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.
I 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…so..so 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