Understanding Chains

Posted: 01/05/2015 by zandtao in Buddhadasa
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Understanding Chains

My meditation is still shot, at the moment treating a chronic lung condition is the gun – part of that condition is screwed-up sleep. When I have meditated it has seemed OK – clean mind etc., but it has not been satisfactory. In my life I have begun to feel more reusii – reclusive. I have allowed the fact that I am unable to be some sort of spiritual teacher to get to me. But I am not spiritually sound so why should I be one? And then I think of writing but I am not a “creative” writer – I don’t want to indulge an angst that to me is spiritually unsound. At times I think of getting into depression but fortunately that is not me. I am neither a spiritual teacher nor an indulgent writer but I write a lot because writing helps me express.

This is what this piece of writing is, trying to express about “understanding the chains”, writing about chains came to me in meditation this morning. I had been lying in bed for a while focussing on “Pure Mind”, I had begun to realise that my journey had stalled and that part of my reclusiveness was a form of anger, I was angry at the people I know for not wanting to learn from me, angry at the world that does not offer me suitable teaching, angry at the knocks of daily life because people I know don’t have sila and I stupidly treat them as if they do, and angry that my health was affecting me when in fact my health problems are minor. Rather than taking this as an opportunity to turn in and improve myself I had become an indulgent ego. Looking at Pure Mind was helping me see this ego.

It was not my usual ego, and it was associated with “non-self”. My last real Buddhist study was anatta. This anatta has a shapelessness to it, it means that self and ideas do not fashion life Being does – non-self. Just Be. That sounds excellent in theory if mind is pure but it’s also an open door for desire and indulgence of those desires – chains. My mind was not pure enough for anatta, and I had strayed into the indulgence I have just described.

Does this indulgence sound a problem? It was a reality because it happened. Was it the Path? No. So it was a problem.

There is always a problem. Birth ageing sickness and death, there is always a problem. The mind
tries to trick you, there is always a problem. Here is an example of a delusion I originally wrote as a blog:-

This is a good subtle delusion. Learning what is is what we are here for, so why wouldn’t the habit of study be a good way? It has the appearance of a good way but the problem with study is that it can be study for study’s sake. Get up, meditate, study. Sounds ideal but if the study is dogma, if you are not directing the study, if the study is not leading to learning then this is not learning what is what. Blogs can help but as yesterday blogging per se has its delusions, likewise study has its delusions. It is direction that matters.

Have you studied this sutta? No study it. And this one? Study it. This one? You can fill your day, you can appear to be learning what is what, but in reality it might well be deluded – studying dogma is not necessarily learning. Direction is the key, so somehow your study has to be given direction by your meditation – your guide.

It could be that learning from books (or equivalent) might not be appropriate. I sometimes feel that the only place I can learn is in meditation, and sadly I don’t do that well. Genuine learning is not about dogma, it is about the insight that goes beyond dogma. For me the best place for finding that is meditation.

Yet in its place study is good discipline, overcoming the tricks that make study a delusion requires awareness. And in terms of direction Pure MInd could provide that.

Here is more on delusions that create chains:-

I began thinking about writing this blog (Sept 14) a lot in meditation but now I am doubting whether to start blogging again.

I haven’t blogged in a while as I now realise it has become part of a delusion, and it felt better to try to confront that delusion.

So how do I see what happened? I broke my wrist towards the end of April (2014) so physically that made blogging difficult. That forced me to stop. It kind of changed everything but really the wrist was only the trigger. I had been deluding myself that blogging meant something. What is a blog? It is articles or a diary stored online; that is all. It appears to be a lot more, and that is the delusion. There are blogs that are read everywhere, a bit like the number of followers. But that is shallow, cynically one might say the more followers you have the more shallow you are, the more complicit you are. Whatever my blogs are they are not shallow. Maybe I should note that shallow is the currency now – more than ever before, shallow and quick – twitter 140 characters. And usually completely meaningless – nothing to do with truth. Life in society appears to be enshrining all that is shallow and meaningless. Whilst war continues. Around the same time as I stopped blogging the Zionists started bombing, and the world let it happen. They bombed schools and meeting halls that were being used as refuges. These events are enough to show that western society is completely broken, ordinary people could not stop it because however intelligent they are slaves have no control. Few agreed with it perhaps even in Israel there was not a majority that agreed but it happened. That tells us what our democracy is – a total sham. I stopped following anything – out there, what is the point when that can happen? When America and Europe go to work those wage-slaves are paying for the bombing by Zionists of these refuges. That is so sick. Those wage slaves allow that to happen, can you blame them? Yes and no. Yes because if all the wage slaves downed tools it couldn’t have happened, and no how can you expect all of the western wage-slaves to down tools at the same time? In my union time members said that we signed a letter, what more did I want? Action is only meaningful if it has the results, there was no meaningful action in fighting this zionism.

