Religious Studies 3359.2.The BuIDhist Path

Religious Studies 3359.2.The BuIDhist Path

I    Review of Contemplations: What do we find when we look at the present moment without following out our storylines or solidifying judgments?

II.    Overview of Seven Points of Mind Training

Seven Points of Mind Training
(Lojong Practice)    Six Transcendent Virtues (Paramitas)
One:  The Preliminaries:
1. First, train in the preliminaries    (taming the mind)
Mindfulness: relaxing the ego; cutting the sense of want; brings peace
Awareness: touch and go; brings gentleness
Two: Main Practice Training in Bodhichitta
Ultimate Bodhichitta
2. Regard all dharmas as dreams.
3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness
4.  Self-liberate even the antidotes
5.  Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.
6. In post-meditation, be a child of illusion
Relative Bodhichitta
7. Sending and taking should be practiced     alternately. These two should ride the breath.
8. Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of
virtue.
Generosity: treasury of wealth, no poverty

Discipline: awareness that permeates experience, stability of heart, egolessness
(tonglen practice)
Three: Transforming Bad Circumstances into the Path of Enlightenment
11. When the world is filled with evil,     transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
12. Drive all blames into one.
13. Be grateful to everyone.
Patience:  no aggression
Four: Practice in One’s Whole Life
17.  Practice the five strengths, the     condensed heart instructions.
1) Strong determination
2) Familiarization
3) Seed of virtue
4) Reproach
5) Aspiration
Exertion: joyful and free from laziness
Five: Evaluation of Mind Training    Meditation:  “good rider, steady seat”
Six:   Disciplines of Mind Training    Wisdom (prajna): sword that cuts arrogance
Seven:  Guidelines of Mind Training    (Practical advice on how to proceed further)

III    Point One: the Preliminaries
A.    Review of the BuIDha’s First Insights: The Relative Truth
1.    After the BuIDha’s Enlightenment he taught the Four Noble Truths:
a)    Suffering (anxiety, dissatisfaction, conflict),
b)    The Origin of Suffering,
c)    Cessation of  Suffering, and
d)    the Path
2.    It is necessary to work with “The manure of experience and the field of bodhi.” (from Meditation in Action, by Chogyam Trungpa).
a)    Bodhi is a Sanskrit (Skt) word that means “knowledge.” In BuIDhism, knowledge comes from experience, it is not just information that we accept blindly as the “right answer.”
B.    The Path:  The BuIDha counseled his students to practice the Eightfold Path in order make their experience work as the “field of bodhi.”  The Eightfold Path guided the monastic life in the early history of BuIDhism and became guidelines for all BuIDhists in its later history.
1.    The community of monastics was the beginning of the first sangha (Skt: community of BuIDhist practitioners that began in Northern India approximately 500 BCE)
2.    View (Skt. prajña; also means “wisdom” )
(1)    Right (Note: here the word “right” means mindful as well as correct) understanding (examining for oneself the Four Noble Truths, Impermanence, Karma and Interdependence, the Five Skandhas (development of ego, etc.)
(2)    Right intention (not causing harm to others; loving kindness and compassion for all beings)
2.    Meditation (Skt. samadhi)
(3)    Right effort (not too tight, not too loose)
(4)    Right mindfulness (one-pointedness)
(5)    Right awareness (of the present, open and without bias to whatever experiences arise)
3.    Conduct (Skt. sila)
(6)    Right speech (abstaining from lying, gossip, etc.; speaking the truth when it is useful and timely)
(7)    Right action (not killing, not taking what is not given; not indulging in sense pleasures, not being ascetic, giving what others need, etc.)
(8)    Right livelihood (not engaging in actions that cause harm to others)
And yet the BuIDha maintained that there is no dogma; the teachings are like a raft that takes the person across from ignorance to wakefulness, but once we are awake we do not remain fixed on rules as absolute. Our conduct remains true to the path naturally. (e.g., story of two monks crossing a river.)

E.    Impermanence, Karma and Interdependence
1.    All phenomena are impermanent and interdependent. What does “phenomena” mean?
a)    Phenomena includes all physical and mental events – things we experience through our senses as well as things we experience in our mind.
b)    All phenomena that arise also decay.  They are not permanent.
c)    To understand interdependence we study karma.
2.    “Karma” literally means “action and the results of action,” and is most simply defined as the law of cause and effect. (Sometimes the law of karma is called interdependent origination.) It is not merely a belief; it is something to be investigated for oneself. It can be experienced.
a)    Previous actions set the stage for current conditions. Current conditions are the effect of previous actions.
b)    Close inspection of action and results shows us that linear models of cause and effect are an illusion. In other words, exact cause and effect are not as easy to see at we may assume. For example, we often think in simplistic terms: A ? B. For example, if we work hard in school, that will result in a high paying job.
3.    Karma is more complex, infinitely complex:

It’s not so easy to see all the factors that might lead to a high paying job (B). A1 might be your health. A2 might be your grades. Z1 might be your mental attitude. Z2 might be your natural abilities, Another factor  might be who knows you and can offer you a job, so on…

Further, the law of karma says that all phenomena arise interdependently.

