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

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

Unread post by Arn » Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:10 pm

((
  • "The followers of the Way are known as Chung Tao,
    or Guides of the Way. The Way is much more of a philosophy
    than a religion, because its adherents believe
    that the true nature of the Way is unknowable. [Its]
    shrines are more like hermitages, and its very few
    temples organized as monasteries or schools, teaching
    a wide variety of subjects. The Way states that all
    things in the Celestial Universe affect and are affected
    by all others. There is no Good, Evil, Law or Chaos -
    only the forces of the Universe, which may be manipulated
    as desired. The proper student of the Way thus
    recognizes this and strives to know the proper way in
    which to use these forces.

    A Chung Tao priest is actually something more of a
    wizard than a monk or scholar, and both dang-ki (shukenja)
    and wu jen may be followers of the Way. Powerful
    positions within the faith are occupied by mages
    or sorcerers more often than priests, and indeed,
    many of the great wu jen of history have been Chung
    Tao priests as well.

    The use of power is often the subject of debate, and
    so it is among the Chung Tao priests. In the earliest
    days of the Empire, this caused a great rift in the unified
    faith, with two main temple[s] emerging from the
    chaos. One group, known as the Black Chung Tao,
    believe that the superior man has a duty to shape the
    universe to his ends; directing the unenlightened of
    the Earth to a higher goal. The second group, known
    as the White Chung Tao, believe that there are no
    superior men, only enlightened, ones, and that the
    proper observance of the Way is in maintaining the
    natural balance of events..."
))
"What is the Way?"

I have been asked many times, "What is the Way?" There are many ways to answer this question, but I thought a historical perspective might be useful. I have previously written a journal entry about the history of the Old Order, in which I discussed how my sect of the Old Order traveled east to Shou Lung and was influenced by the Way. In this entry, I will discuss the history of the Way itself.

The Way is written in Shou as 中道, and can be pronounced in Faerunian Common as Chung Tao or Zhōng Dào. It literally means "Middle Way." As this literal meaning suggests, the Way is dogmatically neutral and impartial. However, the human practice of anything, including the Way, tends to be imperfect. Thus, over the centuries, two competing schools of thought have risen among the practitioners of the Way: the Black Way and the White Way.

Followers of the Black Way believe in the ideal of the "superior man" who has a duty to shape the world. A follower of the Black Way believes in exerting control, directing the unenlightened of the world to a higher goal. The followers of the White Way do not subscribe to the concept of superiority, but simply believe that some people see more clearly than others. The White Way teaches balance.

It is important to know that in Shou Lung, priests of the Way are more like Faerunian wizards than monks. These wizards study and manipulate a force that is known in Faerun as the Weave. These wizard-priests came to teach the Way to my sect of the Old Order long ago, shortly after the monks settled in Shou Lung. It almost goes without saying that my monastery was influenced most heavily by priests of the White Way! However, we learned the dogma of the Black Way as well.

Eventually, we discovered that these two factions have been in constant struggle over the past two millenia, vying for control of Shou Lung. In some dynasties the Black Way holds sway over the court, while in other dynasties the White Way is in favor. We monks of the Old Order recognized the futility of this sectarian infighting, having already seen it within our own ranks after our nameless god died long ago. Even the followers of the White Way seemed deluded by their desire for control and attachment to views. So the monks of my monastery withdrew from direct involvement with the wizard-priests of the Way, while remaining grateful for all they had taught us.

To the monks of my monastery, there is no need for struggle between the Black Way and the White Way. The two schools of thought seem to be in contradiction, but in reality they go hand-in-hand with each other. The Black Way is correct about the need to exert control over some things, especially in one's practice of the Way; the White way is correct about the enlightened man and balance. One might ask how they can both be correct? Remember that the Way teaches all things in the Celestial Universe affect and are affected by all others; this means that even the act of controlling something is subject to the conditions of the universe. Control is subject to balance, and balance includes the factor of control.

The late abbot of my monastery once said:

  • "By oneself is evil done, by oneself one is defiled.
    By oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified.
    Purity and non-purity depend on oneself.
    None can purify another."
Here, the abbot was definitely speaking about effort, control, and volition. This is the control taught by the Black Way, albeit control over oneself.

But my teacher also said:

  • "...Volitional formations are nonself. For if volitional formations were self, these volitional formations would not lead to affliction, and it would be possible to have it of volitional formations: ‘Let my volitional formations be thus; let my volitional formations not be thus.’ But because volitional formations are nonself, volitional formations lead to affliction, and it is not possible to have it of volitional formations: ‘Let my volitional formations be thus; let my volitional formations not be thus.’ ..."
The lesson here is that even volition, control, and effort are subject to conditionality and the forces of the universe. This is the balance taught by the White Way. It also gets to the heart of the Way itself - the teaching that all things, even volition, will, and choice, are affected by other things.

I remember being confused about this seeming contradiction when I was younger. I reflected on these two teachings, and then went to my meditation teacher and asked him, "If I may, I have a question with regard to nonself. There seems to be some contradiction between 1) volition being conditioned, nonself, and not subject to control, and 2) the need to exert volition, effort, and control in one's practice. The way I square these two concepts is as follows: I think we must of course exert volition, effort, and control in our practice, but even as we do so, we can understand that such volition, effort, and control are themselves conditioned. It also seems to me that the more mindful we are, the more 'mastery' we have over our mental formations and volition. And yet mindfulness itself is also conditioned. Is this correct?"

My meditation teacher replied,
"Your understanding here is quite correct. When the abbot speaks in a philosophical context, he says to contemplate all phenomena as nonself. But when the abbot speaks in an ethical context, he does not hesitate to use the word 'self' to convey the need to take personal initiative. When he speaks in an ethical context, he insists on the need for oneself to take responsibility for one's own actions. Perhaps this is another reason the abbot does not say 'There is no self.' For this could be misinterpreted in a way that would undermine personal initiative and the sense of moral responsibility. And yet this cannot be taken to imply that he somehow acknowledges a subtle kind of self."

