Questions and Answers

Forgiveness

Please see the following suttas in relation to forgiveness:

In this sutta, the Buddha doesn’t accept the harm from another. Thus he doesn’t get inflicted to the point that he needs to Forgive.

https://suttacentral.net/sn7.2/en/sujato

And this sutta, number 21 the first section, shows the importance of understanding one’s own mistakes and forgiving others’ mistakes.

https://suttacentral.net/an2.21-31/en/sujato

For more information on how to practice Forgiveness, see

Revised Instructions

Category: Forgiveness

Meditation

Please see the following suttas in relation to forgiveness:

In this sutta, the Buddha doesn’t accept the harm from another. Thus he doesn’t get inflicted to the point that he needs to Forgive.

https://suttacentral.net/sn7.2/en/sujato

And this sutta, number 21 the first section, shows the importance of understanding one’s own mistakes and forgiving others’ mistakes.

https://suttacentral.net/an2.21-31/en/sujato

For more information on how to practice Forgiveness, see

Revised Instructions

Category: Forgiveness

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  

From what I understand, the traditional story is that the Buddha reminisced about the time when he was a boy. He was sitting under the rose-apple tree. He took that as an object, or at least as a way to get into an uplifted state.

It’s quite interesting, there are a lot of different ways that the meditation process is described in different suttas.

There is a sutta that is called the Bhikkhunis Residence, in the Anguttara Nikaya. In it, Ananda goes to visit the nuns and he asks them about their practice. Ananda then comes back and talks to the Buddha, and the Buddha says; yes, there is a way of doing it where there are the Four Resting Places of Awareness, or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. You are aware of body as body, mind as mind, sensations as sensations and mental contents as mental contents. And as you are aware of this, and you start to get distracted, you bring in an uplifting object. This is what is known as Development by Application, according to the Buddha.

In that sutta he says to bring up a wholesome object, an uplifting object. Once you bring up the uplifting object, you let go of anything related to it, meaning you let go of the image, the thought, the examination and the verbalization that led to that uplifting object. And you stay with the awareness of that uplifting object. This is known as Development by Application.

And then there is development without application, or the undirected meditation. In this one, it’s just resting mind’s awareness on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. And then you can actually take the factors of the jhana as your object. Meaning, you can go through each jhana – this happens later, when you make the determinations, when you’re quite developed in your practice of the jhanas. You can actually take the factors of the first jhana and be able to be in the first jhana, just by intending it. Making your object, so to speak, the factors of the first jhana. Likewise, with the second, the third, the fourth jhana, and then the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness, Neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

As far as I know, and as little as I know about the suttas, I don’t think the Buddha specifically mentioned anything related to taking an object for the jhanas. However, there’s one specific sutta, in fact, it is one of the suttas that is in the curriculum for this retreat*.   I cannot tell you by memory exactly what the name of the sutta is, but it is related to Metta, and in that, the Buddha is talking about the different jhanas. He is talking about how each of the Brahma Viharas is tied to each of the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness and Neither-perception-nor-non-perception. He talks about Loving-kindness with the first four jhanas, and then he talks about Compassion with Infinite Space, Empathetic Joy with Infinite Consciousness and Equanimity with Nothingness. This is also in relation to the Seven Factors of Awakening.

As far as the object of meditation is concerned, all you need to know is; once you have your object of meditation, whatever it is, it’s important to be with it, to stay unified around it, so that you can continue to be in that jhana. That’s a way for the mind to be tied with the present moment. Aware of what is happening in the present moment, while allowing the mind to start to develop – through that awareness – the different factors of the jhana, and then experience it one by one as they arise.

[Person asking the question]

Thank you. You said, some object to get a child – I couldn’t hear properly?

[Delson]

 I was saying that the traditional story is – and I may be mistaken – that the Buddha pondered back to when he was a child, sitting under the rose-apple tree. And he was thinking about how happy he was in that state. This was at a time when his father was visiting some place, and he sat at the foot of the tree. He remembered how easy his mind was, while he was meditating, and he then contemplated; what if I were to do that again?

