Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Anapanasati Retreat 2003 Notes - Introduction to 7th and 8th Instructions - Mind

by Viveka


Sense Organs
(bodily or mental)
Thoughts (mental)
As a result of past
Bodily feeling = five senses
Mental = thoughts
Tendency without awareness for a chain reaction:
Pleasant vedana
Attachment (craving)
Unpleaesant vedana
Aversion (craving)
Neutral vedana
Ignorance, confusion, vagueness, fantasizing,
Two reponses to feeling:
Open, aware
With awareness, finding and practicing with the “choice point”
Samsaric, contracted, reactive
Nirvanic, liberative,
The feeling is karma vipaka.
How we repond is new karma.
sampajanna (Sanskrit, samprajanya) – clear comprehension, to understand so we can
respond skillfully
appamada (Sanskrit, apramada) – non-heedlessness, not letting our karmic patterns get
further entrenched, seizing the opportunity for freedom
Introduce feelings using chart and the following two examples:
1. Feeling doesn't always lead to craving or ignorance. That's a tendency that causes
suffering but there are other possibilities.
For example of the beauty of the shrine, the colors, the smell of the incense, the
image of the Buddha can lead to faith which is a skillful emotion.
We can use the experience of pain to cultivate compassion and pleasure to
cultivate mudita (we’lll have a chance to do this on retreat) and neutrality to
cultivate upekkha
2. But we are often suffering from feeling chain reacting into reactive emotion
Pain in the leg becoming despondency/frustration becoming I'm no good
Finding a color unpleasant and then having an aversion to a place
Why does feeling lead to craving?
The 4 foundations point out different aspects of our experience that we can
understand or be tyrannized by
We tend to identify and solidify these different aspects of our experience. So we
can solidify the body and obsess about the body
We can also identify with our feelings and obsess and hover over our feelings
Our ego grasping can manifest through the feelings and this is one of the primary
ways it does manifest
We want what we identify as making us feel good, we don’t want or hate what we
identify as making us feel bad
This egoic self, perpetuates itself through craving and it has to constantly
perpetuate itself. It only exists in this moment. It is also in that sense relatively
easy to see through.
This chain reaction of feeling and craving is how our mind-made suffering comes to be
Feelings conditions the mind. One thing we can learn from the 2nd tetrad as we can
learn how the breath conditions the body and mind in the 1st tetrad.
Understanding this dynamic and learning how to work with it so as to become free
from reactive suffering is a major emphasis in the Buddhist tradition. One cannot
underestimate its importance.
Feeling, according to Buddhist psychology or the abidharma, is an omnipresent
mental event.
o This means we are feeling all the time.
o It’s part of our wiring
o That’s a lot of time to build up reactive habits.
o Important to become learn about this dynamic
What can we do? This is the point of the 7th contemplation of becoming sensitive to
mental processes.
Learn the difference between craving and grasping on the one hand and open
awareness on the other
o Find the choice point
o Learn about the nature of the two paths and from that study, we’ll naturally
choose the path that leads away from suffering
To do this we have to be willing to experience the dukkha when we
crave and grasp as well as the liberation when we are open and
Like learning fire burns
Can sound complicated but in practice it comes down to a simple sense of
contracting or opening around experience
o Image of getting rope burn because we’re grasping the moving rope of
experience all the time. If we simply let go, we’d stop getting rope burn
Studying vedana we also come to see that these feelings are just coming and going
all the time, that we don't create them, and they don't have to dictate the course of
our lives, we can relax. In other words, they are impermanent
The breath can help us in this work as we become sensitive to mental processes
o Although the main focus is vedana and how that conditions the mind in
the background is the breath helping us stay present and aware
o If we get lost or overwhelmed we can come back to a few conscious
breaths and then start over again, becoming sensitive to mental processes
The 8th contemplation, calming mental processes grows naturally out of learning about
them and how they work
What calms isn’t the intensity of pain or pleasure
What calms is our reaction to vedana
We’re not as reactive
At the point where the practice begins to ripen into mental processes calming, people
often find themselves under attack by Mara, the forces of sensory distraction
All of the sudden there are a proliferation of fantasies
We are addicted to feeling and the plot line it gives our life
We’re not used to resting in a more equanimous place, being more calm
Our addiction for entertainment can come in and fill the new found space with all
sorts of distraction. Distraction as a mental event in the abidharma tradition is a
state of mind in which the mind is led away from the object of concentration by
attachment, hatred or confusion. So these states are trying to reassert themselves.
o Story of the Buddha under attack by Mara illustrates this
o Ayya Khema, Who is My Self, p. 66
Why silence is such a beneficial practice. We have to experience boredom
(Boredom reading)
Try to relax into this newfound spaciousness and freedom and learn about that
Larry Rosenberg quote
Much of our habit energy goes into avoiding unpleasant experience.
Larry Rosenberg, p, 73
Any questions?
Easy to understand this dynamic but the practice comes in realizing it. Becoming wise.
Exercise in pairs:
Both turn attention to experience and notice:
Pleasant vedana and our reaction
Unpleasant vedana "
Neutral vedana"
(if having difficulty can specifically tune into the body and then thoughts)
Check-in (optional – in silence retreat can skip)
Second exercise
Inquire into the nature of the experience
Is it changing?
Does it stay solid?
After sit and walking meditation:
The idea of passionately letting go rather than passionately clinging which kills
Calming mental processes doesn't mean we become dead and unfeeling but rather
we're more alive. We can just experience what's going on without having a whole
reaction to it clouding our experience.
In the meditation session can mention:
It can be hard to locate vedana
Can notice wanting or not wanting and then work backwards to find the feeling
Same with dullness or boredom, can trace back to neutral vedana
Another interesting thing is that
Clarification – vedana day 2
Simply knowing how one feels
“This information offers a helpful additional source of information in everyday life, complementing the
information gained through more rational modes of observation and consideration” (Analyo)
It may feel stilted or odd to be so specific about one element of our experience as if we’re
compartmentalizing our experience
But what we’re actually aiming to do in these meditative exercises is facilitate a fuller, more whole
experience that is grounded in what’s actually happening
With practice becoming more authentic, more natural
In the vedana tetrad we’re also becoming aware of emotion
Living with Awareness, Sangharakshita
The Pali term vedana refers to feeling not in the sense of the emotions, but in terms of sensation.
Vedana is whatever pleasantness or unpleasantness we might experience in our contact with any
physical or mental stimulus. To understand what we would call emotion, Buddhism looks at the
way in which that pleasant or painful feeling is interwoven with our reactions and responses to it.
In Buddhist psychology, vedana is said to combine with sankhara, a volitional quality involving a
tendency towards action. It is this combination of sensation with volition that approaches what we
would recognize as fully developed emotion.
As we get more concentrated and piti and sukha arise the tradition speaks of moving from the kamaloka to
the rupaloka. From the world of sense desire, being pulled outward to the realm of pure form or dhyanas.
Our energy is content to be with what is
Easing of the hunger for something else
Gnawing in the body/mind for appeasement from outside, to be “fed” (broadly speaking) eases up
Quality of body becomes much more subtle even dropping away (not from denial of the body but as a result
of being fully aware of it
Vedana when we’re more concentrated can also become of a different quality. The Satipatthana sutta
classifies worldly and unworldly feeling. Unworldly feeling born of concentration. Non-sensual joy ...

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