Programs Continuing

As Tahn Pamutto heads on retreat for January, online programs will continue peer-led by members of the lay community.  This includes the Wednesday Tea and Meditation programs, the Lay Sangha Chats on the Half Moons, and the Full and New Moon Uposathas.

The Zoom meeting room will open as normal during the regular times.

Talk: Practice Because You Have To

On the Uposatha, Tahn Pamutto reflects on the core understanding of the Four Noble Truths – that we practice not because it is pleasant and healthy and wonderful but because we have to. Samsara is a mess, and when we really look at our lives we can sense the subtle (or not so subtle) dissatisfaction and angst underlying it all. This is the truest source of inspiration for our practice. Practice because you have to, because there is suffering and you want out.


“Meditating is not for the happiness we’re getting. Again, everything we are getting, we are going to lose.

It’s unhappiness that we are letting go of. It’s our suffering that motivates us.

We can reflect on “what is the potential for suffering today?”
Even if we can only be filled with the ability to not get pissed off, that will be an accomplishment. We will have let go of suffering. And that is the real measure of success.

The dhamma hasn’t changed. It’s core is realizing that what “gets to us” and trying to let it go. We are getting “better” by trying not to get worse.”
-Tahn Pamutto


Series: The Foundations of Mindfulness pt 3

The Foundations of Mindfulness: Satipatthana Sutta

Majjhima Nikaya 10

Transcript of an eight-week presentation 2022 by Tahn Pamutto

Part Three: Body

The reason we’re doing mindfulness and the reason that it’s so focused on what can be experienced objectively is because mindfulness counteracts ignorance”


(opening meditation guidance)

Sitting in meditation, a lot of our intention will come into play.

If there’s any part of the mind that’s trying to get something or trying to get away from something, we’ll see that tendency repeated over and over again in a variety of forms. And so, often I start by trying to just be aware. I try to “center” and actively let go of what I’ve been doing, whatever that is, whether it’s something simple or whether I’ve been very busy.

Take note; see what kind of lingering resonance there might be in the mind.

Set up a strong intention to practice, to not think about the future or plan for the future.

Because the future’s not here yet.

This is the present moment.

And the most important thing we could bring with us going into the future would be mindfulness. But we can’t cultivate that and plan at the same time.

The Buddha encourages beginning meditation with “letting go” as the focus, rather than trying to “get an experience” or looking for some sort of peace.

We’re trying to actively let go of the attachments in the mind, trying to come to a place of acceptance with the mental patterns that are active.

Just like if there’s a noise, like the hum of a computer or a refrigerator or car is out on the street, there’s nothing we can do to change the noise.

The place of peace will be in softening our relationship to the noise. Not trying to shut it out, but just letting it wash over us. Letting it stay in the world, not bringing it into our mind as an object.

As the mind begins to settle… it’s a lot like setting up a scene in a play. We start to notice the things around us. We also start to notice the character that we’re choosing to be, in this play. This too, is something we can’t quickly change.

Instead we work to “soften” to our thoughts and our feelings and our habits until they too are allowed to become part of the scene rather than a source of distress or attachment.

(end of guided meditation)


The next three parts of mindfulness of the body are all different flavors of the same thing in a way, a sort of investigation.  My hope is that we’ll have more time for discussion. I’ll kind of go over what they are and why they are important to this kind of investigation.

Then we can kind of open it up. Because for some of you, what’s being suggested in these investigations might be exceedingly alarming and gross. And for others it might be like, “Well, I mean, I work on a farm. This is like, this is daily life. This is nothing exciting. Uh, I can’t believe this is spiritual practice.” And so we’ll meet in the middle there, because both are right.

The next three chapters deal with Mindfulness of the Body.

There’s six sets of instructions, and the fourth deals with bodily composition. That means looking at bodies in terms of their anatomy, their component parts. The next set deals with looking at bodies in terms of material forces. So the forces of solidity, cohesion, vitality or warmth, and motion or energy. And then the final is looking at bodies in terms of their decomposition.

Each one of these is its own set of instructions. You don’t necessarily have to do all six. For instance, I’ve based a lot of my practice on the fourth set of instructions, that is, anatomy. And this can be used as a meditation subject that brings you into full concentration. You can take a single bodily component and focus on it, and the mind becomes so bright and energized and enthused that you get concentration, which lets you develop all kinds of insights.

Any one of these, if you give your time to it, will yield incredible results. The basic premise is dealing with delusions that we have about the body. This is actually very practical. Like if you’re spending a lot of money trying to moisturize your skin, and then you do some contemplation about skin and you realize, “Oh… why am I spending so much money moisturizing this patch of leather that I’ve got wrapping up my organs?”

Then you would be like, “Well, that’s not very practical.”


The reason we’re doing mindfulness, and the reason that it’s so focused on what can be experienced objectively, is because mindfulness counteracts ignorance.


What is ignorance? Well, ignorance is based on deluded ideas we have about things being permanent, things being pleasant or satisfying, and things being ours or ourself. These are the basic fundamental delusions.

How do we look at things objectively?

Take something like a fingernail. When it’s attached to us it’s very personal and we want it to look nice and we don’t want it to get smashed in a door.

But if it were on the floor, we would have none of those emotions towards it. We’d be like, “That’s gross. That’s somebody’s fingernail.”

We’d sweep it up and we’d throw it out. This is the reality. The fingernail is no different.

The problem is that when we misunderstand a fingernail, we leave the door open for the belief that this is my fingernail. That this fingernail’s gonna stay attached to the body and it’s gonna stay safe.

Sometimes the fingernail will be very pleasant, like once it’s painted and perfect, and the cuticles are all healthy and all that… but it’s still a fingernail. If we begin to look at what’s objectively there, there is no room for those delusions to arise. So we’re not caught off guard.

It’s not to say that we have to look at fingernails as this foreign thing attached to our hands, but coming to understand and investigate what a fingernail actually is, means that we’re not going to get caught unaware by distress and confusion and anger when something happens to our fingernail.

We’ll be able to just feel the pain. And we won’t elaborate on that with ideas of, “This is happening to me. I can’t believe this, this always happens to me.” And on and on and on.


My friend just came back from a meditation retreat with a teacher named Beth Upton, who was formerly an ordained bhikkhuni in Burma. After many years of practice, she disrobed and she became a lay teacher who recently taught at the forest refuge for a month, and she was teaching in Austin, Texas.

My friend went down there and they were all being guided through developing concentration meditation. They were being taught in the way that Buddhist practitioners actually pursue when it’s taken very seriously.

Beth brought a box of bones and she kind of laid them out, to investigate, to investigate the skeleton, to investigate your bone structure, to sit there and think about it.

She didn’t give a rigorous structure. Do this, do this, do this. She’s like, “There are incredible insights here. So take your bone and go off and study”

The reality is we’ve got hundreds of bones that we carry with us all the time, but sometimes we need to actually just stop and do this extra step of investigating to develop understanding about these things.

I can tell you from experience, part of the reason why anatomy is one of my main meditation subjects is because it’s incredibly beautiful and joyful when you remove all the layers of delusion and you’re able to just contemplate something like a skeleton as a skeleton, without all the pain and misery and tingling and numbness that we feel in all the other organs. The skeleton just sits there. This is very peaceful.

Very peaceful. Very solid. We can apprehend that mental sign in our mind and develop it into concentration.


Now, the physical elements, again, it’s the same idea. The body is made of matter and it is solid. You can pay attention to just it’s solidity, and realize that the solidity of a physical object is the same as the solidity of the body.

That wall over there and this body are not much different. You can just look at it objectively.

If you begin to see that this is matter, or mass, it follows the laws of physics — again, you’re not gonna get caught as quickly in, “Why am I always falling over?”

The answer’s gravity. There’s no universal force that’s afflicting you or punishing you; you fall over because you’ve just been clumsy. You’re off balance.

The moment you wake up to that, it is practice.

You and your balance improve because you’re more mindful of your weight.

But also you begin to understand that these are universal, impersonal, across-the-board principles of matter.

Cohesion is the water element. Cohesion makes things stick together. So you can’t see it. You can see water, but the force of cohesion is invisible.

But you can mentally begin to understand things are sticking together because of a level of moisture, a level of cohesion.

Now, heat. As a wandering monk, I’ve meditated on heat a lot. I’ve gone to the other monks and done a whiteboard presentation about the three kinds of thermal loss. Because when monks are out wandering and they’re staying in the woods, it gets cold. You need to know about conduction, convection and radiation. “And let me explain these to you, Venerables, because if you don’t master these, you will freeze to death.”

Right? And it’s like, I don’t know. I didn’t go to college to study thermodynamics, it just became a very practical, important thing to sit and think about when I was freezing in the middle of the night, thinking, “Why is it that if I’m wrapped in a thin layer of nylon that covers all my skin, I might be a bit warmer than if I wrapped one part of my body in thick cloth many times.”

If you’re in a building you don’t die of exposure typically, even if the building is not heated. But if you’re outside, you might. Because you’re radiating heat in all directions, just spilling it out. When there’s walls that contain you, you don’t radiate heat in the same way.

So it’s natural principles.

You might think,”Oh, I’m freezing.” But if you stopped and contemplated the fire element, you’d be like, “No, I’m nowhere near freezing.  I’m just … whining … That’s all I’m doing.”

Conversely, this is something that children are really bad at, right? You might realize that you are freezing even though you’re not thinking about it. You might see a young child with snot running down their face and their skin’s turning blue and they’re just out playing in the snow. They won’t put on a jacket because they’re so having so much fun in the snow, and they don’t stop to think, “This is going to have consequences.”

You actually become more mindful in both ways. You think, “Nope, now’s the time to put on another layer.  Or, now’s the time to be very careful because I’m soaking wet. This is gonna lead to hypothermia…”

Motion and energy are the wind element. Any time things are moving, there’s velocity, there’s energy involved. We can notice when things are moving and when they’re not, and begin to understand that as a “force”.  But it even goes a little deeper.

Solidity (earth) is different than Wind.  It has mass but doesn’t inherently have motion.  The water element is clumping the earth together, but does it just fly off when we touch it?  Our bone structure has earth element obviously but it also has this wind force, a resistant force, because it has these very strong bonds.  It’s very stable and each bone is supporting all the other bones.  It’s capable of supporting weight without crumbling.  So there is potential energy there.  It’s not neutral,  It takes energy to create motion and separate the things back out.  The wind element is locked up in the bones as stability.

A building stays up because of a certain measure of the ability to resist impacts. In this way we can understand Wind in an energy sense, even as a chemistry sense, and not just as motion. When you begin to see that, you start to get really curious about all sorts of things that are going on. That should be a byproduct of this kind of investigation.

