16.5.16

Sayings from Facebook

The belief that memory is something that has arrived from the past to the present is another form of conceiving a self.
(24.03.2016)

Anicca - Animitta
Impermanence doesn't mean you should have no attachments, it means there is nothing to attach to.
(07.03.2016)

One just has to see what is "right in front of one's eyes", that all experiences in the six fields change moment to moment, and even one moment cannot be grasped. Therefore, whatever is believed to be a reality is only a conceptual creation. Nevertheless, conceptual creations follow a certain pattern, they are interdependent, as a network of associations.
(05.11.2015)

It is natural that beings want to take control and feel certainty. However, it is also a reason for suffering and feeling dissatisfied. Things change and we cannot manipulate them as we wish to, as everything depends on numerous causes and conditions. Even what we call our thoughts, feelings and body are often beyond our control. To contemplate this is how to gain insight into the true nature of the way things are.
(27.09.2015)

In short, the basis of ignorance is conceptual attachment, that is, believing in essentially existing things and beings. From that come emotional attachments, and from that all sorts of deluded actions. One can go gradually by first restricting one's actions with the precepts, calming emotional states with meditation and eliminating false ideas through insight. Or one can go directly to the root cause, that is clinging to thoughts, and see that there is nothing to grasp. The result is the same.
(12.02.2015)

18.4.16

Unconditional Peace

There is conditional and unconditional peace. Conditional peace is what we get in the right circumstances. That's when we have a short breather, take a walk in the park, or go on holiday. Another type of peace is when we are not bothered by other things or people, and can just do what we do without interruption. There is also the internal peace, when either because of good mood, or from a meditative state we feel calm. Unconditional peace is the lack of intention.

If we want peace, we want to remove ourselves from disturbing circumstances and be in an environment that pleases us. The coarse form of that desire is when we want to satisfy a craving, so that it disappears. The subtle form is when we just want to be left alone, free from worry and excitement. However, both types have only very limited and unstable results. We are easily get sick with too much sensory pleasures, and soon get bored when there is nothing to do. Therefore, what actually ruins our peace is ourselves, we always want to move on to something else.

To gain unconditional peace, we should see the process of how our peace becomes disturbance. In order to see it, we need to learn to be undisturbed, otherwise we just occupy ourselves with all sorts of other things we can crave for. And we also need to know what to look for. That's what the threefold training in discipline, meditation, and wisdom is about. In other words, that is the path taught by the Buddha.

What is lack of intention? It is when we clearly see that all conditions are completely unstable, therefore we cannot expect any peace from them, hence there is nowhere to hang on to. In other words, we do not establish ourselves as a condition (whereby we mistake something to be stable), nor in relation to a condition (again, supposing something stable). What is important to understand is that there is nothing else but conditions. Even our deepest thoughts, feelings, and whatever we regard as our being, is conditioned. When we see that it's conditioned, there is nothing to intend toward, nothing to aim for, nothing to rely on. At the same time, even intention is conditioned. So, there is no change of whatever is conditioned, it is just seeing all conditioned as conditioned, and that is unconditional peace.

25.3.16

Three Medicines for Detachment

There is the state where one feels detached from everything, one grasps at an indifferent position, and remains unmoved by whatever happens. Here are three ways to approach this.

Emptiness is empty. Grasping at whatever state, whatever feeling, is still attachment. One has to let go of everything. Or as for instance Baizhang put it in three stages: Do not grasp anything. Do not grasp not grasping. Let go of even that. Daehaeng says practically the same, instructing to die again and again. The same can be seen in Jizang's formulation of the four levels of two truths. The point is, when everything is truly released, boundless wisdom and compassion can function unhindered.

Focus on interdependence. After cessation comes clear observation, as described in the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana. It is seeing clearly how karma works, how suffering emerges, how beings are bound by their ignorance. It is letting go of the hundred-foot pole (aloofness) to "appear with his whole body in the ten parts of the world". Or as the Genjokoan says "To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena." This is where one can learn not to fear appearances, because they are all illusory. These are the 9th and 10th pictures of the ten bulls. This is contemplating the function of the mind instead of its essence, because eventually it turns out to be not two different things.

