Questions and Answers

Daily Life

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Sometimes the energy will bring restlessness for beings. That restlessness can result in acting in ways that can cause harm emotionally. Or it can create energy that creates anger, or whatever it might be. First and foremost, what you have to see in relation to the Seven Factors, whether you are balancing Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness; there is always Mindfulness used, there is always observation used. Even in daily life, first and foremost, mindfulness must be there. When there is Mindfulness, there is awareness of what the situation requires.

 And more importantly, when you’re dealing with situations where you need to be a little more energetic, and you need to be a little bit more active – in whatever it is that you’re doing – it’s important to turn that mindfulness internally. To see okay, if I am acting in this way, is it causing restlessness in me? So, by using the Mindfulness, you can see whether it’s creating a restless nature in the mind. If you see that it’s creating a restless nature in the mind, then you know Well, now I need to bring in some tranquility.

 There again you use the pause to take a few seconds to bring in the Tranquility, to bring in the Equanimity and then wait, and then act from that. While you need to be energized, while you need to be active in whatever it is you’re doing, or implementing for the situation, that energy is infused with Tranquility. That energy is calmer, and so it’s more stable and not as erratic.

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Yes. This is development really, and one of the things that’s happened is, that it has become mostly fixed one-pointed awareness practice in many cases. This is causing problems, sometimes, because it creates some rigidity. We are becoming, we are training ourselves, to become wiser, to become more aware and cultivate wholesome states.

 For some people that have maybe more of an angry character, it is really beneficial to develop for example Loving-kindness. For the restless, or people that have a lot of thinking going on, there is the meditation using the breath as a reminder. Some people with really high anxiety sometimes, also find this very helpful to cut through all of it. Whereas some people are really doing well with other practices, like the Satipatthanas, the four Resting Places of Awareness.

 In fact, I am breaking them down a little bit here in these four sessions, but they’re not necessarily completely different from one another. The common denominator of all four of them is Right Effort, the effort of letting go, of not holding to any of that experience. Simply resting the mind onto what is happening, but to also let go and bring up Joy. That is why I read the sutta tonight; the sequence that is very important to understand is, to bring up Joy and to let go. That is how the mind becomes collected. Once we understand that, then we understand the practice.

One thing that I can say though is, that sometimes the mind, because it is a bit restless, wants to change object. It wants to change subject of meditation, so it might be a hindrance also, at a certain point. If the mind wants to try so many kinds of meditations at the same time, then it creates confusion. Of course, when we’re with the Love, we’re with the Love. Or when there is Compassion, we use Compassion. But there are 24 hours in a day, so there are many situations that are going to happen. So, we learn to practice with every situation that we have, responding with wholesome intention and action. That is the meditation also.

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Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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 

The Mindfulness is a factor present in all states where attention is given. Whenever you are in jhana, the enlightenment Factors are present. Anytime you are distracted, the enlightenment Factors are not present, especially Mindfulness. But Mindfulness is always there, whether you are meditating in a sitting practice, or in daily living. This is why there’s the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in everyday living; you are mindful of the body as body; you’re mindful of sensations as sensations; you’re mindful of mind as mind; and you’re mindful of phenomena as phenomena. Every time you use your Mindfulness, you are activating the enlightenment Factor of Mindfulness, which means that you are able to see when a hindrance is arising and quickly let go of it, quickly use the 6R process to let go of it.

When it comes to the other enlightenment Factors that need to be balanced, just know that when you are in the jhana practice, the enlightenment Factors are already present in there.

As you get into deeper levels, you will see that, for example in Neither-perception-nor non-perception, your mind usually tends to slope either towards Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness. These are the two hindrances that are most dealt with, when it comes to the Neither-perception-nor non-perception. You will not see sensual craving in there, you won’t see ill will there, you won’t see doubt there as a hindrance.