It should open the mind, it should brighten the mind. It should make you feel curious, interested, energized. This is not just sitting down and being like, I gotta let it go of everything. Gotta let go of everything. That has its own function. But it’s not the most energetic way to pursue practice.

Because the mind has to be applied to something. You can’t just be breathing out all the time. Sometimes you have to breathe in.

Sometimes you have to point the mind at something. And that’s what this mindfulness is about.


Now, the last reflection might have creeped people out when they read it. The Buddha suggests looking at nine different kinds of corpses. Again, this can be a really important part of practice. Though that’s not to say that my friends went to the Burmese Monastery and they started laying out corpses, necessarily, but a pile of bones is one of the kinds of corpses.

Sometimes people equate looking at anatomy as trying to see things in terms of “repulsiveness”. They’ve maybe heard that this is an antidote to lust, which is true. And the Buddha does use it that way. But it’s not just that.

Looking at corpses is not just to understand death. That will happen naturally, but that’s not its only function. The Buddha says you can develop these to get a sense of dispassion or disgust towards things that were otherwise seen as attractive.

You can do it for the development of equanimity.

Simply understanding these things gives you a sense of calm as things are changing, as they’re shifting, as they’re showing signs of decay.

So even though death is its own form of meditation and its own topic of meditation that’s very, very important in Buddhist practice…. to some degree, looking at death specifically is in the fourth foundation of mindfulness.

It’s looking at dukkha or the First Noble Truth.

But what are the corpses about, then?

I really like the commentaries and analysis of this. Each of the nine kinds of corpses is dealing with a specific delusion we have towards bodies.

For instance, looking at a bloated corpse allows us to understand our attachment to the body being in a particular form. Some part of the body is swollen or it’s kind of bent out of proportion, or somebody’s fat, or they’re extremely rail thin.  What is our visceral response to that? Do we have a sort of nested delusion there that says, “no, that’s outside of the balance.” Like what is the normal balance for a body? And what is our response when a body is outside of the “normal balance”?

Looking at the bloated corpse is a way to analyze what kind of deep thoughts we have about things being misshapen.  It doesn’t even have to be a corpse – even a living body part with this characteristic will suffice.  But the corpse doesn’t feel pain or feel repulsed, and that’s important for equanimity.

One of them is a livid corpse, and that means a corpse that has changed color.  A corpse changes color quite quickly. But again, even living bodies change color quite quickly. Somebody eats some ghost peppers: they’re going to change color very rapidly. Now, what is our visceral response when we see somebody turn red? We’re like, something’s wrong. Right? We see a child and their fingers are starting to turn blue… what is our visceral response when the body changes color?

Scientists have been able to document this. They do these incredibly mean experiments, just to demonstrate that people have these visceral reactions. They’ll have a steak and they’ll dye it green, then they’ll invite somebody into a room with a green light on.  All they can see is a steak in the green room and everything seems normal.  The person will start to eat the steak and at some point the scientists will turn out the green light and they’ll turn on a white light, a normal white light, and the person will be able to see that the steak is green and they’ll immediately vomit. Because green means spoiled, it means poison. We don’t know until we look how much we compartmentalize this knowledge. We haven’t realized because we haven’t investigated it.

You could go to a morgue and you could gather up all these nine kinds of bodies, get your nine bodies in a row, and you could sit there and study it.  But you would probably develop some respiratory disease from the stink. You would probably become pretty depressed. I really don’t recommend it. Instead these are visualizations. Or you can get a picture online and study it, and then you can walk away and think, “How do I feel when something is bloated?”

Then the next time you smash your thumb and it starts to swell up, you can just look at it and be like, “Yeah! that hurts. But it’s not that big a deal. It’ll go back to some semblance of the shape it was before. But it’s not ‘not-my-thumb’ because it’s swollen; it just looks different.”  It is – just a thumb.  Thumbs are sometimes like this and sometimes like that.

We open up the ability for things to change, for them to not be pleasant, and for them to do things that we have no control over. Which means that we’re no longer susceptible to the delusion, the delusion that’s making us not mindful.

These are a basis for continuing mindfulness, continuing awareness of things.

These are the six instructions in the body section of Satipatthana. For each of these six body reflections, the Buddha continues with a set of instructions:

You can look at them internally, externally, or both. You can look at your body, you can look at other bodies, or you can just look at bodies in general, including yourself. You can also look at them in terms of their arising, their passing away, or both their arising and passing away. You can see things as they show up, like the sense of bloating. You can notice when something becomes swollen and you see it wasn’t like that before. Or you can notice something fading like after the swelling has returned to normal.

You can see that your knee was once swollen and it no longer is. And you’d be like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” You see how you once had a lot of mass and now you don’t anymore. And you’re like, “Oh, that’s right. I used to be much larger.” Or both. You can just look around and see things changing state and realize that they do that… they do that quite often.

Whether or not we are watching or paying attention or want them to, things change all the time.

And the Buddha says, at the bare minimum you can develop the mindfulness that simply says there is a body. If you can hold onto just that much, that will counteract a lot of ignorance about this being me, this being mine, this being myself.

Developing just that much mindfulness.

Series: The Foundations of Mindfulness pt 1

The Foundations of Mindfulness: Satipatthana Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 10

Transcript of an eight-week presentation 2022 by Tahn Pamutto

Part One: Mindfulness

It’s a big subject actually. It’s one of the first things that we are introduced to in the Buddhist teachings besides, you know, don’t be violent. Be nice and be mindful, right?

So during the last year of the Buddha’s life, he did a sort of grand tour of India and revisited all of the places he had been to and all the communities that he had helped found.  He reiterated his teachings over the last 45 years. And he codified them in a set of 37 things… a set of different lists that contain 37 things that he called the Wings of Awakening. The Bodhipakkhiyadhamma.

At the culmination of the Buddha’s teaching career, he’s basically saying, “These are what you should remember. Pass these on in future generations. If they hear these things, they’ll probably be able to figure out what it was we were doing.”

If you comb through this list, you’ll find that two things kind of float to the top with the most mentions. One of them is energy (Viriya) and the other is mindfulness (Sati) .

This is like quintessential Buddhism, right? Does anybody want to be brave and offer a definition of what Sati is?

In order to do any Buddhist practice, we need to have a working definition of mindfulness. Okay? So each of you has a working definition of what mindfulness is, and there’s no right or wrong answer because you’ve built it up over all of the practice that you’ve done. Rather than diving right in when we started the meditation, we said, “Hold on, what’s here in the room?,” right?

This is what it is to kind of stop and be like, “Well, what do I tell myself it is? What am I looking for? How do I know it’s there?” Because we could just dive right into the four foundations and mindfulness and say, “It is 1, 2, 3, 4,” and expound those. But would we actually be talking about mindfulness if we didn’t have that working definition from the get go? Or would we just be adding more concepts? As we’re adding stuff, are we paying attention to what’s there?

So… what is not mindfulness? Maybe that’ll help us too. So, just a show of hands, think back to that time before time, before we were introduced to the Buddhist teachings, before we were introduced to practice, to meditation, to any of that. We want to rate how much mindfulness we had at that time. So take all the time that we were awake… what percentage of that time were we mindful, based on what we know now?

Who feels that they were probably mindful about 80% of the time, before, just from the get go. Who feels that they were mindful at least 50% of the time? … don’t be shy. Who feels they were mindful maybe 25% of the time? Okay. So, so now we’re starting to see a few bodhisattvas in the room, very developed beings.

Now who feels they were mindful at least 10% of the time. So at least maybe like one or two hours of the day altogether? Before they encountered those practices? Yeah, I mean, I would go about 5% personally, and I was pretty interested in it.

Based on what we know now, like before we were introduced to mindfulness, were we trying to be mindful? Were we trying to sit? and if we were trying, were we succeeding?

Realistically. I mean, I almost can’t remember public school. I’m aware that it was painful. It was excruciatingly boring, but I don’t think I was mindful for any of it. Technically I was trying to be anywhere else but in the classroom. So I can’t even, I can’t even point to like, maybe 1% in that case.

Okay. But now, let’s say, right now let’s look at our lives and um, do we feel the number has gone up? Who feels that they’re more mindful now? Who feels that the percentage has maybe gone up five or ten percent at least. Yes. At least. Who feels it’s gone up more than that?

For me it depends on the day. And you know, if I have a day where I am sort of more present or I’m not distracted or thrown off or sick or, you know, then I can say I could have a pretty mindful day. But then there are days that, you know, I actually missed, you know, I didn’t, it didn’t register at all.

I’d like to think I’m getting better at it, but does it matter?

I think it’s circumstantial for me right now. Still.

Anybody else feel it’s, it’s still pretty circumstantial even after all this time? Like, some days are good, some days are bad.

I noticed something in my own practice when I first started, when I was first introduced to the idea, it was maybe like a moment of mindfulness during the day, whereas now it’s kind of moving into portions of the day are are mindful.

Has anybody else experienced something like that? Development of more extended moments?

So now we’re aware that there is something that’s not mindfulness and that it is our basic state, technically if we’re doing it more than 50% of the time before we’re introduced to practice. So not-sati is present more often. So we’ll find our way to sati.


The word “sati” is kind of mysterious. It literally comes from a root that means memory. Just like remembering. But if we were to take that at face value, that doesn’t help us technically. Because we feel that our, our working definition of mindfulness deals with not conceptualizing, right? Being aware of something as it is, so that we’re not thinking back to something previously. It’s not that kind of memory.

And we actually kind of get helped by the word “mindfulness” in the English language. Because this isn’t even a Buddhist word. It’s a Christian word. Christian monastics were using the word mindfulness to refer to a recurring recollection of God. So the feeling is “God is always present,” but we forget He’s there. So developing mindfulness was training in this aspect of remembering that “God is present” as a form of practice.

It’s actually a pretty good word in a pretty good application of this idea of remembering. We’re not remembering in terms of accessing our memories.

We are remembering the fact that we can be ignorant of the present moment. We’re remembering to let go of things.

What we’re remembering to do is we are remembering to not be lost, which is an odd way of saying it.

So we’re not looking for the present moment, we’re remembering that we can get out of it.

And that’s something of a way back to the present moment.


I think we can agree that if there’s any creature that is more skilled at being in the present moment, it’s the simplicity of a dog, right? And there’s this wonderful long Jack Kornfield joke where, if you can be happy with whatever lands in your bowl, if you can fall asleep in a moment without any struggle and it goes on and on and on for like 20 different things. If you know you have an absolute best friend and you would never betray them. And the punchline is you’re probably a dog.

But do we feel that the activities and the the mind state of a dog would qualify the definition of something? Do we feel like dogs have strong sati?

We’re talking about something that is a factor of awakening. That’s one of the lists it shows up in. So we’re not on the path to enlightenment unless we do something that gets us off the path of ignorance.