Trust in buddha-nature. There can be this fear that if everything is let go, it will be just a big nothingness, total obliteration. Because of that fear, we want to keep control to ourselves, want to be able to influence things. That is basically our core belief in a self, and the source of all problems. The first option mentioned is when we see there is nobody in control. The second option is to see that all things change according to causes and conditions, so there is nothing to control. This third option is to let our inherent buddha-nature manage everything. This can be mistaken in two extreme ways: either as inactivity, or as following impulses mindlessly. Instead of those two, one should face every situation openly, so that buddha-activity can manifest. How to be open? When something comes, let it come. When something goes, let it go. When something is present, let it be. Letting go is not worrying about the past and the future. Letting be is embracing without hesitation. This is possible because one has faith that all is taken care of by the buddha-nature.

24.3.16

The Illusion of Memory

Since yesterday I have been thinking about memory again. The reason was that during a debate the topic of latent afflictions (anusaya) came up, and I wasn't really sure where to put them. They seemed fairly irrelevant there. Nevertheless, it started a chain of thought in me, the result of what is this post. But even before that I had gone through similar thoughts about how memory is possible. It was almost three years ago (this topic), and my conclusions at that time you can see here and in the following posts where I think I couldn't really move forward on deciding on anything. However, the real reason behind this post is that I have now managed to think of putting this in a way that might be useful to consider.

The problem with memory is the same as with any latent mental factor: one is not conscious of them. Any object of mind - or rather instance of consciousness - that can exist without oneself actually being aware of it is a contradiction. Practically speaking, an impossible situation. When asked where karma is stored, Narada Thera (The Buddha and His Teachings, ch 19) put it this way: "Neither wind nor fire is stored in any particular place, nor is kamma stored anywhere within or without the body." Even if we conceive the mind as a stream that somehow contains the seeds that ripen in an appropriate condition, those seeds are still latent mental factors.

The error I made and what stopped me from coming up with a good solution was that I wanted those hidden thoughts to be somewhere. Because if they are not carried over (through a causal continuum, as explained in Yogacara for instance) from the past to the present, then really there are no latent afflictions, no past karma, no memory. By the way, now that I think of it, when they say that the manas takes the alayavijnana as the self, what it can be translated to is that people identify with their personal history.

The solution I have eventually arrived to is that if we take a close look at it, memory and the rest do not arise from any storage, but they are always brought about by specific conditions. The difference between stating that they are seeds ripening based on conditions, and simply being generated by conditions is an important one. Memories, habits, and afflictions are in fact thoughts like all the others. Thanissaro Bhikkhu translates anusaya as obsessions, and being obsessed about something happens as actual conscious activity, like when one needs to go to the toilet but cannot. That is, when I think I remember something, it is a thought (generated by preceding thoughts and such), to what I attribute the quality of coming from the past. This is a very clear case of assuming a substance, a self, that persists over time. And that assumption of a substance is what makes us conceive a storehouse of memories. Just like we think of ourselves as being the same person from one day to another.

So, conventionally speaking, it is fine to talk about memories and habits from the past, just like we accept that there are places beyond the walls of the room where we happen to be. But when we take a look at our actual experience, there is no basis for any past memory or latent habit, nor a personal history. It's all just empty appearances, an illusory world, conceived to be something what it is not.

"For those who believe that actions and effects possess inherent reality, an action that is over and done with cannot produce effects. They are therefore obliged to speculate about a medium in which actions are supposed to leave imprints of some kind, or about some sort of continuum that links causes with their effects—without which karma could not function. But from our point of view, neither action nor effect has inherent existence; they arise in interdependence. And we do not investigate whether the cause and its effect meet or do not meet, whether there is a space between them or not. It is like looking into mirror: there is a face and there is the reflection of a face—something has simply arisen in dependence on a cause. Nevertheless, if you inquire whether the cause and its effect contact each other, you will never be able to devise an acceptable explanation of how the seed is the cause of the shoot."
(Mipham: Introduction to the Middle Way, p 222-223)

11.2.16

My Little Dharma History

Teachers I have learnt from in person:

Theravada:
Pal Farkas (general, satipatthana), Tibor Porosz (abhidhamma), Ajahn Sucitto

Mahayana:
Judit Feher (madhyamaka), Jozsef Vegh (madhyamaka), Tamas Agocs (madhyamaka, pramana, tantra), Monika Szigeti (abhidharma), Laszlo Tenigl-Takacs (yogacara)

