Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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Wholesome Desire

Ignorance, craving, and clinging do not control the actions of those who have fully realized the Way. Such people act with a free mind and with wisdom, clearly understanding cause and effect. They don't cling to ideas of right or wrong, which for other people are connected to a sense of personal identity or gain.

So one might ask how it is possible for such enlightened people to act when they have abandoned craving? Without a motivating force, don't they remain passive and idle? Even if they do no bad deeds, isn't it true that they do no good deeds either? The answer to these questions is that craving isn't the only motivating force for action. Reasoned consideration is also a motivating force.

Our lives are dependent upon dynamic forces. Unless other factors interfere, the way we live our lives is directed by knowledge. A lack of knowledge gives craving the opportunity to distort or dictate life's course. These two forces, of selfish craving and reasoned understanding, are often in conflict with one another. At times selfishness has the upper hand, at other times sound judgment prevails. When a person is released from the controlling power of craving, life progresses without restraint. Life progresses in harmony with knowledge. Wisdom becomes the motivating force.

Craving doesn't just dictate our actions. It can also hinder action when wisdom encourages us to act. Inaction in such a case is a kind of action: an act of inaction. So we shouldn't just consider the absence of a motivating force for action. We should also reflect on the motivation for inaction: craving in the form of laziness, aversion, or pleasure directed towards other objects, and which has a greater pull on attention. A habitual dependence on craving creates a secondary struggle, between the urge to act and the urge not to act. Whichever selfish motivation is stronger wins. When wisdom is the dominant motivation this struggle is absent.

Simply speaking, we have two kinds of motivation. The first kind is driven by craving and is based on our feelings. It is comprised of desires, wishes, and needs that follow sensation. If something is pleasurable, we want to acquire it. This kind of desire requires no knowledge of whether the object of desire is correct or incorrect, beneficial or harmful.

The second kind of motivation springs from wisdom. This is comprised of desires, wishes, and needs that accord with reasoned understanding and a true comprehension of what is correct. When one sees an overgrown trail, one knows that according to its purpose it should be clear and unobstructed. One wishes to clear it. In contrast with the motivation of craving, this second kind is called the "motivation of wholesome enthusiasm (欲, pronounced yù)."

Yù (欲) refers to desires, wishes, and needs that are in line with reality. One wishes for something to be as good, fine, complete, upright, or fulfilled as it naturally should be. This is independent of one's likes and dislikes, or of wanting to either acquire the object or wanting it to disappear, in order to satisfy one's personal sentiments. Indeed, the desire of wholesome enthusiasm is cultivated alongside the development of wisdom.

When this form of desire, of wanting things to exist in an ideal, natural state, extends outwards in relation to other human beings, it manifests as a wish for others to be well, complete, strong, bright, respected, and happy. Morever, one wants them to be established in righteousness, established in the Way, free from faults and shortcomings.

When the heart is not oppressed, it becomes expansive and is fully sensitive to the suffering of others. There is empathy, understanding, and a wish to free others from suffering. If craving does not interfere (as self-concern, a fear of losing an advantage, or laziness, for instance), life will be guided by wisdom and the wish to help others will transform into compassionate action.

Yù (欲) is the desire of those whose minds are clear and free, who are ready to truly receive other people, responding to them with an understanding of their suffering. And their altruistic intentions, of wanting other people to be released from suffering, are readily extended outwards into active deeds of compassionate assistance.

This all-embracing compassion, of wanting to assist others and free them from suffering, is a potent force in the lives of those who have realized the Way, for whom no lingering sense of a ‘self’ - no fixed identity - remains which needs to be protected and gratified.

My teacher said that craving should be eliminated. On the other hand, wholesome desire, yù (欲), should be performed or accomplished.

It is equally accurate to say that both craving and wholesome desire should be abandoned. But craving should be abandoned or eliminated right at the point where it arises. Yù (欲), on the other hand should be abandoned by completing the action that is motivated by wholesome desire. When this is accomplished the person will no longer require yù (欲) and it will end automatically.

Craving is a desire that one should eradicate or abandon immediately and without exception; it should not be sustained or preserved. Yù (欲) is a desire that one should sustain and bring to fulfillment, at which point it will end on its own. Craving ends by abandonment; yù (欲) ends by accomplishment.


((Adapted from Buddhadhamma: The Laws of Nature and Their Benefits to Life, by P.A. Payutto))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
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Arn
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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((
  • "The followers of the Way are known as Chung Tao,
    or Guides of the Way....

    A Chung Tao priest is actually something more of a
    wizard than a monk or scholar..."
))


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Theory Versus Practice

Long ago, after the first monks of my lineage established our monastery in Shou Lung, the wizard-priests of the Way came to share their teachings. The ancient monks of my lineage learned the philosophies and theories of the Way from these wizard-priests, and then put those theories into real practice.

In my own life, whatever teachings I accepted I took on board straight away, directly where they pointed to renunciation and letting go. What I did, I did for renunciation and letting go. We don’t have to become experts in the theories and scriptures. We’re getting older with every day that passes, and every day we pounce on a mirage, missing the real thing. Practicing the Way is something quite different from studying it.

You see, the whole reason for studying the Way is to search for a way to transcend suffering and attain peace and happiness. Whether we study physical or mental phenomena, the mind or its psychological factors, it’s only when we make liberation from suffering our ultimate goal that we’re on the right path; nothing less. Suffering has a cause and conditions for its existence.

Please clearly understand that when the mind is still, it’s in its natural, normal state. As soon as the mind moves, it becomes conditioned. When the mind is attracted to something, it becomes conditioned. When aversion arises, it becomes conditioned. The desire to move here and there arises from conditioning. If our awareness doesn’t keep pace with these mental proliferations as they occur, the mind will chase after them and be conditioned by them. Whenever the mind moves, at that moment, it becomes a conventional reality.

So my teacher taught us to contemplate these wavering conditions of the mind. Whenever the mind moves, it becomes unstable and impermanent, unsatisfactory, and can not be taken as a self. These are the three universal characteristics of all conditioned phenomena. My teacher taught us to observe and contemplate these movements of the mind.

It’s likewise with the teaching of dependent origination: deluded understanding is the cause and condition for the arising of volitional formations; which is the cause and condition for the arising of consciousness; which is the cause and condition for the arising of mentality and materiality, and so on, just as we studied in our scriptures. My monastery separated each link of the chain to make it easier to study. This is an accurate description of reality, but when this process actually occurs in real life, the wizard-priests and scholars aren’t able to keep up with what’s happening. It’s like falling from the top of a tree and crashing down to the ground below. We have no idea how many branches we’ve passed on the way down. Similarly, when the mind is suddenly hit by a mental impression, if it delights in it, then it flies off into a good mood. It considers it good without being aware of the chain of conditions that led there. The process takes place in accordance with what is outlined in the theory, but simultaneously it goes beyond the limits of that theory.

There’s nothing that announces, ‘This is delusion. These are volitional formations, and that is consciousness.’ The process doesn’t give the wizard-priests or scholars a chance to read out the list as it’s happening. Although the wizard-priests analyzed and explained the sequence of mind moments in minute detail, to me it’s more like falling out of a tree. As we come crashing down there’s no opportunity to estimate how many feet and inches we’ve fallen. What we do know is that we’ve hit the ground with a thud and it hurts!

The mind is the same. When it falls for something, what we’re aware of is the pain. Where has all this suffering, pain, grief, and despair come from? It didn’t come from theory in a book. There isn’t anywhere where the details of our suffering are written down. Our pain won’t correspond exactly with the theory, but the two travel along the same road. So scholarship alone can’t keep pace with the reality. That’s why my teacher taught us to cultivate clear knowing for ourselves. Whatever arises, arises in this knowing. When that which knows, knows in accordance with the truth, then the mind and its psychological factors are recognized as not ours. Ultimately all these phenomena are to be discarded and thrown away as if they were rubbish. We shouldn’t cling to or give them any meaning.

I’ve told you a few brief stories about how I practiced. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge. I didn’t study much. What I did study was this heart and mind of mine, and I learned in a natural way through experimentation, trial and error. When I liked something, then I examined what was going on and where it would lead. Inevitably, it would drag me to some distant suffering. My practice was to observe myself. As understanding and insight deepened, gradually I came to know myself.

Practice with unflinching dedication! If you want to practice the Way, then please try not to think too much. If you’re meditating and you find yourself trying to force specific results, then it’s better to stop. When your mind settles down to become peaceful and then you think, ‘That’s it! That’s it, isn’t it? Is this it?,’ then stop. Take all your analytical and theoretical knowledge, wrap it up and store it away in a chest. And don’t drag it out for discussion or to teach. That’s not the type of knowledge that penetrates inside. They are different types of knowledge.

When the reality of something is seen, it’s not the same as the written descriptions. For example, let’s say we write down the words ‘sensual desire’. When sensual desire actually overwhelms the heart, it’s impossible that the written word can convey the same meaning as the reality. It’s the same with ‘anger’. We can write the letters on a blackboard, but when we’re actually angry the experience is not the same. We can’t read those letters fast enough, and the heart is engulfed by rage.

This is an extremely important point. The theoretical teachings are accurate, but it’s essential to bring them into our hearts. It must be internalized. If the Way isn’t brought into the heart, it’s not truly known. It’s not actually seen. I was no different. I didn’t study extensively, but I did do enough to pass some of the exams on the theories of the Way. One day, before I had begun my formal training with my teachers, I had the opportunity to listen to a talk from a meditation master. As I listened, some disrespectful thoughts came up. I didn’t know how to listen to a real talk. I couldn’t figure out what this wandering meditation monk was talking about. He was teaching as though it was coming from his own direct experience, as if he was after the truth.

