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Transcribing the oral tradition...
Coleen, FBA Team
Viryaja, Toowoomba, Australia
Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Vicki, Seattle, USA
Ratnavyuha, Auckland, NZ
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Vajradarshini, Valderrobres, Spain
INTRO TO 9th
WHERE WE ARE IN THE SUTTA:
We’ve learned the steps that help us to become present and strengthen samatha, a way of
being calm, through working with the body and the vedana.
In the body tetrad we can also begin to see how the breath, mind and body are
interconnected and condition each other.
In the body tetrad learning about breath as kaya-sankhara, body-conditioner
beginning to add an element of dharma vicaya (might happen very naturally
without specific instruction when exploring “what’s happening?” with precision
and appreciative awareness).
In the vedana tetrad learning about vedana as citta-sankhara, mind-conditioner
So whatever mind states we get into we begin to see how we are feeling at that
time and how that feeling is interconnected with and influences our mind states.
We can also see how our mind states set up conditions for different feelings to
Learning about how the breath, body, vedana and mind affect each other we begin
to be with our experience in wiser ways and rather than creating hysteria and
agitation we can learn to calm the body and mental processes.
Experiencing everything come and go the sense of self begins to loosen up.
We might start with a stance that I am my body, I am my feelings, I am my
emotions – whether we like or dislike that self. I like my body, I don’t like my
body. I am an angry person. I am a nice person. Seeing everything come and go
these stories start to unravel and we can notice letting that process happen or
moments when we clamp up again. Sometimes we’re caught by surprise by how
different our sense of self has become, maybe it’s calmed entirely and we’re just
one with the breathing or the vedana and a sense of tremendous beauty and ease
may arise or a sense of tremendous fear. We just try to breathe with these states
and stay with what’s happening.
Exploring the body and vedana needs to be rooted in a direct experience and not
theorizing about it abstractly or trying to fabricate experience we think is supposed to be
Remembering Buddhadasa talking about exploring each object of the meditation
as drinking it, really tasting the flavor
This “sensitive to” is patismvedin (Pali) which means experiencing, feeling,
enjoying or suffering whatever the case may be. It comes from the verb
patisamvedeti which means to feel, experience, undergo, perceive
Some of you might find yourselves getting heady or alienated so all the more
important to be based in the body and use the body to help us. This is why the
body tetrad comes first in the sequence.
What are we doing when we’re aware of the body? We can be aware of everything
that’s happening in our experience in a grounded way through the bodily
sensations that are happening right now. This is a way of knowing and is
especially useful in daily life. In the first jhana the sense of the body being present
is still there. Traditionally the benefit of the 1st jhana is said to be because thought
is there so we can do dharma vicaya or vipasyana bhavana work. We can
We can explore all four tetrads directly in the body.
o Bodily sensation, vedana and thought and mind states of contraction and
o So bringing in an awareness of change, impermanence makes the first
tetrad a complete practice in itself. Bringing in an awareness of change,
impermanence makes the four stage mindfulness of breathing
We can also experience things directly in the mind and not through the body
although the breath is always there and the body is always there. If you start
feeling alienated then work more through the body (in meditation with a 4 stage
mindfulness of breathing, or the sutta, or a period of metta practice or go for a run
or walk or do some yoga…)
4 factors contribute to alienation and they might not both be going on. This is not a
traditional teaching but just my own thinking.
1. Losing samatha basis so losing track of what’s happening now (either through
forgetfulness or because we need to give more attention to this aspect of practice)
Alienation through the clouded mind
What to do? Focus on samatha and simple methods that bring you back to
what’s happening now very directly. Develop your proficiency with these
methods and working with your mind
2. Not being willing to experience what’s happening
Alienation through aversion
We all have this going on so it’s a matter of degree. When we can catch it
before it hardens we’re not getting alienated. If it’s hardening and solidifying
then it leads to more of an overall state of alienation
What to do? More metta practice. One of the benefits of the metta practices
we’ve been doing in the evenings is to help us be willing to experience the
whole of our experience with a friendly attitude – pleasant, painful, neutral,
likes, dislikes, wanting not wanting
Come back to the body
Note about mindfulness of breathing and metta practice merging over time
3. Confidence – trusting your experience, being based in your experience
Alienation through doubt
Applying the dharma to that but not losing confidence in what you’re actually
experiencing (even if you come to see that your experience is confused)
Knowing what’s happening in you to be what’s happening without external
Alienation from unwise effort
Pushing too hard and getting fatigued
Relates to letting things be (less exhausting way of being)
Knowing when to play and laugh when to lie down and just rest
Finding ways to do that here in the silence within yourself (don’t have to be
somber and serious – don’t have to be laughing either). What I love about
Ryokan – he’s a committed practitioner, living in his hut through very cold
winters but he also comes out
Every day, day after day
I spend at my ease playing with the children
In the sleeves of my robe, two or three balls
A useless fellow, yes
But I know how to make myself drunk
Sipping my fill of the peaceful springtime
There’s a sense in Ryokan’s poetry of freedom. Of releasing the pressure valve,
loosening the belt, and just letting yourself be human. You don’t have to be a
Buddhist. Really, there’s nothing in our experience that is non-Buddhist. What’s
happening is what’s happening. The willingness to experience anything is a
crucial factor in integration. It’s the process of being aware that is Buddhist, not
Maybe what we’re getting heady about what it means to move from feeling to dukkha to
sraddha. So I thought I’d read a little something from Sangharakshita about this to clarify
what this means (Meaning of conversion of Guide to the Buddhist path)
The dukkha corresponds with the moment the feeling arises
The sraddha is an alternative to craving
Larry Rosenberg, even piti and rapture have a “certain existential loneliness to
them, a trace of me and mine.”
So this is the calming mental processes
And in the spiral conditionality teaching the process continues to joy, then piti,
then passadhi, then sukha, then concentration or samadhi and then knowledge and
vision of things as they really are, beginning to see Reality
So we can see that the sutta only hints at one order in which things might unfold –
don’t solidify the sutta and get to literal with how things are described as
In this formulation we work a little more with vedana first (Ratnadevi’s question)
Learning how you can most skillfully build samatha
Another question about sukha arising without piti. We can concentrate the mind
through the door of a couple of the jhana factors and the others just start arising so
they’re not sequential but a cluster. Piti and sukha experientially are along a
spectrum not two completely separate things.
MOVING ON TO THE MIND TETRAD
The previous contemplations have already brought to our awareness the mind itself.
We’ve focused on certain things the body and vedana, the mind experiences and seen how
they affect the mind:
For example sensitive to feelings (whether in the body or mind) and our reactions
to feelings – does the mind contract or remain open
Doing the work of building stability in our mind we have the capacity to look directly at
the mind with sati.
THE BENEFITS OF STUDYING THE MIND ITSELF:
We are turning around and making the subject the object.
This short circuits the habitual subject object duality where we are searching
outside of ourselves for the cause of our happiness and unhappiness. Seeking
outwardly for answers, remedies and what to blame. That person really is evil and
she's the cause of my unhappiness. That thing is really desirable and could be the
cause of my happiness if I could just have it.
Just for myself yesterday I caught a thought about a person coming in through the
mind sense that was unpleasant because of my views which gave rise to an
emotion of aversion towards that person. All that mostly based on my views and
not really about that person at all. It was very quick and very subtle so without the
slow walking I might never have caught it and then my projection about what’s
out there, who that person is, which is completely nothing about them, would have
further hardened and more suffering created by me within me and to the degree I
acted on them in body language or unfriendly speech suffering ...