So there has to be some sort of doing, or else we would be in a state of mindfulness more often. Right?

I know, I’m making you work…but it’s good work, you know, that helps us kind of narrow this down.

The volition of a child and the volition of dog are on different planes than the volition of an adult who’s become acquainted with suffering. There’s a reason I think that the word “practice” is used, because we get so acculturated out of it. And we become so involved with our various attachments and the disappointments that come along with them that we do need to make a choice.

And the choice is to practice, right? So there’s some turning towards something, right?

I think we agree that we like to be in the present moment. That’s not the whole concept of something necessarily. Because if we’re in the present moment, happily deluded, we’re not stepping foot on the path of awakening, right? So there’s gotta be some aspect of clarity. And so maybe this is why the word that the Buddha chose to use, but a word that was already a common parlance, “sati” comes from memory.

And, and in some way there’s some act of part of the mind that is looking, you know, it’s actually, it’s not just being; it’s aware and it’s cognizing its surroundings. We’re remembering that it’s not just floating through life. We’re remembering in that moment. It’s like, “Oh, I gotta be here because ignorance is always around the corner.

A very, very interesting, like this experience of totally being in the moment, the Buddha himself, in the life where he became the Buddha, had this glorious moment as a young boy when he was seven years old. There was a harvest festival where all of the nobles go out into the fields and make the first plow lines in the fields and it’s this big ceremony. The young prince was just sitting up on a hill and watching everybody working in the fields. And it’s a really happy day.

And he’s just totally chilled out. Yeah. He’s just sitting under a tree and he starts to pay attention to his breath and he goes into the first jhana. So he attains samadhi and after that he, he kind of gets up, he’s like, “that was really nice.”

And he promptly forgets about it for the next 30 years. So remembering is kind of looking at the practices and recognizing that we’re coming back to it.

It’s not a won-and-done thing. It’s not like we will be mindful once we stop being filled with self doubt or self-loathing or anger at the present moment. There’s some aspect of intending to be mindful.

Like turning towards our situation and looking at it objectively or remembering what we were doing before, remembering that there’s this path, remembering that there’s the Four Noble Truths, remembering that there’s the Buddha Dhamma Sangha.

So now what were we’re getting to is that the Buddha’s definition of samadhi.

Samadhi is developed as a factor of the Eightfold Path.

The definition is the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

And it’s interesting because most of us probably, if we were doing a show of hands, like how many people had been taught as a form of mindfulness, paying attention to bodily sensations?

Yeah. Except those are not in there because they’re not in the Four Foundations.

We’ve been taught to listen to the content of our thoughts. You know, what are our thoughts saying, how do we feel, what’s the mood of our mind? These are the shorthands that we use when we’re teaching mindfulness and meditation.

And yet when we get to the actual content, the Buddha lists as the basis of mindfulness, turning our minds towards very objective realities, not simply our subjective reality: “How do I feel in this moment? What’s happening to me?”

Instead turn our mind to, “What is happening?”

Yeah. So this is the distinction between “being okay and being happy and being okay with what’s arising here” and understanding what’s arising here in the context of reality.

So what is actually here? We could be totally okay and deluded. And to be honest, we can be totally miserable and mindful. But categorically I think we would start to find, if we give it time and we give it practice, we find that being mindful helps us in the other one. We’re more likely to have moments of being okay with what is.

Once we understand “what is”, once we see “what is” objectively and we stop being so worried about it, stop being worried about how our thoughts reflect on us.

Because we’ve seen them come and go. We know they’re ridiculous, so we don’t take ’em so seriously. You know, we might have a physical sensation; we don’t worry that we have cancer! Because we’re like, “Yeah, no, maybe I do, maybe I don’t. It doesn’t matter right now, I don’t have to get up. Like I just sit here and keep breathing. Like if I’ve got cancer, I’ll find out later,”

We know how bodies work, we know they’re like cars actually. They work better than cars.

And we can see that feelings are just three flavors.

I like it. I don’t like it, I don’t care.

Greed, hate, and delusion. That simplifies things as opposed to, you know, psychology. I don’t even know how many kinds of feeling they’re up to, right?

So I don’t really have any other like, objective for discussion. We can maybe divide up the foundations and mindfulness over the next few weeks. So we got four foundations. We can spend two weeks on each of them.

Reflecting on Spontaneity

This talk by Tahn Pamutto was given on the Uposatha in New York City, September 2022:

Namo tassa bhagavato, arahato samma sambuddhassa

Namo tassa bhagavato, arahato samma sambuddhassa

Namo tassa bhagavato, arahato samma sambuddhassa

So I’ve been thinking about the third noble truth, thinking what I could say about it. But then reflecting on the bus on the way in, it’s like, well, I didn’t really sleep much last night and I’ve been on a bus most of the day and nothing was coming up. And it’s this curious experience of, um…what is it like when nothing comes up?

You know, when there’s no inspiration… when it’s, you’re just, you’re just like, “ah,” and you got nothing.

And I think, in worldly terms, results are more important than intention. So you just fake it. You just do something, get something done, and it doesn’t matter. But in Dhamma terms, intention means more than the results.

So sometimes you just got nothing. Sometimes the intention is the most important thing. And so how can you, if you don’t feel inspiration, if you don’t know what you’re gonna talk about, what would you do? Well, it’s the same. You don’t feel inspiration. How are you gonna do something Buddhist? Right. Well, maybe I’ll just log in and maybe something Buddhist will happen. Maybe I’ll get lucky and I’ll find my inspiration along the way.

But actually there’s a pretty quick way.

How do you get to the wholesome intention if you’re not feeling inspired? One of the simplest ways is to be honest, one of the simplest ways is to be humble. One of simplest ways is to just take whatever you’re given. Even if it’s everybody looking at you and being like, “Really? You don’t got anything?”

Because in some ways, the Precepts that we just chanted are not just trying to guide us to “do this or get this bad result”.

Yeah. It’s not just “Thou shalt”. Or, I should be better. I should be nonviolent. I should be happy with whatever I’m given. Actually what the precepts are kind of pointing to is the lifestyle. Of being honest, of being humble, of being gracious, of being non-violent. And when you understand that, it becomes a lot simpler.

You know, it’s one of the easiest things in retrospect, but one of the hardest things for the average person to do is to just say, “I don’t know.”

“I… I dunno, I have no idea. I don’t know anything about that.”

But when it comes to even some very trivial things and somebody’s willing to say, “well, I wish I could give you an answer, but I just dunno,” it seems like an amazing thing, to just be honest.

“I have nothing,” or “I’m open to whatever you think is best.”

Right. So, I don’t know if this is ringing any bells. I don’t know if any of you have been in this situation where you’re tasked to give a dhamma talk and, well, here’s a little bit of a story time.

There was once an Anagarika, a guy in white robes named Carl. And he showed up at the Buddhist monastery and really didn’t know much about Buddhism at all, but he knew that he wanted to be some sort of renunciant. And he had been to a meditation retreat in Thailand and he had a really good experience as soon as he heard the chanting. And he did some meditation and during the meditation he had this image of himself in monk’s robes and it just made him so happy. And so Carl decided to go and live at a Buddhist monastery because he had gotten addicted to precepts.

You know, five precepts was really good. And then he tried eight and that was even better. And he’s like, wow, let’s just skip ten and go straight to two hundred and twenty seven! Yeah. But then Carl was at the monastery for a couple of months and they had this practice at the end of the Rains retreat, which was the senior monks who are normally the ones giving the talks would get to take the night off.

And they would fill the meditation bell with little scraps of paper with people’s names on it. Everybody who didn’t normally give a talk would give a talk that night, a brief ten minute Dhamma talk. And it just so happens that having been at the monastery just a few months, just long enough to be put into white robes, that Carl’s name was the first one to be pulled that Uposatha night. Yeah. And, um, uh, he got up on the dhamma seat, he’s the most junior person in the community and he’s just looking out at everybody and nothing came to him.

And he is just like, this doesn’t seem fair, but it took about a minute, and then he stumbled through a Dhamma talk about the suffering of being an Anagarika, which is what Anagarikas do. They talk about life working in the kitchen, and the suffering of having to drive and having to get used to not eating dinner and all these things. And then he got up off the seat and he went back.

But he reflected on that. He didn’t give another Dhamma talk until the next year and the next year he showed up at the dhamma seat, and again, his name was pulled first out of the bell, and he got up and he is like, it still doesn’t seem fair, this can’t be right.

But for a minute, he’s just searching around. He didn’t know what to say. And then finally he just started talking about something that he had been thinking about during the day and it worked out. And before you know it, 10 minutes were up.

And then the third year, again, his name was the first one called, and there was no fourth year. Like he left that monastery and spent a year away after that. But it’s something that’s developed. So all these years, and you see this with Dhamma teachers, eventually they learn it.

You can’t prepare for being in line with the Dhamma.

You can’t think your way into it. You can’t get ready for it.

What you can do is try to get the conditions to be right.

And this is what we do, so we meditate every day.

You know, it’s not that we’ll need that mindfulness and clarity and serenity necessarily. But the thing is, we don’t know when we will need the serenity. Yeah. We don’t know when the crisis will happen.

So we meditate every day so that we’re practiced and we’re ready.

We can set the conditions so that the conditions are as good as they can be, but whether or not Dhamma comes out or it’s just a complete blah, or defilements just run wild…

…It’s gonna be causes and conditions. So it’s something, it’s something to think about. And this is one of those non-linear, non-traditional kinds of Dhamma themes to kind of throw out there, imagining yourself as a sort of missionary, as you go about in the world.

We were talking about how when some people hear the first noble truth, they’re like, “Yes! There is suffering!” And then they go and they talk to the person next to them who says, “I’m not suffering.” You’re like, “what do you mean?”

When the dhamma really clicks with someone, the second they hear that, it’s a revelation. It’s like, “finally we get to talk about this thing that I’m experiencing.” But for 98% of the people on the planet, it’s more like, “I’m not suffering. That thing is wrong.

It’s a completely different perspective on the world, right? Sometimes we’re presented with situations and we don’t have an inspiration. There’s nothing in the back of our mind that says the Buddha would do this, and then we do that and we’re good. But imagining that we’re sort of roaming about and we’ve got the causes and conditions that we’ve been trying to cultivate, and then we’re seeing, we’re humbly kind of seeing what comes out.

Imagine seeing life not as you’re gonna try to get this Dhamma thing right, but rather you’re going along for the ride. And so you’re gonna try to do as well as you can, but what comes out, if you’re willing to be honest with it, you’re willing to look at it, if you’re willing to be humble around it, then intention trumps results.

It will be for your benefit. When you look at the precepts, this is maybe something you can start to see.