As time went on and I gained some first-hand experience in the practice, I saw for myself the truth of what that monk taught. I understood how to understand. Insight then followed in its wake. The Way was taking root in my own heart and mind. It was a long, long time before I realized that everything that that wandering monk had taught came from what he’d seen for himself. The Way he taught came directly from his own experience, not from a book. He spoke according to his understanding and insight. When I walked the Way myself, I came across every detail he’d described and had to admit he was right. So I continued on.

Try to take every opportunity you can to put effort into practicing the Way. Whether it’s peaceful or not, don’t worry about it at this point. The highest priority is to set the wheels of practice in motion and create the causes for future liberation. If you’ve done the work, there’s no need to worry about the results. Don’t be anxious that you won’t gain results. Anxiety is not peaceful. If however, you don’t do the work, how can you expect results? How can you ever hope to see? The one who searches discovers. The one who eats is full. Everything around us lies to us. Recognizing this even ten times is still pretty good. But the same old things keep telling us the same old lies and stories. If we know they’re lying, it’s not so bad, but it can be an exceedingly long time before we know. The same old things come and try to hoodwink us with deception time and time again.

Practicing the Way means upholding virtue, developing mental stillness (定), and cultivating wisdom in our hearts. Remember and reflect on the Way. Abandon absolutely everything without exception. Our own actions are the causes and conditions that will ripen in this very life. So strive on with sincerity.

Even if we have to sit in a chair to meditate, it’s still possible to focus our attention. In the beginning we don’t have to focus on many things - just our breath. While focusing attention, resolve not to control the breath. If breathing seems laborious or uncomfortable, this indicates we’re not approaching it right. As long as we’re not yet at ease with the breath, it will seem too shallow or too deep, too subtle or too rough. However, once we relax with our breath, finding it pleasant and comfortable, clearly aware of each inhalation and exhalation, then we’re getting the hang of it. If we’re not doing it properly we will lose the breath. If this happens then it’s better to stop for a moment and refocus the mindfulness.

If while meditating you get the urge to experience psychic phenomena or the mind becomes luminous and radiant or you have visions of celestial palaces, etc., there’s no need to fear. Simply be aware of whatever you’re experiencing, and continue on meditating. Occasionally, after some time, the breath may appear to slow to a halt. The sensation of the breath seems to vanish and you become alarmed. Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You only think your breathing has stopped. Actually the breath is still there, but it’s functioning on a much more subtle level than usual. With time the breath will return to normal by itself.

In the beginning, just concentrate on making the mind calm and peaceful. Whether sitting in a chair, riding in a wagon, taking a boat ride, or wherever you happen to be, you should be proficient enough in your meditation that you can enter a state of peace at will. When you get on a carriage and sit down, quickly bring your mind to a state of peace. Wherever you are, you can always sit. This level of proficiency indicates that you’re becoming familiar with the Way. You then investigate. Utilize the power of this peaceful mind to investigate what you experience.

At times it’s what you see; at times what you hear, smell, taste, feel with your body, or think and feel in your heart. Whatever sensory experience presents itself - whether you like it or not - take that up for contemplation. Simply know what you are experiencing. Don’t project meaning or interpretations onto those objects of sense awareness. If it’s good, just know that it’s good. If it’s bad, just know that it’s bad. This is conventional reality. Good or evil, it’s all impermanent, unsatisfying, and not-self. It’s all undependable. None of it is worthy of being grasped or clung to.

If you can maintain this practice of peace and inquiry, wisdom will automatically be generated. Everything sensed and experienced then falls into these three pits of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self. This is insight meditation. The mind is already peaceful, and whenever impure states of mind surface, throw them away into one of these three rubbish pits. This is the essence of insight: discarding everything into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self. Good, bad, horrible, or whatever, toss it down. In a short time, understanding and insight – feeble insight, that is, will blossom forth in the midst of the three universal characteristics.

At this beginning stage the wisdom is still weak and feeble, but try to maintain this practice with consistency. It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s like if somebody wanted to get to know me, they’d have to come and live with me. Eventually with daily contact we would get to know each other.


((Adapted from The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
User avatar
Arn
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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1344 DR - Somewhere in the Forest of Lethyr

The monk had introduced himself as Mi-Le of the Old Order. He had been talking for half an hour, trying to get Samael to step away from the cliff edge. It wasn’t working. A part of Samael wanted to be convinced by the monk, but it just wasn't happening.

“You’re telling me about all these people who helped others, but even you admit they never got anything out of it!” Samael spat at the monk. “One guy got killed by the gangs, another had to go on the run, and that noble lost everything. And no one even knows what they did, aside from you. Just one bald beggar monk.” Samael turned back toward the cliff. “No one cares, okay? I got nothing going for me anymore. No one’s going to miss me.”

