Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There is No Problem

To be in the company of a monastic, even if only through written words, always brings much clarity, peace, and joy into my life. Today, I choose to spend time with Ajahn Sumedho:
My advice is not to make a problem of yourself. Give up making a problem about yourself, or how good or bad you are, or what you should or shouldn’t be.
Yes, that sense that 'I' am a defective product that needs to  be improved . . . Or that, if only, there was not this knot, right in my core. Maybe, some day . . . I have not gotten it right, not quite yet. So many variations along the same theme, and underneath each one, a distrust, a subtle hating of the way I experience myself. Like pulling on the cord, only making the knot even tighter. 
Learn to trust in your awareness more, and affirm that; recognize it and consciously think, ‘This is the awareness ― listening ― relaxed attention.’ Then you will feel the connection. It is a natural state that sustains itself. It isn’t up to you to create it. It isn’t dependent on conditions to support it. It is here and now whatever is happening. Every moment we recognize awareness ― and really trust and learn to appreciate it ― joy comes, compassion comes, and love. But it isn’t personal; it isn’t based on liking, preferences, or kammic attachments.
Such a welcome point of view! That 'it' is there, no matter what, no matter how I feel, and that I can rest into it.  The constantly available safety of dhamma. 

The dhamma is not the destruction of conditioned phenomena, but the container of it. All possibilities of conditioned phenomena arise and cease in the dhamma; and there is nothing that can bind us once we see that, because the reality of the dhamma is seen rather than the forms that arise and cease. Mindfulness reflections are skilful means the Buddha developed for investigating experience, for breaking down the illusions we hold, for breaking through the ignorance we grasp at, for freeing ourselves from form, the limited and the unsatisfactory.
I love, love this: The dhamma is not the destruction of conditioned phenomena, but the container of it. So powerful! It's about seeing what is, not going at it with irritation and spite. The clear seeing is what leads to freedom from the tyranny of delusion. Understanding the frailty of conditioned happiness, and the temporary nature of conditioned unhappiness. We are like a small boat constantly bounced around by the currents in the deep ocean of life, whereas the bottom of the sea stays still . . . I see this every day. It does not take much for my mind to go from high to low. Sometimes, a wind from the outside, blowing in one direction or the other. Other times, inner movements from old thoughts ready to bubble up. 
Rather than teaching too many techniques now, or giving too much structure, I prefer to encourage people just to trust themselves with mindfulness and awareness.
Yes, keeping it simple. It is kind of ironic, this human tendency of complicating even the most natural of things, such as here, the practice of being with what is. Of course there are misconceptions to be dealt with, and a few traps to avoid along the way! The other day, a girlfriend of my daughter mentioned that she could not meditate. She had tried and had found it impossible "to stop my thoughts" . . . I asked who had taught her such nonsense, and she told me her martial art teacher had instructed her. 
Often meditation is taught with this sense that one has to get something or get rid of something. But that only increases the existing idea of ‘I am somebody who has to become something that I am not, and has to get rid of my bad traits, my faults, my defilements.’ If we never see through that, it will be a hopeless task. The best we will ever do under those circumstances is maybe modify our habit-tendencies, make ourselves nicer people and be happier in the world ― and that isn’t to be despised, either ― but the point of the Buddha’s teaching is liberation.
Stepping out of our habitual condition of striving for something or the absence of something.  I understand this in my head somehow . . . 


  1. "The dhamma is not the destruction of conditioned phenomena, but the container of it. "

    This sticks out for me, too. I've never heard this one! Particularly the words dhamma (as in dhamma, manifestations of reality, or Dhamma, cosmic law, the teaching...I'm guessing Dhamma, as phenomena seems to be made of the same stuff as manifestations!), destruction, phenomena, and container.

    "The teaching" or cosmic law" fits best here- as a container for phenomena...

    ...I'm seeing it the other way around! Phenomena as a container for Dharma! What do you think? (of course, this is all making the mistake that these things are ever separate, but let's have fun!)

  2. Thank you for engaging on this most important topic. I think this is all a matter of semantic. As far as I understand it from my personal experience in practice, the dhamma is that which encompasses all and does not change regardless of changes in conditions. It is accessible when one dwells in awareness. In contrast with our limited habitual experience that is mostly to do with the conditioned realm, and that is so precarious, as right now when my mood just got depressed because of some 'annoying' email I just received :) I guess you could say dhamma is a phenomena. It is just not conditioned. The image of the bottom of the lake :)

    PS - will be visiting your place in early April . . .

  3. Sounds great. I'll be on the farm crew April 15, I'm in the guest house until then (also working conferences). Will you be here for a conference!? Say hi! Funny how close we can be and not know it. I actually have no concept of where my blog friends REALLY are!

    I've been studying the Lankavatara sutra (a mahayanna sutra) and it's been really interesting! Very mind-only, very tathagata garba, and just beautiful.

  4. Oh! actually, I got confused. I thought you were at the ZC on Page, which is where I am going to discuss new Zen Senior Living Community project.
    Forgot you are at Green Gulch.

    And yes, the web makes geographic proximity irrelevant. Although I have met quite a few folks that way!

    Don't know about the sutra you mention. I have yearning to get back into reading the texts. I am overdue . . . Thank you for inspiring me.


  5. Thank you for sharing this beautiful teaching, so inspiring indeed. 'the reality of the dhamma is seen rather than the forms that arise and cease' So true. So simple. So difficult. I am so grateful for my teacher and teachers who have shown and helped me to get enough of a glimpse of the truth of this to help me slowly learn how to rest and completely trust in this truth.

  6. Yes, what a relief, when one is able to see this, and dwell from that rock solid place . . .

    Thank you for sharing your experience, once more.