I had no illusion it could ever be any different; this is the world we live in, it is what western governments are there to do. Syria and Iraq has developed into ISIS, and so we have more excuses for human atrocities. But the wage slaves carry on convinced that their societies are still the most moral in the world. Western wage slaves are duped by their propoganda machines, and there is little that can be done. It is hard for me to sit here and look at this. I have spent a life as an actvivist and a teacher – I am 62, and it is far worse now than it was when I started.

But this is only a part of the delusion, this disillusionment is just perhaps the most gross. It is done under the guise of religion. And so I examine my own religion – Buddhism. I don’t mean my own practise here but what Buddhists allow. Since April I have turned back to Ajaan Buddhadasa and begun studying him again. He is my teacher, I now have no doubts. But he cannot be a teacher of westerners, of eclectics, of dabblers, they must find their teachers elsewhere because Tan Ajaan applied his wisdom by going through Buddhism and then going beyond the dogma. I have a limited knowledge of the dogma so am able in some ways to follow what he is doing and to some way go beyond. I feel about his teachings that it is necessary to have got into the dogma first before going beyond it. His conclusions are universal, his pathway is through Buddhism.

Since April I have written blogs – but not put them up, have begun work on the 4 Noble Truths but not put it up. And I have stopped work on Createspace. So the issue is blogging and writing. What is the point of blogging and publishing? In the older days there were fewer books, the distribution was less controlled and maybe people who had something to say were read. Now with the cult of celebrity, more than ever before reading is channeled. People don’t only read these charicatures but as a media of educating books appear to have effectively gone. Do people stumble across books of erudition now? Is that something people now do? Maybe they stumble across erudite blogs? But even that I doubt, the media industry channels all this. My blogging and writing was about getting it out there but getting it out there has been disallowed. At least for me getting it out there has been totally ineffective so it has not been attempted since April.

About the chains of writing I have to accept now that given the people I know there can be no discussion of real issues so I have to write for myself.

I have never really considered that “getting it out there” has ever been effective for me but I continued to do it even though I knew that. The change came when I began to ask why was I blogging. It is my duty was perhaps a summary of my answers. Is it still my duty? Yes. So where is the disillusionment? Why have I stopped? The internet has never been effective for conveying truth. When I was young the people from the Arts Centre took me onto the Path of Truth with hours of conversation long into the night. I don’t know what we talked about, we were exploring truth through our conversations. We used books, we spoke about the erudition in books. But the teaching was person-to-person, direct deep teaching can only occur that way – meditation is better of course. If we heard K at Brockwood and even if we fell asleep in those tents there was personal communication, far more than if we had never been and just listened to his tapes – and then it became reading online etc. The internet has tried to replace that, only young people can tell me if it has succeeded; it has not beaten the young people of Occupy. When my political bones reawakened 5/6 years ago I studied Hillary Clinton at the CFR. “And thus it came to pass” could be a summary of what she said, and amongst it was the necessity to control the internet. But control does not mean “repress free speech”, ineffective “free speech” has always been the neoliberal way of control. No, the issue of control of the internet was to monitor the free speech and ensure it was ineffective. This is what has been done, and when Edward Snowden spoke up he was hounded.

But these internet issues are only a rehash. I have always understood this in many ways. So where is the disillusionment? And I am not sure of the answer to this except to say that in some way I believed I was doing something. “You never know who is listening or reading” was the carrot, the reality should be measured not by such chimeric benchmarks but by response and engagement. Who replies? Who actually engages with what you have said? Who actually attempts to determine the truth through your writing? And the answer to those questions is no-one. Whilst I had the occasional responder and some limited communication, no-one was engaging with truth through what I wrote. It became part of an internet dialogue, just another rung on the ladder that goes round the houses instead of entering to find the truth. I am convinced there are many who write their own truth on the internet but once truth or insight is written it just becomes another idea to be bandied around, intellectually perused and effectively controlled by the internet without any effective practise. I deluded myself that I was doing something – but I was not.

