This week we will return to our practice with Ashin U Tejaniya. Before we delve back into the book, I’d like us to spend some time listening to what U Tejaniya has to say about his practice. In May of this year, U Tejaniya offered a retreat in Beatenberg, Switzerland. One of his talks at the beginning of the retreat is titled “What is Meditation?”. I would like to listen to this talk and explore it together. The talk is too long to cover in one week. It is 1 hour, 11 mins long. I figure we can listen to it in parts starting this week.
You can find the talk on Dharma Seed (search Dharma Talks – What is meditation). Here is the link to Dharma Seed http://www.dharmaseed.org/. Dharma Seed is a nonprofit organization that provides hundreds of talks and guided meditations from various of Buddhist teachers. They operate strictly on the voluntary generosity of others. Please give dana for the use of the talks.
I am providing the talk info for those of you who would like to listen to the talk before group. We will play some of it as our dhamma talk at group on Thursday and then explore what comes up for us.
Venerable Pannavati is here in Seattle for a weekend offering at Nalanda West. Of course I begged her to come to Capitol Hill tomorrow night and she agreed. I explained that we are beginning a series on the defilements. She has agreed to offer a talk for us. She is not doing any other events while here so we are kind of special. You may remember her from her talk the last two or three years. She is a dynamic teacher with a deep reach into the Dhamma. I’m not posting anything because she will talk from whatever is present. I hope you will be able to attend.
I like that Ashin Tejaniya says that meditation is mind work. We don’t generally talk about it this way. We talk about meditation like it is body work; like it is mostly about calming the body. Ashin Tejaniya, however, approaches practice from a different paradigm. I must admit I feel inadequate to completely explain his teachings. It is partially the reason for the delay of this post. He speaks in such succinct terms that I want to simply type out what he says in the book but I will try to give you my limited understanding of what he is pointing towards…
If you think about it, all we ever do is attend to something. We are constantly attending. I am attending to this computer as I type. I could type aimlessly thinking about something else. My attention would be on the “something else” not my typing. I could also go back and forth between typing and thinking. When I am aware of the experience of typing and/or thinking it is the mind at work. Awareness comes through the mind at whatever my attention is directed towards and is therefore mind work.
When we take this awareness and put it with right understanding – clear understanding around whatever we are attending to – we are meditating. This means that we are constantly existing within the framework of meditation. If we took advantage of this continuity of mediation we could liberate the mind and never once sit down on the cushion.
Clear understanding means not subjectifying (if that’s a word) anything. The minute we identify with the object we are attending to we are subjectifying which flings open the door to the defilements because of our underlying tendencies towards attachment and aversion. Given that we are human, we are constantly identifying with the objects that catch our attention; ergo the defilements are always arising. The trick is to not judge the arising of defilements nor their absence. It is far more important to simply notice or be aware either way. This takes being relaxed and having the right attitude (accepting the experience as it is). The more we practice in this way, the more we increase our ability to distinguish between the existence and non-existence of the defilements and how to recognize the path leading away from the arising of defilements.
Tomorrow night I’d like to take the first 5 practice points (I will read them for those of you who don’t have a book) and explore your thoughts around his concepts of mind work, relaxing and right attitude.
Our guiding teacher, Tuere Sala, is away on a teen meditation retreat this week, so she asked that I post something for contemplation in advance of our sangha meeting Thursday night. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with a small text entitled Don’t Look Down on the Defilements, They Will Laugh at You by Sayadaw U Tejaniya. Let’s see what ideas we can collectively generate for practicing with the defilements (Pali: kilesa), with an aim to avoid their dependently conditioned laugh track.
In her blog post of last week, Tuere wrote, “Greed is what causes us to lean into what we like and hatred is what causes us to push away what we don’t like. Generally, the mind resides in delusion, which obscures the push and pull of the other two. It is in the defilements that [the] true nature [of these tendencies] can be questioned.” In addition to greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), and delusion (moha), 7 other defilements are classically listed. They are as follows: (4) conceit or pride (māna); (5) speculative views (diṭṭhi); (6) skeptical doubt (vicikiccha); (7) mental torpor (thīna); (8) restlessness (uddhacca); shamelessness (ahirika); (10) lack of moral dread or unconscientiousness (anottappa). The Pali original terms are included (parenthetically) above not to be highfalutin or pretentious—if there’s any “falutin” involved in practice with the defilements, it’s lowly rather than elevated, and keeping things grounded in the playfield of direct experience is essential to the work—but rather, the Pali is offered to perhaps allow and encourage those curious yogis to cast about in cyberspace for other, less clunky English equivalents.