You might approach a situation saying, “Okay, I’m a good Buddhist, I’m not gonna kill, I’m not gonna kill the mouse, I’m not gonna kill the insect. I’m not gonna do anything violent.”

You can say instead, “How can I be just harmless? How can I be friendly in this situation?”

And let’s just see what happens. It’s funny that you would arrive at the same result, right? You’d arrive at the same result, you wouldn’t kill anything.

But are those two different states? One is coming from a like, “I’m going to restrain this unwholesome state of killing”, but over time we transition to a totally different one and it’s, “I’m gonna be nonviolent,” and the faith starts to get exponential that it will work out.

So likewise, young silly Carl sat down on the dhamma seat and just sort of blabbed and trusted that nobody was gonna get angry at him. And many other people said after his ten minute forced Dhamm talk that “no, it was great. It was great. Yeah. You just, you talked Dhamma.” Nobody held it against him. And why not? Well, because he didn’t tell anybody that he was enlightened. He didn’t tell anybody he was an authority, you know?

In fact, he said quite the opposite. He’s like, “I’m not, I should not be up here, I just moved in.” But that’s why everybody got something out of it.

It’s inspiring when somebody is honest. It’s inspiring when somebody is humble. It’s inspiring when somebody’s gracious. Right. So what if you were to lead with these qualities?

So this is a reflection that just kind of popped out and I was just thinking about on the bus.

“I don’t have anything to talk about and I don’t even know I’m gonna make it on time. But if I do make it on time, whoever is still in the room, I’m just gonna humbly present myself to them. And I’m gonna say, well, what do you wanna talk about ?”

And here we are. So instead of a formal dhamma talk, sometimes conditions conspire to say, let’s just have a time, a conversation.

We got together, we got some precepts, we got a little bit of time, and you can check out whenever you want.

NYC 9/2022

Bhava Daylong transcript pt 1

Gratitude to LR who transcribed part one of the Bhava Daylong (see also part two):

All right, friends. So this morning we’re going to introduce and look at a topic that is important, vital, foundational in Buddhism, but is not quite in the order of something like the four noble truths or the eightfold path; it’s not as simple as the three obstacles of greed, hatred, and delusion. We will be talking about a subtle concept; its implications are vast.

My teacher, Ajahn Pasanno, had a simile for the dhamma. He said it’s like an afghan, a sort of blanket that’s made out of knitted yarns. You could reach in and you could grab one of the yarns and start pulling, but in doing so, you would end up picking up the whole afghan, the whole blanket. And it doesn’t matter which yarn you pull on because the whole blanket comes with it.

So when we’re talking about this topic, you might see how a lot of the other dhammas are coming along for the ride. And it is part of what the Buddha calls dependent origination, “nidana” or, the way that things are conditioned. And it’s there at the end, the very important focal point, the transition between our mental realm and the physical reality.

So with that lead-in, what are we talking about? We’re talking about something called bhava.

Bhava is a verb in the Pali language, which means “to be,” but the way that they use that verb in Pali, it can also have connotations of “to become.” So it’s not stagnant. “This is what it is, but also, it has become this.” And in an either case you use the verb bhava. I point that out because that’s important to know that many of us are familiar with the translation “becoming” for this word.

And as soon as you hear that “becoming” is a source of suffering, I think all of us probably felt, Yeah, I get that.” Because we’ve seen it, right? We’ve seen it in the flow of our mind. Like, I’m trying to be something, like I’ve got an identity that I am trying to protect or trying to nurture or that I want to have, but don’t have. And so the word “becoming” is vital.

In the early translations where Bhikkhu Bodhi looked at the word bhava, he thought, “I know people are saying ‘becoming’, but I think it means ‘existence’.” Some modern translators also use that word. And so “existence” has a very different flavor. But they understand that we’re looking at this dichotomy.

And the Pali language used one word for both things, both the existence of something, but something coming to be something. It doesn’t matter whether it’s already there or if it’s just turning into that… you use the same word. And it’s the same for this link to dependent origination. This thing that we are looking at today. And so what we’ll do, we’ll talk about it a bit and flush it out, but this is something that’s deep.

This is something that will challenge some of your sensibilities,. We’ll also dredge up odd feelings from deep, deep down… the stuff that you tend to try not to listen to except in the dead of the night when nobody can hear you… what does it mean to exist, what does it mean to be part of the world? And are you really part of the world?

Or are we all on a singular, solitary journey led along by our karma? And everything on the surface is an illusion? We row, row, row our boat and life is but a dream? It’s a perspective that’s equally valid, and it’s worth allowing ourselves to just explore this from time to time, because I think it is harmless, but it can also be insightful.

I will say at the beginning, many people say that once they get introduced to these higher concepts, it’s like, “I can never see things the way I did before.” And they almost lament. It’s like, “oh… I just can’t enjoy indulging in something mindlessly like I used to be able to!”

And I mean, yeah, it’s kind of true, but they can they still do almost everything.

They just can’t do it with ignorance.

And so there’s really no risk in exploring these things, right? If you find that this turns out to not be that useful, you will just go back to operating the way that you have before. But if it does encourage you to look at deeper realities, then you may want to come back to it, time and time again.

So what is existence? What does it mean to you? Is existence necessary, or is it added on? We’re getting into a gray area, like, “what exists”?

This bell, does this bell have bhava? Is this bell dealing with dependent origination?

Now, in terms of philosophy, a philosopher would look at this and be like, “Well, I mean, it has a name, it has a function. I have a name, I have a function. I guess we’re in this together, Mr. Bell. We’re all moving on according to our karma.”

But that’s the danger of philosophy, because it’s not rooted in practicality, like the Buddhist teaching or other religions are rooted in.

Like, this might sound very smart: “There’s no difference between me and the bell,” but it’s not very practical, right? It doesn’t help you lead your life. In fact, it gets in the way and it’s like, if I’m no different from the bell, then why do I seem to suffer? And the bell seems to be okay. It’s not because the bell is enlightened…or every rock on the street would be more enlightened than us.

So as smart as that sounds, it’s not quite talking about the crux of the matter. And the crux of the matter is our experience.

So we’re talking about bhava, we’re talking about the existence and the becoming of sentient beings. This is the only thing that matters in practice.

You know, if the rock can’t move unless something picks it up and moves it, then whether or not it suffers is totally out of its control.

Even if there is a consciousness in there that is experiencing suffering, the rock can’t do anything about it. But we can do something about it, about our experience of suffering.

And so if we found that our concept of existence describes this process and allows us to get out of the part that causes us suffering, then it’s worth engaging with. It’s worth looking at.

So what does it mean to exist? And furthermore, what is the definition of bhava?

So part of the reason why you don’t see whole books on the subject of bhava is because there’s just three phrases, three words pretty much associated with what is bhava.

Bhava is sense sphere existence, subtle sphere existence, and formless existence.

And if you’re a westerner, you’re like, “pah…” Right?

The Buddha did not separate this from the idea of rebirth. Yeah. So we are going to be talking about that. It will be the elephant in the room, but we’ll point to it right away. Rebirth is part of this scenario. And there’s an important reason for that.

So there is a function of bhava, which deals with existence, which is active right now. You have an existence and it’s this body, it’s this life, right?

And all of you have it, I can see your faces, I know you’ve got bodies. I know that you’ve got names and you’ve got lives and you’ve got stuff that you do. I’m not talking to the bells on your counter or the books on your shelf. I’m talking to you, as thinking, breathing human beings.

But that thinking, breathing existence was preconditioned.

It arose at conception, but Buddha points out it did not arise based on nothing.

There was an embryo,

obviously there were chemical and biological processes,

but for some reason, consciousness arose,

took root

and started identifying with this being

and started going through a whole bunch of karma

that because it’s not separate from the body,

the whole body is having to go through all of this karma.

So there is an aspect of existence (even if you become an arahant and you become fully enlightened) that does not immediately cease… because the conditions are already in place. You already have this kind of existence. And so at the surface level, that canonical definition is talking about “why are you here right now?” And more, more than that…

Why are you there right now? And you are over there right now and you’re over there right now.

We’re all in different places right now because different bhava happened at different times.

And so to take that “why are you here right now?” principle a bit further, it means that animals or spirits, things you’ve experienced, maybe things you don’t know if they exist,

they have taken a form of existence in whatever place they find themselves.

They are in that existence based on previous conditions.

Now, some of you might not like the idea of rebirth. You might not sign on for the idea of rebirth. And I say this is important for us to engage with this concept. In order to take becoming seriously as a threat to our happiness, we have to acknowledge that when we engage in it, we don’t know when it’s going to end, right?

So the real threat of bhava that the Buddha points out is that this mental process might result in us taking a life existence somewhere.

And that that will have to play out whether or not we want it to, for whatever duration the lifespan of that existence is, right? So even if you don’t want to be a human being that has to get up and to work and to struggle and to eat and to get sick and to age and to lose everything, even if you don’t want that, if you’re running that process, you have no guarantee that at the end of your life, this process of becoming might not lead to you jumping into another existence and having to go through that period of time.

So even the Buddha’s disciple, Sariputta, did not categorically believe in other worlds. And that’s amazing, right?

He was right next to the Buddha, who had psychic powers and was talking about devas day in and day out. He was talking with devas day in and day out. Either that or muttering to himself. Sariputta, though, didn’t have the divine eye. He didn’t know, and he was considered the wisest of all people. So the Buddha asked him, “Hey, do you believe the sermon I just gave on the realms of existence?”

And Sariputta is like, “No.”

And all the monks were like, “Ahhhhhh!!!!”

….and Sariputta says, “Because I have no experience with any of that.”

So the wise person does not categorically believe something that they have no experience of. And in fact, it is wisdom to not categorically believe something you have no experience of.

So if you have no experience of other realms, no experience of this chain of rebirth, then you don’t have to believe in it. But the reason this will be useful today, at least if not going forward, is because it is the mark of a wise person to not categorically disbelieve something that they have no proof does not exist.

And this is what’s really important to us. You may not believe in rebirth, but that’s not what’s being suggested.

We have to take on, in order to really truly see “becoming” as a problem, the understanding that we don’t know when it ends, right?

So if “becoming” was guaranteed to end at the end of our life, it’s not that big a deal because no matter how much suffering it generates in our life, it’s over when we’re over.

But if we acknowledge that we don’t really know how this works or when it ends, then we have a very important mandate to look into “becoming” in all of its subtle aspects.

Including why I think I’m a person here in this place, why I think I’m a citizen of this country, why I think I’m this ethnicity, why I think I have a definite relationship to that other being over there that I’m the father of or the son of or the brother of.

“Why do I think these things and why do I continue to think these things? Why do I build up these ideas? All of that energy I put into that. Do I recognize that, that energy doesn’t go anywhere on its own? That that energy might continue and it might continue in dramatic ways?”

