SBI Study Group Aug 27, 2011
“Minding Closely—The Four Applications of Mindfulness”
(notes based on teachings given by Dr. B. Alan Wallace)
First Meditation: Settle Body in Natural State
Chapter 2: Engaging in Practice
1. View engaging practice as a contemplative expedition, a purposeful journey, to skillfully accomplish an authentic path to true freedom and awakening.
2. Have the determination to practice until you personally experience direct results
3. Create virtual retreat in everyday life:
a. value ability and opportunity to rest in silence
b. establish the most suitable environment available to you, i.e. fresh air, softly lit, and used specifically for practice if possible
c. set regular daily time(s) for practice, i.e. dawn and dusk are optimal
d. establish a comfortable seat to support seated and/or supine meditative postures, and explore both positions
e. keep sessions short (ideal is a ghatika of 24 min), going for quality over quantity, & finishing while you still feel fresh. Frequency & duration can be increased over time.
f. successfully structure your practice:
1. good in beginning = start by reflecting on highest motivation for practice
2. good in the middle = maintain continuity of focused attention in the chosen practice
3. good in the end = seal the practice with the dedication of its spiritual benefit/merit
g. enjoy and savor your practice so that you look forward to it!
4. Use guided meditation instructions only as a tool until you can confidently practice from memory
5. In between sessions, maintain continuity of mindfulness while standing, walking, etc., and engaging daily life.
Chapter 3: Wheel of Dharma
1. First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma is Lord Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths, which pragmatically and squarely face the obvious truth of suffering from where we presently perceive reality:
a. Here is the reality of suffering: understand it
b. Here is the reality of the origin of suffering: abandon it
c. Here is the reality of the cessation of suffering: realize it.
d. Here is the reality of the path to the cessation of suffering: follow it.
2. Three aspects of suffering:
a. blatant suffering
b. suffering of change
c. vulnerability to suffering, i.e. fundamental to identifying with aggregates of body, feelings, recognitions, compositional mental factors, and states of consciousness. Aggregates themselves are not the problem; instinctively holding them closely as “I & mine” is!
3. Vipashyana or insight practice entails investigating why this is a problem. Correct insight practice holds onto nothing whatsoever, while being closely present, attentively & mindfully, moment to moment, with whatever arises in all six fields of perception. When proficient in the practice, events of body/mind emerge continuously, but with no owner, and awareness is experientially open and invulnerable as space, and eventually realized as co-existent with space. This is actually realizing true emptiness, which means to genuinely fathom how things really are, and understand the true nature of reality. (Gen Lamrimpa, “Realizing Emptiness”, p70)
4. Faculties of mindfulness ( p.55) and introspection (p.58) are developed in the contemplative technology of shamatha or samadhi practice, and utilized or applied closely in the contemplative science of the four close applications of mindfulness. According to Asanga, “mindfulness (which is being face to face with object in engaged and present attention, without losing or floating) prevents the attention from straying from the object of meditation, and introspection recognizes that the attention is straying.”
5. Satipatthana Sutras on the four close applications of mindfulness constitute the bedrock of Buddha’s teachings on insight:
a. Mindfulness of the Body—attending to our corporeal embodiment & its five sense fields as experienced in the physical environment of our lived world
b. Mindfulness of Feelings—vedana, or basic experiences of pleasure, pain and indifference (like, don’t like, don’t care), occurring physically & mentally. Feelings manifest as soon as we become aware of our bodies in space & time. Because we care so much about how we feel, it is important to examine how feelings arise, how they are present, how they dissolve & how they interrelate with appearances.
c. Mindfulness of Mental Events—probing what’s happening in the space of the mind, attending to all mental events not already covered in Body/Feelings.
d. Mindfulness of Phenomena—dharmas, attending to the matrix of inter-relationships among all the domains of perception, called dependent origination, i.e. investigating phenomena with wide-open attention and discerning intelligence. Buddhism posits that careful inspection reveals patterns of regularity and causal sequences, what the Buddha realized in third watch of the night of his enlightenment: “because this arose, that arose”, without any evidence of intervention by a supernatural being exerting a supernatural will. World not brought forth by a divine creator, but by power of conceptual designation.
6. For 3 centuries, western science typically observed phenomena from outside in, seeking a “God’s eye-view,” and in doing so left out the mind because it was not observable from the outside, but only with introspection which was deemed unreliable. Therefore, the mind was considered unfit for study. Contemplative science views mental phenomena to be as real as physical phenomena because “real”, which is defined by humans, means to have causal efficacy.
7. Causal Efficacy: A real phenomena arises in dependence upon causes & conditions, & it acts as a cause & condition for other phenomena.
8. Sautrantika view: view of metaphysical realism which asserts that things really exist out there and in here, independent of conceptual designation. Superimposed conceptual designations have some existence due to conventional agreements, but have no causal efficacy inherent in their own nature. (main points of this view on p. 52.)
9. This view of Indian Buddhism is an important stepping-stone to understanding the Madhyamaka Middle Way view of Tibetan Buddhism, which is most consistent with the direction of present day physics. The realization of this view is that every individual & every perceived phenomena in the world arises as dependently related event in a nexus of inter-relationships. (recommend study of Realizing Emptiness, by Gen Lamrimpa,)
10. OCDD, “obsessive compulsive delusional disorder”--endemic mental imbalance, and the antidote is a practice of sanity. Two strategies to deal with thoughts: subdue them with samadhi, and be mindfully present with them without being caught up & carried away by them. Be aware of how thoughts become toxic and non-lucid by locking on to the referents and affirming that the thought represents reality. Different result if we can remain present w/thoughts, w/o grasping & aversion, w/skill of samadhi or trained attention, and use insight to fathom the very nature of awareness itself, which is the vipashyana practice of mindfulness. Lord Buddha calls this the “direct path for reaching the authentic path leading to liberation.” In our practice, we are not investigating reality in general, but as it relates to our own personal experience; we ask specific questions that can be answered to gain experiential insight and direct knowledge in response.
11. Samadhi/insight practice posits 3 key questions, known as 3 Marks of Existence:
1. permanent or impermanent? Penetrate reality of impermance
2. is it genuine happiness or unsatisfying? Penetrate reality of duhkha.
3. self or no self? Penetrate the reality of what we refer to as “I & mine.” Is there an inherent self, or is awareness the real you?
Reflexively, we misapprehend the nature of reality and get all 3 answers wrong. We habitually reify and grasp, and thereby substantiate what is not real with what is. Ultimate insight and goal of our inquiry is direct realization of these 3 aspects of reality, which eradicates the very root of suffering & afflictive tendencies, i.e. ignorance & delusion. Belief or conceptual understanding is not enough; rather, true nature of reality must be directly apprehended and stabilized as realization, and so the necessity of practice.
12. Science of Happiness can be defined as a unified science that combines (a) 3 key pursuits and (b) 3 themes of cognitive balance that are related to 3 marks of existence. Cognitive balance is the absence of cognitive deficit that doesn’t see, and cognitive hyperactivity that remembers things that never took place or sees imagined things as real:
a) 1. pursuit of virtue, and an ethical way of life (shila)
2. pursuit of genuine happiness through mental balance (samadhi)
3. pursuit of wisdom (prajna)
b) 1. recognize nature of impermanence
2. recognize true sources of happiness from outer stimuli
3. fathom true nature of existence
Second Meditation: Mindfulness of breathing & all appearances
Dedication of Merit
Next Study Group is Saturday, September 24th. Suggested reading is chapters 4 & 5, pp. 89-131. All are welcome to attend weekly meditation practice at Unity Sanctuary, Mondays, 7-8:15 p.m
First Meditation: Settling Body in Natural State
1. Be physically comfortable, assume either seated or supine position, mindful that this is a formal posture for meditation. Begin by mindfully scanning the body to release any knots of tightness, beginning with the soles of the feet…to the face. If seated, spine is straight, sternum slightly lifted, abdominal muscles relaxed and loose to enable an easy flow of breath. Especially relax the shoulders, the neck, face, and particularly soften the eyes, forehead is open and spacious, release the jaw, and allow the tongue to gently rest up against the upper palette.
2. Let the practice also be an act of loving kindness to ourselves, as we set a welcome mat of ease and letting go. We begin this practice by taking three slow deep cleansing breaths, inhaling through the nostrils, breathing deeply into the abdomen, then the diaphragm, and finally expanding the chest, and then releasing the breath completely. Enjoy this easy practice and gently soothe the field of the body with the breath like giving an internal massage as we now slowly settle the body in its natural state imbued with 3 characteristics of relaxation, stillness like a mountain, and vigilance of attention.
3. Invite you now for a few minutes to personally cultivate your highest motivation for practice, to contemplate what genuine happiness means to each of us, and to envision realizing such well being and flourishing for ourselves, and for the mutual benefit of all beings, recognizing our interdependencce with all, as we sincerely take refuge in dharma, in truth, in authentic teachings that liberate, we cultivate the 4 immeasurables:
May all beings like myself be well and happy, may all beings like myself be free of suffering and the causes of suffering, may all beings like myself dwell in empathetic joy, and may all beings like myself abide in blessed equanimity.
