2022-01-02 Centering on the Four Noble Truths
6:49PM Jan 2, 2022
So, again, hello everyone and welcome to the first Sunday morning. Talk for 2022. And maybe it's a bit silly the pun and maybe you've heard it that when we say 2022, we could, could just as well be saying t w o s, t o. And maybe there's some idea that in this year, maybe it's a little bit like Groundhogs Day, maybe we have an our second chance to live 2020 over again, maybe with the COVID raging, surging, just as we speaking now, around the world. It's a time to reflect little bit about the world that we live in, and the world that we can care in the world that we can contribute in and make a better place. And maybe there's a way we, which we live 2020, maybe waiting for an end to all the problems of our life. And now we get to do it again. But maybe now with greater realism and greater, maybe a sense of agency or choice or engagement. And not just be the passive recipient of life and waiting for someone else to make the world better for us. But to each of us to contribute to that. And so the topic for today is the Four Noble Truths. And for many years now, maybe since we started here that IMC on for the first talks of the year had been on the Four Noble Truths. And this talk today actually marks the 20th year of being here at IMC in Redwood City. It was purpose first Sunday in January of 22,002 that we started here.
And the Four Noble Truths are partly a call to engage in our life in a serious way as if our life matters as if we're important and that it's valuable and worthy to really experienced and see deeply into these four insights called the Four Noble Truths for our own sake and for the sake of the world. That it's so important that some people in the world really get to the bottom of their suffering really see through it penetrate it. Understand that deeply. And the Four Noble Truths are expressions of that deep insight into suffering. And there's many ways in which these four noble truths have been expressed, interpreted, adapted. And that's part of the richness of these four simple statements is that they can be understood applied in so many rich and important ways. And so to kind of have a sense of these four and begin working them and understanding them and but not just for any old purpose, but rather for the purpose of bringing suffering to an end. So these four noble truths, the simplest way of stating them is that there's the noble truth of suffering.
There's a noble truth of the arising of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, and the noble truth of the way the practice leads to the cessation of suffering. And then it's expressed in various ways, but the what this means, but one of the meanings of common meanings for the second noble truth is that craving is the arising that suffering arises with craving. And with clinging, and the tremendous value of no longer craving, no longer clinging to anything. And it can be a frightening goal. Because some people cling, because they're, they really value and hold on tight to what they think is important. They cling to people into beliefs and to self. And they feel like well, if I'm not clinging, then I'll lose that connection. But the paradox of it is that the more we cling, the more Libin Limited is our connection to others, the more limited is our understanding perception of ourselves and the world around us clinging dramatically limits our, our, our connection to the world, the more we let go of clinging, the deeper and fuller is our possibility for relatedness possibility for knowing and understanding ourselves understanding others, and for the full flow of the warm social, social emotions that we can have between people. And why it's not so possible when there's a lot of clinging is that when we cling and crave, we're usually clinging to our idea of a thing we're clinging to the concept, we have the values, the hopes, the fears, the desires we have around it.
And that's a very limited area of what of the world. And it's very limited, it limits our capacity to perceive and see the world fully. So it might seem that in letting go of clinging, we might be letting go of others. But actually, we're letting go of that which limits our connectivity, and limits our ability to see and relate in a rich full way to this world that we live in. And so, part of the Four Noble Truths is really taking time to stop and look at suffering, being willing to suffer. Not for the sake of suffering, by any means. But be willing to stop and take an honest look, not run away escape, try to fix to easily try to condemn blame, but really stop and be present for this experience that Buddhist called suffering. Kind of a big word, some people to turn off this word. The mind goes kind of numb to hearing the word too often.
But all the different ways of stress, distress, despair, sadness, discouragement, you can go on the list as much as you wish. But all the ways in which we, we get this heavy or contracted or it's uncomfortable for us to be in our own skin. This world of kind of how difficult the world is not difficult to find our way in this world. All those difficulties that are based on the fact that we're clinging to something and craving to something. Craving is the arising of suffering, craving is a rot the rising of stress, anguish, distress. So we stopped for suffering and we stopped but then also to begin trying to understand our craving, clinging the attachments we have. And then we've heard to stop and look for looking to find our way to that place where there is no craving, no clinging, to value or to appreciate it to bring it to light so that it's more a part of our life. And then the eightfold path. The path of practices that brings all this to light brings light and clarity to this Tuesday life they live life we're living. So the Four Noble Truths. They're Central, in a sense to the practice of mindfulness. The Buddhist classic teachings on mindfulness, the four foundations for awareness for mindfulness is begin ends with the Four Noble Truths suffering, the arising the cessation and the path. And so it's nice to think of adness not well, it's this a wonderful for formula which is useful and applicable for beginners to people practice a little while for a long time. It's also the deepest capacity to be transformed by these four noble truths is really the end of the path is really the comes along. It's the last kind of insight of the of this whole trajectory path that deepens and matures, called The Four Foundations for mindfulness.
