Transcription of Thanissaro talk

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

Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby fivebells » Thu May 16, 2013 1:52 pm

I transcribed this talk by Thanissaro, because I think it will be helpful to some folks in a book discussion group I'm participating in tonight.

Corrections welcome. Also, if anyone is in contact with Thanissaro, could you let him know about it? Perhaps it will be useful as raw material for an essay, or something.

"Seeds of Becoming"

Try to put aside all your other issues, just focus right here. 'Cause
all the big issues in life get played out right here, in fact the seeds
for all of them are right here in the present moment.

I've said a number of times, how the Buddha's teachings on causality are
like modern teachings on chaos theory. One of the basic principles of
chaos theory is called 'scale invariance.' That what's happening on the
macro level is the same thing as is happening on the micro level, no
matter what the size of your frame of reference, no matter what your
focus, it's always the same things happening, simply writ large or writ
small. And it's convenient for us, because when this principle applies
to our awareness, it means we can watch the small things happening right
here, right now, and they teach us the lessons we need to know about the
big things.

And so this is why we come into the present moment, not because it's
simply a nice place to be, because that's not always the case, sometimes
the present moment can be pretty miserable. But, the important issues
that are happening in life are happening right here. The Buddha's
teachings on bhava, or becoming, get played out right here. That's the
basic condition for birth, and the whole round of aging, illness and
death.

It's a hard word to translate, 'becoming' isn't ideal, but it's hard to
find a better word. It's basically a state of being, and it can be
either at the micro level, the little worlds the mind creates for
itself, or at the macro level, the human realm as a whole, that's a
bhava, and seeds for the large one are right here in the small ones.
These are the worlds the mind creates. You can think about, say, your
home, and there it appears right in your mind, the world of your home.
Not the whole thing, but enough of a facsimile to say yeah, that's my
home.

And then you can enter into that little world, and adjust it and
interact with the various elements in there. And then after a while you
might lose interest and the mind creates another state of being for
itself, another little world, and it goes from world to world to world
like this. Or, a better way saying it is, these worlds appear, and then
they disappear, and another one appears in its place. And it's because
the mind does this, that it takes birth, that it provides the causes for
larger levels of becoming and then it takes birth in them.

So this is the process we want to understand if we want to get beyond
aging illness and death, not go through the cycles again and again and
again, we have to know what's going on. How the little cycles behave
and that way we learn how the big cycles behave, what exactly is the
process that keeps these things going. As the Buddha once said at the
moment of his awakening, "House builder, I have seen you, through
countless births, build these homes. And now I've seen the house
builder and taken apart the house, and now the house builder will never
build another one again." You want to see that process of how the mind
creates these little homes for itself, with such force of habit that if
it can't create a good one for itself, it'll create a bad one for
itself. All it asks is that you have that place to go. Because the
mind has a fear for having no place to go. This is what's called
bhava-tanha, it's one of the forms of craving that leads to suffering.
Vibhava-tanha, that's a more controversial term, because it it's not
defined anywhere in the canon. Some passages indicated that it's desire
for annihilation, in other words that you don't have anything that has
to go anywhere, you're tired of going to these different places, but you
want to end up in a place where everything gets destroyed, or everything
stops so there's no more becoming. And the Buddha said that kind of
desire leads to suffering as well, because what it does is it takes the
mind to a strange kind of becoming. It doesn't end the process, it just
freezes it for a while. It's like those cyborgs in science fiction
movies that get frozen for a number of centuries and then come out still
functioning. And the mind goes into these strange states, you can
freeze the process, but that doesn't end the process, it can start up
again.

But the macro level is being played out here on the micro level, so
let's look at it, let's create a state of becoming. It's what we're
doing as we practice concentration, we create a little inner world for
the mind. First it's just a spot in the body and then you expand it to
fill the whole body. And then you try to maintain it. And in doing
that you engage all the forms of fabrication: physical, verbal, mental.
In other words, there's the breath and that's the physical fabrication,
then there's directed thought and evaluation, those are the verbal
forms, and then there's feeling and perception. And these are the basic
building blocks from which you create this world, the world of a
concentrated mind.

