31 Aug 2012
Teaching: Alan begins the session by presenting the 2nd and 3rd marks of existence. In the 2nd mark of existence, dukkha can be understood to mean the unsatisfactory nature of looking at any experience and thinking, „This will make me happy.“ The 3rd mark of existence: all phenomena are empty and non-self. This means that „me“ and „mine“ are conceptual designations empty of intrinsic entity (=self).
Meditation: mindfulness of the body focusing on the 3rd mark of existence emptiness and non-self. Use discerning mindfulness on each of the following sense domains in turn: 1) visual, 2) auditory, 3) tactile, and 4) all 5 senses. Ask: 1) is any appearance „yours“ or „you“?, and 2) do you have any control over appearances arising?
Q1. When I focus on the breath, it gets tight and uneasy. Why and what can I do about it?
Q2. Within the course of a single session, is it possible to shift from mindfulness of breathing at the abdomen to the nostrils, or vice versa?
Q3. It’s difficult for me to feel sensations of the breath at the upper lip, so I force a stronger breath to make it perceptible. Once I lay off, it becomes imperceptible again. What should I do?
Q4. Is there a gradient of conceptualization? (cont. from 120830)
Q5. How many people have attained shamatha in this century?
Q6. How long does it take for people of varying faculties to attain shamatha?
Q7. What makes thoughts and images in the mind appear seemingly out of nowhere?
Q8. During meditation, random and sometimes disturbing thoughts arise. Where do they come from?
Meditation starts at 21:00
Note for readers:
There are some sentences or paragraphs about some themes that we have written a sum up and not everything literally as Alan Wallace said during the session, thinking that it would be useful for the readers better understanding of the themes. But if you are listening to the podcast and following what is written, and have any difficulty, please do inform us in order that we may transcribe these themes again and upload the new transcript at media.sbinstitute.com.
This afternoon we go to the third of the three marks of existence.
As I mentioned yesterday insofar as we really integrate insight into any one or all three marks of existence, it really does create quite a revolution, a radical transformation in the ways we engage with reality in our whole life.
Just to recall, the 1st mark of existence says that all composite phenomena are impermanent - and the 2nd says all contaminated experiences are unsatisfying.
Whenever we look to any appearance, including mental appearances, self-image, reputation, ones accomplishments and so forth whatever may be, any appearances, when you look to any appearance, it could be another person, a home you would like to buy, an occupation, anything at all, you look to it and you think: “Ah, this will provide me happiness, that is dukkha”, that is going to be unsatisfying just because you are looking in the wrong place. Then you say oh you look with in, what does that mean?
For example, artists usually say: I want to express myself, my uniqueness, my creativity. For example, I saw one artist that had a tank with a suspended basketball right in the middle of the tank, and he starts to elaborate, talking about his creativity and Alan thought : give me a break, it is just a basketball in a fish tank. There is that realm, and I don’t ridicule it as silly, but I do say if that is where you are looking for genuine happiness, you are looking in the wrong place; my creativeness, my art. It is not deep enough, look deeper than that, even though you are looking for something truly satisfying that responds to your deepest desire, that prime directive, the deepest motivation for finding genuine happiness, it will be unsatisfying, and then when you see that is a wrong option, the wrong place, then you can either be falling into despair and depression or you can find now where I do look - and then practice dharma.
Look deeper for something that may respond to your deepest desire and motivation to find genuine happiness then you see that it is better to practice dharma and shamatha, and vipashyana may be a good trajectory.
The 3rd mark of existence: all phenomena are empty and non-self. This means that „me“ and „mine“ are conceptual designations empty of intrinsic entity (=self).
All phenomenon, not only all conditioned phenomenon, not only all contaminated phenomenon or experiences contaminated by mental afflictions, but everything, all phenomenon are empty and not self or devoid of self. That is if you look for them, if you look at anything whatever, brain, knees, heart, body, mental states and so forth, you see they are empty of anything that belongs to the self. It means there is nothing in them that suggest they have some intrinsic ownership, they are empty of ownership. And if you look and asked: Is that I? Is that me? Is that a person? Is there some intrinsic entity, some real inherent existence self, ego, individual? No, all phenomenon are empty and non-self, absent of self.
Of course it does not mean that we do not exist at all or this cell phone does not actually belong to me, yes, it actually does and stops to belong to me as soon as I say: Ok, John you can have it. It is just a conceptual designation.
So there is the question: Do I exist? Sure, there is somebody talking and you know his name. But the question here is: is there someone inherent existence entity that stands apart from, has something like autonomy that is in control of the body and mind and have some very meaningful real I that is something that you can actually observe that is real actually does own possesses and therefore to some extent control? So that is exactly what it is said to be, empty of or not -self. My emotions are not a person, my personal history is not a person, thoughts, brain it is not a person and so forth.
I heard one neuroscientist say: every one of the nineteen hundred billions neurons in the brain, each one knows where it is. Alan said: I beg to differ, I do not think so, I do not think that are nineteen hundred billions of sentient beings inside my brain. I do not think so, it is superstition.
(6:14) let’s see an example (the cellphone that was stolen) how you could release and retract the conceptual designation and relax or may stay being unhappy indefinitely.
Let’s say that someone steals my cell phone and I just do not have any control over it and do not known how could I retrieve it. If I wish to make myself unhappy I will think somebody out there has my cell phone and I can just be unhappy indefinitely. I say, he has my cell phone and the other person that stolen it just says, I do not have your cell phone, I have my own cell phone, you are mistaken. I am entirely in charge of my cell phone and you do not even know where your cell phone is. You are mistaken and I am right. So there is a little bit of disagreement there.
On the other hand, clearly we can release, just saying: all right it is stolen and so the cell phone does not belong to me anymore, it used to and now it does not, ah, and then you can relax. And all of you have done is, you retract the conceptual designation.
Another example of conceptual designation, Alan’s room at the Mind Center in Phuket:
Does anybody know where my room is? 2327 is my room. I did not even pay for it; they gave me a free room here. So exactly why is that mine? Just because they said: Alan you will stay here and it looks good to me. But we can see how light weight that is. Is that correct to say my room is right over there in the corner? Yes, it is but we see how light weight it is.
They could say, Alan we like to have someone else in this room and you move to that one over there and I say, Ok. That is no longer my room. That is easy, it was my room and now it is not anymore.
[It means, Alan just accepted to move the room, relax, release and retract the conceptual designation: “this is my room”. If not, let’s suppose he did not accepted/liked and think, how dare you? Maybe he would stay unhappy indefinitely.]
Another example of conceptual designation: I am the chairman of this place, chairman of the Mind Center. Could I say that is my center then? I get no salary, I do not have any authority at all, but I am the chairman, chairman of what? I cannot even rent out my own room but shall we say that, why not? I am the chairman, right?
So we are dealing with the lightest weight, I mean the lightest possible weight. I do not see any other lighter way to say it is my mind center, but in some conventional sense why not?
My cell phone and my mind center are trivial but when we get to the body where there is a little of discomfort, dukkha (suffering), my physical discomfort that seems to be more serious than my cell phone or my mind center.
But when comes to the closely held skandhas, closely held, closely grasped, skandhas and it is my body and my mind. When I think of my hand I think that is something more serious than that [for example cell phone]. You may give away part of your liver for someone else to save his or her life. So that is a pretty intimate organ I mean nobody else can claim that is their liver that is not negotiable, but you give away part of your liver and the other person say: thank you, now it is my liver. That is getting a bit more intimate, instead of giving away your cell phone, giving away part of your liver, right? So this is very serious and cell phone and mind center is more trivial.
But when you get to the body parts that are close in person, so my body, my feelings, my mental process, my thoughts, my memories, my desires, my sense of personal history, my anticipations of my future and then very powerful my emotions and my feelings of happy or sad or indifference, my consciousness and so forth, my attention, now it seems like there is something with more muscle, like there is something to take more seriously. It is not negotiable, it is not conventional. It is just real. Is there some sharp divide, like reality comes down with a guillotine - mine and not mine - just convention, not self? Is there such a divide?
Another example, the mother’s feeling which child was injured:
A Mother witnesses her child being injured and then cries loudly because it really hurts. It is not just mental, is it? Not just mental. It is not like to say; oh I am sorry for you. It is something closer, it is something deeper. If you look at the mother’s face you will see that she is in pain. It is the identification with her child. That is powerful and it is obviously outside of the mother’s body. That suggests that it is not inside her skin but there is a lot of intimacy much more than something like someone stealing my cell phone and I would not feel that is inside my skin.
So where is the gradient, examine the gradient, we know conventionally speaking, yes, ownership exists, conventionally, but is there something beyond that? When we look at things, at I and mine, is there something beyond the convention? Let’s take one more example: When I hear a bird song, who thinks “oh that’s my sound?” I don’t think so. Even if the bird is deaf and you are the only sentient being who heard it, that still doesn’t make it mine - just because I had a unique viewing? Just because you alone perceived it that still does not make it your sound. So likewise, from your vantage point, no one in the universe has your vantage point, no one is seeing your cinema. So do you look around and say - oh, those colors are mine because I alone have this perspective? I don’t think anybody thinks that. You pick up a fragrance you think it is your smell? You don’t think, oh that’s my fish, or cinnamon, it is just a smell. It is not my sweet, my bitter. Yes no one else has their tongue in my mouth, I uniquely am tasting this food.