But this is all philosophy and theory. The important thing is to put the Way into practice. And so perhaps the best answer to the question "What is the Way?" is not to give an in-depth philosophical talk, but to emphasize the practical aspects of the Way:
  • “Those things of which you might know: ‘These things lead to passion, not to dispassion; to bondage, not to detachment; to building up, not to dismantling; to strong desires, not to fewness of desires; to non-contentment, not to contentment; to company, not to solitude; to laziness, not to the arousing of energy; to being difficult to support, not to being easy to support,’ you should definitely recognize: ‘This is not the Way; this is not the discipline; this is not the teaching.’ But those things of which you might know: ‘These things lead to dispassion, not to passion; to detachment, not to bondage; to dismantling, not to building up; to fewness of desires, not to strong desires; to contentment, not to non-contentment; to solitude, not to company; to the arousing of energy, not to laziness; to being easy to support, not to being difficult to support,’ you should definitely recognize: ‘This is the Way; this is the discipline; this is the teaching.’”
The virtuous practices taught by my monastery have many similarities with the Padhran faith, which I encountered in the Hordelands during my journey to the west. Indeed, my sect of the Old Order encountered the Padhran faith long ago while traveling east, incorporating Padhran teachings before continuing on to settle in Shou Lung and learn about the Way.

((The Kara-Tur sourcebook uses "Chung Tao" as the Shou translation of the Way. My use of 中道 (Zhōng Dào) is a more accurate usage of the Chinese language, while remaining faithful to the Kara-Tur sourcebook.

First highlighted portion adapted from Dhammapada verse 165. Second highlighted portion adapted from the Anattalakkhana Sutta. Third highlighted portion, the one in yellow, adapted from Bhikku Bodhi. Fourth highlighted portion adapted from Aṅguttara Nikāya: The Book of the Eights: 53 (3) Brief.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Old Order seems to be a blank slate. We only know a few things about these monks, including the fact that they once worshipped a god who is now gone. In creating Mi-Le's particular sect of the Old Order, I have decided that the death of this nameless god taught Mi-Le's sect about the impermanence of all things. This sect then traveled east, encountering the Padhran faith in the Hordelands (Storm Riders, pages 12 and 37). The monks then continued east, finally settling in Shou Lung, where they learned about the Way from wizard-priests.))
Last edited by Arn on Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:31 am, edited 4 times in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
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Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

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

Unread post by Arn » Sat Feb 10, 2018 3:01 pm

Early Tarsakh, 1352 DR - At a monastery of the Old Order in the Shou Lung province of Arakin

Master Mu-Lian saw an old woman approaching him. He recognized her.

Over four decades ago, this woman and her husband had come to the monastery and begged the monks to take in their infant son. That year had been especially cruel for the nearby villages. Mu-Lian had seen that the two parents were starving, having chosen to give the remainder of their food to their baby. The monks had warned the parents: "Understand that if we accept this child, we will not be raising your son for you; we will be training a monk, and monks must cast aside their families. You must respect that." The parents had tearfully accepted this and left their baby with the monks, who named him Mi-Le. Master Mu-Lian knew that the baby's father had died later that year.

Master Mu-Lian remembered how the mother had visited the monastery once every year after that. Each time she had come as a devotee, leaving what meager offerings and donations she could afford. After setting down her offerings, she would stay and watch her son from a distance. True to her word, she had never spoken to him, approached him, or even drawn his attention to her. After watching him for a while, she would leave. In this way, she had watched Mi-Le grow up with him none the wiser.

When Mi-Le had left the monastery at the age of sixteen, the woman stopped visiting. Master Mu-Lian had not seen her in the twenty-six years that Mi-Le had been gone. Now that Mi-Le had returned though, Master Mu-Lian was not surprised to see the woman again.

The old woman prostrated herself on the floor before speaking to Master Mu-Lian. "Master, the last twenty-six years my son has been gone, not a single day has passed in which I did not worry for his safety. He is a grown man now, no longer a child; his monastic training is complete. I have come to speak with my son."

Master Mu-Lian sent someone to fetch Mi-Le.

When Mi-Le entered the hall, he first bowed to Master Mu-Lian. Then Mi-Le smiled and bowed to the old woman, and Master Mu-Lian knew it was the first time the woman had ever been greeted by her son. The old woman began to weep. Mi-Le looked at Master Mu-Lian, but Mu-Lian remained silent.

"It's all right, ma'am. How can I help you?" Mi-Le asked. His voice was gentle and kind, and the old woman reached for his hand. Mi-Le pulled his hand back, leaving the old woman grasping at empty air.

After several long moments, the woman composed herself enough to speak. "I... How have your travels been? Have you been safe? Are you well?"

Mi-Le looked at the old woman for a moment before answering. "My travels were long and difficult, and I cannot say they were safe. But I have had good companions. I have seen goodness in unexpected places. And I am well."

"I'm very glad," the old woman replied. "I... I hope that you've been taking care of yourself. It's good that you're safely back in Arakin."

Mi-Le smiled. "Thank you. But I'll be leaving again soon."

The old woman was silent for a long moment. "...Is this something the monastery has asked you to do, or something you want to do?"

"Both. It is my wish to spread the teachings of the Way. I am happy to do as Master Shi-Jia requested."

Tears began to run down the old woman's cheeks again. "I can see you're a very devoted monk. I'm happy for you."

Mi-Le looked at her oddly. "Ma'am...?"

"Be safe. Be good," the old woman said softly. Then she bowed and left the hall quickly.

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

Image
Beyond Good and Evil

Remember that the entire universe is your mind. Family, village, and country are concepts in your mind. Greed, hatred, and delusion are in your mind. When we let go of unwholesome thoughts, words, and deeds, we create space for loving-kindness, joy, nonviolence, and equanimity. When the mind is filled with loving-kindness, all concepts disappear. Only the feeling of loving-kindness remains. Just as the universe is endless, this practice is boundless, all-encompassing. You cannot say, "I have a small degree of loving-kindness for elephants and fish. I have low-grade loving-kindness for my enemies and high-quality loving-kindness for my friends and family." True selfless love does not recognize these kinds of differences. In loving-kindness, all qualities and quantities are alike.

But we should not be attached even to these wholesome thoughts. Letting go requires us to go beyond good and evil. In the end, even the Way must be cast aside. To paraphrase my teacher, these teachings are like a raft, to be abandoned once you have crossed the flood. Since you should abandon even good states of mind generated by these teachings, how much more so should you abandon bad states of mind!


