How do you contemplate anatta?

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How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:58 pm

What method(s) do you use to develop insight into anatta? I'm particulary interested in hearing about "direct" methods, rather than indirect methods like contemplating anicca. I've been working with the 6 elements recently, but I'm not sure whether that qualifies as direct.

I'm familiar with what the suttas say, here I am more interested in your practical experience, what you actually do. Thanks.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby floating_abu » Mon Jun 03, 2013 2:11 pm

Do you mean meditation is a direct method, Spiny?
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby daverupa » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:26 pm

I contemplate how everything is conditionally present or absent, which eliminates the possibility that my self - of any ideation - is isolated and independent. But asmi-mana and sakkaya-ditthi cover different aspects of anatta, so I caution folks against trying to accomplish things out of order.

Sakkaya-ditthi drops first; the overall stink of experiential subjectivity is much more tenacious than that, so be careful how you understand the goal 'contemplate anatta' because it's easy to get despirited when the bar is set too high with respect to where one is starting out.
    "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: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby IanAnd » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:36 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:What method(s) do you use to develop insight into anatta? I'm particulary interested in hearing about "dire)ct" methods, rather than indirect methods like contemplating anicca. I've been working with the 6 elements recently, but I'm not sure whether that qualifies as direct.
. . .here I am more interested in your practical experience, what you actually do.

Have you thought to examine more closely (through contemplation) the five aggregates (each one by itself, and then all together) to see if you could locate/find a substantial "self" there?

What six elements are you referring to? Had you said the six internal and external sense spheres of eye and sight, nose and smell, ear and sound, tongue and taste, body and touch, mind and mental object, then yes, that too would qualify as valid subject matter for observation and insight with regard to anatta.

BTW, what makes you think that contemplating anicca in phenomena is indirect? Seems to me to be a rather direct approach to seeing anatta in all compounded things and processes. So, perhaps you need to work on your discernment (i.e. what is true and what is mind-made).
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:07 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:What method(s) do you use to develop insight into anatta? I'm particulary interested in hearing about "direct" methods, rather than indirect methods like contemplating anicca. I've been working with the 6 elements recently, but I'm not sure whether that qualifies as direct.

I'm familiar with what the suttas say, here I am more interested in your practical experience, what you actually do. Thanks.

    "Furthermore, Meghiya, a bhikkhu is wise, endowed with the noble ones' penetrative understanding of rise and disappearance leading to the complete ending of suffering. …respiration-mindfulness should be cultivated for cutting off (discursive) thinking; the perception of impermanence should be cultivated for the removal of the conceit 'I am.' For when one perceives impermanence, Meghiya, the perception of not-self is established. When one perceives not-self one reaches the removal of the conceit 'I am,' which is called Nibbana here and now." Ud 4.1 PTS: Ud 34

    "Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

    "When, Bahiya, for you there will be only the seen in the seen, only the heard in the heard, only the sensed in the sensed, only the cognized in the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of suffering."
    Udana 10
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Dmytro » Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:12 pm

Hi Spiny Norman,

Spiny Norman wrote:What method(s) do you use to develop insight into anatta? I'm particulary interested in hearing about "direct" methods, rather than indirect methods like contemplating anicca.


The trick is to determine at first what is appropriated as "me". This surfaces especially well in blissful states, - some of the aggregates on some of the sense doors (see Chachakka sutta). The blind "me" spots, usually overlooked.
They may surface well as the sources of unskilful behavior during the daily reflection.

Then you either dis-identify directly, or explore the rise and fall (if possible) and suffering involved.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby reflection » Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:06 pm

Hi Spiny,

I don't think no self is hard to understand in a way, it's mainly hard to recognize and accept and that's why we need the right evidence and the right non-attachment to see it.

Since you ask for our methods/experiences:

To see what disappears in meditation. If something disappears, that's the best clue to seeing there is no self in that thing. For example, when the ability to make choices disappears, that is very convincing for understanding no self in the volitions. It's no future projection or intellectual idea and it is not trying to see things in our experience now, which means that experience will partly be the "me" trying to see things - so clouded to see anatta. Instead it's reflecting back on things already experienced, or not experienced depending on how you look at it. Technically this is another way of seeing anicca but it is very direct and hard to deny.

Contemplation (so no reflection, but future idea) of death, or disappearance of the aggregates, helps in seeing where attachments linger, which helps accept the no self in the aggregates. To recognize and acknowledge these attachments is an important part I think. That's what fuels letting go, which then gives new experiences. So in a way the two methods support each other and are not separate.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:22 pm

Greetings Spiny,

This previous topic may be of interest...

Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3529

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby 5heaps » Tue Jun 04, 2013 4:43 am

you need to be studying nicely outside of meditation, and have a general virtuous attitude accompanying all your activities ie. renunciation, compassion, etc throughout the day. this is like fuel for a fire.
then you can use whatever object of observation you relate to best, or whatever reasoning particularly moves your mind. this is the fire, but how to generate it nicely?


for most the best is analyzing and observing the heap of feelings, and the internal attitude or qualities about oneself (self-identity) which grow with these feelings.

particularly the habit of forming bad self-identities due to unpleasant feelings through interacting with others is very good for generating in meditation and then observing. apply your nonlinguistic analysis to bear on the object, scrutinize if it really exists the way it appears to and consider the consequences if it did exist the way it appears.

for starters, it becomes obvious that the self-identity is an internal story based on the feeling. the bad feeling in turn is based on momentary conditioning through interaction with other people. does your mind necessarily need to move in that particular way, and generate this particular feeling? does the mind to respond with pain, unsteadiness, doubt, habitual tendency for self-appraising this solid me, etc, or is it in fact free and lacks such qualities? this should challenge the strong and substantial appearance of "a bad me" or "lousy me" or "i did something wrong"
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby pegembara » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:03 am

"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

"Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, perception is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self...

"Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:55 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Spiny,

This previous topic may be of interest...

Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3529

Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks, I hadn't looked at that one. I noticed an interesting comment from rowyourboat: "Anatta is not an object of insight. Phenomena are objects of insight (meditation) ie vipassana. Anatta is an insight which arises as a consequence of this practice."
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:56 am

pegembara wrote:"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'


Thanks, I'm familiar with the quote, but how do you work with this in practice?
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:02 am

IanAnd wrote:What six elements are you referring to? Had you said the six internal and external sense spheres of eye and sight, nose and smell, ear and sound, tongue and taste, body and touch, mind and mental object, then yes, that too would qualify as valid subject matter for observation and insight with regard to anatta.


By 6 elements I mean earth, wind, fire, water, space and consciousness - this set is effectively equivalent to the 5 aggregates though much heavier on the materiality end.
I do also work with the 6 sense bases, specifically in terms of anicca, rise and fall. I don't find the aggregates very "user-friendly", but maybe that's just me. ;)
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:29 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Spiny,

This previous topic may be of interest...

Anatta as the basis for insight - What object? What benefit?
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3529

Metta,
Retro. :)


Thanks, I hadn't looked at that one. I noticed an interesting comment from rowyourboat: "Anatta is not an object of insight. Phenomena are objects of insight (meditation) ie vipassana. Anatta is an insight which arises as a consequence of this practice."
On target, that.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:39 am

Spiny Norman wrote:What method(s) do you use to develop insight into anatta? I'm particulary interested in hearing about "direct" methods, rather than indirect methods like contemplating anicca. I've been working with the 6 elements recently, but I'm not sure whether that qualifies as direct.

I'm familiar with what the suttas say, here I am more interested in your practical experience, what you actually do. Thanks.

Based on hindsight insight with my passions, I go about contemplating not-self by contemplating what is, in effect, kamma.

It so happened that I have found myself very much attracted to some film and tv stars, and fashion models. Not simply in an easy way, but very intensely, troublesome. There was this intense sense "Oh, this is such a wonderful person, so beautiful, so smart, so capable!" and it seemed that it is that person who radiates those qualities and is the source of them. I felt overwhelmed, defeated, stupid, worthless - it seemed they are so much, they have so much, and I am nothing, I have nothing to compete with them.

Then I tried to rid myself of that attraction and confusion, because it was really stupid and took a lot of time, not to mention it was embarrassing.
I intently looked at fashion photographs, looked at photos of actors on the internet, in the hopes to find some clue. And I did: it occured to me that a fashion photograph is actually the result of the joint efforts of many many people - the stylist, the make-up artist, the clothes designer, the set designer, the technicians who build the scenery and set the lights and everything, the photographer, the editor; the input of the actual model or actor is quite minor, even though in the end, it seems like we see only him or her in the picture.
It was especially enlightening to see those same models or actors in ordinary photos, in broad daylight. Without the efforts of the stylists etc., these models or actors don't seem like sources of brilliant qualities anymore.

So even though one's ordinary tendency may be to see certain qualities as belonging to a particular person, and then having a sense of "this is who this person is", already a casual analytical look at the situation is enough to discern how those things that one would ordinarly think as that person or theirs, aren't so anymore.

In a similar manner, I reflect also in general on how interconnected the actions of living beings are. For example, at first, I may be impressed with a scholar, thinking "He is such a great person!" and having a sense that this person exists as a uniform, solid entity. But once I start thinking of all the things that were necessary for him to become that way - he had to have great teachers (who also had great teachers), he was fortunate enough that nobody has caused him any major harm (even though so many other people are not so fortunate), he currently has people who support and encourage him, and last but not least, his pediatrician is to be thanked that he didn't prescribe some dangerous medication early on that could ruin him for life. Then there are all those people who have provided food for him, shelter, etc. etc. so that he didn't die as an infant. And so on, the list of those that one person is indebted to is enormous.

Once I start thinking, in real life terms, what it takes for a person to become what they now seem to be, including myself, this takes the edge off of thinking "This that person, this is who they really are" or "I am this, this is who I am."


All these are kind of no-brainers, but at times of overwhelm, they are the last thing I would think of.
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:42 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
pegembara wrote:"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

Thanks, I'm familiar with the quote, but how do you work with this in practice?

Pretty much anyone who has tried to lose weight is painfully familiar with this.
A bad hair day also offers some hardcore insight into the truth that form is not the self.

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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:50 am

rowyourboat wrote:"Anatta is not an object of insight. Phenomena are objects of insight (meditation) ie vipassana. Anatta is an insight which arises as a consequence of this practice."


This is well put, indeed, though samatha has a role in "this practice" as well, and I'd hate to see that get missed. It takes a calm mind to generate vipassana, and vice versa.
    "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: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:08 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:By 6 elements I mean earth, wind, fire, water, space and consciousness - this set is effectively equivalent to the 5 aggregates though much heavier on the materiality end.


See MN112.7, MN115.5, MN140.8 and MN143.10. At MN140.8 it says "This person consists of the 6 elements".
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:11 pm

binocular wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
pegembara wrote:"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

Thanks, I'm familiar with the quote, but how do you work with this in practice?

Pretty much anyone who has tried to lose weight is painfully familiar with this.


Sure, but some people do manage to lose weight. ;)
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Re: How do you contemplate anatta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:13 pm

5heaps wrote:...for starters, it becomes obvious that the self-identity is an internal story based on the feeling.


I tend to experience it based on the reactions of craving and aversion, liking and not liking.
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