This is the second day of this January 2024 Rohatsu seven day sesshin and I'll continue again today reading from a book called Teachings of a Buddhist Monk by Ajahn Sumedho.
Right. Last chapter we read from was let go of fire. And this chapter is entitled tools to use. And he says, There are two basic practices of Buddhist meditation. The first one is the way of developing concentration and tranquilizing the mind and the second way, second one is the way of developing insight. So the classic divisions in Tera Vaada Buddhism schemata and Vipassana if I've got that right.
constant concentration and tranquilizing the mind interesting word tranquil isation.
To me, it kind of as a reflection of tranquilizers, but really we're referring to calming the mind and it recognizes that our mind is in upheaval most of the time we're grabbing at things running from things squirming impatient
second one is the way of developing insight
say this is corresponds to seeing into our real nature. Inside can be intellectual, can be understanding, how we work, seeing clearly what the consequences are of the way we think and do. And it can be recognizing our innate wisdom it can be coming to awakening to or not unrelated.
So he says through watching the breath, the mind clears and one becomes absorbed into the sensation of breathing. Sounds really simple, doesn't it? Then the mind is tranquil and clear. This is the first practice and is a very good thing to develop. initially of course, we may find it difficult or we may even find we have an aversion towards it. But through practice, we can become skillful. requires practice requires repetition
requires faith in ourself.
Understanding that things change and they can change for the better, isn't always changed for the worse. Through practice, we can become skillful. The second practice insight meditation is simple, but those of us who are impatient do not always find it. So we may have ideas of what should be happening and try to make it happen. We may get deluded by our doubts, not knowing what to do next. We may feel bored and restless. We may get caught in changing phenomena. All these problems come into the dockside room many people have difficulty when they make the transition from working on a simple breath practice to taking up a CO on how do we how do we develop interest how do we develop the doubt sensation most important thing is to transition from us mindset where we're trying to accomplish something we're trying to achieve and effect to a mindset of open interest in what's right there now requires faith we have to believe that something something that's not even a thing is there worthy of our attention have to develop interest
and then eventually that can become a real sense of wonder a sense of doubt. What is it can almost tasted what is it
yeah, nice says we may have ideas of what should be happening and try to make it happen, we may get diluted by our doubts, not knowing what to do next, we may feel bored and restless, we may get caught in changing phenomena. We find ourselves getting caught in this way we should stop, detach from it, observe and investigate. Great feelings are sometimes very hard to detach from so much energy aroused, and the body has a strong reaction. So, we should observe the body. Very often, the tension of wanting to get somewhere manifests in tension in the chest. Other parts of the body where we're trying too hard the wrong way.
We have to be skillful. Sometimes we need to knuckle down, grit our teeth, fight through something but most of the time what we need to do is to relax the body.
Vivid awareness comes more easily when the body is relaxed. Mind is open. interested? Patient
John semedo says what does the body feel like? The sensations in the heart in the stomach, in the abdomen, we should bring our attention to the body itself. Reflecting on his nature, the body is changing. It was born and it will die. This is the characteristic of all phenomena, mental or physical, thought, memory, consciousness. all have the same characteristic of beginning and ending, being born and dying. The body is the coarsest thing we have seems to be our most solid and permanent possession.
Thoughts they're always changing and sound. How can you keep a sound? Is there such a thing as a permanent sound or a permanent odor that we can say is really ours. pain, physical pain sometimes seems like an eternity, but it is not. Pleasure of course goes much too quickly. We would like it to stay longer. Fear worry, remorse, guilt, mental dullness, torpor, sleepiness, happiness. All these things change. No permanency is found in any of them. The body seemingly is the most stable of them all. But it too changes. Any form of suffering has a feeling of eternity about it. Anything that is painful, despair, anguish, sorrow, these all seem as though they will go on forever but forever is impermanent, it is a concept an hour of pleasure is like five minutes, five minutes of pain is like an hour. Time is relative we think of time as 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, something objective and scientific but mentally it is a very emotional kind of thing
what is it that makes an hour of pleasure like five minutes and five minutes of pain like an hour it's probably the number of times that the thought arises when is this going to end
that separation from the experience makes it lasts forever. There is that which is beautiful, lovely to the eye to the year, beautiful fragrance fragrances tastes, pleasurable sensations to the body beautiful thoughts, fascinating, romantic, lovely, altruistic. Then there is the reverse of all that the ugly, the unharmonious, the stinking the unpleasant, pain, hunger, thirst, unpleasant thoughts and memories. We should observe these note their nature note their characteristics, whether pleasant or unpleasant, lovely, or hideous. Whatever they are like, they all have the characteristic of change in permanency. Unless we are terribly wise to begin with, we do not notice this. Buddha pointed it out to his disciples. Look and see for yourselves. Can you find anything permanent investigate, look into things be the one who observes was aware. Don't be the blind one. The one who just follows his habits whines up like a mechanical toy and then runs down? How many times do we do the same unskillful thing. Same vein effort to get some effect to seeing in Alcoholics Anonymous. You keep walking into the same wall, turn left or turn right. He did do something differently. Many people just want to put their head down and keep spinning their wheels. There is a place for some reflection. What do I need to do to really get engaged here? What do I need to do to accept the things I cannot change?
