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Archive for January, 2011

It’s that time of year, the Commit to Sit challenge is starting tomorrow, this is en event that happens every year when we commit to sit every day for all of the 28 days of February. It is important to take time and re-commit to our practice, it is so easy to lose track and make excuses to not take the time to sit everyday, life will always be busy and hectic and this is why it is so important to take time to calm the mind on a daily basis.  During these 28 days we are able to see and remind ourselves of the benefits of a daily meditation practice, this is a good exercise no matter if you are new to meditation or a seasoned practitioner. I always find this challenge to be very beneficial to my practice, I strongly believe that it is important for us to go on retreat and do these types of challenges to help us remember why we are doing this in the first place. The important thing with this challenge is that you do it everyday, so pick a length that you will be able to do on a daily basis whether that be 10 minutes or 45 minutes, the important thing is that you stick to it no matter how hard it can get on some days. You should always remain kind towards yourself and not beat yourself up if you do miss a day, but it is crucial to use the effort needed to dedicate yourself to your spiritual practice and be able to see the effects in your daily life due to this. I am luck that this month I will also be going on retreat, I am excited and feel truly ready to commit to sit! Usually people will do the four foundations of mindfulness during this Commit to Sit, we are able to break them up one week at a time, the Satipatthana Sutta (the sutta where the Buddha discusses the four foundations of mindfulness) is definitely one of my favourites outside of the Pali Canon, and it is seen as a direct path to awakening so how could it not be good?

The Satipatthana Sutta, is generally regarded as the Buddhist text with the fullest instructions on the system of meditation unique to the Buddha’s own dispensation. The practice of Satipatthana meditation centers on the methodical cultivation of one simple mental faculty readily available to all of us at any moment. This is the faculty of mindfulness, the capacity for attending to the content of our experience as it becomes manifest in the immediate present. What the Buddha shows in the sutta is the tremendous, but generally hidden, power inherent in this simple mental function, a power that can unfold all the mind’s potentials culminating in final deliverance from suffering. This power has to be systematically cultivated, the sutta shows how this can be done; the key to the practice is to combine energy, mindfulness, and clear comprehension in attending to the phenomena of mind and body summed up in the “four arousings of mindfulness”: body, feelings, consciousness, and mental objects. Most believe that the satipatthana is a way to generating insight, but it also generates concentration, unlike many meditations that bring insight and concentration, the satipatthana generates both into being together. Let go through the four foundations, I will write for the next four weeks about each one in more detail so stay tuned for that, but here they are:

  1. Body (Kāyā)
    • Breathing (also see the Anapanasati Sutta)
    • Postures (Walking, Standing, Sitting, Lying Down)
    • Clear Comprehending
    • Reflections on Repulsiveness of the Body
    • Reflections on Material Elements
    • Cemetery Contemplations
  2. Sensations/Feelings (Vedana)
    • pleasant or unpleasant or neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant (neutral) feelings
    • worldly or spiritual feelings
  3. Mind/Consciousness (Cittā)
    • lust (sarāgaṃ) or without lust (vītarāgaṃ)
    • hate (sadosaṃ) or without hate (vītadosaṃ)
    • delusion (samohaṃ) or without delusion (vītamohaṃ)
    • contracted (saṅkhittaṃ) or scattered (vikkhittaṃ)
    • lofty (mahaggataṃ) or not lofty (amahaggataṃ)
    • surpassable (sa-uttaraṃ) or unsurpassed (anuttaraṃ)
    • quieted (samāhitaṃ) or not quieted (asamāhitaṃ)
    • released (vimuttaṃ) or not released (avimuttaṃ)
  4. Mental Contents (Dhamma)
    • The Hindrances
    • The Aggregates of Clinging
    • The Sense-Bases and their Fetters
    • The Factors of Enlightenment
    • The Four Noble Truth