This was on the night before his Enlightenment, and he used that same process to get into this jhana with that ease of mind.

*Delson probably refers to the Samyutta Nikaya, 46.54 Accompanied by Loving-kindness, which is part of the materials offered for Day 3.

Watch it here

This is a sequence that is used in many ways, but usually the Buddha would – when he explained his whole explanation of the Path – get just before the first jhana and explain that. When one realized that the five hindrances have been left behind, the Buddha says: pāmojja jāyati.

Pāmojja is the word for gladness, the root is mud – like joy [Mudita]. It can be interpreted as gladness. It could also be translated as joy. I am sometimes translating it as relief. Because, when the five hindrances are left behind, they’re let go of, then there is that relief, there is that pāmojja. The Buddha, in Pali, says pāmuditassa pīti jāyati. That means with that gladness, or with that uplifted mind, or with that relieved mind, there is joy.

But we need to know the suttas very well to understand that this joy that the Buddha is speaking of here, is spiritual joy, it is mental-development-joy. This is no everyday kind of eating-a-chocolate-bar kind of joy [laughs].

This the joy of bhavana, the joy of mental development, because these five hindrances are like the clouds over the mind, and when these are left behind, there’s this wonderful joy of mental clarity. I would say this is the main difference between them.

 If we look at them in this way in other suttas [see for instance Anguttara Nikaya 6.25 Recollection], the Buddha will use that sequence when he talks about the six Recollections of an awakened person; a person who has entered stream-entry; a sakadagami or Once-Returner; an anagami or Non-Returner or an arahant. These four kinds of persons will naturally recollect:

  1. the Buddha, the good qualities of the Buddha, and naturally their mind will be uplifted. That’s how he says that pāmojja will arise, and that pīti jāyati, that joy.
  2. recollecting the Dhamma
  3. recollecting the Sangha
  4. recollecting generosity, their own generosity, or whatever act of help that they’ve done
  5. the virtue, recollecting virtue
  6. or recollecting the devas.

It’s also used in other terms. But that’s a few places where we can find that sequence.

[person who asked the question]

Thank you bhante. Can you also help to clarify the difference between pīti and sukha?

[Bhante Ananda]

 This is also Pali, and therefore it has a very specific context which we don’t always have here, in this day and age, and with the English language, for example. It’s a bit tricky to translate Pali word for word to English. In fact, that’s one of the things we realize pretty soon, that is very difficult.

But I would say that generally, pīti is more this stronger kind of joy, it is a bit more excited. Sukha is more like happiness, but a synonym of it would also be ease, this really nice ease. This is also reflected in the second and the third jhana; one feels ease with the body, sukha with the body.

Whenever I speak to different people, I will play with these words, depending on where people are. But I use happiness most generally, because it is quite well understood. Further along in the meditation, it becomes quite clear then, that it is simply this really good ease, of body and mind. So, that would be more sukha.

[Comment from the audience]

 Bhante, generally, pīti is translated as mental pleaser and sukha as bodily pleaser, in translations I have seen.

[Bhante Ananda]

For example, in the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the Buddha will explain the first four steps, which include tranquilizing the bodily formations. And then, knowing the whole body, and then he says; breathing in and out with joy, pīti, and then breathing in and out with sukha, with ease or happiness. So, if sukha is really this bodily, then pīti is more mental; then it would be the other way around.

One thing that is happening quite often, I would say, is that some terms have become very rigid in Buddhism. When we read the original texts, the Buddha himself played a lot with these terms.

 It’s not that it’s not true what is being said, but we should always keep an open mind as to how these words come. and how the Buddha uses these terms.

 In fact, sometimes he uses these terms as something that is unwholesome, and sometimes he uses them as something that is really wholesome and that is to be developed.

We have to understand what context it is being said in, and why is the Buddha saying that. We have to know the essence, the core, of his teaching, to understand what he means. I would say that he had quite a wide spectrum of ways of interpreting words, and he even mentioned that himself.

