Tuesday Reading Material

Pure Mind—Concentrated & Bright | 7 . 31 . 18

BrightLily

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Q&A on Jhana States

– Leigh Brasington

Leigh Brasington, 55, has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1985 and is the senior American student of the German-born Theravada teacher Ayya Khema.

You have described the jhanas as being “the heart of the Buddha’s practice:’ How is it that they’re so little known to most practitioners these days? “I don’t know” is the short answer. They’re certainly all over the place in the suttas—they’re mentioned in about half of the suttas of the Digha Nikaya (The Long Discourses of the Buddha) and in about a third of the suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya (The Middle-Length Discourses). The Buddha defined Right Concentration as the practice of the first fout jhanas, so it would seem obvious they’d be known everywhere, but they’re not. It appears there was a split after the Buddha’s death concerning the importance of the jhanas, and that dispute continues to this day.

Why does jhana practice seem to have been on the losing side of this split? One thing I could speculate is that as the monastic community withdrew into the forest and began practicing the jhanas, they began taking concentration to deeper and deeper levels. There certainly is a human tendency to say “If you’re not doing it as well as I can do it, you’re not doing the real thing.” The view of extremely deep concentration was promoted by the Visuddhimagga, which gives the odds on a meditator learning all eight of the jhanas as one in one hundred million. Whereas if you look at the suttas, people are entering the jhanas all over the place.

So Westerners have never been much exposed to the jhanas. It’s not the practice that was brought to the West. What principally came here was the Mahasi tradition—Vipassana, or insight meditation—from Burma, and some of the Thai traditions. I’ve heard that just a small percentage of the monks in Thailand meditate. Now, of that small percent, how many are actually doing jhana practice?

My teacher, Ayya Khema, taught herself the jhanas, by reading the suttas and the Visuddhimagga. But she didn’t know if she was doing it right. So when she was in Sri Lanka, she began inquiring as to who was a jhana master with whom she could study. She eventually found Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera and had an interview with him. She described what she was doing and asked, “Am I doing them right)” He said, “Yes. And furthermore, you must teach them. They are in danger of becoming a lost art.”

So even in a place like Sri Lanka, which considers itself the guardian of Theravada Buddhism, the jhanas are in danger of being a lost practice.

Is there much known about the pre-Buddhist history of the jhanas? They definitely existed prior to the Buddha—he learned jhanas one through seven from his first teacher, and the eighth from his second teacher. Anapanasati—watching the breath as a form of meditation—is believed to be five thousand years old. The Buddha came along twenty-five hundred years later, and certainly during the intervening years people had stumbled into these altered states of consciousness. It happens remarkably often. On most of the retreats I teach, a significant number of the new students have stumbled into one or more of these states. So, given two and a half thousand years of people practicing anapanasati, a lot of people presumably discovered these states, and by the Buddha’s time, they had systematized them in increasing order of subtlety of the objects.

It’s interesting to note that the Buddha first entered jhana as a child, while sitting under the rose apple tree at what was probably a plowing festival. And on the night of his enlightenment, the first thing he did was step through the jhanas. In the post-jhanic state of mind, in the last watch of the night, he penetrated the Four Noble Truths.

Do we know exactly what the Buddha was doing? We don’t know for sure exactly what the Buddha was practicing. There is a lot of dispute over how to define or interpret the jhanas. Perhaps the better question is, What’s a useful definition? Is there some level of jhana that people can actually learn and will help them in their spiritual growth) Hopefully, this is the level at which I am teaching.

What is your definition of the jhanas? I would define them as eight altered states of consciousness, each one requiring more concentration than the previous, and each one generating more concentration than the previous. The standard definition of the jhanas that’s found in the suttas, such as in the “Greater Discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” describes the first four states, in very specific terms.The last four jhanas build on the fourth jhana and are referred to as the immaterial (fromless) jhanas.

Each jhana it’s factors.
– In the first jhana:
–initial attention on the meditation subject
–sustained attention on the meditation subject
That is, putting your attention on the object and keeping your attention on the object.
Then there is:
–physical sense of rapture, pleasure coursing through the body,
–an energetic release
–an emotional sense of joy
–happiness.

The first jhana, then, is a state where there is a release of this uplifting, pleasurable, physical energy accompanied by an emotional sense of joy and happiness that you can put and sustain your attention upon.

In the second jhana, Joy moves into the foreground, and initial and sustained attention fades, to be replaced by inner tranquility and oneness of mind. Consciousness becomes absorbed in rapture.

In the third jhana, the rapture—the physical component—disappears and the joy calms down to contentment. The concentration is becoming more refined, and there’s a spreading of contentment that is all-pervasive. It’s a state of wishlessness, a state of complete satisfaction.

