I slipped up, I tried to do too much. I have been attempting to understand another’s Path, I cannot. It is ludicrous to try to understand what I mean by Insight through intellect as has been evidenced in my previous discussions that have turned nasty. Yet I still try, but at least this time it did not turn nasty and led to an error on my part only.
There is another intellectual illusion that has come up – analytical meditation (I am not writing for a group here). One important aspect of meditation is to remove the chattering mind, what is the main component of the chattering mind – intellect. Is there an analysis that occurs in meditation – possibly? I know my meditation, there are times when there is chattering mind full of intellect, and there are times when thoughts come in as Insight; is there analysis during meditation – possibly? I need a clear mind of meditation to resolve this. My desire for tolerance allowed me to accept an intellectual approach that I find so completely difficult to accept, what I would describe as intellect masquerading as analytical meditation. I can’t see it any other way. I am doing my tolerant bending again, I am trying to see this intellectual masquerade as a Path – tolerance. To be tolerant I must allow the possibility of this being a Path, but I must not allow this type of masquerade to cloud my own judgement. I must not react to the intellectualism, I see my getting fanciful as being part of this.
I wrote this email:-
“Compassion is more than an emotion, it is more than just something we feel. Ultimately there is the Unconditioned, then there are the 4 brahma-viharas – divine abodes. From my Buddhist dictionary “ “‘There, o monks, the monk with a mind full of loving-kindness pervading first one direction, then a second one, then a third one, then the fourth one, just so above, below and all around; and everywhere identifying himself with all, he is pervading the whole world with mind full of loving-kindness, with mind wide, developed, unbounded, free from hate and ill-will.” Hereafter follows the same theme with compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity.”
This reminded me of the hermetic tradition “as above so below”. When an abode is divine is it as not as close to the Voidness as possible? I suggest there is a noumenal compassion that is part of the Voidness, having no phenomenon, no atta. In the same way there is a Wisdom that is noumenal having no atta. If Insight can touch Wisdom, can compassion meditation touch Voidness-Compassion? Theosophy says “there is no religion higher than truth”. Is there a Voidness-Truth that has no atta? Intellectually this makes no sense. In meditation I came to this, I trust my meditation.
“Beyond all desires? Kusala, or wholesome/skillful ones as well? Then where’s compassion or metta?” When in a divine abode there is Natural Wisdom, Naturally skilful.
Divine abode is religious “jargon”. Even if this “noumenal” description is created, surely a “divine abode” has got to be pretty close to the Source, more than emotion, and wise because of proximity to the Source – hence skilful.
Proof, being a Buddhadasa addict I have to prove. There are 2 sources of proof, scientific or objective proof – very limited, and subjective proof; my primary source of subjective proof is Insight meditation. The above has that subjective seal of approval – from me. It does not have intellectual approval.”
You can see a reaction to an intellectual straitjacket in this.
OK what is this noumenal “Voidness-Compassion”? Ludicrous. It was a nice intellectual construct to put Compassion, Truth, Wisdom in Voidness, good intellectual ego on my part. I was deluded by the Dzogchen quote, taken from the last blog “Dzogchen also speaks of the “self-arising deep awareness” (rang-byung ye-shes) that is primordial (gnyug-ma) and arises simultaneously (lhan-skyes, innate) in each moment of cognition. This deep awareness is part of the nature of pure awareness (rig-pa), the subtlest level of mental activity, devoid of all fleeting stains, such as those of unawareness (ignorance). When we access this deepest level, the deep awareness of the two truths is revealed. In Western terms, we would classify this deep awareness as intuitive.”” This is so seductive – “part of the nature of pure awareness (rig-pa)”.
I made another error, I allowed Tibetan to seduce me, Sogyal did all that as well. “Talk of Gods, talk of touching rig-pa, and what else, meditating you are a God”, it is the Course in Miracles delusion. Am I a God, can I be a God in meditation? Fanciful.
I read this “The Four Sublime States by Venerable Nyanaponika Thera”. Isn’t sublime state enough? Why do I need to touch rig-pa – Voidness-Compassion?
How can the destructive intellect to describe such a sublime state as emotion? That is because intellect wants to assume that intellect is all that there is in mind. Why can’t a sublime state be wise? Again a good intellectual question because the intellect is destructive. A mind can have a sublime state, such a state is meant to be. Such a sublime state is wise, it is beyond intellect, intellect cannot reach it, it can analyse the results of such a state but it cannot reach it. Nature.
In trying to understand the intellect in a Path I allowed my own intellect to create a ludicrous proposition “Voidness-Compassion”, intellect is such a trickster.
In meditation compassion has been special, just because it is special cannot make it “Voidness-Compassion”. So careless and fanciful on my part.
Pursuing yesterday’s consideration of meditation here is a description of this morning.
Yesterday I had some issues on my mind, and wrote about them before meditating; today I did not. I sat and just started thinking. There are two issues that I am currently dealing with:-
Insight and Understanding
And the issue of emptiness came up again.
Insight and Understanding:-
An insight is a just a thought or an idea so that when you look at it objectively it does not appear any differently to any other thought. To consider this I take the 4NT, I consider this a tremendous Insight found by the Buddha; some argue this is the major teaching that the Buddha found was different to previous teachings. This Insight I consider phenomenal, and learn more and more all the time I try to understand it. But no matter what I do I can never have the same Insight the Buddha had, I can have Insights about it but it can never be the same.
So if it is just a thought or idea, why is Insight so important? Because it is a process as well. When I have received an Insight I have felt a sudden clarity at the thought, this clarity is deep, it holds conviction – as I said link here it might be the difference between ideas and faith; I don’t know because I don’t have what people call faith – I don’t believe in a set of ideas. However I can accept that a religious experience can lead to faith, and accept this.