And you use your powers of directed thought and evaluation to work out
the disturbances, to filter them away or comb them out. A sense of
tension or tightness in the breath, feelings of blockage in the mind,
work through these things so that the elements of disturbance get more
and more and more refined. So you can see the state of becoming in and
of itself as clearly as possible, in terms of its basic building blocks.
And that way you can begin to take it apart. Because you see that
there's really not much there, even in a good state of concentration.

Don't be too quick to take it apart, though. Get a little a bit of
concentration and take it apart too fast, then the mind has no place to
settle down. I knew a monk one time in Thailand, who after a couple of
years of meditation finally got his mind to settle down in a really nice
state of concentration. He went to tell another friend of his (they
were both out in the forest), and the friend said "Watch out, you're
going to get stuck on that, make sure you don't get stuck on the
concentration." So the guy stopped, did his best not to get into
concentration, he was told to start analyzing things, developing
insight, so this monk just started going all over the place, just kept
looking out, out, out and wasn't able to come back in, in, in. By the
time I met up with him, he'd gotten to the point where he couldn't get
his mind to concentrate at all. And it was a real shame, eventually he
disrobed.

This is what happens when you abort the process. Because you have to
get attached to the state of concentration for you to really understand
it. You want to keep coming back, coming back, coming back, because the
more familiar you are with it, it's like a road that you travel day
after day after day. The opportunity is there to know it in detail, and
what happens a lot of times when people travel on a road day after day
they start blanking out, actually stop noticing things. It's like a
person gets into a state of concentration and then just doesn't want to
develop any discernment, just likes the blanking out, or the stillness,
and just holds onto that and gets oblivious to other things, like the
person who drives the road from the Valley Center to Escondido every day,
after a while you just don't notice anything. It's where a lot of
people are, their brains just go into automatic pilot.

But you want to do as a meditator is not to go into automatic pilot,
just to get to know this territory as well as we can. Keep at it. Try
to figure out how you can maintain this state of concentration in all
sorts of different circumstances, because you never know when the
precise effort that you're putting into it becomes really clear. You
see, "Oh, this is how it's done, this is what's happening. This is how
those raw materials are being turned into something else," this little
world of Texas, or the world of Thailand, or wherever the world happens
to be at the time.

So the more consistent you are in maintaining this state, whatever your
activities, the more the chance that you'll have insight into exactly
how it's created and how it's maintained, what uses it has and also how
can we take it apart. As the Buddha said, you understand the coming
into being, the passing away of these things, you understand their
allure, you understand their drawbacks and you understand the escape
from them. That's when it really gets good. Because you take the state
of concentration as your model for all your other attachments and all
your other cravings, and all the states of becoming in the mind that are
built on attachment and craving. You take this as your model and you
study it again and again and again, get really really sensitive to what
it's like to have the mind settle down, to be in a good state of
concentration, how it can create that concentration, how it can maintain
it, how it loses it. So you understand the whole process and you begin
to see precisely where in the process the craving and the attachment or
craving and clinging kick in.

So these are some of the things that can be found right here in the
present moment. The larger issues of birth, aging, illness and death;
and rebirth, re-aging, re-illness and re-death; they get played out
here, moment by moment by moment, right here in the present moment. And
if you learn how to look right here, you can see them. The more still
you can make the mind, the easier it is, both to be in a position to
look and also just to see if you've got what you're looking at stil, as
well. You're in a much better position to see even the slightest
movements. It's those slight movements that build up, get re-iterated
again and again, to build up into large movements. And small states of
being and becoming in the mind build up eventually into large ones, when
you leave this life and everything in this state of becoming begins to
come rushing in at you, and you've got to get out of the way, the mind
will naturally try to create another state of being, it will go for
another state of being, whatever comes up in the mind, if you haven't
trained the mind to be mindful and alert, you just jump right at
whatever comes.

