Questions and Answers

Daily Life

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Daily Life, Online Retreat

Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

It’s always starting at the point of Formations.

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Categories: Daily Life, Online Retreat

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

Slightly edited to improve readability

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

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

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

[Question]

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

[Answer]

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

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

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

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

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

Watch it here

Category: Online Retreat