((Adapted from the works of Henepola Gunaratana))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

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

Unread post by Arn » Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:23 pm

Observing the Mind; Mental Objects and Desire

There's a certain underlying movement in our minds that we usually don't pay attention to. It's a certain reaching-out, a kind of gravitating current. We can call this mental movement desire. This mental movement compels us to grasp at concepts, memories, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and other mental objects.

Now, according to the Way, we cannot observe something perfectly as it is in the present moment. Things are in constant movement, and if we observe something, we are only seeing a momentary image of it. By the time we register its image, the thing has already changed. When we focus on the image of a thing, we are missing the thing's movement; we don't know where it is in the present moment; we can only ever grasp at its past this way. We could instead observe overall movement patterns, focusing on the general current of things. But when we do so, we are no longer paying attention to an individual thing.

The mind functions the same way. The mental objects we perceive are often just memories of the past or fabrications of the mind that do not reflect our immediate reality. When we pay attention to thoughts, concepts, memories, and other mental objects, we aren't paying attention to the immediate underlying mental currents which are compelling us to grasp at the mental objects. We're missing the movement of the present moment by grasping at the past. Instead, we could bring ourselves into the immediate here-and-now and observe the mental movement itself. When we pay attention to the underlying mental current in the present, we naturally let go of individual mental objects of the past.

The mind is made up of countless instantaneous mental moments which are driven by desire. We can cling to these little mental moments, or we can watch the overall movements and desires of the mind. When we directly see that the nature of the mind is change, when we stop grasping at little things and personalizing them, we understand things as they really are.

My teacher spoke of understanding our own minds in very practical terms:

  • “Monks, a monk who is not skilled in the ways of others’ minds should train: ‘I will be skilled in the ways of my own mind.’ It is in this way that you should train yourselves.

    “And how is a monk skilled in the ways of his own mind? It is just as if a woman or a man— young, youthful, and fond of ornaments— would look at her or his own facial reflection in a clean bright mirror or in a bowl of clear water. If they see any dust or blemish there, they will make an effort to remove it. But if they do not see any dust or blemish there, they will be glad about it; and their wish fulfilled, they will think, ‘How fortunate that I’m clean!’ So too, self-examination is very helpful for a monk to grow in wholesome qualities.

    “One should ask oneself: ‘Am I often given to longing or without longing? Am I often given to ill will or without ill will? Am I often overcome by dullness and drowsiness or free from dullness and drowsiness? Am I often restless or calm? Am I often plagued by doubt or free from doubt? Am I often angry or without anger? Is my mind often defiled or undefiled? Is my body often agitated or unagitated? Am I often lazy or energetic? Am I often unconcentrated or concentrated?’

    “If, by such self-examination, a monk knows: ‘I am often given to longing, given to ill will, overcome by dullness and drowsiness, restless, plagued by doubt, angry, defiled in mind, agitated in body, lazy, and unconcentrated,’ he should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities. Just as one whose clothes or head had caught fire would put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to extinguish the fire on his clothes or head, so too that monk should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities.

    “But if, by such self-examination, a monk knows: ‘I am often without longing, without ill will, free from dullness and drowsiness, calm, free from doubt, without anger, undefiled in mind, unagitated in body, energetic, and concentrated,’ he should base himself on those same wholesome qualities and make a further effort to reach the destruction of the taints.”
((The first half of this entry was inspired by a quantum mechanics discussion I had with an Ivy League PhD student. After he explained the uncertainty principle and the observer effect in quantum mechanics, I drew parallels to meditation practice. Ie: if you follow a thought object you aren't paying attention to its underlying mental momentum, but if you observe the mental momentum you lose sight of the thought object; and on a related note, you can't observe the mind without influencing it. Of course, quantum mechanics terminology doesn't belong in an IC post, so I used very generic words instead.

Highlighted portion adapted from the Aṅguttara Nikāya: The Book of the Tens: 51 (1) One's Own Mind.))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

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

Unread post by Arn » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:52 pm

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The Best of All Weapons

One time I was caught in a fierce blizzard on my way to a meditation retreat. Visibility was low, the winds were howling, and the path was covered in snow and ice. I even saw a few places where unfortunate travelers had tumbled off the path. I knew I might die in the blizzard, without ever reaching the retreat. And somehow, that was all right. I thought, "If I perish while in pursuit of the Way, it will be a worthy way to die." I felt calm and tranquil, ready to die. My meditation teacher once spoke about this as well:


"You have to be really resolute to practice the Way. It’s not a light thing. It’s heavy! You have to put your life on the line. A tiger’s going to eat you, an elephant’s going to trample you – then, so be it. You think like that. When you’ve kept your precepts purely, there’s nothing more to worry about: it’s as if you’re already dead. If you die, then it’s as if there’s nothing to die, and so you’re not afraid. This is called the weapon of the Way. I’ve been on mountaintops all over the country, and this single weapon of the Way has always triumphed. You completely let go. You’re bold. You’re ready to die. You risk your life.

"As I thought about it, I saw how the weapon of the Way strengthens the mind. It’s the best of all weapons. I kept reflecting, looking, thinking, seeing. When the mind truly sees, it penetrates things completely: suffering is like this, the cessation of suffering is like this. And so, there’s ease and contentment. Someone who sees suffering but doesn’t penetrate right through it, who’s content with feelings of inner peace – they have no way of knowing this.

"If someone is unafraid of death, if they’re ready to give their life, then they won’t die. If you let suffering go beyond suffering, it comes to an end. Comprehend it, see the truth of things, see the nature of things. That has real value: it makes the mind powerful. Do you think it would be possible for such a mind to be afraid of anybody, to be afraid of the forest, to be afraid of wild animals? It is staunch and strong. The heart of a meditation monk is incredibly resolute. Through meditation, anybody who is ready to give their life for the Way develops a mind that is great in size and scope, utterly firm. The ability to let go becomes sublime.

"All this is called xún (尋): raising something up in the mind, and then cì (伺): examining it. These two things keep working together until the matter is fully penetrated. At this point, xǐ (喜): rapture arises in the mind.

