Sept 4, 2018
Our experience of phenomena is insubstantial, impermanent, and dependent.
The nature of perception is insubstantial. When you see an elephant, there is no physical elephant in your mind; there is a mental image of the elephant. That image is insubstantial; it is made of light; it is a thought.
All our perceptions are thoughts, whether they are visual or tactile or of any other kind. Smell happens in the mind; sound happens in the mind. If it does not happen in the mind, we do not experience it.
Impermanence does not need much explanation. Even when we try to hold on to a perception, it quickly disappears, degrades, changes, like our memories. Even as things are happening, they keep changing. There is no fixed perception.
Our experience of phenomena is also dependent on multiple causes and conditions: our tendencies, previous experiences, conceptual biases, emotional states, sensory capacity, and external conditions.
Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.
It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom — freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.
– Pema Chödron
from the book “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”
No View is Right View, by Ajahn Sumedho
July 20, 2018
We can have this sense of non-discrimination; we can allow everything to be what it is at this moment, like the Bodhisattva listening to the sounds of the universe. You can have this attitude of letting go, of relaxing, of non-attachment, of nothing to do, of nothing to attain, of nothing to become. And yet you can be alert, awake, attentive, receptive. We can be aware of external things — the sounds or the temperature, what passes in front of our eyes, odours, sensations — at the same time being aware of what is happening inside — maybe our reaction to that fire alarm or whatever it was that went off a few moments ago. Maybe you think that the traffic passing outside is too noisy. Being aware of reactions to conditions gives us this huge space to be aware, both of the way things impinge on our body and mind, and our emotional reactions to them — liking, disliking, wanting, not wanting, approving, disapproving. Our position now is being this awareness itself, rather than trying to control the situation according to what we like, just allowing everything to be the way it is, being this knowing, this infinity, this pure conscious, non-personal reality.
I am pointing to, say, infinity or that which is immeasurable, and I feel this is very important. So much vipassana (insight) that is taught is a kind of obsession around impermanence. People that are doing vipassana courses are told to contemplate impermanence (anicca) which is good instruction, certainly, but (this is just my impression, anyway) they are so busy noting impermanence, they don’t notice the very noting itself, the awareness itself. It’s like following instruction to notice that all conditions are impermanent. You get the idea, and then you think thoughts are impermanent, sounds are impermanent, body obviously, seasons, times of day and night, subtle movements — it gets into subtleties of just emotional states or subtle feelings in the body, energetic experiences — but it is that which is aware, this awareness itself, which is the path. It’s as simple as that! Awareness, mindfulness, is the gate or door to the deathless, and the deathless has no boundary, it is infinite, it isn’t subject to birth and death like conditions are.
The purpose of acknowledging the law of karma is instructive, not punitive.
April 15, 2018
Whether we assign blame to others or ourselves, the negative emotion that accompanies blame is unskillful. Blame entails not only assigning responsibility for an unwelcome consequence, but also imputing malice or evil intent to the one performing the act.
The law of karma, as taught by the Buddha Shakyamuni, lies beyond all concepts of human morality, right and wrong, good and evil. It is merely the understanding that causes produce effects. Gravity does not intend for us to fall and hurt ourselves when we trip; fire does not intend to cause us pain when our skin is burned by a flame.
When water comes in contact with a surface, that surface becomes wet. We do not blame the water for making the surface wet –that is its nature. Similarly, when our wrong views (ignorance of the nature of self and all phenomena) and afflicted emotions (attachment, aversion, and indifference) lead us to act in unskillful ways, there is no question of guilt and blame.
The purpose of acknowledging the law of karma is instructive, not punitive. When we understand that there is a relationship of cause and effect between our actions and the consequences we experience, we are liberated from victimhood. We are no longer subject to a random universe where evil befalls us without rhyme or reason. We are free to make our own way.
We do not study the law of karma to learn the specific reasons ‘why’ something happens. That exercise is futile. We understand the law of karma in order to make the determination to place positive, skillful causes in the continuum of our experience from here onwards.
The law of karma, of cause and effect, is not meant to lead us to recrimination, guilt, and blame. On the contrary, it is the acceptance of our capacity to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, and embrace happiness and the causes of happiness.
“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
🌷 Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear