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

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

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The Removal of Distracting Thoughts

My teacher once taught five ways to deal with distracting thoughts in meditation. I would like to discuss each of them in turn.


  • “Monks, when a monk is pursuing the higher mind, from time to time he should give attention to five signs. What are the five?

    “Here, monks, when a monk is giving attention to some sign, and owing to that sign there arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome. When he gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice might knock out, remove, and extract a coarse peg by means of a fine one, so too … when a monk gives attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.”
    • If feelings of aversion toward someone arise, reflect on their good qualities. Now, some might say this is unrealistic, that you're blinding yourself by focusing only on someone's good qualities. But remember that we only ever see one side of any object at a time, and it is impossible to see an object from all angles at once. Similarly, we can never know a person in their entirety. In other words, there is no ultimately "realistic" way to see someone. So focusing on someone's good qualities is no more unrealistic than focusing only on their bad qualities.
  • “If, while he is giving attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should examine the danger in those thoughts thus: ‘These thoughts are unwholesome, they are reprehensible, they result in suffering.′ When he examines the danger in those thoughts, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a man or a woman, young, youthful, and fond of ornaments, would be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung around his or her neck, so too … when a monk examines the danger in those thoughts … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.”
    • While it's easy to see how desire, hatred, and delusion lead to harm in the future, we can notice how they hurt us in the present too. See how they distort the mind and narrow our thinking.
  • “If, while he is examining the danger in those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should try to forget those thoughts and should not give attention to them. When he tries to forget those thoughts and does not give attention to them, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a man with good eyes who did not want to see forms that had come within range of sight would either shut his eyes or look away, so too … when a monk tries to forget those thoughts and does not give attention to them … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.”
    • What's the best way to steady a cup of tea? Put it down; do nothing with it. So it is with this method.
  • “If, while he is trying to forget those thoughts and is not giving attention to them, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should give attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts. When he gives attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a man walking fast might consider: ‘Why am I walking fast? What if I walk slowly?’ and he would walk slowly; then he might consider: ‘Why am I walking slowly? What if I stand?’ and he would stand; then he might consider: ‘Why am I standing? What if I sit?’ and he would sit; then he might consider: ‘Why am I sitting? What if I lie down?’ and he would lie down. By doing so he would substitute for each grosser posture one that was subtler. So too … when a monk gives attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.”
    • Here we're talking about mindfulness. You can notice a certain mental momentum behind thoughts. If you're feeling jealousy, hatred, or whatever, don't follow it and don't fight it. Instead, just look behind the thinking and watch that mental momentum. Observe the attachment to the thought, how the mind reaches for the thinking.
  • “If, while he is giving attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain, and crush mind with mind. When, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he beats down, constrains, and crushes mind with mind, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a strong man might seize a weaker man by the head or shoulders and beat him down, constrain him, and crush him, so too … when, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, a monk beats down, constrains, and crushes mind with mind … his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.”
    • This is a last resort. Meditation need not be a struggle. There's no need to force yourself, so be kind and gentle with yourself.
((Highlighted portions adapted from Majjhima Nikāya 20))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
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]
Aruna Dawnseeker - [Bio]
Meredith
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Arn
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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Supranormal Powers

There are those who seek the Way as a means to gain supranormal powers. There are indeed powers that can be developed through concentration, such as levitation, walking on water, clairaudience, clairvoyance, the ability to read the minds of others, and the ending of mental defilements. But the Way teaches that only the last of these powers is transcendent. It is the only one absolutely necessary on the path to enlightenment. The others are optional and not always desirable, for an unawakened person might find that the attainment of any one of them can cause supranormal greed, aversion, or delusion to arise in the mind. Furthermore, the display of these powers does nothing to reveal the Way to unbelievers. For these reasons, supranormal powers were rejected and despised by my teacher.

Once, a young man from a village close to my monastery came to speak with my teacher.

  • “Our village has people devoted to your monastery," the young man said. "It would be well if the Master were to have some monk perform a miracle by the power surpassing that of ordinary men. Then our village would become even so much more devoted to your monastery.”


My teacher replied:

  • “There are three sorts of miracles which I have made known to others, having myself understood and realized them. And what are the three? The miracle of psychic power, the miracle of telepathy, and the miracle of instruction.

    “And what is the miracle of psychic power?

    “Here, a monk wields the various psychic powers: having been one, he becomes many and having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space; he dives in and out of the earth as if it were water; he walks on water without sinking as if it were earth; sitting cross-legged he travels through space like a winged bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the sun and the moon, so mighty and powerful; he exercises mastery over the body as far as the heavenly realms. Then someone who has faith and trust sees him doing these things.

    “He then tells this to an unbeliever, saying: ‘Wonderful and marvelous, Sir, is the psychic power and potency of that monk. For truly I saw him exercising that psychic power in various ways: having been one, he becomes many and having been many, he becomes one; he appears and vanishes; he goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space; he dives in and out of the earth as if it were water; he walks on water without sinking as if it were earth; sitting cross-legged he travels through space like a winged bird; with his hand he touches and strokes the sun and the moon, so mighty and powerful; he exercises mastery over the body as far as the heavenly realms.’

    “Then that unbeliever might say to him: ‘Well, Sir! There are certain charms which grant such power. It is by means of such a charm that he performs all this.’

    “Now what think you? Might not an unbeliever so say?”
  • “Yes, Master, he might,” the young man replied.
  • “Well, it is because of this, seeing the danger of such miracles, I dislike, reject and despise them.

    “And what is the miracle of telepathy?

    “Here, a monk reads the minds of other beings, of other people, reads their mental states, their thoughts and ponderings, and says: ‘That is how your mind is, that is how it inclines, that is in your heart.’ Then someone who has faith and trust sees him doing these things.

    “He then tells this to an unbeliever, saying: ‘Wonderful and marvelous, Sir, is the telepathic power and potency of that monk. For truly I saw him reading the minds of other beings, of other people, reading their mental states, their thoughts and ponderings, and saying: “That is how your mind is, that is how it inclines, that is in your heart.”’

    “Then that unbeliever should say to him: ‘Well, Sir! There are certain charms which grant such power. It is by means of such a charm that he performs all this.’

    “Now what think you? Might not an unbeliever so say?”
  • “Yes, Master, he might,” the young man replied.
  • “Well, it is because of this, seeing the danger of such miracles, I dislike, reject and despise them.
The Miracle of Instruction
  • “And what is the miracle of instruction?

    “Here, a monk teaches in this way:

    “‘Reason in this way, do not reason in that way. Consider this, and not that. Get rid of this disposition, train yourself, and remain in that.’ This is what is called ‘The miracle of instruction.’

    “A householder, or a householder’s son, or one born into some other family, hears these teachings. Having heard these teachings, he gains confidence in the Way. Endowed with such confidence, he reflects: ‘The household life is crowded, a path of dust. Going forth is like the open air. It is not easy for one dwelling at home to lead the perfectly complete, perfectly purified holy life, bright as a polished conch. Let me then shave off my hair and beard, put on saffron robes, and go forth from home to homelessness.’

    “After some time he abandons his accumulation of wealth, be it large or small; he abandons his circle of relatives, be it large or small; he shaves off his hair and beard, puts on saffron robes, and goes forth from home to homelessness.

    “When he has thus gone forth, he lives restrained by the code of monastic discipline, possessed of proper behavior and resort. Having taken up the rules of training, he trains himself in them, seeing danger in the slightest faults. He comes to be endowed with wholesome bodily and verbal action, his livelihood is purified, and he is possessed of moral discipline. He guards the doors of his sense faculties, is endowed with mindfulness and clear comprehension, and is content.
The Abandoning of the Five Hindrances
  • “Endowed with this noble aggregate of moral discipline, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness and clear comprehension, and this noble contentment, he resorts to a secluded dwelling — a forest, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a cremation ground, a jungle grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After returning from his alms-round, following his meals, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and sets up mindfulness before him.

    “Having abandoned covetousness for the world, he dwells with a mind free from covetousness; he purifies his mind from covetousness. Having abandoned ill will and hatred, he dwells with a benevolent mind, sympathetic for the welfare of all living beings; he purifies his mind from ill will and hatred. Having abandoned dullness and drowsiness, he dwells perceiving light, mindful and clearly comprehending; he purifies his mind from dullness and drowsiness. Having abandoned restlessness and worry, he dwells at ease within himself, with a peaceful mind; he purifies his mind from restlessness and worry. Having abandoned doubt, he dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt, unperplexed about wholesome states; he purifies his mind from doubt.

    “When a monk sees that these five hindrances are unabandoned within himself, he regards that as a debt, as a sickness, as confinement in prison, as slavery, as a desert road.

    “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.
The Cháns
  • “Quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, he enters and dwells in the first Chán, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought and filled with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion. He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness.

    “Suppose a skilled bath attendant or his apprentice were to pour soap-powder into a metal basin, sprinkle it with water, and knead it into a ball, so that the ball of soap-powder be pervaded by moisture, encompassed by moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out, yet would not trickle. In the same way, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness. This is what is called the miracle of instruction.

    “Further, with the subsiding of applied and sustained thought, the monk enters and dwells in the second Chán, which is accompanied by internal confidence and unification of mind, is without applied and sustained thought, and is filled with the rapture and happiness born of concentration. He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness born of concentration, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness.

    “Suppose there were a deep lake whose waters welled up from below. It would have no inlet for water from the east, west, north, or south, nor would it be refilled from time to time with showers of rain; yet a current of cool water, welling up from within the lake, would drench, steep, saturate and suffuse the whole lake, so that there would be no part of that entire lake which is not suffused with the cool water. In the same way, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of concentration, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness. This is what is called the miracle of instruction.

    “Further, with the fading away of rapture, the monk dwells in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, and experiences happiness with the body. Thus he enters and dwells in the third Chán, of which the noble ones declare: ‘He dwells happily with equanimity and mindfulness.’ He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this happiness free from rapture, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this happiness.

    “Suppose in a lotus pond there were blue, white, or red lotuses that have been born in the water, grow in the water, and never rise up above the water, but flourish immersed in the water. From their tips to their roots they would be drenched, steeped, saturated, and suffused with cool water, so that there would be no part of those lotuses not suffused with cool water. In the same way, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates and suffuses his body with the happiness free from rapture, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this happiness. This is what is called the miracle of instruction.

    “Further, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and grief, the monk enters and dwells in the fourth Chán, which is neither pleasant nor painful and contains mindfulness fully purified by equanimity. He sits suffusing his body with a pure bright mind, so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused by a pure bright mind.

    “Suppose a man were to be sitting covered from the head down by a white cloth, so that there would be no part of his entire body not suffused by the white cloth. In the same way, the monk sits suffusing his body with a pure bright mind, so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused by a pure bright mind. This is what is called the miracle of instruction.
The Knowledge of the Destruction of the Defilements
  • “When a monk's mind is thus concentrated, pure and bright, unblemished, free from defects, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the destruction of the defilements. He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘These are the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the defilements.’

    “Knowing and seeing thus, his mind is liberated from the defilement of sensual desire, from the defilement of becoming, and from the defilement of ignorance. When it is liberated, the knowledge arises: ‘It is liberated.’

    “Suppose in a mountain glen there were a lake with clear water, limpid and unsullied. A man with keen sight, standing on the bank, would see oyster-shells, sand and pebbles, and shoals of fish moving about and keeping still. He would think to himself: ‘This is a lake with clear water, limpid and unsullied, and there within it are oyster-shells, sand and pebbles, and shoals of fish moving about and keeping still.’

    “In the same way, when his mind is thus concentrated, the monk directs and inclines it to the knowledge of the destruction of the defilements. He understands as it really is: ‘This is suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it really is: ‘These are the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the origin of the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the cessation of the defilements.’ He understands as it really is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the defilements.’

    “Knowing and seeing thus, his mind is liberated from the defilement of sensual desire, from the defilement of becoming, and from the defilement of ignorance. When it is liberated, the knowledge arises: ‘It is liberated.’

    “This is what is called the miracle of instruction.”
((Adapted from Dīgha Nikāya 11))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:05 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))
-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 »

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The Bliss of Seclusion

My teacher asked me to return to the Sword Coast to spread our monastery's teachings, so it's a good thing that I like meeting people and getting to know them! But one can also know the happiness of a still mind which can be experienced through renunciation and seclusion. For this reason, the monks of my monastery periodically go on retreat, spending extended periods of time in silent meditation.

Indeed, my teacher mentioned the importance of seclusion more than once:

  • “Mi-Le, a monk does not shine by delighting in company, by taking delight in company, by devoting himself to delight in company; by delighting in society, by taking delight in society, by rejoicing in society. Indeed, Mi-Le, it is not possible that a monk who delights in company, takes delight in company, and devotes himself to delight in company, who delights in society, takes delight in society, and rejoices in society, will ever obtain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment. But it can be expected that when a monk lives alone, withdrawn from society, he will obtain at will, without trouble or difficulty, the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment.