The contentment that arises in the third jhana contains pleasure.

In the fourth jhana, the pleasure goes away and the mind becomes neutral. The suttas say that “with the abandoning of pleasure and pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress—one enters and remains in the fourth jhana, which is beyond pleasure and pain, and purified by equanimity and mindfulness.” This is a state that’s very peaceful, very restful, very quiet, very still.

And the next four? The next four jhanas are further refinements of the concentration. The mind takes in more and more subtle objects until it reaches a state where simultaneously it has very little recognition of what’s happening, yet stable awareness remains. It is very concentrated.

You’ve said that these are naturally occurring states of mind. Do students come upon these states on their own? All eight jhanas, rarely. However, students do stumble into one or more of the first seven, surprisingly frequently. And a number of people report having experienced these states as children.

So how do the jhanas help us? The Buddha says that they are right concentration and, therefore, a cornerstone of the path to liberation. On the night of his enlightenment, after stepping through the jhanas, he described himself as having “a mind concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability.” This is the mind he then applied to the true knowledges. The purpose of the jhanas is to generate a mind that can most efficiently gain insight into the nature of things as they are. That’s why they’re important.

________________________________

Jhana and insight, hand-in-hand

(Definition:Jhana is a meditative state of profound stillness and concentration in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention. It is the cornerstone in the development of Right Concentration.)

Dharmapada 372
– The Buddha

There’s no jhana
for one with no discernment,

No discernment
for one with no jhana.

But with both jhana & discernment:
one is on the verge of Unbinding.

Mind. . . the Gap | 7 . 24 . 18

CloudsPart

 

 

Three Conscious Breaths

– Pema Chdren

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One of my favorite subjects of contemplation is this question: “Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” You know you will die, but you really don’t know how long you have to wake up from the cocoon of your habitual patterns. You don’t know how much time you have left to fulfill the potential of your precious human birth. Given this, what is the most important thing?

Every day of your life, every morning of your life, you could ask yourself, “As I go into this day, what is the most important thing? What is the best use of this day?” Awakened mind exists in our surroundings, but how often are we actually touching in with it?

What is the best use of each day of our lives? In one very short day, each of us would become more sane, more compassionate, more tender, more in touch with the dream-like quality of reality. Or we could bury all these qualities in habitual mind. Every time a habitual pattern gets strong, every time we feel caught up or on automatic pilot, we could see it as an opportunity to burn up negative karma. Rather than as a problem, we could see it as our karma ripening, which gives us an opportunity to burn up karma, or at least weaken our karmic propensities. But that’s hard to do. When we realize that we are hooked, that we’re on automatic pilot, what do we do next? That is a central question for the practitioner.

One of the most effective means for working with that moment when we see the gathering storm of our habitual tendencies is the practice of pausing, or creating a gap. We can stop and take three conscious breaths and the world has a chance to open up to us in that gap. We can allow space into our state of mind.

Before I talk more about consciously pausing or creating a gap, it might be helpful to appreciate the gap that already exists in our environment. Awakened mind exists in our surroundings — in the air and the wind, in the sea, in the land, in the animals — but how often are we actually touching in with it? Are we poking our heads out of our cocoons long enough to actually taste it, experience it, let it shift something in us, let it penetrate our conventional way of looking at things?

If you take some time to formally practice meditation, perhaps in the early morning, there is a lot of silence and space. Meditation practice itself is a way to create gaps. Every time you realize you are thinking and you let your thoughts go, you are creating a gap. Every time the breath goes out, you are creating a gap. You may not always experience it that way, but the basic meditation instruction is designed to be full of gaps. If you don’t fill up your practice time with your discursive mind, with your worrying and obsessing and all that kind of thing, you have time to experience the blessing of your surroundings. You can just sit there quietly. Then maybe silence will dawn on you, and the sacredness of the space will penetrate.
Whatever it is you are doing, the magic, the sacredness, the expansiveness, the stillness, stays with you.

Or maybe not. Maybe you are already caught up in the work you have to do that day, the projects you haven’t finished from the day before. Maybe you worry about something that has to be done, or hasn’t been done, or a letter that you just received. Maybe you are caught up in busy mind, caught up in hesitation or fear, depression or discouragement. In other words, you’ve gone into your cocoon of habitual patterns.

For all of us, the experience of our entanglement differs from day to day. Nevertheless, if you connect with the blessings of your surroundings — the stillness, the magic, and the power — maybe that feeling can stay with you and you can go into your day with it. Whatever it is you are doing, the magic, the sacredness, the expansiveness, the stillness, stays with you. When you are in touch with that larger environment, it can cut through your cocoon mentality.