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 It is basically the Equanimity of the Awakened ones, of the Ariya’s, that in the third jhana they speak of that; this is a pleasant abiding, steady awareness, steady presence of mind.

It is that Equanimity, that steadiness of mind in the fourth jhana, in this particular sutta [AN IX 34 Nibbānasukha Sutta], that is the coarser aspect which comes and troubles us.

I called it immovability, because to say that Equanimity is disturbing, is kind of…odd, I felt 🙂 Because Equanimity is the opposite of disturbance. At that point there is still awareness of form, awareness of body.

In my understanding that’s where I lean towards.

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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

The interesting thing about the Satipatthana sutta – the four Foundations of Mindfulness – is that within each Foundation there are different ways to develop mindfulness. And in all four categories, in all four Foundations, you will notice there is the mindfulness of the arising and passing away of the feeling within the body, of the sensory experiences. There is the arising and passing away of the processes of the phenomena, that are happening within and outside of the body. There is the arising and passing away of the thoughts.

So within the context of the meditation, you are applying mindfulness to the extent that you are aware, or you are observing the object. You are just staying present with the feeling, whatever the Brahma Vihara might be. As you’re staying with it, you might see thoughts arise and pass away in the background. Your awareness is so open, your mindfulness is there to the extent that you can see these things, but because you’re not so fully focused, you’re not suppressing the ability of the mind to be able to apply this observational power.

That’s one reason why I translate, for example, mindfulness as observation, because observation is all about being aware and observing all of the phenomena that are happening, with this unification of mind around the object. While the mind is unified around the object, while it’s aware with its attention around the object, it’s still mindful of things that might arise in the way of hindrances, or insights that might arise, or what kind of factors might be present.

It’s not to say that you’re looking for it. That’s the bare knowledge, that’s the bare awareness which is; it arises when it arises, and it comes into your field of knowledge when you notice it, when you see it. But only  to the extent of you seeing it, not  looking for it, not trying to find it. It will come to you, as long as you keep your awareness  open. 

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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)

When you read Day 1 tomorrow, it will give a little more in-depth explanation. The 6R’s are the modern version, if you will, of the Four Right Efforts. The Four Right Efforts and the 6R’s are intertwined. The process of the 6R’s, when you start with Recognize, aligns with the First Right Effort.

Let me go through the Four Right Efforts:

  • The First Right Effort is the preventing of unwholesome states from arising. That is your hindrances and your distractions.
  • The Second is abandoning presently arise unwholesome states or hindrances.
  • The Third is to bring up your wholesome qualities of mind.
  • The Fourth is to maintain that wholesome quality of mind.

When you’re using the 6R process, you see that the mind has gotten distracted and is no longer paying attention to the object of meditation (OoM). When you see this and you Recognize this, you’re preventing the distraction to further flow with your attention. So, you prevent any further distractions from arising, when you Recognize.

When you Release your attention, you take your attention away from that distraction and bring it to the Relax process. Which is to Relax the craving, the tension, that is a result of the craving in both the mind and the body. You are using the Second Right Effort, which is to abandon the unwholesome states of mind, presently arisen.

When you come back to your Smile, making sure you are smiling, and come back to your OoM – which is Loving-kindness, Compassion or whatever it might be – you are then bringing up the wholesome quality of mind.

Finally, as you Return and stay with your object, you are maintaining that wholesome quality of mind. And then you Repeat whenever necessary, whenever your mind gets distracted yet 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 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability  

Up to the level of anagami [or Non-returner, the third stage of the four stages of Nibbana], there is an attachment to the Dhamma. This will be a little deeper, once you get into day seven and eight, but essentially, it’s about understanding the purposes of the Dhamma.

Understanding the Dhamma is meant to be a raft, it’s the simile of the raft; you use the Dhamma to get across to the other shore, to get to Nibbana, to get to arahantship. But if you take the raft with you, when you get to the other shore, and start carrying it on your back while you’re walking; that doesn’t make any sense.

In the same way, once you have used the Dhamma, utilized the principles of the Dhamma to get to the goal, – which is arahantship – you no longer even have any attachment to the Dhamma itself. The Dhamma also is an impersonal phenomenon.