If this all looks like it may be too much for you, there is a great book that has just come out by Sharon Salzberg about the Commit to Sit and the four foundations of mindfulness which might be of help for you. Real Happiness is a great introduction to dedicated meditation practice for someone who is starting out, but it is also a great refresh for someone that has been sitting for a while. It is good to sometimes go back to the basics to help us remember that curiosity and excitement that we felt at the beginning of our practice, that childlike curiosity which might have disappeared in our daily sitting routine. I am excited for the 28 days ahead of me, it is always exciting to renew our commitment to this practice and there is no better way than this. Retreats are great, but I feel that it is always more challenging to maintain this integrity in our practice in the real world that is filled with difficult people and situations which we may not get to see and meet in a retreat setting. Don’t get me wrong, I have had callenging moments on retreat, but it was usually just me against me, which is not to say that most of our difficulties are not usually caused by us in the real world. Take the Commit to Sit challenge with me and see what happens!

The Origin of the Discourse on the Only Way

Thus have I heard.

At one time the Blessed One was living in the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market-town of the Kuru people.

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus as follows: “This is the only way, O bhikkhus, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the Four Arousings of Mindfulness.”

The Four Arousings of Mindfulness

“What are the four?

“Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending (it) and mindful (of it), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating the feelings in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending (them) and mindful (of them), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending (it) and mindful (of it), having overcome in this world covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects, ardent, clearly comprehending (them) and mindful (of them), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief.”

1. The Contemplation of the Body

Mindfulness of Breathing

“And how, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating the body in the body?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty place, sits down, bends in his legs crosswise on his lap, keeps his body erect, and arouses mindfulness in the object of meditation, namely, the breath which is in front of him.

“Mindful, he breathes in, and mindful, he breathes out. He, thinking, ‘I breathe in long,’ he understands when he is breathing in long; or thinking, ‘I breathe out long,’ he understands when he is breathing out long; or thinking, ‘I breathe in short,’ he understands when he is breathing in short; or thinking, ‘I breathe out short,’ he understands when he is breathing out short.

“‘Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in,’ thinking thus, he trains himself. ‘Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out,’ thinking thus, he trains himself. ‘Calming the activity of the body, I shall breathe in,’ thinking thus, he trains himself. ‘Calming the activity of the body, I shall breathe out,’ thinking thus, he trains himself.

“Just as a clever turner or a turner’s apprentice, turning long, understands: ‘I turn long;’ or turning short, understands: ‘I turn short’; just so, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, when he breathes in long, understands: ‘I breathe in long’; or, when he breathes out long, understands: ‘I breathe out long’; or, when he breathes in short, he understands: ‘I breathe in short’; or when he breathes out short, he understands: ‘I breathe out short.’ He trains himself with the thought: ‘Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in.’ He trains himself with the thought: ‘Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out.’ He trains himself with the thought: ‘Calming the activity of the body I shall breathe in.’ He trains himself with the thought: ‘Calming the activity of the body I shall breathe out.’

“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in the body. Or indeed his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘The body exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance, and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world. Thus, also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.”

The Modes of Deportment

“And further, O bhikkhus, when he is going, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I am going’; when he is standing, he understands: ‘I am standing’; when he is sitting, he understands: ‘I am sitting’; when he is lying down, he understands: ‘I am lying down’; or just as his body is disposed so he understands it.

“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body externally, or he lives contemplating the body in the body internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in the body, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in the body, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things, in the body. Or indeed his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘The body exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance, and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.” Thus, also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.”

The Four Kinds of Clear Comprehension

“And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, in going forwards (and) in going backwards, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in looking straight on (and) in looking away from the front, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in bending and in stretching, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in wearing the shoulder-cloak, the (other two) robes (and) the bowl, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in regard to what is eaten, drunk, chewed and savored, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in defecating and in urinating, is a person practicing clear comprehension; in walking, in standing (in a place), in sitting (in some position), in sleeping, in waking, in speaking and in keeping silence, is a person practicing clear comprehension.

“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally… and clings to naught in the world. Thus, also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.”