Ashin Tejaniya’s text offers a way into practice with the defilements in a truly practical way. For example, point #50 in the section entitled “Food for Thought” advises: “Holding on to a preconceived idea or view [speculative views (ditti)] of what insight should be like is dangerous, as it leads to pride [conceit (māna)] when you have an experience that seems to fit such an idea.” The more one can recognize not only what defilement is arising, but also sense into the suffering it brings in a tactile and directly felt way, the easier it is to let go of its unskillful and habitually conditioned/reactive go-to option. Let’s keep it real tomorrow night, and talk from personal practice experience about just what a bummer it is to be blindsided kilesa-style.
Tomorrow night we are going to begin a new topic of exploration into the nature of the defilements. Thanks to the diligence and wisdom of Daniel and Kenny we have obtain 20 copies of Ashin Tejaniya’s book Don’t Look Down on the Defilements They Will Laugh at You. The book is primarily about practicing with the defilements so before beginning the book, we’ll take a brief pause to explore the nature of the defilements. Tejaniya refers to the defilements as the “gross manifestations of greed, hatred and delusion”. Thus a good starting place would be an inquiry into the nature of greed, hatred and delusion.
Greed, hatred and delusion are commonly referred to as the 3 unwholesome roots. They are the underlying human tendencies around grasping. They are, foundationally, the reason why we suffer. Greed is what causes us to lean into what we like and hatred is what causes us to push away what we don’t like. Generally, the mind resides in delusion which obscures the push and pull of the other two. Liberation from any suffering requires that we see this underlying pushing and pulling from the mind. These tendencies are extremely subtle. They naturally feel intuitive, supportive and near impossible to question.
It is in the defilements that their true nature can be questioned. Have you ever questioned why we like some things and don’t like others. Why does some sounds, tastes, sensations, smells, images please us and others don’t? How can we begin to challenge the existence of something like pleasure or pain. Tomorrow night we will begin our inquiry. Maybe if you see the subtle nature of greed, hatred and delusion you will more readily appreciation practicing with the grosser manifestations of the defilements. Until then…
I attended Sharon Salzberg’s non-residential this past weekend and realized I completely forgot about the “all beings” Metta category. Tomorrow we will explore this category and complete our investigation into practicing with relationship – or to put it more succinctly “relationship practice”. I tried to analyze how I could have missed this. First I decided it was because we looked at friends/family separately and that could be the reason. Then I decided that we basically covered “all beings” individually in the previous categories and that could also be the reason. In any event, “all beings” is an important category because it allows us to connect to many more beings than living humans. We include animals, insects, birds, fish, beings seen and unseen and loved ones who have died.
One of the ultimate aspects of Metta is to send lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity in all directions such that it continues forevermore. We build up a body full of kindness and love whenever we practice with relationships rather than react to them. This love and kindness is not conditioned upon anything. It is an outgrowth of practice and stillness with whatever is present. As we accept humans with all their tenderness, challenges and solace, we become imbued with it’s radiance. We then given it away rather than keep it for ourselves.
How much of the kindness, tenderness, and love that comes your way do you keep? How much do you give away? What do you think would happen if you gave to another every act of kindness given to you? We’ll explore this further tomorrow.
We will continue our exploration of the difficult person this week. I missed the discussion last week so some of this may or may not be a little duplicative.
I was thinking, we could divide the difficult person category into two types 1) the people we know personally and 2) the people we have opinions about but don’t know at all. There seems to be a difference around how I practice with this. When I practice Metta for “difficult people I know” I notice this need to like them or at least get over my aversion around them. There is a kind of “trying to fix or change the relationship”. I spend a lot of time coming back to simply experiencing Metta for the person just as they are and without my judgment about them. The more I am able to do this, the weaker my aversion gets as I become less attached to specific outcomes.
On the other hand, when I practice Metta for “difficult people don’t know but have strong opinion(s) about” I notice that my thinking is around convincing myself to accept their view and very little connection with them as a person. I spend a lot of time trying to see the person as simply a person. The more I am able to do this, the more human (with all of its frailties, limitations and delusions) they become as I become more present to my own reality.
Tomorrow I’d like to discuss your thoughts about this. Do you see a difference in this category? How do you practice with difficult people? Is it possible that practicing with difficult people at the end of Metta we are increasing Metta within us? What do you think?