In meditation I tried to think of other ways of looking at Insight. There was the channel in the worksheet I wrote, the word I used above for this channel is clarity, a clear mind makes the channel. Where does the channel go? Voidness, somehow through meditation (and the other examples) a channel to Voidness is created and this brings with it an Insight. How do you know that it is an Insight and not just another idea? Conviction.
I cannot explain it any other way. Why do I want to? To help correlate the Paths of Awakening and Study, I am unable to do so and have reached an impasse.
I got involved in a good discussion concerning the tolerance of other Paths that led to the consideration of the Paths of Awakening and Study. There are religious paths that do not merit consideration as Paths, I consider the far christian right and violent muslim extremism such as isis example of this. However I do consider Christianity and Islam as Paths. The discussion however arose with the different Paths of Buddhism:-
Vajrayana considers these a linear development over time, and therefore implicitly, and by some explicitly superior. But I consider all Paths equal because by its very Nature it is a Path. There was disagreement.
In meditation the issue of tolerance came up. What is tolerance? A Path requires Understanding, and this Understanding is personal through Insight. So there can never be intellectual agreement between two people about their Path so there needs to be tolerance. So what is this tolerance? First of all there needs to be anatta. A Path is intensely personal, and so atta identifies with that Path; for tolerance there needs to be anatta. When that atta identification occurs then comparison happens, and because it is so deeply personal it is natural for atta to consider one’s own Path superior. This of course is judgemental. So Tolerance of another’s Path requires both anatta and non-judgementalism, both very hard.
This morning I couldn’t stop thinking, and even when I sought clarity my mind started thinking again. Towards the end I tried giving out compassion but gave up after a short while, the intellectual mind was too chatty – 39 minutes.
At the beach I studied Berzin’ article “What does it mean to understand something?”, early on it reminded me of the worst aspects of philosophy – detailed definition of minutiae (judgemental). But I went through the stages of understanding which seemed to fit well with HHDL’s description of the Path of Study (here). At least the article was heading deeper, and then I came to this:-
“Intuitive understanding does not rely directly on logical reasoning. Some non-Buddhist spiritual systems explain that intuitive understanding may be mystical and derive from a transcendent source, such as God. In Buddhism, we speak of understanding deriving through inspiration (byin-rlabs, “blessings”) from the Buddhas or from our spiritual teachers, or deriving from the ripening from our network of positive force(“collection of merit”). We find this most prominently inmahamudra and dzogchen practice in which our teacher helps us, literally, to meet face to face (ngo-sprod) the nature of our minds.
Dzogchen also speaks of the “self-arising deep awareness” (rang-byung ye-shes) that is primordial (gnyug-ma) and arises simultaneously (lhan-skyes, innate) in each moment of cognition. This deep awareness is part of the nature of pure awareness (rig-pa), the subtlest level of mental activity, devoidof all fleeting stains, such as those of unawareness (ignorance). When we access this deepest level, the deep awareness of the two truths is revealed. In Western terms, we would classify this deep awareness as intuitive.”
For clarity this intuitive understanding I think of as Insight, and this I liked:-
“An intuitive understanding of impermanence, voidness, compassion or bodhichitta may or may not apprehend its object. Sometimes it is not very precise in terms of either accuracy or decisiveness, or in terms of both. We may be convinced of the accuracy of our focusing on, for instance, impermanence or voidness, derived through intuition based on personal experience, but this is often just presumption (yid-dpyod): we are merely presuming it to be accurate, whereas it is rather vague. We may or may not be able to express our intuitive understanding of something in words, but this can be the case whether or not our intuitive understanding apprehends its object accurately and decisively. ”
When I read this at the beach I just read mahamudra and transmission, and I thought impasse, however reading this again I like Dzogchen “self-arising deep awareness”. In order to correlate the two Paths I need to understand Dzogchen. And I have a hard book “The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen” by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche that might give answers.
I am opposed to transmission personally. I don’t disbelieve it but I don’t really see why things cannot be resolved personally. Dzogchen, Union?
|Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.
No meditation session is typical but I am going to use today’s meditation as a guideline. Perhaps a pattern will emerge that can be used for comparison especially with regards to analytical meditation and relationship to Path. I must say that at the moment meditation is improving but is far from good. I set the time for every session but rarely make it. I want to sit more often but when daily stuff takes over I very rarely settle back down to meditate.
This morning I sat, I was late cos it’s Sunday and I managed a small lie-in before the traffic roar forced me out of my bedroom. I was actually in bed comfortably for nearly 10 hours, a record in this new house.
I am quite excited about this meditation blog. I have always described my meditation as Insight meditation or even Vipassana, but in truth I don’t meditate anything like what I read – until I read analytical meditation and saw similarities.
When I sat down my mind was doing its usual flitting roller coaster, this time it was thinking about meditation and understanding. Slowly it ran itself down and I began to quieten the mind. Then I began to think about cooling, calming and clearing, not just in my head but in all my body. My mind did it usual trips thinking about other stuff but I brought it back to cooling clearing and calming. This went on and I thought about emptiness, the Tao as empty being full, about Buddhadasa’s preference for Voidness as meaning void of atta, Unity and Compassion as Emptiness so is empty truly empty? How can it be? And then how can we know? And left it. I began breathing in sunnata. My mind reminded me of the discussion with the monk where he seemed interested in my technique of breathing in sunnata, and then breathing out compassion. How much do Theravadans focus on giving out? I know I should do more? The Berzin article – HHDL talking of the energy going out as analytical and coming in as stabilising, going out as compassion, coming in as sunnata. Then just compassion and sunnata in and out. ENDED just after 45 minutes.