"As I thought of practicing walking meditation or of the virtues of the Way, the rapture seeped through my whole body and thoroughly refreshed it. As I sat there, my mind overflowed with joy in my actions – all the obstacles I’d overcome – and my hair stood on end and tears started to fall. I felt even more inspired to struggle and persevere. There was no question of discouragement arising, whatever happened. There was xún (尋), cì (伺), xǐ (喜), and a bliss accompanied by awareness. The mind was upheld by the xún and cì, and stabilized by the bliss. At that moment, you could say it was dependent on the power of absorption or Chán (禪) if you like, I don’t know. That’s just how it was. If you want to call it absorption, then go ahead. Before long, xún and cì were abandoned, rapture disappeared and the mind had a single focus (一境性), stillness (定) was firmly established, and the lucid calm that is a foundation for wisdom had arisen.

"So I gained the insight that it’s through practice that knowing and seeing take place. Studying and thinking about it is something else altogether. Even the thoughts and assumptions you make about how things will be are included in the things that you see clearly, and they are revealed to be in contradiction to the way things are.

"So now I was content. Fat or thin, healthy or ill, I was content. I never wondered where my mother was or where this or that friend or relation was. There was none of that. I just resolved in my mind that if I died, then I died, and that was all there was to it. I had no worries. That was how firm my mind was. And so, there was no more holding back. My mind was invigorated and pushed me on.

"However many talks you listen to, however much you study the Way, the knowledge you gain from that doesn’t take you all the way to the truth, and so it can never free you of doubts and hesitation. You have to practice. If your knowledge is a realization of the truth, then things come to a conclusion. I don’t know how you’d put it into words, but it just happens naturally, it’s inevitable. It’s nothing other than the ‘natural mind’ arising."


((Highlighted portion adapted from Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah, by Ajahn Jayasaro))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

Ghātikā

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

Unread post by Arn » Thu Jun 07, 2018 4:18 pm

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Don't Give Up

Question: “There are those periods when our minds happen to be absorbed in things and become blemished or darkened, but we are still aware of ourselves, such as when some form of greed, hatred, or delusion comes up. Although we know that these things are objectionable, we are unable to prevent them from arising. Could it be said that even as we are aware of them, we are providing the basis for increased clinging and attachment, and maybe putting ourselves further back than where we started from?”

Answer:
“That’s it! You must keep knowing them at that point; that’s the method of practice. I mean that simultaneously, we are both aware of them and repelled by them, but lacking the ability to resist them; they just burst forth.

“By then it’s already beyond your capability to do anything. At that point you have to readjust yourself and then continue contemplation. Don’t just give up on them there and then. When you see things arise in that way you tend to get upset or feel regret, but it is possible to say that they are uncertain and subject to change. What happens is that you see these things are wrong, but you are still not ready or able to deal with them. It’s as if they are independent entities, the leftover habitual tendencies that are still creating and conditioning the state of the mind. You don’t wish to allow the mind to become like that, but it does, and it indicates that your knowledge and awareness are still neither sufficient nor fast enough to keep abreast of things.

“You must practice and develop mindfulness as much as you can in order to gain a greater and more penetrating awareness. Whether the mind is soiled or blemished in some way, it doesn’t matter; whatever comes up, you should contemplate the impermanence and uncertainty of it. By maintaining this contemplation at each instant that something arises, after some time you will see the impermanence of all sense objects and mental states. Because you see them as such, gradually they will lose their importance, and your clinging and attachment to that which is a blemish on the mind will continue to diminish. Whenever suffering arises, you will be able to work through it and readjust yourself, but you shouldn’t give up on this work or set it aside. You must keep up a continuity of effort and try to make your awareness fast enough to keep in touch with the changing mental conditions. It could be said that so far your development of the Path still lacks sufficient energy to overcome the mental defilements; whenever suffering arises, the mind becomes clouded over. But one must keep developing that knowledge and understanding of the clouded mind; this is what you reflect on.

“You must really take hold of it and repeatedly contemplate that this suffering and discontentment are just not sure things. They are something that is ultimately impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self. Focusing on these three characteristics, whenever these conditions of suffering arise again, you will know them straightaway, having experienced them before.

“Gradually, little by little, your practice should gain momentum, and as time passes, whatever sense objects and mental states arise will lose their value in this way. Your mind will know them for what they are and accordingly put them down. When you reach the point where you are able to know things and put them down with ease, they say that the Path has matured internally and you will have the ability to bear down swiftly upon the defilements. From then on there will just be the arising and passing away in this place, the same as waves striking the seashore. When a wave comes in and finally reaches the shoreline, it just disintegrates and vanishes; a new wave comes and it happens again, the wave going no further than the limit of the shoreline. In the same way, nothing will be able to go beyond the limits established by your own awareness.

“That’s the place where you will meet and come to understand impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self. It is there that things will vanish – the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self are the same as the seashore, and all sense objects and mental states that are experienced go in the same way as the waves. Happiness is uncertain; it’s arisen many times before. Suffering is uncertain; it’s arisen many times before. That’s the way they are. In your mind you will know that they are like that, they are ‘just that much’. The mind will experience these conditions in this way, and they will gradually keep losing their value and importance. This is talking about the characteristics of the mind, the way it is. It is the same for everybody, even the ancient masters were like this.

“If your practice of the Path matures, it will become automatic and it will no longer be dependent on anything external. When a defilement arises, you will immediately be aware of it and accordingly be able to counteract it. However, that stage when they say that the Path is still neither mature enough nor fast enough to overcome the defilements is something that everybody has to experience – it’s unavoidable. But it is at this point that you must use skilful reflection. Don’t go investigating elsewhere or trying to solve the problem at some other place. Cure it right there. Apply the cure at that place where things arise and pass away. Happiness arises and then passes away, doesn’t it? Suffering arises and then passes away, doesn’t it? You will continuously be able to see the process of arising and ceasing, and see that which is good and bad in the mind. These are phenomena that exist and are part of nature. Don’t cling tightly to them or create anything out of them at all.

“If you have this kind of awareness, then even though you will be coming into contact with things, there will not be any noise. In other words, you will see the arising and passing away of phenomena in a very natural and ordinary way. You will just see things arise and then cease. You will understand the process of arising and ceasing in the light of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.