The Reflection on the Repulsiveness of the Body

“And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body hemmed by the skin and full of manifold impurity from the soles up, and from the top of the hair down, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, fibrous threads (veins, nerves, sinews, tendons), bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, contents of stomach, intestines, mesentery, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, solid fat, tars, fat dissolved, saliva, mucus, synovic fluid, urine.’

“Just as if, O bhikkhus, there were a bag having two openings, full of grain differing in kind, namely, hill-paddy, paddy, green-gram, cow-pea, sesamum, rice; and a man with seeing eyes, having loosened it, should reflect thinking thus: ‘This is hill paddy; this is paddy, this is green-gram; this is cow-pea; this is sesamum; this is rice.’ In the same way, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body hemmed in by the skin and full of manifold impurity from the soles up, and from the top of the hair down, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, fibrous threads (veins, nerves, sinews, tendons), bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, contents of the stomach, intestines, mesentery, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, solid fat, tears, fat dissolved, saliva, mucus, synovic fluid, urine.’

“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body, internally… and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.”

The Reflection on the Modes of Materiality (Elements, Dhatu)

“And further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body according as it is placed or disposed, by way of the modes of materiality, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body the mode of solidity, the mode of cohesion, the mode of caloricity, and the mode of oscillation.’

“O bhikkhus, in whatever manner, a clever cow-butcher or a cow-butcher’s apprentice, having slaughtered a cow and divided it by way of portions, should be sitting at the junction of a four-cross-road; in the same manner, a bhikkhu reflects on just this body, according as it is placed or disposed, by way of the modes of materiality, thinking thus: ‘There are in this body the mode of solidity, the mode of cohesion, the mode of caloricity, and the mode of oscillation.’

“Thus he lives contemplating the body in the body internally… and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus also, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body.”

2. The Contemplation of Feeling

“And how, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating feeling in feelings?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu when experiencing a pleasant feeling, understands: ‘I experience a pleasant feeling’; when experiencing a painful feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a painful feeling’; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling’; when experiencing a pleasant worldly feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a pleasant worldly feeling’; when experiencing a pleasant spiritual feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a pleasant spiritual feeling’; when experiencing a painful worldly feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a painful worldly feeling’; when experiencing a painful spiritual feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a painful spiritual feeling’; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling’; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling, he understands: ‘I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling.’

“Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in feelings. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘Feeling exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating feeling in feelings.”

3. The Contemplation of Consciousness

“And how, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating consciousness in consciousness?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the consciousness with lust, as with lust; the consciousness without lust, as without lust; the consciousness with hate, as with hate; the consciousness without hate, as without hate; the consciousness with ignorance, as with ignorance; the consciousness without ignorance, as without ignorance; the shrunken state of consciousness, as the shrunken state; the distracted state of consciousness, as the distracted state; the state of consciousness become great, as the state become great; the state of consciousness not become great, as the state not become great; the state of consciousness with some other mental state superior to it, as the state with something mentally higher; the state of consciousness with no other mental state superior to it, as the state with nothing mentally higher; the quieted state of consciousness, as the quieted state; the state of consciousness not quieted, as the state not quieted; the freed state of consciousness as freed; and the unfreed state of consciousness, as unfreed.

“Thus he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness internally, or he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness externally, or he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in consciousness, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in consciousness, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in consciousness. Or his mindfulness is established with the thought: ‘Consciousness exists,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance, and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness.”

4. The Contemplation on Mental Objects

1. The Five Hindrances

“And how, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental objects in mental objects?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances.

“How, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances?

