Questions and Answers

Daily Life

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.

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

  You can’t change people, so the best thing you can do is be the example. Depending on the situation – every situation is different of course – you have to be wise, and you have to find the wise path. For you to be the wise example. When you can shine the beauty of the Dhamma – and that means Dhamma as virtue, generosity, Loving-kindness, Compassion, gratitude. When you yourself are so full of it, that it just flows out of you naturally, and you are very happy.

You see, when people see happy people, they want to be like them; monkey see, monkey do – I talked about that last sunday. When we see happy people, we want to be happy like them. So, when you will be happy and if someone tells you things that are not really respectful, or are unwise, and you’re not fazed by it and you respond instead of reacting; you respond with Love, you respond with Compassion, you respond with Sympathetic Joy, you respond with steady composure of your own mind; then they see the beauty of the Dhamma and you are in fact giving them the gift of your own presence, of your own wisdom.

  The Buddha said – like I wrote in the book – and he really said this a lot monks; be like islands on yourself. And this is what you have to do for others also, because you can’t help others if you’re drowning yourself. You have to be steady, you have to be firmly planted in the Dhamma, in virtue, in wholesome states. That’s what being planted in Dhamma means; being solid in wholesome mental states. And then you can hold out your hand and help others. Not trying to change them, but by being that island, and they will just swim to your shore [laughs] and stand up by themselves. That’s what you can do.  

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

This is a very interesting understanding that you’re having. This is one way of understanding it.

If you notice, in your day-to-day life, when you’re thinking about things, or you’re having memories; if you are, let’s say, in a bad mood, or if you are in a state of mind which is unwholesome, and you think back about things that were not so wholesome, you have a certain perception of it.

But then you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion, and you think back of those things again, you’re going to have a different perception of that. It could be anything as simple as a relationship you had with a friend, a family member, or whatever it was. If you are in a bad mood, you’ll start to think about that memory, and you see it in a way that is unwholesome. But when you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion and you think about that memory again, then you are more compassionate and understanding and say: well, maybe they weren’t feeling so well and that’s why they behaved this way. Or maybe they were unhealthy or not fully there, fully present, you know, you sort of have an understanding mind set of whatever that memory was. That’s one way of looking at it.

So, looking at the repulsive and seeing the unrepulsive in that, or looking at the unrepulsive and seeing the repulsive in that, is also a more advanced way of playing around with your aggregate of Perception. Meaning, you are able to see what is repulsive to others and change our mind set about that and see the unrepulsive in that. It’s a practice of changing your Perception, it’s an intentional practice of being able to exercise your perception, so that the mind is so malleable that it develops a very strong sense of Equanimity. Whether something is repulsive or unrepulsive, it doesn’t matter. It just is able to stay in an equanimous state, without attaching to the unrepulsive or averting from the repulsive.

This is a conscious exercise, a conscious kind of meditation practice that certain monks will do, or certain practitioners, in order to make their perceptions malleable.

But I’m saying, on the practical level, you can see it for yourself, you can reflect on your own mind and see that the very same memories that you have, will have different feeling tones, a different sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness, based on the moods that you have, the mind sets, and your perceptions will change, based on that.

You can make it a conscious exercise, if you wanted to, but that starts to happen on its own, when you start cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion. When you start getting into places, situations and interacting with people, which may be repulsive and what I mean by that, difficult or that could create aversion in the mind, because you have cultivated Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, in those ‘repulsive’ states, it’s easy for you to see the good in that. It’s easy for you to then be able to let go of what might be difficult, let go of the aversion that might be arising from the difficult.

Conversely, when you are in a pleasant state of mind, or you come to places, situations or deal with people who are pleasant, but then you start to attach a sense of self to it and then create craving for yourself, by attaching and wanting more of it; by understanding and using Equanimity, and seeing the impersonal and impermanent nature and the suffering aspect of what is arising, what would generally be unrepulsive, you don’t necessarily consider repulsive, but you don’t attach any sense of desire to it.

[Reads from a chat in the video call: yes, exactly; that’s how Metta destroys ill will, it just fades away, replaced by Loving-kindness, that’s right.]

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

Watch it here

Meditation

Don’t worry! In the beginning, it can be difficult or awkward to bring up that warm, glowing feeling of Loving-kindness. 

