Annual India Tours
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity.
These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
January 24,89 Nanaimo
In regards to the four noble truths, the noble truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the noble truth of liberation or cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. I have talked fairly extensively about suffering and the cause of suffering in the sense that there are two causes. One is easier to appreciate, basically a negative attitude in the sense that one deals with one's issues in life negatively. For example, uses ignorance which is not understanding the law of cause and effect, or not understanding or appreciating positive perspective. And then anger, ill will, desire and greed. Those motivating forces, generally speaking are motivated from selfishness, are negative and bring about negative percussion. If one has a negative attitude, i.e. is fearful, apprehensive or has a strong motivating passion, one then create negativity. And in creating negativity one sets ones self up to suffer.
The second is much more subtle. It is termed the misunderstanding of the nature of reality. The cessation of suffering is very inter related with that because the better you can appreciate that there would be a cessation, the better you can appreciate the path leading to that. Now this subject is very personally orientated and has nothing to do with whether you have an altruistic vision or not. The particular teachings are in the category of being the Hinayana or small vehicle meaning working for oneself and one's own personal liberation alone. And in Buddhism that is considered alright, it is not as beneficial but it is alright because some people do not have the confidence to feel that they could help other people but they do have the energy to least work on their own situation.
What is the cessation of suffering? To appreciate the subtle nature of the body is easy to appreciate. It is the DNA, we can work in western terms, easy to appreciate. In Buddhism it is said to be interdependent. And modern scientific terms we can say it is the DNA and the incredible magic and mystery that goes on with the development of cells. And each moment of our existence there is the miracle taking place. We have our breathing in the air, from that taking oxygen, our body is assimilating that and pumping it through our body and that. It is the nature of our body which we all have easy access to, it is common knowledge nowadays, that sort of scientific understanding which is beneficial. The better you can study that, it can really open your mind to what it means to be a functioning living creature in this world. The very pores of our skin are actually breathing, doing things, we are not just this sort of entity which is impervious and just sitting there. That is the subtle nature of our body.
The subtle nature of our mind is said to be clear light energy. It is said to be like a coin. One side is clear light energy and the other side is knowingness. If one was to think of it, like to take a block of light. This is actually in front of me. Right here, it is clear light because you can see through it!... That clear light has actually got energy and consciousness as in knowingness. That is what your mind is. Your mind, if we were to delve more outside what we can experience in the immediate moment, is said to come from the previous continuity of lives. In Buddhism it is stated that your propensity, or the energy of you in this lifetime is not just spontaneous. If it were then all aspects of your being could somehow be related directly back to your parents, your immediate environment that you were brought up in and such. Obviously we are more dynamic than that. Didn't Skinner stick his daughter in a box for twenty years and tried to keep her from stimulation and said there should come out the perfect child. Still her personality developed different from what he hoped it would be. The point is from the Buddhist perspective, mind does have a continuity from previous lifetimes. That is why each of us even though we are born in family and environment, have different natures. Although we might be from one family and a very protected environment even with all those sorts of protections, still then children develop differently. Their personalities are different. The reason is said because the mind has potentiality from the previous lifetime. This lifetime's interactions with that potentiality ripens it. That is the Buddhist presentation, difficult to easily access that as an experience.
In some ways it is not necessary to dwell on that too much. But what you can experience, which is more immediate is what is termed as the clear light luminosity. And that is only required that you spend a fair amount of time meditating. Sorry I can't sort of get it right off the bat, but you were to devote quite a bit of time to meditation, you could experience your consciousness as what is termed as clear light luminosity or clear light of knowingness. And it requires that you just relax and disengage your mind's awareness from it's body and that mind goes into mind consciousness itself. And with that you have a better appreciation or experience for mind as being clear light energy with the aspect of knowingness.
Liberation. Why can there be the truth of noble suffering? It is because the innate nature of our being is free from all causes or aspects which produce suffering. If we think about suffering, that most of it is based on an ego entity, for example I have a very strong belief in myself, my existence, my attachments. And because I have those strong attachments and belief in myself as a somehow fixed entity I suffer. It's blatant. If I had a more open perspective, allowed things to come and go, appreciated impermanence even, then I would have a more comfortable existence. But as much as I don't allow life to be impermanent, as much as I don't allow things to have their own expression, as much as I try to put my limitations on it and try to have life being a certain way only, I am going to suffer. And that is the noble truth of suffering. This is much more subtle. We are talking about your very self appreciation. The way that you appreciate yourself just in your existence.