    “Indeed, Mi-Le, it is not possible that a monk who delights in company, takes delight in company, and devotes himself to delight in company, who delights in society, takes delight in society, and rejoices in society, will ever enter upon and abide in either the deliverance of mind that is temporary and delectable or in the deliverance of mind that is perpetual and unshakeable. But it can be expected that when a monk lives alone, withdrawn from society, he will enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind that is temporary and delectable or in the deliverance of mind that is perpetual and unshakeable.

    “I do not see even a single kind of form, Mi-Le, from the change and alteration of which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who lusts for it and takes delight in it.

    “However, Mi-Le, there is this abiding discovered by me: to enter and abide in voidness internally by giving no attention to all signs. If, while I am abiding thus, I am visited by monks or nuns, by men or women lay followers, by kings or kings’ ministers, by other sectarians or their disciples, then with a mind leaning to seclusion, tending and inclining to seclusion, withdrawn, delighting in renunciation, and altogether done away with things that are the basis for taints, I invariably talk to them in a way concerned with dismissing them.

    “Therefore, Mi-Le, if a monk should wish: ‘May I enter upon and abide in voidness internally,’ he should steady his mind internally, quiet it, bring it to singleness, and concentrate it. And how does he steady his mind internally, quiet it, bring it to singleness, and concentrate it?

    “Here, Mi-Le, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a monk enters upon and abides in the first Chán, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought and filled with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion.

    “Further, with the subsiding of applied and sustained thought, the monk enters and dwells in the second Chán, which is accompanied by internal confidence and unification of mind, is without applied and sustained thought, and is filled with the rapture and happiness born of concentration.

    “Further, with the fading away of rapture, the monk dwells in equanimity, mindful and clearly comprehending, and experiences happiness with the body. Thus he enters and dwells in the third Chán, of which the noble ones declare: ‘He dwells happily with equanimity and mindfulness.’

    “Further, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and grief, the monk enters and dwells in the fourth Chán, which is neither pleasant nor painful and contains mindfulness fully purified by equanimity. That is how a monk steadies his mind internally, quiets it, brings it to singleness, and concentrates it.”
((Highlighted portion adapted from Majjhima Nikāya 122: Mahāsuññata Sutta))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:06 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))
-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 »

Teaching

In his wisdom, my teacher once said:

  • “Monks, I do not dispute with the world; rather, it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the Way does not dispute with anyone in the world."
My teacher had a way of knowing just how to guide his students. A single word spoken at just the right time, silence when he knew words would serve no purpose, training suited to each student. On the occasions when visitors to the monastery disagreed with his words, he knew who could be taught and who should be dismissed, and I never heard him argue with anyone.

The last task my teacher gave me was to return to the Sword Coast and spread the teachings of our monastery. I have come to realize that this was also his last lesson to me; he is training me to teach.

So in a very real way, I am learning alongside you.


((Highlighted text adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 22.94))
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 »

At an inn in Neverwinter

Heads turned as the finely dressed woman entered the inn. She lowered her silk shawl as she surveyed the room, then smiled as she spotted the person she was looking for. The monk's shaven head was the only one that hadn't turned. She strode across the room to the corner where the monk was sitting.

"Hello, Mi-Le."

The monk looked up and smiled. "Hello, Meredith." The monk gestured to the other seat at the table. Meredith sat down and took a good look at her old friend.

We're not sixteen anymore, she thought as she observed the lines on his face. His smile was still as gentle as Meredith remembered, but it no longer had that eagerness and innocence. Maybe that's for the best, she mused.

"I still remember how we first met," Meredith said. "You helped us drive off those bandits in Shou Lung. That was over twenty years ago; do you remember?"

"Yes," the monk acknowledged. "It was just a tenday after I left my monastery. You were one of the first people I met in my travels."

"And I still remember how you fought my guards when they tried to kill the bandits," Meredith said drily. Mi-Le smiled, but did not respond. "The bandits were routed, but when some of my guards started to give chase, you froze the ground beneath their feet. Then when my archer nocked his arrow, you lit his bowstring on fire." Then, when my guards attacked you, you turned your skin to stone and their blades couldn't harm you. But they managed to bring you down anyways. She decided not to mention that part.

The monk smiled. "I remember we traveled together after that, and we talked about the Old Order and the Way."

"Yes. 'Only one breath.' I remember." Meredith found herself smiling too. "I sometimes wondered if you were still a monk. I thought maybe you gave it up sometime in the last couple of decades."

"I gave up asking favors of the spirits, but I remain a monk," Mi-Le answered. "I've opened a small meditation hall in Baldur's Gate, actually. One person even asked if she could learn in the same way that I learned."

Meredith looked away for a second. "...That makes me feel jealous."

"Oh?" Mi-Le asked.

"I feel threatened," Meredith confessed. "It's... someone new."

Mi-Le's head tilted slightly to one side. "Other people have sought me out over the years, Meredith. One warrior on the Sword Coast considers himself a student of mine, and has undertaken the precept to refrain from killing. He is also 'someone new,' isn't he?"

"He doesn't make me feel jealous." Meredith replied.

The monk said nothing.

After a moment, Meredith said, "My caravan was attacked by bandits on the way here, you know. The guards fended them off, but I thought, if something happens to me, how will Mi-Le know?" She reached into a pocket, took out an amulet, and offered it to the monk. "It lets you cast a Sending spell."

"I appreciate the offer, but I have no need for it," Mi-Le said. "I have already received such an amulet from a tiefling merchant along the Trade Way."

Meredith nodded quietly and pocketed the amulet. The two sat in silence for a few moments. Then the monk spoke, breaking the silence...

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

Sensual Desire; Monastic Life

I just made a trip to Neverwinter, where I met up with an old friend. Actually, I consider her somewhat my first student. After reminiscing briefly about the past, we began to discuss the Way. I would like to relay that part of our conversation here:

"A while ago, I made a resolution to really work with sensual desire," I said. "I resolved that for a three-month retreat I would not look at a woman. And I was able to keep to this. On the day after the retreat, I was back on the road. I was keeping my eyes to the ground, but a young woman asked me for directions. I thought, I’ve done it now for three months, let’s see what happens."

"So what happened?" my friend asked.

"I looked up, and the impact was like being hit by lightning," I said. "It was then that I realized mere sense restraint, although essential, was not enough. No matter how restrained one might be regarding the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, if there isn’t wisdom to understand the actual nature of desire, then freedom from it is impossible."

"And you get that wisdom from shutting yourself away from the world, then?" my friend asked. "You left your monastery to travel, did you not? Shutting yourself away isn't real life."

"According to the Way, life is happening at the level of the senses, where sense consciousness impacts: sights, sounds, smell, taste, touch, body, perceptions, feelings, ideas and emotions. That’s where we experience life. Whether you are inside the monastery gate or outside it, the impact is the same. There’s a saying in Kozakura: ‘There’s many a shaven head surrounding a hairy mind.’ When you enter the monastery gate, all your struggles don’t suddenly get switched off. All your sexual desires don’t suddenly fizzle out. All your feelings of self-criticism don’t miraculously transform: ‘Now I am a monk. I like myself.’"

"So why live in a monastery? Why turn away from life?" my friend asked.

"I'd say the monastery is an optimum environment in which to experience real life. We get the raw experience of feeling, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch because all the normal distractions, mufflings, and mutings are absent. We can’t nibble or go to a tavern to order whatever we like. We don’t listen to music, watch plays, or read novels. We don’t play sports, gossip, or garden. Basically, you have nothing except your mind and the great outdoors. We live communally; everything is shared. We don’t have our own choice about whom we work with or how we work. We can’t just pop into town to do some shopping or take in a concert. We don’t have our own space. Sometimes in the winter time we get cold and wet and there isn’t a way to get as warm as we’d like to be.

"When you start to shed the familiar props, you get life in the raw. You experience the whole battery of loves and hates, of self-concern, of the amount of things we need to have to make ourselves feel good. It’s like an addict. As long as you have a good supply, everything is fine, but as soon as the supply starts to dry up, things get really hairy. Anyone who has been addicted – to drugs, food, affection, alcohol, whatever – knows what that is like. When the props aren’t there, we realize how dependent our life has become. By seeing this and processing it in a deep and clear way, we can understand it. Then we are more able not to be dragged around."

My friend thought for a few moments, then nodded. "What I've noticed about desire is that it comes and goes, almost on its own. Sometimes it seems like it has nothing to do with me."

My friend is wise, and I wish her well.


((Some portions adapted from Recollections of Ajahn Chah and The Dhamma and the Real World.

For clarity's sake, the part of this post that's above the line is OOC information, and the part below the line is in the IC journal.))
Last edited by Arn on Fri Mar 06, 2020 7:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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]


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

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1340 DR - At an outlying farmstead in eastern Thesk, near the border of Thay

It was around midnight when Ghātikā finally heard footsteps outside the barn. That should be Brother Mi-Le, she thought. By now, he has returned from his evening meditation in the woods and seen the bodies. She considered the possibility that one of the farmers had survived and come to confront her in anger, sorrow, or some other emotion. But she dismissed that idea. Between the poisoned food and her blades, it was almost impossible that any of the farmers had survived the evening.

"I am awake, Brother Mi-Le," Ghātikā called out from the back of the barn. "You may come in, if you wish." While she was expecting the young monk to confront her about the farmers' deaths, she knew better than to act or speak based on assumptions. After all, it was possible that merely seeing the deceased farmers was enough for Brother Mi-Le to realize the profound truths of death. Perhaps he had come to join the Order of the Long Death. Unlikely, but possible.

The barn doors opened, revealing Mi-Le's silhouette. His body was tense, his fists clenched, and Ghātikā could hear his ragged breathing. She could tell immediately that he was not receptive to learning, and disappointment visited her mind briefly. He is actually upset about the deaths. It will be difficult to show him the values of the Long Death. Then the disappointment passed from her mind, and she watched it go.

"What have you done?" Mi-Le rasped.

An unnecessary question. He has seen the bodies by now. It is obvious what I have done, Ghātikā thought. And if he can truly speak to the spirits, could he not simply ask them? Brother Mi-Le is being emotional indeed.

"You promised me you wouldn't kill while we were traveling together." Mi-Le's voice shook.

Is that hurt I hear? Betrayal, perhaps? Ghātikā wondered. She decided to answer the young monk. "I kept my promise, Brother Mi-Le. You will recall that this farmstead was our destination. Once we arrived here, our travels together ended."

Mi-Le took an angry step towards Ghātikā. Then his gaze shifted to the ground by Ghātikā's feet as he noticed the unconscious child laying there. "You left the youngest son alive. What do you intend to do with him?"

"Children are smaller and easier to carry," Ghātikā explained. "After I bring him back to our monastery, we will put him to death slowly, recording our observations and asking him about his experience as he perishes."

"No you won't," Mi-Le said, and charged across the barn.

Ghātikā watched his approach, observing his footing and the positioning of his fist. He's not used to making the first attack, she realized. To Ghātikā, Mi-Le was practically announcing his punch out loud, and she side-stepped his fist easily. When Mi-Le tried to follow up with an elbow jab, she angled her body backwards and his elbow passed harmlessly through the air.

"Haven't you taken a vow to refrain from touching a woman, Brother? Haven't you taken some vow of non-aggression? You observed those vows so diligently when we traveled together. Yet now look how eager you are to break those vows!"

"I'm not going to let you kill again," Mi-Le said. "This is for everyone you've hurt." He leapt at Ghātikā again, and Ghātikā dodged every punch, jab, and kick.

"It is your attachment to life that is making you so emotional, Brother," she said as she effortlessly avoided his attacks. "You are wiser than that! You said you contemplate death in your practice; you know death is natural. We're just a collection of bodily parts, animated by a set of conditioned mental responses! See how your attachments have made you emotional. See how your delusions have lead you to disregard even your monastic vows!"

Mi-Le attempted a feint, but it was so obvious that Ghātikā wondered if he'd ever tried it before. She evaded his attack and realized that Mi-Le was not going to listen to her words. Ghātikā leapt back away from Mi-Le and calmly slipped on her claws. "Very well, Brother. I will help you see the truth of death by delivering it to you by direct experience. It is the Long Death's highest blessing." Then she leapt forward, and she knew from his surprised expression that Mi-Le was shocked by her speed.

Ghātikā's first slash cut into Mi-Le's stomach, but he jerked away quickly enough to avoid the second slash aimed at his throat. Ghātikā could tell that Mi-Le was much more experienced being on the defensive. But she could also tell that it wouldn't be enough.

As Mi-Le backed away clutching his stomach, he gasped out a few words that Ghātikā couldn't make out. At first she wondered if he was trying to yield, but then she saw the stone forming over his skin. Brother Mi-Le can speak to the spirits, after all, she mused. Then she leapt to the offensive again and Mi-Le raised his arms to block her attacks. Ghātikā's claws scraped against Mi-Le's stone skin and the young monk seemed relieved that her attacks weren't harming him.

