Reflections on “Small Boat, Great Mountain” , Amaro Bhikku – Part II

This part II discusses the whole issue of living and managing it effectively as per Theravada Buddhism.

“Ultimate and conventional reality – I was completely bewildered.  No matter how much I tried to be free and unhindered by conventions, forms and structures mostly by defining these things there always seemed to be another layer, another layer and another layer. I kept meeting up with limits and as a result I was constantly feeling frustrated. I was suffering and had no idea why. Not to be inhibited by the rules of society, dictates of my personality, conditions of the body, appeared free on the outside but on the inside I was a prisoner of my beliefs and behavior.”

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Life

Life is habitually experienced as ignorance. We don’t feel unremitting bliss all the time. But ultimate reality is pure, perfect and blissful. Perfection and purity is our nature and we do not experience it all the time due to ignorance, laziness and wavering.

Exit point from the cycle

Day in and day out every moment we get caught in things we love, we hate, we have opinions about in feeling about ourselves, about others, liking, disliking, hoping, fearing. It goes on and on. The good news is there are several places where we can catch this cycle and ultimately free the heart.

Dependent origination cycle

When something painful has happened, worst has happened, we experience anguish, sorrow. How did we get ourselves in this mess. This is life but we do not need to feel like a victim or fly into why me tantrum. Experience of suffering can go into two directions. One it can compound misery and confusion. To it can ripen in search. When everything has gone wrong, we have a choice. Do we just wallow or do we say why is it like this. What am I doing to make this a problem? The search kicks in to find where we are clinging and why we are looking for happiness where it cannot be found.

Even at the birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair end of the cycle we can use that pain as the cause to help us wake up. Feeling is a world of innocence. We can have an intensely blissful existence and pleasant feeling. We can have a fuzzy neutral feeling through the body or mind. Feeling by itself is utterly innocent. There is no intrinsic posture or negative quality to it. If there is awareness then all mental and sense phenomena and the pleasant, painful or neutral feelings associated with them can be known without clinging as appearance. When ignorance enters opinions gets formed. When we are open we can cut the cycle.

In the beginning – ignorance, conditions, formations

Ignorance complicates everything. What does this mean. In broad term, that which is compounded is karmic formations, concoctions, fabrications, volitional formations, subject-object duality. When there is ignorance duality gets started, form and sprout. This and that, here and there. Me and the world.

Conscious conditions the mind. Mind and body conditions the six senses. The six senses conditions feeling, craving and so on. By the time we get down to six senses there is the body here and there is the world out there and we experience them as apparently solid realities.

As soon as there is a slippage of mindfulness or the faintest coloration or distortion that awareness duality kicks in. that is the seed of the whole thing. If it is seen at that point and not followed, then that seen primal movement will not grow further. It will cease right there. If it is not seen the vortex will build and build at until there is me in here and the world out there. And then I want it. I can’t stand it. I have got to have it. How marvelous. How wonderful. I am going places. Sorrow lamentations, pain, grief and despair and so on kicks in.

Later end of the cycle – endless hunger leading to addiction

What happens at the end of the cycle? When sorrow has not ripened in search for truth and we have let our missing get compounded we feel incomplete. There is me feeling unhappy, miserable, insecure, incomplete, alienated. Then as soon as there an idea or feeling or an emotion or a sense object that might possible make us complete again we jump on it. Well that looks interesting. Perhaps this will do the trick. There is a feeling of hunger, a lack or a longing that comes from the experience of suffering. If we are not awake to what is going on, we think that what we lack is something. The new job, new car, new partner, or we lack perfect health etc. we go after any kind of external object or internal program to find the missing piece. This is the cycle of addiction.

To encourage this familiarization and relinquishment it is important to experience and acknowledge the disadvantages of cyclical existence. Above all it hurts. Just as thrill is real so is the pain. We don’t get thrill without pain. Where the pain comes we see that it is empty. When the thrill comes we experiences it as absolutely real. As the pleasure is raising we feel really, really happy. As the pleasant feelings diminish we try to see the pain and disappointment it is all empty. Empty. Empty.

The fact is, things in life don’t match. You can’t align all the loose ends. But you can go to the place where they come from.

  • Excerpts from – “Small Boat, Great Mountain” – Theravadan Reflections on The Natural Great Perfection, “Amaro Bhikku”

Reflections on “Small Boat, Great Mountain” , Amaro Bhikku – Part I

Small Boat, Great Mountain

  • By Amaro Bhikku

This book “Small Boat, Great Mountain” by Amaro Bhikku reflects on philosophy espoused by Theravada sect of Buddhism.  The book has three distinct sections. Section one discuses nature of reality, section two on the whole issue of living and managing it effectively and section three on some exercise and Buddhist chants relevant to the above two sections. This Part I  discusses Buddhist view  on nature of reality and living.