The very moment, like when you are sitting here listening to me, at the moment you are listening to me there is an unconscious appreciation of yourself in some way. It is something which we really don't even think about. It is just that we take it for granted. And that is very subtle, very difficult to grasp because mind's nature is that fluid luminosity. It is always changing, it is impermanent. To see that clearly and vividly is difficult. It comes up blatantly when an attachment is hurt. You then feel like ego is this massive thing and your personality has just been destroyed. At that moment it seems so real. But as soon as that moment is gone all of a sudden mind's energy is back to this luminous bubble of images and feelings and things. You can't find it any more. It is lost. As soon as you identify one aspect of what you think is yourself you find that it changes or flows into something else. It is true because that is the nature of being or sense of self, that underlying sense of self never appreciates that. It somehow always feels that it is a very real thing.
The possibility of liberation is that because the nature of mind is luminosity and knowingness, it could be supposed or appreciated that if the mind understood it's true nature as not be an independent isolated event, as not being some sort of thing, appreciated itself as being conscious luminous impermanent energy, a conscious energy which is always changing, then that is the first aspect, that is the appreciation, the understanding that goes with it.
The secondary aspect of it that brings about liberation is if you have enough meditative power, your mind with that understanding could access the very subtle consciousness. There is they say bliss. They call it a consummate bliss because it is self satisfying. It is completely liberating. It means, my teacher said it was something like the most beautiful chocolate bar you ever ate. You feel so wonderful at the moment, like if you have hungered for a chocolate bar and wanted one, and you finally you get the chocolate, and it's good chocolate, and it hits your mouth and that explosion of good taste. He says at that moment of bliss is something equivalent to what liberation is like but there is not end to it. Because mind is in it's own element or energy, it doesn't rely on some physical thing, so what makes it eternal is the mind's appreciation of it's true nature and that bliss is self satisfying. So that is called nirvana in Buddhism. That everlasting happiness and bliss. And if you could access that, and you didn't care about anything else, just focused on your own self. You hate suffering. You can't stand it, whenever you get back in the world and you find there is your own ego and your personality and people always identifying you that way, and there is always these hassles and things. You try to do your best but you blow it one way or another. Well then you say I can't hack this any more. If you had the option of going for eternal everlasting satisfaction, the ultimate experience inside yourself, no hang ups, that would be much more attractive than hassling it out in the real world. So that is why it is said nirvana is so attractive and if you were never taught anything better than that, why not? It is easy. If I could give you the ultimate pill, just sort of take it and you are eternally blissful, no one would turn it down. Very few people would turn it down. That is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering and a little of the logics why the cessation of suffering is a possibility within the human experience.
The fourth of the noble truths is called the path leading to the cessation of suffering. The path in a sense is gone two ways. The general path is development of a positive attitude which is what I spoke of. Just to try to be positive, try to not create negativity, try to be a nicer person. The reason is that if you have a less selfish, less negative attitude, life will be more pleasant. If you think of it, almost all of the negativity we have, if we think of any of the things which happen to us which make us upset and unhappy you can see that is is based very much on self and you can call it literally a limiting idea. You have certain limits and within these limits things are fine. If anything goes beyond those limits you are very nervous and you feel unhappy. So if you have a positive attitude that means you try to take everything as best as you can. That is the easy interpretation of it. And you try to dissolve those limits because you have a positive attitude which says I'll try to do as best I can. So you try to dissolve those limiting factors.
In a general sense that is the relative way at working at the path. And that is why you have morality. Morality in Buddhist terms means to be generous, to not harm other beings. Not harming other beings is really simple. That is the down to earth definition or bottom line in a Buddhist sense, morality is not to cause harm for another being. And on whatever level you can practice it, you practice that. You can see that that easily goes into the path leading to liberation. The less you harm others, the less you have a negative attitude, the more you are going to create happiness around you. But that is the mundane, it only does a superficial patch up job. And as long as you can maintain a positive attitude, things will work out for you. But you are not getting to the fundamental nature of your being. You are doing acrobatics every time something comes along your way, you go through your acrobatics to try to maintain your balance in the situation. Try to be positive, so you do well or you do poorly depending on how well you balance. So that is not called an ultimate answer, rather it is a relative or temporal answer. It temporarily solves the problem.
If you want an ultimate solution to suffering, and to really resolve the problems, in a Hinayana or one self only context, then one should realize the ultimate nature of ones being. We have been leading to this, which is how to realize one's ultimate nature. How to gain a solid appreciation of ones nature which is assisting to bring one into an experience of nirvana or eternal bliss.