Samael stepped off the edge and gave himself over to gravity.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Intention Conditions Awareness

My teacher once said,
“What one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness.” By consciousness, we mean the awareness of particulars; we’re aware of color before our thinking mind labels it, we’re aware of a distinct flavor before identifying it as sweet or sour. This knowledge of specific aspects can be further explained this way: when we sense an object, we actually only sense specific facets of that object. We never comprehend something in its entirety.

Our intentions condition which facets of an object we see. This can be illustrated with the following example:

Let us say that in a desert there is one sole fruit tree. It is a large tree, yet it only bears a few pieces of shriveled fruit, and in this season it is almost barren of leaves, providing very little shade. On different occasions, five separate people visit this tree. One man is fleeing from a dangerous animal, one man is starving, one man is hot and looking for shade, one man is searching for fruit to sell at the market, and the last man is looking for a spot to tie up his cattle so that he may visit a nearby village.

All five men see the same tree, but each one sees it in different ways. For each one, visual awareness (eye-consciousness) arises, but this awareness varies, depending on their aims and intentions in regard to this tree. Similarly, their perceptions of the tree will also differ, according to the aspects of the tree that they look at. Even their feelings will differ: the man fleeing from danger will rejoice because he sees a means to escape; the starving man will be delighted because the few pieces of fruit will save him from starvation; the man suffering from heat may be disappointed because there is not much shade; the man looking for fruit to sell at the market may be upset because of the low quality and quantity of the fruit; and the man driving his cattle may be relieved to find a trunk to tie them to.

Our intentions, then, shape what we notice about the world. And depending on what we notice about the world, we mentally label things, have emotional reactions, speak and act differently. In a very real way, our intentions form our worlds. Our intentions influence who we become. This is why it is crucial to purify our intentions.

Even if a thief never gets caught, the fact that his worldview is shaped by greed is already a consequence from which he cannot escape. He might enter a shop and see nothing but things to steal and people to hide from. Acting within this mindset, he never sees the range of wholesome possibility around him.

Someone who is not intent on theft might enter a shop with a more open mindset, be receptive to the people he meets, perhaps make a new friend. He might meet his future wife. He might see an interesting book that changes his life. He may just buy the things he came to buy, and simply leave without ever worrying about getting caught stealing.

When my monastery speaks of karma, we speak of intentions. The results of karma don’t have to magically come from the outside world. The results of karma/intention can be shaped right here, right now, in this very moment. So please, purify your intentions.

  • The non-doing of any evil,
    the performance of what's skillful,
    the purifying of one's own mind:
    this is the teaching of the Awakened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As he saw the ground rushing toward him, Samael suddenly realized he’d made a terrible mistake.

Then the air around him began to swirl mightily, and Samael could swear that it said something, that it was alive somehow. But the wind began to whip around him so quickly he had to shut his eyes. His fall slowed, ceased, and then reversed. It was like Samael was being carried up by arms made of wind, but he couldn’t open his eyes enough to get a clear look.

Samael felt himself being set down gently, felt solid ground under his feet, and then the winds dissipated. He opened his eyes and saw that he was back on the cliff. Glancing at where he’d jumped from, Samael shivered and started sweating from his armpits and palms.

“It’s true, no one knows what they did,” the monk said softly. Samael’s eyes snapped over to the monk, who was regarding him with furrowed brows; a look of concern? Disappointment? Samael couldn’t tell. “But think on what that means. Before I told you of their actions, you did not know about them. So who knows how many other good things are being done every day, without anyone’s knowledge? Just because people don’t know about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The world never matches up exactly with what you’re aware of. So maybe, just maybe, it’s never as bad as you think it is.”

((The IC journal entry utilizes excerpts from Saṃyutta Nikāya 12.38, Buddhadhamma: The Laws of Nature and Their Benefits to Life by P.A. Payutto, and Dhammapada 183.

As I have mentioned before, I used to think using the word "karma" would not fit into the Forgotten Realms setting, but it turns out "karma" is mentioned in Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms and Storm Riders.))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
User avatar
Arn
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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((
  • "1345 Year of the Saddle
    The Coast Plague infests Murann, Athkatla, Purskul,
    and Crimmor, killing 20% of the people. The plague
    spreads by caravan, infecting folk in Beregost and
    Zazesspur."
))

Remembering the Coast Plague

The more closely we contemplate our bodies and minds and the world we live in, the more profoundly we become aware of fragility and instability. When a crisis like a pandemic lays bare the unreliable and uncertain nature of the world, we are unsurprised. We know that what is happening is not a deviation from the norm. It is merely that the covers have been dragged away from truths that most people spend their lives trying to ignore. With a daily grounding in the way things are, we can remain free from panic, anxiety, and depression. We can turn our minds to compassion.

Faced with suffering of such depth and range, we form the heart-felt wish that all people, young and old, and in all countries of the world, be free from illness. If they have contracted illness, may they recover. If they do not recover may they be able to endure their pain with patience and acceptance; may they have a refuge in their heart to turn to; and in their final days may they be surrounded with love and kindness.