said yesterday one of the essential characteristics of sesshin is it's painful. We all run into difficulties. There's so much value in that degree of difficulty is directly related to degree of resistance.
We need to see that we need to see the causal link. We need to see our hardening ourselves and what follows from that.
He goes on as human beings we have the ability to reflect we do not have to be mechanical. There is no need for us to be the victims of habit. But we shall be if we do not bring awareness to our lives. If we do not investigate, inquire, look directly into the present moment. Who am I? Why was I born?
Who am I of course. It's a fundamental question. What is this? What is it? Any of the breakthrough koans investigating the direct experience of our life
he says these are the unanswerable questions we ask ourselves what happens when I die? Human beings can ask these questions can reflect and can observe. Wisdom is within each of us is not something that is far away, or something that we have to get hold of or accumulate. There is not one of us lacking in with imperfect wisdom. As human beings, we have the misfortune, of habitually identifying with changing phenomena as me or mine. This body is me, it's my body. And we spend a lot of time identifying with it, and trying to preserve it. Somebody insults it, we feel offended. Somebody praises it, we feel happy. Somebody hits it, we get angry. They're hitting me. Somebody we like gives us a loving Pat. We feel happy and joyful. They love me. They love my body. We cling to this course body is ours. I'm a man. I'm a woman. I'm beautiful. I'm young. I'm old and ugly, or whatever. However, it may appear to us, we consider it to be ours.
This piece here, somebody we like gives us a loving Pat. We feel happy and joyful. They love me or they give us a compliment
I'm gonna read something from an old friend Anthony de Mello.
He says, normally the way it goes, I press a button and you're up. I press another button and you're down. And you like that? How many people do you know who are unaffected by praise or blame? That isn't human, we say human means that you have to be a little monkey. So everybody can twist your tail, and you do what you ought to be doing. But is that human? If you find me charming, it means that right now you're in a good mood, nothing more. It also means that I fit your shopping list. We all carry a shopping list around. It's as though you've got to measure up to this list. Tall, dark, handsome, according to my tastes. I liked the sound of his voice. You say I'm in love. You're not in love you silly ass. Anytime you're in love, I hesitate to say this, you're being particularly asinine. Sit down and watch what's happening to you. You're running away from yourself. You want to escape. Somebody once said, Thank God for reality and for the means to escape from it. So that's what's going on. We're so mechanical, so controlled. We write books about being controlled and how wonderful it is to be controlled. And how necessary it is that people tell you you're okay. Then you will have a good feeling about yourself. A wonderful it is to be in prison. Or if somebody said to me yesterday to be in your cage. Do you like being in prison? Do you like being controlled? Let me tell you something. If you ever let yourself feel good when people tell you that you're okay. You're preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you're not good. As long as you live to fulfill other people's expectations. You'd better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, whether your shoes are polished, and short whether you live up to every damn expectation of theirs. Do you call that human? This is what you'll discover when you observe yourself. You'll be horrified. The fact of the matter is that you're neither Okay. Nor not okay. You may fit the current mood or trend or fashion does that mean you become okay? Does your okayness depend on that? Does it depend on what people think of you? Jesus Christ would have must have been pretty not okay by those standards. You're not okay and you're not not okay. You're you. I hope that is going to be the big discovery at least for some of you. Of course these remarks were all made at a seminar went over several days. If three or four of You make this discovery during these days we spend together, what a wonderful thing. Extraordinary. Cut out all the okay stuff, and the not okay stuff, cut off all the judgments and simply observe, watch, you'll make great discoveries, these discoveries will change you, you won't have to make the slightest effort, believe me, we need to do is to see.