4. Dissolve all aspirations and appearances as we begin practice, mindfully settling the body…
5. Adopting a witnessing mode of bare attention without analysis or commentary, release thoughts and let awareness now settle into and permeate the field of the body. Simply be mindfully present to the tactile sensations throughout the space of the body, of the elements of earth—solidity, firmness, support, of water—moisture, fire—sensations of heat and cold, of air—motility….Maintain continuous awareness with direct naked observation as these arise, change and dissolve moment to moment….
6. Immerse awareness in the silent, still non-conceptual perception of the body…without visualizing it, just be present moment to moment with the tactile sensations that arise & pass.
7. Now settle speech in natural state of silence….release habitual cogitation, mental internal chit chat. And with this settling of the speech, settle the breath in its natural rhythm. Maintain a natural flow of the breath, mindful of its unforced ebb and flow, releasing control of it in any way, and take the opportunity to relax more deeply with each outbreath as we maintain a stance of vigilant attention.
8. As habitual involuntary thoughts arise, continue to let them go, and return to the focus of attention on the physical tactile sensations, continuing to breathe naturally and effortlessly. Be mindfully embodied….relaxed, still and vigilantly present here and now….
9. Now release the practice, and for a few moments allow awareness to rest in its own pure nature, illuminating itself without an object….bring session to a close.
Second Meditation: Mindfulness of breathing and all appearances
1. Settle the body in its natural state, in a posture of relaxation, stillness and vigilance
2. Taking the breath as our object for a few minutes, settle the respiration in its natural rhythm. Without controlling or manipulating the breath in any way, simply observe its natural ebb and flow in the present moment. Let awareness be diffuse and permeate the space of the body, mindfully present with the tactile sensations of the breath wherever they occur throughout this field. Gently arouse attention on the inhalation, and calm the discursive mind, releasing involuntary thoughts with every exhalation.
3. Now open eyes, and focus on the visual elliptical field where visual sensations arise, and “in the seen let there just be the seen.”
4. Then close the eyes and direct the full force of the mind to the auditory field, and “in the heard, let there just be the heard.”
5. Then direct the attention to the tactile field, and whatever sensations of the various elements—earth (solidity), water (moisture), fire (heat), air (motility)—that arise within this tactile field. Attend to them with bare attention, without distraction and without grasping, without any conceptual overlay or imputation of I, of mine, of me. Simply observe these tactile events as appearances arising within the space of experience having no owner or agent, arising in dependence upon natural causes and conditions.
6. And with eyes partially open, gaze resting vacantly, direct the full force of attention to the domain of mental events arising in the space of the mind, and attend to those appearances (memories, desires, fantasies, memories) that arise to mental consciousness alone, and not any of the other five physical senses. And “in the mentally perceived, let there just be the mentally perceived.” (Can’t block out other fields, just not paying attention to them.)
7. Sustain an ongoing flow of mindfulness of this space and its contents, and settle the mind in its natural state, without distraction and without grasping, with bare attention, as stability arises in subjective awareness of this non-physical space.
8. And now, allow awareness to rest in itself, in its own innate stillness, and illuminate all appearances 360, in all directions from all 6 portals of experience, by way of the 5 physical senses and by way of the mind, mental perception.
9. Let all phenomena arise and pass of their own accord, without extending out to or latching onto any of them, and making something out of them. Attend simply to what is being presented in the perceptual mode rather than to what may be projected conceptually, habitually, honing ability to distinguish perception form projection. Perceive phenomena arising in the various domains for what they are, without interpreting them, and rest in a flow of awareness, co-extensive with space, the open sky-like nature of mind, that is without grasping, without distraction, without reification.
10. With faculty of introspection, when carried away with thoughts/images/ideation, let response be of deeper relaxation rather than trying harder, or if spaced dullness, respond by taking fresh interest (hit the refresh button) in the practice by paying closer attention. In each case, return to the immediacy of the present moment with bare attention.
11. In this way, balance mindfulness, and engage an ongoing flow of engaged attentiveness, open presence, empty of reactivity, of ownership, releasing attraction and aversion, or any control of whatever arises in the present moment. Simply observe closely without intervention….
12. Continue to practice now in silence…
13. And for a few moments release the practice, and allow awareness to rest, simply illuminating its own nature, without any object.
14. Prayer of dedication: “Wherever the precious, supreme spirit of awakening, has not arisen, may it arise,
And where it has arisen, may it never decline, but grow stronger and stronger.
May what we have practiced here tonight be of benefit,
May we each realize the fulfillment of our most meaningful aspirations for our own sake and the sake of all sentient beings, and
May all beings be well and happy.