The right mindfulness

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

Postby starter » Fri Dec 24, 2010 12:01 am

Hi friends,

Well we learned that the real ignorance is not seeing things in terms of the four noble truths — in other words, applying inappropriate/unwise attention. Then obviously, the right mindfulness is to "look at things in terms of the four noble truths: Where is the stress, what are you doing to cause it, where is there freedom from stress, and what kind of actions lead to that freedom? When you look in these terms, then the fabrications of your intentions go in a different direction ...: toward the end of suffering." This is the right mindfulness.

"When things come up in the present moment, how do you look at them? Try to look at them simply in terms of stress and lack of stress. Which intentions and ways of attending to things lead to stress; which ones bring it to an end? Try to put aside any ideas of yourself or what lies outside of yourself. Put aside questions of what lies behind all of this. Just look at things as they're directly experienced as stress. This is a mode of perception that's important to develop."

"Our normal reaction when we feel stress and strain is to say, "This is happening to me." And when something bad happens to you, there's a different set of imperatives. The imperative is to get rid of it, to get it out of the range of what you identify as "me." But if you can pull out of that sense of "me" surrounding your experience and simply look at the stress happening right here, right now — from a position of wellbeing, the wellbeing that comes from right concentration [samata meditation] — then the imperatives are different. The imperative is to understand the stress, to see what's causing it, and then to abandon the cause." ... Then "you attend to things in the right way. You see things simply in terms of stress, its cause, the path leading to its ending, and its ending. This is the framework you're supposed to bring to each present moment. In other words, you see things in terms of the four noble truths, and your intention is to perform the duties appropriate to each, ... to try to comprehend the suffering, the stress, wherever it may be in that moment, and to develop the factors that will enable you to comprehend suffering."

"Once you've got this framework firmly in mind, you can go wherever you want and deal with any situation that confronts you, because you're working from a framework that ... actually helps bring them [the stress] to an end."

"The ability to keep all this in mind [the frame of 4 noble truths] is [right] mindfulness. That, combined with appropriate attention and the right intention, is what turns each moment into a moment of the practice, regardless of the situation."

-- Meditation4

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby budo » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:44 pm

Hi Starter,

Very useful thank you for posting this. Is this thanissaro bikkhu's meditation4?

Thanks,
Budo
“An effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.” - George Orwell

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby starter » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:40 pm

"Is this thanissaro bikkhu's meditation4?"

-- Yes

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:41 am

Hi Starter,

Well done! Also keep in mind stress is to be understood, the cause of stress is to be abandoned, the ending of stress is to be achieved, the noble eightfold path it to be practiced- as per the dhammachakka sutta.

So always keep your radar on for stress,suffering,unpleasantness etc. When it arises, immediately note what the cause is - and get rid of it (the cause that is) from your mind right away. The work is internal, not external (we dont try to change the world- unless we really have to, but that wont take you to nibbana, just a somewhat more peaceful samsara- which is impermanent).

If you have found the right cause(s) - usually a craving or aversion or delusion- or a mix of these, you should experience 'personal 'nibbana' -a personal 'cooling' ..of the suffering and you returning to a state of peace.

Methods of removing craving, aversion and delusion are found here (and extremely important):

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

Now what about unpleasantnes? While you are mindful of it, bear in mind that it will pass (vedananupassana). Then when your aversion to the unpleasantness has turned to equanimity, watch it actually changing and passing, with mindfulness.

What if there is no mental suffering or unpleasantness? Then understand that you are now experiencing samsara, which is impermanent and therefore unsatisfactory. The approach to this is different. The way to attain nibbana 'cooling' it to be mindful of its impermanence (ie vipassana) until the arising of sankhara stops for a brief moment and you are released from the suffering of samsara for a moment as well. See the Progress of Insight here:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... gress.html

suffering from wrong view (existence of a self for example)- samma ditti
Suffering from thoughts of cruelty- samma sankhappa
suffering from breaking the precepts- the sila components of the noble eightfold path
suffering from other defilements- samma vayama.
then in moments when your mind is clear- go to satipatthana.
develop jhana - samma samadhi.