Notes on this for later comparison
1) The intellectualising on meditation and understanding was not intentional, I never use meditation to analyse although thoughts come up and sometimes Insights come up – meditation knows these as different.
The clouds over Koh Chang look guide, I bet the picture won’t show it:-
Here is a Berzin article called “Discerning and Stablizing Meditations”:-
And the contents or steps:-
• Calming Down
I have just had a huge negative reaction from a believer in Buddhism – horrific. It was out of the blue and as yet (if ever) I have no idea where it came from.
I suspect it came from a believer or a jhana king, and even if it isn’t that is where I begin this. A belief is simply an idea that is clung to, however beliefs are clung to by institutions and this makes those beliefs powerful; so powerful that those beliefs have been used to fight wars. My understanding of the Buddha is that he was trying to say to people to move beyond belief to understanding. Ideas are not important, they rapidly change over time; the deep conviction that comes with Insight into these ideas is the understanding that he was trying to convey.
Faith is a word that I have rejected. My view of it would be that it was not just belief but complete immersion in a set of ideas, and that immersion brings with it a conviction. However that particular conviction is not based on Insight but this immersion process. It is this immersion that leads to the blindness that can lead to conflict. “My faith is better than yours” is a consequence of this immersion, and because there is a conviction nothing can change that comparison.
Of course this is separation – division, and because Unity is fundamental dangerous to humanity.
However the word “conviction” here is interesting. To describe Insight I would begin with Eureka moments, followed by Insight through creativity, and then Insight meditation; I think all three are Insights although meditation is the only method – at a stretch you might call “being creative” methodical. What accompanies Insight is a deep conviction, a conviction that cannot be changed. This is a danger with Insights in that although they are never wrong they can develop, and if you cling to early Insights without allowing them to develop this can be harmful.
What if Insight is the basis to genuine Faith as opposed to immersed faith. Saul to Damascus is a described religious exerience that could be considered a “sort of awakening”, I presume St. Paul then had faith. If it is an “awakening” then there is Insight in St. Paul’s faith even if the terminology does not match Buddhists or mine.
Such a genuine religious experience has to be an “awakening” onto the Path, so the issue with Faith is not whether someone has Faith but where did that faith come from? If that Faith came from a genuine religious experience then that Faith is someone’s Path.
HHDL’s study method is taken from “The Middle Way: faith grounded in reason”. In the above descriptions Faith comes from Insight or religious experience, which hopefully leads them to follow a Path. If that Path is not subjected to analysis there is a danger of stagnation thought clinging. The suggestion of the title “Faith grounded in reason” is that the Faith can come from reason, to me the study method reads that although I don’t understand that. The study method says (this is my interpretation as I don’t understand it) that through immersion there can develop a conviction on the Truth of what is being studied leading to a deep conviction that is Faith.
“If you are serious about Dharma practice, it is important to cultivate a good understanding of the teachings. First of all, it is important to read the texts. The more texts you read – the more you expand the scope of your learning and reading – the greater the resource you will find for your own understanding and practice. When, as a result of deep study and contemplation on what you have learned as related to your personal understanding, you reach a point on each topic when you have developed a deep conviction that this is how it is, that‘s an indication you have attained what is called understanding, derived through contemplation or reflection. Before that, all your understanding will have been intellectual understanding, but at that point it shifts. Then you have to cultivate familiarity, make it into part of your daily habit. The more you cultivate familiarity, the more it will become experiential.”
This is the model I am using for the Study Path.
It is a major concession on my part to consider intellectual understanding as part of a Path but that doesn’t make my assessment of the intellectual ego invalid. The intellectual ego is so divisive. This ego is not tolerant, and insists that all accept its way; such a dangerous weapon.
Nature has given us a tool to control this ego – meditation. Having had battles with my own intellect I know how important meditation is to me to maintain control, and that is on a Path which does not see intellectual understanding as part. In fact in many ways connecting the words intellectual and understanding for me seems inappropriate. One aspect of the tool, intellect, is that it enables ideas to be held in the mind to be examined; this of course is not understanding but the intellect will always want to delude you that it is. In my view HHDL’s Path requires a great amount of meditation, something he does – I believe I read he sits for 4 hours a day.
There is another interesting observation. Minds dominated by the intellect find it difficult to meditate, typically “meditation does nothing for me”. I conclude without any real justification an incompatibility, maybe it is just incompatibility with an ego that is intellectual. I certainly conclude that someone on the study Path cannot let meditation go.
I broke down the Study Path into 6 stages:-
• Deep study
I have not received any explanation how this connects with Insight despite highlighting its importance – as I saw it.
This Study Path is a Path I must tolerate as yet I do not understand how it can be a genuine Path without Insight. Where is the awakening in it? My yardstick!!!
Maybe 7 years ago I attended a talk in Bangkok given by Phakchok Rinpoche. He was a very powerful and funny man, and wound all the Theravadans up something rotten. The monks were squirming in the seats and monks and nuns were muttering away. To be honest I was just impressed with the man. I am going to refer to this with the Ludlum phrase “The Hinayana Incident”.
Accompanying his talk he gave out a paper describing 3 Buddhist Paths:-
And there was some blurb that went vaguely like this. “In Buddhism you begin with some initial study that could be called the Lesser Vehicle or Hinayana. Then people begin to increase their study to the Greater Vehicle or Mahayana, and then finally they arrive at the highest form of learning Vajrayana.” Now to be perfectly honest it was extremely rude of this monk to go to a home of Thai Buddhism and present Theravada in this demeaning way.