“The nature of the teachings is like this. When you can see things as ‘just that much’, then they will remain as ‘just that much.’ There will be none of that clinging or holding on – as soon as you become aware of attachment, it will disappear. There will be just the arising and ceasing, and that is peaceful. That it’s peaceful is not because you don’t hear anything; there is hearing, but you understand the nature of it and don’t cling or hold on to anything. This is what is meant by peaceful – the mind is still experiencing sense objects, but it doesn’t follow or get caught up in them. A division is made between the mind, sense objects and the defilement; but if you understand the process of arising and ceasing, then there is nothing that can really arise from it – it will end just there.”


((Adapted from Recollections of Ajahn Chah))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:29 pm

((
Subject: Doodles and Things
wangxiuming wrote:The original World Arcana features four figures (an angel, an eagle, a bull and a lion) in the corners of the card; I couldn't figure out a way to incorporate them naturally, but as they were intended to represent (among other things) the four elements, I chose to represent the elements through the background:
- Sunlight pours down on Mi-Le from above, representing fire. The color of the leaves also suggest it.
- Waterfalls cascade in the distance, representing water.
- The cliffs and the world beneath Mi-Le's feat represent earth.
- The wind (as depicted in the bend of the trees and the leaves blowing past) represents air.
))
Image
The Four Elements

I began to commune with the spirits of nature when I was twelve years old. With the guidance of a hawk spirit named Sena, I learned how to request the power of the elements from a variety of spirits. In my travels, I often asked the spirits for earth to armor myself and others, frozen water to slow assailants, bursts of fire to free the undead from their suffering, and gusts of air to harmlessly incapacitate those who had violent intent.

I used the power of the spirits for about thirty years, the majority of my life. But a couple of years ago, I caught myself thinking of the power of the spirits as "my powers." It was then that I began to realize I had become attached to these powers. I began to see that there was a dependence on them.

Around that time, my master requested for me to return to his monastery. So, with the aid of the spirits, I returned to Shou Lung by plant travel. Some time after I returned, my master gave a talk. In part of this talk, he spoke about the elements:

  • “...What, monk, is the earth element? The earth element may be either internal or external. What is the internal earth element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to, that is, head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to: this is called the internal earth element. Now both the internal earth element and the external earth element are simply earth element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.

    “What, monk, is the water element? The water element may be either internal or external. What is the internal water element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is water, watery, and clung-to, that is, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spittle, snot, oil-of-the-joints, urine, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is water, watery, and clung-to: this is called the internal water element. Now both the internal water element and the external water element are simply water element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the water element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the water element.

    “What, monk, is the fire element? The fire element may be either internal or external. What is the internal fire element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, and clung-to, that is, that by which one is warmed, ages, and is consumed, and that by which what is eaten, drunk, consumed, and tasted gets completely digested, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, and clung-to: this is called the internal fire element. Now both the internal fire element and the external fire element are simply fire element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the fire element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the fire element.

    “What, monk, is the air element? The air element may be either internal or external. What is the internal air element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is air, airy, and clung-to, that is, up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the belly, winds in the bowels, winds that course through the limbs, in-breath and out-breath, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is air, airy, and clung-to: this is called the internal air element. Now both the internal air element and the external air element are simply air element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the air element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the air element....”
Shortly after this teaching, I bid farewell to my spirit guide and thus gave up the ability to ask the spirits for the power of the elements.

((Highlighted portion adapted from Majjhima Nikāya 140: Dhātuvibhanga Sutta: The Exposition of the Elements. Art: "Mi-Le, World" by wangxiuming.))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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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Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn » Sat Jul 28, 2018 6:48 pm

The present day - in the Fields of the Dead

The monk looks at the destroyed skeletons strewn around him and bows to them. "Go in peace," he says for what could be the thousandth time. For he has been in the Fields of the Dead for over a month now, destroying as many undead as he can. In each reanimated skeleton and ghost, the monk sees a trapped soul that must be allowed to pass on, an individual whose suffering he does not wish to ignore. It is for this reason that he chooses to spend most of his time fighting a seemingly endless wave of undead, rather than trying to cultivate the Old Order on the Sword Coast.

The monk knows he has not yet established a branch of the Old Order on the Sword Coast, but he feels no particular rush to do so. Such things require the right conditions, the right people. And although he has met some individuals who appreciate the Way, only two of them might have wished to formally ordain as monks in his tradition. Having not heard from either individual in quite some time, the monk knows the time is not right.

Seeing no more undead in sight, the monk decides to leave the fields for the first time in over a month. He makes his way to the city of Baldur's Gate, feeling that he should tend to the meditation hall. And perhaps he will write down a reflection that has crossed his mind recently.

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

Image
Calm and Insight Go Together

When the mind is peaceful and established firmly in mindfulness and self-awareness, there will be no doubt concerning the various phenomena which we encounter. The mind will truly be beyond the hindrances. We will clearly know everything which arises in the mind as it is. We do not doubt because the mind is clear and bright. The mind which reaches concentration and stillness (定) is like this.

Some people find it hard to enter concentration because they don’t have the right tendencies. There is concentration, but it’s not strong or firm. However, one can attain peace through the use of wisdom, through contemplating and seeing the truth of things, solving problems that way. This is using wisdom rather than the power of concentration. To attain calm in practice, it’s not necessary to be sitting in meditation. For instance, just ask yourself, ‘Eh, what is that?’ and solve your problem right there! A person with wisdom is like this. Perhaps he can’t really attain high levels of concentration, although there must be some concentration, just enough to cultivate wisdom. It’s like the difference between farming rice and farming corn. One can depend on rice more than corn for one’s livelihood. Our practice can be like this, we depend more on wisdom to solve problems. When we see the truth, peace arises.

The two ways are not the same. Some people have insight and are strong in wisdom but do not have much concentration. When they sit in meditation they aren’t very peaceful. They tend to think a lot, contemplating this and that, until eventually they contemplate happiness and suffering and see the truth of them. Some incline more towards this than concentration. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, enlightenment of the Way can take place. Through seeing, through relinquishing, they attain peace. They attain peace through knowing the truth, through going beyond doubt, because they have seen it for themselves.

Other people have only little wisdom but their concentration is very strong. They can enter very deep concentration quickly, but not having much wisdom, they can not catch their defilements; they don’t know them. They can’t solve their problems. But regardless of whichever approach we use, we must do away with wrong thinking, leaving only right view. We must get rid of confusion, leaving only peace. Either way we end up at the same place. There are these two sides to practice, but these two things, calm and insight, go together. We can’t do away with either of them. They must go together.