But if you've trained it, you don't have to jump. You can step aside,
get out of the way. Not jump on these things as they happen, and that
opens up lots of new possibilities in the mind. If you haven't yet seen
the deathless, maybe at that point of death, that's the possibility that
will open as you keep yourself mindful and alert not to jump at states
of being and becoming as they form. But that's a skill which has to be
developed. The more it's developed the better your chances are of
having that skill in your repertoire when you really need it. So, why we
keep focusing back in: the present, the present, the present. We talk
sometimes about the future, we talk sometimes about the past, but the
main point is to focus on what you're doing right here, right now.

Because everything you're going to need to know is right here, right
now, so really get to know this spot as thoroughly as you can. Spend a
lot of time here, be observant. The Buddha made a comment about getting
to know other people, getting to know their virtue, getting to know
their resilience, their honesty, their wisdom. You have to focus on the
right aspects of their behavior you have to be observant and that takes
a lot of time. Well, the same thing happens and applies to your own
mind. You have to focus at the right spots, where craving and clinging
give rise to becoming. And you have to be observant and you have to be
willing to put in a lot of time. Because it's only then that you really
see. If you try to get other people to see it for you, they can't solve
the problem of craving, clinging and becoming. It's the person who
looks who solves the problem, for him or herself.
Last edited by fivebells on Thu May 16, 2013 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby gavesako » Thu May 16, 2013 4:19 pm

Great talk about "bhava". It should read "Valley Center" by the way.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby fivebells » Thu May 16, 2013 4:55 pm

Thanks, I couldn't make that out. :-)
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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby pegembara » Fri May 17, 2013 6:52 am

The Buddha's teachings on bhava, or becoming, get played out right here. That's the
basic condition for birth, and the whole round of aging, illness and
death.

It's a hard word to translate, 'becoming' isn't ideal, but it's hard to
find a better word. It's basically a state of being, and it can be
either at the micro level, the little worlds the mind creates for
itself, or at the macro level, the human realm as a whole, that's a
bhava, and seeds for the large one are right here in the small ones.
These are the worlds the mind creates.


I am inclined to equate bhava to existence or being.

Bhavatanha- clinging to existence (as a person) ; Vibhavatanha- to non existence.

SEEDS OF EXISTENCE
[Notice that the Buddha, instead of giving a definition of becoming (bhava) in response to this question, simply notes that becoming occurs on three levels. Nowhere in the suttas does he define the term becoming, but a survey of how he uses the term in different contexts suggests that it means a sense of identity in a particular world of experience: your sense of what you are, focused on a particular desire, in your personal sense of the world as related to that desire. In other words, it is both a psychological and a cosmological concept. For more on this topic, see The Paradox of Becoming, Introduction and Chapter One. Thanissaro http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html]

Ven Punnaji

Analysis of Experience

Normally, we experience "existence" when we think in terms of an existing "experiencer" experiencing the existing, "object of experience". There are three parts to that experience as follows: Experiencer___Experience___Experienced (Subject) (Object) The term "existence" (bhava) refers to the apparent existence of the "subject" and the "object" of experience, on which are based all emotional relationships between the subject and the object. The normal paradigm is the experience of the existence of a subject and an object, and the relationship between them. It is to think that there is a "subject" experiencing an "object" cognitively and affectively. Through the vipassana meditation the meditator becomes aware of this experience as only an "experience", instead of as a real "existence" and a relationship. This means, the "existence" of the subject and the object is seen as an "experience" only, or as a mere product of the process of perception, or of experiencing.

In other words, the subject and the object are seen as "creations of the mental process". This means, the process of experiencing precedes the notion of the existence of subject and object, not vise versa. This may be stated as, "experience precedes existence". It is seeing that "experience" is the ultimate foundation of "existence". This uncommon paradigm may be called the "experiencing of experience" which is quite different from the common paradigm of the "experience of existence". This is the paradigm shift from "existence" to "experience". When this happens, all subject/object relationships are seen as meaningless.

This paradigm shift can take place only by letting go of all attachments to objects of experience, the subjectively experienced "self", and all relationships, through depersonalization. This paradigm shift is the freedom from the experience of existence, and all the suffering accompanying it. This is called the "cessation of existence" (bhava nirodha). When this happens, all sufferings, fears, worries and anxieties come to an end. This is NIBBANA, which has been defined by the Buddha as "the cessation of existence" (bhava nirodho nibbanam).