On the other hand, I know from personal experience how strong the habitual mind is. The discursive mind, the busy, worried, caught-up, spaced-out mind, is powerful. That’s all the more reason to do the most important thing — to realize what a strong opportunity every day is, and how easy it is to waste it. If you don’t allow your mind to open and to connect with where you are, with the immediacy of your experience, you could easily become completely submerged. You could be completely caught up and distracted by the details of your life, from the moment you get up in the morning until you fall asleep at night.

One can get so caught up in the content of your life, the minutiae that make up a day, so self-absorbed in the big project you have to do, that the blessings, the magic, the stillness, and the vastness escape you.

The great fourteenth-century Tibetan teacher Longchenpa talked about our useless and meaningless focus on the details, getting so caught up we don’t see what is in front of our nose. He said that this useless focus extends moment by moment into a continuum, and days, months, and even whole lives go by. Do you spend your whole time just thinking about things, distracting yourself with your own mind, completely lost in thought? I know this habit so well myself. It is the human predicament.

“Yes, but…,” we say. Yes, but I have a job to do, there is a deadline, there is an endless amount of e-mail I have to deal with, I have cooking and cleaning and errands. How are we supposed to juggle all that we have to do in a day, in a week, in a month, without missing our precious opportunity to experience who we really are? Not only do we have a precious human life, but that precious human life is made up of precious human days, and those precious human days are made up of precious human moments. How we spend them is really important. Yes, we do have jobs to do; we don’t just sit around meditating all day, even at a retreat center. We have the real nitty-gritty of relationships — how we live together, how we rub up against each other. Going off by ourselves, getting away from the people we think are distracting us, won’t solve everything. Part of our karma, part of our dilemma, is learning to work with the feelings that relationships bring up. They provide opportunities to do the most important thing too.

As I said, our habits are strong, so a certain discipline is required to step outside our cocoon and receive the magic of our surroundings. The pause practice — the practice of taking three conscious breaths at any moment when we notice that we are stuck — is a simple but powerful practice that each of us can do at any given moment.
Just pause. Let it be a contrast to being all caught up. Let it be like popping a bubble.

Pause practice can transform each day of your life. It creates an open doorway to the sacredness of the place in which you find yourself. The vastness, stillness, and magic of the place will dawn upon you, if you let your mind relax and drop for just a few breaths the storyline you are working so hard to maintain. If you pause just long enough, you can reconnect with exactly where you are, with the immediacy of your experience.

You are on your way to whatever you need to do for the day. Maybe you are in your car, or on the bus, or standing in line. But you can still create that gap by taking three conscious breaths and being right there with the immediacy of your experience, right there with whatever you are seeing, with whatever you are doing, with whatever you are feeling.

Another powerful way to do pause practice is simply to listen for a moment. Instead of sight being the predominant sense perception, let sound, hearing, be the predominant sense perception. It’s a very powerful way to cut through our conventional way of looking at the world. In any moment, you can just stop and listen intently. It doesn’t matter what particular sound you hear; you simply create a gap by listening intently.

In any moment you could just listen. In any moment, you could put your full attention on the immediacy of your experience. You could look at your hand resting on your leg, or feel your bottom sitting on the cushion or on the chair. You could just be here. Instead of being not here, instead of being absorbed in thinking, planning, and worrying, instead of being caught up in the cocoon, cut off from your sense perceptions, cut off from the power and magic of the moment, you could be here. When you go out for a walk, pause frequently — stop and listen. Stop and take three conscious breaths. How precisely you create the gap doesn’t really matter. Just find a way to punctuate your life with these thought-free moments. They don’t have to be thought-free minutes even, they can be no more than one breath, one second. Punctuate, create gaps. As soon as you do, you realize how big the sky is, how big your mind is.

When you are completely wound up about something and you pause, your natural intelligence clicks in and you have a sense of the right thing to do. This is part of the magic: our own natural intelligence is always there to inform us, as long as we allow a gap.

Pause, connect with the immediacy of your experience, connect with the blessings; liberate yourself from the cocoon of self-involvement, talking to yourself all of the time, completely obsessing. Allow a gap, gap, gap. Just do it over and over and over; allow yourself the space to realize where you are. Realize how big your mind is; realize how big the space is, that it has never gone away, but that you have been ignoring it.

Find a way to slow down. Find a way to relax. Find a way to relax your mind and do it often, very, very often, throughout the day continuously, not just when you are hooked but all the time. At its root, being caught up in discursive thought, continually self-involved with discursive plans, worries, and so forth, is attachment to ourselves. It is the surface manifestation of ego-clinging.