...then this is the last truth- the path you took to overcome your suffering.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby starter » Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:07 pm

Hello Matheesha,

Thanks for the excellent post and links. Indeed we should be mindful of the arising of our sufferings, and immediately try to find the causes of the sufferings and the means to end sufferings. We should also be mindful of the arising of our inner tranquility, and find the causes of the tranquility and the means to maintain such tranquility.

I've recently been advised by a famous teacher to stop reading and thinking [he doesn't think it's necessary to learn much -- many Thai ajaans didn't learn much but were enlightened], to focus on concentration and to establish/maintain an inner center during daily activities. I've been pondering if I should minimize reading and thinking -- whatever reading and thinking. While knowing greed for knowledge and attachment to learning is one of my biggest attachments, I've been wondering if I should stop even the right (wholesome and beneficial) reading and right thinking to remove such attachments first. But my intuition tells me otherwise. I should definitely think even more diligently about the causes of sufferings and the means to end sufferings, for instance.

Did the Buddha teach us "Concentration does not arise without understanding [wisdom], nor understanding [wisdom] without concentration?" I'm a bit confused now about developing concentration alone without more understanding [wisdom]. Or probably there's not really a lack of understanding but more a lack of concentration? You also kindly advised previously: "one thing at a time" -- at this stage of my cultivation, probably it's better to focus on concentration to balance it with understanding without trying to read/learn more?

By the way, a late happy new year to all the friends and sincere thanks for all the great help! I often don't reply only to say "thanks" or "excellent post", because I'd like every post of mine is worth reading.

With Metta,

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby farmer » Tue Jan 18, 2011 10:07 pm

Starter,

If the teacher who advised you to stop reading is someone you respect, maybe you should resolve to try their advice out for a few weeks and watch the results. Even if you decide in the end that the advice wasn't right for you, you may learn something valuable along the way.

Farmer.

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby starter » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:04 pm

Hello friends,

Since the purpose of the advice [stop reading/thinking] is for developing concentration, I tend to think that only the readings/thinkings which disturb the mind and result in proliferating thinkings / the loss of tranquility should be stopped. On the other hand, some optimum (not excessive) readings/thinkings which can calm the mind and enhance tranquility should probably not be stopped (?).

By the way, there's an effective way to cut through the attachments in my experience: contemplating "this might be my last breath" (anicca) -- all these really don't matter, and "this is not really what "I" want, what "I" think, what "I" am, ..." whenever greed/aversion/delusion/conceit arises. Just to share with the dhamma friends.

With Metta,

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby farmer » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:58 pm

You might find this blog post relevant:

To say I have loved books from early childhood is, I realise now, a wrong understanding of love. I began devouring words off the back of packs of cereal at the tender age of four and it took another twenty-five years to recognise that they were devouring me. The turning point came during my first year as a bhikkhu in England. Recognising how rabid my verbal appetite was, I decided to fast from reading for the three months’ Rains Retreat. At first my mind got extremely bored and dull, but then I began to notice the other senses more, and enjoy just looking at life as it happened, without it having to fit some map or system or agenda in my head. This lead me to an all-important connection to being embodied – to feeling the breathing steadily and sensitively, rather than ‘trying to meditate and get concentrated’, and to sensing what happens in the body when it walks, rather than ‘doing walking meditation.’ It was a movement to something more whole and present: experiencing directly rather than through the medium of ideas and strategies.


http://sucitto.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby starter » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:08 am

Hello Farmer,

Thanks a lot for your very helpful post. Indeed I need to remove my attachment to reading and thinking, but I wonder for a lay person if it's better to do it during a retreat instead of during daily work life. I almost didn't read for 4 days during the retreat, and it was fine for me to just walk, sit and do some service. I feel the need to read/think about the dhamma to feed and calm my mind and wash away the taints from the daily work life since it is impossible to stop reading/thinking about work and daily life in my case. Of course I can practice the restraint of the reading/thinking.