((Adapted from a teaching by Ajahn Jayasāro))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
User avatar
Arn
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn »

((
  • "The Way is much more of a philosophy
    than a religion, because its adherents believe
    that the true nature of the Way is unknowable...."
))
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Awakening in Practical Terms

My teacher didn’t talk very much about awakening, but when he did he referred to it in very practical terms. For example, he described enlightenment as a kind of "going out," in the sense that a flame goes out. But if we take it too literally, "going out" becomes "extinction" – we’re going to be extinguished. This may sound exciting to nihilists or annihilationists – "I won’t be anything, just a puff of ash." But my teacher’s teaching was not annihilation and not eternalism. He taught the middle way between those two extremes. If we treat enlightenment as "extinction," we may give the wrong impression and simply attract nihilists. Eternalists may go to the gods, who claim to offer eternal bliss. But annihilationists would be attracted to my monastery, where they think they can be extinguished.

But in a sense there is a kind of extinction, because enlightenment can be said to be the extinction or cessation of greed, aversion and delusion, the cessation of craving and ignorance. Thus it is the cessation or extinction of certain aspects of selfhood with which we’re familiar.

On the other hand, my teacher also gave some very positive explanations of enlightenment as the ultimate well-being, and he talked about it in a more mystical sense as the unborn, the undying, the unformed, the uncreated, the unconditioned. But what is that? How can we know it? What we know are the formed, the created, the conditioned. That’s where our practice is, within the realm of what’s created and conditioned. And so we don’t go directly to the unconditioned, but rather we observe any condition and realize that it arises and passes away. We actually realize by a process of elimination – not extinction, but elimination – that if enlightenment is not that, then it must be something else.

If we see the conditional arising of selfhood – the incessant "I like this," "I don’t like that," "I like the body," "I am the body," "I am the thoughts" – we realize this is not the unconditioned. So we just turn away from those references to self and recognize that the unconditioned is somewhere towards the selfless. We can get a hint of it through awareness, by just observing what the conditions of the body and mind are, by not going into "I like it," "I don’t like it," "It’s good," "It’s bad," but just being directly with a particular experience as it is.

Then that sense of "I" does not arise, but there is still clear presence of mind. There is a quality of knowing, there is some clarity and collectedness, not clouded by the sense of "I."


((Adapted from Contemplations on the Seven Factors of Awakening, by Ajahn Thiradhammo))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
User avatar
Arn
Posts: 824
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn »

Image
The First Chán

When you enter the first Chán you are still in touch with your physical senses. Your eyes are closed but you can still hear, smell, feel, and taste. This is one definite indication of the first Chán, as opposed to others.

You don’t fully lose thought either. Thoughts come now and again. Since you have been thinking all your life, your thoughts do not disappear all of a sudden at the attainment of the first Chán. They are like nervous habits—difficult to wipe out at once. They continue to haunt your mind periodically. Just ignore them. They are one of the things that will pull you out of Chán. You want to be able to maintain it as long as you wish.

My teacher described the moment you enter the first Chán with all the Chán factors and qualities:

  • "Quiet, secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, one enters and dwells in the first Chán, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion."
It's a different kind of joy. When you finally overcome the five hindrances (sense-desires, ill-will, sloth/torpor, restlessness/anxiety/remorse, and doubt), you experience a great relief. This relief slowly increases until it culminates in xǐ (喜), rapture, joy. This joy is purely internal. It does not arise dependent on worldly or household pleasure. Nothing outside you causes it. It arises through renouncing outward pleasure.

This joy is called “non-sensual joy.” It does not gush into the mind suddenly. You have been experiencing pain arising from the hindrances for a long time. You have been working very hard to overcome those that have caused you pain. Now, every time you overcome one of them, you experience a great relief that that particular pain has subsided. It is this relief, this freedom from that particular hindrance, that brings you joy. Now you no longer have the pain caused by that particular hindrance. It is gone. You rejoice.

My teacher once explained this state as follows:

  • "But when he sees that these five hindrances
    have been abandoned within himself,
    he regards that as freedom from debt,
    as good health, as release from prison,
    as freedom from slavery, as a place of safety.

    "When he sees that these five hindrances
    have been abandoned within himself, gladness arises.
    When he is gladdened, rapture arises.
    When his mind is filled with rapture,
    his body becomes tranquil.
    Tranquil in body, he experiences happiness.
    Being happy, his mind becomes concentrated."
Because the hindrances have been overcome, your joy continues to increase. It arises cumulatively, slowly filling up the entire mind and body. This is the stage where you feel that your entire body and mind are diffused with joy and happiness like sugar or milk or salt mixed with water.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The present day

To Jan, Mi-Le's words rang true. As a monk of the Sun Soul, Jan was reluctant to admit that a monk of the faithless Old Order could be right about such things. And yet Mi-Le had just described Jan's first profound meditation experience exactly, and had even given it a label: the first Chán.

But then Jan remembered the aftermath of his second profound meditation experience. Immediately after that meditation session, in which he had reached another deep state, Jan had flown into a blind rage at some slight provocation. It was as if he had learned nothing from his second profound experience. Jan shook his head, anger and despair in his mind. "Rapture, joy, happiness..." He clenched his fist. "Gather up as much of this Chán as you like. It changes nothing. Nothing at all!"

Mi-Le smiled gently at Jan, watching him silently for a few moments. Then he spoke.

"It’s important to know that there are, in fact, certain 'dangers' associated with incorrect practice of Chán, and a prudent person should be fully informed of the hazards and take them seriously. Here are the two main dangers:

"A practitioner of Chán can get 'trapped' in the ecstasy of Chán.

"A practitioner of Chán can build pride around the attainment.

"These must be taken seriously. The ego can pervert and co-opt anything—even the Way—to its own selfish purposes. Ecstasy is the prime goal of many contemplative systems that do not follow the Way. You concentrate on something—an image, a scripture, a sacred stone—and you flow into it. The barrier between self and other dissolves and you become one with your object of contemplation. The result is ecstasy. Then the meditation ends and you are back to the same old you, in your same old life, and same old struggles. That hurts. So you do it again. And again. And again and again and again.

"The meditation taught by my monastery is aimed at a goal beyond that—a piercing into the truth of your own existence that dispels the illusion and gives you total, permanent freedom.

"When you seek and know the impermanence, the change, the fading away, and the cessation of all these things, a different joy arises. You perceive the forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and mind-objects as they actually are. You see with proper wisdom. You know they are all impermanent, suffering, and subject to change. You see that they are like this now and that they always were. Then a new joy arises. This is called joy based on renunciation.

"You can grieve for the loss of your dog or your wealth or you can grieve over the unsatisfactoriness of all phenomena. One leads to further involvement with the source of grief and the other leads away from that involvement."


Jan sat wordlessly, contemplating the Shou monk's teaching.

((IC portion adapted from Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English, by Henepola Gunaratana, which in turn references Maggasaṃyutta 8 (8): Analysis and the Samaññaphala Sutta))
Last edited by Arn on Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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Kythorn 30, 1356 DR – in a field just north of Baldur’s Gate

The conversation was not exactly going well.

“Your proselytizing is only revealed that you live in a wold separate that of reality, where virtue might overcome the simplicity of not starving to death," the Tuigan steppelander said bitterly to Mi-Le. Near the beginning of their conversation, Mi-Le had tried to explain why he was unbothered by her presence, even though their two peoples had not historically gotten along. That had lead the Tuigan to challenge the idea that a person could gain mastery over their feelings. Then she’d expressed skepticism when Mi-Le spoke of the transcendent happiness of renunciation. And now her accusation that the monk did not live in the real world. Well, she wasn’t entirely wrong.

Mi-Le smiled. "Certainly, the world does not permit lay life to be lived in an ideal virtuous manner. For many people, this is quite difficult. Perhaps impossible for some."

"It is impossible, perhaps. It is been for me. But I should wonder: is doing what you are done fulfilling? Are you happy? From an outsider's perspective, it seems more keenly that you are merely convinced that you are, with naught to show for it."

Mi-Le wondered for a moment what she thought a person could show to demonstrate happiness. Coin? Power? Social influence? A person could have these things and still be unhappy. "That is, unfortunately, not something about me that you can know for certain,” he told her. True happiness was a thing that people had to realize for themselves. “And I'll not deny that the path is difficult to walk. But, for what it's worth, yes. I am happy."

"Hmm," she murmured thoughtfully, looking back down at him. "I am not yet introduced, am I? You may call me 'Suul,' if it pleases you, monk."

"Well met, Suul." He smiled. "The happiness I spoke of before? The happiness borne of renunciation and letting go? It is a real thing, and it is possible for one to know it for herself. Until one knows it for herself, what I say is only words."

"I do not think it is a thing for me," she said uncertainly. "I am always been a woman of simplicity, alack for the virtues or the aspirations of greater people. For you, however, may it suit you well. I shall keep to mine chosen path."

"Well. This Way is a path for those of simplicity, without any pretension. But all the same, it is certainly not for everyone."

She broke contact with his gaze, looking down at the ground, reconsidering her previous words. "You would argue for this thing? I am much too beholden to what mine heart desires. Even now, I am beholden and conflicted, despite mine age and what wisdom it should have long since imparted."

"No, I would not argue for it. You mentioned earlier that I was proselytizing, but it is not my wish to push anything on anyone. I wished only to answer the questions posed to me. This Way must be walked by one's own will."

"Fair enough," she said softly. She waved, as if to make the subject seem unimportant to her.

"If you wish to know more about it, I am always happy to oblige. If you do not, then I would think it quite inappropriate for me to speak on it."

"I do not know," she said honesty, reluctantly. Her misgivings were plain on her face.

"A good answer. An honest one."

"I do not know what I want, from you or from anyone. If you will forgive me the ... indecisiveness, for I know it is unbecoming me."

"Why do you say that?" The monk shrugged. "There's so much we don't know. It's unbecoming to pretend otherwise."

"I am much too old to be so uncertain.” The woman returned the shrug. “I am troubled because the words you speak contrast words spoken previously this evening, by another. I know not which to believe in."

"You should not follow anyone's words based on some claimed authority or even by so-called logical reasoning, but rather see if the teachings lead to beneficial results. Do what works."

"You speak these suggestions so easily, yet it is not a thing I could frivolously bring mineself to do." She looked towards a nearby tree, then a hill, then towards his shoulder. But she did not meet his eyes. "Many people are watching for mine failure. I cannot allow mineself to try and fail, and lose their confidence."

The monk chuckled. "It's a heavy burden to bear, isn't it?"

"It is the weight of the entire wold at times, aye."

"If I may... we can't control the externals, Suul. Whether we succeed or fail, oftentimes these are things outside of our control. All we can do is our best. We needn't attach to the result. So long as we do our best, we can rest assured in the knowledge that we've done all we can. What others think, whether they praise or blame us, it's nothing to do with us."

"So dismissively spoken," she said, taking a moment to mull over her response. The wind, though gentle, seemed to chill her to the bone as she contemplated. "But I want to be infallible. I do not want to fail. I am tired of it."

Mi-Le remembered his own defeats throughout his long journey. Simple misunderstandings. Students of the Way abandoned to attackers. A child who’d lost everyone he’d known. Plague victims. So many hurt and dead. The people he’d failed to reach. He knew the feeling Suul described, knew it all too well. And he knew the suffering that came from holding onto it. He considered briefly sharing some of his experiences with Suul, but tried for simplicity instead: "If it's worth dismissing, it should be dismissed. Things are always breaking down; we just keep propping them back up."

"There is many things that cannot be returned to their normal state, despite your allusion otherwise,” she said sharply. "Despite our toil. When a life is lost, it is gone forever. So I should be contented with failure when that happens? Nay."

Mi-Le laughed, wondering how he had implied that anything could be returned to some natural state. Such an idea actually contradicted the teachings of his monastery; his order believed that all things were constantly changing, in flux from moment to moment. "When did I allude to that?" His amusement seemed to jab Suul like a thorn, and she hardened her stance as if bracing for a blow. Mi-Le decided to try changing tack. "I'm not saying failure is some enjoyable thing. But in reacting to failure with aversion, we suffer twice."

Suul shook her head, and Mi-Le got the sense that the gesture was more about her own thoughts than it was about him. She seemed very hard on herself, he thought. He smiled self-deprecatingly. "But perhaps I am failing to not proselytize." He chuckled at himself, an open admission of his own shortcoming. It’s okay to fail, he was trying to communicate. One could accept it, acknowledge it without judgment.

"Your casual airs offend me," she said bluntly, the message apparently missed. Suul marched away toward the city without another word.

Mi-Le wondered briefly what his own teacher would have said, and he watched a faint feeling of failure ripple through his mind. He watched the mental undercurrent as it gently tugged at his thoughts, and he neither fought against it nor chased after it. After some time, he observed the feeling of failure grow distant and weak, and then evaporate entirely. The mind was left clear, still, and joyous: the first Chán.

The monk continued meditating.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Failure

The greatest, most profound, and meaningful human potential is overlooked by most people, and this is the ability to understand the truth of the way it is, to see the Way, to be free from all delusions.

When you are contemplating reality, begin to reflect on where there is no self. Whenever there is the cessation of self, there is just clarity, knowing, and contentedness – you feel at ease and balanced. It takes a while to be able to give up all the striving, and restless tendencies of the body and mind. But, in moments, that will cease; and there’s a real clarity, contented peacefulness. And in that also, there is no self, no ‘me’ and ‘my’. You can contemplate that.

We must recognise that we have to learn through being totally humbled, by never succeeding at anything we are doing in this meditation, by never being successful, never getting what we want; if we do get what we want, we lose it right away. We have to be totally humbled to where any form of self-view is relinquished willingly, graciously, humbly. That’s why, in meditation, the more it comes from will-power based on a self-view and on ‘me achieving and attaining’, then of course, you can only expect failure and despair because this is not a worldly pursuit. In worldly situations, if you are clever and strong, gifted and have opportunities, and the conditions are there, you can barge your way through and become a great success, can’t you? With the survival of the fittest you can manage to get above and destroy the competition – you can be a winner.

But even a winner, on the worldly plane, is still going to be a failure, because if you win something you are going to lose something too. Winning and losing go together. So winning is never as wonderful as it might look, is it? It is more the anticipation of winning. If you’ve actually won something – so what? You have a moment of elation, maybe – ‘I’m a winner!’ – but then, ‘Now what do I do? What do I have to win next?’