Allow yourself the space to connect with the blessing of the sacred world.

…mind the gap with three conscious breaths.

Calming the Mind | 7 . 17 . 18

GreenTara

 

 

What Green Tara Can Teach Us About Fear

– Marcela Clavijo

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Marcela Clavijo (Ven. Ngawang Samten Drolma) began dharma study with Khenpo Pema Wandak in 1995. Five years later, she encountered her root guru, the 41st Sakya Trizin, and in 2003, she received novice ordination in Nepal. She lives in New York City.

Fear can be a paralyzing experience. It robs us of peace of mind and our sense of self-control, and it blocks our ability to achieve the positive things we set out to do. It is a disturbing, negative emotion, especially when caused by confusion about what can actually harm us and what it means to be safe. But fear is something we can aspire to understand and eliminate from our lives.

Tibetan Buddhism offers many methods for recognizing, overcoming, and ending disturbing emotions, including fear. Some are grounded in awareness of the body. Green Tara, who represents the aspect of a buddha that protects us from fear, also represents the energy winds of the body and breath. Tara’s influence is the capacity to act, to move through life, and accomplish our aims. Indeed, her name means “she who ferries across.”

Understanding the subtleties of energy winds and how they influence us helps us, in turn, to understand our experience. Energy winds affect our body, emotions, and the types of thoughts that circulate in our minds, and they give momentum to all sorts of habits of acting, speaking, and thinking. To get a sense of this dynamic is to understand how we can positively shape our experience.

For centuries, meditation masters have used techniques to direct and regulate those energies. And while some of these techniques may seem esoteric, they are based on a very straightforward premise: if you can feel your body, you are feeling energy.

The goal of the practices offered here is to create positive, constructive energy feelings in the body. They can be practiced by anyone experiencing fear, panic, anxiety, agitation, or worry. And they can be very helpful in calming us down during moments of crisis. They relax physical tension, soothe the nerves, and calm the mind when we are extremely frightened or worried, or when we begin to panic. Tara represents the air or wind element and as such she is associated with moving through obstacles; so when we apply these breathing practices, we begin to feel revitalized, our mental energy becomes clearer, and we’re able to overcome anxiety.

Depending on the circumstances, you may use one or all five steps in the following order:

1. Sitting or lying down in a comfortable position, with eyes closed, gently breathe in and out, counting your breaths, with one inhalation and exhalation counted as one breath. Focus on the bodily sensations of breathing—the breath entering the body, the abdomen expanding and then gently drawing in as the breath leaves the body.

This is key: most of us pull the abdomen in as we inhale and relax it as we exhale. But breathing that way compresses the body, creating tremendous physical pressure and emotional and mental confusion. Making this simple correction, so that we expand the abdomen on inhalation and allow it to gently collapse on exhalation, can work wonders on our emotional state. After you feel a little more settled, gradually return to activity, or continue to the next step.

2. With eyes half-open, loosely focused, and looking toward the ground, continue to count the breaths— this time with one exhalation, the pause at its end, and one inhalation counting as one breath. After a few cycles, focus on the sensation of sitting; feel the surface you are resting on, and the body touching that surface. When you begin to feel more stable and grounded, return to activity, or continue to the next step.

3. As you become aware of the circumstances—the story line—giving rise to your fear, notice that you may be feeling more tranquil. This is a good time to reaffirm your motivation or goal. Bring to mind your heart’s deepest desire. For example, if this were the last day of your life, how would you like others to remember you, and why? Become aware of these aspirations, while simultaneously maintaining awareness of the breath and the calming of your mind. Once you have become more tranquil and attuned to your aspirations, return to activity, or continue on to the next step.

4. Now look at your mind. This is actually very easy to do when you know how. Without forming words in your mind, see whether your mind is calm or agitated. Is it focused or scattered? Is it lethargic or wakeful? Notice that your mind comes into focus, like an object seen through the lens of a camera. Look directly into your mind like this for a brief moment, and then release the focus and relax. As clarity and a sense of ease develop, return to activity, or continue to the last step.

5. Finally, no longer counting breaths, sense your body breathing itself. Notice the flow of air and the gentle rise and fall of the body with each breath. Feel the breath as alive, as flowing energy and sensation throughout your entire body, and sense how all the energies of the body are moving smoothly and harmoniously.

These breath practices recharge our subtle body and release stuck energy and the smooth, dynamic flow that arises from within. This freedom from the grip of fear and stress is the lived experience of Tara. Our minds are complex and profound, and so are our problems. On a deep level— more subtle even than the body and breath—fear is often accompanied by confusion about some aspect of reality: we cling to the notion of an internal, independent “me” that should be able to control things, and an external, independent “other thing” that we should be able to control.