These videos may help you to bring this feeling of Loving-kindness back into your meditation:

The feeling doesn’t need to be very strong; a little spark is enough! If you look into the eyes of a baby, do you need to try to feel love? Is it hard to feel it while playing with a puppy? Or while sitting on a bench in a park, on a pleasant day, watching people go by?

Develop this feeling one sit at a time and you will be going down the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. You use the Brahma Viharas to become awakened. Developing a smile will make this practice much easier.

For more information, read this helpful article:

https://www.dhammasukha.org/cant-find-the-feeling.html

Category: Meditation

We recommend doing Metta; it is much faster, and more pleasant than breathing meditation. Listen to bhante Vimalaramsi’s explanation:

Comparing Metta with breathing meditation

If you have practiced Breath or Anapanasati before, it is likely you didn’t practice it the way we teach it. We teach it using the 6R’s, and the Relax step, which is fundamentally different. It is in line with what the Buddha described as Right Effort.

We prefer people to learn a new type of meditation. That way, you don’t run the risk of accidentally falling back into old habits of suppressing hindrances. Please, don’t even consider breath. 

According to Bhante Vimalaramsi, it is almost unheard of if people truly can’t practice Metta meditation. Just stay with Metta – It takes a little bit of practice, that is all.

And besides, this world could do with a bit more Loving-kindness.

Group Support

If you need more advice, feel free to join our international community. Questions are always answered and you will get a great deal of encouragement from your fellow meditators!

https://groups.io/g/dhammasukha

Category: Meditation

  You can’t change people, so the best thing you can do is be the example. Depending on the situation – every situation is different of course – you have to be wise, and you have to find the wise path. For you to be the wise example. When you can shine the beauty of the Dhamma – and that means Dhamma as virtue, generosity, Loving-kindness, Compassion, gratitude. When you yourself are so full of it, that it just flows out of you naturally, and you are very happy.

You see, when people see happy people, they want to be like them; monkey see, monkey do – I talked about that last sunday. When we see happy people, we want to be happy like them. So, when you will be happy and if someone tells you things that are not really respectful, or are unwise, and you’re not fazed by it and you respond instead of reacting; you respond with Love, you respond with Compassion, you respond with Sympathetic Joy, you respond with steady composure of your own mind; then they see the beauty of the Dhamma and you are in fact giving them the gift of your own presence, of your own wisdom.

  The Buddha said – like I wrote in the book – and he really said this a lot monks; be like islands on yourself. And this is what you have to do for others also, because you can’t help others if you’re drowning yourself. You have to be steady, you have to be firmly planted in the Dhamma, in virtue, in wholesome states. That’s what being planted in Dhamma means; being solid in wholesome mental states. And then you can hold out your hand and help others. Not trying to change them, but by being that island, and they will just swim to your shore [laughs] and stand up by themselves. That’s what you can do.  

Watch it here

Category: Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

This is a very interesting understanding that you’re having. This is one way of understanding it.

If you notice, in your day-to-day life, when you’re thinking about things, or you’re having memories; if you are, let’s say, in a bad mood, or if you are in a state of mind which is unwholesome, and you think back about things that were not so wholesome, you have a certain perception of it.

But then you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion, and you think back of those things again, you’re going to have a different perception of that. It could be anything as simple as a relationship you had with a friend, a family member, or whatever it was. If you are in a bad mood, you’ll start to think about that memory, and you see it in a way that is unwholesome. But when you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion and you think about that memory again, then you are more compassionate and understanding and say: well, maybe they weren’t feeling so well and that’s why they behaved this way. Or maybe they were unhealthy or not fully there, fully present, you know, you sort of have an understanding mind set of whatever that memory was. That’s one way of looking at it.

So, looking at the repulsive and seeing the unrepulsive in that, or looking at the unrepulsive and seeing the repulsive in that, is also a more advanced way of playing around with your aggregate of Perception. Meaning, you are able to see what is repulsive to others and change our mind set about that and see the unrepulsive in that. It’s a practice of changing your Perception, it’s an intentional practice of being able to exercise your perception, so that the mind is so malleable that it develops a very strong sense of Equanimity. Whether something is repulsive or unrepulsive, it doesn’t matter. It just is able to stay in an equanimous state, without attaching to the unrepulsive or averting from the repulsive.

This is a conscious exercise, a conscious kind of meditation practice that certain monks will do, or certain practitioners, in order to make their perceptions malleable.