But for the anagami , it’s said they will be an anagami because they keep relishing in the Dhamma. In a lot of different suttas, you’ll see it says; by not grasping even to the Dhamma, their minds will be liberated from the Taints, the Defilements. There were some who relished, or took delight in it, and so became anagamis. So, that’s really dhammaraga, the passion for the Dhamma.

When you get to the stage of an anagami, that’s what you need to work on; relieve the mind from its attachment to the Dhamma.

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 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 5 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

 It’s one of a few examples of where, having heard the talk, that for such beings, by not grasping, the Taints were destroyed, the defilements were destroyed, and thus they were then arahants.

 It’s interesting, there are a few other suttas, like the Bāhiya sutta [Udāna 1.10], which is very similar to another one in the Majjhima Nikaya, where it’s very similar in content as well, and style. Upon listening to the Buddha’s talk, and really contemplating what he says, they become arahants right there and then.

There’s even, and it’s very interesting, Sariputta who has two different accounts of how he sees through wisdom. There is, as we know traditionally, the Majjhima Nikāya, which is the Anupada sutta, One by One as they Occurred [MN 111] and when you read that, you see that it just goes through each of the jhanas and then the mind is liberated at the end, having seen with wisdom. But there is another sutta in Majjhima Nikāya, in which the Buddha is talking to Sariputta’s nephew, I believe, MN 74 To Dighanaka/Dighanakha Sutta. In that, Sariputta is fanning the Buddha, and upon listening to Buddha talk about the level of Feeling, and contemplating on that, Sariputtas Taints are destroyed and he attains arahantship.

 That means that there is a potential, if the mind is serene enough, if the mind is collected enough, if the mind is already mindful enough to be able to listen to it, and in that process apply what the Buddha is saying, upon listening to it.

For example, in the case of Sariputta, having understood the phenomena of Feeling, and understanding how on letting go of the phenomenon of Feeling, and by not grasping, he understood how it was impermanent, how it was impersonal. He let go of any attachment to it, and then was able, through seeing the links of the Dependent Origination in the next moment, to just let go of all the Taints. In that wisdom, the Taints were destroyed.

In the case of even Bahiya, I would say that that was what happened upon listening to it, with deep insight, with deep reverence and deep Mindfulness. Upon listening to it and seeing when he says about the self, in not being before or after the seeing, and there’s just pure seeing or pure experiencing, he was able to see and not involve his mind in the links of Dependent Origination, as they arose.

Whether it’s through the jhana practice – meaning, whether it’s through samadhi, Collectedness, that then you go through the four jhanas and then the higher states, and then enter Cessation and upon that, see with a clear mind and understand with wisdom –  or upon listening with deep reverence and allowing your mind to be free of any hindrances, essentially your mind is  collected while you’re listening.

We have some interesting comments; they’re talking about that it’s possible that these people were meditating while listening. In some sense they could have been, because they were listening so deeply, that their mind was quite serene and tranquil.

And another individual says that Mindfulness, Collectiveness, and the Four Right Efforts is meditation. Yes, in having that application of Mindfulness – seeing the body, seeing the mind, seeing the sensations – and understanding it as the Buddha is relaying the information, using the Right Efforts, whenever the mind might be distracted, and coming back to that Collectedness in that meditative state while listening; they were able to see the links of Dependent Origination as they arose, without having to go through the entire process of getting into Cessation and coming out of it. It is quite possible, but for that you need very good Collectedness, very good and very sharp Mindfulness. And good Kamma.

Watch it here

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

The interesting thing about the Satipatthana sutta – the four Foundations of Mindfulness – is that within each Foundation there are different ways to develop mindfulness. And in all four categories, in all four Foundations, you will notice there is the mindfulness of the arising and passing away of the feeling within the body, of the sensory experiences. There is the arising and passing away of the processes of the phenomena, that are happening within and outside of the body. There is the arising and passing away of the thoughts.