All the best,

Starter

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby budo » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:09 pm

starter wrote:Hello Farmer,

Thanks a lot for your very helpful post. Indeed I need to remove my attachment to reading and thinking, but I wonder for a lay person if it's better to do it during a retreat instead of during daily work life. I almost didn't read for 4 days during the retreat, and it was fine for me to just walk, sit and do some service. I feel the need to read/think about the dhamma to feed and calm my mind and wash away the taints from the daily work life since it is impossible to stop reading/thinking about work and daily life in my case. Of course I can practice the restraint of the reading/thinking.

All the best,

Starter


I was raised Jewish, and on our "sabbath", which is on Saturdays, we do nothing, no "work" (by work I mean the expenditure of energy), or limit work as much as possible, also we do not watch TV, or have any electronics on. Food is prepared the day before, and in fact, even toilet paper is broken up into pieces the day before so we don't even have to rip them!

If one could apply this to Buddhism, that would mean there would be a day of the week where one does not stimulate the senses. No talking, no communication, no electronics, no work, just meditating, resting, and two light vegetarian meals. What are your thoughts?
“An effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.” - George Orwell

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:36 pm

Hi Starter,

There are three components (from the noble eightfold path) to developing samadhi:

1) right concentration- developing jhanas- your sitting practice.

2) right effort- removing your defilements and purifying your mind/ developing wholesome qualities.

3) right mindfulness- being mindful of some object of your experience right through the day.

Please note that when we start challenging defilements, your mind will come up with excuses as to why it should not be done. Overcoming this is part of the practice.

With metta

Matheesha
With Metta

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& Upekkha

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:37 pm

Hi Starter,

There are three components (from the noble eightfold path) to developing samadhi:

1) right concentration- developing jhanas- your sitting practice.

2) right effort- removing your defilements and purifying your mind/ developing wholesome qualities.

3) right mindfulness- being mindful of some object of your experience right through the day.

Please note that when we start challenging defilements, your mind will come up with excuses as to why it should not be done. Overcoming this is part of the practice.

With metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby farmer » Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:31 pm

Matheesha,

I wonder why "right contemplation" or "right study" aren't components of the path. In the suttas, it is very clear that the early bikkhus spent a lot of time discussing dhamma, and would ask each other and the Buddha highly analytical questions like this one:

"Friend, are vitality-fabrications the same thing as feeling-states? Or are vitality-fabrications one thing, and feeling-states another?"

Study and analysis seem to have been an important part of their approach to the dhamma, but the Buddha never taught "right contemplation" as a part of the path. At the same time, he never chastised the monks for "thinking too much," or discouraged them from discussing dhamma among themselves. What did the Buddha teach about the proper role of study and contemplation? To put it another way, what is the proper role of the intellect in developing the path?

Unlike Starter, I haven't worried about reading too much, but I have had a huge problem with thinking when I should be meditating. The thoughts are mostly connected to dhamma, and fairly innocuous in themselves, but part of my mind just can't bear to drop them when it is time to focus exclusively on the breath. Whether or not there is such a thing as "right contemplation," this is obviously "wrong contemplation." On the other hand, there have been many occasions where this sort of cogitation has helped me see important things that I hadn't understood before. Where is the right balance? I can't think of anything in the texts that answers this question.

Farmer

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby Reductor » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:50 pm

Contemplation of the Dhamma has a role to play, and is discussed in SN 46.3, the vagga on the enlightenment-factors.

Let me see if there is a version online...

EDIT: Can't find it. But I'll transcribe a little...


Dwelling thus withdrawn, one recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over. Whenever, bhikkhus, a bkikkhu dwelling thus withdrawn recollects that Dhamma and thinks it over, on that occasion the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is aroused... he discriminates that Dhamma with wisdom, examines it, makes an investigation of it, on that occasion the enlightenment factor of discrimination of states is aroused ... his energy is aroused without slackening ... there arises in him spiritual rapture ... for on uplifted by rapture the body becomes tranquil and the mind become tranquil ... for one whose body is tranquil and who is happy the mind becomes concentrated ... he looks on with equanimity at the mind thus concentrated ... When these seven factors of enlightenment have been developed and cultivated in this way, seven fruits and benefits may be expected... one attains final knowledge in this very life .. attains knowledge at time of death ... etc.

