2021-03-03 Mindfulness of Breathing (44) Investigation Factor of Awakening
4:29PM Mar 3, 2021
Let me say a few things here about the investigation factor of awakening; it's usually called investigation. I will say that it's probably not the best translation, but it's a pretty good one overall as an overarching generalization, because it involves exploration and discovery, a deeper discernment of what our experience is. This process of exploration is, in English, often called investigation.
Investigation, if it means a kind of a deeper probing and searching, is not what we're what is referred to when we are doing vipassanā practice, but rather, it's a state of openness and receptivity, to allow the experience to show itself fully to us. For me, it's represented by the question: "What? What, is happening here? What is it?" – but we never look for an answer. Rather, the 'what' prompts clear looking, clear discovery, a silent sensing, feeling, looking, or perceiving of what is here.
In doing so, we're beginning to enact or tap into our capacity for freedom. It's so easy to be caught and entangled by our experiences, thoughts and feelings around what's happening in the world. There are so many ways we get entangled and attached; we get reactive to how things are. And when there's reactivity, this is not freedom.
To respond, with choice and wisdom, can be an enactment of our freedom, but to react is not. So if we're always reacting and being pulled around and hijacked by our thoughts, or feel like a victim of experience, then we haven't discovered freedom. One of the ways freedom can begin is in acts of mindfulness, to be mindful of what's here. Also, acts of mindfulness can grow to be a slightly stronger form of freedom, which is investigation – to see and discover what 'is' here.
The kind of core investigation that's part of vipassanā practice is what Ines talked about yesterday, "dhamma vicaya." 'Vicaya' comes from the prefix 'vi' and then the root word 'caya'. And 'caya' means to heap up, to accumulate – and 'vi' means to separate.
Human beings have an amazing and very important capacity to generalize, to lump things together, and hold concepts of things all together. This is useful, but also it can limit our ability to see clearly what's here, to discern and distinguish the details of our experience.
If I say that I had a difficult morning with the technology – that's a generalization. But what specifically was the experience like: of being here with the technology for this morning? Some of it was quite delightful, enjoyable and inspiring to see the people in the retreat, and on YouTube, with the chats for example. Some of it was quite nice: to be exploring the Dharma as I spoke. It was nice to sit and meditate when there was some quiet time.
Then there was the issue with the technology. There are so many different devices and things here that I got confused about which battery charger was supposed to be at home, and which was supposed to be here? Then it suddenly went dark (my laptop) and it wasn't actually an unpleasant experience at all. It was just what it was. And suddenly this was there, and there was an issue to look into.
Probably the most unpleasant part of it all was needing to ask my wife for some help when she's busy at home, and also wondering how I was going to get back and have everything running in time for the zoom people. And then the awkwardness of realizing that some of you on YouTube could here what I was saying. What impact did that have on people meditating?
That was all very particular. As I distinguished all the different parts of it, I wouldn't say it was a challenging morning here. It had its unique challenges, its own particular things. But I didn't lump it all together as a lousy morning with technology. It was all these little... if I wrote out the details, the distinctions of moment-to-moment what was happening, there were challenging and not challenging parts. There were pleasant parts and maybe some parts that were not so pleasant.
This ability to bring in distinguishing, and to not lump. If you know the distinction between lumpers and splitters, Buddhism thrives on being splitters – on really seeing more and more carefully, "What's really happening here? What are the details?" – rather than generalizing about things.
So the idea of this ability, this clarity of mind, that gets cultivated through mindfulness, when the mind gets clearer and clearer. The particularities of details are experienced as unique little component parts of experience begin revealing themselves more and more. Where that becomes particularly important, is when the capacity to distinguish, to see that particularities, the details of what goes on, occurs together with wisdom, the wisdom factor.
There are many things that are considered wisdom, or the factor of wisdom, in this practice we do, but one of the core aspects is being able to make the distinction between what is helpful and what is not – the distinction between what is wholesome and what is not; what is healthy and what is not. Or the distinction between what has an 'Ouch' in it, or an "Ahh, this is good." Or the distinction between where freedom is or where freedom is not.
That distinction is what wisdom is capable of discerning. Mindfulness puts us near clarity that we see things as they are, clearly, and wisdom sees what is useful and what is not. That distinction is where we discover the path, and where the choices can be. It is a simple distinction between being entangled in experience and being free when we investigate it.
With wisdom, we see actually, it's better to be free than entangled. And so to the degree with which we have the capacity, we put effort and energy into going in the direction of freedom, and in this case, investigate, discern or see more clearly what the experience is.
It is said that the investigation factor of awakening, that clarity of mind that can really see the details of experience, not lumping the generalization of what it is – that ability then inspires the effort factor of awakening, the energy, because we see, "Oh, this is the direction to go. This is where freedom, peace, and the lack of stress and suffering is found." And it's inspiring to make that choice and go in that direction. To go in that direction is another manifestation of our capacity for inner freedom.
As we walk this path, we keep discovering more and more ways in which we can manifest or enact our freedom. Until, at some point, freedom becomes a state that we live in, as opposed to something we find in the details around how we live and the choices we make in our lives.
Mindfulness leads to the capacity to see clearly, which is called discernment, making distinctions, investigation. And that in itself is a prompt or a catalyst for the effort factor in practice – so that the effort factor of awakening can be born and come to fulfillment.
And that will be the topic for the next retreat and for the YouTube tomorrow morning. I think hopefully this little technology issue today wasn't too much of an interruption at all, and it all worked well enough for everyone. So thank you very much, and we'll continue.