If you’re familiar with the Jataka stories or the Buddhist talk about causality in terms of rebirth…he’s saying that this person is the daughter of so-and-so, but then so-and-so passes away and because of their attachment to that person, they get reborn as the daughter of their daughter.

So now who’s the daughter and who’s the mother? Well, you can only say that for each given point of time. And now the relationship changes.

But what was static was the idea of a relationship. It was a mental idea that caused a form of birth.

When we go to sleep at night, we lose consciousness. And for many of us, this is how a person without the ability to meditate, relaxes, There’s no other way. Once we learn to meditate, we can start to try letting go of things while we’re still conscious. But no matter how bad the day is, we can crawl into bed, we can shut our eyes and we can blank out and wake up and maybe we’ll be in a different place.

As practitioners, we understand that there are parts of the mind that don’t need to be held onto to continue to have an effect on our lives. So if we wake up in the morning and the first thing that arises is, I am so and so I have to go do this, then it didn’t matter that we broke that up.

We broke up the continuity with going to sleep, but it came right back. And that’s the power of a mental process, right? That’s the suffering of a mental process. Because maybe we didn’t want that to come back. Maybe it would be nice to wake up the next morning and we can be whatever we want to be, whatever seems the most useful or appropriate thing.

Instead, we’ve put all this energy into being that one thing. And that’s where we wake up and we end up becoming.

We’ve got this static idea of existence, but we’ve also got an active idea of bhava. We’ve got this active sense of what we’re generating and what is caused by clinging, craving, identification, a preference for certain kind of experiences. That is also where bhava comes up, right? It’s also where it’s in some ways the most functional and vital part of bhava for us, as meditators.

Because that’s what we’re going to see on a moment to moment basis. We’ll be walking down the street and we’ll pass a certain shop and we’re like, “Oh! Oh, I really like those things.” And you know, we’re thinking, “Oh, I gotta get one of those. Oh, that’ll make me look so good.” Or, “You know, I always have a better day when I get to eat one of those. Or, maybe I should have one of those, it’d make me fit in better at work or at school. Or it would help me shape this image.”

And that’s becoming, right? And we have a sense of an entity, a sense of an existence. And there’s clinging, there’s craving… it gathers things towards it.

So, setting the framework, setting up the stage for a day of allowing yourself to investigate. Why do I start by bringing up the heavy, deep cosmological stuff about bhava? When you’re meditating, you might have this experience of “there’s a gap,” right? Like you’re not feeling this strong impulse to be something or to, to even to exist.

And it might feel like the world is starting to pass you by. You might see the people on the street, or you might see the birds in the sky. Or you might hear your neighbor and you realize that they’re not interacting with you. And that if you don’t say anything, you don’t do anything, they will continue to carry out their lives as though you don’t exist.

And this is a very interesting experience to engage with. We should look for this and allow ourselves to experience this because it can be a bit scary. We tend to only allow ourselves to dwell in these kind of thoughts in the dead of meditation or the dead of the night when it feels non-threatening, right? Like, “Okay, it’s 3:00 AM, I can have an existential crisis and when I get up at 6:00 AM it’ll be fine. I’ll be better. So no worries…. What am I?”

But we don’t have to take it that far, right? The Buddha said, “What is the condition for doubt?”

The condition for doubt is asking those questions. “What am I, who am I, what have I been, where have I been? What will I be, when will I be it? Having been this, how, what will I be in the future?”

We don’t need to ask those questions.

Instead we can recognize and start to sink into that feeling we might have in meditation that “I kind of feel like I don’t exist.”

And that’s how simple non becoming can be. It’s something to reflect on. How to cultivate that and how to look for that, how to look at that. And as an introduction, that’s what we are looking for.

So notice when a sense of becoming comes up and what it feels like in relation to what would be “non becoming” or “not being” that thing.

So we have an active reality of what we are. We ask ourselves what we think that is. And then we look for, well, where does that not apply?

You know, we are a son or a daughter, right? Except when we’re not living with our parents and we haven’t written or talked to them today. We’re kind of doing our own thing and they’re doing their own thing. So for a moment, that relationship doesn’t really accurately describe these two different people on different trajectories. It is simply a mental concept, right?

At a physiological sense, you could say, Okay, the, the genetics are there. But if you take those people further and further and further apart, then the link becomes more and more tenuous, merely a genetic link.

In terms of being an employee, it’s like “I work at that place.” Well, can that end? Not to date this recording, people at Twitter just found out they’re not people who work at Twitter anymore, right? That was like flipping a switch. A very rich person had a very expensive switch that he flipped, and they were no longer people who work at Twitter.

And this is the reality of many of our becomings, We wake up and gears start to turn and a process begins and we start telling ourselves, “I am this. I do this. I like this. This is mine.”

So we look for those and start to know what those sound like and start to know what those feel like, right? We can begin to appreciate that the Buddha said, “This is a bad thing. We should get rid of it,” but we’re not going to get rid of it unless we begin to recognize what it does to us.

It’s not just that it’s dangerous, and productive of future existence. It also limits us. You can feel the constraints of it if you say, “I am this” (and we do it because often it feels quite good to say!) or “I am, I am one of these, this is what I am, this is what I believe in.”

But if we hold to that, then what we’re also saying is,

“I am not the infinite number of other things that I could have been.”

We have gotten rid of those things or we’re blocked from those things because of our specificity.

Many times we lean into the specificity. We nurture the idea that “I have a relationship to this person, my spouse, my partner,” because of the good things that perception brings without recognizing the ways that it constrains us.

But in an instance where it’s really better to be a friend, or really better to be neutral and just be a bystander and be able to give them a neutral reflection on something that they’re doing, we’re stuck because we’ve been telling ourselves, “No, no, this is, this is mine. I am this. They, they own me in certain ways. There’s a thing going on here”

And that’s becoming. It’s a static idea, and a static idea doesn’t flow.

If we look at our reality, our reality is flowing. And in those moments where we fail to become something, we get to see what that’s like. The world flows on and it continues running.

And this is going to be one of the most interesting ways that the Dhamma opens up for us: being able to watch when we are not becoming. Do we continue to run?

Do we continue to follow a course based on our karma, based on our activity, based on what we do enjoy, based on our our fundamental sufferings that kind of motivate us. Does that still happen? Because the whole structure of our mind is based on the idea that we must do this. We must follow this chain of dependent origination. Because otherwise we will cease to exist. We’ll cease to accomplish anything. So you find in meditation that you’re not fulfilling that function.

You’re not fulfilling the function of doing what the world demands, You’re not developing existence. And so it’s starting to fall apart.

But do you fall apart? I mean, literally you don’t, literally your arm doesn’t fall off. Your foot doesn’t fall off because you’re not holding it to your body. And it’s the same with our minds. Our patterns, our habits, our being able to remember our telephone number doesn’t fall away and disappear forever because we’re not holding onto it.

If we’re not actively cultivating it, does our identity cease to have a function in the world? If we were to walk outside right now without telling ourselves, “I am so-and-so,” and we were to see our neighbor on the street, would they say, “Hi So-and-So”..? Or would they look at us and see that we were not holding onto this idea that “I am so-and-so I do such-and-such.” Then they would look at us and be like, “That’s a person who’s not becoming… I, who is that? What are they doing?”

No, they’re gonna say, “Hi So-and-So.” Why? Because the world doesn’t really care. Their knowledge of what we are in relation to them is not dependent on what we think we are and vice versa. We will see the people on the street and whatever we think they are, they really aren’t because the becoming that we have tried to slot them into is also failing to account for the way that they’re flowing.

They’re changing, they’re adapting, they’re growing. We didn’t see them through all the intervening time before from the last time we saw them, until we walked out our door. So we don’t know what they’ve been through. We don’t know what they have done. We don’t know how they’ve changed. There’s an illusion that because most people change very slowly, people aren’t changing at all. But in fact, every moment they’re gaining new memories, new ideas, hearing new things from the media, and it changes them, they act differently.

So this is bhava. And see how it feels when we do it to ourselves, when we do it to others, when it feels like it’s done to us. Because in some ways we are the recipients of the patterns that we’ve developed. And many of our strongest identifications have been built up over the course of our life. And that’s the thing, when we started building them, they seemed quite harmless.

But this is the momentum of mental activity.

Now they’re kind of landing on us and we’ve been telling ourselves, “I’m a go-getter. I’m a do-gooder. I’m a great person. I’m very competent.” And then we’re starting to near middle age and we haven’t become rich. We haven’t become popular. We haven’t become famous.

It can be a crisis, right? Because we have all this momentum that’s says I am, I’m all these good things. And it’s trying to land on a kind of mediocre human being with flaws. And it seemed like a good idea at the time. But in the current day, can we recognize that that’s just momentum. It’s just karma. And can we let it land on us? Cause we don’t have much choice. We put all that momentum into it. But can we let it start to dissolve?

Can we start to question and break down these identities that we’ve built up?

So, as an example, I spent much of the year, staying in an apartment in Massachusetts and sort of nurturing a small community. People would come to meditate and I’d give the retreats, the day longs and such from there. And from time to time I’d go out and I’d do a retreat, and then I would come back and try to keep things going, and receiving meals and saying, Okay, I’m a teacher. I’m looking after this community.

And one day everything kind of went its own direction. The stuff that we had went one place, I went one direction. The people who had been coming to meditate went another direction. And, you know, day and night, it was just, it was no longer there. And I found myself walking away and everything I had been like cultivating and becoming, suddenly wasn’t existing. And after years of doing this practice, I’m like, “Ooh, oh, it’s so quiet. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. Is this a problem?”

And I have found, well, it doesn’t have to be a problem.

And in fact, many monastics go forth simply to have this experience of non becoming, to be anonymous, to wear the same clothes as the person next to them, to have the same haircut as the person next to them, to just be able to sit on a cushion and examine their life, examine their motives, examine their memories and their habits, where they think they are in the scheme of things and where they think they’re going based on their trajectory. So this is my own experience that I’ve been going through and this has been very relevant right now.

Because when we do find ourselves in any kind of gap where we’re not quite doing this activity of trying to “be” something, it feels like we should, right? It feels like something’s missing if we don’t. But it takes this appreciation of what peace is actually referring to. There’s a tangible absence of suffering. There’s a tangible absence of narrowing my possibilities.

And how would you say that in the positive?

Well, the absence of suffering could be called happiness.

The lack of narrowing possibilities could be called potential or opportunity.

This is something we can lean into. This is why we bother to deconstruct our sense of becoming, our sense of identifying, our sense of this is this.

We’re not just afraid of rebirth, you know, we’re afraid of the rebirth moment to moment. The moment to moment rebirth of our suffering, which can happen at a moment’s notice.