Here's another lesson then, Ghātikā thought. She slipped off her claws, focused her mind, and drove her fist into his arms. The stone skin on Mi-Le's forearms shattered like clay, and her next two punches reduced the rest of the stone on his arms to dust. His left arm is fractured, she knew.

Mi-Le gasped out some more words, and Ghātikā felt the air around her chilling. She looked down and saw frost forming on her robes as intense cold crept through her body. This could be a problem, she noted. I should not make it so easy for his spirit magic to affect me. She reached into her belt for two darts and threw them at Mi-Le's eyes. The young monk knocked them out of the air, which Ghātikā was expecting, but he also blinked, and that's what Ghātikā was waiting for. As his eyes closed briefly, Ghātikā took advantage of the moment to slip into the shadows. When Mi-Le opened his eyes a moment later, she was nowhere to be seen.

Hidden in the darkness near the barn doors, Ghātikā watched as Mi-Le searched the area. I could let him fumble around for a while, but I should act before this supernatural cold becomes debilitating, she thought. Then a realization occurred to her: If a spirit really is inflicting this cold, could it not simply inform Brother Mi-Le that I am hiding here? And perhaps that is exactly what happened, because Mi-Le turned and looked right at her.

Ghātikā leapt out of her hiding spot just as Mi-Le spoke into the air again. Before she could reach Mi-Le, a cloud of stone particles formed around her and held her fast. When Mi-Le saw that she was paralyzed, he limped towards her, his expression grim.

As he drew close though, Ghātikā saw the conflict play out on the young monk's face. She smiled, knowing that he was edging closer to the truths taught by the Long Death. "You said you're not going to let me kill again. But we both know there's only one way to do that, Brother Mi-Le. Let go of your attachment to life. Stop clinging to conditioned conventional values. Liberate yourself." Mi-Le clenched his right hand into a fist and raised it. Then he hesitated, his fist wavering in the air.

Ghātikā shook her head. "No, Brother. Like this." She closed her eyes and relaxed her mind, dropping the usual mental limitations/delusions that people place on themselves, limitations/delusions that could be abandoned through monastic training. With that abandoning, Ghātikā saw the conventions of "reality" for the illusions they were. She could feel the spirits lose their grip on her. She opened her eyes and saw how to step out of the stone-dust cloud to stand behind Mi-Le. It would be as simple and easy as extending her arm. And so, in a single instant, she stepped behind the monk.

Ghātikā tapped Mi-Le on the shoulder and he whirled around, eyes wide. "When the mind is unfettered, so too is the body," Ghātikā explained. Mi-Le backed away from her.

Then she raised her hand, palm open towards Mi-Le. When she was sure he was paying attention, she began to vibrate her palm. "The body is just a collection of conditioned parts, Brother. There is nothing to cling to; death is a natural condition. Let go of your attachments and delusions, and you will see these truths. Once you truly see the body and its conditioning, you will understand how to disrupt it." Mi-Le looked confused for a moment. But then, as he stared at her quivering palm, Ghātikā saw comprehension and horror dawn on his face. He understood on some level what her palm could do, even if he did not understand exactly how. He saw the basic concept: the body, its conditionality, that it could all be disrupted by someone with deep awareness of the body. Ghātikā recognized his understanding and she smiled. Teaching gave her such joy.

Then, to complete her lesson, she stepped forward and gently pressed her palm into the young monk's chest. The vibrations set off convulsions in his body and Mi-Le collapsed.

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

The Conceit "I Am"

I remember one time, over ten years ago now, I woke up and couldn't remember who I was. There was just nothing, just an empty blackness and a vague feeling of Who am I? Who am I?

After a little while, I could feel my personality start to come back. But what was interesting was that it came back slowly, gradually. It was like I was remembering how to be me. And then my memories started to return. I remembered I was at a farmstead in Thesk, then I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. And so I took action. But those actions somehow didn't feel personal. They were just appropriate to the current situation. It wasn't until later that my personality fully re-asserted itself.

We usually take our personality to be a given constant, don't we? It's like the body; we often take the body to be a constant “me,” but it's impermanent, it's in a state of flux. The body ages, it gets sick, it dies, and there's nothing we can really do about that. The body just goes through its natural processes. The “I” concept is also a process. It is something we are constantly doing. With meditation we learn to see that we are doing it, when we are doing it, and how we are doing it. Then that mindset moves and fades away, like a cloud passing through a clear sky. We are left in a state where we can decide to do it or not, whichever seems appropriate to the situation. The compulsiveness is gone: now we have a choice.

Someone once asked me to take a message to my meditation teacher. So I went up and knelt in front of him and he didn’t open his eyes. So I waited a few minutes, wondering what to do, but he still didn’t open his eyes. So I said ‘Excuse me, Master Mu-Lian’ and he opened his eyes. But it was as if there was absolutely nobody there. He wasn’t asleep; his eyes opened, but there was no expression on his face. It was completely empty. He looked at me, and I looked at him and said, ‘Master Mu-Lian, there is a message that some people have come to the monastery and would it be possible for you to come and receive them?’ Again for a moment there was no expression, just this completely spacious, empty quality on his face. Then out of nowhere, the personality appeared. He made some remark that I didn’t quite catch and it was as if suddenly the ‘person’ appeared; it was like watching a being coming into existence. There was an extraordinary quality in that moment, seeing a being putting on a mask or a costume, as if to say, ‘OK, I’ll be Master Mu-Lian. I can play at being Master Mu-Lian for these people.’ You could see that assumption of the personality, the body, all the characteristics of personhood just being taken up as if he was putting on his robe or taking up a role for the sake of emerging and contacting other people. It was very powerful, seeing that ‘something’ coming out of nothing; seeing a being appearing before your eyes.

It suddenly occurred to me that there was no fixed and consistent Master Mu-Lian. Rather than being a person with a particular teaching, he actually just responded with mindfulness and wisdom to whatever situation arose. I had previously been relating to Master Mu-Lian as someone with a stable personality and a set body of beliefs and views. Now it dawned on me that he was not holding on to a fixed personality or definite views, but was a living expression of mindfulness and wisdom. What appeared to be inconsistency on the conventional level was in truth a relevant and immediate response to whatever was happening at the time. To me this was a living example of non-self.

Sometimes I think back to that time in Thesk, waking up without a personality. And I understand that was a glimpse into Master Mu-Lian's non-self. I remember that our personalities are always breaking down; we just keep propping them up again.


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

The supernatural cold had stopped when Mi-Le collapsed. Ghātikā observed Mi-Le's prone body for a minute after he fell. She could still see some vibrations coursing through his body and she found them interesting. After the vibrations subsided, she turned away from Mi-Le and looked at the back of the barn to make sure the farmer's child was still where she'd left him. He was. That was good. It was a long journey back to the monastery in Thay, and Ghātikā was glad she didn't have to waste time tracking down an escapee.

She had only taken a couple steps toward the child when she felt the air around her begin to burn. She spun around to look at Mi-Le and saw that he was somehow alive, that he had pulled himself up onto his knees. Ghātikā noticed that his face looked empty, devoid of the emotions that had been there before. Then she had to dive to the side to avoid the pillar of flame that engulfed the ground she had been standing on. More pillars of flame followed Ghātikā and she leapt, tumbled, and rolled across the barn to avoid the fire. When she was finally able to stop, she saw that the barn was engulfed in flames. Through the fire, she saw Mi-Le limp towards the child and pick him up. Then the barn started to collapse, so she kicked through a wall to escape into the night air.

Ghātikā circled the barn, waiting for Mi-Le to emerge from the flaming building. Minutes passed by without any sign of the monk. When the barn finally fell in on itself after an hour, Ghātikā acknowledged that Mi-Le had either died in the barn or had somehow slipped away unnoticed. If we see each other again, I'll make sure the lesson sticks. She turned and left the farmstead.

((Middle portion is part of the IC journal, and is adapted from Mindfulness in Plain English and Recollections of Ajahn Chah))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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]
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

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1325 DR - At a monastery of the Old Order in the Shou Lung province of Arakin

Ren could feel sweat dripping down his back as he continued to hold his stance. The monk's legs burned with fatigue, his arms ached from being held up for so long, and he thought he would collapse any moment. He snuck a glance at a couple of the other young monks around him. To his left, Brother Di-Zang had his eyes closed, seeming cool and completely unperturbed. To his right, Brother Mi-Le was sweating but had a calm smile on his face. Ren didn't dare turn his head any more to look at the rest of the monks in the room, lest Master Yang notice his attention drifting. Even now, Ren was afraid Master Yang was staring at him from the front of the room.

Most of the senior monks were kind and gentle, but Master Yang intimidated almost all of the younger monks. Ren wondered how Brother Mi-Le had dealt with Master Yang for fifteen years. The story told about Brother Mi-Le was that he had been left at the monastery as an infant and had grown up there. Ren, on the other hand, had only worn the monk's robes for less than a year and was already considering disrobing and returning home.

But here, at least I don't go hungry, Ren thought. The young man had come to the monastery a few years ago to escape the poor conditions of his village. Before that, he had studied for the Civil Service Examination, but he hadn't qualified for any positions. Facing a lack of options, Ren had become a monk out of desperation. At least I'm learning how to fight, Ren told himself. And there are things to read here. And being a monk is good merit for my family. Maybe I should write home again, see how everyone is doing.

"Don't read books. Don't write home more than twice a year."

Ren looked up, eyes wide with shock, and saw Master Yang glaring at him from the front of the room.

"You've come here to die!"

The words splashed onto Ren's mind like cold water, washing away the thoughts and leaving behind a calm clarity.

That's right. I'm here, and I should commit to this. Ren no longer felt pain in his legs or aches in his arms; there was just a warm ebb and flow of sensation. The sweat on his back was a distant coolness. He settled into his body.

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

Stopping

My martial arts teacher only taught the martial arts as a form of meditation, a way to be mindful of the body. Although some of his students struggled with this, I always respected him for this approach. I thought that it showed a profound devotion to the Old Order and the Way. It was not until later that I learned how Master Yang found the Way. The story is as follows:

  • There was once a bandit in the Arakin mountains named Yāngjué-Móluó, who was murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Villages, towns, and districts were laid waste by him. He was constantly murdering people and he wore their fingers as a garland.

    One morning, the abbot of a monastery in the Arakin mountains set out on the road leading towards Yāngjué-Móluó. Cowherds, shepherds, plowmen, and travelers saw the abbot walking along the road leading towards Yāngjué-Móluó and told him: “Do not take this road, Master Shi-Jia. On this road is the bandit Yāngjué-Móluó, who is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Villages, towns, and districts have been laid waste by him. He is constantly murdering people and he wears their fingers as a garland. Men have come along this road in groups of ten, twenty, thirty, and even forty, but still they have fallen into Yāngjué-Móluó’s hands.” When this was said the abbot went on in silence.

    For the second time and for the third time the cowherds, shepherds, plowmen, and travelers told this to the abbot, but still the abbot went on in silence.

    The bandit Yāngjué-Móluó saw the abbot coming in the distance. When he saw him, he thought:
    It is wonderful, it is marvelous! Men have come along this road in groups of ten, twenty, thirty, and even forty, but still they have fallen into my hands. But now this monk comes alone, unaccompanied, as if forcing his way. Why shouldn’t I take this monk’s life? Yāngjué-Móluó then took up his sword and shield, buckled on his bow and quiver, and followed close behind the abbot.

    Then the abbot performed such a feat of supranormal power that the bandit, though running as fast as he could, could not catch up with the abbot, who was walking at his normal pace. Then the bandit thought:
    It is wonderful, it is marvelous! Formerly I could catch up even with a swift elephant and seize it; I could catch up even with a swift horse and seize it; I could catch up even with a swift chariot and seize it; I could catch up even with a swift deer and seize it; but now, though I am running as fast as I can, I cannot catch up with this monk who is walking at his normal pace! He stopped and called out to the abbot: “Stop, monk! Stop, monk!”

    “I have stopped, Yāngjué-Móluó, you stop too.”

    Then the bandit thought: These monks do not lie, they speak only truth, assert truth; but though this monk is still walking, he says that he has stopped and tells me to stop too. Suppose I question this recluse.

    Then the bandit addressed the abbot in stanzas thus:
    • “While you are walking, monk,
      you tell me you have stopped;
      But now, when I have stopped,
      you say I have not stopped.
      I ask you now, O monk, about the meaning:
      How is it that you have stopped and I have not?”


      “Yāngjué-Móluó, I have stopped forever,
      I abstain from violence towards living beings;
      But you have no restraint towards things that live:
      That is why I have stopped and you have not.”


      “Oh, at long last this monk, a venerated sage,
      Has come to this great forest for my sake.
      Having heard your stanza teaching me the Way,
      I will indeed renounce evil forever.”
    The bandit took his sword and weapons and flung them in a gaping chasm’s pit. The bandit bowed before the abbot and then and there asked to be ordained as a monk.

    The abbot addressed him with these words,
    “Come, Yāngjué-Móluó.” And that was how he came to be a monk.

    Then the abbot set out to wander back to the monastery with Yāngjué-Móluó as his attendant. Wandering by stages, he eventually arrived at the monastery.

    Before long, dwelling alone, withdrawn, diligent, ardent, and resolute, the monk Yāngjué-Móluó, by realizing for himself with direct knowledge, here and now entered upon and abided in that supreme goal of the holy life for the sake of which householders rightly go forth from the home life into homelessness. He directly knew:
    “Becoming is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.” And the venerable Yāngjué-Móluó realized the Way.

    Then, while the venerable Yāngjué-Móluó was alone in retreat experiencing the bliss of deliverance, he uttered this exclamation:


    • “Who once did live in negligence
      And then is negligent no more,
      He illuminates this world
      Like the moon freed from a cloud.

      Who checks the evil deeds he did
      By doing wholesome deeds instead,
      He illuminates this world
      Like the moon freed from a cloud.

      The youthful monk who devotes
      His efforts to the Way,
      He illuminates this world
      Like the moon freed from a cloud.

      Let my enemies hear discourse on the Way,
      Let them be devoted to the Way,
      Let my enemies wait on those good people
      Who lead others to accept the Way.

      Let my enemies give ear from time to time
      And hear the Way of those who preach forbearance,
      Of those who speak as well in praise of kindness,
      And let them follow up with kind deeds.

      For surely then they would not wish to harm me,
      Nor would they think of harming other beings,
      So those who would protect all, frail or strong,
      Let them attain the all-surpassing peace.

      Conduit-makers guide the water,
      Fletchers straighten out the arrow-shaft,
      Carpenters straighten out the timber,
      But wise men seek to tame themselves.

      There are some that tame with beatings,
      Some with goads and some with whips;
      But I was tamed by such a one
      Who has no rod nor any weapon.

      ‘Harmless’ is the name I bear,
      Though I was dangerous in the past.
      The name I bear today is true:
      I hurt no living being at all.

      And though I once lived as a bandit
      Known to all as ‘Finger-garland,’
      One whom the great flood swept along,
      I went for refuge in the Way.

      And though I once was bloody-handed
      With the name of ‘Finger-garland,’
      See the refuge I have found:
      The bond of being has been cut.

      They are fools and have no sense
      Who give themselves to negligence,
      But those of wisdom guard diligence
      And treat it as their greatest good.

      Do not give way to negligence
      Nor seek delight in sensual pleasures,
      But meditate with diligence
      So as to reach the perfect bliss.

      So welcome to that choice of mine
      And let it stand, it was not ill made;
      Of all the teachings resorted to,
      I have come to the very best.

      So welcome to that choice of mine
      And let it stand, it was not ill made;
      I have attained the Way
      And done all that the Way teaches.”

That is where the story ends. Of course I cannot verify the accuracy of this story myself, having not even been born when Master Yang met Master Shi-Jia.

But I remember watching Master Yang train the monks when I was a little child. He was barking out comments and commands in a most imperious manner, displaying what appeared to be dissatisfaction, irritation or even anger. It was really quite intimidating to watch and I was put off by it all, when Master Yang seemed to notice that I was having a few doubts about this performance. He looked across at me and by way of reassurance pointed to the center of his chest and said,
"Nothing here; nothing here!" I realized then that he was actually a consummate actor and could display behavior without being at all affected by it. He was simply doing what was necessary to get the right response from his students.

Another time I witnessed him metamorphose into a really friendly, jovial old uncle or grandfather in response to a visiting family group – a saccharine performance that at the time struck me as transparently artificial. But on reflection I could see that it was in fact just right for those people in that situation, and they departed happy and uplifted.

Through experiences like these I learned to let go of fixed views about how supposedly enlightened people should or should not act.


((The story of how Master Yang met Master Shi-Jia is adapted from Majjhima Nikāya 86. The last three paragraphs of this entry are adapted from Recollections of Ajahn Chah.))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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 »

Tarsakh 30, 1353 DR - At the Old Order meditation hall in Baldur's Gate

"It feels like I've been dropped in a giant field and I'm just... expected to figure out what direction to go by myself," Tarina said.

Sometimes it will feel that way, Tarina, Mi-Le thought. But I imagine that's not what you need to hear now. The monk had spent the last couple hours taking Tarina's questions about the Way, and he knew that she was not happy with his answers thus far. Mi-Le wondered how to communicate the truth that he saw, wondered how his teachers would have shown it to her. Although he knew she didn't want to hear it, he said, "I encourage you to meditate more."

Tarina sighed and ran a hand down her face.

Mi-Le thought back to his own frustrations in the past. "A sister monk once said to me, 'Just meditate more.' At the time, I thought she was being overly simplistic. But she was right."

"What I'm hearing is that I am supposed to agree with you. 'You can not agree, you can ask questions, but if you don't agree with everything then there's no road for you.'"

"Oh no, that's a problem, isn't it?" Mi-Le smiled. It's not our way to force the teachings on anyone; everyone has to see the Way for themselves, he thought. Mi-Le had tried to tell her this, but she seemed dissatisfied with his words. He decided to try again, with different words. "If you don't agree with me, my road may not be for you. But there is certainly a road for you. And you can travel my road as long as it makes sense for you to."

"You keep saying that... You know that- ...It don't make me feel very..." Tarina pressed her lips together and looked down at her lap, her body slumping. "Nevermind..." Tarina stood up and turned away.

Mi-Le watched her standing there. "You asked about what I did yesterday," he said. Yesterday, Tarina had seen Mi-Le destroy a pit fiend with one quivering palm strike. She had been shocked at the display, and had asked him about it soon afterwards. Mi-Le had only told her that he would not teach the technique to anyone. He had not explained that it was the first and only time he had used the technique, that he did not intend to do it ever again. Indeed, he had only permitted himself to use the quivering palm because he knew the pit fiend would return to its own realm instead of dying.

Despite her interest in the quivering palm the previous day, Tarina now remained facing away from Mi-Le. She wrapped her arms around her chest.

"I learned it from a monk who walked a very different road than mine. Very different." Mi-Le remembered Ghātikā, the Long Death monk who had first showed him the quivering palm all those years ago in Thesk. He smiled sadly as he remembered their next encounter, which had happened just a few tendays ago right in the meditation hall. He thought of their attempts to communicate their teachings to each other, and thought of the dangers in attaching to views. There's no need to force yourself to believe as I do. You can learn from any moment, any person. Mi-Le let go of the thoughts and brought his mind back to the present moment, back to the conversation with Tarina. "Just take what you can from me, my friend. There's no need to force anything. I promise."

Tarina didn't move. "It just... Sounds... it sounds to me... It sounds to me like you don't even want to."

"One of my desires is to build the Old Order on the Sword Coast and spread the teachings of my monastery," Mi-Le replied gently. "I very much want to teach you. But part of that is accepting that I cannot force people to see things my way. So please do not misunderstand me. It is not that I do not want to."

"It don't sound like you want to when you keep saying I should find someone else, that the road's not for me, that you can't force me," Tarina said. "I'm trying even though I don't agree with everything. And it... hurts, when you're so dismissive. Maybe you're trying to say it's okay to not fit, to not change, but it makes it feel like you don't even care what I do. I'd rather you said 'to walk this you have to believe this way'. At least then I know what to work towards."

Mi-Le smiled, remembering his younger days when he'd had similar thoughts about his own teachers. "It is true, that to walk the Way as I have learned it, you have to believe the things I have said. But you shouldn't force yourself to believe them. It just doesn't work that way. Just keep them in mind, and keep checking them against reality. And if there comes a time when the things I am saying start making sense, then so much the better."

Tarina sighed. "Then why didn't you say that?"

Mi-Le rubbed his bald head. He could only chuckle at his own shortcomings. "Forgive me, Tarina. I have not tried to start an Old Order chapter before. I have not had a... full time student before. This is a learning experience for both of us."

"That... explains it." Tarina seemed to think about what he'd just said. "You haven't? Does no one come here to learn from you?"

"I have been a traveling monk for most of my life. The teachings I have given have been brief, to audiences I rarely see again. There have been a few people who have visited this hall, but none who have expressed the interest you have." Mi-Le smiled. "None who have questioned me as much as you have."

"I'd have thought someone like you... Well, you just, you seem very experienced..."

Mi-Le smiled and shook his head. "I left my monastery when I was sixteen, and traveled for over twenty years. Relatively little of my experience has been as a teacher."

"You say I could go elsewhere but... but I didn't think I could. Nowhere here. There's other people who fight like you do but they don't... seem like teachers. They're young, and I don't know them, I don't trust them."

"I am happy to have you come here to learn, Tarina. You can take me at my word on that. But I do not want this to be for me. Everything I say, I say with your well-being in mind. It is not because I do not want to teach you, but rather because I do not want you to struggle and become frustrated."

Tarina thought for a moment. "You were raised in a monastery, weren't you..?" She turned to face Mi-Le and sat down on the floor again, leaning against a chair.

Mi-Le nodded. "I grew up on a monastery for sixteen years, yes. And I experienced those years as a student, not as a teacher. My years on the road were spent learning, for the most part." He gestured at the hall around them. "This... This is new for me."

"Well... you made me struggle, and get frustrated." Tarina said. "And not- ...well, struggling and frustration is part of learning. But it should be a struggle to learn, not..." She struggled to find the right words. "If like... Two people, on top of a long stairway. The teacher tells the student, if he doesn't like it he can go. So he goes and walks down, and walking down is easy. But I wasn't on top already. I walked up the stairway, and asked to learn. When the teacher says 'If it's not for you, you can go,' then that's... disrespectful."

Mi-Le nodded. "I understand how that sounded dismissive, Tarina. I did not mean it that way. I only meant to say that you needn't force yourself too much."

"I want to learn," Tarina said. "I expect to struggle. Struggling's part of learning. And I'll decide for myself if it's for me or not, no one needs to tell me to do that. But I need to know the path to walk, or I can't walk it."

Perhaps I have been too circumspect. Master Shi-Jia would have known when to wait and when to push. He would not have clung to one fixed approach, Mi-Le thought. Then he smiled. "It just occurred to me that my teacher is still teaching me," he said.

"What do you mean?"

Mi-Le laughed. "Asking me to come back to the Coast and do this." He gestured at the hall again. "Perhaps it was his last lesson to me."

"Because he... wants you to learn how to teach others?"

"Not... just that." Mi-Le smiled, grateful for the lessons that could be learned in every moment, from every person. "Thank you for teaching me, Tarina."

"You're welcome," Tarina said. "Well, well... that, you know, that reinforces what we talked about before. About understanding. Now we understand more."

"Yes. We do."

"I know you're new to teaching, so I should try to help and not just expect."

"That is kind of you." Mi-Le smiled again.

"So... Maybe you could tell me, how your teaching went? What did you do at your monastery? How were you taught?"

"We would rise before dawn, meditate for an hour and a half, eat breakfast, do whatever work needed to be done, and then there would be teachings and more meditation for the rest of the day. Some of the teachings were martial arts exercises, most of them were talks. Much of the day was spent in meditation." Mi-Le looked at Tarina. "I was not simply being dismissive by advising you to meditate more. It is a large part of how I learned."

"Well... I've been staying in the inn. Maybe I should stay here, and we start doing that? Waking up early, and meditating, and breakfast, and other work for the hall or around the city, and then teachings, talkings and exercises."

Tarina's suggestion caught Mi-Le off-guard, her willingness surprising him more than the appearance of the pit fiend yesterday. The monk blinked. "...You would be willing to do that?"

"I can try it," Tarina replied. "Maybe they did it that way at your monastery for a reason. And it's a path. It's a path to walk. That's better than... I come whenever, we talk about whatever, and I leave whenever."

Mi-Le smiled. "In that case, let us do that for a few days."

Tarina nodded.

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

One month later

Mirtul 27, 1353 DR - At the Old Order meditation hall in Baldur's Gate

Tarina knocked on the door as she entered the meditation hall. Mi-Le opened his eyes and smiled at her from his seat on the floor. "Hello, Tarina." The woman curtsied, and the monk studied her for a moment. "How are you?"

"I'm... I'm okay," Tarina replied. "I uh, needed to talk to you about something."

"Of course. Would you like to sit in the other room?"

"Okay." The two of them moved out to the other room in the hall, which had a larger table for people to sit and talk. Once they sat down, Tarina said, "I'm... going to be leaving, soon. So I won't be able to... to continue things here."

Mi-Le smiled, remembering that Tarina had not been happy where she had been staying. "You're finally leaving Candlekeep, then. Good for you. Is this what you want?"