Two things are needed. One, you need morality because it sets you up as a decent person. You don't do too many things which are distractions. With that morality you can actually meditate more. You spend more time in meditation. You are not out having a good time all the time. You are trying to be fairly contained, trying to work at yourself. And with that you develop better meditation experiences. If you really want meditation you want a stable mind. A mind which can focus on something and stay there focused without any sense data distraction. I wanted to establish liberation isn't easy. You have to be able to disengage the five senses, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body sense involvement. Your mind can disengage from those and goes to mind consciousness which they say is in your heart. And within that realm of consciousness you start to check up. And if you have a powerful concentration you can go there easily. If you are a good meditator you can sit down, breath a while, relax, senses shut down, you don't have them any more, you go into mind consciousness, in mind consciousness then, then you analyze, check up. Then you try to make yourself naturally appreciate the true nature of reality. Alright? And of the course the better you appreciate it the more liberated your mind becomes. The more powerful your concentration is on that, the more refined your consciousness gets, so comes the innate bliss we spoke of. Like the innate bliss that is inherent in your being becomes more high, more great, and so the better you are in tune with reality, the more you have bliss there, the more self satisfied you get. So the closer and close you get to nirvana. This is the basic tenants in Buddhism without any altruism.
So getting good meditation, refining your consciousness and absorbing your mind to the heart center is the basis which then leads you up to, how do you analyze in a way which is logical? Which is true? Which isn't something like a fabrication, not something which is misleading yourself. Because what is said is in Buddhism, we say you have misinterpreted reality. That is why you suffer. The fundamental nature of your being, you have misunderstood and you have been blowing it ever since, in fact for millions of lifetimes you have been blowing it. That is why you have been suffering. That is why you re incarnate over and over. Because your mind doesn't understand it's real nature. It is set up because of habit energy and because of habit you would again and again take a rebirth. That is the only reason. Because your habit energy cannot be broken. You don't know why it should be broken. You don't understand reality.
How to break up the habit energy is to get a very clear understanding of why that habit energy is wrong which means understanding your fundamental nature. How to gain a better appreciation of your fundamental nature is really I am going to go back to what I spoke of, look into your body. Actually sit down and get a few books on biology and chemistry and such and get a better appreciation of it. This is one way to do it. The better you can understand and appreciate life, if you just took your body and think about it. Let's say you accumulate a lot of knowledge, a lot of information. Body is like this and that. Then you sit down in your meditation and try to allow yourself to have a conscious experience of, you have certain knowledge of the function of the lungs, air, this is happening right now. I never appreciated it, but let me try to get into that, appreciate that. With your minds imagination, your minds energy, say let my mind start to think about that and to reappraise or rethink over how it is that I am sitting here. If you really start to get into that, wouldn't you sort of change your whole basis of existence, to start to really think about the air I am taking in, the food, the warmth of the room, the type of materials I have against my body. They say say all the nylon clothes create static electricity that is always around our body and that changes our emotional temperament. This is sort of holistic and health food trip that you hear, it's got a point. The thing is, think about tall this incredible thing. Your body is this unbelievable intricate thing and it is balanced by it's secretions, chemicals, emotions and all. So you sit down and try to gain a better experience of that.
If you have listened to the other discourses I have given on this, you should start to actually realize reality, your physical reality is actually totally beyond your body. We often think my physical reality ends at the edges of my clothes or the edge of my skin. But the more you meditate on this the more you realize your body is totally inter related with the air around me so that your physical reality actually extends actually, if you really get into it, to the edge of universe. To beyond beyond beyond because there are all of those gravitational forces, and cosmic winds, all those things inter playing with our little planet. So really your physical reality is infinite because you are part of the system. You are not separate from the system. If you let your mind get into that you sort of dissolve, they say you dissolve the concept of being independent. So you work on that first because that softens the mind's attitude.
Your minds normal attitude is very uptight. Lets say I say something like this. Your hair is dyed, or your a cheat. If I said that, maybe it was true, maybe not, ego feels very real in those moments. If I hit one of our sore spots, your ego feels real independent, upset, like that. That is energy but it is based on some image or some idea we have and all of a sudden our universe comes to a stop and we are suffering and unhappy. That is all mis apprehension, misunderstanding of situation.