And it all begins with the Buddha's instructions to find a quiet place a little bit of a A Place removed from your everyday life. And he said he meant something meant it literally. But we can also understand it metaphorically for those who can't do this, sit cross legged, with a body erect, sit upright, and then something, something very dignified about the upright posture. And that the if we can't do that posture, whatever posture we in, to assume it in a dignified way, as if we're allowed to be here, if we're worthy, and, and valued people, there's nothing about being self diminished, that exists in the Buddhist teachings. We want to let go of selfishness, but not in a way that diminishes us. But actually in a way that in a sense, enhances us brings dignity, nobility, to this being. So he begins the instructions on the four foundations of mindfulness with going to a place stepping away from our ordinary life. And sitting cross legged, sitting in a stable way, and sitting erect. And then establishing awareness. Establishing awareness means to be centered in awareness in our capacity to be present, for our lived experience, what's happening in the moment here and now. And then, as we do so, that we go through a deepening connection to ourselves. And these four foundations for mindfulness involve a deepening connection first, being centered in our body, being connected to our breathing in a deep way, be connected to our activities of our body. In everyday life, as we go about our life, to be grounded and connected to our body, as we do things not to be ahead of ourselves, be centered here, be aware of what we're doing, and we do it to be be centered in the basic inner experience physical experiences, that evolved with the body. And, and as we get more centered in the body, to become and more centered in the subjective feelings that come in the present moment as we go through our lives. So there's a connectivity to our subjective feelings of pleasant and unpleasant, neither pleasant or unpleasant, a phenomenal, rich world that sometimes is not under appreciated just by hearing the words pleasant and unpleasant.
But there's that just kind of like the the quality or quality of all the subjective experiences that we have, that come alive as we're more and more present. As his subjective feelings become more centered in it, then we come closer into something more deep inside, and which is the mind, the state of the mind, the state of quality of our being quality of our inner life. And we become the custodian of that quality, we'd be started becoming aware of how, when there's when there is greed or hatred, how it diminishes the quality of our inner life, and how when there's non greed, non hatred, the quality of our inner life becomes better. And as we get more familiar with this quality of inner life, we there's, as we get more and more centered over time, there's feelings that the mind becomes more luminous, more expansive, more light, more open, more harmonized, more unified, less fragmented. And it's a wonderful thing to begin to feel that way as we get more and more centered here, that so much more of who we are becomes available, including these wonderful states of mind that can open up when we're not distracted, caught up in our preoccupations, our fears, and all these things. Not to diminish, diminish, diminish the importance of attending to those. But we don't want to be limited by those. Rather, we want to be awake.
And then and then become as we get closer and closer, we started more centered here. This is why I'm going through this list of the four foundations of mindfulness. It's a movement to find ourselves centered, really deeply, not just in our location, but in ourselves. And in this kind of deep center that lets us become aware of the deeper processes, mental processes, psychological processes that really lay kind of closer to the center of our experience of who we are, what this life is like for us and become more acutely aware of ways in which we have the hindrances operating the ways in which we obscure our experience through desire and aversion.
To become aware of how we get knotted up in our experiences, we get caught up in them and get knotted. And to be aware of how we identify strongly with experience in a way that also limits how we experience our life by strong identification strong making them into me, myself and mine. And as we kind of get more and more centered, and stop doing these knotted up ness and vacations and less of these hindrances, start becoming aware of beautiful qualities of mind the seven factors of awakening, mindfulness, investigation, wonderful engagement with with our experience, kind of energy or effort, joy, tranquility, concentration, a kind of a unification of the mind, and then the seventh, and then equanimity. So all this process is a process of centering, in beginning to kind of put down or relax the forces of click of clinging and contraction of craving enough. So we can be very still very quiet. To be really begin observing the inconstancy of the present moment how things change the changing nature, things come and they go, experiences are constantly shifting and moving.
And to be so centered, it's kind of like a paradox, again, to be so centered and kind of kind of like an A Stillpoint. An unmoving mind, that allows to see everything else moving. In the deepest stages, even seeing everything, there's nothing which is not moving, no mind that's not still, or a mind that is still even, but there's a such a deep stillness, that, that she everything had coming and going. And then to see the Four Noble Truths, at that point, to see it the very different way than take it as a textbook. Belief for principles that we memorize and learn, but to see so clearly, that when there is stress, when there is distress, when there is suffering, it comes with some kind of clinging, of craving, of grasping something we're doing. That is not really needed. And to see the arising of that craving, to not have to struggle with it, or questioning it, or, or, or try to work with it, but be so kind of aware to just see, oh, there's craving arising, and craving passes.