“Here, O bhikkhus, when sensuality is present, a bhikkhu knows with understanding: ‘I have sensuality,’ or when sensuality is not present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have no sensuality.’ He understands how the arising of the non-arisen sensuality comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen sensuality comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sensuality comes to be. When anger is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have anger,’ or when anger is not present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have no anger.’ He understands how the arising of the non-arisen anger comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen anger comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned anger comes to be. When sloth and torpor are present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have sloth and torpor,’ or when sloth and torpor are not present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have no sloth and torpor.’ He understands how the arising of non-arisen sloth and torpor comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen sloth and torpor comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sloth and torpor comes to be. When agitation and worry are present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have agitation and worry,’ or when agitation and worry are not present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have no agitation and worry.’ He understands how the arising of non-arisen agitation and worry comes to be; and he understands how the abandoning of the arisen agitation and worry comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned agitation and worry comes to be. When doubt is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have doubt,’ or when doubt is not present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have no doubt.’ He understands how the arising of non-arisen doubt comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen doubt comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned doubt comes to be.

“Thus he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects, internally, or he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects, externally, or he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects, internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in mental objects. Or his mind is established with the thought: ‘Mental objects exist,’ to the extent necessary for just knowledge and remembrance and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the five hindrances.”

2. The Five Aggregates of Clinging

“And, further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging.

“How, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu thinks: ‘Thus is material form; thus is the arising of material form; and thus is the disappearance of material form. Thus is feeling; thus is the arising of feeling; and thus is the disappearance of feeling. Thus is perception; thus is the arising of perception; and thus is the disappearance of perception. Thus are the formations; thus is the arising of the formations; and thus is the disappearance of the formations. Thus is consciousness; thus is the arising of consciousness; and thus is the disappearance of consciousness.’

Thus he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects, internally… and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the five aggregates of clinging.”

3. The Six Internal and the Six External Sense-bases

“And, further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the six internal and the six external sense-bases.

“How, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the six internal and the six external sense-bases?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands the eye and material forms and the fetter that arises dependent on both (eye and forms); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. He understands the ear and sounds and the fetter that arises dependent on both (ear and sounds); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. He understands the organ of smell and odors and the fetter that arises dependent on both (the organ of smell and odors); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. He understands the organ of taste and flavors and the fetter that arises dependent on both (the organ of taste and flavors); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. He understands the organ of touch and tactual objects and the fetter that arises dependent on both (the organ of touch and tactual objects); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be. He understands consciousness and mental objects and the fetter that arises dependent on both (consciousness and mental objects); he understands how the arising of the non-arisen fetter comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen fetter comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned fetter comes to be.

“Thus he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects, internally… and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the six internal and the six externally sense-bases.”

4. The Seven Factors of Enlightenment

“And, further, o bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment.”

“How, o bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment?”

“Here, o bhikkhus, when the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is present, a bhikkhu knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of mindfulness’; or when the enlightenment factor of mindfulness is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of mindfulness’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects’; when the enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects comes to be and how the completion of culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of the investigation of mental objects comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of energy is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of energy’; when the enlightenment factor of energy is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of energy’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of energy comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of energy comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of joy is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of joy’; when the enlightenment factor of joy is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of joy’; and he understands how the rising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of joy comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of joy comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of calm is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of calm’; when the enlightenment factor of calm is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of calm’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of concentration is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of concentration’; when the enlightenment factor of concentration is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of concentration’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of concentration comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of concentration comes to be. When the enlightenment factor of equanimity is present, he knows with understanding: ‘I have the enlightenment factor of equanimity’; when the enlightenment factor of equanimity is absent, he knows with understanding: ‘I have not the enlightenment factor of equanimity’; and he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of equanimity comes to be.

“Thus he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects internally… and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the seven factors of enlightenment.”

5. The Four Truths

“And, further, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the Four Noble Truths.

“How, O bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu live contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the Four Noble Truths?

“Here, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu understands: ‘This is suffering,’ according to reality; he understands: ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ according to reality; he understands: ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ according to reality; and he understands: ‘This is the road leading to the cessation of suffering,’ according to realty.

“Thus he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects internally or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental object in mental objects internally and externally.”

“He lives contemplating origination things in mental objects, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in mental objects, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in mental objects, or his mindfulness is established with the thought, ‘Mental objects exist,’ to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance, and he lives independent and clings to naught in the world.