Chan Buddhism:
Shi Mingzheng, Shi Minglai, John Crook, Simon Child

Seon Buddhism:
Antal Dobosy, Chongan sunim JDPSN, Wu Bong DSSN

Zen Buddhism:
Sozui Zenni, Shodo Harada roshi, Yvon Myoken Bec

Vajrayana:
Keith Dowman (dzogchen & mahamudra), Chokyi Nyima rinpoche (general), Chokyi Nangwa rinpoche (rigsum gonpo), Kyabgon Phakchok rinpoche (84 mahasiddha, mahamudra), Khenchen Khenpo Konchok Tashi rinpoche (mahamudra)

Qualification:

I have graduated as a certified Dharma teacher at Dharma Gate Buddhist College:
- BA in Buddhism, 8 semesters (2003-2008)
- MA in Buddhism, 4 semesters (2008-2010)

The reason of this post:

There are people who believe that one can learn the Dharma only from teachers in person. While there are certain benefits of having someone to see as an example of Buddhist practice and living, ask questions, receive prompt instructions, etc., I do not agree with such a limited view. Although I have received first hand training from many qualified people, I have had other, equally beneficial sources of Dharma, most of them online and in book form. Most importantly, in order to fully understand the teachings, the only way is personal experience, really looking at the nature of body and mind, and seeing for oneself the truth. Words are just pointers, whether spoken or written. There is no magic to impart wisdom. No buddha can make people enlightened. Everyone has to do it oneself.

5.2.16

Middle Way Solution

Affliction is anything one has an emotional attachment to. Once there is no such involvement, it is not an affliction. But this might be mistaken for lack of emotions and apathetic detachment.

Afflictions are already empty as they are. So there is no need to do anything with them. But this might be mistaken for embracing delusion.

Realistically, we can neither turn into robots nor keep our dissatisfying mindset. Thus the usual resignation that buddhahood is something far far away, that we are all sinful humans who can only hope for salvation from some higher being. That is one valid solution in Buddhism offered in Mahayana.

But I like to believe that there is another way. And that way is total relinquishment of subject, object and action. In other words: there is nobody to do anything. With a positive tone: everything is fine as it is. Translating it back to the basic terminology: the answer to dissatisfaction is not in satisfying it but dropping the wish itself. Although that sounds like we need to do something (drop the wish), that is not exactly true. To give up all hope one only needs to see that the goal is false. And that is realising that nobody can do anything. As Guanyin says in the Heart Sutra: "Due to non-acquisition, the bodhisattva, having relied on Perfect Wisdom, dwells without mental obstruction. From the non-existence of mental obstruction, he is fearless, he overcomes inverted erroneous views, and ultimately reaches Nirvāṇa."

15.1.16

Vehicles

Both Theravada and Mahayana aim for no attachment to the five aggregates and six senses, thus one is unbound. According to Theravada after parinirvana there is nothing to say, since even before that there is no individual to point to. Mahayana says that because of compassion bodhisattvas and buddhas do not leave samsara, nor do they enter nirvana, but because they have realised the emptiness of appearances they can function without being affected. So actually both affirm that there is no individual entity to be bound.

As we can see, they can accuse each other with wrong views: Hinayana is annihilationist, Mahayana is eternalist. But as actually everyone is aware, the topic of the existence or non-existence of the Tathagata after death is a question based on the incorrect assumption of self.

There is really no establishment of various vehicles, and so I speak of the one vehicle; but in order to carry the ignorant I talk of a variety of vehicles.
(Lankavatara Sutra, 2.56, tr Suzuki)
"And how do some adhere? Human & divine beings enjoy becoming, delight in becoming, are satisfied with becoming. When the Dhamma is being taught for the sake of the cessation of becoming, their minds do not take to it, are not calmed by it, do not settle on it or become resolved on it. This is how some adhere.
"And how do some slip right past? Some, feeling horrified, humiliated, & disgusted with that very becoming, relish non-becoming: 'When this self, at the break-up of the body, after death, perishes & is destroyed, and does not exist after death, that is peaceful, that is exquisite, that is sufficiency!' This is how some slip right past.
"And how do those with vision see? There is the case where a monk sees what has come into being as come into being. Seeing what has come into being as come into being, he practices for disenchantment with what has come into being, dispassion toward what has come into being, cessation of what has come into being. This is how those with vision see."
(Iti 49; see also: Ajahn Amaro: The View From the Center, ch 7