From the Buddhist perspective, both of these views lack inherent existence, as do our emotions. In fact, the basis of the techniques offered here is the truth of dependent arising and the absence of true existence. This is why our practice can temporarily subdue and permanently eradicate all negative emotions.

Life presents us with a constant stream of circumstances that threaten to cause anxiety, fear, even panic, so we cannot afford to wait: these techniques can be applied on the spot. As we practice, Green Tara makes her way into our hearts, protecting us as we befriend ourselves and learn to send positive energy through our bodies, as we move along with a calm mind, free from fear.
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The Metta Sutta | Loving Kindness Chant

– The Buddha

(The Buddha gives this sutta, as an antidote, to a group of monks who are in fear.)

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise, who seeks the good and has obtained peace. Let one be strenuous, upright and sincere, without pride, easily contented and joyous. Let one not be submerged by the things of the world. Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches.

Let one’s senses be controlled. Let one be wise but not puffed up, and let one not desire great possessions, even for one’s family. Let one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.

May all beings be happy. May they be joyous and live in safety. All living beings, whether weak or strong, in high or middle or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born, may all beings be happy. Let no one deceive another, nor despise any being in any state; let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.

Even as a mother, at the risk of her own life, watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world — above, below, and all around without limit.

So let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world. Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, let one practice the way with gratitude. Not holding to fixed views, abandoning vague discussions, endowed with insight, freed from sense appetites, one who achieves the way will be freed from the duality of birth and death, and no longer create suffering for oneself or others.

Releasing into Natural Mind at Peace | 7 . 10 . 18

NaturalMindPeace

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Bhāra Sutta: The Burden

Pali CanonSN 22.22 PTS: S iii 25
Translation: K. Nizamis

At Sāvatthī… There the Blessed One said this:

“I will teach you, the burden, the bearer of the burden, the taking up of the burden and the putting down of the burden. Hear this.

“And whatt is the burden? That of which it should be said: the five clung-to aggregates. “Which five?
1.The form clung-to aggregate,
2. the feeling clung-to aggregate,
3. the perception clung-to aggregate,
4. the formative mental functions clung-to aggregate,
5. the sensory consciousness clung-to aggregate. This, monks, is called the burden.

And what is the burden-bearer? It is the individual person, who is this venerable one, of such a name, of such ancestry. This, monks, is called the burden-bearer.

“And what is the taking up of the burden? That which is this craving leading to rebirth, connected with delight and passion, finding delight here and there: namely,
– craving for sensual pleasure,
– craving for being,
– and craving for extinction.
This is called the taking up of the burden.

“And what is the putting down of the burden? That is this – release of craving,
– it is cessation by means of the absence of desire without remainder:
– the abandoning, the forsaking, the freedom, the non-attachment.
That is called the putting down of the burden.”

This said the Blessed One. Having said this, the Fortunate One, the Teacher, furthermore said this:

Ah, surely, the five aggregates are burdens,
And the individual person is the burden-bearer;
Taking up the burden is suffering in the world,
Putting down the burden is bliss.

Having put down the heavy burden,
Without taking up another burden,
Pulling out craving along with its root,
One is without hunger, fully extinguished.

______________________________________________

Cetana Sutta An Act of Will

Pali Canon AN 11.2 PTS: A v 312
Translation: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“For a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May freedom from remorse arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that freedom from remorse arises in a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue.

“For a person free from remorse, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May joy arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that joy arises in a person free from remorse.

“For a joyful person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May rapture arise in me.’ It is in the nature of things that rapture arises in a joyful person.

“For a rapturous person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May my body be serene.’ It is in the nature of things that a rapturous person grows serene in body.

“For a person serene in body, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I experience pleasure.’ It is in the nature of things that a person serene in body experiences pleasure.

“For a person experiencing pleasure, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May my mind grow concentrated.’ It is in the nature of things that the mind of a person experiencing pleasure grows concentrated.

“For a person whose mind is concentrated, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I know & see things as they actually are.’ It is in the nature of things that a person whose mind is concentrated knows & sees things as they actually are.

“For a person who knows & sees things as they actually are, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I feel disenchantment.’ It is in the nature of things that a person who knows & sees things as they actually are feels disenchantment.

“For a person who feels disenchantment, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I grow dispassionate.’ It is in the nature of things that a person who feels disenchantment grows dispassionate.

“For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.’ It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release.

“In this way,
– Dispassion has knowledge & vision of release as its purpose, knowledge & vision of release as its reward.

– Disenchantment has dispassion as its purpose, dispassion as its reward.