“Thus, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating mental object in the mental objects of the Four Noble Truths.”

Assurance of Attainment

“O bhikkhus, should any person maintain the Four Arousings of Mindfulness in this manner for seven years, then by him one of two fruitions is proper to be expected: Knowledge (arahantship) here and now; or, if some form of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning (the Third Stage of Supramundane Fulfillment).

“O bhikkhus, let alone seven years. Should a person maintain these Four Arousings of Mindfulness, in this manner, for six years… for five years… four years… three years… two years… one year, then by him one of two fruitions is proper to be expected: knowledge here and now; or, if some form of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

“O bhikkhus, let alone a year. Should any person maintain these Four Arousings of Mindfulness, in the manner, for seven months, then by him one of two fruitions is proper to be expected: Knowledge here and now; or, if some form of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

“O bhikkhus, let alone seven months. Should any person maintain these Four Arousings of Mindfulness in this manner for six months… five months… four months… three months… two months… one month… half-a-month, then, by him one of two fruitions is proper to be expected: Knowledge here and now; or, if some form of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

“O bhikkhus, let alone half-a-month. Should any person maintain these Four Arousings of Mindfulness in this manner for a week, then by him one of two fruitions is proper to be expected: Knowledge here and now; or, if some form of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.

“Because of this was it said: ‘This is the only way, O bhikkhus, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the Four Arousings of Mindfulness.”

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Satisfied, the bhikkhus approved of his words.


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Can we all agree that we live in samsara (usually translated as “flowing through”, you know birth, death, rebirth, death, etc.), this life is one of suffering or at least that it is unsatisfactory? I can definitely relate to this lately, one of the teachings and practices that comes to mind with this is the one of acceptance. Acceptance is something that we work with our meditation practice, learning to accept the moment as it is, to let go of our need for it to be any different from how it is right now. “It is what it is” has been my motto for a long time, and has actually helped me out a lot. I have suffered so much in my life because I always tried to control my life and the events that I lived, of course, life never really works out like we have planned (and that’s Ok) and we suffer because we believe that we have somehow failed. Letting go of this idea of control allows us to better see and be more receptive to the gifts that come to us.

Tara Brach, author of the fantastic book “Radical Acceptance: Embracing You Life with the Heart of a Buddha”, examines this idea of acceptance and how it relates to our life. She says that this letting go of our need for control is an important step: “When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” It is only when we are able to understand the great grace that has fallen upon us that we can truly feel compassion for others. This understanding does not happen with our heads, but with our hearts. She says, and reminds us in a way, that we are all interconnected, worthy of grace, and responsible for each other. This exercise of acceptance is also about us learning to accept who we are and to learn to love ourselves the way that we are, not to be trapped in self-judgements and criticism.

For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn’t take much–just hearing of someone else’s accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work–to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully.

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” Tara Brach shows that this suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork–all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled. So how do we escape this cycle of suffering? Is there a way to transform these feelings of unworthiness with awareness, this is a practice that can begin with these tree steps (courtesy of tiny buddha):

1- Find Solutions Instead of Complaining:

Complaining has never solved anything, negative people just seem to drag everyone’s energy around them. Some people think that it makes them feel better, but in all reality it just keeps us down, it is not going to change anything if you complain, especially for the better. Use this energy more wisely, find a solution. You can complain about a leaky roof on your house, but unless you get up and do something about it, you are stuck in that situation. So next time you feel like complaining, why not ask yourself instead “What can I do to solve the problem?” and if you are not able to solve it, then focus to see where you could use your energy more positively.