So within the context of the meditation, you are applying mindfulness to the extent that you are aware, or you are observing the object. You are just staying present with the feeling, whatever the Brahma Vihara might be. As you’re staying with it, you might see thoughts arise and pass away in the background. Your awareness is so open, your mindfulness is there to the extent that you can see these things, but because you’re not so fully focused, you’re not suppressing the ability of the mind to be able to apply this observational power.

That’s one reason why I translate, for example, mindfulness as observation, because observation is all about being aware and observing all of the phenomena that are happening, with this unification of mind around the object. While the mind is unified around the object, while it’s aware with its attention around the object, it’s still mindful of things that might arise in the way of hindrances, or insights that might arise, or what kind of factors might be present.

It’s not to say that you’re looking for it. That’s the bare knowledge, that’s the bare awareness which is; it arises when it arises, and it comes into your field of knowledge when you notice it, when you see it. But only  to the extent of you seeing it, not  looking for it, not trying to find it. It will come to you, as long as you keep your awareness  open. 

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  

From what I understand, the traditional story is that the Buddha reminisced about the time when he was a boy. He was sitting under the rose-apple tree. He took that as an object, or at least as a way to get into an uplifted state.

It’s quite interesting, there are a lot of different ways that the meditation process is described in different suttas.

There is a sutta that is called the Bhikkhunis Residence, in the Anguttara Nikaya. In it, Ananda goes to visit the nuns and he asks them about their practice. Ananda then comes back and talks to the Buddha, and the Buddha says; yes, there is a way of doing it where there are the Four Resting Places of Awareness, or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. You are aware of body as body, mind as mind, sensations as sensations and mental contents as mental contents. And as you are aware of this, and you start to get distracted, you bring in an uplifting object. This is what is known as Development by Application, according to the Buddha.

In that sutta he says to bring up a wholesome object, an uplifting object. Once you bring up the uplifting object, you let go of anything related to it, meaning you let go of the image, the thought, the examination and the verbalization that led to that uplifting object. And you stay with the awareness of that uplifting object. This is known as Development by Application.

And then there is development without application, or the undirected meditation. In this one, it’s just resting mind’s awareness on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. And then you can actually take the factors of the jhana as your object. Meaning, you can go through each jhana – this happens later, when you make the determinations, when you’re quite developed in your practice of the jhanas. You can actually take the factors of the first jhana and be able to be in the first jhana, just by intending it. Making your object, so to speak, the factors of the first jhana. Likewise, with the second, the third, the fourth jhana, and then the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness, Neither-perception-nor-non-perception.

As far as I know, and as little as I know about the suttas, I don’t think the Buddha specifically mentioned anything related to taking an object for the jhanas. However, there’s one specific sutta, in fact, it is one of the suttas that is in the curriculum for this retreat*.   I cannot tell you by memory exactly what the name of the sutta is, but it is related to Metta, and in that, the Buddha is talking about the different jhanas. He is talking about how each of the Brahma Viharas is tied to each of the higher dimensions of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness and Neither-perception-nor-non-perception. He talks about Loving-kindness with the first four jhanas, and then he talks about Compassion with Infinite Space, Empathetic Joy with Infinite Consciousness and Equanimity with Nothingness. This is also in relation to the Seven Factors of Awakening.

As far as the object of meditation is concerned, all you need to know is; once you have your object of meditation, whatever it is, it’s important to be with it, to stay unified around it, so that you can continue to be in that jhana. That’s a way for the mind to be tied with the present moment. Aware of what is happening in the present moment, while allowing the mind to start to develop – through that awareness – the different factors of the jhana, and then experience it one by one as they arise.

[Person asking the question]

Thank you. You said, some object to get a child – I couldn’t hear properly?

[Delson]

 I was saying that the traditional story is – and I may be mistaken – that the Buddha pondered back to when he was a child, sitting under the rose-apple tree. And he was thinking about how happy he was in that state. This was at a time when his father was visiting some place, and he sat at the foot of the tree. He remembered how easy his mind was, while he was meditating, and he then contemplated; what if I were to do that again?

This was on the night before his Enlightenment, and he used that same process to get into this jhana with that ease of mind.