I was personally not that invested in “being Theravada” so it didn’t wind me up, and after all it was someone from outside coming and talking about something he had never done – being Theravada. I think I am a bit angry about it now. I think all aspects of Buddhism talk about Unity, and yet the teachings are presented in such a divisive way. I have just got involved in a discussion online in which a similar division is occurring, and it reminded me of this. In fact all discussions online remind me of divisions, and whenever I think of division I think of uncontrolled intellect that delights in separation and cannot accept Unity. It reminds me so much of all the Trots who all claim they are Marxist, and believe in the power of the mass movement. Yet they all want the mass movement to follow their version of Marxism, and completely divide the Left by the way they say the mass movement should follow their particular individual bookwriter as opposed to a different bookwriter who has a Marxist group. In politics there is one leader the mass movement, and if organisers cannot get the mass movement to recognise the importance of seeing themselves as one Unity and the ensuing working together that could maybe dethrone the 1% then that means more wars for profits etc.
The parallel with Unity in Buddhism is so clear to me. You begin with Unity, because we are ONE and separation is caused by mind. From this Unity we can recognise that all Paths lead to Unity. This is a Truth for all Paths in Buddhism as well as for other Paths. So when there is a discussion in Buddhism shouldn’t it revolve around finding what is the commonality or the Unity rather than perpetuating mind-created differences.
This firstly made me think about my own Path – hitting bottom, coming out on the Path – awakening?, throughout my spiritual life somehow being close to the Path or not, being creativity helping closeness, erratic meditation experiences, veering to Buddhism, regular meditation, focussing on Theravada in retirement, wider reading, focussing on Buddhadasa. Basically the underlying Unity is what forced me onto the Path in the first place, and the rest of my life has been about holding to the Path or not, and how do I do this? For me in Theravada this meant Insight meditation, through Insight connecting to the Path.
When I read Eckhart Tolle, or others on the their creativity, I regularly see this hitting bottom and unconsciously I made an assumption that I now see as incorrect that peoples’ Paths will have this sort of awakening. Because of this awakening component my view of Phakchok Rinpoche’s hierarchy of study was an intellectual aberration.
With the current online discussion I was sent this quote from HHDL:-
Now intellectual understanding is not something I am overly keen on as it has been my experience that the intellect is divisive. In fact I have seen that for those coming to the Path a focus on the intellect can lead to internal conflict that can produce awakening.
However there has always been a flaw in my approach that I have only partly internalised, why is Buddhadasa my teacher and yet he never had an awakening? I have never really answered that question until now – when perhaps I am getting answers.
Does there have to be an awakening? In the above quote HHDL describes a model of 6 stages:-
1) Deep study 2) Contemplation or reflection 3) Deep conviction that this how it is – these 3 are intellectual
4) Shifting 5) Cultivating familiarity 6) Experiential understanding
What is the shifting? Is it at all connected to awakening? Maybe shifting is just a smaller degree of awakening?
It seems to me there are two distinct types of Path:-
The Path of Awakening
If one has had an awakening, especially in the West where such awakenings are often associated with miseducation, it is hard to understand how deep study can be a Path.
If one is studious it is hard to see how someone who claims awakening after hitting bottom either through drugs or otherwise can be experiencing something other than feeling good in a recovery programme after the hangovers have gone.
What primarily needs to be understood is that no matter how exclusive these Paths appear to be they lead to Unity, and Unity is what all Buddhist seek, what all Seekers seek.
For a westerner I think reading Ajaan Buddhadasa is difficult. At one time I described his style as tedious and I could also think it is a bit pedantic but overcoming these western perceptions is well worth it. I would describe his style as that of a Buddhist scholar (scholar of the Buddha’s suttas). But he has gone beyond the dogma, and shows this now and again with what he says. I should note here that most of his works are spoken or translated by Santikaro. He was at one time a monk with Ajaan Buddhadasa at Suan Mokh, but is now lay running a retreat at Liberation Park (put in link). I surmise that these talks were given under the supervision of Ajaan Buddhadasa in English by Santikaro.
In other words these talks are “Buddhist-scholarly” with a kick in the tail. I have studied Theravada a little, I did say at one time I would focus on studying Theravada only but I do not consider I am that knowledgeable of what is written on Theravada but I have sufficient grasp of the form of Theravada to be able to read Buddhadasa and hopefully grasp some of the gems that come our way when reading Buddhadasa.
But equally I would understand westerners, not western people used to reading Buddhist works especially suttas, not coming to terms with Buddhadasa because of his scholarly manner. This is their loss as there is much wisdom in his work, and it is the wisdom and undertsanding, not the scholarliness, that hopefully people can hook into.
I am not a Buddhist for the suttas, I am not a Buddhist for the rituals, I am not a Buddhist for the animism that often gets associated with national Buddhism such as Thai or Tibetan Buddhism, I am a Buddhist because I consider the way of life that is at the core of Buddhism, once you get beyond the proliferations and concoctions, is the way of life that brings the greatest peace (or joy or happiness in a spiritual sense). What little peace I have found is at the core of Buddhadasa’s works, and this is why I promote what he writes in this blog.
There are other spiritual teachers that have helped me as well, Thich Naht Hahn, Eckhart Tolle and Don Miguel Ruiz for example. Their wisdom comes through in their works but in a different way. On this blog I have looked at different teachers seeking wisdom, hopefully I have grasped from wide sources, but at present because of my limited knowledge of Theravada I find much in Buddhadasa. I feel there is a place for a book on the wisdom of Buddhadasa for westerners but who could write it? With Ajaan Buddhadasa being dead such a book could never be ascribed to him or do him justice.
Here is the magga:-
Immediately I look at this I start asking right insight and right knowledge – later.
Magga has never been high profile in my Path but it is stressed by Tan Ajaan and worth considering for that alone. I must look up different translations to help with understanding.
I am going to begin with right determination because I have been accused of being stubborn. The issue is health and a system friend listens a little when I discuss health issues but doesn’t understand that unless you treat the health system with discernment it will make you ill.