You have unique perspective, nobody else have those thoughts, those memories, those images and so forth. Yes, you do, Yes, you have unique perspective but does that make it yours and if you think so, why?
Yes, nobody else is experiencing your feelings, your tactile sensations, feelings of pleasure or pain, your sadness, your happiness and so forth, but just the sheer fact you are experiencing it, does that make it yours? That makes yours for any other reason than that you identify with it.
Another woman may look at the mother which the child was injured and feel very sad, and say, Oh I am sorry that your child was harmed I hope he gets a good treatment quickly. But if it was her child then she would feel in her body, it would be like a shock to her system. The Buddha’s term for this body and mind system, is that these are closely held.
And they are closely held with the tentacles, the tendency, the fetters, the bounds of I and mine.
Are those tendencies or fetters , that closely held, grasping, is that built into the object, in another words is it inevitable, is it just something that is just the way it is?
For example when I show the face of my cell phone it is just pretty much black. You have no choice you cannot alter that, that it is its color, black. That is it all you get, it is a black cell phone. There is no malleability there.
Is ownership like that, the ownership of your thoughts, your memories, your emotions, desires and all of that, is that thrust upon you, is it inevitable if you are paying attention or is there a malleability there?
Could you withdraw the tentacles as we clearly can if your own stuff that you do not have attachment to it, you really don’t have to suffer at all, you don’t have t to suffer if your stuff, your convention stuff is damaged? It is just a convention anyway. So you really do not have to suffer at all if you release your identification, your serious identification with the stuff of your own so it comes and goes. The body comes and goes you do not have to suffer if you just release the tentacles of identification of taking seriously “I and mine” seen them as anything other than conventional.
(20:42) So we turn to then the 3rd mark of existence not whether anything is I or mine because, yes there is a person here and it is me and this is my hair and this is my cell phone, there is nothing to debate about it.
But what is me? And is there a demarcation beyond the merely convention where it gets actually real? That is where we closely apply mindfulness to.
(21:50) So many of the questions raised in vipashyana is respect to impermanence, suffering, non-self. Much of this is found in the entry, that sense of release, of letting go, releasing grasping and settle your body and mind at ease. So settle your body in its natural state and respiration in its natural rhythm and for little while settle and balance your mind by way of mindfulness of breathing.
(24:56) We get to the mind later, but this week is for the close application of mindfulness to the physical, where the primary emphasis is on our own bodies but embracing now our sensory access to the physical, by way of the five physical senses. Direct your mindfulness now with eyes open to the visual field with discerning mindfulness, without conflating your conceptual projections upon the perception being given, in other words as the Buddha’s counsel, in the seen let be just the seen. And then in this visual domain of shapes and colors do you perceive anything that appears to you as “you or yours” that is really from its own side by its nature, really belongs to you or are they simply shapes and colors and nothing more?
(27:42) Close the eyes; direct your mindfulness now single pointed to the domain of sound. In the heard let be just the heard and as you closely apply mindfulness to this domain of experience, pose the same question. Is anything here appear to be “I or mine” and if so why?
(30:28) And now come to this domain of body and mind system which is normally closely held with the bounds of I and mine, single pointedly focus your mindfulness on the space of the body, wherever tactile events arise into that domain. Again to the best of your ability release all imagery, all mental activity here, projections, designations, labels, constructs, let it be pure tactile, in other words in the felt let be just the felt. To be sure this may be indeed a private showing, may very well be true that you are the only person that experience this array of appearances arising.
And now with respect to the sensations correlated with earth, water, fire and air, do you apprehend any of these being truly by their very nature yours, beyond merely convention, truly, really, yours?
(34:42) Is it a simply matter of control that over which you have control? Is it yours because you are controlling it? Is it that simply? How much control do you have really over these sensations arising from moment to moment into the domain of your own body?
(36:49) When it comes to outer objects, possessions just as cellphones and so on, we can extend and we can retract the tentacles of mine, we can give them away, we can sell it, we can simply stop thinking that is mine. Is there any malleability here in terms of the extent to which we feel the sensations of mine? What extent can we simply be aware of them, sensations arising in space with no intrinsic ownership, simply arising in dependence upon causes and conditions, substantial causes and cooperative conditions arising and passing, arising and passing, with none of those causes or conditions being a self, a person, an ego? Is that true or not? Closely examine the phenomenon arising into the space of the body, this tactile field.
(40:43) Now with your eyes at least partially opened let your awareness illuminate all five sensory domains of experience and as you closely apply mindfulness to these five domains observe carefully. Are any of these appearances more or less yours, let alone you and if so why?
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Cheri Langston
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Posted by Alma Ayon