*Delson probably refers to the Samyutta Nikaya, 46.54 Accompanied by Loving-kindness, which is part of the materials offered for Day 3.

Watch it here

Sutta Explanations

Here you can find a huge list of interesting Sutta References.

They contain proof, definitions and hard to find references.

  1. Ignorance
  2. Formations – physical, verbal and mental
  3. Consciousness
  4. Mentality-Materiality (also called Name-and-Form, or Nama-Rupa)
  5. Six Sense Bases
  6. Contact
  7. Feeling
  8. Craving
  9. Clinging
  10. Being (also called Becoming or Habitual Tendencies)
  11. Birth
  12. Aging and Death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair

In the future we will explore what Dependent Origination is, the importance of it for the practice and an in-depth look at each Link.

Consciousness is dependent upon the six Sense Bases.

It is the process of Perception that understands the arising and passing away of consciousness.

This perception is dependent upon Feeling.

Feeling is dependent upon Contact.

Contact is dependent upon the six Sense Bases.

The observation that arises happens through Mentality, which encompasses the faculties of Contact, Feeling, Perception, Intention and Attention.

It is specifically Attention through which the arising and passing away of Consciousness is observed.

It is Mindfulness that views Dependent Origination.

This mindfulness is rooted in the faculty of Attention.

This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 5 was part of a daily 30-minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.

Slightly edited to improve readability

 It’s one of a few examples of where, having heard the talk, that for such beings, by not grasping, the Taints were destroyed, the defilements were destroyed, and thus they were then arahants.

 It’s interesting, there are a few other suttas, like the Bāhiya sutta [Udāna 1.10], which is very similar to another one in the Majjhima Nikaya, where it’s very similar in content as well, and style. Upon listening to the Buddha’s talk, and really contemplating what he says, they become arahants right there and then.

There’s even, and it’s very interesting, Sariputta who has two different accounts of how he sees through wisdom. There is, as we know traditionally, the Majjhima Nikāya, which is the Anupada sutta, One by One as they Occurred [MN 111] and when you read that, you see that it just goes through each of the jhanas and then the mind is liberated at the end, having seen with wisdom. But there is another sutta in Majjhima Nikāya, in which the Buddha is talking to Sariputta’s nephew, I believe, MN 74 To Dighanaka/Dighanakha Sutta. In that, Sariputta is fanning the Buddha, and upon listening to Buddha talk about the level of Feeling, and contemplating on that, Sariputtas Taints are destroyed and he attains arahantship.

 That means that there is a potential, if the mind is serene enough, if the mind is collected enough, if the mind is already mindful enough to be able to listen to it, and in that process apply what the Buddha is saying, upon listening to it.

For example, in the case of Sariputta, having understood the phenomena of Feeling, and understanding how on letting go of the phenomenon of Feeling, and by not grasping, he understood how it was impermanent, how it was impersonal. He let go of any attachment to it, and then was able, through seeing the links of the Dependent Origination in the next moment, to just let go of all the Taints. In that wisdom, the Taints were destroyed.

In the case of even Bahiya, I would say that that was what happened upon listening to it, with deep insight, with deep reverence and deep Mindfulness. Upon listening to it and seeing when he says about the self, in not being before or after the seeing, and there’s just pure seeing or pure experiencing, he was able to see and not involve his mind in the links of Dependent Origination, as they arose.

Whether it’s through the jhana practice – meaning, whether it’s through samadhi, Collectedness, that then you go through the four jhanas and then the higher states, and then enter Cessation and upon that, see with a clear mind and understand with wisdom –  or upon listening with deep reverence and allowing your mind to be free of any hindrances, essentially your mind is  collected while you’re listening.

We have some interesting comments; they’re talking about that it’s possible that these people were meditating while listening. In some sense they could have been, because they were listening so deeply, that their mind was quite serene and tranquil.