Know this; whenever the hindrances are present, at that point the enlightenment Factors are not present. But as soon as you bring in Mindfulness, you start to bring in the other enlightenment Factors, depending upon which jhana you’re in; the level of the jhana that you’re at, determines the amount of enlightenment Factors that are present. For example, when you are in the first and second jhana, the enlightenment Factor of Joy and Energy are more prevalent. As you get deeper and deeper, certain other Factors are more prevalent. Once you get into quiet mind, as you’re just observing quiet mind, everything has been sort of aligned and balanced, and now smoothly flows. So, those hindrances of sensual craving, the ill will, and the doubt have been completely dealt with, and then, all you’re dealing with are the Sloth&Torpor and Restlessness. Whenever you see this happening, know that you’re not in jhana. When you use the 6R process, every step of the 6R process is in alignment with one of the enlightenment Factors. So, every time you use the 6R process, you are activating or reactivating the enlightenment Factors. And by doing so you’re coming back into jhana.

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

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

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

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

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

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Category: Daily Life

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

You’re talking about sensual craving, which is the hindrance related to sexual misconduct, right? When you have sexual misconduct, that means you are committing a sexual act in a way that is harmful to yourself, and harmful to the other individual. In a way, your senses or the pleasure that is derived from the sexual act, you identify with it to such a level that your mind identifies with that sensory experience of the sexual nature.

By doing that, your mind also starts to cling and attach to other sensory experiences in the same way. For example, if you start to find craving in your visual forms, and in the other five senses, as well as the mind, the mind will attach to those senses, will attach to those sensory experiences. Because it attaches to it and craves it, this causes heedlessness in the mind. Heedlessness means carelessness.

Because of that, there is lack of judgment, lack of understanding, and then a person acts in a way that creates misconduct. Not only sexual misconduct, in which you harm yourself and the other, but even in sensory craving, where you become careless to the point that you just crave for those sensual experiences.

And in doing so, you commit other acts that are not in alignment with the Noble Eightfold Path. And you break further precepts because of it.

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Meditation

6R it once and Return to the object of meditation.

 You aren’t going to eliminate the headache or tension in one go, but you can Release your attention from it.

If attention keeps returning to that tension, you are basically feeding it, making it stay or even get worse. If you leave it alone, the tension will diminish on its own. Understand that this is just a painful feeling. Use the 6R’s, but only whenever your attention gets drawn to that pain again.

Category: Meditation

No, please don’t move at all. Don’t adjustment or move the body in any way. You can swallow and slightly adjust the head if necessary, but that’s all.  It’s important to keep still, because the Jhana state will develop faster when there is no movement.  It’s like ice trying to freeze.  Don’t touch the water while it freezes.

Giving attention to the itch will make it worse. So, if your attention gets drawn to it – you forgot you were meditating -, you can apply the 6R’s and Return.

Remember that sittings are always at least 30 minutes. So, get in an alert, comfortable position beforehand.

Category: Meditation

Just use the 6R’s. It is only one of the five hindrances. Doubt is just a type of thought. 

 Can you observe it and then let it go?  It isn’t yours – you are identifying with it as my doubt.

The more you apply the 6R’s, the more doubt will start to weaken. You stop feeding it, so to speak. In time you will start to notice that this practice is very effective and doubt will just fade away.

Category: Meditation

If you are meditating and a headache, or some sort of painful feeling in the head, starts to arise, yes, it’s probably because you are trying too hard.

Remember, meditating and letting go of hindrances is not supposed to be a fight.

Follow this link for lots of help. 

TRYING TOO HARD

Category: Meditation

The tension is there, but you may not be able to feel it yet.  It can be quite subtle. Later you will start to recognize it, so just Release and Relax, even if you don’t really feel something. 

 Since your attention was drawn away from the meditation, you can be sure there was actually tension there. If there was no tension, you would not have been distracted.

Category: Meditation

In this long life, and even over countless lifetimes, one can never hope to let go of every unwholesome thought or act that ever happened. And actually, there is no need for that. 

When you 6R, gradually the unwholesome thoughts (hindrances) weaken. In not too long a time, they finally stop altogether, at least for a little while.  A Jhana will arise. Then another thought comes up and you 6R it, weakening the thought-stream again. 

You progress step by step, but you only need to observe and 6R the hindrances that come up during your sit. Once a Jhana has come up, the whole concept of self starts to weaken, and the thoughts, like branches, die off. Finally, you cut the trunk of the tree with deep insight and no more branches can grow back. No more self-concepts or hindrances.  Only pure awareness and being in the present.

