Rocky Mountain Insight Rocky Mountain Insight

October, 2014

Meditation and Mental Culture

Dear Noble Sangha,

Walpola Rahula explains the Pali word for meditation, Bhavana, as meaning “mental culture” or “mental development.” In this context, meditation is not, as it may be commonly misunderstood, an escape from life, a mental withdrawal, or a blank spacing-out. In describing meditation as a mental culture or development Walpola Rahula emphasizes the Buddha’s intention behind the practice of meditation: a transformation of mind. Ponlop Rinpoche gives a similar presentation of meditation, saying that the Tibetan word for meditation means to familiarize with. This, he says, means that we are both familiarizing our mind with certain states or attitudes, and we are familiarizing or getting-to-know our mind itself and its true nature. Of course, the word mind here may be too limiting, as we are talking about the entire attitude, approach, view, perspective, and understanding of an individual. Mind in this context is not merely the thinking or reasoning process. Mind is our experience, it is our reality. When we speak of transforming our mind, cultivating our mind, or developing our mind we are talking about transforming our reality. So when we come to the practice of meditation, we should remember that we are transforming our whole reality, our entire way of perceiving and responding. Specifically, we are transforming our reality with wisdom, insight, compassion, joy, and kindness. And when we realize mind’s true nature, reality’s true nature, then we see who and what we are.

This journey of transforming our mind and mental culture begins with cultivating a simple, non-judgmental, direct awareness of each present moment. We look directly at our object of focus, whatever that may be, and notice one moment at a time.

 

Peace

Ben

What are you feeding?

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Dear Noble Sangha,

Right effort is about what we choose to feed in our life. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, we can feed our suffering or we can feed our love and wisdom. Like a fire that requires fuel or food, our suffering, disappointment, and sadness also require fuel to continue and sustain. We can choose, with our Right Effort, to stop feeding these negative forces in our lives. Instead, we can feed the divine fire of our love, compassion, and joy.

The Four Noble Truths tell us that there is a cause of suffering and a cause for awakening. These are mutually exclusive: if we choose the cause or food of enlightenment we will avoid the cause and food of samsara. These causes are the fuels for the fire of Samsara and the fire of Nirvana. We have the choice of which causes we will cultivate in our lives. It may be difficult, it may take time for us to grow skillful at it, but we can make a difference.

What are you feeding in your life?

Peace
Ben

The Buddha’s Words on Right Effort

Dear Noble Sangha,

This month’s theme at Rocky Mountain Insight is Right Effort, the first of the “Samadhi” or “Concentration” division of the path.

Here are some of the words of the Buddha on Right Effort. Again, these come from the wonderful resource of Access to Insight : www.accesstoinsight.org

The definition (the four Right Exertions):
“And what, monks, is right effort?

[i] “There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[ii] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

[iii] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[iv] “He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.”

— SN 45.8

Abandon the unskillful, develop the skillful
“Abandon what is unskillful, monks. It is possible to abandon what is unskillful. If it were not possible to abandon what is unskillful, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because it is possible to abandon what is unskillful, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ If this abandoning of what is unskillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’ But because this abandoning of what is unskillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Abandon what is unskillful.’

“Develop what is skillful, monks. It is possible to develop what is skillful. If it were not possible to develop what is skillful, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because it is possible to develop what is skillful, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ If this development of what is skillful were conducive to harm and pain, I would not say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.’ But because this development of what is skillful is conducive to benefit and pleasure, I say to you, ‘Develop what is skillful.'”

— AN 2.19

Abandoning the wrong factors of the path
“One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort…

“One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one’s right effort…

“One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one’s right effort…

“One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one’s right effort…

“One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one’s right effort.”

— MN 117

Peace
Ben