There's a rhythm to everything coming and going. And if we get out of the way, by not clinging to things, we start seeing that rhythms, even craving has arrived, the rhythm, it comes and goes, it comes and goes, we can see it coming. And the more we can see it coming, the more we can see it going. And we see the cessation of it, the ending of it before it comes again. And then in that space, between the ending of it and the next arising. We can some point we'll see that there's freedom here. There's peace here. It's not our suffering is not a fixed thing. Suffering has a rhythm it comes it's there for a little while it passes it goes. And, and and now I know there is a possibility not living with this suffering, to foresee the rhythm slowing down, starting discovered greater gaps in it. Times when the cessation of it lasts for longer periods of time longer and longer time. And then knowing that you have a practice that allows for that this whole kind of deepening and opening and lengthening over freedom in our peace is the Eightfold Path, living a life of non clinging living a life of non harming, living a life of freedom. So, be to be dedicated this life not just to be dedicated to having an insight of the Four Noble Truths, but living a life that follows that insight. And classically the Eightfold Path is, is follows in the wake of seeing the Deep inconstancy, and impermanent nature of craving, craving comes and goes.
And seeing the value of not craving of not clinging, of not harming, and, and then wanting to debt being dedicated to a life that expresses that and lives that a life of non clinging and life of non harming, which is what the eightfold path is. And as we live that life in the fullness of our life, and all the different areas of our life, that creates the conditions where this whole process can go deeper and deeper, the process of centering ourselves. Going into the layers of the body, the feelings, the mind states, to the deeper processes within, to discover new dimensions, new layers and levels of the ending of suffering, and new dimensions of seeing the functioning of the eighth of the Four Noble Truths. And one of the byproducts of all this is to have a great love. And a great dedication, a great valuing of the practice of mindfulness, the practice of waking up, and how mindfulness itself can be an expression of non clinging and non harming. And that's not automatic.
When people begin practicing mindfulness, they tend to bring a lot of baggage with them a lot of unconscious associations about being a doer about the expectation, about accomplishment, it's about trying to get away from something, fixing something. If there can be greed, involved in practicing mindfulness that can be hostility involved in practicing mindfulness, all these things. It's okay as beginners are to have that happen, of course. But as practice deepens, and deepens, and we really see the nature of the four noble truths in some clear enough way, we discover that there is a way of being mindful that that is a manifestation or is an expression or of non clinging, non grasping, non clinging, craving, non hostility, that there's a way of being mindful, that is an expression that really is an expression of our freedom. And what could be better than to live a life that's free to live in, where there's such a central thing as our awareness, the awareness that we bring with us everywhere where they were conscious of it or not, the awareness that through which we know this whole world and know ourselves, the medium of the bridge, the medium through which everything is known, everything is, every contact we have with others with their world, happens through the filter or the medium of being aware, to have that medium, be one that's peaceful, calm, to have that medium be a medium, which contains no tendency to harm, no tendency to cling, just aware, open present.
And then from that simple mindfulness, seeing more and more clearly suffering. How suffering arises with craving, and how with the cessation of craving, there's a cessation of that suffering. And yes, there's a way of living a life that comes from the cessation and that way of living the life is expressed in the eight Noble Eightfold Path. Initially the eightfold path or practice as people do, but as this whole process of centering and being free, become stronger. The eightfold path is not something you have to adopt, not something you have to practice. But rather, it's a description of how you will live. If you live without clinging. If you live harmlessly in this world, the naturally you'll live this way. So four noble truths, many different ways of applying it understanding it, many different interpretations for it.
You've probably heard me give this interpretations and other teachers do different ones. They're all part of this wonderful rich way in which we're exploring, investigating, renewing the value of a life of freedom, finding a life of freedom in this world of ours. And it's definitely worthwhile to spend a year this year, frequently revisiting the Four Noble Truths and learning how to beat centered in that investigation. The more center the more present you can be. The richer is the opening that the Four Noble Truths provide. So I hope that this teachings that we do here at IMC for this coming year, are supportive for you, I hope that there'll be more opportunities for us to come in here to meet in community and and be connected to each other and richer and more valuable ways. And and I hope that your own practice benefits you and benefits the world.
So thank you for being part of all this and being part of this community and listening and, and I value it very much. Thank you all.