In this case she is partly correct. I broke my wrist although at the time I thought it was a sprain. I put it in a sling for a few days, and then rested it for a month. I did not however know the natural resting position of the wrist. I rested my wrist with palms flat instead of resting it on the side of the hand and the wrist has set in the wrong position. Throughout the month of resting doubts came up but I said let Nature heal it. This was a mistake because I didn’t know the natural position of the wrist, even if I did resting it on the side was not an option as it would have given me pain …. more pain. After a month I went to the physiologist who said he could treat it. He has helped but it is taking a long time – 90% after 18 months – age is a factor.
People around me were saying go to the hospital but these are people who blindly go to the hospital. They are conditioned to go to the hospital, in this case they might have been right – I still have doubts. What would have been better is to have had the bone set in the right position. The issues that keep crossing my mind about this are whether my physiologist will be able to give me full movement – answer no, he has already admitted that some movement has gone. And if I had gone to have the bone set would I have got full movement? System supporters say yes but I just don’t know and I don’t believe them.
This system friend told me I had insurance – I had taken out motor-bike accident insurance and this accident, falling in the garden, was covered – covered as much as any insurance ever covers you. I asked the physiologist whether it would be paid, and he said that the insurance companies don’t accept him. Insurance is an awful thing. Basically there are benefits to insurance if they pay out, but the insurance companies require such conformity to pay out, that conformity did not include my physiologist. My insurance agent is a nice lady at the bank – a key figure in this, and she told me that I had to see a consultant at one of the local hospitals. As the insurance was paying I went to the expensive one, and it was clear that insurance practices and this hospital were a revolving door. I saw the consultant had an x-ray and so after maybe 8 weeks I learnt that the wrist had been fractured.
He offered to reset the bone but said there was only 80% chance of success. I wasn’t interested in what he said because I was only after an insurance paper so I could reclaim money spent at the physiologist. After a discussion in which I rejected the resetting he gave me a follow-up appointment and sent me to physio. The lady was pleasant enough but I had no experience of how good she was. She did say one thing, she felt the diagnosis of resetting the bone was not good and that physio was the best way forward; you might say she would say that. I listened to what she said and was charged 1000 – twice as much as the physiologist. I ignored the follow-up appointment, maybe I should have been polite and informed them I wouldn’t be going. This is also a key point in the story.
I went back to being treated by the physiologist. I submitted 9 receipts for the insurance. Later I went back to the bank lady, and it appeared they were going to refuse payment but the bank lady rattled on at her and the money was paid into my account. Once they had accepted that they would pay I submitted the next 8 receipts. I went to see the bank lady, and she told me I had to see the doctor again as there is a notional “running-out” period of the doctor’s original report. When I went to the hospital I met all kinds of obstacles. Because I had not attended the follow-up I had effectively ended “something”. The words used were accident and diagnosis. I had accident insurance, and the company would pay out for the accident. By not attending the follow-up the doctor had terminated the notion of accident treatment. If I were to have seen the consultant it would have been considered a diagnosis and I would have to pay for that myself. It was not clear to me whether a consultation about diagnosis would have led to a report that would have allowed me to claim for the subsequent treatments with the physiologist. This use of terminology just sounded like bullshit to me, and the bullshit was covering the fact that the hospital were not going to help me with the insurance because they were not getting paid. This was a monopolistic practise. The revolving door of hospital and insurance only worked if you went to the hospital for treatment. In economic terms this makes absolutely no sense for the insurance company as the hospital overcharged, but this is the way the system is.
At the refusal of the hospital to help me I went back to my favourite bank lady, and again she was very helpful. I explained what had happened at the hospital, and she started off on the phone again. She did a lot of work for me, and eventually a new medical report arrived from the hospital – she had sent someone to get it. Amazing!!
As the treatment is ongoing I asked he what to do next time. She had pulled out all the stops she didn’t want me to do a next time. So end of insurance money.
I will continue the treatment with the physiologist paying out of my own pocket. I have found a gem in the bank lady I hope there are not complications, and I won’t step back into that hospital again. All my life I worked as a teacher continually compromising the value of education with the profit motives of the school. You fight the money to get good education. I saw no evidence that the doctor or the administrative minions were doing anything other than being ruled by the dollar.
There is a local “cheap” hospital so maybe I will continue the insurance as it helps the bank gem!!
So to determination. I was accused by this system friend of being stubborn for not going to this hospital first of all. I didn’t know about the insurance so there would have been huge bills that might or might not have been paid. What is the quality of the treatment? I visited a friend in this hospital, and apart from a private room and minions running around nothing seemed to be offered. My own experience has confirmed that.
Determination is so very important. To follow the Path requires perpetual questioning, primarily of the conforming system but also of one’s reactions to it. The friend focussed on one aspect of apparent stubbornness – not attending the hospital in the first place. For her the conforming control is not as significant as it is to me but she eats quite badly, is underweight rather than overweight, and cancer has been an issue in her past. She was part of a unity of voices that said get to the hospital, some more vociferous than others especially those of the women – a strong controlling factor, a strong aspect of conformity.
There are other factors connected to my initial non-attendance of the hospital. I didn’t want to be sat in pain in casualty. I live out in the country so I would have needed to call someone out – taxis are not an option. Friends would have done it. Because I thought it was a bad sprain that was sufficent for me not to call them out – because I didn’t trust them anyway. Perhaps I need to find someone I can trust? A friend took me shopping once a week – helped me survive, once a week was a lot over 8 weeks – increasing to twice a week after 4 weeks. I didn’t want to ask him to take me to the hospital and sort out the insurance as well. The car! I was riding a motorbike. Before going to the physiologist after 4 weeks I tried riding. Got on, drove slowly, toppled to the right (problem with left wrist). For 2/3 weeks I tried to resolve the bike, but have developed a fear of riding and bought a car early – planned to buy at 70!! having the car gave me the freedom to go to the doctor and go to the bank for insurance. Once independent I could resolve all my stuff – an important factor.