"Well, it's not... it's not that."

"Ah."

"Ameris asked for my help. With something in Tethyr."

"Oh?"

"He uh... found out that his brother is... still alive. Or maybe not alive. Undead or corrupted or something."

"Ah. I am sorry to hear that," Mi-Le said simply.

"He wants my Sight," Tarina said, referring to her communion with the spirits.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Mi-Le asked. He had communed with the spirits for decades, but had parted ways with his spirit guide over a year ago. Nonetheless, Mi-Le thought his experience could perhaps be of assistance.

"You'd have to ask him."

"Then what did you wish to speak to me about?"

"To... tell you I'd have to leave? To say good-bye? I don't know when I'll be back, or if."

"Thank you for coming to tell me. I wish you a safe and peaceful journey." The monk meant it.

"It won't be either of those."

"I see." Mi-Le paused, then reached for the meditation hall's copy of his journal. He offered it to Tarina. She looked at it, then at him.

"Here. I understand it might be a long trip."

Tarina smiled. "It will. Thank you." She accepted the monk's journal. "I... I have to be honest about something."

"Oh?"

"I don't think I'll... be able to keep the vow, once I'm there." Last month, Mi-Le had refused to teach Tarina martial arts unless she had vowed to refrain from killing. "I mean... I mean I can try but... But it's Tethyr."

Mi-Le's smile faded. This is why I wanted you to think about the vow. This is why I had you wait before deciding. Do you have so little regard for your own word? Mi-Le watched his mind ripple like water disturbed by a thrown rock. "I see," was all he said. Then he sat silently for a few moments, his face blank as he watched the ripples pass through his mind.

"How do you keep it, when you have to defend yourself?"

"I did not know one was required to take life to defend oneself." Mi-Le wondered if she was trying to justify herself.

"Even if you just use a club, a blow to the head can still kill somebody."

"Do you intend to break the vow? Are you asking me to release you from it, or something?" His face remained neutral.

"I... no, no, I'm saying... I'm saying that if, that if something happens, then it might... happen. By accident or whatever."

"See that it does not," Mi-Le said, more bluntly than he had intended. "Was there anything else, Tarina?"

Tarina looked down to the table. "No..."

Mi-Le sat in silence for a few moments, watching Tarina. She stood up quietly and pushed her chair in.

"It's better to live one moment knowing the peace of liberation, than to live one hundred years having never known that peace," Mi-Le said, even though he suspected she would not believe him. "Go in peace, my friend."

Tarina looked back up at him, standing a bit straighter. "I appreciate all of your lessons, and I'm grateful for the chances we've had to talk. Thank you. I'll miss you." She bowed her head and left the hall.

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

The Mind is Not-Self; Mindfulness

Sometimes things come up in the mind, and we have no real control over it. It might be anger, jealousy, lust, fear, or even the urge to kill. It comes up, and it feels like we can't make it go away. Then it's easy to judge ourselves and feel frustration, to give up following the Way.

But mindfulness is nonjudgmental observation. It is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation or judgment. One simply takes a balanced interest in things exactly as they are in their natural states. One does not decide and does not judge. One just observes. The meditator notices impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.

It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration, and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy rejecting its existence. Whatever experience we may be having, mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life’s occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake — what is there is there.

Mindfulness doesn't chase the various states of mind, either. You want something, but you don’t need to chase after it. You fear something, but you don’t need to stand there quaking in your boots. This sort of mental cultivation is very difficult. It takes years. But trying to control everything is impossible; the difficult is preferable to the impossible.


((Last portion of this post adapted from Mindfulness in Plain English))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:49 am, edited 5 times 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))

Unread post by Arn »

Those in Positions of Power; Wise Rulers of State

The monks of my monastery value seclusion and solitude, but we recognize the value of a harmonious society. After all, how can people pursue the Way if their basic needs are not met? How can one find peace in a land torn apart by chaos?

With this in mind, my teacher once said to us:

  • "When cattle are crossing a ford,
    if the chief bull goes crookedly,
    all the others go crookedly
    because their leader has gone crookedly.
    So too, among human beings,
    when the one considered the chief
    behaves unrighteously,
    other people do so as well.
    The entire kingdom is dejected
    if the king is unrighteous.

    When cattle are crossing a ford
    if the chief bull goes straight across,
    all the others go straight across
    because their leader has gone straight.
    So too, among human beings,
    when the one considered the chief
    conducts himself righteously,
    other people do so as well.
    The entire kingdom rejoices
    if the king is righteous."
We can find examples of such wise rulers if we look. In Faerun's history, we know of Myth Drannor and its Coronal. An elf named Kessira told me that Coronal literally means "Ruler Harmonious" in elven. Isn't that a beautiful thing? The Coronal wished for all his people to live in harmony, and that certainly influenced the culture of Myth Drannor. I read a treatise by an ancient sage who wrote that Myth Drannor had a great attitude and mood of peace and solidarity. When a society places emphasis on such values, the people tend to act with wisdom. In Myth Drannor, citizen disputes were settled by a respectable member of society; executions were very rare. And this was effective at keeping crime low. In Myth Drannor many races lived in harmony, following the example of elven culture. Such was the Coronal's dream.

There was an ancient song in Myth Drannor, and the last stanza was translated into Common:

  • "As I would think, so shall ye;
    As I would feel, so shall ye;
    As I would do, so shall ye;
    As I would not harm, nor shall ye;
    As I would, so shall the clan;
    As the clan would, so shall I;
    As we would, so shall ye.
    The People are as one, and
    never shall I stray from this, nor shall ye,
    for to digress is to diminish you and your People."


In this ancient stanza, we can see the eternal values of compassion, sympathetic joy, and non-illwill.

In your everyday life, look for those in positions of power who act selflessly, those authority figures who possess wisdom and compassion. Seek to serve and emulate them. Learn from them, and let them promote you in due time.

Such wise authority figures may seem rare, but they exist. I remember meeting one when I was sixteen, just a tenday after I first left my monastery.


((Highlighted portion adapted from Aṅguttara Nikāya 4.70))

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

1326 DR - At Sei Kung, capital of the Arakin province in Shou Lung

The Magistrate was sixty years old and had heard countless cases during his career. Today he allowed himself a small smile, because the matter presently before him looked like it would be interesting. Not because of the bound and unkempt man kneeling before him, who was so obviously a common bandit that the Magistrate would have wagered his own beard on it, but because of the other unusual people sitting in his court.

"The guards captured this man fleeing into the city, Honorable Magistrate," his clerk said solemnly. The Magistrate's clerk was an earnest young man who had only been in his service for a couple years, but the Magistrate thought he showed a lot of intelligence and potential.

If only he'd lighten up a little, mused the Magistrate. Ah well. The Civil Service Examination isn't meant to test for a sense of humor, I suppose.

The Magistrate glanced at his clerk as the young man continued talking. "Seeing his drawn dagger, poor armor, and generally suspicious behavior, the guards apprehended the man for questioning. The man claimed to have been attacked by a monk who tried to light him on fire." The Magistrate quirked an eyebrow. He had dealt with plenty of bandits during his youth in Telflamm's Shou Town and he had judged even more bandits in his court since being placed as a magistrate in Sei Kung; he knew bandits could always be relied on to lie. Their lies usually weren't so colorful, though. His clerk continued: "There are witnesses who tell a slightly different story."

The Magistrate turned his gaze to the rest of the visitors in his court. A young monk, presumably the alleged pyromaniac, sat quietly on a bench with his arms tied tightly behind him. The Magistrate guessed the monk was sixteen years old, but it was hard to be sure with all the bruises on his face. A young foreigner woman with long auburn hair sat nearby. Dressed in expensive clothes and surrounded by half a dozen foreigner guards, her wealth was obvious. The foreigners looked grim, upset, and wary of the monk.

"Greetings, young recluse," the Magistrate said to the monk. "I see you're a monk of the Old Order. I presume you're from the monastery in the mountains to the south. What is your name?"

"My name is Mi-Le, Honored Magistrate," the young monk said. He bowed his head deeply, the best he could do while tied up on a bench. "I am indeed from the monastery to the south, but I am traveling and do not know when I will return there."

"Why did the guards see fit to restrain this monk?" the Magistrate asked his clerk.

"They did not, Honored Magistrate. The restraints are the work of the foreigners." The clerk gestured at the auburn-haired woman and her guards. "They brought the monk to the guards, claiming he used ice and fire to attack them."

The Case of the Magical Pyro Monk and the Furious Foreigners. This is definitely new. The Magistrate suppressed an amused smile. He looked at the young foreigner woman. "Greetings, young lady," he said to her in Common. Thanks to growing up in Telflamm, the Magistrate's Common was fluent; the woman's eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Would you do me the favor of telling me your name, your business here, and what in the name of Helm's Holy Backhand happened in my city today?" One of the foreigner guards coughed as he stifled a chuckle. The monk did not seem to understand what was being said.

The woman bowed and replied in Common. "I am Meredith Olma, a trader from Thesk. I was in Yentai for business, and decided to visit Sei Kung since it was so close. I have heard the Impossible Palace once appeared here, and I wished to learn more. While I was exploring outside the city, about a dozen bandits ambushed me and my guards. This monk was passing by and helped us drive off the bandits. But then he attacked us when we tried to finish the bandits off. He turned the ground to ice and lit my archer's bowstring on fire."

"So is this man one of the bandits who attacked you?" the Magistrate asked, gesturing to the man kneeling in front of him. "Did the monk attack this man and try to light him on fire?"

"Yes, this is one of the bandits," Meredith answered. "As for the monk, at first he was just using his arms and legs against the bandits. Then, when the bandits focused their attacks on him, he caused his own body to emanate fire like the sun. That drove the bandits off. I would admit the monk used the fire defensively against the bandits. But he used it offensively against my guards."

"Right." The Magistrate closed his eyes and rubbed his temples briefly. Then he turned to the bandit and spoke in Shou: "You're guilty."

"What?" The bandit protested loudly. "Don't I get to say anything? That monk tried to burn me alive!"

"Well, you are in luck, because I am a kinder man than that monk," the Magistrate replied cheerfully. "Your execution will be considerably quicker than being burned alive." The bandit fell silent, terror paralyzing his tongue.

"Honored Magistrate, I beg for mercy for this man," the young monk spoke up from his bench. Everyone in the court turned to look at the monk. "This man killed no one today. Will you not see him with the compassionate eyes of a parent? Surely, if he is treated with wisdom and understanding today, he will come to see the error of his ways."

Is this moron being serious? The Magistrate squinted at the monk. "Is that why you stopped the foreigners from chasing down the bandits? You wanted to show mercy towards the bandits?"

"One should never take the life of a living being," the monk replied.

Wow. The monks in that mountain really are nuttier than squirrel turds. The Magistrate rubbed his temples again, longer this time. The monk was earnest about his beliefs and the Magistrate actually respected that, despite his doubts about the monk's sanity. It occurred to the Magistrate that if everyone in Shou Lung believed as this monk did, the country would be a lot closer to harmony and his job would be much easier. Not that such a thing was possible, but it was still a nice thought. Well, far be it from me to stamp out his idiot naivete at such a young age. I'll let the world do that to him. "Okay. Here's what we're going to do. If this bandit tells my guards where his fellow criminals are hiding, he'll be allowed to live. I'll even give his friends a chance to surrender and keep their lives. Doesn't that sound nice?" The Magistrate gestured, and the bandit was taken out of the courtroom to be interrogated.

The monk bowed his head. "Thank you, Honored Magistrate."

"Don't mention it. You're free to go." The Magistrate gestured again, ordering his guards to untie the monk. As his guards freed the monk, Meredith stood up. She looked upset.

"Honored Magistrate, this monk attacked my men and damaged our longbow. I am asking that he pay reparations," she said in Common.

"Unfortunately for you, the monks from his monastery don't carry money," The Magistrate told her in Common. He thought for a few moments. "It sounds like the bandits had you and your men outnumbered two to one. The way I see it, the monk might have saved your lives. He's decent in a fight; is that accurate?"

Meredith hesitated, then nodded. "He turned the tide of battle in our favor, yes."

"Well, then he can repay you by guarding you while you're around my city. If you get attacked by a dozen bandits again, you'll be glad to have him around." Meredith looked like she was about to protest, but the Magistrate cut her off by raising a hand. "You seem to be under the impression that I am offering you a choice in the matter. I am not. I don't need a bunch of rich foreigners winding up dead in my city, and I don't have the guards to spare for you. So as long as you're in my jurisdiction, the monk goes with you." The young woman was smart enough to shut up and bow.

The monk sat quietly, rubbing his freed arms. He did not look like he understood what had just been said.

The Magistrate switched to Shou to address the monk. "Young recluse, I find you guilty of damaging a longbow belonging to these foreigners. I frown upon the incineration of other people's things. Thus, as punishment and reparation, you will follow these foreigners and protect them as long as they remain in my jurisdiction."