And another individual says that Mindfulness, Collectiveness, and the Four Right Efforts is meditation. Yes, in having that application of Mindfulness – seeing the body, seeing the mind, seeing the sensations – and understanding it as the Buddha is relaying the information, using the Right Efforts, whenever the mind might be distracted, and coming back to that Collectedness in that meditative state while listening; they were able to see the links of Dependent Origination as they arose, without having to go through the entire process of getting into Cessation and coming out of it. It is quite possible, but for that you need very good Collectedness, very good and very sharp Mindfulness. And good Kamma.

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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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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

The interesting thing about the Satipatthana sutta – the four Foundations of Mindfulness – is that within each Foundation there are different ways to develop mindfulness. And in all four categories, in all four Foundations, you will notice there is the mindfulness of the arising and passing away of the feeling within the body, of the sensory experiences. There is the arising and passing away of the processes of the phenomena, that are happening within and outside of the body. There is the arising and passing away of the thoughts.

So within the context of the meditation, you are applying mindfulness to the extent that you are aware, or you are observing the object. You are just staying present with the feeling, whatever the Brahma Vihara might be. As you’re staying with it, you might see thoughts arise and pass away in the background. Your awareness is so open, your mindfulness is there to the extent that you can see these things, but because you’re not so fully focused, you’re not suppressing the ability of the mind to be able to apply this observational power.

That’s one reason why I translate, for example, mindfulness as observation, because observation is all about being aware and observing all of the phenomena that are happening, with this unification of mind around the object. While the mind is unified around the object, while it’s aware with its attention around the object, it’s still mindful of things that might arise in the way of hindrances, or insights that might arise, or what kind of factors might be present.

It’s not to say that you’re looking for it. That’s the bare knowledge, that’s the bare awareness which is; it arises when it arises, and it comes into your field of knowledge when you notice it, when you see it. But only  to the extent of you seeing it, not  looking for it, not trying to find it. It will come to you, as long as you keep your awareness  open. 

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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  

Up to the level of anagami [or Non-returner, the third stage of the four stages of Nibbana], there is an attachment to the Dhamma. This will be a little deeper, once you get into day seven and eight, but essentially, it’s about understanding the purposes of the Dhamma.

Understanding the Dhamma is meant to be a raft, it’s the simile of the raft; you use the Dhamma to get across to the other shore, to get to Nibbana, to get to arahantship. But if you take the raft with you, when you get to the other shore, and start carrying it on your back while you’re walking; that doesn’t make any sense.

In the same way, once you have used the Dhamma, utilized the principles of the Dhamma to get to the goal, – which is arahantship – you no longer even have any attachment to the Dhamma itself. The Dhamma also is an impersonal phenomenon.

But for the anagami , it’s said they will be an anagami because they keep relishing in the Dhamma. In a lot of different suttas, you’ll see it says; by not grasping even to the Dhamma, their minds will be liberated from the Taints, the Defilements. There were some who relished, or took delight in it, and so became anagamis. So, that’s really dhammaraga, the passion for the Dhamma.

When you get to the stage of an anagami, that’s what you need to work on; relieve the mind from its attachment to the Dhamma.

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Short overview of The twelve links of Dependent Origination:

Ignorance – Not understanding the Four Noble Truths

Formations – verbal, mental and physical

Consciousness

Mentality-Materiality

Six Sense Base

Contact

Feeling

Craving

Clinging

Being / Habitual Tendencies

Birth

Aging and Death – the entire mass of suffering

Dependent Origination in ordinary people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Bhava is the reactionary aspect of self that causes Kamma.

Dependent Origination in a fully Awakened being

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

The pure Mind of the Arahant

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

Psychic abilities are a result of Kamma.

An example of that can be found in the case of Anuruddha. In the Therāgāthā – the stories of the early arahant monks – it says that Anuruddha lit an oil lamp for one of the previous Buddhas, Sumedha, while the latter would meditate beneath a tree. As a kammic result, in his final rebirth, Anuruddha was praised by the Buddha Gotama, as being foremost in developing the Divine Eye. He was able to see beyond the physical eye, viewing beings in a thousand world-systems.  

One may be able to develop such psychic abilities, whether one has entered the Stream or not, and whether one has completed the Noble Eightfold Path or not. 