This cessation of existence is not a death but the freedom from the dream of existence, which is an awakening to the reality of "impersonal experience". Therefore Nibbana (Nirvana) is the experience of the ultimate reality of impersonal experience. This idea may be confusing at the beginning, but it becomes clearer as one advances in meditation.

http://buddhistmahavihara.com/learning.php?id=5


"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby pegembara » Fri May 17, 2013 8:33 am

Look at this world:
Beings, afflicted with thick ignorance,
are unreleased
from delight in what has come to be.
All levels of becoming,
anywhere,
in any way,
are inconstant, stressful, subject to change.


Seeing this—as it has come to be—
with right discernment,
one abandons craving for becoming,
without delighting in non‐becoming.
From the total ending of craving
comes dispassion & cessation without remainder:

Unbinding.

For the monk unbound,
through lack of clinging/sustenance,
there is no renewed becoming.
He has conquered Mara,
won the battle,
gone beyond all becomings—

Such. — Ud 3:10

Don't be anything! Don't be anything at all! Being a Buddha is a burden. Being a Pacceka is a burden. Just don't desire to be. ''I am the monk Sumedho,'' ''I am the monk Ānando''... That way is suffering, believing that you really exist thus. ''Sumedho'' is merely a convention. Do you understand?

If you believe you really exist, that brings suffering. If there is Sumedho, then when someone criticizes you, Sumedho gets angry. Ānando gets angry. That's what happens if you hold these things as real. Ānando and Sumedho get involved and are ready to fight. If there is no Ānando or no Sumedho, then there's no one there - no one to answer the telephone. Ring ring - nobody picks it up. You don't become anything. No one is being anything, and there is no suffering.

http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Aja ... Enough.htm
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: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby fivebells » Fri May 17, 2013 3:15 pm

Thanks for the references, pegembara.
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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk on bhava

Postby gavesako » Sat May 18, 2013 5:15 am

Here is another similar talk by Ven. Thanissaro:

Moving Between Thought Worlds

We've all had the experience when we're asleep of finding ourselves in a dream and, for a while, believing that what's happening in the dream is real. Then something alerts us that something is wrong with the dream, and finally to the fact that we're dreaming. Usually that's enough for us to wake up, to pull out of the dream.

That process is very similar to the way we create mental worlds and emotional states during our waking life, because our picture of the world around us is always partial. It's always stitched together out of bits and pieces of what we've encountered through the senses. We have a notion of what makes sense, and as long as it makes sense and seems to be real, we can stay stuck in that state of mind. Then something strikes us as incongruous, as not fitting in. We realize, "Oh, that was an imaginary world." That's when we pull out. But then we find ourselves in another world, which may be better, and may not.

The ability to recognize what's incongruous, what's wrong with a world: That's an important skill. Without it, we get stuck in states of mind — what the Buddha called bhava, or becoming — where we can suffer very intensely. We focus on certain things in the world around us, certain ideas about who we are in that world, and everything else gets filtered through that particular picture. Other people's actions, for example, get filtered in this way, so that someone acting with perfectly good intentions may seem to be evil, sneaky, unreliable. Or vice versa. They actually may be evil, sneaky, and unreliable, yet we see them as being perfectly reasonable, perfectly trustworthy. But because the mental world we inhabit has its own inner coherence, we think it's accurate and real. ...

Mindfulness is what creates the bridges between these different states. You remember that you were in one state and now you're in another. And the possibility of slipping back into another distracted state is always there, so you've got to keep on top of things to be alert for any signs of the mind preparing to slip away. It has its tricks. It has its slight moment of blanking out, after which you wake up in another world. But if you can use mindfulness as a bridge across that blanking out, it's a lot easier to direct the mind from one state of becoming into another when you want to. And it's a lot easier to stay in a state of becoming when you want to stay.

n this way, you don't need an outside power. All you need is your own ability to recognize, "There's something wrong here and I can get out." This "something wrong" is the fact something is creating a burden on the mind that doesn't have to be there. To get out, you don't need an outside power. You just need to remember that you have the ability to create a different sense of who you are, and to create a different world to inhabit, one that's healthier.