The monk bowed in acceptance. "I understand, Honored Magistrate."

Then an idea occurred to the Magistrate. "And see if she'll teach you Common. It might come in handy if you're traveling far."
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:28 am, edited 2 times 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))

Unread post by Arn »

Tarsakh 2, 1353 DR - At the Old Order meditation hall in Baldur's Gate

Something told Mi-Le to end his meditation. It was not simply impatience or restlessness; those particular feelings had not been problems for the monk in quite a while. This was something different, an intuitive sense. Although Mi-Le no longer communed with the spirits and he did not think a spirit was trying to speak to him now, he decided to heed the intuition and end his meditation.

Mi-Le opened his eyes and saw Ghātikā standing in the doorway. She still wore the robes of the Order of the Long Death that he remembered from thirteen years ago. The hooded woman smiled without any warmth or emotion.

"How did you survive my quivering palm in Thesk, Brother Mi-Le? I have wondered about that." She slipped a pair of claws over both of her hands as she spoke.

"The spirits favored me that day," Mi-Le answered simply. He did not move from his place on the floor.

"I see. I wonder if their favor will save you if I carve out your heart, or remove your head?"

"The spirits will not save me from you today," Mi-Le answered. "I have abandoned my reliance on their power. I have bid farewell to my spirit guide."

"Then I will show you the truth and liberation of death." Ghātikā walked to where Mi-Le was sitting.

"I have seen the truth and liberation of death, Sister Ghātikā," Mi-Le said. He showed no intention of moving, even as she stood over him with her claws raised. "But death's lies still imprison you."

Ghātikā smiled. "Death does not lie. It simply is. You will soon see." She thrusted her claws at Mi-Le's throat.

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

Image
Liberation Through Not Clinging

“How does a monk attain enlightenment, not clinging to anything in the world?”


  • “By reflection, he should stop the conceit ‘I am,’
    the entire root of concepts due to proliferation.
    Whatever cravings there may be internally,
    he should always train mindfully for their removal.

    Whatever one might know,
    whether internally or externally,
    one should not be obstinate on that account,
    for that is not called quenching by the good.

    Because of this one should not think oneself better,
    nor should one consider oneself inferior or equal.

    Being affected in various ways,
    one should not persist in positioning oneself.

    It is internally that he should achieve peace;
    a monk should not seek peace through another.
    For one who is at peace within himself,
    there is nothing taken up, much less rejected.

    Just as in the middle of the ocean
    no wave arises, but the ocean remains steady,
    so too he should be steady, without impulse;
    a monk should not cause a swelling anywhere.”

When you're in the grip of desire or aversion, take some time to see where it came from. What are you trying to build up or protect? What's the goal of your actions? Will fulfilling that goal make you truly happy? Or have you just been automatically chasing one thing after another, never satisfied for long, always looking for something else?

Every time we choose to follow desire or hatred, we reinforce that cycle of chasing pleasure and running from pain. We build up the habit of blindly reacting to causes and conditions; we further ensnare ourselves in phenomena. As my teacher said:


  • “Monks, whatever a monk frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, he has abandoned the thought of renunciation to cultivate the thought of sensual desire, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of sensual desire. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of ill will, he has abandoned the thought of non-ill will to cultivate the thought of ill will, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of ill will. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty.

    These thoughts lead to his own affliction, to others’ affliction, and to the affliction of both; they obstruct wisdom, cause difficulties, and lead away from the Way. Whenever these thoughts of sensual desire, ill will, and cruelty arise in him, he should abandon them, remove them, do away with them.

    Just as in the last month of the rainy season, in the autumn, when the crops thicken, a cowherd would guard his cows by constantly tapping and poking them on this side and that with a stick to check and curb them. Why is that? Because he sees that he could be flogged, imprisoned, fined, or blamed if he let them stray into the crops. So too I see in unwholesome states danger, degradation, and defilement, and in wholesome states the blessing of renunciation, the aspect of cleansing.

    Monks, whatever a monk frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of renunciation, he has abandoned the thought of sensual desire to cultivate the thought of renunciation, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of renunciation. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of non-ill will, he has abandoned the thought of ill will to cultivate the thought of non-ill will, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of non-ill will. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of non-cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of cruelty to cultivate the thought of non-cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of non-cruelty.

    If he thinks and ponders upon these thoughts even for a night, even for a day, even for a night and day, I see nothing to fear from it. But with excessive thinking and pondering he might tire his body, and when the body is tired, the mind becomes strained, and when the mind is strained, it is far from stillness. So he should steady his mind internally, quiet it, bring it to singleness, and still it. Why is that? So that his mind should not be strained.

    Just as in the last month of the hot season, when all the crops have been brought inside the villages, a cowherd would guard his cows while staying at the root of a tree or out in the open, since he needs only to be mindful that the cows are there; so too, there is need for a monk only to be mindful that those wholesome states are there.”

((Highlighted portions adapted from Sutta Nipāta 4.14 and Majjhima Nikāya 19, respectively))

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

Mi-Le closed his eyes, and Ghātikā's arm sailed through the space where he had been just a moment before. The monk of the Old Order had vanished. Ghātikā whirled around, searching for Mi-Le, and saw him sitting on the other end of the room.

"You know the spirits exist, that there is an afterlife, that death is not the end. And yet you cling to death, thinking it is some final ultimate truth. That is how you are imprisoned by death's lies," Mi-Le said softly. "Yet I, who once clung to the power of those who dwell in the afterlife, understood death as a lesson in impermanence and a call to follow the Way. And so I stopped clinging to the power of the afterlife. That is how I have been liberated by death's truth."

Ghātikā dashed towards Mi-Le, but his body shimmered and became transparent, almost empty of substance. Her claws passed harmlessly through Mi-Le. Her eyes narrowed as she studied his empty and transparent body. "I have seen these tricks, Brother. They cannot save you. And your concepts are just as futile; fleeting fabrications of the mind. Death will end them."

"And so you should understand that your obsession with death is also a concept, also a fleeting fabrication of the mind. Yet only one of us here is clinging to a concept, enthralled by a mental fabrication."

Ghātikā snarled. "Just words, Brother!" She continued to slash at Mi-Le, and some of her blows made contact with the substance of his body, and he began to bleed. But Mi-Le closed his eyes in concentration and his wounds healed. He stood up and began to walk away, letting Ghātikā's attacks pass through his empty body. Ghātikā followed him, but he somehow outpaced her. Soon he was at the front door of the meditation hall, out of range of her claws.

"So still you fear death!" Ghātikā called out as Mi-Le opened the door to leave. "You flee, even knowing that I'll kill again. I suppose you really are detached from your own ideals," she taunted.

Mi-Le paused at the door, remembering something the old abbot had once said to a rude visitor. He smiled briefly at the memory of his master.

"That with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don't accept from you. It's all yours, Ghātikā. It's all yours.

"Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, Ghātikā. It's all yours. It's all yours."


Mi-Le stepped out of the meditation hall and left Ghātikā behind.
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:10 pm, edited 2 times 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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((
  • "Whatever the motives of the Monks of the Old Order might be,
    no one doubts that they are keenly, defensively minded. Rumor has it
    that the masters of the order attain ranks by being able to survive a beating
    by an Ogre, without ever raising a hand in defense...."
))

Early Tarsakh, 1352 DR; after the death of Master Shi-Jia - At a monastery of the Old Order in the Shou Lung province of Arakin

It was late in the evening. The monks had been discussing the Way, the training precepts, enlightenment, and how to carry on the late abbot's teachings. Mi-Le in particular, after being away from the monastery for over two decades, seemed to be enjoying the company of his spiritual brothers.

From his seat at the front of the room, the new abbot peered at his long-time student and smiled. "Before he died, the last abbot asked you to return to the Sword Coast, Mi-Le. Do you intend to stay here instead?"

Mi-Le put his hands together and bowed to the new abbot. "I will go, Master Mu-Lian. But I do not know if I will find support for the Old Order's teachings there. The region is aptly called 'The Sword Coast' because of its many dangers. The people there have grown accustomed to protecting themselves with violence and killing."

"That is the way of the world. Remember that suffering is a characteristic of conditioned existence. You will not be able to change that."

"I know. It's just..." Mi-Le thought about the best way to express his doubts. "I don't think they understand us. Some of the people in Faerun have a rumor about the Old Order, Master. They say that we attain ranks by being able to survive an ogre's assault without ever raising a hand in defense."

Some monks in the room chuckled. Master Mu-Lian smiled. "How do you respond?"

"I try to explain that it's not about how tough the body is; we don't care who's best in a fight," Mi-Le said emphatically. "It's about always having a mind of love and kindness, even towards someone who wants you dead. When a great force wants to end you, will you succumb to fear and anger, or can you see your attacker's suffering with eyes of wisdom?"

The new abbot watched Mi-Le for a few moments. "Do not go back to the Sword Coast to try to change the world, Mi-Le. Whatever you know to be true, do not be stubborn about it. Don't go back to do anything. Don’t be a follower of the Way. Don’t be enlightened. Don’t be anything at all. Being something makes problems. So don’t be anything. You don’t have to be something, he doesn’t have to be something, I don’t have to be something." Master Mu-Lian rose from his seat and left.

Mi-Le remained sitting as the rest of the monks filed out of the room after the new abbot.

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

Image
The First Precept

One of the rules that my monastery observes is to refrain from killing. We are actually permitted to strike someone to defend ourselves, but killing is never to be done by the monks of my monastery.

There is no doubt that such rules are difficult to observe. Some would say that such rules are impossible to follow, or at least impractical. That is part of the reason why the rules of my monastery must be taken voluntarily. Everyone who takes these vows should do so knowing the full ramifications of following them. There is no shame in being unable to follow the precepts. In fact, I encourage people to think about it before taking the vow to refrain from killing.

So why undertake these precepts at all? What possible reason could there be to refrain from killing? The world is a cruel and merciless place, so why would anyone put aside an option to defend themselves or their loved ones?

  • "...There is the case where one abandons the taking of life, abstaining from killing. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In doing so, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift...."
It is precisely because the world is cruel and merciless that one would observe these vows. One who takes the precept to refrain from killing recognizes the cruelty of the world and refuses to contribute to that cruelty. Even when we are the victims of violence, we can understand that there is a root cause of that violence. And instead of reacting with anger, we can work to uproot its cause. In the long run, isn't that the best way to defend everyone from violence?
  • "...Monks, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a two-handled saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate towards them would not be carrying out my teaching. Monks, even in such a situation you should train yourselves thus: 'Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no evil words; we shall abide compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner hate. We shall abide pervading them with a mind imbued with loving-kindness; and starting with them, we shall abide pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.' That is how you should train, monks...."
One might say this is impractical, but I say it is only difficult. What is impractical is perpetuating the cycle of anger and revenge, living in a world where we can only cross our fingers and hope that violence doesn't strike us next. For all practical purposes, if all of your enemies were well, happy and peaceful, they would not be your enemies. If they were free from problems, pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., they would not be your enemies. Your practical solution to having enemies is to help them to overcome their problems, so you can live in peace and happiness. When we see the greater picture, the only choice that remains is to roll up our sleeves and start chipping away at the suffering of the world.

It's like meditation. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy rejecting its existence. And you can't see the root cause of violence if you are overcome with anger. Doing this work is difficult when we are thinking about ourselves. It's easier when there is no pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake.

Of course, there are times when we should defend ourselves or others. So if we must fight to defend something, we should do it. But do so with love and compassion. Fight not in anger or to punish anyone, but to compassionately protect yourself or another. And even as you fight, understand that the one you are facing has also suffered, has also been a victim. Look at what's in your mind. Is it anger, vengeance, fear? A desire for control, to be right? Or are you truly acting out of compassion for everyone involved? Maybe all of the above, to varying degrees? Look closely, and be honest with yourself.

  • "...It is impossible for a monk whose mental fermentations are ended to intentionally deprive a living being of life...."
A mother might discipline her child for his own good and for the good of others. But it would be impossible for her to kill him.
  • "...As a mother would risk her life
    to protect her child, her only child,
    even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
    with regard to all beings...."
((Highlighted portions adapted from the Abhisanda Sutta, the Kakacupama Sutta, the Sutava Sutta, and the Karaniya Metta Sutta, respectively))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:11 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn »

Nightal 22, 1353 DR - At Pathfinder Hall in Baldur's Gate

Charisa, Osric, Brother Simon, and Mi-Le were gathered by the fireplace in Pathfinder Hall. They had been discussing Siamorphe's faith for quite a while now.

"May I ask what causes the mantle to pass from one Siamorphe to the next?" Mi-Le asked.

"Death, and a suitable successor is selected from a worthy bloodline," Charisa replied. "As I understand, the faith dwindled here to a mere fraction of its noble origins in size and teachings. Eventually, the Siamorphe here had to find the next one."

"Interesting. The Old Order's god also died, a long long time ago."