Category: Meditation

That’s where it’s coming from, yes. This is how is how they were discovered, and they were put into this sequence because of the Ānāpānasati Sutta.

The 6R’s are to Recognize, to Release, to Relax, to Re-smile and to Return to the object of meditation. This object is usually Metta, or one of the other Brahma Viharas; Compassion, Joy or Calm.

The origin, the most tangible proof that we have, that the Buddha taught to Relax this tension in the mind and in the body, is in that sutta. The sankharas of the mind, of the body – and this is being interpreted in a lot of ways – sankhara is simply just things that arise. Processes within the body and within the mind.

What are the bodily processes? Well, anything that is tension, anything that arises in the mind also, or any movement. Movement comes with friction, friction comes with tension, so the 6R’s originate from that. This is a complete Path of practice that is available to us, and that is quite pristine in itself.

We can also simply practice the Loving-kindness, the Brahma Viharas; the boundless Love, boundless Compassion, boundless Joy, boundless Calm in this way. They are truly wonderful, they are like a boost. Like the highway to Nibbana, especially at the beginning. So, it’s very good to develop them. That’s why the Buddha usually would teach the Brahma Viharas first, and then explain awareness of the breath with the breath.

Sometimes, people will not want to practice the other methods, if they start with that one [Ānāpānasati], because it is – we talked about it in this very sutta – literally practicing the four Resting Places of Awareness, the Satipaṭṭhānas. These four are there all the time. So, there is no intention whatsoever, or force, required, or energy being put to generate these states. The Loving-kindness has to come with a little bit of effort, because we have to generate that. Loving-kindness is a conditioned state, and same for the rest of the Brahma Viharas, even though they become much more subtle.

The whole of the beauty of these four Satipaṭṭhānas is that they are completely effortless, they come completely naturally. It is by letting go of everything, that we are completely aware of them. Sati sampajañña – full awareness – and an awareness of them.

When we start practicing in this way, the mind really enjoys this very deep calm. So, people are not really likely to want to start generating Metta.

Here we saw in this very sutta – and that is another reason why i read this one tonight -that it explains many of the sections of the Buddha’s teaching. For example, the bodhipakkhiyā dhamma, the 37 Requisites of Awakening, are all tools for us, that we can develop. That will help us to be more all-around meditators, I could say. Or all-around better people. With the Metta – when we practice the Brahma Viharas first – the mind becomes very wholesome, very quickly. And it becomes a second nature to respond with Love, with Compassion, with Sympathetic Joy, or Calm. This will help us in many situations, and this will support awareness- our practice of using the breath as a reminder, Ānāpānasati. This is all strengthening and supporting itself. In fact, the word Dhamma comes from the root dha, which means that which supports. That’s what we’re practicing.

The monks have stands for their bowls, there’s a rule we can’t put our bowls on the ground, it has to be on a stand. And there is a wonderful sutta, where the Buddha says that the stand of the mind is this Aryan Eightfold Path. So, we can say basically for all of these practices; they are the stand for the mind, because otherwise the mind just flows. It just goes wherever it wants and we prop it up, supporting it.

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Category: Meditation

If you take your fist like this [makes fist] and you hold it really tight, like this, with force and then Release it, what happens?

There is that tension and discomfort, a little bit. As we see this, we notice it’s cramped, it’s actually not very pleasant, and we just let it go.

We experience here and now release, and this can be anywhere in your body. As soon as you notice there is a tension somewhere in your body, in your neck. It depends, some people are more inclined to see it more mentally, they see more distractions than the tension. They see it more as a mental contraction, for some other people it’s more bodily, everybody is a bit different.

As soon as it is seen, it’s like exhaling, letting it go. 

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Category: Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Especially when you’re in the eighth level, when you’re in Neither-perception-nor-non-perception, you’re really playing with the Factors at that point in time, trying to balance them. If you notice that there’s a Factor missing, you need more Tranquility, you immediately create the intention for Tranquility to the point that it creates too much tranquility. What you’ll also notice is, you’re putting in too much effort. Which means, not only are you bringing Tranquility, but you’re bringing in too much energy. Energy is when you put in too much effort.