But I’m saying, on the practical level, you can see it for yourself, you can reflect on your own mind and see that the very same memories that you have, will have different feeling tones, a different sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness, based on the moods that you have, the mind sets, and your perceptions will change, based on that.

You can make it a conscious exercise, if you wanted to, but that starts to happen on its own, when you start cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion. When you start getting into places, situations and interacting with people, which may be repulsive and what I mean by that, difficult or that could create aversion in the mind, because you have cultivated Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, in those ‘repulsive’ states, it’s easy for you to see the good in that. It’s easy for you to then be able to let go of what might be difficult, let go of the aversion that might be arising from the difficult.

Conversely, when you are in a pleasant state of mind, or you come to places, situations or deal with people who are pleasant, but then you start to attach a sense of self to it and then create craving for yourself, by attaching and wanting more of it; by understanding and using Equanimity, and seeing the impersonal and impermanent nature and the suffering aspect of what is arising, what would generally be unrepulsive, you don’t necessarily consider repulsive, but you don’t attach any sense of desire to it.

[Reads from a chat in the video call: yes, exactly; that’s how Metta destroys ill will, it just fades away, replaced by Loving-kindness, that’s right.]

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

Watch it here

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.

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Meditation

It’s a bit of both, because this is explaining the transition between the first level of meditation and the second. The jhanas – the levels of meditation – are a road map that the Buddha gave us. If we use Right Effort, if we use Wise Practice – Samma Vayama – we will go through these states naturally. But to be aware and to understand them, will help us as well to understand how to practice. Then, there is more confidence and we understand where this is going, instead of constantly wondering.  

At the beginning, there will be thinking, there will be imagining. It might be that you are using this to bring up, for example Joy, or an uplifting object, because when the mind is uplifted and happy, it is aware. The nature of a joyful mind is to be aware and not overexcited, just uplifted, just happy.

When this happens, as you continue calming down, letting go – whatever your object of meditation is, whether you’re using the Loving-kindness, the Compassion or the Satipatthanas  – it will calm down. The thinking and the reflection will naturally become too coarse for the mind. The mind will start to really collect and gather, and these thoughts and imagination will feel like restlessness a little bit more. So, naturally, that is simply your wisdom, your discernment that is getting sharper and sharper. And the mind is taking more delight, more freedom in not thinking.

Watch it here

Category: Meditation

Jhana is from the word the root dhy and this has many translations possible; seeing, understanding. And this is what we do in meditation, where you’re practicing this clarity of mind, seeing.

 These jhanas are simply used as a kind of road map of our understanding. In the first jhana, for example, there are different factors, like the joy of letting go and the thinking and imagining are still there, thinking and reflection. Now at that time, it’s difficult to really see it as a definitive clear-cut thing. It doesn’t really work like that. The mind is more of a jungle than this [laughs]. We have to bushwhack in the jungle for a little bit, and make a path, and we see markers along the path. It becomes clearer and clearer. Now there are wholesome tree species that we can develop, that will help us walk the path in the forest. When you are with the feeling of Loving-kindness, it’s not so much that hatred will just kick in. It’s not really clear like that. It will be more like the mind starts getting bored, maybe, or it will start getting dull and it will lose interest. Then, mindfulness starts to slip, and then the Loving-kindness drops a little bit. When that happens, this opens the door for other states to come in. This is fairly unconscious, because these unwholesome states, as they creep in, are not really conscious. They’re just coming up, and that’s why we’re practicing the Loving-kindness. That’s the power of Loving-kindness, that it really makes a definite break between the Loving-kindness and any other kinds of thinking. If the feeling of Loving-kindness is gone, then it’s not there anymore; now you’re with something else, who knows what it is.

I try to answer your question as directly as I can, which is not easy because it’s not clear-cut like that. The mindfulness will get dull and then unwholesome things, unwholesome states, will creep in. But to just notice this, somebody needs quite good awareness, and that’s what we’re cultivating all the time. In fact, that’s the practice.

These states are conditioned within our psyche. Like I said, this is a talk on wholesome mental development. The mind gets conditioned, whether we like it or not, by everything that we do, and it leaves an impression on the mind. These bhavas, these habitual tendencies, that we develop by liking this or that, disliking this or that, it’s like writing our hard drive every time. We’re accumulating this all the time. And, unless we actually purify it, it sticks with us. These unwholesome states arise, because the mindfulness has gotten down a little bit. Our mindfulness slips, and then we slip into these pre-programmed sankaras – activities in the mind that are pre-programmed.