The ultimate goal of the practice, of course, is to be able to get out of all these worlds entirely. That's what it really means to wake up. But in the meantime, you can have your little awakening when you wake up in the middle of one of your created worlds, and say, "Oh, this is suffering. It doesn't have to be here." And you look in the right place instead of placing the blame on other people in the past or in the present. The suffering doesn't come from them. The suffering comes from the way the mind thinks about things. It creates impossible situations and then burdens itself with them. It doesn't have to do that. Mindfulness, concentration, and discernment form the way out.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ughtworlds
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby pegembara » Sat May 18, 2013 5:54 am

The ability to recognize what's incongruous, what's wrong with a world: That's an important skill. Without it, we get stuck in states of mind — what the Buddha called bhava, or becoming — where we can suffer very intensely. We focus on certain things in the world around us, certain ideas about who we are in that world, and everything else gets filtered through that particular picture. Other people's actions, for example, get filtered in this way, so that someone acting with perfectly good intentions may seem to be evil, sneaky, unreliable. Or vice versa. They actually may be evil, sneaky, and unreliable, yet we see them as being perfectly reasonable, perfectly trustworthy. But because the mental world we inhabit has its own inner coherence, we think it's accurate and real. ...



Trinity: A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.
Morpheus: Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

(from the movie The Matrix)
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: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby Billymac29 » Sat May 18, 2013 12:59 pm

great thread thanks everyone :smile:
:anjali:
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: Transcription of Thanissaro talk

Postby pegembara » Mon May 20, 2013 6:17 am

There is yet another teaching the understanding of which helps in the understanding of death. It is the Truth of Becoming or bhava, which is a corollary to the Truth of Change or anicca.

Becoming, or bhava, is also one of the factors in the scheme of Dependent Origination. The Truth of Becoming, like the Truth of Change, applies to everything. While the Truth of Change states that nothing is permanent but is ever-changing, the Truth of Becoming states that everything is always in the process of changing into something else.

Not only is everything changing, but the nature of that change is a process of becoming something else, however short or long the process may be. Briefly put, the Truth of Becoming teaches us that: "Nothing is, but is becoming." A ceaseless becoming is the feature of all things. A small plant is always in the process of becoming an old tree. There is no point of time at which anything is not becoming something else.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el102.html

Loka Sutta: (Surveying) the World

I have heard that on one occasion, when the Blessed One was newly Awakened — staying at Uruvela by the banks of the Nerañjara River in the shade of the Bodhi tree, the tree of Awakening — he sat in the shade of the Bodhi tree for seven days in one session, sensitive to the bliss of release. At the end of seven days, after emerging from that concentration, he surveyed the world with the eye of an Awakened One. As he did so, he saw living beings burning with the many fevers and aflame with the many fires born of passion, aversion, and delusion. Then, on realizing the significance of that, he on that occasion exclaimed:


This world is burning.
Afflicted by contact,
it calls disease a "self,"
for by whatever means it construes [anything],
that becomes otherwise from that.
Becoming otherwise,
the world is
held by becoming
afflicted by becoming
and yet delights
in that very becoming.
Where there's delight,
there is fear.
What one fears
is stressful.
This holy life is lived
for the abandoning of becoming.


"Whatever priests or contemplatives say that liberation from becoming is by means of becoming, all of them are not released from becoming, I say.

"And whatever priests or contemplatives say that escape from becoming is by means of non-becoming, all of them have not escaped from becoming, I say.


This stress comes into play
in dependence on all acquisitions.
With the ending of all clinging/sustenance,
there's no stress coming into play.
Look at this world:
Beings, afflicted with thick ignorance,
are unreleased
from delight in what has come to be.
All levels of becoming,
anywhere,
in any way,
are inconstant, stressful, subject to change.
Seeing this — as it has come to be —
with right discernment,
one abandons craving for becoming,
without delighting in non-becoming.

From the total ending of craving
comes fading & cessation without remainder:
Unbinding.
For the monk unbound,
through lack of clinging/sustenance,
there's no further becoming.
He has conquered Mara,
won the battle,
gone beyond all becomings —
Such.
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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