After meditation this morning i happened to read a talk by Ajahn Phut Thaniyo describing how all of our reading, sutta study and debate can become a hindrance to our practice. Clearly, his talk was one which was directed towards an audience of monastics who don’t find themselves constantly stewing in a broth of media and infotainment bit it is a point well taken. Seriously, what good is having read the Nikayas, the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga if one is yet unable to all the mind? I don’t quite know what I’m proposing but it sends to me that i need to spend more time in formal practice while clarifying for myself the basics stock add the Cattari Ariya Saccani and the Eightfold Path.
280. “Suppose a crowd were to flock together, crying: ‘The fairest girl in the land, the fairest girl in the land!’ And that girl, displaying all her charms, would dance and sing for them and a still greater crowd would gather. Then suppose a man came along, fond of life, not liking death, fond of happiness, averse to pain, and they were to say to him: ‘See here, my man, here’s a bowl brimful of oil. You must carry it around amongst the crowd. Behind you will come a man with an uplifted sword, and if you spill a drop, off comes your head.’ Now, what do you think? Would that man, neglecting the bowl, turn his attention to outside things and grow slack?”
“Surely not, Lord.”
“Well, this is a parable I have made for your understanding, and this is its meaning. The bowl brimful of oil is a term for mindfulness of the body. So, this is how you should train yourself: “We shall cultivate mindfulness of the body, we shall make much of it, make it a vehicle, establish it, make it effective. It shall be increased and well applied.”
Samyutta Nikaya V.169
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It sometimes seems as if my practice consists largely of resolves and aspirations that i generally fail to achieve. In one sense that can be extremely depressing and can lead to plenty of self-recrimination. At the same time i can see it as a sign to set more attainable goals. And yet, there is some deep conditioning in the mind that sees a value in seeing these goals for myself and, looming back on the past ten years of practice, it certainly seems to be effective.
Today is both an Uposatha and the last day of the introductory course at the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom so i think it is an auspicious occasion to undertake the commitment to meditate for two hours every day. I have been more or less hitting an hour or more for over a month now and really feel that two hours is attainable and beneficial.
May we not squander or precious lives and may we make an effort to grow in the Dhamma.
When i read biographies of the great Forest ajahns my heart soars and i geek the need to recommit myself to even more practice but, almost as soon as i put the books down and sit to take up meditation i am met with doubt, sloth, torpor and restlessness. And although the practice has been somewhat dry and stale, i am at least grateful to have an abundance of saddha to see me through it. May we all practice ardently to liberate ourselves and unburden all beings who sustain us through their suffering.
273. The Brahmin Unnabha asked Venerable Ananda: “What is the aim of living the holy life under the recluse Gotama?”
“It is for the sake of abandoning desire.”
“Is there a way, a practice by which to abandon this desire?”
“There is a way – it is by means of the psychic powers of desire, energy, thought and consideration together with concentration and effort.”
“If that is so, Venerable Ananda, then it is a task without end. Because to get rid of one desire by means of another is impossible.”
“Then I will ask you a question; answer as you like. Before, did you not have the desire, the energy, the thought and consideration to come to this park? And having arrived, did not that desire, that energy, that thought and that consideration cease?”
“Yes, it did.”
“Well, for one who has destroyed the defilements, once he has won enlightenment, that desire, that energy, that thought and that consideration he had for enlightenment has now ceased.”
Samyutta Nikaya V.272
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Yesterday i was listening to a series of Dhamma talks by Thanissaro bhikkhu and in I’ve he mentions the parable of the family (mother, father and infant) who have to cruise a vast and inhospitable desert. Half way through they run out of provisions and come to the decision that one of them must be sacrificed to feed the others. In the end they decide to kill their infant, make jerky of his flesh and thus be able to cross the desert to begin a new family. Before you get the urge to criticize the parable or the hypothetical choice made remember that the point is to bring back or awareness to the suffering involved in feeding on other beings. Can you imagine how the patents would have gent eating their only child’s flesh? Surely they would not have enjoyed it for its taste or become infatuated with its flavor. Rather it would be eaten solely to sustain the body for the task of crossing the desert.
May we train ourselves to feed only for the maintenance of body and mind, not for enjoyment, beautification or escape. May we be ever mindful of the suffering caused by or very act of eating and Mai wet not dishonor the myriad beings who have suffered simply to feed us.
For the last couple of weeks, if not longer, I have been somewhat slack in terms of observing the Uposatha or any of my own, home-grown practice commitments. Surely, there is a fine line to be walked between forcing oneself into doing something and Right Intention and Right Effort and I feel I have been exploring the unskillful side of that equation by allowing myself too much leeway of late.
Because today is an uposatha day, I decided to listen to Ven. Thanissaro’s collection of talks on the Eightfold Path as a way of reinforcing my commitment to use to today as an opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the Dhamma. It is precisely in his talk on the Fourth Frame of Reference that he identifies willpower as Right Intention and categorically states that it is necessary for making progress along the path. As such, may I make the resolve and put forth effort to act skillfully for my long-term benefit even if it be painful in the present moment.
Yesterday my wife came out of the shower and ended my sitting by telling me that she had found a strange mole on her side. Truth be told it is a worrisome looking thing but it is a timely reminder of anicca. I have always assumed that if anything were going to happen in terms of terminal or chronic illness it would be me. Of course this was silly of me and our could still happen regardless. Such is samsara.
I would ask that anyone reading this dedicate the merit of their practice to her and send her metta.
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