Winning, worldly goals, and worldly values are really not going to satisfy us, so if we apply that same attitude toward the religious life, it’s just not going to work. We just feel a sense of total despair, helplessness – because we need to lose everything, to let go of everything, all hope, all expectations, all demands, to where we can just be with the way things are, and not expect or demand them to be otherwise.

The practice of the Way is to accept life as it is. This is the way it is. Our reflection as monks is that we have enough to eat, robes to wear, a roof over our heads and medicine for illness. The Way is taught. It is good enough; therefore we begin to say, ‘It’s all right, I’m content’, and not make problems or dwell on the irritations and frustrations that we find here.

I find myself now much more at ease with letting life be as it is, and with the way things are – with the weather, with the people, with this land. Not to compare it, not to judge it, but to be grateful for the opportunity, and to be accepting of whatever is. And it isn’t all that easy, believe me, because I can be critical too. There’s also a strong sense of responsibility in wanting to make things right, and work properly – not in wanting nice things for myself, but wanting to make everything right and good for everyone else. I can really be caught up with responsibility, being a monk and all that – you try to set a good example. You get obsessed with that. I always felt I had to be a kind of model monk, a perfect follower of the Old Order and the Way! If you saw anything other than the perfect smile and the stereotypical presence, then you’d lose all faith in the Way!

So we begin to let go of that, even the altruistic tendencies of feeling responsible. It doesn’t mean that one is irresponsible, but one is letting go of those ideas, those views that we can be so blinded by. They might be very good views, but if you grasp them you can’t get beyond them.

In living the holy life you train yourself to being open and willing to learn form the ups and downs and the way things happen to be – the irritations and problems of life, and the way things are – rather than resist, avoid and reject life. You give up controlling and manipulating, and trying to change the world and make it into what you want it to be. One has to give up, let go of that kind of inclination, and abide in the knowing, in the mindfulness.


((IC portion adapted from The Way It Is, by Ajahn Sumedho.))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
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Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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With Yourselves as an Island

There was once a visitor to my monastery who was determined to join our order. He had experienced some higher happiness through meditation, had glimpsed a bit of the liberation of mind offered by the Way, and was inspired to ordain as a monk. But he had an idealized image of the Old Order, and the reality of things disillusioned him quite a bit. After struggling with himself for some time, he decided to let go of the idea of ordaining. Shortly after that, my teacher gave a talk, and the visitor was still around to hear it:

  • “Monks, dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Way as an island, with the Way as a refuge, with no other refuge. When you dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Way as an island, with the Way as a refuge, with no other refuge, the basis itself should be investigated thus: ‘From what are sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair born? How are they produced?’

    “And, monks, from what are sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair born? How are they produced? Here, monks, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Way, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Way, regards form as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. That form of his changes and alters. With the change and alteration of form, there arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair.

    “He regards feeling as self …

    “He regards perception as self …

    “He regards volitional formations (choices) as self, or self as possessing volitional formations (choices), or volitional formations (choices) as in self, or self as in volitional formations (choices). Those volitional formations (choices) of his change and alter. With the change and alteration of volitional formations (choices), there arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair.

    “He regards consciousness as self, or self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in self, or self as in consciousness. That consciousness of his changes and alters. With the change and alteration of consciousness, there arise in him sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair.

    “But, monks, when one has understood the impermanence of form, its change, fading away, and cessation, and when one sees as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘In the past and also now all form is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change,’ then sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair are abandoned. With their abandonment, one does not become agitated. Being unagitated, one dwells happily. A monk who dwells happily is said to be quenched in that respect.

    “When one has understood the impermanence of feeling …

    “When one has understood the impermanence of perception …

    “When one has understood the impermanence of volitional formations (choices), their change, fading away, and cessation, and when one sees as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘In the past and also now all volitional formations (choices) are impermanent, suffering, and subject to change,’ then sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair are abandoned. With their abandonment, one does not become agitated. Being unagitated, one dwells happily. A monk who dwells happily is said to be quenched in that respect.

    “When one has understood the impermanence of consciousness, its change, fading away, and cessation, and when one sees as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘In the past and also now all consciousness is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change,’ then sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair are abandoned. With their abandonment, one does not become agitated. Being unagitated, one dwells happily. A monk who dwells happily is said to be quenched in that respect.”
Even though he had lost some faith in the monastic order, the visitor decided he could at least rely on himself and the Way. He saw that even the choice to ordain was a conditioned thing, and not something he had ultimate control over, not something he had to try to force. Once he put down the idea of becoming a monk, things became lighter.

((Highlighted text adapted from Saṁyutta Nikāya 22.43))
Mi-Le (彌勒) - "Meditate, monks. Do not be negligent, lest you regret it later." ((-Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.145))
-Monk of the Old Order and the Way. Will not kill.
-[IC Journal]
-[Bio]


Āṇatti - Monk of the Black Way, follower of Kwan Ying.
Wendi - Haggling crafter. [Bio]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
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