Summary for Boxing Day & New Year Retreat 26 Dec 2014 - 1 Jan 2015

Summary Dhamma Talks 

AWAKENING TRANSFORMATION

Boxing Day & New Year Retreat 26 Dec 2014-1 Jan 2015

 THE THREE KINDS OF CONCENTRATION OF THE MIND (SAMADHI).

A. Deep concentration (Jhana). The mind stops running around completely. The breath is finest, slowest, smoothest and clearest, and it is the only one thing that the mind focuses on. The mind starts to shut itself off from the outer world. People may forget the time.  The physical body will respond to lower heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, secretion of endorphins. There are five characteristics of deep concentration (Jhanna) using Mindful breathing technique:

  1. Being mindful of the breath
  2. Being aware of texture of the breath
  3. Joy ( arising from feeling successful in calming the jumping mind )
  4. Happy and relaxed feeling
  5. One-pointedness of the mind- the mind continuously stays with the breath and never moves away from the breath for a certain length of time. This is the real strength of the concentration.

B. Access concentration. There are five characteristics which are similar to the deep concentration but these five qualities are not strong yet. Memories and thoughts still come and go. The six sense doors are still active, we still can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, memorise and think. But the mind can return to the breath quicker and easier, and the breath is fine, deep, smooth and clear.

C.  Momentary concentration. The short concentration of mind that enables us to perform our day-to-day activities like reading a newspaper, making a cup of coffee etc. the calmness of mind is very short and can disappear very easily if we are distracted. The breath is neither deep nor smooth.

 

USE POWERFUL BREATH TO SUPPORT VIPASSANA MEDITATION


Concentration of the mind should be used for Vipassana - 'Seeing clear' meditation.

'Seeing clear' means understanding, and it comes from 'looking or observing'.

The observer is the consciousness. Objects to be observed are the five aggregates; breath-body, feelings, memories, thoughts and the consciousness (the observer itself).

Narrow the window of sensation and focus on the breath. Use the mindful breath as a platform or comfortable cushion to support observing.

Whatever comes into that narrow window, that object can be enlarged automatically and can be observed clearly. 


The tiny change of that object in that narrow window of observing is a BIG thing! Like the sound of dropping a needle in a deep cave.  'Begin & End', 'Rise & Fall', 'Come & Go' of the five aggregates are clear, loud and shocking.

Repeatedly, the observer sees the change of five aggregates until the observer 'realizes' the true nature of the five objects: constant change-Impermanent (Anicca).

To realize 'Not-self' or Anatta, the observer should try to challenge the five aggregates- not allow them to change. For example, try to prolong the breath and not allow it to end. Or try to maintain the nice feeling from concentration of the mind and not allow that relaxed feeling to disappear.

Finally, the observer will find out that all change happens naturally, and the change is beyond 'my' authority to control.

The strong acclamation of "I" & "MINE" is questioned. The idea of I, ME or MINE will slowly be compromised, and the observer can see the fading away (Dispassion) of attachment to that idea. 

Engaging many more times in this close-up experience, in the narrow window of concentration, the observer will realize 'Not-self' characteristics of each five aggregates.

Gradually, the fading away of attachment will become the end of attachment (Disenchantment). The observer may start to experience 'Nirvana / Nibbana/ Innner Peace / Emptiness' in that very particular moment.

The concept of 'Not-self -Anatta- Emptiness' does not mean blank or nothingness. Everything is so real but it constantly changes and NEVER follows 'OUR' command.


THE REAL 'CIA'


When we encounter difficulties during meditation, we are used to 'blaming' other things; "the body is not that young", "the pain in the knees interrupted me", "my childhood memory annoyed me" or "too many thoughts bombarded me during meditation." Actually, the real problem is with the ignorant consciousness.

 

One of the most difficult Vipassana meditation tasks is to observe the 'OBSERVER'.  The observer can see the Impermanent and Not-self nature of body, feelings, memories and thoughts quite clearly and easily. However we may, out of ignorance, think that all those four things are not MINE, but 'I' am the one who observes them and realizes this wisdom.

To comprehend 'WHO AM I?', the observer needs to observe itself, and seeing that each observer changes constantly.

Naturally, the consciousness and the four aggregates need to work together as a pair. Seeing can happen only because a form comes in contact with consciousness. Thinking can happen only when a thought comes into contact with consciousness.  Nice feeling can happen only when nice feeling comes into contact with consciousness.

We may understand the expression of 'no body home'. When someone is staring at us, but that person can't see us because the consciousness is not with seeing. It is somewhere else. 

When the observer observes the breath, it can also observe the observing activity.  Whenever a thought arises, the consciousness moves from breath to thought. The observing action to thought ends at that moment. When the observer returns to the breath, the observing action of the breath restarts again.