2- Practice Letting Go:

How should we react to devastating changes or losses in our lives? There is the all too common reaction, the one where we hang on to how things were and refusing to accept what is happening, I find that the most common for me has been the loss of friends that have passed away and the end of romantic relationships. If you are not able to accept life the way that it is then you have a big problem, because you cannot change what has already happened. You will be unhappy if you continually resist the flow of life. The second option is to bite the bullet and accept life the way that it is. That takes courage but the process will empower you enormously. The ability to let go of things in everyday life makes for happiness and ease. You can even laugh when you miss a bus that’s departed five minutes early. Start off by letting go of the small things, like stepping on a piece of gum or not being able to find that cd you want to listen to, and you will see that with time and practice you will be able to let go of most mishaps in your life.

3- Let Beauty In:

If you are always focusing on what is missing in your life, it is hard to notice and appreciate what is already right in front of you. Take a minute to look around you, there is beauty all around you, we live on a pretty rad planet. There are beaches, mountains, trees, birds flying in the sky, music, awesome food (one of my favourites are burritos), friendships, love, etc. There is so much to live for, even during the really hard times when we are blinded by an even that is causing us pain. Open up to what is beautiful and important in life, in fear of sounding like a hippie, have you ever taken the time to look at a flower and enjoy its fragile beauty? We spend some much time with the blinds closed, closed off from life and its simple moments and pleasures, like the old saying “Been there done that” kind of attitude. Every experience is new, and it’s up to you how complete or lacking it seems. Take the curiosity of child and open up and explore life as if it was your first day out in the world, regardless of what you have had and lost. It is your choice to what you focus on, what is your choice?

Acceptance, I tend to even think that it is radical acceptance, is a way to approach life with a new outlook and to help us appreciate what we are living. No matter how hard we try, life will always be the way that it is during all its moments, how are you willing to meet it?

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Hello Everyone,

Thought that I should share this video with everyone. There is a big lesson in this, we need to hold people accountable for what they do and not what they are… Watch this video and apply it to your everyday life! Let start having these discussions when they occur, it is important to make a stand when we think something is not right!

 

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I was very happy to learn this week that Adam Yauch, of Beastie Boys fame who had been battling cancer for the past two years, has fully recovered from the disease. Pitchfork posted this on their website on the 7th of January to announce Yauch’s victory over the cancer:

Back in 2009, as the Beastie Boys were gearing up to release their album Hot Sauce Committee Part 1, member Adam Yauch, aka MCA, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in a parotid (salivary) gland. The group canceled their plans, and Yauch threw himself into the recovery process. But now the BBC reports that fellow Beastie  Michael Diamond, better known as Mike D, revealed in an  interview with BBC radio host Zane Lowe that Yauch is now cancer-free.

Anyone that grew up in the 90s know the Beastie Boys well, I was a teenager that was exposed to classic albums like Ill Communications and Paul’s Boutique. These three boys from the 5 boroughs seemed at first glance like shenanigans set to a good beat, but with the release of Ill Communications we were exposed to a Beastie Boys that had more depth than just loud beats and silly lyrics. This record contained the songs “Bodhisattva Vow” and “Shambala”, Adam Yauch was becoming more vocal about his Buddhist practice. They also co-organized the Free Tibet Concerts with the Milarepa Fund to help bring awareness of the Free Tibet Movement. Yauch was one of the first Buddhist celebrities that our generation could relate to, not that the Dalai Lama or Richard Gere did not do good work, but Yauch seemed like someone who understood the world that we were growing up in, he was cool on all levels!

Last spring Yauch requested some cancer smashing vibes if we were into it, here is the e-mail, you may have received it and taken part:

a few friends and I are meditating at the same time twice a day. 9:30am and 6:30pm eastern standard time, for about an hour and half.

we are picturing smashing apart all of the cancer cells in the world.

we are visualizing taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightning bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. if you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightning storm. mind over matter……

if you prefer to sit then sit, but if you are not used to meditating, or sitting quietly doesn’t sound like fun, put on some music and dance while you do the visualization, and if you want to do it at some other time, or picture curing some other illness that’s fine too. yoko will be joining the meditation by visualizing all of us dancing with joy to celebrate the world without cancer. all variations are welcome. this is really just being done with a wish for all beings to be cured of all illnesses and to find true lasting happiness. I’ll also be saying prayers for the earthquake victims in Tibet, so join in on that if you can too. please feel free to pass this onto anyone who you think may find it interesting.