Right determination is basically concerned with the Path, perhaps a useful word here is compromise. Fundamentally you do not compromise, you only follow your Path; to me this is what Nature is about. Determination to follow the Path. Conformity is a very dangerous adversity and requires determination not to conform. But at the same time there needs to discernment so that the anti-conformist does not throw the baby out with the bath water. This is a signficant problem with health. Our health industry has been so corrupted by the 1% that in certain areas following the advice of system healers can lead to worse illness. Specifically with cancer the helpless hand-gesturing of the chemo sycophancy is appalling, ingesting poison based on bogus suppositions, and using the position of healer to promote such. With regards to trauma I think the healers help but again the healing practice of the people is dominated by the profit motive – this time the insurance industry. You have to be determined to work out which aspects of the system healing are worthwhile and which are not. If you know a healer who does not compromise with the financial domination then see them, I don’t know them so in conclusion if the same thing happened again I would do the same thing.
This might well be at the centre of my progress. I agree with Tan Ajaan that life is learning what is what, and once we know the true nature of things we know how to act appropriately. Knowledge is part of what is what, but we need to be specific about the type of knowledge. I find it easy to accept that learning maths is not part of what is what, but is that true? How do we decide?
There are 3 characteristics, anicca dukkha and anatta.
Maths is important in my life, it earned my income and has paid for my fortunate retirement – apart from inheritance. But has the sine rule got anything to do with enlightenment? Is it an eternal law? In some ways it is. Does it help spiritually? In the sense that it has provided me with the income to study then it is spiritual.
What I thought was easy turns out to be hard.
So what about the knowledge that really concerns me? Knowledge of daily life, what might be termed political knowledge? How important is the knowledge of the 1%? How important is the knowledge of economics such as fiat money? In the recent case with Walter how important is it to know that economic laws do not apply such as the case of the US hedge funds who bought dodgy Argentine investment and then when those investments proved difficult to claim the US government backed them. Free Trade? The hedge fund threatened financial instability in the US so the government has forced the Argentine government to pay up, and therefore not pay their own people. I am guessing this follows on from the financial collapse of early 2000’s and horizontalidad and “The Take”.
How much political learning must I have? And how much spiritual? Is political learning simply attachment to the temporary? I suspect many Buddhist monks in cloisters would say it is attachment but are they right to withdraw from politics when politics causes such suffering? What is compassion but the removal of suffering for all? A better political system would provide the groundwork for the removal of suffering but even pure anarchy would not be a good system if people do not control their desires – 4 Noble Truths.
This was all sparked by Tan Ajaan in the Handbook [p29] “We may be sure that once that perfect knowledge has been attained, craving will be completely destroyed by it, because ignorance will cease to be in the very same moment that knowledge arises. Every aspect of Buddhist practice is designed to bring knowledge. Your whole purpose in setting your mind on the way of practice that will penetrate to Buddha-Dhamma is simply to gain knowledge. Only, do let it be right knowledge, knowledge attained through clear insight, not worldly knowledge, partial knowledge, halfway knowledge, which for example clumsily mistakes bad for good, and a source of suffering for a source of happiness. Do try your utmost to look at things in terms of suffering, and so come to know, gradually, step by step. Knowledge so gained will be Buddhist knowledge based on sound Buddhist principles. Studying by this method, even a woodcutter without book learning will be able to penetrate to the essence of Buddhism, while a religious scholar with several degrees, who is completely absorbed in studying the Tipitaka but doesn’t look at things from this point of view, may not penetrate the teaching at all. Those of us who have some intelligence should be capable of investigating and examining things and coming to know their true nature. Each thing we come across we must study, in order to understand clearly its true nature. And we must understand the nature and the source of the suffering which produces, and which sets us alight and scorches us.”
Tan Ajaan appears to warn against worldly knowledge yet says knowledge ought to alleviate suffering; this is so hard.
To know what is what, that is the meaning of life – learning. But what is what? That is the meaning of right knowledge. Is the only right knowledge insight? It is not the words or dogma of the 4NT that matters, it is the right understanding that insight brings. Does this mean that knowing what is what is the understanding that comes from insight and as such other forms of knowledge are a waste of time – just facts – knowledge of daily life, knowledge of the intellect, computer knowledge? At the moment I say yes, what other sensible knowledge is there?
But you can have insight into the knowledge of daily life so is this right knowledge? Having an understandng of the 1% system probably comes from some sort of insight, but how much detailed is required coming from this insight? How much study is needed? Enough to follow your Path. Clearly defined yet vague – good stuff!
Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.
I am back reading the “Handbook of Mankind”, this was one of the first books I looked at after retiring. Reading the first chapter “Looking at Buddhism”, it strikes me more and more, how did this man arise in Thailand? Or perhaps more succinctly how is this man revered so in Thailand when even cursory reading has to be taken as criticism of practices of Buddhism in Thailand? Thailand’s Buddhist rituals and ceremonies are integral to their practise of Buddhism and yet in this first chapter such approaches are dismissed as not being Buddhism. There is a new Suan Mokh institute in Bangkok, it is ornate. And just recently Suthep has taken orders at Suan Mokh in Surat Thani. For me this was a kiss of death on Suan Mokh. This man was the leader of the populist (but minority) forces that paved the way for the current military dictatorship in Thailand – censorship prohibits saying more. For me it draws into question the relationship of religion and politics. However whilst I am critical of the ornate Bangkok structure, Suan Mokh itself is not ornate. It does have a hall dedicated to the writings of Tan Ajaan, and throughout the wat the kutis etc. are not ornate. A monk can open the door of his kuti and see only Nature.