If everything is impermanent and arises interdependently, then everything could affect everything else and nothing truly exists independently.

From a BuIDhist point of view, nothing that arises and decays has true self-existence (something truly exists only when it is permanent, independent, and singular).

4.    All phenomena, including our ego, which causes suffering, only appear to exist. So does anything truly exist or ultimately is it all part of an illusory “reality” that we believe in due to our language and culture?  How could we know about anything that is permanent and independent?
a)    These are questions to investigate with meditation and contemplation. Meditation and contemplation allow us to see our situation more clearly, beyond our usual thinking.
D.    Past, Present and Future
1.    In BuIDhism the future is neither pre-determined nor based on random occurrences.
a)    The future is actually open.  If we see the present clearly we do not have to continue the habitual patterns of the past, we do not have to perpetuate our suffering, regardless of our karma.
b)    This possibility of freedom seems like “free will” in western philosophy, but it is not merely a matter of wanting to avoid suffering or to change our conditions.
2.    Our usual approach to our own experience is soaked in responses determined by past habitual patterns
a)    not seeing the whole situation in the present moment,
b)    we pick out things (mental and material) according to memory,
c)    we make judgments and assumptions we don’t consciously realize, and
d)    we act as if our experience is absolutely real.
e)    We relate to our experience by ignoring, grasping, or pushing it away, but we rarely see the situation as it is, beyond our usual pattern.
3.    For human beings, all actions that arise from such ignorance sow seeds for further ignorance. While we are ignorant of our habitual patterns we are trapped in a cycle of suffering.
4.    This is why meditation and contemplation is so important; we need to see the present moment clearly.

E.    The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
1.    Overview
Once the practice of mindfulness and awareness is somewhat stabilized, it is traditional to work not only with one’s breath, but also the four foundations of mindfulness:  mindfulness of body, feeling, consciousness, and the objects of consciousness.  We will consider the traditional approaches to each of the four foundations.
2.    Mindfulness of Body (Form)
a)    To begin with, mindfulness of the body is that sense of being right there on your cushion or your chair, which is partly influenced by bodily sensation and partly influenced by audiovisual sensations and consciousness.  Breathing is an expression of the sense of being there.  It comes with a natural sense of well-being when we actually relax the mind, not too tight and not too loose.
b)    In the Theravadin approach, one considers the impermanence of the body, including our bone cells, skin, blood, and so on that are constantly being replaced.  (Traditionally, monks and nuns even went out into graveyards and charnel grounds to consider corpses.  A monk or nun did not need to be there long to get the point. The objective was to become mindful of impermanence; to stop covering up the inevitable process of growing old and death.)
c)    At the same time, as we pay attention to the body and breathing, we feel a sense of well-being that is not actually dependent on the body or form of any kind.  It is more connected with a sense of space and clarity of mind.
d)    Mindfulness of body also extends to walking meditation and movement. Instead of the breath, one focuses on movement through space.
F.    Mindfulness of Feeling
1.    Here the term “feeling” does not apply to the fully developed emotions, but just the first initial impulse to hold on, push away or ignore our experience – positive, negative or neutral feelings before you even tell yourself what they are about.  You focus on feeling as it arises but you don’t try to manipulate it.  Whatever you feel, it is regarded as workable. You just notice it.
2.    Then we let go.  So mindfulness of feeling is just touching into the basic feeling and then letting go, whether the feeling is positive, negative or neutral.
3.    Letting go also leads to the underlying sense of well-being that is related to space and clarity rather than particular conditions of what we are feeling.
G.    Mindfulness of Consciousness (Mind)
1.    Consciousness means our ordinary experience of mind.  This is more subtle than the three basic types of feeling and it includes our whole state of mind, emotional and other qualitative factors.
2.    Mindfulness here brings awareness of all our habitual styles, effort that is too tight and effort that is lazy, or too loose.  We see the different styles we use of holding on, ignoring, or aggressively rejecting.
3.    Touching in and letting go gets more refined.  We develop a “light touch” and we become mindful of effort itself.  We can see the two extremes of struggling to achieve something, trying too hard, being too serious, making it all hard work, and on the other hand, just sinking into sleepiness or daydreaming.
4.    Right effort is a miIDle way, of bringing oneself out of the dream world into reality gently but suIDenly, again and again.  It’s just a flash.  Nothing gets verbalized; there’s no mental chatter, you just come back.  You don’t “entertain the messenger, you just get the message” and you’re back in the present.  With practice, it becomes natural; an “effortless effort.”
H.    Mindfulness of Objects (Phenomena)
1.    The objects of our feeling and consciousness arise, stay, and then eventually disappear.  Whatever appears to cause our feelings or state of mind is not permanent either.  This is the Theravadin approach, tying everything back to impermanence and letting the mind rest.
2.    This corresponds to the Fourth Noble Truth, the Path, because we can now engage all our experience, outer and inner, as meditative practice. Thoughts should not be treated as obstacles or hindrances.
3.    From the Mahayana point of view, all phenomena arise in the mind, rather than being “out there.”  The fourth foundation leads us to the experience of interdependence. Objects don’t exist in their own right, but rather they arise in dependence on causes and conditions.  Thus, the Mahayanists say that all objects are empty of self-nature.  (We will consider this further later in the term.)