In you meditation you want to soften that attitude so working at one's body's reality, is good to soften the attitude, makes the mind more pliable. It's like if you got a new clump of clay, what do you do you take a stick and beat it until it's pliable so you can mold it. That's the way you work with clay. Same thing with your mind. Your mind attitude is like a stone. It's never been attacked, never been made pliable, so you make it pliable with meditations along that line. Realizing the interdependence between the body and universe. If you do that well, then you should start to be able to ask what is my personality?
This comes in good because if you have done that previous meditation well, alright, your personality, if you get into it, it's a series of images, a series of understandings, appreciations, like I am a such and such a person, I own such and such property, I have such and such a capacity, I run a business a certain way, and that is what you feel about yourself. Like right now I'm a Beaver Lumber employee. There is this image kicking around in there. I'm semi successful at being a Beaver Lumber employee. When someone walks in the door I feel capable. All those! If you get down to the bottom line, it's all imagery. My self image, tools and hardware image. My capacity to interact with imagery and appreciation of those ones. That is all my being is, and it's not saying I'm non existent, those are all valid. Those are all true. But in that, is this misunderstanding which is saying true reality. Like a heavy duty piece of stone somewhere. Like my ego entity is a very real thing. My ego personality is a thing. It is something that is happening. It's interdependent, it developed. I studies a lot of Beaver Lumber books! That's why my personality has developed.
Same thing. You can take that in all ways. You look at yourself. Like right now your appreciation of yourself, how you think about yourself, is developed because your parents have groomed you, your peers and such, then you start to work as if you had a personality energy and you refined it. You said if I relate to people this way they like me better so I get into that groove and I start to create this personality imagery ad stuff like that! Our personality is exactly like our body in the sense that it develops, it accepts certain images and then identifies with them. And then it works on those because it seems to work if I do it this way. We build and we add and we make this great structure of our being, our personality, our ego.
In all of that, if you go into your minds energy, anything that comes up in your mind if you understand it's interdependence, you could go back to it's roots like where did that personality aspect come from? You can go back and say when I was fifteen years old and had my first date with a member of the opposite sex, I was rude and look what happened!..Then I refined myself and learned that to be polite was better and so I was polite. You can find how your personality formulated itself and grew. And you can see that there are things happening there for why in this moment you have anything.
So when you sit to meditate, whatever image comes up, however it is, you could, if you are very subtle, take them all back to their cause. But it is not necessary to do much laborious sort of analysis. What you can do is appreciate that that particular mind's awareness or conscious appreciation, or bit of knowledge in your mind is developed, developed as time went by. And so you see that mind, mind is a true experience, it is an actual experience. So all the knowledge you are having isn't negated, but it is that sense that you never checked up on it since, of selfhood which is the wrong part. All the knowledge is alright. The way the knowledge is appreciated is wrong. That the whole problem is just the way you have appreciated the knowledge that you have, that you experience in each moment, that is fine. It is the way you held sit. you held it as being true. Like I identify as being something. I identify with being a moral Buddhist and lo and behold I go out and do something gross, horrible, and I'm destroyed because my previous image isn't isn't compatible with the new activity I just did. So image breaks. The ego breaks, and a lot of suffering.
In discovering, in working with the path, the noble truth of the path to the cessation of suffering, the path has two aspects. One is the relative path, the development of morality and such, and the sublime path, the subtle path that requires one, a development of some meditative power, and secondly that there is the development of wisdom. And with those two, actually if you wanted to get down to nitty gritty, if you wanted to go to liberation, you wanted to just sort of cop out on everything, all you really need to do is get good meditation and appreciate that nature of your being. If you got that you could just cop out and you are gone. Your mind goes into everlasting bliss, doesn't matter what images come up, that's the thing. You don't have to destroy yourself in attaining nirvana. All you have to do is appreciate that all the images are free form. They are allowed. They are capable of growing. They can do what they want. It's alright. If you accept that and refine your consciousness down to bliss, and you have that realization of interdependence, that non self existent nature of your being, you have got it. You are in eternal bliss for ever and ever. Your body could die, your consciousness will leave it's body, it won't create the habit pattern of taking a new rebirth, there is no more energy there for it. The mind is just free and liberated. It could take a rebirth if it desires, but if you are into personal nirvana which is the hinayana practice, you don't let that happen, you stay in everlasting bliss. They say in the texts that that bliss is eternal. Unless the mind decides to change it, it will go away from it but if there is no reason to change it, eternal everlasting bliss. And it is non ending because the mind is in it's own nature, appreciating it's own true nature, so there is no falsehood in there, no misunderstanding so mind can stay right there and be perfectly self satisfied.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved