Meditative Personal Experiences

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:14 am

Ekaggata as a jhana ingredient in two more suttas: SN40.1; and MN 111.
Bhante Vimalaramsi wrote: "Y si buscas la palabra en el diccionario, "ekagga", significa tranquilidad, significa paz, significa quietud de la mente. Ekaggata significa el acto de esta quietud."


I ain't super great at Spanish, but if I understand that correctly, I've got no big disagreement with that definition, and I think would probably lead to good results. No argument from me.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Reductor » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:24 am

lojong1 wrote:The thing is, other local meditators say they are practicing the second tetrad without ever having reached a jhana; is that even possible? If it is, then perhaps 'devas'--people who begin anapana, get bored and stop because they are so much happier without meditation--might be better off starting from the piiti/sukha breaths. I mean for them, the first tetrad might seem like, or actually be, a step backwards and make them abandon practice.


Lojong, this statement on their part stems, I think, from a long standing debate within the Theravada tradition. One one hand there are those that side with the commentarial description of Jhana, with it having visual signs and there being the closing off of the five sense doors. On the other side are those that consider these features foreign to the jhana taught in the sutta-s. This other side of the debate describe a 'suttanata' jhana which is (usually) considered more attainable than its commentarial counterpart.

With that in mind, it seems very possible that those adhering to the commentary's jhana description would say that they're practicing the second tetrad without having entered jhana. From their viewpoint they are stating a fact. Meanwhile, those in the suttanata camp would say that having moved to the second tetrad likely (necessarily) means that they've entered jhana.

Now, would the experience be any different in either kind of meditator?

So just practice the first four steps, and don't neglect the sense of ease and comfort that you might experience. Evaluate whatever results you do experience; if they seem worthwhile to you, then continue, regardless of how this person or that might label them.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:33 pm

Lojong

You want jhana? Go on retreat (atleast 14 days) or meditate an hour 2-3 times a day. Becomes skilled in settling and unifying the mind. Stay mindful the rest of the time. Dont let your mind dwell over crap at other times.

Don't worry about the anapanasati sutta- you are just doing anapanasati samatha, which is useful enough. The 'steps' will come.

There is no special way to develop the 5 jhana factors after suppressing the hindrances. Just don't let go of the breath when it becomes all nice and woozy. This is a point that many meditators get 'lost in the bliss'. If you hold on to the breath like a life line that state will also pass and you are on the way to a jhana. I would say that the blissful state is 50-60% of the way to a jhana.

Don't worry about 'guarding the sign' as the path through nimittas is a more difficult compared just staying with the breath as the meditator has to change the object of meditation half way through -a bit like trying to walk onto an unsteady boat.

I am a firm believer in striking the iron when it is hot. I don't believe in waiting for decades to get into jhana. Better to do it quick and move forward. The noble eightfold path is a path, not a place. There must be progress.

with metta

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby octathlon » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:36 am

So, I'm not sure if we are to be discouraged from reporting personal meditation experiences or not, I didn't see anything in the rules, but I get the feeling it is possibly considered boring or self-indulgent. Anyway, I'm curious. Here are a few of mine off the top of my head, and I wonder if they are normal or is it just me?:

1. If I start off exhaling through the mouth instead of nose for the first few minutes, I relax and get into concentration much faster. Then switch back to nose only as breathing becomes more subtle.
2. If my nose is kind of stopped up and hard to breath through, if I put my attention on the feet or toes, the blood vessels there expand and swelling in nose goes away making it clear to breath again.
3. If a visual image appears and I focus on it intently, I have a sudden feeling of motion as if I'm surging toward it, or maybe it seems to surge toward me, and concentration gets deeper. If I only observe it normally, it just shifts around and/or disappears. Should I be doing that?

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby AdvaitaJ » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:55 am

I was going to stay out of this one, but...

I remember shortly after this board got started and that other forum where a lot of us were before. I remember the occasional feeling of oppression I had there and I remember the feeling of freedom associated with Dhamma Wheel -- except for discussion of meditative attainments. Let me be clear and draw a careful distinction here between meditative attainments and spiritual attainment. I wish we all felt more free and open to discuss our meditative experiences.

I'm in the midst of reading the Majjhima Nikaya and I was absolutely amazed at the number of times the attainment of jhana was mentioned in the first 30 or so discourses. In particular, I remember a passage where the wish was expressed that all the monks would find it easy to attain jhana. This to me clearly indicated that it was as difficult then as it is now.

I don't have ready access to a teacher with whom I feel comfortable so where else is it possible to "discuss"? You can't discuss with a book and sometimes you just need to literally speak (ok, write) the words in order for the thoughts to gel in your own mind. Back to the OP, I practice vipassana (insight) through the week and samadhi (concentration) on the weekends. Saturdays are almost always marked by "access concentration" but no further...and sometimes not even that. Sundays, though, I'm able to reach the first jhana about 1/3 of the time and I've experienced the rock-solid confidence of the second jhana twice. I was delighted to read the previous post in this thread where the Buddha said to nail the first jhana before reaching for the second. I am one guilty ambitious cow!

My apologies to all who feel this post is in poor taste, but I learned something new the Buddha said because of this thread and the post by lojong1 and I wish we collectively could be more open in our discussion of attaining the jhanas in the 21st century.

Regards: AdvaitaJ
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby lojong1 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:41 am

octathlon wrote:So, I'm not sure if we are to be discouraged from reporting personal meditation experiences or not, I didn't see anything in the rules, but I get the feeling it is possibly considered boring or self-indulgent.
3. If a visual image appears and I focus on it intently, I have a sudden feeling of motion as if I'm surging toward it, or maybe it seems to surge toward me, and concentration gets deeper. If I only observe it normally, it just shifts around and/or disappears. Should I be doing that?


There is a funny taboosome vibe yes. The only buddha-warning I recall about such discussion is in the Vinaya/ Patimokkha.
wiki says :
"The four parajikas (defeats) are rules entailing expulsion from the sangha for life. If a monk breaks any one of the rules he is automatically 'defeated' in the holy life and falls from monkhood immediately. He is not allowed to become a monk again in his lifetime. Intention is necessary in all these four cases to constitute an offence. The four parajikas for bhikkus are:
1. Sexual intercourse, that is, any voluntary sexual interaction between a bhikku and a living being, except for mouth-to-mouth intercourse which falls under the Sanghadisesa
2. Stealing, that is, the robbery of anything worth more than 1/24 troy ounce of gold (as determined by local law)
3. Intentionally bringing about the death of a human being, even if it is still an embryo — whether by killing the person, arranging for an assassin to kill the person, inciting the person to die, or describing the advantages of death.
4. Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior human state, such as claiming to be an arahant when one knows one is not, or claiming to have attained one of the jhanas when one knows one hasn't."

Pa-Auk Sayadaw wrote: "If you find that the nimitta is stable, and your mind by itself has
become fixed on it, then just leave your mind there. If you force
your mind to come away from it, you will probably lose your
concentration.
If your nimitta appears far away in front of you, ignore it, as it
will probably disappear. If you ignore it, and simply concentrate
on the breath at the place where the breath touches, the nimitta
will come and stay there.
If your nimitta appears at the place where the breath touches, is
stable, and appears as the breath itself, and the breath as the
nimitta, then forget about the breath, and be aware of just the
nimitta. By moving your mind from the breath to the nimitta, you
will be able to make further progress. As you keep your mind on
the nimitta, the nimitta becomes whiter and whiter, and when it is
white like cotton wool, it is the uggaha-nimitta.
You should determine to keep your mind calmly concentrated
on the white uggaha-nimitta for one, two, three hours, or more. If
you can keep your mind fixed on the uggaha-nimitta for one or
two hours, it should become clear, bright, and brilliant. This is
then the pañibhāga-nimitta (counterpart sign). Determine and
practise to keep your mind on the pañibhāga-nimitta for one, two,
or three hours. Practise until you succeed." ---from 'Knowing and Seeing' pdf

Bhukkhu Sona's 'Case of the missing Simile' talks about changes in nimitta instructions over the years.
http://www.leighb.com/case_of_the_missing_simile.htm
Sona says visual nimitta should be avoided in anapana meditation?
:broke:
I might edit more views in here as I come across them--they are out there!
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:50 am

Sona says visual nimitta should be avoided in anapana meditation?


I don't think he's saying that it is supposed to be avoided, but he is just saying that it is not necessary, since as he argues, the concept of such a thing being necessary for jhana is due to misinterpretation and over-literalization by later commentators.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Kenshou » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:57 am

octathlon wrote:3. If a visual image appears and I focus on it intently, I have a sudden feeling of motion as if I'm surging toward it, or maybe it seems to surge toward me, and concentration gets deeper. If I only observe it normally, it just shifts around and/or disappears. Should I be doing that?


Take this with a grain of salt as I am just a random guy on the internet, but I believe I recall some teachers suggesting intentionally shifting around and manipulating those mental images. Personally I think I can see how learning to do that sort of thing would help you gain more control over them, so that you might be able to get rid of them if you find them to be a hindrance, and gain more control over the mind in general.
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Anicca » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:29 am

Kenshou wrote: ... I believe I recall some teachers suggesting intentionally shifting around and manipulating those mental images. ...
This confirms Kenshou:
Ajaan Lee wrote: ... If you can't control them, don't have anything to do with them. They might lead you astray. But if you can put them through their paces, they can be of use to you later on.
To put them through their paces means to change them at will, through the power of thought (patibhaga nimitta) — making them small, large, sending them far away, bringing them up close, making them appear and disappear, sending them outside, bringing them in. Only then will you be able to use them in training the mind.

source

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby octathlon » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:40 am

Thanks, all. That's interesting and helpful. And thanks for the link too, lojong. :smile:
:thanks:
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:52 am

Hi AdvaitaJ,
AdvaitaJ wrote: I wish we all felt more free and open to discuss our meditative experiences.

I don't see any particular problem in asking for clarification about experiences. However, in many cases I see people asking things like:
Should I be doing that?

Without giving much information about what they think they are trying to do. It's really helpful to say what method you are following. For example:
I'm following the instructions in Ajahn X's book and what I'm experiencing is different from what he says in page Y. Is this normal?

Because the answer is often: "If you are trying to do Y, then yes, but if you are trying to do Z, then no". If your primary aim is to achieve jhana then the advice is different from if you are following the approach of Sayadaw Mahasi and his students, for example.

One reason why I'm reticent about volunteer too much about my experiences is that I know (from experience) that all kinds of odd things can happen, the details of which are unimportant. It's not actually that helpful for someone to read a list of the things that I've seen in meditation. Most are just artefacts. Some may be useful. And I don't have the experience to really explain which is which.

But, if someone posts a question in the form I suggested above, I may be able to say something useful from my experience. Or, to me preferable, I can quote something from a teacher that is in line with my experience and covers the question.

Mike
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Reductor » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:59 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:My apologies to all who feel this post is in poor taste, but I learned something new the Buddha said because of this thread and the post by lojong1 and I wish we collectively could be more open in our discussion of attaining the jhanas in the 21st century.

Regards: AdvaitaJ

That sounds like progress Advaita. :twothumbsup:

Since you've been gone this place has softened a little bit about meditation, so don't think that you're post was in poor taste.

Perhaps you should practice samatha more often than just the weekends. If you can enter jhana occasionally, then you could easily increase the frequency just by adding in Friday. That's what I'm thinking.

Oh, welcome back. Do you think you'll be hanging around for a while?

mikenz66 wrote:But, if someone posts a question in the form I suggested above, I may be able to say something useful from my experience. Or, to me preferable, I can quote something from a teacher that is in line with my experience and covers the question.


I think that since the grey forum went down things here on DW have become really interesting, as those that might have stopped at Esangha find there way here. The influx of less experienced, but eager, meditators mixes with the more experienced sort, leading to all sorts of neat Q&A sessions.

:toast:

So thanks everyone.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby octathlon » Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:15 am

Hi mikenz66,
mikenz66 wrote:I don't see any particular problem in asking for clarification about experiences. However, in many cases I see people asking things like:
Should I be doing that?

Without giving much information about what they think they are trying to do. It's really helpful to say what method you are following. For example:
I'm following the instructions in Ajahn X's book and what I'm experiencing is different from what he says in page Y. Is this normal?

Because the answer is often: "If you are trying to do Y, then yes, but if you are trying to do Z, then no". If your primary aim is to achieve jhana then the advice is different from if you are following the approach of Sayadaw Mahasi and his students, for example.


Thank you for this advice as to a proper way to address meditation experience questions that may arise. My "Should I be doing that?" is obviously out of pure ignorance as to whether something I am doing might possibly be harmful or detrimental. Ideally, it would be better to have a teacher to ask and I hope to have that opportunity one day. In the meantime, I'll try to be more specific in future questions. :thanks:

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:45 am

Hi octathon,
octathlon wrote:My "Should I be doing that?" is obviously out of pure ignorance as to whether something I am doing might possibly be harmful or detrimental. Ideally, it would be better to have a teacher to ask and I hope to have that opportunity one day. In the meantime, I'll try to be more specific in future questions. :thanks:

Perhaps if you just added whether you are following a particular method it would be much easier to answer the questions you already asked. Someone might suggest a good book or website that will answer a lot of your questions. My advice if you don't have an in-person teacher would be to pick a book or website of a teacher you think you can trust and follow his/her advice. Since different teachers teach stuff in different orders and emphasise different things mixing up the instructions from different teachers can be really confusing.

:anjali:
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:42 am

Mikenz66,

As usual, your logic is sound and your advice well taken. However, from another perspective, I'd like to suggest that sharing experience with others, whether the experience was good, but especially when it wasn't, is a way to communicate several things. First, when someone is able to report progress, it lets others who may be struggling know that progress is possible and the teachings remain effective in this day and age. When someone reports that things aren't going well, or especially that something attempted didn't work, the skillful reader will learn from that and possibly take comfort in the fact that others occasionally struggle as well.

I often think there's a lot of doubt expressed by many of the posters and I think those here who are able should (I can't believe that I, one of the most heartless bastards on the planet, am about to write this :embarassed: ) show compassion and provide encouragement by personal example.

Regards: Jim aka AdvaitaJ
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Viscid » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:47 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:Mikenz66,

As usual, your logic is sound and your advice well taken. However, from another perspective, I'd like to suggest that sharing experience with others, whether the experience was good, but especially when it wasn't, is a way to communicate several things. First, when someone is able to report progress, it lets others who may be struggling know that progress is possible and the teachings remain effective in this day and age. When someone reports that things aren't going well, or especially that something attempted didn't work, the skillful reader will learn from that and possibly take comfort in the fact that others occasionally struggle as well.

I often think there's a lot of doubt expressed by many of the posters and I think those here who are able should (I can't believe that I, one of the most heartless bastards on the planet, am about to write this :embarassed: ) show compassion and provide encouragement by personal example.

Regards: Jim aka AdvaitaJ

:twothumbsup:
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:54 am

Hi Jim,

Sure, I think it is useful to share some personal experiences, and I've certainly done that in response to particular questions where my experience might have been relevant, and I've asked questions of my own when I've had an experience and been uncertain about it and not had a teacher to discuss it with.

But I believe that to have a useful discussion of someone's experiences or problems it is crucial to know what they are trying to do. What is the method they are following, how long have they been doing it, and under what conditions (at home, on a retreat, etc)?

And even then, on an internet forum one is generally only guessing. A few minutes of in-person communication with someone who really understands the particular technique can clear up a lot of problems.

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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:03 am

Greetings Thereductor!

Perhaps you should practice samatha more often than just the weekends. If you can enter jhana occasionally, then you could easily increase the frequency just by adding in Friday. That's what I'm thinking.

Oh, welcome back. Do you think you'll be hanging around for a while?


'Tis good to be back. There just aren't enough hours in the day when spring/summer rolls around here in the northern hemisphere.