But the way to look at it is like a medicine dropper; have you seen those medicine droppers, where you drop one, bit by bit? When you notice that the mind is restless, for example, and you need Tranquility, you have a drop of intention. Now a little bit of Tranquility is required. That’s the way you do it; very small doses, very small drops.

Or if you’re coming into Sloth&Torpor, where the mind is becoming sluggish,  you bring in a little bit of Joy, just a  drop of joy, and then see what happens. So drop by drop, bit by bit.

It’s better to be more cautious in sending this out, rather than I’m going to push it and I’m going to put in the Tranquility. You just pull back in little by little, and if you see you need a little bit more, another drop, or another drop. Do it from that kind of a perspective.

[Person that asked the question replies, but the internet connection was weak]

In the discourse you mentioned how the Precepts are connected…so the explanation was pretty nice, it was like both things are perfectly connected.

[Delson]

Yeah, that helps you being more mindful of seeing; am I following this precept or not, and  likewise, when you go into the meditation, you see that there is this particular hindrance arising.  You can go back into your mind and say okay, did I follow this precept, or did I break it, or what happened? It really provides a little bit of a mindfulness of that.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Observation is just another synonym that I used for Mindfulness. This is knowing that your attention was swerving from one place to another, and then bringing it back to your object of meditation.

 Investigation is more in relation to bringing up and understanding how this phenomenon was caused. It can be used in conjunction with attention rooted in reality, yoniso manasikara. Investigating into the phenomenon of Sloth & Torpor is essentially utilizing observation.

First and foremost, you have seen and recognized that your mind is tending towards Sloth & Torpor. You then investigate into what Factor needs to be brought up. In other words, whether you need to bring up Joy or a little more Effort and put more attention towards the object.

The synonym for Investigation, that I use, is understanding. The end result of investigation is understanding. Once you have investigated what is required in that process of the meditation, where you’re leaning towards Sloth & Torpor, you then understand that this is the Factor you need to bring up a little more, in order to balance it. With that understanding, you apply the effort to bring in Joy, Energy or Effort.

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

You’re talking about sensual craving, which is the hindrance related to sexual misconduct, right? When you have sexual misconduct, that means you are committing a sexual act in a way that is harmful to yourself, and harmful to the other individual. In a way, your senses or the pleasure that is derived from the sexual act, you identify with it to such a level that your mind identifies with that sensory experience of the sexual nature.

By doing that, your mind also starts to cling and attach to other sensory experiences in the same way. For example, if you start to find craving in your visual forms, and in the other five senses, as well as the mind, the mind will attach to those senses, will attach to those sensory experiences. Because it attaches to it and craves it, this causes heedlessness in the mind. Heedlessness means carelessness.

Because of that, there is lack of judgment, lack of understanding, and then a person acts in a way that creates misconduct. Not only sexual misconduct, in which you harm yourself and the other, but even in sensory craving, where you become careless to the point that you just crave for those sensual experiences.

And in doing so, you commit other acts that are not in alignment with the Noble Eightfold Path. And you break further precepts because of it.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Yes, the 6R’s are really identical to the Four Right Applications, or the Four Right Efforts. You have four different Right Efforts:

  1. Preventing any hindrances from arising. As soon as you notice and recognize there is a hindrance, or a distraction, in the mind, you stop it from further creating more distractions or more thoughts. That’s the first Right Effort.
  2. Abandoning. When you Release and Relax the mind and body, relax the tension or craving. These steps are part of the abandoning any already arisen unwholesome states. If there is any craving or the tension associated with the hindrance, you are Releasing and Relaxing it.
  3. Bringing up wholesome states, which happens when you return to the Smile and you come back to feeling Loving-kindness or any of the Brahma Viharas, or whatever your object is. That is the third Right Effort in which you are bringing it up.
  4. Maintaining. As you return to your object, you are maintaining the good feeling, the wholesome quality of mind. And then you Repeat as necessary.

This is how the 6R process is intertwined with the Four Right Efforts. But whether you practice the 6R’s or the Four Right Efforts, it is identical. It’s one and the same, just a different way of understanding it.