SN 46.3

So, if your contemplation is giving rise to energy and spiritual rapture, than you're on the right track. If it is causing vexation and confusion, then back off. Also, not the part about being withdrawn... I would take that the mean, among other things, that you have put away worldly concerns that might be bound up with your contemplation.

Also, at the time of the Buddha there was no writing, so the Dhamma pondered over would be something you heard. So perhaps dry intellectual contemplation disconnected with your immediate needs is the wrong way to go, whereas contemplation of Dhamma in a way where you reflect your experiences back to it, and it back to your experiences, could be very beneficial.

I know that this kind of contemplation has proven pretty useful for me, whereas the more intellectual forms of reading and contemplation have actually caused me mental turmoil which hindered my meditation practice considerably.
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: The right mindfulness

Postby starter » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:19 am

As I understand, noble 8-fold path (with dhamma study, discussion and contemplation covered under right view I suppose) leads to 7 enlightenment factors, which contains "right contemplation (analysis)" of dhamma as the 2nd enlightenment factor. However, some teacher translates it into analysis of qualities/states (wholesome/unwholesome), which makes the practice completely different. Nevertheless, MN 95 (Canki Sutta) clearly indicates how to awake to the truth and how to finally attain the truth:

“... There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing [to try the teachings out by practicing]. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"; which probably means he examines carefully the results of these efforts). Contemplating, he makes an exertion [which probably means after examining, he strives to practice in accordance with the teachings]. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body [I was told it's a meditative experience] and sees by penetrating it with discernment."

The cultivation, development, & pursuit [BB: repetition, cultivation and development] of those very same qualities [BB: things, which probably means learning the true dhamma/reflective acceptance of the dhamma – try the teachings out in practice – examine the results – striving to practice according to the dhamma ... ]: to this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the final attainment of the truth.”

After getting the advice of stopping reading/thinking, I tried to discuss this sutta with the teacher, but it annoyed him since I didn't listen but did more reading, more thinking and asked him more questions about Canki sutta. But he is right about the fact that many Thai Ajaans didn't read/think much about suttas but they were enlightened (by lots of meditation)! I suppose the method of these Ajaans belongs to the last method of enlightenment -- by meditation object (the other methods seem to include pondering about / reciting / teaching the dhamma, please correct me if I'm wrong). These Thai Ajaans are the best teachers we can find now, so I suppose we'd better follow their methods, unless we can find some other teachers enlightened/liberated by pondering about / reciting / teaching the dhamma nowadays (I don't know any).

I agree with Thereductor that we should apply the study/contemplation of the Dhamma to our personal experience to remove our attachments/hindrances, instead of purely for knowledge and information. Mere reading/contemplation of the Dhamma does not help one to end suffering. The Buddha said "a man is not versed in Dhamma because he speaks much of the Dhamma. He who, after hearing even a little Dhamma, realizes its truth directly and is not heedless of it, is truly versed in the Dhamma."

Many thanks and metta,

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Last edited by starter on Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:58 pm

farmer wrote:Matheesha,

I wonder why "right contemplation" or "right study" aren't components of the path. In the suttas, it is very clear that the early bikkhus spent a lot of time discussing dhamma, and would ask each other and the Buddha highly analytical questions like this one:

"Friend, are vitality-fabrications the same thing as feeling-states? Or are vitality-fabrications one thing, and feeling-states another?"

Study and analysis seem to have been an important part of their approach to the dhamma, but the Buddha never taught "right contemplation" as a part of the path. At the same time, he never chastised the monks for "thinking too much," or discouraged them from discussing dhamma among themselves. What did the Buddha teach about the proper role of study and contemplation? To put it another way, what is the proper role of the intellect in developing the path?

Unlike Starter, I haven't worried about reading too much, but I have had a huge problem with thinking when I should be meditating. The thoughts are mostly connected to dhamma, and fairly innocuous in themselves, but part of my mind just can't bear to drop them when it is time to focus exclusively on the breath. Whether or not there is such a thing as "right contemplation," this is obviously "wrong contemplation." On the other hand, there have been many occasions where this sort of cogitation has helped me see important things that I hadn't understood before. Where is the right balance? I can't think of anything in the texts that answers this question.