with all my love, adam yauch

This must have worked, seeing as how the BBC and Pitchfork are declaring that his fight is over and he is now cancer-free. I find this is so wonderful and really makes you realize that there are so many different ways for us to fight illness, and meditation is one of them. When I received this call last spring, my own father was fighting cancer, I decided to sit on the cushion at the said time and sent cancer smashing vibes for Adam and my father. I was filled with hope knowing that I was not the only one focusing on a world without cancer, modern diseases like cancer, AIDS, physiological conditions caused by the stress and strain of modern life, which have complicated symptoms and are harder and harder to treat, could be examined with ancient wisdom and techniques as their cure.

We can find in Buddhism various principles and practices that can be used to bring peace and happiness to the mind and help maintain good health to the body. Meditation has brought beneficial effects to many people who practice it regularly. Modern doctors admit that the mind can control the body’s performance, the mind can also be an important cause of sickness in the body and can be what provides the cure. Learning how to meditate can develop both the body and the mind, which brings improvements to the health at the same time. Usually cancer is treated with radiation and surgery, but there are some that believe that it can also be treated holistically. In Thailand, Dr. Sathit Intharakamhaeng, emphasises on our understanding on how nature works in our lives, which includes maintaining a correct diet. There is also an importance that is placed on our mental processes and learning how to meditate.

“Actually, living a holistic life doesn’t only mean eating a natural diet. It also means changing and correcting your lifestyle by learning how to meditate, learning how to reduce stress in everyday life …”


This is based on the Buddhist teaching that rust, which comes from iron, can corrode and destroy that same iron. Human minds are the same. If we learn to meditate and have minds that produce positive thoughts then our bodies will become stronger and healthier. If our minds produce negative thoughts, like the rust on iron, this will be a danger to us. If a cancer patient has negative thoughts, eventually these thoughts will be like the rust that erodes the iron, death will then destroy the patient even quicker seeing as how these thoughts are one of the causes of this cancer. This sense of imbalance of body and mind can be an important cause of illness and the spread of disease.

So stay positive people, cultivate positive thoughts and maintain your daily meditation practice. It may just save your life! Adam Yauch battled hard, cultivating compassion and positive thoughts with the help of practitioners all over the world and came out cancer free! I think that this is a great anecdote for the old saying of mind over matter! We can change our reality, and this is a good example of such effort!

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It is a tradition for us to set some resolutions at the beginning of each year, to start the year with ways for us to improve our lives with goals that we set to follow for the year to come. I have never really been big on new year’s resolutions as such, it seems that I would follow them for a month or so and then would break them and then spend the rest of the year feeling like I failed. This feeling of failure and disappointment would come up in spurts throughout the year and give me feelings of hopelessness and failure. It is good for us to want to improve our condition and to create better habits to help us achieve different goals we have. As a Buddhist I have found that the best way to begin the year is to renew my intentions for the coming year, to take refuge in the 3 jewels and renew my commitment to the 5 precepts. I have found this to be a much more productive exercise than the traditional resolutions (exercise more, stop smoking, eat better, etc), this is a time to reflect on our practice and to renew our commitment to it. I will be doing my first intention ceremony with my meditation group this year and find that this will also help build a strong sangha that is committed to this practice and walking this earth with a more tender heart. You may be wondering what it is exactly these intention setting ceremonies that you see different Buddhist centers and groups do every New Years, put simply, it is a time that a sangha will take refuge in the 3 Jewels (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha) and to take the 5 precepts again (Not Killing, Not Taking what is not given, Right Speech, Not Misuse Sexuality, Avoiding Intoxicants). Intention ceremonies help us to renew our commitment to being more mindful in the world, this mindfulness will help us improve our lives by default, we will be more in tune with our bodies and the world around us.