************************

III    Contemplation Exercise:

Contemplate your own impermanence. First on a small scale, notice the moment to moment impermanence of your thoughts as they come and go.  Then on a larger scale what else is impermanent?  What isn’t?

Religious Studies 3359.2
The BuIDhist Path
Class 3 January 20, 2015

Review of Contemplation Assignment on Impermanence, January 13th.
1)    In its simplest form the BuIDhist teaching on impermanence is: “whatever arises will cease.” Whatever arises, arises in dependence on causes and condition from the past, previous karma. This arising, ceasing, and arising again are an endless cycle, but if we are not fixated and attached to what arises, impermanence does not produce suffering.
2)    The less we are fixated and attached to our past, the more we see the present moment is actually open and the future is undetermined. In other words, our suffering can gradually cease and we see things as they are.

Preparing for the Seven Points of Mind Training

Seven Points of Mind Training
(Lojong Practice)         Six Transcendent Virtues (Paramitas)
One:  The Preliminaries:
1. First, train in the preliminaries    Preliminary to the Paramitas:
Taming the mind; mindfulness: relaxing the ego; letting go of attachments brings peace; awareness brings gentleness and
understanding the Four Noble Truths
Two: Main Practice Training in Bodhichitta
Ultimate Bodhichitta
2. Regard all dharmas as dreams.
3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness
4.  Self-liberate even the antidotes
5.  Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.
6. In post-meditation, be a child of illusion
Relative Bodhichitta
7. Sending and taking should be practiced     alternately. These two should ride the breath.
8. Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of
virtue.
Generosity: treasury of wealth, no poverty

Discipline: awareness that permeates experience, stability of heart, egolessness
(tonglen practice)
Three: Transforming Bad Circumstances into the Path of Enlightenment
11. When the world is filled with evil,     transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
12. Drive all blames into one.
13. Be grateful to everyone.
Patience:  no aggression
Four: Practice in One’s Whole Life
17.  Practice the five strengths, the     condensed heart instructions.
1) Strong determination
2) Familiarization
3) Seed of virtue
4) Reproach
5) Aspiration
Exertion: joyful and free from laziness
Five: Evaluation of Mind Training    Meditation:  “good rider, steady seat”
Six:   Disciplines of Mind Training    Wisdom (prajna): sword that cuts arrogance
Seven:  Guidelines of Mind Training    (Practical advice on how to proceed further)

I    Taming the Mind: Basic Meditation Practice
1.    The BuIDhist approach does not begin with objects of devotion or religious concepts.  It begins with recognizing and taming the wildness of mind.  If we want to remain relaxed and alert, and look directly and simply at what actually is happening, we can begin with mindfulness – basic meditation practice.
2.    Basic meditation practice is sometimes called “bare attention.” Bare attention means without judgment; it is direct experience of our perception before our storylines and judgment kicks in.

“Sometimes, when we perceive the world we perceive without language.  We perceive spontaneously with a “pre-language system.”  … In other words, the first instance is directly feeling or perceiving the universe; the second is talking ourselves into seeing our universe.  So either you look and see beyond language – as a first perception — or you see the world through the filter of your thoughts, by talking to yourself.”  — Chogyam Trungpa, Shambhala the Sacred Path of the Warrior, pg.53