John Samito says, the price we pay for identifying with this body in this way is that we suffer. Even though we might have the illusion of being young, beautiful, intelligent, eventually it all changes. No matter how much we do not want the body to age and get sick and die. It does anyway. So can we really say it's my body? This is me. We should look at this body investigated. What is it? A John Cha, it was his teacher, of course, would say that the body is just a place you are temporarily renting. It doesn't belong to us. So don't get upset about what happens to it. take proper care of it, don't miss treat it, feed it properly, but don't regard it as your possession. Don't get infatuated or attached to it. Because if you do, you'll suffer. This also applies to our emotions, thoughts and memories. 10 years ago, 15 years ago, five years ago, our personal history, we identify with it. We have diaries and pictures, photographs taken when we were babies. And when we were in school, we'd like to look and think I looked like that 10 years ago that was me. We feel safe and warm. And we think that we existed in the past. But what are memories? Can we keep a memory for any length of time? Does it come and go? Does it have any solid substance to it? Is it a reality? What is it and what is thought? We think very high thought save all the suffering beings in the world. Or a low mean one, exploit hurt, be cruel to all the living beings in the world. What these two kinds of thought have in common is that they are only thought they begin in the end both of them one gives pleasure one gives pain. One is beautiful. One is ugly, but beauty and ugliness, pleasure and pain, high thinking and low thinking all have the same characteristics of impermanence. So we keep reflecting, investigating, noticing, being aware, say being awake, sensations in the body physical pain, we can look at these as well. There is no need for us to habitually react to these things by running away. We can look at pain and pleasure. What do we feel like when we are upset? What is it like when we are depressed? We can look at what it does to our bodies. And we can learn this attitude of just interest in what's going on with us so valuable. It's in such it's such a difference from our normal state of mind. Which is what can I get out of this? What can I accomplish don't do this practice what is it gotten me how can I make it go faster? How do I compare with other people when the when the attitude changes, when there is just this interest of what what am I how do I work? How does that how does my life flow
then we're able to keep our attention in thoughts aren't so sticky. When we're not we're not continually interrupted by a thought. Let's take a simple example. People who are struggling a bit with physical pain and again and again during a round a sitting there thinking well how many minutes have gone by When's the monitor? Gonna get up? What is that 15 minutes in? Oh my god 20 to go. They're trying to concentrate. They keep coming back to the breath or back to the koan, but they also keep entertaining these thoughts. And naturally, they aren't really able to sink in so many and recognized thoughts that we allow to recur, and we, we may not go all the way with them, we may not run off driving off the highway down a winding road and ending up in a trailer by the river. But we we let them in for a little bit. And then we say, Okay, let me put that back down. There are so many unhelpful, acquisitive, or aversive thoughts that we have that can be put down right away just dropped. You see it, that's all you need to do. There it is. Okay. It's like a cigarette ash falling on a sweater. We brush it right off, there is no hole. But we want to let it in a little bit. Just got to play with it for a moment.
Again, says we can look at what it does to our bodies, and we can learn these thoughts, emotions, and sensations are our teachers. And through the practice of awareness, we will be allowing wisdom to function, we shall not find, quote, the wise one. We shall never be able to find wisdom, but we shall be wise. Wisdom is something we are already. Being wise means being aware does not mean indulging in emotions and moods. And beans means being aware of them as they come and go, allowing them to be as they are not trying to analyze them or figure them out saying what does this fascinating sign mean? Some people get fascinating signs in their practice, they see lights or have strange visions. And they immediately get fascinated by them thinking this is a special sign. I'm a special person. So I'll just mad memories and mad perceptions. The Zen Buddhists have a saying if you see the Buddha kill him. So some people have these mad perceptions. The Buddha comes down and says Listen, friend, you're enlightened. I'm the Buddha. And I'm saying this to you. This has happened. But such things are nothing but creations. We can create anything we want. Jesus Christ Buddha, Mohammed Krishna, I met a man in India once an Englishman who thought he was Lord Krishna. We're not trying to become Krishna or Buddha. We're not trying to conceive things and then make ourselves and the images of those things or model ourselves into forms again, that is more birth and death. We may be Lord Krishna for a while, but then we die again. Does it really matter if we are Lord Krishna or Buddha or Jim or Jane they all have the same characteristic of in permanency. So let us not get fascinated with exotic names and concepts. They're all the same, and just the same as the mundane ones. Jim Jane, Buddha, Krishna, they're only concepts and names conventions.