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“I was suffering and had no idea why”

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What is a living being?

We are conditioned to believe that there is such a thing as a real living being. We see ourselves in forms of the limitations of the body, personality and we define we are within these bound. We assume then that other beings are also limited in little pockets of beingness that float around in the cosmos.

Where are we

If one takes out physical element of what you are and just looks at in terms of mind, you will find that whole quality of boundary breaks up and as does the idea of “where I am”, “where other people are” and you will see that the body and its locations and three dimensional space apply only to material form. In fact, inside, outside here and there, space and spatial relations only apply to form. They do not apply to mind. Mind does not exist in space. The material form is giving us clue to separateness. We create illusion of separateness and individuality through our belief in the sense world.

Let go

Am I feeling sorrow. Is there a feeling of alienation or difficulty? If there is it means, we are clinging and hanging on to something. We need to see that the heart is attached to somewhere and then make gestures to loosen up. To let go.

Non-abiding

Non abiding is that timeless, selfless quality that is independent of location. Non abiding draws us to the fact that the whole concept of and construct of whereness, the act of conceiving ourselves as this individual entity living at this spot in space and time is a presumption.

Non abiding was the essence of path, as basis of peace and a door way into the world of freedom. The principle of non-abiding is exceedingly frustrating to the conceptual thinking mind because that mind has built up such an edifice out of me and you, out of here and there, out of past and future and out of this and that. In the abandonment of self, time and place all questions are resolved.

Where does not apply

The seen is merely seen. There is nothing there. There are forms, shapes, colors so forth but there is nothing there. There is no real substance, no solidity, no self-existent reality. All there is the quality of experience. No more no less. There is just seeing, hearing, feeling, sensing, cognizing, and the mind naming it all is just another experience.

Quantum physics

The sea of potential, primordial level of physical reality exists and from that all particles and energy crystalizes and into which subsequently dissolves. The principle of non-locality means the places where something happens cannot be truly defined and that a single event can have exactly simultaneous effect in widely separated place.

Who and what do not apply. Where does not apply. Birth and death does depend on time. Something apparently born in the past living now will die in the future. If we let go of time, if we also let go of thing then no being or dying.

Nature of Mind

The nature of mind is still and yet flowing. Mind is still, spacious, silent and all objects of sights, sounds, smell, taste, touch, thoughts and emotions flow through it.  It has no movement; it is not related to all that arises and ceases. It is silent and spacious. Problems arise because the clarity of the mind gets entangled with sense impressions. The untrained heart chases the delightful, runs away from the painful, and as a result, finds itself struggling, alienated, and miserable. By contemplating our own experience, we can make a clear distinction between the mind that knows and the sense impressions that flow through it. By refusing to get entangled with any sense impressions, we find refuge in that quality of stillness, silence, and spaciousness, which is the mind’s own nature. This policy of noninterference allows everything and is disturbed by nothing.

Body and mind

The body is in mind rather than mind in body. What do we know about our body? We can see it. We can hear it. We can smell it. Touch it. Where does all these things happen – in mind. Everything that we know about the body now and at any other time has been through agency of our mind. What we have known about out body the world has happened in our mind. So where is our body. Physical world is there but experienced in mind.

Cessation and consciousness

Your persistent energy, sharpest mindfulness, physical calm, one pointedness of mind have to do with restlessness. Unsupported consciousness wherever there is something that is intended, something that is acted upon or something that lies dormant then that becomes the basis for consciousness to lead. And where consciousness lands then is the cause for confusion, attachment, becoming, rebirth and so on. And having no basis to land on consciousness is released. Since consciousness is released mind is firm. Owing to staying firm the heart is contended. Owing to contented mind it is not agitated. One then realizes complete bliss within themselves.

When heart is released from clinging to four nutriments- physical food, sense contact – of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, intention and consciousness then consciousness does not land anywhere. That state is without sorrow, affliction or despair.

World is within our mind

It is pointless to try to find peace through nullifying or erasing the sense world. Peace only comes through skillful handling of the world’s abrasions. Peace only comes through not giving that world more substantiality or more reality than it actually possesses.

Relaxation

Even though we might have this enlightened free space internally it needs to be interfaced with the phenomenal world.  Who are you. Observe coming and going of feelings, thoughts and perceptions and so on.

The balance comes when we stop creating each other and allow ourselves to relax into pure quality of knowing. In not fabricating the world ourselves or our stories there is gentle relaxation and we find ourselves more attuned to life than ever

  • excerpts from – “Small Boat, Great Mountain” – Theravadan Reflections on The Natural Great Perfection, “Amaro Bhikku”