Thursday, December 12, 2013
Four Arya truths
1: Arya truth number one: All beings suffer. Suffering is an emotional state that resists what is. For instance if I hit my thumb with a hammer I typically shake it off pretty well, but if it happens the day prior to my summer golf tournament my suffering increases. When the kids stay up late I believe I will be more irritable the next day and collect negative energy. This is a way that I make self improvement, self existent. Etc… There are many examples.I am coming around to the idea that all material experiences that are experienced from the perspective of a separate self, contain some level of suffering.
2: The second arya truth is that Suffering is caused by Ignorance, Delusion and the mental affliction obstacles. We have limitations of our sense powers that seem to indicate that we are separate beings. According to Maitreya: We are born with a sense of “I” that is separate from all things and that tendency is reinforced over time as we experience our separateness through our experience with physical objects. As long as we see ourselves as separate we will suffer. When we harm another or trash talk about them, it is like seeing our right hand stealing something and then later, when the right hand is not looking, the left hand strikes it.
An example is this story of the coach at my son’s BBall game. The opposing coach has been vocal with the refs for the entire game, arguing calls etc. My son Tommy gets fouled and shoots a free throw and as the ball is bouncing over the rim the coach of the opposing team yells for the ball to “Get out!”. Who does not think that guy is a destructive force in the universe? There seems to be no clearer example. But for one, we don’t know who he is. Perhaps the parents and kids on that team love him. Or maybe he is acting and was put there to test me, but if I think he is a jerk by nature then I am the one suffering. I handled the interaction reasonably well, where I advised the coach of the code of conduct that we abide by, but I was still not in total control of my emotions and certainly experienced some anger. So I decided I would not deliver any more constructive criticism for the remainder of the game J
I like the examples of types of cells in an organism as well. We can be a red blood cell, where we go about our days in a normal state. When we experience the afflictive emotions we act like cancer cells and we eat away at the collective organism. When we act like a Bodhisattva we become like a white blood cell, helping others. But when we do good deeds with the idea of no separate self in mind we act like a stem cell, morphing into what any being needs at any moment.
Our mind being a flock of starlings is another great metaphor. These are the smaller birds that maneuver in a majestic flock. One starling takes its cues from the surrounding 7 starlings and they move in a formation that can avoid predators and they achieve what a single startling could not. This morning I was driving to work and I saw a flock flying over the road. There had to be about 1000 birds. They split into 2 flocks over my car and headed in opposite directions and “HONK!” The guy behind my was not happy with my bird watching. So I pulled over and let him go and hoped that his mind quieted down.
3. The third arya truth the Buddha taught was that there is an end to suffering. He taught that “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”. Another way to express this is through the equation: Suffering = Pain X Resistance. If we drive resistance to 0 and accept our reality then we will not suffer. In my prior golf example if I have no attachment to my golf weekend then I have no suffering when I disable my golfing hand with a blow from the hammer. When I say “attachment” I mean that there is no belief that the material pleasure of a round of golf and time away with my buddies can bring me lasting happiness, so why should I get upset?
It also needs to be said that there is nothing wrong with golf. I connect with my friends there and share experiences and can search for my opponent’s golf ball with the Bodhisattva intention, but the Buddha taught that the material experience of a great golf shot or any other material experience can’t deliver lasting happiness.
4. The fourth arya truth is that there is a path to the end of suffering through the 8 fold path or we like to use the 6 perfections presentation. Again we must realize that we are interconnected with all things and that even our thoughts affect the entire universe so we must work on them iteratively with compassion for ourselves. But we can’t change our thoughts overnight.
If that were possible can you imagine how vulnerable we would be? If we were channel surfing and accidentally encountered a Donald Trump university commercial we would be all in! And then later we would be part of a class action suit trying to get our tuition back. So it has to be iterative and we must progress in stages and be persistent and patient with ourselves.
I like to think of the idea that we need to progressively burn new neural pathways in our brains. We need to coach the “agents” in our minds to change: interaction by interaction. Per MC we want to believe that there are objects beyond our sense powers, but we want to maintain a balance where we retain our critical thinking and don’t become “weenies” that believe every magical idea that comes along. So we progress steadily and iteratively and it could be no other way.
Intention: Master Culladasa states that all thoughts contain intentionality as part of the payload or data in the thought. If I see myself as separate then I will suffer (Even if I perform philanthropy someone at the soup kitchen will irritate me). But if I act while viewing myself as a member of a society of equals then I will try to act in the highest interests of all concerned. So, it does not matter if I succeed in the endeavor that I planned, only that I try with the Bodhisattva intention.
That idea also extends to my mind as a society of agents that are all competing for main mind consciousness and the happiness of these 5 aggregates. So with that intention I should coach the agents of my mind, to see the world as an interconnected set of aggregates. I should positively reinforce this behavior in meditation and throughout the remainder of the day.
Another great metaphor for main mind consciousness is again the movie theater. But the data that is projected onto the screen is coming from the audience which is also the consumer of the data. Does that make sense? The screen is a shared area of consciousness and it is the place where our consciousnesses communicate. The experience of Nirvana is when all of our mental agents are paying attention to the screen at the same time and they all stop projecting and then we can see the screen. I am told it takes great mental stability to experience this.
Wrap up: The four Arya truths hold great promise for bringing us deeper happiness. Please be compassionate toward yourself on this path. Please be patient, but be firm with the society that is our mind and make steady progress on the path to total liberation from the delusions that give rise to the afflictive emotions.