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Category: Meditation

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Sometimes the energy will bring restlessness for beings. That restlessness can result in acting in ways that can cause harm emotionally. Or it can create energy that creates anger, or whatever it might be. First and foremost, what you have to see in relation to the Seven Factors, whether you are balancing Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness; there is always Mindfulness used, there is always observation used. Even in daily life, first and foremost, mindfulness must be there. When there is Mindfulness, there is awareness of what the situation requires.

 And more importantly, when you’re dealing with situations where you need to be a little more energetic, and you need to be a little bit more active – in whatever it is that you’re doing – it’s important to turn that mindfulness internally. To see okay, if I am acting in this way, is it causing restlessness in me? So, by using the Mindfulness, you can see whether it’s creating a restless nature in the mind. If you see that it’s creating a restless nature in the mind, then you know Well, now I need to bring in some tranquility.

 There again you use the pause to take a few seconds to bring in the Tranquility, to bring in the Equanimity and then wait, and then act from that. While you need to be energized, while you need to be active in whatever it is you’re doing, or implementing for the situation, that energy is infused with Tranquility. That energy is calmer, and so it’s more stable and not as erratic.

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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

Yes. This is development really, and one of the things that’s happened is, that it has become mostly fixed one-pointed awareness practice in many cases. This is causing problems, sometimes, because it creates some rigidity. We are becoming, we are training ourselves, to become wiser, to become more aware and cultivate wholesome states.

 For some people that have maybe more of an angry character, it is really beneficial to develop for example Loving-kindness. For the restless, or people that have a lot of thinking going on, there is the meditation using the breath as a reminder. Some people with really high anxiety sometimes, also find this very helpful to cut through all of it. Whereas some people are really doing well with other practices, like the Satipatthanas, the four Resting Places of Awareness.

 In fact, I am breaking them down a little bit here in these four sessions, but they’re not necessarily completely different from one another. The common denominator of all four of them is Right Effort, the effort of letting go, of not holding to any of that experience. Simply resting the mind onto what is happening, but to also let go and bring up Joy. That is why I read the sutta tonight; the sequence that is very important to understand is, to bring up Joy and to let go. That is how the mind becomes collected. Once we understand that, then we understand the practice.

One thing that I can say though is, that sometimes the mind, because it is a bit restless, wants to change object. It wants to change subject of meditation, so it might be a hindrance also, at a certain point. If the mind wants to try so many kinds of meditations at the same time, then it creates confusion. Of course, when we’re with the Love, we’re with the Love. Or when there is Compassion, we use Compassion. But there are 24 hours in a day, so there are many situations that are going to happen. So, we learn to practice with every situation that we have, responding with wholesome intention and action. That is the meditation also.

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Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

The Mindfulness is a factor present in all states where attention is given. Whenever you are in jhana, the enlightenment Factors are present. Anytime you are distracted, the enlightenment Factors are not present, especially Mindfulness. But Mindfulness is always there, whether you are meditating in a sitting practice, or in daily living. This is why there’s the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in everyday living; you are mindful of the body as body; you’re mindful of sensations as sensations; you’re mindful of mind as mind; and you’re mindful of phenomena as phenomena. Every time you use your Mindfulness, you are activating the enlightenment Factor of Mindfulness, which means that you are able to see when a hindrance is arising and quickly let go of it, quickly use the 6R process to let go of it.

When it comes to the other enlightenment Factors that need to be balanced, just know that when you are in the jhana practice, the enlightenment Factors are already present in there.

As you get into deeper levels, you will see that, for example in Neither-perception-nor non-perception, your mind usually tends to slope either towards Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness. These are the two hindrances that are most dealt with, when it comes to the Neither-perception-nor non-perception. You will not see sensual craving in there, you won’t see ill will there, you won’t see doubt there as a hindrance.