Repeatedly, the observer can realize its true nature, like the other four aggregates, it is Impermanent, Unstable and Not-self. The observer obtains wisdom, and slowly and gradually transform itself to be the 'Awakening Consciousness' which is the true translation of the word 'Buddha'-the Awakened One.

By now, we should already be aware that breath-body, feelings, memories and thoughts never create any trouble to the mind. They all are just 'visitors'. They just pass by constantly. The consciousness also changes continuously. The five aggregates will keep on coming and going until we die. That is the way things are.

The real trouble maker is the ignorant consciousness.  Without mindfulness and wisdom, the ignorant consciousness will create attachment at the time of contact to form, sound, smell, taste, touch, thoughts, feelings and memories.

The attachment that occurs at the same time with the rise of 'I' and 'MY' will bring dissatisfaction (Dukkha) because nothing really follows 'MY' plans. And the consequences are emotional suffering like stress, anxiety, fear, depression etc.

With wisdom, the consciousness will work freely and create no attachment. We will find inner peace at the time of contact. 

 


AWARENESS TAPPING THE SHOULDER

Experience comes from the memory. After the consciousness realizes the changing nature of the five aggregates, the consciousness will produce awareness; ability to recognize the reality of these five things. That means at the time of contact, consciousness is guarded by awareness. For example, as we are watching the flow of breath, the mind starts to be calm. As the consciousness is feeling calm, the awareness taps the shoulder of consciousness, and reminds it the changing nature of this calm feeling. At that moment, the consciousness will not create attachment to calm feeling as "MINE" nor to the consciousness as "I". The drop of attachment means the emergence of inner peace. The cultivation of awareness of each contact will generate 'right understanding' and lead to 'right thought: thought not to attach to things'. Hence the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path starts to bear the fruit of inner peace.


 

TRAIN OF CONCIOUSNESS

Each time the consciousness comes into contact with the six sense objects; sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and thoughts, it has two options either to attach or not to attach to them. But the consequences are very different. Attachment leads to dissatisfaction (Dukkha) while non-attachment leads to inner peace.


The observation of consciousness is to observe the previous observer which constantly changes. The knowledge from seeing change of the previous observation activities will then pass onto the next observer. As the consciousness is working, it teaches itself. Like the train carriages passing by, the consciousness rises and falls, rises and falls according to each coming contact via the six sense doors until the end of life. Similar to the fast speed train, we may not be able to see the gap between each carriage, the change of consciousness happens so fast until, without support of mindfulness and enough concentration, the observer can't really detect the break. What we can see is only the continuity of consciousness activities without the gap. So we thought the 'I' is always here, and this 'I' has been misunderstood as soul or self. 



UTOPIA: EYE IS THE WINDOW OF THE SOUL


Ancient Greek artists preferred reality of the body shape and were good at sculpturing the Buddha images in a very relaxed stance. One leg stands straight while the other bends at the knee in a resting posture. But such body language in these Gandhara Buddha statues cannot express the total relaxation of the mind. The Greek artists of Kushana Empire in the Northwest of India, modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, in 1st Cent CE, then created the eye expression to be similar to sleeping eyes.

 

The eyes are looking upward but the eyelids drop to cover almost half of the iris. Maybe this style of Hellenistic art comes from the impression that Nibbana means detachment from the real world, like Uthopia.


However, after 1th Cent CE, we find other styles of the Buddha images in other parts of the world have a different philosophy. The Buddha image does not necessarily follow reality. The later artists preferred to create the Buddha image as the symbols of the Buddhist teachings. Long ear lobes represent mental equilibrium, smiling face represents loving-kindness and happiness, snail shaped hair represents wisdom, etc.

The full eyes with little drop of eyelids looking downward symbolizes searching the truth within oneself. Such eye expression implies that inner peace must be achieved when the mind is active, clear and fully awake. So Nibbana is not a dreamlike experience, but Nibbana can be found right in the middle of day-to-day activities.

EMPTINESS

The stone panels from 2nd Cent BCE Sanchi Stupa, India narrate the life story of the Buddha without Buddha images, suggesting the highly cultivated mind of ancient Indian Buddhists.

Since Buddhism emerged from the various and superstitious religions of ancient India, the Buddha and early Buddhists stayed away from worshipping idols. The emphasis of Buddhist teachings is on self-development and inner peace within, discarding the concept of creator gods or goddesses.

Indian Buddhist artists between 6th - 1th Cent BCE, avoided the idea of idol worship, and created symbols representing the Buddha such as the lotus, footprints, pillar of fire, bodhi tree, Dhamma wheel. The most popular one is the empty seat which helps to describe the main point of the Buddha's teachings. Emptiness means no attachment to EGO. No ego, no problem.