– Knowledge & vision of things as they actually are has disenchantment as its purpose, disenchantment as its reward.

– Concentration has knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its purpose, knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its reward.

– Pleasure has concentration as its purpose, concentration as its reward.

– Serenity has pleasure as its purpose, pleasure as its reward.

– Rapture has serenity as its purpose, serenity as its reward. Joy has rapture as its purpose, rapture as its reward.

– Freedom from remorse has joy as its purpose, joy as its reward. Skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, freedom from remorse as their reward.

“In this way, mental qualities lead on to mental qualities, mental qualities bring mental qualities to their consummation, for the sake of going from the near to the Further Shore.”

____________________________________________

Anana Sutta: Debtless

AN 4.62 PTS: A ii 69
translation: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“And what is the bliss of [making use of] wealth? There is the case where the son of a good family, using the wealth earned through his efforts & enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, partakes of his wealth and makes merit. When he thinks, ‘Using the wealth earned through my efforts & enterprise, amassed through the strength of my arm, and piled up through the sweat of my brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, I partake of wealth and make merit,’ he experiences bliss, he experiences joy. This is called the bliss of [making use of] wealth.

“And what is the bliss of debtlessness? There is the case where the son of a good family owes no debt, great or small, to anyone at all. When he thinks, ‘I owe no debt, great or small, to anyone at all,’ he experiences bliss, he experiences joy. This is called the bliss of debtlessness.

“And what is the bliss of blamelessness? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is endowed with blameless bodily kamma, blameless verbal kamma, blameless mental kamma. When he thinks, ‘I am endowed with blameless bodily kamma, blameless verbal kamma, blameless mental kamma,’ he experiences bliss, he experiences joy. This is called the bliss of blamelessness.

“These are the four kinds of bliss that can be attained in the proper season, on the proper occasions, by a householder partaking of sensuality.”

Knowing the bliss of debtlessness,
& recollecting the bliss of having,
enjoying the bliss of wealth, the mortal
then sees clearly with discernment.
Seeing clearly — the wise one —
he knows both sides:
that these are not worth one sixteenth-sixteenth
of the bliss of blamelessness.

 

Right Action & Karma | 7 . 3 . 18

HandTouchWater

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Right Actions

Body
Refrain from taking the life of any being
Refrain from taking what is not freely given
Refrain from inappropriate sexual conduct
Speech
Refrain from lying
Refrain from divisive speech
Refrain from using harsh words
Refrain from idle talk (gossip)
Mind
Refrain from coveting other’s possessions
and positions (greed)
Refrain from resenting the good fortune of others
(hatred/jeaoulsy)
Refrain from holding a closed mind about things
one doesn’t fully understand (ignorance/delusion)
_____________________

Intentional Action [kamma (Skt: karma)]

 

Pali Canon Pali Canon — MN 61
Reflecting on one’s actions
(The Buddha teaches his young son)

[The Buddha:] “What do you think, Rahula: What is a mirror for?”

[Rahula:] “For reflection, sir.”

[The Buddha:] “In the same way, Rahula, bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts are to be done with repeated reflection.

“Whenever you want to perform a bodily act, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily act I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction… it would be a skillful bodily action with happy consequences, happy results, then any bodily act of that sort is fit for you to do.

“While you are performing a bodily act, you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily act I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily act, with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to affliction of others, or both… you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not… you may continue with it.

“Having performed a bodily act, you should reflect on it… If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily act with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it… you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction… it was a skillful bodily action with happy consequences, happy results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities.

…[similarly for verbal and mental acts]…

“Rahula, all the brahmans and contemplatives in the course of the past who purified their bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts, did it through repeated reflection on their bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts in just this way.

“All the brahmans and contemplatives in the course of the future… All the brahmans and contemplatives at present who purify their bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts, do it through repeated reflection on their bodily acts, verbal acts, and mental acts in just this way.

“Therefore, Rahula, you should train yourself: ‘I will purify my bodily acts through repeated reflection. I will purify my verbal acts through repeated reflection. I will purify my mental acts through repeated reflection.’ Thus you should train yourself.”

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Five pleasant things to be gained by acting skillfully

Pali Canon — AN 5.43

“These five things are welcome, agreeable, pleasant, and hard to obtain in the world. Which five? Long life… beauty… pleasure… status… rebirth in heaven… Now, I tell you, these five things are not to be obtained by reason of prayers or wishes. If they were to be obtained by reason of prayers or wishes, who here would lack them? It’s not fitting for those who desires long life to pray for it or to delight in doing so. Instead, one who desires long life should follow the path of practice leading to long life (actions). In so doing, one will attain long life, either human or divine…(Same instruction for beauty, pleasure, status, and rebirth in heaven).
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The most noble kamma of all: the ending of kamma

Pali Canon — AN 4.235

“These four types of kamma have been directly realized, verified, & made known by me. Which four? There is kamma that is dark with dark result. There is kamma that is bright with bright result. There is kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result. There is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.

“And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication, fabricates an injurious verbal fabrication, fabricates an injurious mental fabrication. Having fabricated an injurious bodily fabrication, having fabricated an injurious verbal fabrication, having fabricated an injurious mental fabrication, he rearises in an injurious world. On rearising in an injurious world, he is there touched by injurious contacts. Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.

“And what is kamma that is bright with bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates a non-injurious bodily fabrication… a non-injurious verbal fabrication… a non-injurious mental fabrication… He rearises in a non-injurious world… There he is touched by non-injurious contacts… He experiences feelings that are exclusively pleasant, like those of the Ever-radiant Devas. This is called kamma that is bright with bright result.

“And what is kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates a bodily fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious… a verbal fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious… a mental fabrication that is injurious & non-injurious… He rearises in an injurious & non-injurious world… There he is touched by injurious & non-injurious contacts… He experiences injurious & non-injurious feelings, pleasure mingled with pain, like those of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms. This is called kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result.

“And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.”

 

Buddha Recalls His Past Lives | Karma’s Origins | 6 . 26 . 18

Fire

 

Buddha’s Awakening

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– Pali Canon, Mahjima Nikaya

“Unflagging persistence was aroused in me, and unmuddled mindfulness established. My body was calm & unaroused, my mind concentrated & single. Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, I entered & remained in the first jhana:

1. rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.

With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, I entered & remained in the second jhana:

2. rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance.

With the fading of rapture I remained in equanimity, mindful & alert, and physically sensitive of pleasure.
I entered & remained in the third jhana:

3. of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, one has a pleasant abiding.’

With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — I entered & remained in the fourth jhana:

4. purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two… five, ten… fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: ‘There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.’ Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

“This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: ‘These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech & mind, who reviled noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech, & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.’ Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

“This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

“When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it had come to be, that ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress… These are fermentations… This is the origination of fermentations… This is the cessation of fermentations… This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.’ My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

“This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute.

“Now, brahman, if the thought should occur to you, ‘Perhaps Gotama the contemplative is even today not free of passion, not free of aversion, not free of delusion, which is why he resorts to isolated forest & wilderness dwellings,’ it should not be seen in that way. It’s through seeing two compelling reasons that I resort to isolated forest & wilderness dwellings: seeing a pleasant abiding for myself in the present, and feeling sympathy for future generations.”

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Alaya-vijnana | Buddhist Concept

(Similiar to Akashic Record)
– Source: Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Alaya-vijnana, (Sanskrit: “storehouse consciousness”) key concept of the Mahayana Buddhism.

Since this school maintains that no external reality exists, while retaining the position that knowledge, and therefore a knowable exists—it assumes that knowledge itself is the object of consciousness. It therefore postulates a higher storage consciousness, the final basis of the apparent individual.

The universe consists in an infinite number of possible ideas that lie in wait as potential, in storage. That storage consciousness contains all the past impressions of previous experiences (vasanas, “perfumings”), which form the seeds (bija) of future karmic action­—an illusive force that creates displays that are in fact only fictions. That illusive force (maya) determines the world of difference (duality) that belongs to human nature, producing the erroneous notions of an I and a non-I. That illusion of duality is disolved only by awakening which extinguishes the fuel of rebirth.

(The fuel of rebirth is the karmic wheel of craving and clinging caused by ignorance.)
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Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

The source of our perception, our way of seeing, lies in our store consciousness (Alaya-vijnana). If ten people look at a cloud, there will be ten different perceptions of it. Whether it is perceived as a dog, a hammer, or a coat depends on our mind — our sadness, our memories, our anger. Our [karmic] perceptions carry with them all the errors of subjectivity.