Know this; whenever the hindrances are present, at that point the enlightenment Factors are not present. But as soon as you bring in Mindfulness, you start to bring in the other enlightenment Factors, depending upon which jhana you’re in; the level of the jhana that you’re at, determines the amount of enlightenment Factors that are present. For example, when you are in the first and second jhana, the enlightenment Factor of Joy and Energy are more prevalent. As you get deeper and deeper, certain other Factors are more prevalent. Once you get into quiet mind, as you’re just observing quiet mind, everything has been sort of aligned and balanced, and now smoothly flows. So, those hindrances of sensual craving, the ill will, and the doubt have been completely dealt with, and then, all you’re dealing with are the Sloth&Torpor and Restlessness. Whenever you see this happening, know that you’re not in jhana. When you use the 6R process, every step of the 6R process is in alignment with one of the enlightenment Factors. So, every time you use the 6R process, you are activating or reactivating the enlightenment Factors. And by doing so you’re coming back into jhana.

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

Online Retreat

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

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

Sometimes you five R, which means that you don’t have to Repeat. So long as you are staying with your object of meditation (OoM), so long as your attention, your awareness, is on it, you don’t have to Repeat. 6R’s are only used whenever you see that the mind was distracted. If you find that there are thoughts in the background of your mind, while you have your awareness on the OoM, you don’t have to 6R those. They will go away on their own, because they have no attention that will feed them. But whenever your attention is no longer on your object, you 6R. It’s always the same steps, and it’s a flow as you said. It happens in about three, four seconds at the most. As soon as you Recognized you were distracted, you don’t have to verbalize in your head ‘Oh, I Recognize’. You already know that you got distracted. Knowing that you were distracted, that’s recognition, that’s Recognizing. In putting your attention to the Relax of the 6R process, you have Released your attention from the distraction, and put your attention now on Relaxing the tension in the mind and in the body.

Now you’ve already done the first two Right Efforts, which is the preventing and the abandoning. And now bringing up the wholesome state, you come to your Smile and you come back to the Feeling, Metta (Loving-kindness), Karuna (Compassion), whatever it is. It’s always the same steps in the progression, but the Repeat is only whenever you get distracted 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 0 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

It really depends on the translations. Bhante Ananda’s translation likes to call it the Four Resting places of Awareness. That’s another way of looking at it.

This is, first and foremost the Body. Understanding how your body is feeling in any given moment.

The Sensations that are arising from the body is the second, the third is your mind, or consciousness they call it. I call it Mindset, because a mindset can continually change and is a collection of thoughts that creates a certain mindset.  When you get into the jhanas, each jhana is a particular kind of mindset, because it has different kinds of factors within each jhana.

And Dhamma is really phenomena. Any kind of phenomena related to the mind, whether it’s thoughts, emotions, memories, Formations, things like that.

These are the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

When you are practicing the jhanas, practicing Metta and you get into jhana, the way you know you are in jhana is that your mind is collected. Effective or Right Collectedness is being in one of these four jhanas, first and foremost.

Going back to Dhamma, you have other aspects of it; you have phenomena related to the five hindrances; you are aware if any of these hindrances are in the mind. Any time a hindrance is present, you are no longer in jhana. This is how you are utilizing Mindfulness. By seeing whether a hindrance is present or not in the mind, because when you are distracted, you know there is a hindrance there. So, you use the 6R’s to come back.

And as you are doing this, you are also starting to activate and balance the Seven Factors of Awakening. This is also part of the Dhamma aspect of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. When it comes to the Seven Factors of Awakening, they start to be utilized more and more as you get higher into the process, into higher dimensions of perception, beyond the four jhanas.

But for the time being, all you should know if you are starting on the Path, or you’re still working with the first four jhanas, is if your mind continues to stay with the object, and you are not pushing. Because if you push, you are not utilizing Mindfulness anymore, you’re using too much effort, too much one-pointed focus. You just observe.

In the observation of that, you are collectively being observant of the body, of the mind, of the sensations and of the mental contents within the mind. It’s an open awareness. In the awareness of that, you are being attentive to the feeling, but you are also aware if there are any thoughts in the background, or if the mind is being distracted.

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

(Slightly edited to improve readability)

No, you don’t want to look for any kind of tension in the body.