Perhaps I should say that it’s not so much that, either it’s completely unwholesome or wholesome. Perhaps more that these are wholesome states, and these are unwholesome states and just to know that, is what we need to do. To do the triage in our mind, and to sort them out, so that we can always cultivate towards wholesome states.

 What I meant was closer to; when there is this feeling of Loving-kindness in all directions – and that’s why it’s so important to develop it in that way, as a feeling that is radiating in all directions – that’s one step, the feeling. That’s very important, it’s a very wholesome feeling. And the second step is the boundless part, which is the mental release, that is very important in this practice.

 When it is done in that way, it is completely open. Then there are no unwholesome states in the mind. At that point you can be sure that, if this recollection or if this awareness of this broad, expansive, open Loving-kindness is happening, and if it fades away in any kind of way, then something else is happening in the mind. That’s what I meant. When there is this presence of Loving-kindness in all directions, completely boundless, then then there’s only that. There is only love. And then, whatever comes in, then the feeling will diminish, the feeling will change. Because the mind has to be completely released in that respect, to be able to do that.

If another thought comes in, that means it’s not completely with the Loving-kindness. That means, it’s not fully there, so there’s a little bit of an unwholesome thing happening. So, it’s not clear cut, no. [Laughter]

Watch it here

Category: Meditation

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

This is a very interesting understanding that you’re having. This is one way of understanding it.

If you notice, in your day-to-day life, when you’re thinking about things, or you’re having memories; if you are, let’s say, in a bad mood, or if you are in a state of mind which is unwholesome, and you think back about things that were not so wholesome, you have a certain perception of it.

But then you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion, and you think back of those things again, you’re going to have a different perception of that. It could be anything as simple as a relationship you had with a friend, a family member, or whatever it was. If you are in a bad mood, you’ll start to think about that memory, and you see it in a way that is unwholesome. But when you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion and you think about that memory again, then you are more compassionate and understanding and say: well, maybe they weren’t feeling so well and that’s why they behaved this way. Or maybe they were unhealthy or not fully there, fully present, you know, you sort of have an understanding mind set of whatever that memory was. That’s one way of looking at it.

So, looking at the repulsive and seeing the unrepulsive in that, or looking at the unrepulsive and seeing the repulsive in that, is also a more advanced way of playing around with your aggregate of Perception. Meaning, you are able to see what is repulsive to others and change our mind set about that and see the unrepulsive in that. It’s a practice of changing your Perception, it’s an intentional practice of being able to exercise your perception, so that the mind is so malleable that it develops a very strong sense of Equanimity. Whether something is repulsive or unrepulsive, it doesn’t matter. It just is able to stay in an equanimous state, without attaching to the unrepulsive or averting from the repulsive.

This is a conscious exercise, a conscious kind of meditation practice that certain monks will do, or certain practitioners, in order to make their perceptions malleable.

But I’m saying, on the practical level, you can see it for yourself, you can reflect on your own mind and see that the very same memories that you have, will have different feeling tones, a different sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness, based on the moods that you have, the mind sets, and your perceptions will change, based on that.

You can make it a conscious exercise, if you wanted to, but that starts to happen on its own, when you start cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion. When you start getting into places, situations and interacting with people, which may be repulsive and what I mean by that, difficult or that could create aversion in the mind, because you have cultivated Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, in those ‘repulsive’ states, it’s easy for you to see the good in that. It’s easy for you to then be able to let go of what might be difficult, let go of the aversion that might be arising from the difficult.

Conversely, when you are in a pleasant state of mind, or you come to places, situations or deal with people who are pleasant, but then you start to attach a sense of self to it and then create craving for yourself, by attaching and wanting more of it; by understanding and using Equanimity, and seeing the impersonal and impermanent nature and the suffering aspect of what is arising, what would generally be unrepulsive, you don’t necessarily consider repulsive, but you don’t attach any sense of desire to it.

[Reads from a chat in the video call: yes, exactly; that’s how Metta destroys ill will, it just fades away, replaced by Loving-kindness, that’s right.]

Watch it here

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

Watch it here

Sutta Explanations

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

Slightly edited to improve readability  

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

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

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

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

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

[person who asked the question]

Thank you. What is the Pali term for wholesome?

[Delson]

Kusala.

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

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

Watch it here

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