Farmer


Hi Farmer (and Starter),

Yonisomanasikara (appropriate contemplation IMO) has been praised by the Buddha as the most useful internal thing in attaining nibbana. But there is a time and a place for everything! Contemplation is very useful in giving rise to Right View (Samma Ditti)- you will find Ven Sariputta often bringning up topic on purpose to get the monks to have that intial correct understanding of the dhamma- on which they can build up their meditation practice. I believe it falls neatly into the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is also useful in the Sila sections of the noble eightfold path - to contemplate the drawbacks of breaking sila as a tool to stop breaking them. It is helpful in Right effort- see vitakkasantana sutta -step 2. It is helpful with Right mindfulness because something like Bud-dho or labelling ('walking, walking') could also be considered types of contemplations/verbalizations which help the practice.

However it is important to note that if you cannot put it down while meditating- this suggests attachment to contemplations- they arise due to attachment and clinging giving rise to them (upadana paccaya bhavo). Then you must reduce your contemplations and dhamma forays as practice is compromised. Cintamaya panna (insight arising from contemplating) should not get in the way of bhavanamaya panna (insigt arising from samatha-vipassana). As per the rule that whatever should be giving rise to the higher state, if in itself becomes a hindrance to that higher states, needs to be gently put down a little bit.

If you can put it aside when you are practicing and it is not a hindrance to your mindfulness or samadhi then I see no reason to stop. Except to say that it might be taking up the time you would otherwise devote to the practice. It takes a good 2 hours or so a day to develop hindrance free samadhi- so it is time intensive for lay people. Just because contemplating is pleasurable requiring less effort, we might be more inclined to do that. However this is a pitful and you find elderly gentleman knowing a lot of dhamma but with no practice and little chance of doing so because they have now come into their old age when their faculties are not 'bright'. So dont throw your youth away!

Also know that- 'stop thinking, more practice' is an often heard call in meditation not requiring Right view (ie non buddhist..well not Ariya in any case). As for how much we need to know - well you need to know every single concept in the noble eightfold path (including the details of each step, as described in the suttas). Then you need to know some meditation instructions that bring these concepts alight. As for how much time you spent on each 10:1 practice:thinking would be a guesstimate.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby farmer » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:47 am

Thereductor: thank you for taking the time to transcribe that

Matheesha: Translating yonisomanasikara as "appropriate contemplation" is very helpful. I've been following Ajahn Thanissaro's "appropriate attention," a translation which led me to conceive yonisomanasikara as an matter of how we attend to the senses. In passages like this one from the Nagara sutta, it seems "appropriate contemplation" would be a more natural translation:

"Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death exist when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death exist when birth exists. From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death.

For the time being, I am practicing without access to teachers, so it is very beneficial to have virtual admirable friends to straighten out these misunderstandings.

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:15 am

Hello all,

On a side note, this article in Science Daily about Mindfulness Meditation may be of interest:

Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in Eight Weeks
ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2011) — Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 144007.htm

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: The right mindfulness

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:15 am

farmer wrote:Thereductor: thank you for taking the time to transcribe that

Matheesha: Translating yonisomanasikara as "appropriate contemplation" is very helpful. I've been following Ajahn Thanissaro's "appropriate attention," a translation which led me to conceive yonisomanasikara as an matter of how we attend to the senses. In passages like this one from the Nagara sutta, it seems "appropriate contemplation" would be a more natural translation:

"Then the thought occurred to me, 'Aging & death exist when what exists? From what as a requisite condition is there aging & death?' From my appropriate attention there came the breakthrough of discernment: 'Aging & death exist when birth exists. From birth as a requisite condition comes aging & death.

For the time being, I am practicing without access to teachers, so it is very beneficial to have virtual admirable friends to straighten out these misunderstandings.


Hi farmer,

The above quote is a good example of someone when having found a suffering, is looking for the cause of the suffering. The whole paticcasamuppada is the bodisattva's attempts at contemplating the four noble truths..and working on the second noble truth...using contemplation. The next step is to see it through insight meditation...and the contemplation helps because you know what you are looking for/looking at.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha


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