weakens the fetter in the Formations, and the Projections that fetter those Formations, that create that sense of being, that create that sense of self, in that conceit. Finally, that is destroyed when, at arahantship when you have that experience; there’s no identification anywhere happening with that experience.

Up until the level of an Anāgāmi [Non-Returner], the relief that is felt after Nirodha, after Cessation, there is still some identification there. Because of that identification, there is still Craving in the case of a Sotāpanna. And then at the level of a Sakadāgāmī [Once-Returner], that relief is felt, but not so much attached to, and therefore there is a weakening of the sensual Craving and the weakening of ill will.

At the level of an Anāgāmi, there is only the identification there, but there is no taking relief, in the sense of that being a sensory relief. It’s just understanding that it was a series of processes, a series of causes and conditions, but there’s still identification with the relief. There is the idea that the being says that I just experienced Nirodha.

At the level of arahantship, there is no identification with any of that process. The idea of I, me or mine is completely destroyed, so that sense of relief has no identification. The Nirodha, the Cessation has no identification, the process of contact with Nibbāna has no identification. Because there’s no identification, the fetters have no fuel to continue and just drop away. This is the remainderless fading away of desire, remainderless fading away of conceit, remainderless fading away of Ignorance. This is how it is processed.

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

All aspects are Samma Ditthi – Right View – and the reason why is because it’s replacing the unwholesome with the wholesome. This is arguably the most important part of that sutta. The more you understand how to cultivate the wholesome and uproot the unwholesome, the more you’re establishing Right View, because you’re using Right Intention – or Effective Choice. The more you do that, the more you are embedding mind with Right View.

 There are levels of Right View, which is the mundane Right View and the supramundane Right View. The mundane Right View is in relation to the Precepts, keeping the Precepts, knowing that our actions have consequences, that there is Kamma and Rebirth, and so on and so forth. When you know that, you understand that it’s important to cultivate wholesome mindsets, wholesome qualities of mind, wholesome actions, and wholesome speech, because that will result in wholesome rebirth in the next moment, etcetera.

Once you start to see this, you’re starting to practice Right Effort, Right Intention, apply Right Speech, Right action, and Right livelihood. This is all done when you have Right Mindfulness, when you’re observing in every moment the choices that you have available to you. With the Right Mindfulness, you’re making the choices that are rooted in Right view. So, already you’re taking care of a majority of this Eightfold Path, and that culminates in Effective Collectiveness, where you then take it into your meditation practice, go through the jhanas and then experience Nibbana.

It always starts with cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome. Once you start doing that, you are starting to bring in choices for yourself, you’re starting to bring in situations for yourself, that lead you towards the Right View. Every time you make a wholesome choice, you’re reconditioning the Formations for the next moment. So, you’re weakening the fetters in the Formations that create the Conceit, the Ignorance and the Craving, and you’re strengthening the Formations that help you to make more wholesome choices in future moments. The more you do this in your daily living, the more it translates to a better meditation in your sitting practice. That allows you to let go of even deeper and subtler Formations, as you get higher and higher into the levels of meditation. Until you finally are able to destroy some of the fetters.

There is a chance you can destroy all of the fetters all at once, but you need a mind that is quite sharp, quite deep, and a very deep understanding of Right View for that to occur. It might happen in different stages.

However it happens, the most important part is that you have to follow the Eightfold Path in this way, which is always rooted in cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome, establishing Right View bit by bit. Reconditioning the Formations through Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood, with Right Intention in mind, using Right Mindfulness. And then allowing all of that to come to fruition in Right Collectedness.

When Right View is fully established, it continues to influence the Formations, which are now pure; they’re purified of the fetters from the Projections of Craving, Being and Ignorance. That then unlocks, so to speak, the two Path factors, or the fruition of the Path; the Right Knowledge and Right Liberation, or Effective Insight. You know that the Projections are no longer active and will no longer be active. Through that knowledge, you have the experience of the liberation of mind, Vimutti, of Nibbana.

Watch it here

Sutta Explanations

Short overview of The twelve links of Dependent Origination:

Ignorance – Not understanding the Four Noble Truths

Formations – verbal, mental and physical

Consciousness

Mentality-Materiality

Six Sense Base

Contact

Feeling

Craving

Clinging

Being / Habitual Tendencies

Birth

Aging and Death – the entire mass of suffering

Dependent Origination in ordinary people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Bhava is the reactionary aspect of self that causes Kamma.

Dependent Origination in a fully Awakened being

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

The pure Mind of the Arahant

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

Category: Sutta Explanations

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

All aspects are Samma Ditthi – Right View – and the reason why is because it’s replacing the unwholesome with the wholesome. This is arguably the most important part of that sutta. The more you understand how to cultivate the wholesome and uproot the unwholesome, the more you’re establishing Right View, because you’re using Right Intention – or Effective Choice. The more you do that, the more you are embedding mind with Right View.

 There are levels of Right View, which is the mundane Right View and the supramundane Right View. The mundane Right View is in relation to the Precepts, keeping the Precepts, knowing that our actions have consequences, that there is Kamma and Rebirth, and so on and so forth. When you know that, you understand that it’s important to cultivate wholesome mindsets, wholesome qualities of mind, wholesome actions, and wholesome speech, because that will result in wholesome rebirth in the next moment, etcetera.

Once you start to see this, you’re starting to practice Right Effort, Right Intention, apply Right Speech, Right action, and Right livelihood. This is all done when you have Right Mindfulness, when you’re observing in every moment the choices that you have available to you. With the Right Mindfulness, you’re making the choices that are rooted in Right view. So, already you’re taking care of a majority of this Eightfold Path, and that culminates in Effective Collectiveness, where you then take it into your meditation practice, go through the jhanas and then experience Nibbana.

It always starts with cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome. Once you start doing that, you are starting to bring in choices for yourself, you’re starting to bring in situations for yourself, that lead you towards the Right View. Every time you make a wholesome choice, you’re reconditioning the Formations for the next moment. So, you’re weakening the fetters in the Formations that create the Conceit, the Ignorance and the Craving, and you’re strengthening the Formations that help you to make more wholesome choices in future moments. The more you do this in your daily living, the more it translates to a better meditation in your sitting practice. That allows you to let go of even deeper and subtler Formations, as you get higher and higher into the levels of meditation. Until you finally are able to destroy some of the fetters.

There is a chance you can destroy all of the fetters all at once, but you need a mind that is quite sharp, quite deep, and a very deep understanding of Right View for that to occur. It might happen in different stages.

However it happens, the most important part is that you have to follow the Eightfold Path in this way, which is always rooted in cultivating the wholesome, uprooting the unwholesome, establishing Right View bit by bit. Reconditioning the Formations through Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood, with Right Intention in mind, using Right Mindfulness. And then allowing all of that to come to fruition in Right Collectedness.

When Right View is fully established, it continues to influence the Formations, which are now pure; they’re purified of the fetters from the Projections of Craving, Being and Ignorance. That then unlocks, so to speak, the two Path factors, or the fruition of the Path; the Right Knowledge and Right Liberation, or Effective Insight. You know that the Projections are no longer active and will no longer be active. Through that knowledge, you have the experience of the liberation of mind, Vimutti, of Nibbana.

Watch it here