"Are his teachings still alive?" Charisa asked.

Mi-Le smiled. "After the god died, I believe the Old Order began to splinter into factions. Each Old Order monastery will probably answer your question by saying, 'Yes, we continue those teachings.'"

Charisa looked amused. "Of course."

"Of course." Mi-Le chuckled. "My monastery took its lessons from the god's death itself. We believe that was the god's most important teaching of all."

"You know of the conditions of their demise?" Charisa asked.

Mi-Le shook his head. "That is lost to us. Some have even argued that such a god never existed in this world to begin with. I am not one of them."

"How long ago would this be?" Charisa asked.

"Did the god have a name?" Osric chimed in.

"Even the god's name and year of death are lost to us. This happened a very long time ago."

"How unfortunate," Charisa said. Osric pondered for a moment in silence.

"Not so." Mi-Le said to Charisa. "The particulars of the god are not important to us. Only the teachings."

Charisa smiled and for a moment looked pensive. "Siamorphe is the vessel, the Divine Right and the Noblesse Oblige seems eternal. I'd like to think myself it first emerged when the most righteous king or queen formed their kingdom."

"That sounds reasonable." Mi-Le nodded. "...I wonder, does this land have a god of change, or impermanence?"

"Hmm," Charisa mused, her eyes trailing to Simon and Osric. Osric considered the question as well. "That is quite a specific portfolio to attribute to a deity..." Charisa said.

"Indeed," Mi-Le agreed.

"I believe many of the nature Gods fit that role. Nothing attributed precisely to change, most speak of cycles." Brother Simon offered.

"The Morninglord would in part fit, with the aspect of renewal," Charisa said.

Mi-Le nodded as he considered their input. "I ask, because we believe that was our god's final lesson when it died: nothing is permanent and unchanging."

That seemed to strike a curious chord with Osric, and the young man fell silent as he pondered its implications.

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

Impermanence; Living as a Monk

The Old Order once worshipped a deity, but it died long ago. My monastery took the god's death as its final lesson to us: even the gods can die, so remember that nothing is permanent and unchanging. My teacher would often include this doctrine of impermanence in his teachings:

  • "Remain focused, monks, on the foulness of the body. Have mindfulness of in-and-out breathing well established to the fore within you. Remain focused on the impermanence of all fabrications. For one who remains focused on the foulness of the body, the obsession with passion for the property of beauty is abandoned. For one who has mindfulness of in-and-out breathing well established to the fore within oneself, annoying external thoughts and inclinations don't exist. For one who remains focused on the impermanence of all fabrications, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises."
    • Focusing on foulness
      • in the body,

      mindful
      • of in-and-out breathing,

      seeing
      • the stilling of all fabrications
        • — ardent
          • always:
      • he is a monk

      who's seen rightly.

      From that he is there set free.
      • A master of direct knowing,
      • at peace,
        • he is a sage
          gone beyond bonds.
My monastery teaches this lesson of impermanence as a means of attaining liberation and freedom, as a means of realizing the Way. Those who ordain as monks at my monastery should not do so to learn martial arts or have a place to live. They should ordain to be free of suffering. As my teacher put it:
  • “And what, monks, is oneself as one’s authority? Here, having gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty hut, a monk reflects thus: ‘I did not go forth from the household life into homelessness for the sake of a robe, alms food, or lodging, or for the sake of becoming this or that, but rather with the thought: “I am immersed in birth, old age, and death; in sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and anguish. I am immersed in suffering, afflicted by suffering. Perhaps an ending of this entire mass of suffering can be discerned.” As one who has gone forth from the household life into homelessness, it would not be proper for me to seek out sensual pleasures similar to or worse than those that I have discarded.’ He then reflects thus: ‘Energy will be aroused in me without slackening; mindfulness will be established without confusion; my body will be tranquil without disturbance; my mind will be concentrated and one-pointed.’ Having taken himself as his authority, he abandons the unwholesome and develops the wholesome; he abandons what is blameworthy and develops what is blameless; he maintains himself in purity. This is called oneself as one’s authority.”
The purpose of ordaining as a monk of the Old Order at my monastery is to realize the Way. With insight into impermanence, the illusion of the self dissipates and suffering is ended.
  • Freedom from lust is happiness in the world,
    the going beyond all sensual desires.
    But the crushing out of the conceit "I am"--
    this is the highest happiness.
((Highlighted portions adapted from Itivuttaka 85, Aṅguttara Nikāya: the Book of the Threes: 40 (10): Authorities, and Udāna 2.11, respectively))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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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-[Bio]


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))

Unread post by Arn »

Image
A Prescription For Abandoning

A young monk once approached my meditation teacher and asked him:

“Master, do you prescribe the abandoning of lust, hatred, and delusion?”


“We do, friend,” Master Mu-Lian answered.

“But what is the danger that you have seen on account of which you prescribe the abandoning of lust, hatred, and delusion?”

“One excited by lust, friend, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when lust is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection.

“One excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when lust is abandoned, one does not engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. One excited by lust, overcome by lust, with mind obsessed by it, does not understand as it really is his own good, the good of others, and the good of both. But when lust is abandoned, one understands as it really is one’s own good, the good of others, and the good of both. Lust leads to blindness, loss of vision, and lack of knowledge; it is obstructive to wisdom, aligned with distress, and does not lead to the Way.

“One full of hate, overcome by hatred, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when hate is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection.

“One full of hate, overcome by hatred, with mind obsessed by it, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when hate is abandoned, one does not engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. One full of hate, overcome by hatred, with mind obsessed by it, does not understand as it really is his own good, the good of others, and the good of both. But when hate is abandoned, one understands as it really is one’s own good, the good of others, and the good of both. Hate leads to blindness, loss of vision, and lack of knowledge; it is obstructive to wisdom, aligned with distress, and does not lead to the Way.

“One deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, intends for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, and for the affliction of both, and he experiences mental suffering and dejection. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not intend for his own affliction, for the affliction of others, or for the affliction of both, and he does not experience mental suffering and dejection.

“One deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. But when delusion is abandoned, he does not engage in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. One deluded, overcome by delusion, with mind obsessed by it, does not understand as it really is his own good, the good of others, and the good of both. But when delusion is abandoned, one understands as it really is one’s own good, the good of others, and the good of both. Delusion leads to blindness, loss of vision, and lack of knowledge; it is obstructive to wisdom, aligned with distress, and does not lead to the Way.

“Having seen these dangers in lust, hatred, and delusion, we prescribe their abandoning.”


((Adapted from Aṅguttara Nikāya: the Book of the Threes: 71 (1): Channa))

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

Marpenoth 14, 1353 DR - In a gazebo outside the Halls of Inner Light

"...In truth, Adelaide, I think the goddesses of your Halls of Inner Light essentially teach the Way," Mi-Le said to the Sunite. The two of them had been discussing their respective teachings for a while.

"Do you?" She sounded surprised.

"Oh yes. I had suspected as such, but reading those pages confirmed it. The forms and external practices may differ, but... In the teachings themselves, I see the Way."

"And... what is the Way, exactly?"

Mi-Le laughed. "It is popular to say that the true meaning of the Way is unknowable. And in a manner of speaking, that is true." Adelaide looked confused at his words, so Mi-Le continued. "My monastery teaches freedom from suffering. Liberation, true happiness. And such a thing cannot be realized by depending on impermanent conditioned things. When one's defilements are gone, then one knows the Way. But such a realization cannot be put into words, so..."

"Well, I do not quite understand but it is clearer."

"Really, I think our teachings are quite similar."

"They could well be." Adelaide smiled, pleased.

"To be honest, it is not important to understand the 'deeper' teachings."

"What do you think is important then?"

"Some people understand the 'deeper' teachings of the Way and treat them just as a philosophy. That's useless. The important thing is to put it into practice. Only through practice can you realize liberation, happiness, and the Way." Adelaide smiled at that. "In that regard, your goddesses and their dogmas teach the Way almost exactly as my monastery would. My teacher often focused on kindness when he taught. He did not just teach non-self, dependent origination, impermanence, or whatever."

"I am happy we spoke about it. I would never have thought of that myself."

"Oh, my time with the Ilmateri and the Lathanderites showed me that we're all walking the same path, more or less."

"That would be true for the servants of the goodly gods, yes?"

"Mm. Even the Zhentarim, in a way, just want to be happy. They're just very deluded and ignorant about how to get there," Mi-Le said. "...Very deluded and ignorant."

"I think everyone really wants to be happy. Some people just do not know how."

"Exactly."

"Others experienced loss that clouded their minds and hearts."

"The Zhentarim try to control the world, make it bend to their wishes. But they can never succeed in this, and so they will never be happy." Adelaide nodded at the monk's words.

"I thought about what you said about desire when I saw you around some days ago." Adelaide said. Mi-Le nodded. "We spoke about... being dependent, I think. And you stated that things do not last forever. That our thoughts and perceptions do not, I believe." Mi-Le nodded again. "And then we reached the subject of extending what we want to last... You implied it was all going back to attachment, to desire. Then, you mentioned that we should not get rid of it but to understand it, so that it loses its power?"

"So that it loses its power to delude us, yes."

"How does it delude?"

"Mm. When we think a thing can make us happy forever, isn't that a delusion?"

"It is, yes," Adelaide replied. "But what if we know it will only be brief and give in to it while it lasts?"

"Well, there's giving into something, and then there's wise appreciation of something."

"What do you consider the difference to be?"

"I think to me, giving into something means getting swept up by it, getting lost in it," Mi-Le replied. "Attaching to it, giving it more significance than it's due. It's when we get swept up by something that we feel suffering on account of it. But it is possible to experience something with the knowledge that it is not permanent. That it can change, even in the next moment." Adelaide gave careful attention to his words. "The Zhentarim are swept up. Swept up by their fear of chaos, their desire for order, attached to their idea of control. They have given into their desires. But even if they win control of every nation in Faerun, every city and village, it is impossible to exercise absolute control over anything, isn't it?"

"Of course it is."

"And so even if they win whatever it is they seek to win, they will not be happy. They're deluded."

"You have certain vows I understand. Do you mind speaking of intimacy between people...?" Adelaide asked carefully.

"All right," Mi-Le agreed. "There's nothing wrong with it." He smiled.

"If we look at desire itself... that is something you do not allow to gain hold of yourself, I understand?" The Sunite asked. "The physical desire for another person. Lust."

"Mm, you can try to not 'allow' it to gain hold of yourself, but you'll usually fail. That's been my experience, anyways." The monk smiled again.

"How do you mean?" Adelaide asked, curious. "Or rather, what do you do, to not get affected by it?"

"It's not that you try to avoid being affected by it. That's just aversion, trying to push away reality."

"And aversion should be avoided, yes... I recall now..."

Mi-Le nodded. "We're people, we're conditioned beings. We can't help but be affected by things. We have no real choice, in a way."

Adelaide smiled a little. "How is it handled, then? By acknowledging the feeling, and setting it aside?"

"If you can. If it's too strong to set aside, then observe it and understand it."

"How would one observe something like that?"

"You can simply see how the mind holds onto it and wraps itself up in it." Adelaide looked at him, expecting him to explain that. Mi-Le caught her glance and considered his words. "Meditation practice is a good place to do it. We watch the breath in meditation practice." Adelaide gave a little nod. "And when a lustful thought arises and obsesses the mind, it's easy to see how much the mind gravitates towards such thoughts, because it's not on the breath."

"And what does one do with an observation like that?"

"And so if you try to bring the mind back to the breath, and it won't go back to the breath... You can simply notice the gravitation back to the distracting thought. Some monks at my monastery describe the gravitation as stress or tension in the mind. Some call it grasping, clinging, a pull, whatever."

"How does it help in dealing with it however....?"

"If you have the mindset of 'I have to deal with it' then you're already trying to push it away."

"Oh..."

"But I think maybe you mean to ask, 'how does this help'?"

"Yes, I think so." She nodded.

"If you're standing on the edge of a pool of water, trying to look down into it in search of a priceless gem, you'll never find the gem if the water is stirred up and muddy, right?"

"Correct," she agreed.

"A lot of people take it for granted that the water is muddy, and don't know that it can be any other way. But other people understand that the water is muddy when it is muddy, and they know that it is hopeless to stick their arms in and try to calm the water with their hands. And so they let the water settle on its own, while understanding that the water is muddy at the moment." Mi-Le paused briefly, considering his next words. "When you see the gravitation in the mind, or the stress, tension, attachment, whatever, you understand the water is muddy at the moment. And you leave it be for the moment."

"...and it clears up?"

"When we spoke last time, you felt a certain way. Do you feel that way now?"

"No..." Adelaide answered softly.

"It cleared up," Mi-Le suggested.

"Yes."

"Thing are always clearing up, unless we are stirring them up ourselves."