So being the wise one is being the one who knows we can be wise right now. We never become wise we never attain wisdom, how can we attain what we have already, we just start using it. That is all and we use it by bringing awareness to our lives, reflecting on our bodies, in our in our on on our mental conditions, on our moods, feelings, emotions, physical sensations, and on our consciousness through the senses, through the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The body in mind that we have that we are renting temporarily, is our teacher is teaching us about the nature of all compounded phenomena. This is a lesson we have to learn and we can learn it in this lifetime. We do learn it, we shall not have to go through all of this again. We do not learn it. We shall have to go through it again some other time. So people who have the good fortune to be ORed with the whole process already, they are bored with being attached to changing things, identifying with all the pieces, the fragments that are experienced through the senses, bored with clinging possessively to things with no value bubbles. They're bored with doing these things than they are Buddhists. And to be a Buddhist means to be wise to live with awareness, mindfully reflecting on what is present, what is here right now.
These two practices concentration and insight are tools that we can use, we can use them in a formal way. But we can also use them when we are walking, working, standing still or lying down. We can learn to interfere with our habits, mental and physical. There is no point in just blindly indulging our emotions in attraction or aversion, we should stop should learn to interfere, learn to look into, learn to confront. Everything in us is being pulled outward through our senses. We look at something beautiful, a beautiful car, a beautiful house, and we want it this is the desire to grasp, to identify with to possess. This is what desire does. It pulls us outward all the time. When we just follow desire, we are also identifying with the objects of our senses, grasping at them or rejecting them. That which is ugly or unpleasant to the senses, is rejected, destroyed or repressed. This is the way nature works. We identify with desire that we are always going to be enslaved by it will always pull us this way and that drive us absolutely mad.
There is no end to desire. It just goes on and on and on. Is there any way to completely gratify a desire? If we satiate ourselves, if for example, we eat so much that we stuffed ourselves full of food, then suddenly we have no more desire for food, we have an aversion to it. But before long, desire is there again. And so we eat more. And then we do not want anymore. And we keep going on like that gratifying desire without understanding it.
So many things we think are going to make us happy. The most people have heard of the studies done of people who are in an accident and are paralyzed, and people who win the lottery. And if you look at their happiness levels, self reported, of course, a year or two later, they're identical. Those things don't create happiness. There may be relief, there may be some temporary exhilaration. But happiness is something that we already are something that we're either in touch with or not.
reason we do this practice is to get in touch with something that's so healthy. So basic. So good. Good for us. Good for others. But we can't get to it. Using our old methods. We can't get to it grabbing and pushing. Have to be sincere. And that doesn't happen overnight. Think somewhere Yasutani Roshi said you can start out with 10% sincerity. If you keep going, it will grow. We start to observe when we start to wake up, notice what's happening. Then we become convinced we convinced ourselves somebody doesn't tell us need to find out for ourselves. You need to do the experiment. We're in charge of the experiment. We're in charge of our lives. It's our life
we see clearly we know what we're going to do we know what we want to do. know what direction to go in? That's all we need to do we just need to go in that direction. Don't have to get boggled by how far have I gone? When are we going to get there? When you're when you're occupied with questions like that you're no longer going in the right direction. Taking a little side trip, patient, thorough ventually it's actually becomes enjoyable. Settle the mind, settle the body
feel what's going on, be able to release tension. It's hard to release tension when we're fighting against it
he goes on, sometimes meditators think they should not have desires or should not have greed or lust or they think they should not like beautiful things. So it should not be this way or that way. But these are more concepts, thinking we should not be we should not have, we should not be the way we are the moods, the faults or whatever, this is wrong view. Things are just as they are. The body is as it is, thoughts come and go according to conditions, good thoughts, bad thoughts, find one's mean ones, whatever. They're part of nature all of them. But none of them belongs to us. These things are conditions that arise and pass away. They're born and they die from moment to moment. Through awareness, we no longer identify and attach to such thoughts. This is liberation into immortality. And this we cannot conceive? Can we conceive of anything that does not begin and end? What is the beginning of immortality? What is the end of it? We can philosophize about it until doomsday you will not help us at all. So we bring our practice down to practical living right now in the present moment to awareness in the present moment from one moment to the next. It's true resolute constant awareness that we develop
we develop without needing to control the process so when said it's you walk through the mist, you become wet
mind turns in when preferences are cast aside, we begin to change
change takes its own course like water finding its way to the sea
all of us have the ability to do this just need to set out in the right direction. keep putting one foot in front of the other. Okay, this is a good place to stop. So we will and will now recite the Four Vows