With regards to adding Friday's I absolutely agree except for one major obstacle: work. Saturday and Sunday are morning sessions, but Monday through Friday it's up and off to work. I've tried evenings after work, but I'm almost always too tired and just drift off to never-never land. Getting up earlier doesn't work because that makes dinner too late and I'm too old to eat that close to bedtime. :cry:

I've spent a couple of weekends experimenting with meditating on my boat (30 foot cruising sailboat) and the results have been both intriguing, disappointing, and promising all at the same time. I had thought that anchored out, away from everything and everyone, would be super-conducive to concentration -- and it may yet be so. However, anchoring out is still such a rare opportunity for me that I'm over-anticipating and "chasing" if you catch my drift. I just need much, much more time off to practice and retirement is still a few (too many) years away. I remember a post by an older retired guy on E-Sangha who said he sat for three or four hours every day. I'd love to know if/how that worked for him. What's that phrase about the third jhana being a great place to spend your time? :meditate:

Regards: Jim
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:Sure, I think it is useful to share some personal experiences, and I've certainly done that in response to particular questions where my experience might have been relevant, and I've asked questions of my own when I've had an experience and been uncertain about it and not had a teacher to discuss it with.

But I believe that to have a useful discussion of someone's experiences or problems it is crucial to know what they are trying to do. What is the method they are following, how long have they been doing it, and under what conditions (at home, on a retreat, etc)?

And even then, on an internet forum one is generally only guessing. A few minutes of in-person communication with someone who really understands the particular technique can clear up a lot of problems.

Mike,

As usual, very well said and I couldn't agree more. I distinctly remember some of your posts being most helpful when I was just starting!

:bow:

Jim
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Re: Meditative Personal Experiences

Postby Reductor » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:31 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:'Tis good to be back. There just aren't enough hours in the day when spring/summer rolls around here in the northern hemisphere.


Ugh! Don't I know it.

With regards to adding Friday's I absolutely agree except for one major obstacle: work. Saturday and Sunday are morning sessions, but Monday through Friday it's up and off to work. I've tried evenings after work, but I'm almost always too tired and just drift off to never-never land. Getting up earlier doesn't work because that makes dinner too late and I'm too old to eat that close to bedtime. :cry:


There's a lot to be learned in overcoming a hindrance, to their credit, so sloth and torpor can be real eye openers. Harharhar. Seriously, the overcoming of hindrances is the name of the game. Even if we aren't always successful, it always pays to try. After all, you may not live to retirement, right? Best make the best of it now.

So, are you able to dispel tiredness with vipassana? If so, then I would suggest that you divide you're Friday meditation into initial vipassana to overcome the weariness, then move into samadhi. After all, vipassana meditation is mainly investigation, which leads to energy -- the very factors the Buddha implores the practitioner to develop for the warding off of sloth and torpor.

"But, monks, when the mind is sluggish, that is the right time to cultivate the enlightenment-factor of investigation-of-states, the enlightenment-factor of energy, the enlightenment-factor of rapture.[2] What is the reason? A sluggish mind is easy to arouse by these factors.

"Suppose a man wants to make a small fire blaze. If he heaps dry grass, dry cow-dung and dry sticks on it, blows on it with his mouth, and does not sprinkle it with dust, can he make that fire blaze?"

"Yes indeed, Lord."

"... a sluggish mind is easy to arouse through these factors.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

Once these factors are well in hand, then the last factors can be developed. I think this process is called 'balancing the factors' or some such. It is useful to keep in mind.

I would recommend that you read this vagga of the SN, as it is very complete in its detail of practice. Of course you're already reading the MN, which is good, but perhaps it would be timely to take a break and read the Mahavagga. If you have Bodhi's SN, that would be best of all.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#maha

Failing that, read this sutta. If you have before, then do it again.

I had thought that anchored out, away from everything and everyone, would be super-conducive to concentration -- and it may yet be so. However, anchoring out is still such a rare opportunity for me that I'm over-anticipating and "chasing" if you catch my drift.
Regards: Jim


That 'chasing' is restlessness, and overcoming can be very hard. I'm well familiar with it. Again, the above referenced SN sutta addresses this issue some. I would suggest that you just sit and focus on how relaxed the body is and how gosh darn nice it is to sit on the boat. Even if nothing comes of it in terms of meditation, it is nice, isn't it?

"Let a person not revive the past,
or on the future build their hopes.
For the past has been left behind,
The future has not yet been reached.

Instead with insight let them see,
each presently arisen state.
Let them know that, and be sure of it,
unshakably, invincibly."
-MN131, translated by Bodhi, written from memory (so pardon any error in the transcription).

An alternate version is below, along with a very interesting wheel on it by the esteemed Nanananda.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nana.html
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh188-p.html

Have fun.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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