07 Sep 2013

This afternoon we complete the cycle of mindfulness of breathing. Before we go into the final practice, Alan addresses one of the participant’s question about experiencing tingling/vibrating sensations in the forehead when practicing mindfulness of breathing at the aperture of the nostrils. Alan explains that this might happen for some meditators even when they are practicing correctly since prana, which follows attention, might build up in the area we are focusing on. He suggests, in such cases, to change the practice to an alternate one, which is mindfulness of breathing with the focus on the whole body. To do so, a practitioner needs to focus on all the tactile sensations arising in the field of the body that are directly correlated with each in and out breath.

After the practice, Alan moves on to discussing the fourth thought that turns the mind, which is the law of karma or, in other words, actions and their consequences or cause and effect. The Buddha’s notion of karma deals with deliberate action (volition) and can be fully understood only in the context of the continuity of consciousness. If we accept this fact as a working hypothesis for our life, then the question whether our behavior in this lifetime has any ramifications for our future lifetimes emerges and the need to discern wholesome actions from unwholesome ones becomes imperative.

But how can we know which actions are virtuous and which are not and how they will ripen in our future lives? Since at this stage we are unable to see the entire web of all karmic connections as the Buddha did on the second day of his enlightenment, the best way to approach this dilemma is by bringing it to the realm of this lifetime. To do so, we ask ourselves a question whether our actions (of body, speech, and mind) bring about the well-being and genuine happiness of oneself and others. If the consequence of our action contributed to our own well-being and that of others, we can say that the action was virtuous, and vice versa. We need to see ourselves as part of a whole web of connections (an eco-system) and judge the nature of the action by how it affects the entire system as karma is both individual and collective.

Alan also emphasizes that karma works equally for both virtuous and non-virtuous actions and is not static; it grows over time. Last but not least, Alan stresses that all non-virtue comes from delusion, which is the result of misapprehending reality. As karma is simply as things are (a universal law rather than a moralistic requisite), meditation on this subject is meant to shift one’s perspective on viewing reality and encourage the investigation of this truth for oneself in order to gain confidence in it.

Meditation starts at: 19:21

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