 It is a matter of practice and unlocking such abilities through the development of mind, using the jhanas. 

 However, final knowledge of the Destruction of Craving / Ignorance / the Fetters and Taints, supersedes all other abilities.

An arahant could develop them, but would not have an inclination to develop these abilities. 

This is a sequence that is used in many ways, but usually the Buddha would – when he explained his whole explanation of the Path – get just before the first jhana and explain that. When one realized that the five hindrances have been left behind, the Buddha says: pāmojja jāyati.

Pāmojja is the word for gladness, the root is mud – like joy [Mudita]. It can be interpreted as gladness. It could also be translated as joy. I am sometimes translating it as relief. Because, when the five hindrances are left behind, they’re let go of, then there is that relief, there is that pāmojja. The Buddha, in Pali, says pāmuditassa pīti jāyati. That means with that gladness, or with that uplifted mind, or with that relieved mind, there is joy.

But we need to know the suttas very well to understand that this joy that the Buddha is speaking of here, is spiritual joy, it is mental-development-joy. This is no everyday kind of eating-a-chocolate-bar kind of joy [laughs].

This the joy of bhavana, the joy of mental development, because these five hindrances are like the clouds over the mind, and when these are left behind, there’s this wonderful joy of mental clarity. I would say this is the main difference between them.

 If we look at them in this way in other suttas [see for instance Anguttara Nikaya 6.25 Recollection], the Buddha will use that sequence when he talks about the six Recollections of an awakened person; a person who has entered stream-entry; a sakadagami or Once-Returner; an anagami or Non-Returner or an arahant. These four kinds of persons will naturally recollect:

  1. the Buddha, the good qualities of the Buddha, and naturally their mind will be uplifted. That’s how he says that pāmojja will arise, and that pīti jāyati, that joy.
  2. recollecting the Dhamma
  3. recollecting the Sangha
  4. recollecting generosity, their own generosity, or whatever act of help that they’ve done
  5. the virtue, recollecting virtue
  6. or recollecting the devas.

It’s also used in other terms. But that’s a few places where we can find that sequence.

[person who asked the question]

Thank you bhante. Can you also help to clarify the difference between pīti and sukha?

[Bhante Ananda]

 This is also Pali, and therefore it has a very specific context which we don’t always have here, in this day and age, and with the English language, for example. It’s a bit tricky to translate Pali word for word to English. In fact, that’s one of the things we realize pretty soon, that is very difficult.

But I would say that generally, pīti is more this stronger kind of joy, it is a bit more excited. Sukha is more like happiness, but a synonym of it would also be ease, this really nice ease. This is also reflected in the second and the third jhana; one feels ease with the body, sukha with the body.

Whenever I speak to different people, I will play with these words, depending on where people are. But I use happiness most generally, because it is quite well understood. Further along in the meditation, it becomes quite clear then, that it is simply this really good ease, of body and mind. So, that would be more sukha.

[Comment from the audience]

 Bhante, generally, pīti is translated as mental pleaser and sukha as bodily pleaser, in translations I have seen.

[Bhante Ananda]

For example, in the Ānāpānasati Sutta, the Buddha will explain the first four steps, which include tranquilizing the bodily formations. And then, knowing the whole body, and then he says; breathing in and out with joy, pīti, and then breathing in and out with sukha, with ease or happiness. So, if sukha is really this bodily, then pīti is more mental; then it would be the other way around.

One thing that is happening quite often, I would say, is that some terms have become very rigid in Buddhism. When we read the original texts, the Buddha himself played a lot with these terms.

 It’s not that it’s not true what is being said, but we should always keep an open mind as to how these words come. and how the Buddha uses these terms.

 In fact, sometimes he uses these terms as something that is unwholesome, and sometimes he uses them as something that is really wholesome and that is to be developed.

We have to understand what context it is being said in, and why is the Buddha saying that. We have to know the essence, the core, of his teaching, to understand what he means. I would say that he had quite a wide spectrum of ways of interpreting words, and he even mentioned that himself.

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 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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