"It cleared up a little after our talk and then something happened, which cleared it up completely." Adelaide eyed the monk, then added softly, "I made up with my friend. I tried to do as you said, to look after myself so I could reach out for him when he needed me. I focused on that. Then, he sought me much sooner than I could have thought...." Mi-Le listened as she described her experience. "I was in a state of mind however, even with such short time, to be how I needed to be. To help. I do not think I would have been, if we had not talked and I had not realized all those things. I think I would have just given in to anger. Maybe shouted. Done things that are not really... me."

"We have a tendency to keep stirring up the waters, don't we?" Mi-Le smiled.

"It is part of being human, I would say?"

Mi-Le nodded. "But humans also have the ability to know wisdom, and know how to stop. That also makes us human."

"Indeed. But sometimes, that has to be sought. We need to reach for it."

"Indeed." The monk nodded, then smiled as he saw a familiar woman enter the yard.

Adelaide turned and greeted the woman with a little wave. "Well met, Wren." Mi-Le inclined his head at Wren.

Wren looked over and waved, offering a bright smile to both of them. "Oh... you're outside!"

"We thought to enjoy the fresh air." She smiled back at Wren.

"It's a lovely evening for it. I'm not interrupting, am I?"

"No, please, do join us. Mi-Le and I were discussing a few things. Desire among them."

"That's... well, an appropriate topic for you, I suppose, Adelaide," Wren smirked.

"Quite appropriate," Adelaide murmured in agreement.

Wren's eyes turned to Mi-Le, and she canted her head. "I am perhaps making a leap, but I presume such emotions are something you refuse?"

The monk laughed and looked at Adelaide. Adelaide smiled, waiting to see what Mi-Le would say. "I would not say that."

Wren's eyebrows lifted. "Oh?"

"How can you refuse them? If they happen, they happen. You can try to deny them, but it won't work, and you'll just end up hurting yourself." The monk smiled and shrugged gently. "But it's possible to watch them and understand them, and see them for what they are. And as you understand them better, they gradually lose their power to knock you off your feet."

"I'm never so sure about such things... those of us not in a monastic order tend to assume it's a great deal of.... eschewing things most of us find make life worth living." Wren laughed. Adelaide smiled, listening to them both.

Mi-Le nodded. "Well, that's not untrue, either. But you can eschew things out of aversion, or you can do it because you understand them for what they are."

"... And what are they to you?" Wren asked.

"To me, they can be a prop, a distraction from true happiness." The monk smiled.

"How, then, do you define true happiness?" Wren asked. Adelaide looked at Wren's reaction. Wren was canting her head, blinking at the monk curiously.

"Freedom from the defilements of the mind," Mi-Le answered. "Liberation from greed, hatred, delusion."

"Are defilements anything that makes the water muddy?" Adelaide asked.

Mi-Le nodded. "They obscure the water. My teacher used different metaphors for them, but the idea is the same."

"Do we free ourselves from all such emotions in the same way?" Adelaide asked. Wren blinked, seeming as if a great deal of this confounded her mind. "Say for example, if we have desire... and then jealousy. Is how we free ourselves, the same way?"

"You can," Mi-Le said. "But for hatred, you should do something else."

"Oh? What would that be?"

"What your goddess teaches," Mi-Le answered, smiling. "Practicing love for everyone. You see, Adelaide, I truly meant it when I said that your goddesses teach the Way. I think it is possible to realize the Way by putting their teachings into practice earnestly."

Adelaide smiled brightly at that answer.
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:12 pm, edited 3 times 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))

Unread post by Arn »

All Creatures Can Know the Way

In the year 1336, in the Quoya Desert of the Endless Wastes, I witnessed priests of the Way teach a band of goblins goodness and kindness. I write this here to underscore an important truth: all creatures are capable of seeing wisdom. These goblins I speak of were able to understand the dangers of evil actions.

  • If you hold yourself dear
    then don't fetter yourself with evil,
    for happiness isn't easily gained
    by one who commits a wrong-doing.
I say to you that even a band of twenty-seven goblins can learn lessons such as this.

So please, friends, don't give up on wisdom and kindness. It is only through earnest friendship that the world can change.


((Highlighted text adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 1.115))

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

((
  • "...The little creatures, though evil
    and vile, were thoroughly pathetic and miserable
    by the time they reached the Horseshoe Temple
    Oasis. The priests, according to their beliefs,
    allowed the goblins to settle in the canyon,
    provided they behaved themselves. Every day the
    holy men instructed the goblins, hoping to show
    the creatures the wisdom of the Way. Amazingly,
    the priests’ efforts were meeting with success.

    When the oni arrived, they enslaved the goblins.
    Still, the little ones have not forgotten the
    kindness and teachings of the priests. They view
    their present servitude with a mixture of regret
    and fatalism. In their limited understanding of
    the Way, many see the oni as a punishment for
    the past sins of the goblins."
))

1337 DR - At the Horseshoe Temple Oasis in the Quoya Desert of the Endless Wastes

The oni attack on Horseshoe Temple had been overwhelming, and only a few priests of the Way had escaped. It had not been easy for the priests to finally slip out of the canyon that enclosed the temple. Mi-Le watched as they disappeared into the night, heading east through the desert back home to Shou Lung. Although he had stayed with the priests at Horseshoe Temple for two years, Mi-Le was not going back to Shou Lung with them since his own path lead west.

Mi-Le looked back towards the temple, where almost a dozen oni were searching for survivors. As Mi-Le watched, an oni discovered some of the priests' goblin-students hiding in the stand of pine trees at the back wall of the canyon. After seeing so many priests slaughtered, the urge to save the goblins who had become students of the Way rose up in Mi-Le like a raging fire. It did not matter to him that fighting so many oni would be suicide. Although he could feel Ironwood warning him against it, Mi-Le reached out to the spirits of the oasis and asked for their power. The oasis spirits were only too willing to help him prepare for battle, covering Mi-Le in a stoneskin and infusing his legs with the power to make supernaturally long strides.

But before Mi-Le could leap towards the temple, he could feel Ironwood demanding his attention. Mi-Le temporarily ignored the oasis spirits encouraging him to fight the oni and focused on the thoughts that the dwarven spirit was manifesting in his mind.

Look closer. The goblins will not die. The monk turned his attention back to the pine trees, and saw that the oni was not killing the goblins. Rather, the oni was rounding the goblins up. As Mi-Le watched, it became clear that the goblins were being spared so they could serve the oni as slaves.

Fighting the oni would be worth it, to free the goblins from terror and servitude, Mi-Le thought to Ironwood.

You would only die, and perhaps incite the oni to lash out against the goblins. Eldath does not teach aggression, the dwarven spirit reminded him.

Mi-Le watched the oni gather up more goblins. Ironwood was right; the goblins were all being kept alive. And Mi-Le counted ten oni, any one of which was more than a match for him. The monk had to recognize the reality of the situation: there was nothing he could do to help the goblins.

"May you continue to follow the Way, brothers," the monk whispered. He turned away and walked into the desert, knowing that he was abandoning the goblins to their fate.
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:46 am, edited 3 times in total.
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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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn »

Eleint 27, 1351 DR - At Darkhold

"...I hope you all enjoy yourselves on this most glorious of days," Selengil Harkonis said, finishing his address to the assembled crowd. The elf then stepped back and bowed his head to Fzoul Chembryl.

From his place in the audience, Mi-Le observed the proceedings with a polite smile on his face. He was a guest after all, having chosen to accept the Zhentarim's public invitation to attend Selengil's Banite initiation ceremony at Darkhold.

Fzoul looked over the crowd, inspecting quickly every participant, then grinned."Very good, Dreadlord Harkonis. All gathered, Zhentarim or not, follower of the Tyrant Lord, Bane, or otherwise. We greet you as honored guests to the impeccable fortress of the Black Hand, as the Dreadlord has so eloquently stated. I, Fzoul Chembryl, Tyrant of the Moonsea, High Lord of Zhentil Keep and the Zhentarim, High Priest of the Temple of Bane, will you to enjoy yourselves and see the awesome power and order of the Zhentarim organization."

As Fzoul's eyes passed over the crowd, some raised their wine glasses and some averted their eyes. Mi-Le bowed politely.

"I have seen much of this world, Toril. It is barbarous and cruel. There is chaos and there is weakness," Fzoul continued. Mi-Le knew those words to be true.

"Even the Zhentarim seek freedom from suffering, it seems," Mi-Le whispered to the person on his right. The woman looked at Mi-Le, frowning. She regarded Mi-Le intently for a little while, then looked back towards the charismatic tyrant.

Fzoul continued. "It is only through strength and order and through tyrannical rulership that the world can be organized as it should be. Only then can there be trade, peace, and prosperity." At these words, Mi-Le suppressed a frown of his own. "With this in mind. I now have the honor of bestowing this true insight in the nature of our world into one that stands on this platform. Previously, he has followed a god that many of magic respect, but not one that is best placed to organize and rule the chaos that is our realm. I am honored to initiate Dreadlord Harkonis here into the Banite faith. Dreadlord, step forward!" Fzoul spoke with absolute confidence and authority. Selengil stood a little straighter and moved to stand before Fzoul, bowing his head respectfully. "Dreadlord, do you, Selengis Harkonis, pledge your faith to the god of strife, of tyranny, the Tyrant Lord Bane! The greatest tyrant there ever will be or is? The tyrant even greater than I, the greatest of all mortal rulers!"

"With my very soul I pledge myself to the Lord Bane," Selengil said. "I renounce my once misplaced faith in the goddess of magic Mystra."

From his place in the crowd, Mi-Le watched the proceedings closely. His polite smile had all but faded.

Fzoul pulled out his dark unholy mace and touched Selengil's shoulders with it, uttering some incantations. "By the great power invested in me then by the church of Bane, as its High Priest... I announce you a fresh convert to the faith of Bane. May you serve his strife and tyranny well. May you gain from him strength..."

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

The World

I once heard a powerful man say that the world is barbaric and cruel, that there is chaos and weakness in the world. And of course, we all know those things to be true.

But so many of us react to those truths by trying to control the world, trying to become rich or powerful, trying to make things the way we want them to be. And we can try to be happy this way, using strength and power and gold. But there's never really an end to that, is there? Sometimes it seems that even the rich and powerful just want more, as if their worth can only be measured by how many coins they have or how many people they command.

  • "Were there a mountain all made of gold,
    doubled that would not be enough
    to satisfy a single person:
    know this and live accordingly."
When we try to be happy by chasing worldly things, we lose sight of what's truly important. As long as we look for happiness in external things, in the world, we'll run into suffering. My teacher once said:
  • “Monks, these eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions. What eight? Gain and loss, disrepute and fame, blame and praise, and pleasure and pain. These eight worldly conditions revolve around the world, and the world revolves around these eight worldly conditions.”
Some people chase gold, some chase approval, others seek sensual gratification. But these worldly pleasures can't last forever, can they? Worldly pleasures disappear, sooner or later. And when they disappear, we seem conditioned to seek more. And so we keep trying to fill this void inside of us with worldly pleasures, only to have them disappear again, over and over.
  • “Monks, before my enlightenment, while I was not yet fully enlightened, it occurred to me: ‘What is the gratification in the world? What is the danger in it? What is the escape from it?’

    “Then, monks, it occurred to me: ‘The pleasure and joy that arise in dependence on the world: this is the gratification in the world. That the world is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change: this is the danger in the world. The removal and abandonment of desire and lust for the world: this is the escape from the world.’“
Rather than be caught in the cycle of chasing worldly things, always running from pain and chasing pleasure, we can understand this cycle for what it is. Now, this doesn't mean we try to immediately get rid of all our worldly desires or anything. It just means that we examine what's really going on inside of us. Why do we feel this desire for worldly pleasures? Why do we feel the need to control things? What are we trying to distract ourselves from? The more we understand these things going on inside ourselves, the less power they have over us.
  • “Monks, if there were no gratification in the world, beings would not become enamored of it; but because there is gratification in the world, beings become enamored of it. If there were no danger in the world, beings would not become disenchanted with it; but because there is danger in the world, beings become disenchanted with it. If there were no escape from the world, beings would not escape from it; but because there is an escape from the world, beings escape from it.

    “So long, monks, as beings have not directly known as they really are the gratification in the world as gratification, the danger as danger, and the escape from it as escape, they have not escaped from this world with its devas, evils, and good, from this population with its ascetics and nobles, its devas and humans; they have not become detached from it, released from it, nor do they dwell with a mind rid of barriers. But when beings have directly known as it really is the gratification in the world as gratification, the danger as danger, and the escape from it as escape, then they have escaped from this world; they have become detached from it, released from it, and they dwell with a mind rid of barriers.”
((Highlighted portions adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 4.20, Aṅguttara Nikāya: The Book of the Eights: 6 (6) World (2), Aṅguttara Nikāya: The Book of the Threes: 103 (1) Before, and Aṅguttara Nikāya: the Book of the Threes: 105 (3) Gratification (2), respectively))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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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