That which ‘looks over’ the various factors which arise in meditation is mindfulness, or niàn (念) in Shou. This mindfulness is a condition which, through practice, can help other factors to arise. Mindfulness is life. Whenever we don’t have mindfulness, when we are heedless, it’s as if we are dead. If we have no mindfulness, then our speech and actions have no meaning. Mindfulness is simply recollection. It’s a cause for the arising of self-awareness and wisdom. Whatever virtues we have cultivated are imperfect if lacking in mindfulness. Mindfulness is that which watches over us while standing, walking, sitting, and lying down. Even when we are no longer in concentration, mindfulness should be present throughout.

Whatever we do, we take care. A wholesome sense of moral shame will arise. We will feel ashamed about the things we do which aren’t correct. As this wholesome shame increases, our collectedness will increase as well. When collectedness increases, heedlessness will disappear. Even if we don’t sit in meditation, these factors will be present in the mind.

And this arises because of cultivating mindfulness. Develop mindfulness! This is the quality which looks over the work we are doing in the present. It has real value. We should know ourselves at all times. If we know ourselves like this, right will distinguish itself from wrong, the path will become clear, and the cause for all shame will dissolve. Wisdom will arise.

We can bring the practice all together as morality, concentration, and wisdom. To be collected, to be controlled, this is morality. The firm establishing of the mind within that control is concentration. Complete, overall knowledge within the activity in which we are engaged is wisdom. The practice in brief is just morality, concentration and wisdom, or in other words, the Path. There is no other way.


((Adapted from The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

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

Unread post by Arn » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:54 pm

((
  • "Although in theory, the Way is a truly
    neutral faith, in reality there are two alignments of
    Chung Tao priests - those of the Dark Way (using their
    powers for personal gain) and those of the Light Way
    (using their powers for the good of others)."
))
Image
Impermanence and Dispassion

As I have mentioned before, my sect of the Old Order learned much from the Guides of the Way in Shou Lung, but we belong to neither the White Way nor the Black Way. We believe that both sides go hand-in-hand with each other. The Way encompasses the teachings of both the White and the Black.

The teaching of impermanence is a good example of why we should not follow only the White Way or the Black Way. While the teaching of impermanence has its roots in the Old Order, it is complemented by the teachings of the Way. Not the White Way, not the Black Way, but the Way. If we only follow White or Black, we'll get an incomplete understanding of impermanence.

There are some who see impermanence as a call to selfishness. They believe that since all things come to an end, we might as well enjoy everything we can while we can. And since the lives of others are impermanent anyways, one can disregard the well-being of others. This attitude resonates with the Black Way, but it only encourages self-view and selfishness. The Black Way clings to personal gain and ignores the impermanence of personal gain.

Then there are are some who see impermanence as imbued with positive significance. They admit that clinging to what is impermanent brings suffering, but take this connection to mean, not that one should renounce the impermanent, but that one should learn to live in the world with an open mind and loving heart, capable of experiencing everything with awe and wonder. The practice of mindfulness thus leads through the door of impermanence and selflessness to a new affirmation and appreciation of the world, so that one can joyfully savor each fleeting event, each relationship, each undertaking in its wistful evanescence, unperturbed when it passes. This attitude, though it has some resonances with the White Way, is quite at odds with the lessons the Old Order learned from the death of our ancient nameless god.

My sect of the Old Order follows neither the White nor the Black approach to impermanence. In our teachings, the fact of impermanence is viewed as a sign of deficiency, a warning signal that the things we turn to for happiness are unworthy of our ultimate concern. As my teacher said:

  • "There will come a time, monks, when the name for this mountain will have disappeared, when these people will have died, and I will have attained final liberation. Conditioned things, monks, are impermanent, unstable, unreliable. It is enough, monks, to be disenchanted with all conditioned things, enough to become dispassionate toward them, enough to be liberated from them."
((Fourth and fifth paragraphs adapted from The Transformations of Mindfulness, by Bhikku Bodhi. Highlighted text adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 15.20.))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

Ghātikā

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

Unread post by Arn » Sun Oct 07, 2018 6:15 pm

((
  • ". . . The two sects are distin-
    guished by an identifying mark worn on the chest or
    sewn on the garments. This symbol, representing the
    concept of Yin and Yang, is a circle with one half black
    and one half white. Within the center of each area is a
    small dot of the opposing color, symbolizing that each
    half is partially composed of the other. Among Black
    Chung Tao, the black side is uppermost - among
    Whites, the white side is uppermost."
))
Yin and Yang, and the Impermanence of Conventions

About a tenday ago, Guide Alexandra of Candlekeep and I were discussing the concepts of Yin and Yang. I eventually told her, "I suppose I should mention, my monastery has distanced itself from both the Light and the Dark groups of the Way."


"What does that mean, exactly?" she asked.

"The Way doesn't believe in good or evil, ultimately," I explained. "But in practice, there are two schools of the Way in Shou Lung, where I come from. Those who follow the White Way, simply put, believe in maintaining a natural order of events. They do not believe in superiority, but rather enlightenment. Those who follow the Black Way are less shy about the use of power and control, and often wish to amass personal power and influence. The Black Way wears the Yin-Yang symbol with the black side on top - Yin. The White wears the symbol with white on top – Yang. They have been vying for influence over Shou Lung for quite a while. When the monks of my monastery first arrived in Shou Lung, we learned primarily from the Guides of the White Way. But in the division between White and Black, we saw echoes of how the Old Order fragmented after the death of our ancient god. In that division, we saw also a deviation from the actual teachings of the Way."


"Is it true that Yin is feminine while Yang is masculine?" the Guide asked.

"That is the convention," I said. "But I do not know if my monastery would subscribe to that convention. A woman once asked my teacher, 'Is it possible for a woman to be enlightened?' And he said,
'No, it is not possible for a woman to be enlightened.' And of course, she was quite vexed. And then he said, 'As long as you are attached to the idea of being a woman, it is not possible to be enlightened.'"

The same goes, of course, for the idea of being a man.


"How does one reconcile the physical body against the quest for enlightenment?" the Guide then asked.