3.    Basic meditation practice is training in two closely related human abilities:  mindfulness and awareness.
4.    Definition of mindfulness: one-pointedness.  There are three qualities to the practice of mindfulness: familiarity, not forgetting, and not moving.
a)    Familiarity means being able to recognize our experience immediately.  Sometimes when we are thinking a lot we cannot get familiar with even the most basic experience we are having. For example, the first step in meditation practice is to be able to recognize the breath, to become familiar with it.  We wind up thinking, “Am I following the breath correctly?” We are unsure of what we are doing or if we are doing it the right way.
b)    Not Forgetting. Second, mindfulness takes place when we do not forget what we are focusing on.  We could think of not forgetting as like being in love; the person or thing we are in love with is constantly in our mindstream.  Or, when we are hungry and the notion of food is continuously in the mindstream, we can’t stop thinking about food.  In this case we are training the mind to come back to the breath.
c)    The third quality of mindfulness is not moving. This is the experience of steady attention, non-distraction, not being scattered, yet at the same time it is not being too fixated, or closed-minded.  The mind is not moving, but it is open, receptive, alert. If we have this basis of mindfulness our mind is steady enough to see what is going on, but it is not blocking the experience of our inner or outer environment.  The breath itself is always there, so focusing on the breathing is an excellent way to train in being undistracted yet open.
5.    Definition of awareness: openness to the present moment
a)    In the beginning of learning how to practice meditation, awareness means simply knowing what we are doing.  If we get distracted, it is awareness that is keeping track and enables us to come back. Awareness provides context.
b)    Together, mindfulness and awareness lead to bare attention, openness – attention to the experience in the present moment, not limited by memories.  This does not mean memory is excluded; it means memory does not block out the present moment.
c)    Later on in studying BuIDhism, awareness can also mean insight, a more profound or panoramic knowing.  We become aware of the wider situation we are in: our interdependence and the interconnectedness with others, the conditions that are shifting, and the latent tendencies that may be influencing us without our awareness.
d)    Sometimes we call this kind of awareness intuition. We say we “have a feeling,” but we may not be able to describe it completely, we may not be able to place in our physical sensations. It often gets ignored, but meditation may help clarify what is accurate in the context of relational, dependent truths and what is just ego-centered imagination or projections of our past patterns.
6.    Devotional practices and religious concepts also play a part in the later development of BuIDhism, but in their deepest meaning they are also meant to reduce fixations and attachments.

II    The Five Skandhas and the Development of Ego
A.    Ego-centered imagination is what BuIDhists seek to identify and distinguish from non-ego-centered awareness. There is a more basic, natural, and accurate awareness than the storylines our egos create when we talking to ourselves.
B.    From the BuIDhist point of view we cover up our true nature with an illusion of an independent self-existing identity, which we conventionally think of as our self.  This illusion is what BuIDhists call the ego.  This ego is a deeply rooted pattern of thinking characterized by fixating on our attachments.  Fixations limit our awareness. The ego develops again and again in each moment as we have new experiences and we fixate on attachments.
C.    The Five Skandhas (skandha literally mean “aggregates” or “collections” of experience). Classically, the BuIDha taught five stages that build again and again to make up the conventional experience of our ego:
1.    Form:  the first spark of consciousness — noticing basic duality; self and other (not self), this and that, separateness, the basic sense of body and space.
2.    Sensation:  positive, negative, or neutral reaction to form – pre-verbal, may be subconscious or too quick to notice. [Note: feeling in this sense occurs well before we have emotions, which come later as we form concepts and consciousness]
3.    Perception:  discriminating the details of form and sensation, perceiving qualities; the beginning of context
4.    Concept Formation:  the use of memory to label certain perceptions
5.    Consciousness:  the story-line we tell ourselves about what is happening, including emotions and discursive thoughts.
6.    The illusion of ego is the sum total of the five skandhas without awareness.
D.    The ego is what convinces us that we are seeing reality, but we may see only a part of reality or we may even be imagining reality based on the prejudices and attachments of the past and not the present.
E.    In western terms, there has also been much theory and research on how we determine what we believe and how to act.
1.    If we have awareness of the skandhas (and the laIDer of inference), we do not produce the illusion of ego automatically, out of habit.  Instead we see our experience clearly; we see our imaginings and projections for what that are this leads to genuine wisdom.
2.    In BuIDhism, we do not have to take wisdom on faith alone; in fact taking it on faith can be way of avoiding the direct experience of our true nature as human beings: egolessness.
3.    What do BuIDhists believe about faith in an external diety?

III    Stabilizing Awareness and the Basic Goodness of Human Beings.
A.    We can explore our perceptions, concepts and even our story lines without losing awareness.  We do not have to be afraid of being open to our present experience.
B.    There is a sense of space and well-being when we allow direct perception or “bare attention.”  Things can seem more vivid yet somehow transparent at the same time.
C.    That sense of space and well-being is called bodhichitta, sometimes translated as “awakened heart” or the “basic goodness” of being human.  It is a “pre-language,” pre-conceptual experience that underlies all our constructed experience. It is the first moment, before we aID anything.
1.    “If a person is able to meet the present situation, the present coincidence, as it is, a person can develop tremendous confidence…a tremendous spaciousness ….” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
2.    The present moment is open and the future is undetermined.
D.    Stabilizing awareness, clarity, and well-being, so that we are not distracted by illusions and fixated on habitual patterns from our past, is the practice of Mahayana BuIDhism, the Great Vehicle that the BuIDha taught for the benefit of all sentient beings.
******************************************************************

V    Contemplation: What is our own experience of self? Does it change? Is it an illusion?

Order the answer to view it