Ajaan Buddhadasa professed throughout that his work went back to “what the Buddha taught”, of course many claim this. One can simply say that this is only one man’s opinion of “what the Buddha taught” but I like what he writes because he cuts through the bullshit, and this opening chapter of the Handbook is the best example I have read.
Rereading such an erudite work it is interesting to see what grabs you this time around, with such books there is a depth that I cannot ever hope to reach and unlikely to be reached reading just one time. With Tan Ajaan this is particularly so as what he describes can so easily be understood on a more surface level and yet moves to depths I cannot understand. Typically “To attain liberation, we first have to examine things closely in order to come to know and understand their true nature. Then we have to behave in a way appropriate to that true nature” [p7]. From that paragraph underlies what I have said above “It sets no store by rites and ceremonies such as making libations of holy water, or any externals whatsoever, spirits and celestial being included. On the contrary, it depends on reason and insight. Buddhism does not demand conjecture or supposition; it demands that we act in accordance with what our own insight reveals and not take anyone else’s word for anything. If someone comes and tells us something, we must not believe him without question. We must listen to his statement and examine it. Then if we find it reasonable, we may accept it provisionally and set about trying to verify it for ourselves. This is a key feature of Buddhism, which distinguishes it sharply from other world religions” [p7].
I began thinking about Truth after reading this “Consequently, “the Truth” is not quite the same thing for different people” [p8]. At all appropriate levels learning what is what is what it is all about. If your enquiry is genuine then you unearth some of the truth, and if you are a genuine follower of the Path you unearth all the truth your Path could allow. But that truth you learn is only part of the whole truth as you are only part of a whole. To discuss Absolute Truth as attainable is a delusion. If Absolute Truth has any meaning it is the meaning of all the Truth, and if we can only attain part attaining Absolute Truth is a delusion. Tan Ajaan does not refer to Absolute Truth but different truths. But that needs to be considered, the Truth that we can discern can possibly be “conveyed” to others, we might be able to flag a bit of truth in such a way it can be conveyed to others. The raison d’etre is learning what is what, and with learning comes teaching. But essential for a legitimate teaching process is that the student is willing to accept that they are learning and are motivated to learn. In spiritual matters few are willing to accept that. Their egos get in the way and they assume they have learnt and are unwilling to learn from others. It might be true that they are willing to learn from teachers with labels such as orange robes but that is for those with the labels to answer. A teaching process does not follow from the knowledge of what is what it follows only when the student is prepared to listen. For those learning what is what it is their responsibility to be open to those with motivation but this is so hard to judge because it is almost a requirement of those on the spiritual path to claim they want to learn despite the innumerable barriers they put in learning’s path.
I would like to think the following is why I am restarting this blog. “Buddha-Dhamma will enrapture a mind that has developed a taste for it. It can be considered an indispensable form of nourishment too. True, a person still controlled by the defilements continues to desire nourishment by way of the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body and goes in search of it as suits his nature. But there is another part of him, something deeper, that does not demand that sort of nourishment. It is the free or pure element in his mind. It wishes the joy and delight of spiritual nourishment, starting with the delight that results from moral purity. It is the source of contentment for fully enlightened individuals, who possess such tranquillity of mind that defilements cannot disturb them, who possess clear insight into the true nature of all things and have no ambitions with regard to any of them. They are, so to speak, able to sit down without being obliged to run hither and yon like those people to whom the Buddha applied the simile “smoke by night, fire by day” [p17]. The truth is I am unsure. The hormones started to strike two years ago but with acupuncture and a change of diet the worst aspects of hormonal degradation were capped. But what suffers is my day. I know I want to get up at 06.00 but I go to sleep maybe 04.00, and doze during the day too much. This worsened 18 months ago when I damaged my wrist, what I intially thought was a bad sprain turned out to be a small fracture; my age means my wrist will only be 90% healed. Between the two what was pleasant days of meditation, study and the beach have become a shell.
I use the word shell because I go through the motions of meditation, study and beach but I know they are routines because they lack heart. Why has the heart gone out of them? Firstly meditation is not daily, and that provides the backbone; I don’t get up wanting to meditate and this is significantly due to my hormonally-disrupted sleep patterns. The destruction of Gaza provides external demotivation. How can people do that to each other, how can the zionist government and their soldiers do that? There is no excusing the ineffective Palestinian bombing including suicides, but what kind of horrendous occupation means that some of the people are willing to do that. And in this world the majority are against what the zionists are doing. But the 1% have the power, and there is nothing education can do. As an educator I feel powerless, whatever I learn and then teach doesn’t have the desired impact.
The keyword in that last sentence is desire, I desire social change, and I have to detach from that desire but at the moment I cannot. I would like for this study to be a change in me, but it isn’t. It’s not learning for learning’s sake, the learning alone is not driving me – the learning is not enough. And when I am learning and writing I doze!!
“The word “religion” has a broader meaning than the word “morality.” Morality has to do with behavior and happiness, and is basically the same the world over. A religion is a system of practice of a high order. The ways of practice advocated by the various religions differ greatly” [p 20]. It is now late and I am wide awake – thank you hormones. The issue of morality and religion is so important. I can remember when much younger having infuriating rows with a friend, in retrospect I am not pleased with myself concerning the rage I felt with those rows but have now realised that whilst the discussions for me were concerning learning and actually using the discussions to determine a solution I have discovered that the friend was using them as intellectual debate and that a solution was not important. His approach meant that just as we were moving to a possible agreement that would transcend the intellect his approach meant that the intellect could jump in and avoid truth. Over time he might well have attained truth but it was never at the time in conversation with me because of this defence mechanism. I now see my rage as a more legitimate response because I was too young and vital to detach myself from the situation.
One of the frustrations was that when talking of matters of the soul he focussed on morality. At the beginning of my retirement I focussed greatly on sila as a prerequisite for the Path, and I tended to equate soul with sila. Now this was an error. Firstly soul for me is not concerning reincarnation and transmigration, as I cannot be certain I do not accept the existence of such – I cannot experience them. But it is worth discussing sila and soul, and examining the error I made and how it connects with these frustrating arguments. Sila is a Pali word sometimes translated as moral integrity. It is a collected term for 3 parts of magga – the 8-fold path:- Right honesty, Right Livelihood and Right Speech. A few years ago I identified this sila with soul, but this is not the case. The soul I am referring to is a whole lot more. The usage of soul I am describing is about creativity as well as moral integrity – my earliest times on the Path came through creativity hence my usage – transmigration of souls was an intellectual concept for me. What was this creativity? Insight. That description of soul was concerned with Insight which is so much more important than morality. My earlier understanding did not embrace insight the way I do now – I wasn’t meditating. The muse was insight, and the muse and sila are nowhere near the same thing. So why did I previously connect the two – early retirement. Because sila once practised becomes the core of one’s actions and this core could be considered part of insight.
I remember when I started teaching I realised that I was a Teacher – capitalised because teaching was my Path (that teaching and what passes for education in our system have limited connection). Teaching was at the core of my being. I taught in a difficult school, that difficulty being actuated there in the poor behaviour of the students. I was required to act without thinking because of that poor behaviour and I needed for those actions to have professional integrity. They did because I was a Teacher and Teaching was in my core, my soul. Together with the “muse” soul was very real to me, but not known as insight then. This aspect of my argument revolved around the notion that soul and morality were synonymous. No that is not fair. I didn’t understand his argument so it is fair of me to assess what the position was. Albeit my frustration was concerning a perceived failure on tge part of my friend to recognise these two aspects of soul – creativity and the Teaching core as being beyond morality.
So what is creativity and Teaching core now? Here anatta and insight come in. Both are parts of insight but in some ways that does not help understanding. Yes it does but the understanding can go beyond insight. For insight can be perceived as personal, my insight, but insight is not personal. Creativity is not personal, that Teaching core was not personal. Personal requires separation, it requires self but both the muse and the Teacher were beyond self because I was not thinking. In the Teacher the thinking did not happen – I didn’t have the time to think. So if I was not thinking What was acting? No self. When I was writing I tapped into the muse. It is not uncommon for artists to describe their inspiration as coming form outside – hence the term muse which in some ideologies has almost God-like status. But this muse just happened, the self did not think, the construction of the sentences was not an intellectual or logical process but far more. It was Insight or No-self. This is far more than sila.
Yet without sila there is no Insight, moral integrity is required to move beyond the mundane. Without that basic security of moral action then defilement can happen. My confusion was that the Teaching at the core was moral action – Right Livelihood, but it was not it was No-self. But of course No-self is the highest morality – excuse my arrogance!!!
This Muse and the Teacher, they were not self. How can they not be self when I was acting? This brings us to Unity, it is Unity or Being that is acting when there is no self. What does this mean? To understand this requires a level of understanding of Unity or Gaia, and a degree of questioning of separation. There appear separate human individuals because our bodies are separate, questioning this notion of separation appears absurd. But if we consider various unities that appear separate maybe it is not that absurd. the two examples I always use are ants and the sea. When you look at the separate bodies of ants there appears to be uncanny communication, a level of communication and understanding better understood as One Ant with innumerable separate ant bodies but functioning as One. Waves appear to be individual and could easily be thought of as separate from the sea but once a wave rises and falls we know it is just sea. Humanity is born and dies in the same way, apparently separate selves but in reality just One Being of human bodies. When there is no self there is only the One Being acting through separate bodies. This is the Nature of Being of which our apparent separate selves are a part.
So there is a clear question, if this is the reality why do we think we are separate? And the answer is in the question, what thinks we are separate? Our separate minds think we are separate, our minds create the illusion of self. So when we talk of anatta we are talking of no mind.
But that sounds absurd as well – no mind. Once the mind kicks into action in whatever way self is created. Our minds prevent Being from acting through us. This is explained in the doctrine of paticcasammupadha – somehow. Here is my current stab.
It is better not to think of mind as an entity because thinking of mind creates separation. If there is no mind what is there? Khandas. These khandas are translated as aggregates, in other words the aggregate of the khandas is the human. In other words there is no self but khandas. So why not have my khandas? The self’s khandas? Having the concept of khandas themselves we have not resolved separation.
At the basis of paticcasammupada is that everything arises through cause and effect – conditions. Cause acts on the khandas producing effects, this arises because of the cause and not because of a self. In thinking of no-self this intellectually makes sense but I don’t feel it as truth. This is how I feel about all the stages of dependent arising and khandas. It is intellectual dogma to me despite it being the truth. I need to move it beyond intellectal dogma to understanding.
5 khandas :- rupa – body, Vedana – Feelings, Sanna Perception, Sankhara Thoughts,Vinnana Consciousness
The twelve nidanas and their causal relationships can be expressed as follows:
Paticcasammupada – English terms (wikipedia)
With Ignorance as condition, Mental Formations arise
As an intellectual system the khandas and paticcasammupada can explain that there is no need for self. But it is only a belief or faith unless it is understood, and as far as I am concerned there is no faith.
I continue slipping into the old patterns of writing for teaching as if the purpose of the writing is to teach. Teaching is a consequitor of learning and occurs only when the learner wants the teacher; writing only has a learning purpose. This is particularly true of blogging, the meat on the bones of insight.