Taking refuge in the 3 jewels is often done formally in lay and monastic ordination ceremonies, it is also done on a yearly basis so practitioners can renew their commitment to the practice and teaching of the Buddha. The general signification of the 3 Jewels are:

The Buddha;

The Dhamma, the teachings;

The Sangha, the community of enlightened beings (or at least partially), traditionally it was the community of Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis (monks and nuns).

In Buddhism, instead of looking for an external saviour, most Buddhists believe that one can take refuge in oneself. The Dhammapada states:

160. One truly is the protector of oneself, who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled one gains mastery which is hard to gain.

165. By oneself is evil done, by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone, by oneself is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself — no one can purify another.


The Buddha said in the Mahaparinibbana sutta that the teachings and sangha that he delivered and created would be the teacher when he is gone. Faith is an important element in Buddhism, whether it is Theravada and Mahayana traditions. The Sanskrit word for faith is sraddha; the original word has connotations of trust, perseverance, humility, and steady effort. As opposed to Western notions of faith, sraddha implies thorough reasoning and accumulated experience. The Buddha stated in the Kalama sutta to not simply follow authority or tradition. There is a certain degree of trusting confidence and belief in Buddhism, especially in the spiritual attainment and salvation or enlightenment through the wisdom of the Buddha. In other words, faith in Buddhism centers on the belief in the 3 Jewels. The wording for the refuge in the 3 Jewels goes something like this:

Buddham saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Buddha)

Dharmam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Dharma)

Samgham saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Sangha)

Dutiyampi buddham saranam gacchami (For the second time… repeat for each of the three)

Tatiyampi buddham saranam gacchami (For the third time… repeat for each of the three)

This taking of the refuge helps to renew our faith in this practice and teachings, it is a time to help us reflect on what brought us to this practice and our determination to free ourselves from the chains of ignorance, greed, delusion, and hate; which is what ultimately makes us suffer. In the Dhammapada, Refuge is mentioned:

Driven only by fear, do men go for refuge to many places – to hills, woods, groves, trees, and shrines.

Such, indeed, is no safe refuge; such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from all suffering.

He who has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Teaching and his Order, penetrates with transcendental wisdom the Four Noble Truths – suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of suffering.

This indeed is the safe refuge, this the refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all suffering.

– Dhammapada 188-192


Usually during this refuge ceremony, many will take the time to renew their commitment to the 5 precepts, it is usually explained as people making vows to adhere to the Precepts. One does not necessarily have to follow all the 5 precepts (and if you are a monk it can be much more than 5, traditionally monks or very serious lay people will take an additional 3-5 ethical precepts, and some of the five precepts are strengthened. For example, the precept pertaining to sexual misconduct becomes a precept of celibacy). The Precepts are not given in the form of a commandment such as “thou shalt not…”, but rather are promises to oneself: “I will (try)…”

1. To refrain from harming living creatures (killing)

2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (stealing)

3. To refrain from sexual misconduct

4. To refrain from false speech

5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness

If you are in the Montreal area and would like to participate to an New Years intention ceremony feel free to come at the NHC center on the 10th of January. More info on the group is also posted on the Against the Stream Website in the Dharma Punx Nation section. All are welcome no matter what your spiritual or religious affiliations may be, this is a great time to take some time to reflect on our spiritual practices and what we want to bring into the world for this new year. It is a 5$ suggested donation to help cover the costs, but no one will ever be turned away for lack of funds. 2010 was a year that started on a very sour note for me, but shaped up to be a year full of different experiences and accomplishments, I would not trade it for the world. My biggest teachings of 2010? Impermanence, Kindness, and Compassion! What was yours? 2011 is already looking like a year that will bring exciting new beginnings and challenges, keep reading to see what will be happening in the new year! Thank you if you are reading this, your readership and support means the world to me and I hope that you will keep reading in 2011! Here is a wish to all of you for 2011 from our man Sid!

“May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness; may all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow; may all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless; and may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment and too much aversion, and live believing in the equality of all that lives.”

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