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Let no one deceive another or despise anyone anywhere, or through anger or resistance wish for another to suffer.

25 May 2010

Treasure existence

Every being treasures its existence. Every being fears for its life and seeks to guard its treasure. Am I a thief, ready to steal another's treasure? Am I a bully, ready to bring fear to another? Am I a cowardly gang leader, ready with money or inducements to persuade others to steal or bully, creating fear on my behalf, merely to satisfy my craving, my lust, my greed, all to support a fragmentary delusion of sense desires? These are the thoughts that one may use to explain a decision not to eat meat. 

Many troubled questions arise around food. This is natural in a world where the senses are so frequently assaulted with images, words, aromas, sense impressions and consciousness incitements; all manufactured and presented in such enticing ways by the food-media industries. What to do in the face of such overwhelming odds? 

Panca sila are the five precepts every follower of dhamma must seek to observe in their daily life:
    1. abandon the killing or harming of living beings 2. abandon stealing 3. abandon improper sexual conduct 4. abandon the telling of lies (abstention from impolite speech, abstention from setting people against each other, abstention from gossiping, abstention from backbiting) 5. abandon the use of intoxicants such as alcohol and harmful drugs
These are not commandments, but "Five Faultless Gifts" that when accepted and put into practice, become useful steps towards easing the burden of the usual round of socially-induced stress. Taking these steps cannot help but to add to the sense of well-being that induces one to go further along the path of pleasant work that is dhamma.

Would not the first precept suffice in relation to eating meat? Yes. However, the concept of killing carries with it the premise of defensibility, especially for those who are not fully aware of dhamma. That is to say, for example: if someone attacks someone I love, can I not act to kill in self-defence? What if I am starving, can't I kill then? These arguments run away from the point of easing stress and merely go towards views and positions of those not fully aware. Rather than trying to turn a ship in mid-stream, or to preach dhamma, or avoid entirely, all of which may perhaps cause the conversation to capsize, to sound evangelical, or to induce disharmony, it may be better to place the moral principle on sounder footing. Killing may be sometimes defensible in some people's minds, but the concept of theft is rarely so. No one wants to be seen as a thief. It is therefore hard to argue against the reasoning given above.

The sila panca are the basis of dhamma. Rather than becoming burdens, accepting their usefulness means the putting down of burdens. The greatest of these is the relief that flows from the putting down, the abandoning of, the causing of harm, either to oneself or to others. For further reading Thanissaro Bhikkhu  has written an eloquent outline of the healing power of the precepts in the face of our consumption seduced world.

Bhavattu sabbe mangalam.







20 May 2010

Buddha dhamma is child's-play


From this, comes that. Buddha dhamma is child's-play. This is a controversial thing to say. Here is what is meant by it. When a child takes its first steps, it does so entirely with faith (saddha). Having decided for itself with its own wisdom (panna) to move away from the stress (dukkha) and helplessness of birth (jati), the child becomes determined to make an effort (viriya) to move towards its liberation (vimutti). Watching the concentration (samadhi) in its eyes and careful anticipation in its every movement is to see mindfulness (sati) in its purest form. The child falls, tries again, confidence increases. Joy (pamojja) at accomplishment, rapture (piti) at the sudden rush of new physical sensations (rupavedanakhanda), rapidly flow into alternating states of tranquillity (passaddhi) and happiness (sukkha) that are quite contagious for all nearby. This is easily understood as ordinary, mundane happiness. It is worth considering that sukha, the word for happiness in Pali, (the antonym of the “contemptible emptiness,” “difficult to endure” of stressful dukkha), means literally a “pleasant burden,” “easily endured” as an “enjoyable emptiness.” This seems to connect it etymologically not only with sukere, the Indo-European/Arabic root for sweet sugar, but also with the Latin succurrere, the root for the English word succour, meaning to help or give sweet relief. So it is that the smallest step on a child's journey gives sweet, if limited and transient relief when it is accomplished. So it is also with with the causal patterns of language and experience.