– The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Parallax Press,

All About Karma and Rebirth | Part Three 6 . 19 . 18

KarmaPartThreeWEB

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Q&A with Thanissaro Bhikku

16. But how could a human mind possibly know these things? (to understand karma and rebirth work) There are two ways to answer this question: the typical way and the Buddha’s way. The typical way— which has been typical from ancient India until now—is to define what a human being is, or what the mind is, and from that definition to decide what a human mind can know. If, for instance, you define the mind as just a brain, and a brain is just a bunch of atoms, there’s not much that it can know for sure. But the Buddha’s approach was the other way around. As he said, if you define yourself, you place limitations on yourself. So instead of starting out with a definition of the mind, he explored the skills that the mind could develop, to see what those skills could enable it to know. That’s how he learned that there was a lot more to the mind than he had originally thought, and that it was capable of knowing many things that he hadn’t imagined possible. By his example, he’s showing how to drop some of your own cultural baggage—such as materialistic, Romantic, or Judeo-Christian views of what you are—and to try on views that will allow you to test whether he was right: by developing the same skills he did.
17. Can’t I just be an agnostic about karma and rebirth, and practice without taking a position on these issues? Even though you can’t know the truth of karma and rebirth prior to your first taste of awakening, you’re placing bets on these issues all the time. Every time you act, you’re calculating whether the results will be worth the effort. The fact that you’re expecting results means you believe in the power of karma to at least some extent. Even if you deny that you’re acting with any expectation of results, part of the mind is calculating that your denial will give good results of one sort or another. If you do something you know is unskillful, but tell yourself it won’t matter, you’re taking a position against karma. If your calculation of the results doesn’t include the possibility that they could extend into future lifetimes, you’re taking a position against rebirth. So you’re taking positions on these issues all the time. The Buddha’s simply pointing out that you’ll benefit from adopting his position consciously and consistently.
18. But karma and rebirth focus on past and future. Doesn’t the dharma teach us to focus totally on simply being mindful—fully present—in the present moment? The Buddha talks about the importance of focusing on the present moment only in the context of karma: You focus on the present because you know that there’s work to be done in training the mind in developing skillful present intentions, and you don’t know how much more time you have to accomplish that training. If you don’t train it now, you’ll suffer both now and on into the future. And it’s important to note that mindfulness doesn’t mean being fully present in the present moment. It means keeping something in mind. Right mindfulness means keeping in mind lessons from the past—either teachings you’ve learned from others, or lessons you’ve learned from your own experience—so that you can apply them skillfully in shaping your present intentions. When the Buddha discusses karma, his references to past and future almost always come back to the present. He discourages people from asking what particular actions led to their present state, or what particular future state they can expect from their current actions. Instead, he asks them to keep the general principle in mind—that skillful actions lead to good results, and unskillful actions to bad—and to focus on being as skillful as possible in the present moment, ideally for the sake of reaching awakening through the level of skill that puts an end to karma. So the present isn’t divorced from the past and future in the practice. It’s tied to the past and future through the dynamics of karma, and the goal of the practice is to get beyond past, present, and future entirely.
19. Why focus on issues of skillful and unskillful actions when we can instead open up to the sense of emptiness or space that already surrounds us? That emptiness is conditioned. It, too, is the result of actions—subtle perceptions, but actions nonetheless. The freedom that’s truly unconditioned lies right next to our freedom of choice in the present moment. The only way to know unconditioned freedom is to get more sensitive to our freedom of choice. And we do that best by trying to get more sensitive to what’s skillful and what’s unskillful in our actions. As this sensitivity develops, we’ll be in a better position to judge when we’re still making subtle choices, and when we’re experiencing something in which no act of intention was involved at all.
20. Does this mean that awakened people have no intentions? There’s no intention at the moment of awakening. But when fully awakened people return to the world of the senses, they do experience old karma. They also have new intentions, but they disolve the potential for those intentions to yield karmic results. As the Buddha did, they disolve the seeds as they arise. But to understand what that means, you have to gain awakening yourself!
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Pali Canon | The Buddha

SN 44.9 PTS: S iv 398
CDB ii 1392
Kutuhalasala Sutta: With Vacchagotta
Question:
“And at the moment when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, what do you designate as its sustenance then?”
Buddha’s Answer:
“Vaccha, when a being sets this body aside and is not yet reborn in another body, I designate it as craving-sustained, for craving is its sustenance at that time.”
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Pali Canon | The Buddha

AN 5.57 PTS: A iii 71
Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation
Considers this: I am not the only one who is owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator; but also one who — whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.
To the extent that there are beings — past and future, passing away and re-arising — all beings are the owner of their actions, heir to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and have their actions as their arbitrator.
Whatever beings do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.’ When one often reflects on this, the path takes birth.
One sticks with that path, develops it, cultivates it. As one sticks with that path, develops it and cultivates it, the fetters are abandoned, the obsessions destroyed.
Subject to birth, subject to aging, subject to death,
ordinary people are repelled by those who suffer
from that to which they themselves are subject.
And if I were to be repelled by those who are repelled, that would not be fitting for me to act as they do.
As I maintained this attitude, knowing the Dhamma
without paraphernalia, I overcame all intoxication with health, youth, & life
—as one who sees renunciation as rest.