Earlier somebody asked a question about doing the Relax step, but not necessarily finding any tension in the body. That’s fine, you don’t need to. The Relax step is not only letting go of the craving in the form of that tension, another aspect is that it’s also tranquilizing the bodily Formations. It’s something that is mentioned in the Anapanasati Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 118); whenever you breathe in or out, you tranquilize the bodily Formation. This tranquilizing is the deeper effect of that Relax step.

If you are aware of tension and see that it’s there, you intend the Relax step to let go of that tension, which is that Craving.

Even if the tension is not there, utilizing the Relax step whenever you get distracted, will release Formations, will let go and relax the Formations, no matter how subtle they are.

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

Observation is just another synonym that I used for Mindfulness. This is knowing that your attention was swerving from one place to another, and then bringing it back to your object of meditation.

 Investigation is more in relation to bringing up and understanding how this phenomenon was caused. It can be used in conjunction with attention rooted in reality, yoniso manasikara. Investigating into the phenomenon of Sloth & Torpor is essentially utilizing observation.

First and foremost, you have seen and recognized that your mind is tending towards Sloth & Torpor. You then investigate into what Factor needs to be brought up. In other words, whether you need to bring up Joy or a little more Effort and put more attention towards the object.

The synonym for Investigation, that I use, is understanding. The end result of investigation is understanding. Once you have investigated what is required in that process of the meditation, where you’re leaning towards Sloth & Torpor, you then understand that this is the Factor you need to bring up a little more, in order to balance it. With that understanding, you apply the effort to bring in Joy, Energy or Effort.

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Especially when you’re in the eighth level, when you’re in Neither-perception-nor-non-perception, you’re really playing with the Factors at that point in time, trying to balance them. If you notice that there’s a Factor missing, you need more Tranquility, you immediately create the intention for Tranquility to the point that it creates too much tranquility. What you’ll also notice is, you’re putting in too much effort. Which means, not only are you bringing Tranquility, but you’re bringing in too much energy. Energy is when you put in too much effort.

But the way to look at it is like a medicine dropper; have you seen those medicine droppers, where you drop one, bit by bit? When you notice that the mind is restless, for example, and you need Tranquility, you have a drop of intention. Now a little bit of Tranquility is required. That’s the way you do it; very small doses, very small drops.

Or if you’re coming into Sloth&Torpor, where the mind is becoming sluggish,  you bring in a little bit of Joy, just a  drop of joy, and then see what happens. So drop by drop, bit by bit.

It’s better to be more cautious in sending this out, rather than I’m going to push it and I’m going to put in the Tranquility. You just pull back in little by little, and if you see you need a little bit more, another drop, or another drop. Do it from that kind of a perspective.

[Person that asked the question replies, but the internet connection was weak]

In the discourse you mentioned how the Precepts are connected…so the explanation was pretty nice, it was like both things are perfectly connected.

[Delson]

Yeah, that helps you being more mindful of seeing; am I following this precept or not, and  likewise, when you go into the meditation, you see that there is this particular hindrance arising.  You can go back into your mind and say okay, did I follow this precept, or did I break it, or what happened? It really provides a little bit of a mindfulness of that.

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

You’re talking about sensual craving, which is the hindrance related to sexual misconduct, right? When you have sexual misconduct, that means you are committing a sexual act in a way that is harmful to yourself, and harmful to the other individual. In a way, your senses or the pleasure that is derived from the sexual act, you identify with it to such a level that your mind identifies with that sensory experience of the sexual nature.

By doing that, your mind also starts to cling and attach to other sensory experiences in the same way. For example, if you start to find craving in your visual forms, and in the other five senses, as well as the mind, the mind will attach to those senses, will attach to those sensory experiences. Because it attaches to it and craves it, this causes heedlessness in the mind. Heedlessness means carelessness.

Because of that, there is lack of judgment, lack of understanding, and then a person acts in a way that creates misconduct. Not only sexual misconduct, in which you harm yourself and the other, but even in sensory craving, where you become careless to the point that you just crave for those sensual experiences.

And in doing so, you commit other acts that are not in alignment with the Noble Eightfold Path. And you break further precepts because of it.

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 2 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

Sometimes the energy will bring restlessness for beings. That restlessness can result in acting in ways that can cause harm emotionally. Or it can create energy that creates anger, or whatever it might be. First and foremost, what you have to see in relation to the Seven Factors, whether you are balancing Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness; there is always Mindfulness used, there is always observation used. Even in daily life, first and foremost, mindfulness must be there. When there is Mindfulness, there is awareness of what the situation requires.

 And more importantly, when you’re dealing with situations where you need to be a little more energetic, and you need to be a little bit more active – in whatever it is that you’re doing – it’s important to turn that mindfulness internally. To see okay, if I am acting in this way, is it causing restlessness in me? So, by using the Mindfulness, you can see whether it’s creating a restless nature in the mind. If you see that it’s creating a restless nature in the mind, then you know Well, now I need to bring in some tranquility.

 There again you use the pause to take a few seconds to bring in the Tranquility, to bring in the Equanimity and then wait, and then act from that. While you need to be energized, while you need to be active in whatever it is you’re doing, or implementing for the situation, that energy is infused with Tranquility. That energy is calmer, and so it’s more stable and not as erratic.

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

The Mindfulness is a factor present in all states where attention is given. Whenever you are in jhana, the enlightenment Factors are present. Anytime you are distracted, the enlightenment Factors are not present, especially Mindfulness. But Mindfulness is always there, whether you are meditating in a sitting practice, or in daily living. This is why there’s the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in everyday living; you are mindful of the body as body; you’re mindful of sensations as sensations; you’re mindful of mind as mind; and you’re mindful of phenomena as phenomena. Every time you use your Mindfulness, you are activating the enlightenment Factor of Mindfulness, which means that you are able to see when a hindrance is arising and quickly let go of it, quickly use the 6R process to let go of it.

When it comes to the other enlightenment Factors that need to be balanced, just know that when you are in the jhana practice, the enlightenment Factors are already present in there.

As you get into deeper levels, you will see that, for example in Neither-perception-nor non-perception, your mind usually tends to slope either towards Sloth&Torpor or Restlessness. These are the two hindrances that are most dealt with, when it comes to the Neither-perception-nor non-perception. You will not see sensual craving in there, you won’t see ill will there, you won’t see doubt there as a hindrance.

Know this; whenever the hindrances are present, at that point the enlightenment Factors are not present. But as soon as you bring in Mindfulness, you start to bring in the other enlightenment Factors, depending upon which jhana you’re in; the level of the jhana that you’re at, determines the amount of enlightenment Factors that are present. For example, when you are in the first and second jhana, the enlightenment Factor of Joy and Energy are more prevalent. As you get deeper and deeper, certain other Factors are more prevalent. Once you get into quiet mind, as you’re just observing quiet mind, everything has been sort of aligned and balanced, and now smoothly flows. So, those hindrances of sensual craving, the ill will, and the doubt have been completely dealt with, and then, all you’re dealing with are the Sloth&Torpor and Restlessness. Whenever you see this happening, know that you’re not in jhana. When you use the 6R process, every step of the 6R process is in alignment with one of the enlightenment Factors. So, every time you use the 6R process, you are activating or reactivating the enlightenment Factors. And by doing so you’re coming back into jhana.

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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 

That’s a very good observation, and from experience you can see that that is the case.

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Category: Online Retreat

Sutta Explanations

This particular sutta comes back with Vigatha Parilaha. Vigatha is like grasping, taking, which I’ve been translating as tension.

  At the core of the teaching, these mental distractions and bodily tension, come hand in hand all the time; when there is a distraction in the mind, there is tension somewhere, whether it’s gross in the body, or whether it’s just felt in the mind more. There is always this tension arising, and therefore we saw all these different ways that these distractions arise. If we boil it down to one thing; tension, bodily and mental tension. When we see this, we see the first Noble Truth. When we see that tension, we can let it go.

  [Person asking the question]

And smile…

[Bhante Ananda]

And smile, yes of course. I was trying to keep it very short here. Of course, there’s a few things that could be said but yes, smiling. And whatever your vehicle of awareness is, whether you are with the metta, the Compassion, Joy, Equanimity, the still mind, or any of the Satipaṭṭhānas. Smiling, joy, this will help you see the tension.

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