"The body is like anything else. It comes into being dependent on certain conditions, exists in flux for some time dependent on certain conditions, and eventually ceases with the passing of conditions. Non-attachment doesn't mean rejecting conventions, exactly. It just means understanding their nature. And as you understand them more and more, you naturally grasp at them less and less. So this includes male and female, Yin and Yang, evil and good. This is what the Way truly means when it says there is no good and evil."

So when we cling to the conventions of Yin and Yang, evil and good, female and male, or even when we attach to the body, we're not paying attention to how unstable these things can be. Maybe I'll think, “I’m a man, so I have to be this way. She’s a woman, so she should act and look that way. I’m a monk, so I have to be tranquil and master myself. He’s a merchant, so he’s probably good with coin. I'm short or tall, fat or thin, and I feel a certain way about that.” But if we look closely, we can see that these things are just perceptions that we buy into. There's no need to attach to them as personal qualities or fixed positions to take at all times in all places.

  • “Monk, ‘I am’ is a conceiving; ‘I am this’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall not be’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be possessed of form’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be formless’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be non-percipient’ is a conceiving; ‘I shall be neither-percipient-nor-non-percipient’ is a conceiving. Conceiving is a disease, conceiving is a tumor, conceiving is a dart. By overcoming all conceiving, monk, one is called a sage at peace.”
If I mention orcs or goblins, many people might start conceiving ideas about savage killers or unthinking monsters. And those are just perceptions, right? Perceptions don’t always match up with reality. The world is ever-changing and full of unknown things. There are the ondonti, a race of orcs who worship Eldath, the goddess of peace. Sister Dove of Eldath knows one of these orcs, and it is possible to read about them in the great library of Candlekeep. I have met goblins in a desert far to the east who followed the Way and learned to abandon evil. A couple of years ago, I encountered a vampire who chose to destroy itself rather than continue suffering. And I once traveled with a seemingly tranquil monk who turned out to be an unrepentant killer.

So clinging to perceptions will never tell you the whole story. Perceptions are just a security blanket we use to comfort ourselves. We want to tell ourselves we know what’s going on, we want to feel like we’re in control, so we cling to our perceptions because that's more comfortable than stepping into the void of uncertainty, instability, and impermanence. But impermanence is the only sure thing in the world! It's only by cultivating the perception of impermanence that we can actually know what's going on.

  • “Just as, monks, in the autumn, when the sky is clear and cloudless, the sun, ascending in the sky, dispels all darkness from space as it shines and beams and radiates, so too, when the perception of impermanence is developed and cultivated, it eliminates all sensual lust, it eliminates all lust for existence, it eliminates all ignorance, it uproots all conceit ‘I am.’

    “And how, monks, is the perception of impermanence developed and cultivated so that it eliminates all sensual lust, eliminates all lust for existence, eliminates all ignorance, and uproots all conceit ‘I am’? ‘Such is form, such its origin, such its passing away; such is feeling, such its origin, such its passing away; such is perception, such its origin, such its passing away; such are volitional formations, such their origin, such their passing away; such is consciousness, such its origin, such its passing away’: that is how the perception of impermanence is developed and cultivated so that it eliminates all sensual lust, eliminates all lust for existence, eliminates all ignorance, and uproots all conceit ‘I am.’”
((First highlighted portion adapted from Majjhima Nikāya 140. Second highlighted portion adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 22.102.))
Last edited by Arn on Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:01 am, edited 3 times in total.
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

Ghātikā

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

Unread post by Arn » Fri Nov 16, 2018 12:12 am

Ches 1, 1354 DR – In the farmlands of Baldur’s Gate

“Master, did I act properly then, when I was defending my sisters?” Yan-Yin asked, referring to a time when she refused to kill some assailants.

“Yan-Yin, from what you tell me, I would have done nothing different.”

“Then-- why-- why did...” Her eyes unfocused and her lips quivered a moment as she struggled to maintain her composure, wondering why her monastery had expelled her.

“I cannot speak for another monastery,” Mi-Le said. “No doubt they have their reasons.”

“Everything was so horrible, Master. For months. Years. I --” She struggled to think of something plausible. When she spoke again, the hesitation in her voice showed that she was unsure of her rationale. “Perhaps the good that came of my actions was that I could come here and learn the true Way to liberation? And that the betrayal and years of unfocused despair were to my ultimate benefit?”

“We so often look for meaning in things, a reason or justification, something to make it all make sense. And just that desire, that yearning for meaning, is something we can notice. Maybe the meaning is there. Certainly, all things happen in dependence on causes and conditions. But just the desire for meaning can teach us.”

Yan-Yin’s eyes widened in surprise and she bowed her head. “You are wise, Master. I apologize, I have not maintained my composure today.”

“There is nothing to apologize for.” Mi-Le smiled. “I'm just pointing something out for you to notice.”

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

Image
Whatever One Conceives — That Is Otherwise

When something arises in your mind – no matter if it’s something you like or something you dislike, something you think is right or something you think is wrong – cut it right off by reminding yourself, “It’s changeful.” It doesn’t matter what it is, just chop right through it, “changeful, changeful.” Use this single axe to chop through mental states. Everything is subject to change. Where can you find anything real and solid? If you see this instability, then the value of everything decreases. Mental states are all worthless. Why would you want things of no value?

My teacher once explained this in detail:

  • “Monks, I will teach you the way that is suitable for uprooting all conceivings. Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.

    “And what, monks, is the way that is suitable for uprooting all conceivings? Here, monks, a monk does not conceive the eye, does not conceive in the eye, does not conceive from the eye, does not conceive, ‘The eye is mine.’ He does not conceive sights, does not conceive in sights, does not conceive from sights, does not conceive, ‘Sights are mine.’ He does not conceive eye-consciousness, does not conceive in eye-consciousness, does not conceive from eye-consciousness, does not conceive, ‘Eye-consciousness is mine.’ He does not conceive eye-contact, does not conceive in eye-contact, does not conceive from eye-contact, does not conceive, ‘Eye-contact is mine,’ and as to whatever feeling arises with eye-contact as condition— whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant— he does not conceive that, does not conceive in that, does not conceive from that, does not conceive, ‘That is mine.’ For, monks, whatever one conceives, whatever one conceives in, whatever one conceives from, whatever one conceives as ‘mine’— that is otherwise. The world, becoming otherwise, attached to becoming, seeks delight only in becoming.

