when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

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when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby johnny » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:28 pm

i am mindful of my actions all day and i practice jhana meditation once a day or whenever i can. if this is very successful i have not included any time too contemplate not self, impermanence, and suffering.

what am i missing?

is this supposed too be literal "contemplation" as understood in the western sense where one ponders on a topic. or in the commentary/sutta sense in which one just notes thoughts as they come and go?

"he abides contemplating in the body it's nature of arising...etc." when? how?
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:49 pm

Contemplating on the three characteristics should be done frequently, but they are particularly helpful when you're in situations conducive to the arising of defilements like lust, hatred, envy, etc. A young voluptuous woman passes by your office cubicle at work, your co-worker just got a big promotion or a huge raise while you don't, you found out that your closest friend has just back-stabbed you, your girlfriend or wife left you for another man, etc.. Seeing the inherent nature of all conditioned phenomena as anicca, anatta, and dukkha would make your mind calm and serene under negative circumstances..
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby johnny » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:32 pm

santa100 wrote:Contemplating on the three characteristics should be done frequently, but they are particularly helpful when you're in situations conducive to the arising of defilements like lust, hatred, envy, etc. A young voluptuous woman passes by your office cubicle at work, your co-worker just got a big promotion or a huge raise while you don't, you found out that your closest friend has just back-stabbed you, your girlfriend or wife left you for another man, etc.. Seeing the inherent nature of all conditioned phenomena as anicca, anatta, and dukkha would make your mind calm and serene under negative circumstances..



okay, so basically if something strong happens that breaks my mindfulness?

how do i contemplate? note and release? or ponder? like, negative emotion: i think "this thought is not self." and release it? or do i dissect the thought?
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:44 pm

Say if lust is about to arise upon seeing some attractive forms, you immediately reflect on the three characteristics until your lust subsides. Then you could either go back to your object of meditation or return to whatever you were doing like work if you're at work, cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn if you're doing yard work, etc..
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby manas » Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:56 am

Hi johnny

I have not 'entered & remained in jhana' as yet, but I can recall a few meditations where the five hindrances were considerably weakened, and I had this interesting perception "this is not the same mind" (as usual). Then, after arising from the sitting, I noticed how the mind had changed back again. Now I would call that a 'contemplation of impermanence'. I could ask you: thinking back to your most recent jhana experience: where is that state of mind now?

Even jhana is subject to arising & passing away...nothing in the World is permanent! Nothing in the World is fitting to be held on to as 'me' or as 'mine'...

But, in our un-wisdom, we do try...

metta :anjali:
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby johnny » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:50 am

manas wrote:Hi johnny

I have not 'entered & remained in jhana' as yet, but I can recall a few meditations where the five hindrances were considerably weakened, and I had this interesting perception "this is not the same mind" (as usual). Then, after arising from the sitting, I noticed how the mind had changed back again. Now I would call that a 'contemplation of impermanence'. I could ask you: thinking back to your most recent jhana experience: where is that state of mind now?

Even jhana is subject to arising & passing away...nothing in the World is permanent! Nothing in the World is fitting to be held on to as 'me' or as 'mine'...

But, in our un-wisdom, we do try...

metta :anjali:


where is that state of mind now? the zen part of me wants too say it's still there, just covered by defilements. i'm not entirely sure how this kind of thing is viewed in theravada. my own opinion, if i try too ignore the view points i have been taught, is it's irrelevant, because everything is impermanent, that state of jhana is not important at all, just a means too an end.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Caldorian » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:23 am

I saw this today and it seems to be one fitting answer to your question: http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2012/02 ... yesterday/

:namaste:
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:47 am

johnny wrote:i am mindful of my actions all day and i practice jhana meditation once a day or whenever i can. if this is very successful i have not included any time too contemplate not self, impermanence, and suffering.

what am i missing?


In everything you observed during your day to day mindfulness did you observe anything that was permanent? anything that was self? anything that provided lasting satisfactoriness?

If not then you have been observing the three characteristics.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby pegembara » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:15 am

When you leave here, you should practice bringing everything back to your own mind. Look at your mind with this mindfulness and clear comprehension and develop this wisdom. With these three conditions there will arise a ''letting go''. You'll know the constant arising and passing away of all phenomena.

You should know that that which is arising and passing away is only the activity of mind. When something arises, it passes away and is followed by further arising and passing away. In the Way of Dhamma we call this arising and passing away ''birth and death''; and this is everything - this is all there is! When suffering has arisen, it passes away, and, when it has passed away, suffering arises again2. There's just suffering arising and passing away. When you see this much, you'll be able to know constantly this arising and passing away; and, when your knowing is constant, you'll see that this is really all there is. Everything is just birth and death. It's not as if there is anything which carries on. There's just this arising and passing away as it is - that's all.

This kind of seeing will give rise to a tranquil feeling of dispassion towards the world. Such a feeling arises when we see that actually there is nothing worth wanting; there is only arising and passing away, a being born followed by a dying. This is when the mind arrives at ''letting go'', letting everything go according to its own nature. Things arise and pass away in our mind, and we know. When happiness arises, we know; when dissatisfaction arises, we know. And this ''knowing happiness'' means that we don't identify with it as being ours. And likewise with dissatisfaction and unhappiness, we don't identify with them as being ours. When we no longer identify with and cling to happiness and suffering, we are simply left with the natural way of things.

So we say that mental activity is like the deadly poisonous cobra. If we don't interfere with a cobra, it simply goes its own way. Even though it may be extremely poisonous, we are not affected by it; we don't go near it or take hold of it, and it doesn't bite us. The cobra does what is natural for a cobra to do. That's the way it is. If you are clever you'll leave it alone. And so you let be that which is good. You also let be that which is not good - let it be according to its own nature. Let be your liking and your disliking, the same way as you don't interfere with the cobra.

So, one who is intelligent will have this kind of attitude towards the various moods that arise in the mind. When goodness arises, we let it be good, but we know also. We understand its nature. And, too, we let be the not-good, we let it be according to its nature. We don't take hold of it because we don't want anything. We don't want evil, neither do we want good. We want neither heaviness nor lightness, happiness nor suffering. When, in this way, our wanting is at an end, peace is firmly established.



Ajahn Chah



http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Living_With_Cobra1.php
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:18 am

santa100 wrote:Say if lust is about to arise upon seeing some attractive forms, you immediately reflect on the three characteristics until your lust subsides.


I thought the 3 characteristics were about developing insight rather than dealing with hindrances?
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:13 am

johnny wrote:i am mindful of my actions all day and i practice jhana meditation once a day or whenever i can. if this is very successful i have not included any time too contemplate not self, impermanence, and suffering.

what am i missing?

is this supposed too be literal "contemplation" as understood in the western sense where one ponders on a topic. or in the commentary/sutta sense in which one just notes thoughts as they come and go?

Both, noticing when the three characteristics are present & as a reflection on what these mean, both of these support & inform each other.

"he abides contemplating in the body it's nature of arising...etc." when? how?

At all times!
There are several methods used in the texts, such as the fire sermon SN35.28, & there are a few passages in the Dhammapada you could use, beside noticing the characteristics as they become obvious or looking for them.
Ti-lakkhaṇ’ādi-gāthā – Verses on the three characteristics V.277-279
277.
'All fabrications are inconstant' when you see this with discernment,
you become disenchanted with stress. This is the path to purity.
278.
'All fabrications are stressful' when you see this with discernment,
you become disenchanted with stress. This is the path to purity.
279.
'All phenomena are not-self' when you see with discernment,
you become disenchanted with stress. This is the path to purity.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby santa100 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:19 pm

Porpoise wrote:
"I thought the 3 characteristics were about developing insight rather than dealing with hindrances?"

Sure, the 3 characteristics is for insight development. And what is the purpose of developing insight ? The total destruction of the 3 unwholesome roots and final liberation. While it's important for one to develop certain level of concentration/serenity, but this alone isn't enough to eradicate all fetters, clingings, and latent tendencies. This is why serenity and insight are both included in the training of anapanasati (first 3 tetrads for serenity and the 4th tetrad for insight)..
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:55 pm

santa100 wrote:This is why serenity and insight are both included in the training of anapanasati (first 3 tetrads for serenity and the 4th tetrad for insight)..


We can see each tetrad as comprising both approaches: the term "experiencing" suggests vipassana, while "calming" suggests samatha, a pattern which replicates in each of the first three tetrads. For the fourth, anicca can already be seen, which marks the practice of one who can enter and leave jhana at will; the fourth tetrad is making it ones object to let go. One or another tetrad is to be practiced; I do not think they are to be done stepwise, 1 through 16.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby santa100 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 4:24 pm

Thanks for clarification Dave. Bhikkhu Bodhi doesn't think it should be done stepwise either. He also added that "experiencing" could suggest both modes: "one experiences rapture in two ways: by attaining one of the lower two jhanas in which rapture is present, one experiences rapture in the mode of serenity; or by emerging from that jhana and contemplating that rapture as subject to destruction, one experiences rapture in the mode of insight"..
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Dmytro » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:32 pm

Hi Johnny,

johnny wrote:i am mindful of my actions all day and i practice jhana meditation once a day or whenever i can. if this is very successful i have not included any time too contemplate not self, impermanence, and suffering.

what am i missing?

is this supposed too be literal "contemplation" as understood in the western sense where one ponders on a topic. or in the commentary/sutta sense in which one just notes thoughts as they come and go?

"he abides contemplating in the body it's nature of arising...etc." when? how?


Please have a look at Chachakka sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

If you are really mindful, and practice jhana, you may easily find:
- the sense door where appropriation leads to suffering;
- the element of Conditioned Arising worth working with to lessen suffering.

Then you may notice consistently how this element on thus sense door arises and ceases, and how suffering happens. Eventually there will be much less appropriation.

Good luck!
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby reflection » Sat Jul 28, 2012 3:08 am

I am amongst those who thinks the anapanasati sutta suggests doing such contemplation after the calming stages of the meditation. This is understandable, because a calm mind sees deeper and is more willing to let go of attachments & wrong ideas. Also, it may have had experiences of things disappearing that never disappeared before, like the willpower. This you can not contemplate without such experiences. So it's not a pondering, it's more a reflection, a contemplation of "what happened?"

So, I do contemplation after meditation, when the hindrances are weakened and mindfulness and clear comprehension/seeing (sati sampajanna) are strong. I think this is also how the Satipatthana sutta starts:
Herein (in this teaching) a monk lives contemplating the body in the body,ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; etc.

In fact, this comtemplation and the resulting understanding will come naturally if meditation was really deep.
"For a person whose mind is concentrated, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I know & see things as they actually are.' It is in the nature of things that a person whose mind is concentrated knows & sees things as they actually are.


However, we also find sutta references wherein investigation comes before calm. So this can also work. Calming and contemplation work together in this way too. However, I personally find this only really works if I already had some understanding through the practice I described above. Those insights I had before, can be recalled and serve as a base for calming the mind. This is not really an active contemplation, because it is just a recollection followed by immediately result. It does sometimes not even need thoughts.

But of course, there needs to be the mindfulness (recollection) deep enough to remember. When we are totally lost in emotions, this recollection will not come up or not work. When you are angry and try to convince yourself this anger is 'not-self', is not always the most fruitful way. The first atempt I would do is to practice metta as suggested in the MN20 sutta. Similar for other hindrances.

This basically describes the practice I've always been doing where calming and contemplating work together. Take what's useful and leave the rest. Also know that you can't force the understanding of the characteristics upon yourself. Some aspects are really deeply hidden, hard to see. So start where you are at.

Also, try some approaches to see what works. This is another part of starting where you are at. At times our approach may change a little. Here is a video of another kind of contemplation by Ajahn Jayasaro:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqb7ZuMI8HY

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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:52 pm

daverupa wrote:
santa100 wrote:This is why serenity and insight are both included in the training of anapanasati (first 3 tetrads for serenity and the 4th tetrad for insight)..


We can see each tetrad as comprising both approaches: the term "experiencing" suggests vipassana, while "calming" suggests samatha, a pattern which replicates in each of the first three tetrads. For the fourth, anicca can already be seen, which marks the practice of one who can enter and leave jhana at will; the fourth tetrad is making it ones object to let go. One or another tetrad is to be practiced; I do not think they are to be done stepwise, 1 through 16.


The commentaries don't seem to agree on this point. In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby daverupa » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:40 pm

porpoise wrote:In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?


I think it's a little different than that, since the satipatthana tetrads seem to overlap. It's a matter of one or another frame of reference, not four different things, sort of like this. (It is done as part of jhana, after the hindrances subside, imo.)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:19 am

daverupa wrote:
porpoise wrote:In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?


I think it's a little different than that, since the satipatthana tetrads seem to overlap. It's a matter of one or another frame of reference, not four different things, sort of like this. (It is done as part of jhana, after the hindrances subside, imo.)


Yes, the 4 frames are just different aspects of the whole, but I still think it can be confusing to conflate the 4 frames with the 4 tetrads. It looks to me like there is a progression of increasing subtlety through the tetrads - so for example experiencing the mind requires a finer degree of concentration than experiencing the ( breath ) body.
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Postby daverupa » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:47 am

Well, alas, the fact is that the tetrads of anapanasati are satipatthana - tetrad I: kaya, II: vedana, III: citta, IV: dhamma.

I know what you mean about the apparent progression, and I've framed my personal practice accordingly in the past, but:

Try seeing kaya in the first tetrad as referring to the six-sense body. For the second tetrad it is the same - all six senses - but vedana is the resolution level. Citta and dhamma, the third and fourth tetrads, are the same, though in their case the terms are complex due to chronological and cultural distance & thus take some time to grok and, I think, the fourth tetrad in particular refers to a skilled jhana practitioner's method. This may suggest a certain progression, such that one or another tetrad is appropriate and one should choose wisely (pick up the sign of the mind the way a chef picks up the sign of his master's preference, as it were).

Remember that the calming instruction in the first two tetrads occurs with reference to intention (sankharas) in that frame of reference (citta is similar, in that intention [cetana] calms as a result of the work with citta). As I see it, one isn't calming the thing framed (kaya, vedana, citta) so much as calming intention with respect to them. This is all to support and develop upekkha.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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