From this, comes that. The deepest dhamma knowledge at the very heart of the Buddha's gift to the world is the conditional causal patterning of “dependent arising” (paticcasamupadda). The understanding of the Four Noble truths, the Eightfold path, the very point of the Buddha's entire teaching, relies on grasping the causal patterning of experience. Transience (annicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-self (annatta) could perhaps be argued against as mere intellectual views, without them being given some solid grounding in a causal sequence able to demonstrate the rising and falling of samsaric suffering. More importantly, it helps to prove that no matter how contemptible and overwhelming the affliction of suffering (dukkha) seems, “dependent arising” (paticcasamupadda) means it is merely passing by; not a continuous, permanent reality but an empty phenomenon, a hollow chimera, a clouded delusion, a causally dependent chain of events, conventionally described as “beginning” with unknowing ignorance (avijja) and “ending” with the stress of suffering (dukkha). 
More important for the potential happiness of all beings in the world is the exposition of the reverse order, moving from suffering to transcendence. [You can listen here as the Upanisa Sutta skilfully draws out the liberating nature of this transcendent order in the Tathagata's own words. You can read Bhikkhu Bodhi's brilliant exposition of this sutta.]

From this, comes that. Just as the child finds its feet, so it is the seeker after liberation finds that with a little effort, a little confidence, a little concentration, and a little mindfulness, they are not trapped in an infant state, reduced to tears and struggle, but fully able to grasp the upright position. We have all successfully faced the varied trials of childhood accomplishment. What is so different with practising on a regular basis as an adult a little samatha and anapana meditation? You will find, right there in your heart/mind (citta), there is always a little childlike samadhi, a little smiling state of vipassana sukha waiting to be aroused and tasted. May all beings be happy.

16 May 2010

All you need to know.

Is there a simple formula for successful meditation? What is the right view we need to have about the mind, the body, about dhamma?

Understand that dhamma means the entire contents of the mind. Explore the body, explore the feelings in the body, explore the mind and finally there is dhamma. In trying to see, to know the entire range of dhamma, what is it that prevents clarity? What dirt stains the window?

Many obstructions, or defilements (kilesas) arise in the natural turbulence of the untrained mind. Wipe these clean and a better view arises. The kilesas are synonymous with passion. They are causal factors for the arising of pain and the diminishing of happiness. There are three kilesas: greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha). Each has many variations, many themes, many colours. All of these are seductive. Every one of us has felt their power: I want, I cannot get, I think you are responsible. I hate, I fear, I lust for revenge. The kilesas appeal to the senses. What the eye sees, the eye wants. When the ear hears, it responds. So it is also for all contact made through the senses of nose, mouth, skin, including contact of consciousness with consciousness. This contact at the sensory level is called phassa. It is like the sound made by a drumstick hitting the drum. The sound is in neither, yet there it is - boom! So it is with all the the sensory perceptions. Without discernment, they lead us to greed, hatred and delusion. We think we hear a sound and we march after it, ready to fight and die for what we believe is a noble cause, when we are really marching under the banner of lust, deceit, envy, infatuation, pride, fear, self-righteousness...

The Venerable Webu Sayadaw, (born in the Burmese Buddhist year 1257 - 17 February 1896- died 26 June 1977), pictured above at Jeta's Grove in Northern India, one of the special places of the Buddha's life, was very blunt about these defilements. His practice deeply influenced U Bha Khin and Goenkaji. As a result, many millions of Vipassana students breathe in harmony with this humble man's gentle and direct statements of truth about dhamma.

Following his practice, the way to deal with these kilesas is very straightforward. Every meditator, at every moment of every day must do the following: Grasp that the kilesas are there. Explore their extent. Contemplate the hold they have over you. Don't let such mind-made things become a distraction from the truth about the world. With regular practice of Anapana sati bhavana they will subside. The entire practice has been summarised thus: 
“Whenever we breathe in or out, the incoming and the outgoing air touches somewhere in or near the nostrils. The sensitive matter registers the touch of air. In this process, the entities touching are matter and the entity knowing the touch is mind. So do not go around asking others about mind and matter; observe your breathing and you will find out about them for yourselves. When the air comes in, it will touch. When the air goes out, it will touch. If you know this touch continuously, then greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) do not have the opportunity to arise, and the fires of these defilements will subside.” - Venerable Webu Sayadaw.
Print out those words, read them daily. Follow the directions and all will be well.This is all that is needed for successful meditation. It is all that is needed to truly know dhamma.To know dhamma is to know the entire teaching of the Buddha:
Yo kho Dhammaµ passati so mam passati
yo mam passati so Dhammaµ passati.
"Those who see Dhamma see me,
those who see me see Dhamma."
- Samyutta Nikaya III: Khandhavagga iv: The Elders: 5: Vakkali.
 May all beings be happy. Bhavatu sabbe mangalam!