    “He does not conceive the ear … sounds … ear-consciousness … ear-contact …

    “He does not conceive the nose … odours … nose-consciousness … nose-contact …

    “He does not conceive the tongue … tastes … tongue-consciousness … tongue-contact …

    “He does not conceive the body … touches … body-consciousness … body-contact …

    “He does not conceive the mind … mental phenomena … mind-consciousness … mind-contact … and as to whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition— whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant— he does not conceive that, does not conceive in that, does not conceive from that, does not conceive, ‘That is mine.’ For, monks, whatever one conceives, whatever one conceives in, whatever one conceives from, whatever one conceives as ‘mine’— that is otherwise. The world, becoming otherwise, attached to becoming, seeks delight only in becoming.

    “Whatever, monks, is the extent of the aggregates, the elements, and the sense bases, he does not conceive that, does not conceive in that, does not conceive from that, does not conceive, ‘That is mine.’

    “Since he does not conceive anything thus, he does not cling to anything in the world. Not clinging, he is not agitated. Being unagitated, he personally attains the Way. He understands: ‘Destroyed is becoming, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more for this state of being.’

    “This, monks, is the way that is suitable for uprooting all conceivings.”
((First portion of the journal adapted from Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah. Highlighted portion adapted from Saṃyutta Nikāya 35.31.))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

Ghātikā

User avatar
Arn
Posts: 734
Joined: Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:44 pm

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

Unread post by Arn » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:20 am

Image
This Unshakeable Deliverance of Mind

Recently, an elf named Cyrah asked about the benefits of following the Way, and whether it is all worth the effort. So I would like to discuss the end goal of the Way here, to the extent that it can be expressed in words. My teacher once said:

  • So this Holy Life, monks, does not have gain, honour and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration as its benefit, or knowledge and vision as its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood and its end.
What exactly is meant by the ‘unshakeable deliverance of mind’? My monastery teaches that four stages of inner liberation may be discerned. Once attained, they cannot be weakened or lost, and hence they may all be deemed ‘unshakeable’. In fact, the word ‘attainment’ here has to be used with some caution. Each stage of liberation is defined in terms of the irrevocable abandonment of ten specific mental fetters: a ‘deliverance’ from them. The changes that take place at each stage are thus experienced primarily in terms of endings rather than gains. The experience is referred to as ‘awakening’.

Those who attain the first stage of liberation are called 入流 (pronounced rùliú) in Shou. These beings have entered the stream flowing inexorably to liberation, and their full realization of the Way is only a matter of time. This first stage is said to be characterized by the eradication of the first three fetters: identity view, skeptical doubt, and clinging to rites and rituals.

Those who attain the second stage of liberation have greatly weakened two more fetters: sensual desire and ill-will.

Those who attain the third stage of liberation are completely free of the first five fetters: identity view, skeptical doubt, clinging to rites and rituals, sensual desire, and ill-ill. The last five fetters are only eradicated by one who has reached the final stage of liberation. These last five fetters are: lust for material existence, lust for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance.

Those who have reached the final and highest stage of deliverance are called 阿羅漢 (pronounced āluóhàn) in Shou. These fully enlightened beings have transcended even the subtlest expressions of greed, hatred and delusion. Their self-referring motivations are now entirely replaced by wisdom and compassion. All of the inner cravings and attachments that provide the fuel for becoming are no more.

Some people believe my late teacher, the previous abbot of my monastery, reached this highest stage. They also believe my meditation teacher, the current abbot, has also reached this stage. However, my meditation teacher always made a point of never speaking about it. On a rare occasion, he might refer to himself with the simple and down-to-earth phrase, ‘I have nothing’ – but, in general, he deflected all questions about his attainments.

His reticence over a matter of such huge significance to him is largely mandatory. The monastic code we follow restricts the extent to which a monk may speak about his own practice to anyone not yet fully ordained. The importance of the restrictions may be gathered by the fact that, irrespective of the audience, a monk who falsely claims spiritual attainments (unless through genuine over-estimation), must be immediately expelled from the order.

My meditation teacher taught that the right attitude to adopt towards the realization of the Way, whether one’s own or that of others, arose through the recollection of uncertainty. No experience whatsoever, however sublime, was to be grasped at. He cautioned his disciples about the ‘defilements of insight,’ in which identification with elevated states of mind developed through meditation led to erroneous beliefs in realization and a dangerous overestimation of one’s achievements:


“Their concentration is good, but there’s no insight, and so they see only one side of things … They mistake their faith for wisdom and are blind to their wrong thinking.”

He reminded his disciples that levels of liberation were not new enlightened identities and counselled them:

“Don’t be anything at all. Being something, anything at all, is suffering … Where is the Way? Right there in the impermanence, the unreliability of things! Take hold of that to begin with.”

My meditation teacher’s avoidance of the topic of his own experience was matched by his more general reticence on the topic of liberation itself. In this, he followed the previous abbot, who typically focused on the obstacles to realization and the methods needed to deal with them, and left aspirants to discover for themselves what remained once those obstacles had been overcome. There is only so much about a reality beyond language that can be captured in words. While teachings about that reality might be inspiring, they can become obstacles on the path. A fixed idea of liberation can easily lead to anticipation, craving, and identification with subtle mental states that could hinder the liberation from them.

((Adapted from Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah and Majjhima Nikāya 29.))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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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Arn
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Re: Mi-Le: Reflections on the Way ((IC in BG and CK))

Unread post by Arn » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:19 am

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Plain Rice

Even if your mind finds no peace, merely sitting cross-legged and putting forth effort is already a fine thing. This is the truth. You could compare it to being hungry and having nothing to eat except plain rice. You’ve got nothing to eat with the rice, and you feel upset. What I’m saying is, it’s good that you’ve got rice to eat. Plain rice is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? If plain rice is all you’ve got, then eat it up. Practice is the same: even if you experience only a very small amount of calm, it’s still a good thing.


((From Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah.))
Mi-Le (弥勒) - "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]


Wendi - Haggling, wands, alchemy
-Cleric of Shaundakul
-[Bio]


Meredith Olma - Divine Elixirs

Ghātikā

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