Okay. So with that, let’s begin and we can sit together for 15 minutes and then we’ll begin the process.

You can just look at the half hour and decide, in terms of sitting or walking, what you would like to do. We’ll keep going for another two hours. And then I’ll see you in the afternoon. All right? So happy meditating.

Talk: The Jhana Factors

On this Uposatha evening, Tahn Pamutto reflects on the Eighth Factor of the Eightfold Path – that of Samadhi. Samadhi is a composure, brightness, and control of the mind. It is a fulfillment of the aspiration of the rest of the eightfold path, namely, to generate mindstates free of craving and suffering.

Samadhi itself is hard to define, as the mind when liberated is not bound by rules and expectations. But there are definable characteristics of the mind in samadhi, and five of these are called the jhana factors. Aspects of mind and sources of immense pleasure and satisfaction, they are our signposts for the leaving behind of suffering and the construction of a happier, more free-flowing heart.

Bhava Daylong transcript pt 2

The following transcript of the afternoon session of the Bhava daylong was prepared by LR:

Bhava, Part Two (Afternoon Session)

Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato sammāsambuddhassa

For those who might recognize that phrase, it says “Homage to the Blessed One, The Fully Enlightened One, the Fully Self Awakened One,” and it’s a homage to the Buddha.

And this is one way that monks are constantly working on “not becoming.”

We do not own the dhamma, we are not the best. We’re constantly passing the buck. And thankfully the Buddha was pretty free of unwholesome qualities, one of the best.

And so we just keep passing our reverence and our respect up the chain. So it reaches the Buddha. And well, he doesn’t complain. He doesn’t say, “Ah, but actually….”

The Buddha himself would pass his respect to the dhamma. He said, “Hey, these are universal principles that preexisted all Buddhas. Yeah. Buddhas simply awaken to them.”

So, in a way, can we.

We can practice, we can teach, we can mentor, we can guide, we can inspire, we can do all of these things without taking credit for them.

“It’s not me. It’s this eightfold path. The eightfold path is like that.”

And people will be like, “Ahhh, this is sooo great. This is so wonderful.”

And you’ll be like, “Yeah, I know! Yeah, I’m right here too.”

It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, in relation to it, whether you’ve been doing it a long time or you’re just starting. It’s really the same, same thing.

And because we deal so much with not-self, if you see somebody else overcoming suffering, you feel happy.

It’s the weirdest thing. It’s almost as if it doesn’t matter where the suffering is resolved. Happiness can arise anywhere in relation to that. So it’s not just when somebody has a bad day, everybody has to have a bad day. It works the other way too. Somebody does something great, and you can see that wholesome action is exponential.

Yeah. Everybody who notices it gets inspired, and maybe they do something nice and that inspires more people. One simple good act can radiate outwards. And so why does it do that?

Well, wholesome action is unselfish. So there are no boundaries put up. We can appreciate that when we’re talking about “not becoming”, not existing in the static finite mental deterministic way that we make ourselves exist. We’re not talking about an absence of something. We’re not talking about annihilation.

We’re actually talking about something really good and something that’s always been really good. Even before we heard about the dhamma, there were times of non-becoming, there were times of not being selfish. These were good times, these were happy times. The only thing that should have changed, (now that we’ve dispelled ignorance and become aware of these universal truths and the way that things work) the only thing that should be gone is the idea that we’re not in control of it.

….The idea that it’s just random. That some people get lucky and they have a good day, and some people get unlucky and they have a bad day. We know that we do not live in a random environment. We were not born where we were born because of random chance. We don’t know all of the factors, but we can actually trust that we didn’t arrive where we are right now based on random chance. We didn’t arrive in this existence by random chance, there’s probably been causes and conditions.

And that works even if we don’t get it in a great cosmological sense. It works day to day. If I’m gonna arrive in a good place tomorrow, it’s gonna be based on the decisions that I make today.

Even to the point, if something fortuitous does happen in the future, I had to be there.

I had to be there, and I had to be open to it.

And so you can say the eightfold path is all this striving and meditating and all of this work, but it’s not actually miserable. The process itself, it’s actually a very good process, which is adding more and more wholesome, unselfish karma into the mix.

And so we get to the point where we realize we don’t really need the selfish, deterministic karma at all. In fact, it was misrepresenting reality and it was making us miserable.

So we’re talking today about Bhava and vibhava …. “becoming.” The Buddha says, (he uses it in a bunch of places, but he often says) people of the world are obsessed with becoming. It makes sense. Yeah. People of the world are obsessed with something, and you might not know what bhava is, but you’re pretty sure that’s what they’re obsessed with, because it doesn’t make sense.

If you zoom out, and then if you zoom all the way in, of course it makes sense.

That person wants the newest iPhone. It doesn’t matter if it costs a thousand more dollars than the one right before it, which came out last year, they want the newest iPhone. That totally makes sense if you zoom in enough. But if you zoom out and you say all the other things that they could spend that money on, or just the fact that this new iPhone is gonna be an old iPhone next year with only a fraction of the value, then it stops making some sense.

And if you zoom all the way out, you’d think, “that’s straight up harmful.” To become so obsessed with something so minor… how much more unprepared are they gonna be for the way that their life plays out now?

None of that has anything to do with whether or not they get the iPhone.

Yeah. I actually have an iPhone. It’s a very old one. It’s a refurbished, reworked, “six” or something. But it came to me totally unsought for. Somebody had an extra one, but they didn’t like the case that it came in. It was the most selfless, generous gift, “oh, you, you have a use for this kind of thing, this iphone…”

And they gave it to me. So I still end up with an iPhone, but not from pressing my face against a window and salivating and being willing to sell a kidney to get an iPhone. It just came my way naturally. And like other things in our life, we renounced them, but in reality, they still come our way just at their own pace, minus the suffering.

So we’re starting the afternoon session, and I thought I would help wake us up a little since a lot of our bhavas are probably thinking about nodding off. It’s a little cute story. When I said you might experience things in meditation, that this helps explain, this is one of those things that’s just pure out of the ordinary weird.

So, at one point I was up in the Pacific Northwest. I was at a hermitage called the Pacific Hermitage near Portland. It was very early on, and there were just two other monks. We would go alms round, and then we’d have the rest of the day to do whatever we want, to practice. And we would come together the next morning.

Yeah, it was nice, it was a hermitage. It was meant to be just a secluded place for monks to go to. And the main monastery was somewhere else. So we were really off in the middle of nowhere. And even though the monks had been there for about a year going alms round in this one town, it was still every day we would meet somebody who had hadn’t seen us. And it’s just because so many people in the modern day, they live here, but they work over there, and the relatives are way over there. So on any given day, the chance that they would run into the monk who comes by every day at nine thirty, you know, it could take a year before that happens.

And this is what happened. One day, after the meal, I was just out on a walk to stretch my legs, and I was walking by this suburban house on a road that we didn’t usually go down.

And there was this dog, a little Maltese kind of, you know, the fluffy lap dog…yeah. You know, everybody’s seen them. And everybody knows that when you condense the mentality of a dog into a smaller and smaller package is sometimes gets more and more intense. It gets concentrated.

And this is exactly what happened with this little Maltese. He had a very, very intense personality. And I was walking by his yard, and it was HIS yard, and he came right up to the edge of the boundary, his whole body shaking and quaking.

And I was fresh out of meditation. I had been at this hermitage, I had been living the holy life, the ardor and effort. I mean, I’d come out of a three month winter retreat just a month prior. And so my mind was in a totally different place. And so I looked down at this little yapping dog, and I didn’t see a threat.

One, because if he went to town on my ankle, I’m pretty sure his teeth would break before he did much damage. It was not a threat.

But also there was nothing in me that wanted to perceive him as a threat. There was just nothing but loving kindness and compassion. And so I looked down and inadvertently I just started beaming this loving kindness and compassion at this little animal, because he was not a threat. He was potentially a friend. And I just looked at him, and as I looked at him, just shaking all over and frothing at the mouth and rah rah, ra ra ruff !… I had this mental image.

And it was like he was wearing a mask, a dark mask, Like a, voodoo mask, or a warriors mask that’s meant to be fierce.

He was wearing this mask, and it was meant to scare people away and to intimidate people and to make himself seem fierce. And he had it on, and he was wearing it, and he was putting all of his intensity into this little mask. But I could see past the mask, and I could see that on the other side of this personality that he was putting so much energy into, was just a dog. It was just a wee simple little dog who had every reason to be kinda scared of the world.

So he’s little, the world is big. It kind of makes sense that he developed this mask to seem bigger than he was, and to have more influence. But nevertheless, as I saw that, I just felt so much compassion. And I’m like, Oh, that, that looks so painful. It looks so unpleasant to have to do that.

And I wondered if he realizes that people would actually just like him as he is, and he doesn’t have to put so much effort into being something else. He could take off that little mask. And I don’t know quite what it was, but somewhere where my mind was, and somewhere where his mind was, it was like a balloon had popped. And, he looked at me and he was expecting all of this response.

He needed me to affirm his, his personality that he was putting out there. And I totally didn’t. It built up and built up, and then poof, it just dissolved. And his mask fell away. And suddenly he was just standing there. He was still twitching all over of course. But gone was all of the ferocity, gone was all of the “get back or I’ll bite you!”

And there was just a dog. There was just a little dog. And he just kind of like, he just shook once more, wagged his tail. And then he ran away, ran back towards the house. I thought, “What a cute little dog.” I didn’t think anything more of it. You know, in meditation, sometimes stuff is just happening, and you don’t “take” it. You don’t “own” it. You don’t say, “I did that”, or “this is the result of my practice”… You’re just like, “Huh. That was a thing.”

And I just started walking again because, you know, what could it mean? I didn’t know what it meant. And certainly I didn’t think I broke the dog, I just surprised it. It came at me aggressive, and I just loved it. It’s aggression fell away and so ran off.

 I didn’t think anything more of it. But the next day I was walking along on Armstrong, and a car pulls up and I hear this cute little “arf !”

There’s a woman driving, and there’s a girl in the passenger’s seat, and she has the dog in her lap. And instead of growling at me, the window’s open on the little girl’s side. And the dog looks at me and it’s just happy to see me.

But now what was really telling was the other two people in the car. They were shocked.

had broken their dog.

They had apparently seen this exchange. This dog had been a terror. He had been causing a lot of problems, and he had been barking all the time, and he’d been chasing people and just being a mess.

All that had dissolved, and he didn’t know what to do. And he was as shocked as I was. But now his family was shocked as well. He had this big personality, and they didn’t quite know what to do with it. They knew that deep down he was this little dog, And so they would tell him, “Stop barking. Stop barking, stop barking.” But it’s amazing. You can say that a thousand times, and a dog won’t stop barking. You can yell at it. You can raise a stick, but they just keep on slobbering at the mouth and barking and being aggressive.

And then in that one moment… when it’s totally on them, and they realize that the world does not require that of them, it might just fall away.

And so the family, they were coming by to say thank you.

“We saw you had a little reaction to our dog, and he just hasn’t been the same since.”

I had my alms bowl, and they put some fruit snacks and milk cartons in the alms bowl. “We hope you have a nice day.” And I’m just like, “Okay, bye.” And that was it. That was the story of the little dog. To be honest. I never found out his name even. But we had a moment, him and I.

And so… we can talk about bhava, we can talk about becoming, and we can be very theoretical about it.

But… but what I say is don’t let it stop there. Right. I do a lot of talking. I do a lot of, a lot of talking. And you guys, you all do talking, but most of the talking you do, I’m not even there.

And it’s a lot of it’s just talk. Yeah. A lot of it is intellectual ideas. What I really hope for at the end of the day is that it gets gears turning. And that you walk away from the talk and you try something, or you look at something in a new way, or you just let go of a particular thing that you’ve been doing this whole time without really assessing whether or not it was working. Because that’s what the Dhamma is suggesting we do.

It’s saying, you know, this idea of bhava, of existence, is built in. You would not have been born without this. It was in fact the causal condition for you to be born. It is that you intended to be born, you had a desire for existence and that ripened in an existence.

But was that really working out on a moment to moment basis for this little dog? The personality of the bhava that he was trying to put so much energy into was out of sync with his actual reality. And now most of the world was willing to just accept that that’s what he was telling everybody he was. But it, was so much effort, it was so much pain, for him to keep that mask on, to keep that personality, to keep that idea going.

And it’s no different for us than for that little dog. You know, it’s easy to make similes and the Pali Canon is just filled with so many stories of animals because it is very easy to show simple, practical things when you’ve got a simple, practical little being.

Right. You know, monkeys teasing crocodiles and birds fleeing from a fire and all of these tika stories. They’re really just trying to show about karma. “This” quality in “this” existence creates “these” kind of patterns. Yeah. You can see it very quickly when you take something like the short lifespan of an animal and all of their diverse characteristics. But when we take a whole bucket of human beings and we put ’em together and we put in different hats and different badges and different associations, if we let them age differently, and then we shake it up and we see all the little personality quirks that come out, it’s much more complicated.

It’s much harder to see how bhava does not suit us. It doesn’t work for us. And if we can figure out a way for it to kind of wind down like that…that would be a more productive and happy state.

So somebody recently was here at the temple and they were talking about their daughter. The daughter has reached an age where she’s gone off to to college, and they’d had some arguments. “Look, you, you’re my daughter, you’re supposed to listen to me.” And the daughter is saying, “Look, I’m an adult. You, you’re supposed to respect that I can make my own decisions.” Now, this is bhava in the external sense.

I’m saying, you are this, and this is supposed to act a certain way. And I am this, that’s why I’m acting the way I’m acting.

And they’re both right and they’re both wrong.

That is the conundrum with these states of mind. Simply by virtue of the fact that they’re stagnant views. They’re trying to describe a flowing, evolving being with static terms on moving terms, on changing terms; they can’t possibly be accurate.

And it’s true. The person going off to to school is outside the control of their parent. It’s also true that what they do will reflect on the parent. Neither of these things gives power to the other individual. The parent has to just let go and the child can’t do anything that doesn’t reflect on the parent. It is just outta their control. Everybody’s going to call their parent and tell them what they did, whether or not, and word will get back to them.

Yeah. It’s just how it works.

But in terms of this dynamic where we create a lot of suffering and we say, You’re this or I’m this…. that doesn’t have to happen. That’s an optional experience and one that creates arguments, disapproval, that creates conflict and friction and grief and envy…. all of these things.

So we can think about other mind states that arise… we have maybe the five hindrances?

Sense desire, ill will, sloth & torpor, restlessness, and doubt? So where do those fit in relation to bhava?

There’s no easy answer for that. What about greed, hatred and delusion? Which one is bhava? I don’t know. This is a complicated thing. It’s like looking at a knitted afghan, a blanket. It has thousands of threads, thousands of yarns that are all twisted together. It’s very hard to say how one thing relates to another.

But we can look at when ever there is a state that has gotten stuck.

Whenever we are saying this is like this, then we can start to say, “Well, maybe there’s becoming there. Maybe there’s identification there.”

And maybe if that’s allowed to grow and to fester, that becomes an “existence”.

In the morning session, I mentioned how we have this cosmological sense of existence, right? Your birth is conditioned by your patterns, but most of us will never see the patterns play out. Why? ‘Cuz it plays out while we’re dead. We die. Some things, some where, go ka-chunk, ka-chunk ka-chunk…and another being is born somewhere.

And unfortunately for this being, even though they are not us, they have the karmac stuff that we have been cultivating.

So they’ve got all of the stuff that we had…but it’s not technically us. And that’s weird and it’s hard to conceptualize. But, what we can turn our minds to is the way that we create the static states that we are in… in our very life.

So, things like the use of drugs… drug addiction… it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Like somebody takes something and the next morning they wake up and their eyes are bloodshot and their veins are popping out and they’re in a gutter and they’ve got no money and they’re on bad terms with people who used to be their friends and family.

It doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of mental processes that go on. It takes time for these things to develop.

We find ourselves in a job that we really hate. It didn’t happen overnight. We would not have signed on for the job if we already hated it. Probably. We gave it a try, probably we tried to make it work. And probably a lot of things happened that just soured our whole approach to it.

And every day we went in saying, “Well, this is my job and I’ve just gotta put up with it. That is really annoying, but there’s nothing I can do.” We told ourselves, this is the way things are. And now somewhere down the line we find ourselves surrounded by the way things are. They did not get there randomly. They did not get there by chance. We actually helped put a lot of them in place by our static relationship to different things.

This is not to say that if we hate our boss, it’s totally on us; the boss could be a jerk. There could be moral things going on. It could be a toxic work environment, that’s totally possible. But in terms of us being there, that is a static kind of relationship.

A lot of places in our life will encourage that because it seems like a better idea. Like, you get to the job and they’re like, Well, well look, you can’t, you can’t leave in a moment’s notice. So yeah, you work here, we employ you, and if you want the money, you have to keep working here. You have to do what we say.” And if you were to say it’s like, cool, I will… “I will do what you want me to do, except if it’s bad for me, then I will not do what you want me to do.”

And realistically that’s a pretty reasonable request. But how many places are you not going to get the job?

If you go in saying, “Yeah, I’ll listen to what you say, that makes sense. But when you say something that doesn’t make sense, I’m not gonna do it,” you’re not getting that job (if you do, it’s probably gonna be a really great job because they, they need you so bad that you can do almost anything).

But most of the time they’ll say, “Look, we need somebody who’s gonna be afraid of us. We want someone who will do what we say and we’ll have our hooks in them and we’ll call ’em in on a Saturday with unpaid overtime and all of these things. That’s what we really need.”

And it’s no surprise that a lot of people are stepping back from the working world and reassessing right now. Because it’s designed around bhavas… “We need you to be a cog in the machine. We need you to take on static identities because that’s more predictable for us. It’s easier for us. It’s easier on the budget. To plan your hours, it’s easier to expect, even though we know that it’s not true necessarily, that you’re gonna be there in so many weeks and months so that we don’t bother training a replacement or getting other people trained up on the tools that you use.”

Right. In relationships now, how many relationships start out every morning where the two people look at each other and they say, “Whatever you want to do today, including leave me behind to pursue your highest dreams, I support you. So you go out there and if you find a better partner, you just hook right up with them and leave me behind. I’ll be so happy for you.”

How many relationships are like that? Yeah. “I fully encourage you to be your own person and to live life to the fullest.”

Again, there’s not many relationships like that because if anybody did follow through on that, the relationship would last for a couple of weeks and then they’d start to get kind of like, “Yeah, okay, I’m getting kind of used to the guy and he keeps leaving the toilet seat up….. oh…that guy looks nice…”

And they would just go off and, and that would be it. And so it would cease to be a relationship. So with many relationships, you say, “Look, we’re gonna make a deal, right? I give you something, you gimme something, we’re gonna keep this going. We’re gonna see how long it lasts. And there’s this boundary and there’s that boundary.” This is what we do in the world. Right?

The Dhamma practitioner sometimes feels like they’re falling out of the world. Because they stop doing this in certain ways. They go into their job and they look around and they say, “Yeah, it’s a little toxic and I don’t think I wanna do that. And you know, if we’re trying to get this product into that market, if we did it this way, this would work a lot better. So I’m gonna be efficient.”

And people will be like, “Don’t be efficient. Don’t be efficient. You’ll get done faster and if you get done faster, everybody will realize this could be done quicker and for less money. We don’t want that. We want job security”.

But the Dhamma practitioner says, “Nah, I think I’ll just do a good job. I think I’ll do a good job simply because I feel better at the end of the day.”

And in our relationships we’re like, “Look, this might be temporary. I kind of like you for now. Then we’re gonna have things that’ll be kind of upsetting about each other. But we’re going to, we’re gonna try and we can try and put up with it. It’ll be like a partnership. Yeah. The end product is, who knows, I’m pretty sure one or the or both of us is gonna die and so let’s just have fun while we go.”

And in terms of practicing, meditation itself is kind of saying, “Look, I could be up walking around, you know, making lists and emailing people. I could be spending this time wheeling and dealing and trying to get further in the game of life. But I don’t think I’m gonna, I think I’m gonna take a break from that.”

And it’s very tangible that when we do that, it still works.

When we get back up, everything that we were gonna do, we can still do, but we find that maybe we’re doing it a bit better with a bit more of an open mind and a bit more energy.

So bhava is actually the thing that’s been slowing us down. It’s been objectifying our experience in certain ways, which has been stifling us.

So in meditation we might see where we stop becoming something.

And that can be a very curious experience. For a while, especially at first, it will feel like walking through a desert versus just like, there’s nothing here.

Like there used to be all sorts of interesting things.

There used to be greed over there. The delusion was swinging from a chandelier like it was a party. But now, now that I stopped doing all that greed, hatred, and delusion for a minute, it seems really quiet. I’m not sure if I like it.

But that’s just at first… just because we’ve never done this before. We’ve never done non becoming before. Our entire existence is based on the idea of becoming things and receiving the resultant of all of that energy we put into becoming. But once we start to practice it, we start to realize that there is something going on…

But it is something that is flowing. It is something that is energetic and it’s in the moment. It takes a special kind of perception and appreciation to even get what that is; what is non becoming?

So, if we simply wake up to that, that is: realizing the four noble truths, realizing that there are whole sections of our life that are free of suffering, but that they’re nestled in all of that suffering.

And so we have to wake up to them, we have to see them for what they are.

I mean, as you go through the day, there’s probably dozens of times when you don’t respond to something in a selfish, predictable way. You’re like, “oh, here, here you go…” And those moments are great. But it takes actual turning your mind to them and waking up to them to realize that that’s what happened. Because those moments are so quick, they’re so simple.

It’s so natural.

As you’re meditating today, you might feel the impulse to want to do something or want to be something or want to reaffirm that you have something…. see if you can just let that impulse fall flat—— and then check in on the reliable kind of basis.

Do you still have a body?

Is that body still moving through time?

Yeah. It seems to be. Are you, do you still have a breath?

Do you still have a thought later on? Yeah. It might not come up right away. Then you might be watching, waiting, watching, waiting, watching, waiting.

Those are actually thoughts.

But no other thought might come in while you’re watching and waiting. That’s okay. A wildlife photographer can wait a long time before they see what they’re looking for.

But sooner or later you’re having a thought. You realize you’re thinking about a show you saw, 10 years ago and you’re like, “Oh, ha ha, that’s a thought.

“I didn’t need to cultivate this idea of myself as a person watching TV for that thought to come up. I didn’t need to cultivate myself as the thought of a meditator for that thought to come up. Actually, I didn’t need to do anything. That thought came up on its own.”

So we don’t actually need to force ourselves to be something. We will still continue to be and think and do things. Right. It’s not something that we have to put any energy into at all actually. And so what we’ll start to investigate is what it’s like when we don’t put that energy into something and whether it feels like, like dry and empty at first. The reality is that later on, as we do it more and more, it starts feeling glorious.

It starts feeling fluid and happy and ecstatic. And I mean, it would be nice if it was like that from the get go, right? But if it was like that from the get go, then everybody would do it. If it was instantly gratifying, then everybody would stop becoming.

And there, this whole samsara thing would’ve wrapped up long ago.

But instead it’ll be a little scary. And we have to embrace that scariness in order to get through to the happy part on the other side. Now, the happy part on the other side is when we realize we have infinite potential ….that we could go in any direction, do anything in any moment.

The Thai Forest Master Ajahn Chah said this in a very particular way to one of his students. His student had been living in England for many years and hadn’t been able to interact much with Ajahn Chah.

And Ajahn Chah decided to give him a teaching. And as it turned out, it was one of the last teachings that Ajahn Chah ever gave his students. And it was, it was this sort of zen koan.

He said, “Not by going forward, nor by going backward, nor by standing still… That, Sumedho, will be your place of abiding.”

Thanks Ajahn Chah, that’s, that’s helpful. I wanted to know… I’m doing breath meditation, I wanted to know what happens when I get to step three.

Well that’s what, But what does that mean?

Right? How can you, like which direction are you going? So it’s not forward. Okay. Not forward. Not backwards. Not, not backwards. And not standing still…

Hopping, what is it? What is the answer to the riddle? But that’s just the thing.

We’re used to thinking of our abiding as a permanent existence.

This is me. I am here, this is me now. I’m in the present moment. I’m in the present moment.

It doesn’t work. It’s not functional. Just try to be in the present moment. That moment has changed the second you got there. And it keeps changing and it keeps changing.

It keeps changing.

It turns out that the way we get to the place of non becoming is through relaxing all of the becoming and cultivating those things that have nothing to do with becoming.

It’s not that we’ll be cultivating a bunch of patterns like me looking at the dog, patterns that counteract the becoming. That is the way that the world is designed.+-++

You have one extreme and it tries to counteract itself with the other extreme. And people are just constantly moving between these extremes. That’s the way the world is functioning. And that’s what keeps “becoming” alive… in the world and in our lives… whenever we see it, we try to oppose it. We try to tamp it down.

You don’t need to. You can recognize that all the energy that goes into becoming is wasted energy in a sense.

And if you don’t, if you’re not so sold on the idea that it’s wasted energy, just feel what it feels like when somebody else does it to you. Your parent is saying, “Hey, you, you’re my child. You’re supposed to listen to me.” They’re dumping a whole lot of bhava in you. Does that feel good?

No, that doesn’t feel good. Well, the amazing thing is it doesn’t feel good for them either. The whole pattern is broke. And, don’t ever tell your parent that it’s just not gonna work. Don’t tell your spouse that. Don’t tell your boss, “You’re just becoming, Please stop. And we’ll both suffer so much less.” It doesn’t work.

It is something that you get to do. It’s something that you get to do in yourself. Don’t resist it. Let it be. Yeah. And let that energy just… well, don’t try to hold onto it.

Don’t try to redirect it. Don’t try to master it through a force of will. Just stop feeding it.

And then look closely for those things which still exist, which are still running, which are still working.

And that is your place of abiding.

Yeah. It turns out you’re not going anywhere and yet you’re getting everything done.

You’re not having to, These things never worked because of your mental processes. It wasn’t because you wanted them, that those things came your way. They came your way because you got up and, and and picked them up. They came to you because you paid money. Your wanting and your craving and your clinging and your identifying was incidental. It was just layered on top and it was a lot of wasted, wasted energy.

But when you stop wasting that energy, you still get the same experiences. But this whole part of your mental experience is no longer there.

So what will that be like? How will that be like?

I’d say look for it.

Try it out. And, and if it still sounds like way too dangerous, like “I’m gonna have an existential meltdown on my meditation cushion” …then try it in really simple non-threatening ways.

So I just came in on a bus. I just came back to New York City and on the bus there was a bunch of things that I meant to do while I was up in Massachusetts, but I didn’t really. One of them I couldn’t do because I needed this computer and one of them I couldn’t do cause it involved taxes and I’d have to look up a form, and it was a bunch of stuff I had been procrastinating about.

And as I was arriving, you know, here, uh, coming in on the bus, I think “I’ll make a checklist of all the things I want to get done as I arrive… before I get involved in other projects.”

And sure enough, I very quickly made a checklist. Yeah. And that was easy. But what was interesting was a few minutes later I was looking at the checklist and it felt like there should be more things on it. This is gonna work and this is gonna help me get a lot of really important stuff done. What are some other really important things I’d like to do?

And immediately a red flag went up. It’s like, why is this not enough? Mm-hmm… if I were to get these things done, could I just be happy?

Could we reach that nirodha? Could we reach that point of cessation where there was no longer a need for a checklist? Or is the checklist so useful, so vital that I need it to direct my life?

I’m gonna start populating it with all of the things that I want and I’m supposed to have and I’m supposed to be doing. And the things that make me “me” and make me popular and make me well informed. I’m gonna fill it. And then I just took the little checklist and I’m like, “okay, you are a dangerous little tool of becoming.”

But it doesn’t matter whether or not we have a piece of paper or a notepad open on our phone to make a checklist.

This is what we do in our minds. Yeah.

We’re, we’re coming up with all of these ways that we’re going to be in the world and we’re gonna get in the world and we’re gonna do in the world.

Catch it, catch it and look at it and be willing to ask the questions. Like, well, what if I did not ask? What if I did not put that on the checklist? What is the worst case scenario?

Worst case scenario… I don’t do that thing? What? But then that’s the worst case scenario.

Does that mean it’s entirely possible you will still do that thing? Without the demands and the checklists and the becoming?

Well, then it didn’t need to be on the checklist.

For those things that really need to be on the checklist, I’m really glad I did it. But those things also were their own form of becoming. I was avoiding them. And so being willing to be disciplined is a lot like us being disciplined over the next few hours with our meditation.

You know, we recognize, without a bit of saying, it’s like, let’s try this and let’s try this, let’s try this. Nothing. We, we would go up and we would not, not meditate. Right.

So we, we can, we can still make decisions. Yeah. This is not gonna be us just, you know, pulling all the bones out and becoming a blob.

We can’t get anything done. So there’s no risk of becoming, it’s gonna be an investigation. Right.

Looking at what’s skillful and how to keep what’s skillful going without a lot of extra mental baggage…

… without having to have a personality running the whole thing.

So these are, these are some thoughts as we go with the afternoon session.

Transcribed from a Dhamma offering by Tahn Pamutto, NYC 2022

Having a Good Day

There are many ways we try to set ourselves up for success. We try to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and avoid stressful situations. When we get up in the morning we’re often taking a mental inventory of what we have to work with. We ask ourselves, “How do we feel?”, and then prepare for the day based on that.

The thing is, how we feel is not a good metric for deciding how our day is going to go. It’s something we have no control over. We try our best, after all, to provide all the right conditions for a good and energetic start to the day. But that’s all we’re doing in the end. The right food, sleep, exercise, clothing, morning routine – these are just supportive conditions. They are comforts that help support our state of mind, but they do not determine it.

Have you ever had a really hard night but received good news and the kindness of friends and ended up having a great day? Or vice versa – have you started the day with all the advantages you could ask for but one annoying interaction derailed your course entirely?

Our happiness is not determined by our past comforts, or our current comforts, or even the expectation of future comforts. It’s about perspective and the choices we make. So we can be set up to have an awful day but have the right outlook and make the right decisions, and the day can be a source of joy and inspiration.

It’s incredibly worthwhile to set up a morning practice routine, and to keep to it no matter how we feel. Just as important is knowing what it is for. Getting half an hour on a cushion before the start of a hectic day can be a supportive condition – it does tend to chill us out. Or it can be practice. What are we practicing? We’re practicing perspective and skillful choices.

When we don’t want to sit or want to check our phone, we remind ourselves of craving and the value of mindfulness. When we lament that we feel tired or crummy or anxious, we remind ourselves that these don’t have to prevent us from using our words and actions skillfully. When we listen to our mental talk we’re observing for the common themes, analyzing the source of aversive thoughts and questioning assumptions. When we think of our family and friends and colleagues, we generate kind thoughts that prepare us to interact with them skillfully. And all the while, we are mindful that we are sitting. We are not just preparing for today; we are practicing a path that will determine a more wholesome course for our entire lives.

This is what we are practicing because this is what goes beyond conditions. These are the responses we want to have not just in the morning but throughout the day. With practice comes skill, and with skill comes mastery. When we’ve mastered this practice and understood its basis, there is no set of conditions that can prevent us from having a good day. And if our happiness is no longer conditioned by external factors – would we ever choose to be miserable?

Overlapping Programs

Because of the drift of the lunar observance day through the solar week, several programs will be overlapping on Wednesday over the next few weeks.  The next two Lay Sangha Chats will be cancelled as the Wednesday tea time program will be going on during that time.  And on the 23rd, the tea time will be back to back with the Uposatha observance – meaning the tea time will be as normal and will be followed by precepts and a talk.

The Lay Sangha chat will continue as usual in a month when the observance day moves to Friday.