I use the word truth, Tan Ajaan describes Buddhism as being “learning what is what” – truth is “what is what”. There is much I have done in my blogs towards describing what is what, however it is necessary to note there are two whats:- the what that is internal and the what that is external. How much have I developed in both? I have no doubts at all that Buddhists in general confine themselves to what is internal, and equally socialists or anarchists confine themselves to what is external. Throughout my life I have oscillated between the inner and outer, I suspect recently I have focussed too much on the outer but learning what is what is about both. The main thing I took away from Suan Mokh was how much politics were displayed in Tan Ajaan’s dhamma hall, and then compare that with the derivative Suan Mokh in Bangkok where I could see none.

It is this balance of eschewing delusion between inner and outer that needs to come under question. How much of my inner life is deluded? Previously I have promoted the notion of enquiry – asking questions. Whilst this notion of asking questions can apply to both the inner and outer, I did ask more questions about the Inner than I have removed inner delusions. The problem with the inner delusions is that they are fixed ideas, belief systems. Over the years I have removed much of the miseducation that contributes significantly to the external delusions and I also believe I have removed many of the internal delusions of miseducation. The problem is that I have replaced the delusions with new ideas and belief systems that in time become delusions. A lynchpin of enquiry is not to hold onto ideas or belief systems but this is hard. When a truth, fought for and determined in adversity during adulthood, becomes a delusion it is much harder to eschew it – especially if there is a spiritual component to these beliefs. Are aliens or lizards a delusion? Try telling the followers of David Icke. Many young people follow Icke whose essential truth dismisses many of society’s delusions, the delusions that prop up the 1%. I feel he has gone too far although I accept I could be wrong. I have never seen an alien or lizard masquerading as a human. Until I do I cannot believe it. How many people have seen them? Until you have it is a delusion. It is a theory, it is an idea set, it is unreal.

I fell for a Buddhist delusion, a delusion that most Buddhists fall for to this day – reincarnation. Early on in my blogs I developed intricate idea systems concerning reincarnation based on texts I had read and what I thought made sense – I deluded myself that intuitively my idea system made sense. But I have no proof. Until I have proof it is a delusion. I am not saying there is no reincarnation, I am just saying I don’t have proof and I don’t believe in theories. The miseducation of my youth was built around theoretical constructs that bore no relation to practice, typically that education is “leading out the true self”. The main tenet of our education system is that we educate to provide “educated wage-slaves”, and we delude those educated into pretending they have a choice of career when in reality workplace life is just wage-slavery to create profits for the 1%. And Buddhists are the some of the easiest to delude with this. It is our minds that make us unhappy – true. It is how we see things that causes unhappiness – true. It is our desires that make us unhappy. If we see our jobs as being something that can make us unhappy they will, if we take the positive from our jobs we can be happy. This is what Buddhists do, and are happy. But the Buddhist jobs are the same jobs as others who are wage-slaves. The reality is that we are all wage-slaves who make profits for the 1%, any other assessment of the workplace is a delusion. It is necessary to accept that reality and detrmine how much we compromise with that slavery when it is part of a 1% system that causes so much death and destruction in the world. Remember Buddhism is compassion, ending suffering. If our jobs make us happy and yet the world is suffering, are we Buddhists or are we exploiters?

But delusion is not just about accepting dogmas or fooling ourselves into contributing easily to wage-slavery. It is much more than this. How many tricks do we fall for? Can we ever be sure that what we believe, what ideas we hold to, are true?

In the last couple of days I have begun to look into “a state of non-delusion”. In Buddhism we have a “state of non-attachment”, and there are many teachings about this including the patticasammupada or dependent origination to help us achieve that state. There is also a “state of non-delusion” to work for. I suppose it is taking the “state of enquiry” further. We must continually ask but maybe more. We are always accepting illusions in a similar way to having our cravings. It seems we need to accept illusions in a similar way to fulfilling desires. Desires happen, we must not attach to them. Illusions come. Let them go, and try to hold onto a state of non-delusion.

Does compassion bring chains with it?

For me in Buddhism compassion is centrally fundamental, the Pure Mind is a Compassionate Mind, the Pure Being is a Compassionate Being. But what does this mean?

One repeated meditation I picked up on the way is:-

May all beings be free from suffering, and that this freedom from suffering is compassion. This fits in with the 4NT which is all about freedom from suffering:-

1) Recognition that there is suffering
2) Recognising that desire is the source of suffering
3) Recognising that not clinging to desire is freedom from suffering
4) Following Magga is the way to be free the desire that causes suffering

In the world there is suffering. Since this is so, the socio-political system that we live in is suffering. Most people do not draw this conclusion because the Buddha described the 4NT 2500 years ago. Birth, ageing, sickness and death are dogmatically described as suffering, if you like the characteristics of suffering. Whilst these characteristics are true now, we must also use our minds to analyse what else is suffering now. If all around is suffering then the political-economic systen has to contribute to that suffering because it governs the way we live. For me these eco-political chains are the external source of suffering, and as a compassionate being I must seek to unlock these chains.

For most in Buddhism this suffering is seen as a lack of control of the mind. Whilst I agree with this, as Buddhists we cannot ignore the 4NT, and in Magga there is strong eco-political direction:-

Cut the table here

What comes under sila is directly connected to our economic action, especially action and livelihood. When you consider the Unity that is Gaia, can any Buddhist say that working in our economic and political system is part of genuine unity?

When the monks want to discuss having the right state of mind to accept the livelihoods that we endure in the current system they are helping people, but at the same time they are ignoring the more fundamental question:-

According to Magga can our system be considered right?

Yet the practice of Buddhism tends to ignore this. And this is a huge problem, should this fundamental question be ignored? Coming to terms with this question is a battle of compassion. Russell B calls for revolution but tends to ignore the suffering of his call. Marxists accept the suffering of a revolution as being less than pre-revolution suffering. Whilst there are some positives post-revolution, the overall hegemony is so strong and the revolutionary countries are pulled back into that hegemonic suffering. I could go on and on discussing this, being active in this, because my compassion pulls me into the political struggle. But is the struggle a delusion? Ultimately the answer is yes on an individual level. Freeing ourselves from suffering on Magga means freeing ourselves from attachment to this delusion, yet every ounce of my compassion for other beings draws me back. How much suffering this is.

People must work together, and this communal imperative has been expropriated by the 1% to cause a huge amount of suffering. As a Buddhist this has to be a fundamental pillar of their analysis of “what is what”, otherwise we are avoiding. To be aware there is no other way of seeing the way our system is. But the power and influence exerted by the 1% institutionally forces the formal sangha away from this pillar. Is the institution detached from the power and influence? At first glance you might say no because people choose their contributions. But there are various political mechanisms that on deeper analysis have to bring this into question. The 1% control politics, and their means of controlling the people is through politicians. Politicians make rules such as charity status, and one condition of charity status is no politics. Isn’t discussing the fundamental pillar breaking charitable status? I am sure it would be seen as so if the institution were to effectively raise the discussion.

When the monk counsels the business exec in such a way that allows them to feel they are following the tenet of “right livelihood”, the monk is being disingenuous. Yet this is a right action of the institution. This anomaly is accepted for the greater good and the survival of the institution. Is it right?

In this discussion I touched on the Bodhisattva vow. Here is a wiki description:-

“In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva vows to work for the relief and liberation (nirvana) of all sentient beings as long as samsara persists.

This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, Bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings.”

Putting aside the issue of unproven reincarnation, for me there is boundary of consideration:-

Who do we put first?

I have always taken the Mahayana position as putting people before yourself, but the above quotes don’t say that. I have always been Theravada because I accept that working on the Path requires compassion for the suffering of others. But that is little different to the Bodhisattva vow.

A question that arises for me. What is samsara – cycle of birth, death and rebirth? Not interested in intellectual discussion about reincarnation, what is the result of such?

However “the Bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings”, what is that? Look at the practice – “the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom”. Well this is Magga without the right intention and right view but of course that is only a semantic distinction, the wise will do all. I aim to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings, not sure what that means. Getting bogged down in Mahayana dogma – not fruitful.


This has clarified some things for me but reads totally useless for anyone else. Within the blog posts some people might be able to discern stuff but based on posts like this who could see a teacher. The post has helped me, it probably will not help others. If I want to be a teacher I need a new strategy, but primarily I need students.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

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