2022-01-03 Waht is the Dharma? (2 of 5) Dharma as Action
7:46PM Jan 3, 2023
So today I'll continue this theme about what is the dharma. dharma is a powerful word in Buddhism. And it has many meanings. But when I studied these teachings of the Buddha, I see that one of the primary ways in which is used as a reference what it refers to. Not maybe what it means literally, but what it refers to is action, things or something dynamic. It doesn't refer to things that are static, especially when the word dharma is used in the plural. And the singular, sometimes it means teaching. And the Buddha's teachings, for example, but in the plural, when he first had dharma, it's often refers to action. Something that's active and dynamic. And, and this goes along with what I talked yesterday that one of the meanings of dharma, or what it refers to, is the relatedness of all things, that things exist in relationship to other things that come about in relationship to other things. And this relatedness has to is only related because there's a dynamic relationship between them. There are some ways in which the functioning of one thing impacts and affects the other thing that goes on. And so things are live in relationship to each other, because they're dynamic, they're more activities than they are things. There's more verbs than there are nouns. And how Buddhism kind of focuses focus on the dharma. And so one of the clear places that I'm inspired to see this is the Buddha, near the end of his life, talked about, gave the instructions to take the dharma as your refuge, as your only refuge as your island as your support as your refuge. And then he went on to say, Take yourself as your refuge as your only refuge. And saying the same thing to this, saying these right next to each other, one after the other. Take the dharma, the refuge and take yourself as a refuge, a refuge kind of implies a kind of a equivalence between those, they're kind of like referring to the same thing, seemingly, especially when he says, and no other refuge. Well then the only works if the two are the same dharma and yourself. And how could that be? Well, then he goes on to say, and how do we do this? By practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness by practicing mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of feelings, mindfulness of mind states, mindfulness of, of dharma has here the fourth foundation of mindfulness. And this fourth foundation of mindfulness is referred to as dharma is this referring all to things which are dynamic, that are active, many of them are mental actions, mental activities, we're doing the hindrances for example. And, and those are all actions of the mind, activities of the mind. The seven factors of awakening, things like mindfulness and investigation of dharmas, effort and joy and tranquility, concentration, equanimity, these are all functionings of the mind. So they're not dynamic. And generally when dharma is refers to activity, it generally refers to a healthy good activities, good conduct, whether it's things we actually do conduct that we engage in, or whether it's the activities of the mind that we wouldn't necessarily call them actions if actions are limited to a person who does something. But there's the functionings of the mind. And, and so when there's emphasis on all things are changing in constant impermanent. You see that yes, of course, that's what we're pointing to when we're pointing to the inconstancy of things. Not that they necessarily come to an end, which certainly part of it, but that as they are, they're dynamic, appearing and disappearing, kind of like waves that come and go and come and go There's these activities that are not fixed and not static, we're not stuck. And so this idea that dharma has in the teachings of the Buddha repeatedly refers to something which is dynamic and active. And, and inactivity is actually kind of the Good News of Buddhism. Because it means that when nothing is frozen in place, it's kind of like, there's no hardware operating here. It's all software. And we can change the software. Let's conditions can change the choices we make and change. And, and so because it's all, you know, in relatedness, all the actions we do relate to each other certain kinds of activities that are unwholesome, unhealthy, they, the way that they relate to what follows is unhealthy. greed and hatred has a negative impact. generosity and love has a very different impact. Mindfulness is an activity of the mind, even though it might feel sometimes just being aware is like mostly a nod to doing and it feels like so restful not to do just to be aware, if we're resting in awareness, even So awareness is a firing of certain nerves in the brain, that is a certain activity that's going on. But it's not something that the self feels like it's doing. And it's such a relief to feel like something's beautiful thing is flowing. But that we're not, we're not the one who's doing it. So the so so but when we do mindfulness, what we're doing is bringing in conditions that allows things to subtle, bringing the conditions allow us to see clearly what's happening. Bring in conditions that allows us differentiate between the different kinds of mental activities that are going on, so that we do the ones that are healthiest for us, the ones that are right effort, best from teachings from last week. In other place, we see this Buddha emphasizing this idea of dharma being activities, is in this teachings of seven factors of awakening. There's a teaching called there's one, the second one is usually called an English investigation. But the the ancient word has the word dhamma dharma in it, and it's the dhamma B Chaya V Chaya means to distinguish or differentiate. It's the differentiation of Damas. When the Buddha explains what it's differentiating, it's a mental activities, the seven factors of awakening again, the eightfold path, the Four Noble Truths, the the five faculties, the four right efforts, that the mind has ability to distinguish between what is healthy and not healthy, as activities of the mind as what's wholesome and not wholesome. And this is the ability to see clearly in the mind, the activities of the mind, what's happening in the mind is part of the gift of being very settled and present and quiet, almost like we're not doing anything. And then we start seeing much more clearly what's happening there. The activities, oh, my mind's going down the lot going down that old. Well, Doug canal of wanting, though desiring, and I've seen that, that doesn't take me in a good direction. I don't have to do that anymore. I could take the vitality of my mental energy of awareness, and let it let it flow someplace else, recognize what's happening and not get caught in it. I could focus on something else instead, I can focus on contentment, that feels healthy when I do contentment that I settle more. So there's this gentle kind of action that goes on in this practice. Which, you know, I refer back to last week, right effort, right effort is an action and we're learning how to act how to do so it borders on or some people would see it as almost like a not doing. It's so peaceful. It's so relaxed, it's so flowing. Maybe it's like flowing water we don't see that's flowing because it's so clear. There is an activity than onward leading a flow to what's away. Getting through this practice. So the dharma meaning activity, dynamism, action.
It means engaging. And so this is a also kind of a paradigm shift for some people. Just like focusing on relatedness is a paradigm shift, as opposed to post focusing on me and you focusing on the relationships. So the same way, rather than focusing on nouns, when things are fixed, this is how it is, I'll always be this way. It'll always be this way, the situation will always be this way is to start being attuned to where the activity is, where the flow is, where the dynamism is, where the change and is happening, it's always happening anyway. And so to be attuned to that, to surf with it, to flow in it, to participate in it. And if we're flowing in a river, and the current is taking us against dangerous rapids, then we learn how to swim over to the other side of the river where the water is peaceful, flowing peacefully. We learn the terrain, we learn the route, we learn how to use the flow of change, but it's always changing. So what I'd suggest that you do today is if you're interested in an assignment is to become little bit more, or quite a bit if you can aware of how you freeze how you stop, in the river of change river of time, how you get preoccupied by things are fixated. Flowing doesn't mean you can don't have to focus on certain things. But then we focus on them with a flow with the mind itself shifting and changing and flowing, the mind doesn't freeze, the mind doesn't get caught, but is involved in a flowing gentle way. Where we are like goodness, we were like clouds on water, the Japanese word that flows with, with the flow of life flow of time, that flows with the movements and activities of the mind, choosing what's heavenly. So the dhamma, the dharma, very important, is not the literal meaning. It's often what's being pointed to. It's pointing to action to activity to dynamism. And, and that's where it's in dynamism and activity and action, that the dharma has found more than assuming that it's only in stillness, only in peace or quiet or some fixed state, nothing fixed, always changing, always flowing. So I hope you can see the difference between being stopped stuck and gentle flowing along with all things even if you're sitting quietly still in meditation, and your body's not moving, everything is still flowing. So thank you very much, and we'll continue this tomorrow.