A Kadampa Buddhist blogsite

Specifically for anyone interested in the Buddhist psychology of Kadam Dharma:

http://realkadampa.wordpress.com/

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Silent Watcher – Observational meditation and suspended judgement

This is not meant as an extensive guide or commentary but more looking at the basic concepts of this incredible meditation for people anyone who enjoys this meditation in particular.

One of the main problems in modern thinking is ‘the need to be right’. One learns to apply judgement at an early stage in development. We are taught early on step by step to be correct and logical so our thinking habits are geared towards getting things right, believing our thinking to be true and logically coherent. “This is the right way to do this and that, this is  how you should behave” etc. The thing here though is there tends to be an arrogant view that assumes this type of thinking is ok. Judging at every stage without freedom or clarity of mind to be creative in problem solving or having the space to see things in a completely different perspective.

In thinking, judgement may be applied at any of the following stages:

  • Relevance – are these types of thought relevant?
  • Validity – are my ideas thought valid? Are they true?
  • Correctness – is it right?
  • Other people’s comments/views – do I accept or reject? Evaluation & criticism are similar.

Judgement is quite a single-pointed mind, decisive, usually partially unobserved but very necessary since sometimes there is a time of needing to judge instantly and use common sense, not being impotent by wanting to observe things. But when uncontrolled and awareness lacks in the view of ‘the bigger picture’, sometimes judgement can lead  us into a lot of trouble and many negative outcomes and inevitable grasping at limited closed-minded thinking.

For example, we may think that voice in our head telling us we should lie to someone about stealing is ok. Perhaps, we are so busy judging what is true in reality that we actually miss out on the fun of life. Maybe we spend too much time arguing with others in our mind because we are right and they are clearly wrong. Or maybe we spend time guessing what people are thinking and judge from this that they dislike us.

What follows from this is a learned habit of judging things too soon before observation can actually have a spacious effect in our mind to expand our consciousness to seeing things in a more universal way considering multiple viewpoints. Of course ideally a type of quick wisdom needs to develop and this comes from understanding our own thinking and how judgemental and somewhat arrogant our thinking really is. Arrogance meaning not considering other points of view/meanings/believing everything that comes into our consciousness without question etc.

How to delay/suspend judgement before meditation:

  1. Intention: one does not rush to judge, evaluate or analyze, simply become aware of what appears to mind. Sensations, thoughts, different objects etc.
  2. One does not consider judgement as the most important part of thinking at the present time. The only decision should be to accept what appears, without getting involved, just watch.
  3. One considers the possibility that other types of thinking will allow for greater clarity. What is required is spacious awareness of gross conceptual thought without involvement. This grows into an understanding of the real nature of the mind: clarity and cognizing.
  4. One understands that RELEASING a tight grip on the gross conceptual thoughts that appear will bring spaciousness for real insight to grow – Detaching from the tangled web of conceptual thoughts.
  5. When judgement and analysis of certain objects appear, (this is good, this is bad, I love this, I can’t wait for my tea etc) shift focus from being caught in the story line, argument, interesting conversation, reaction – these are distractions. You can analyse it or reflect on it AFTER meditation and decide/judge what is USEFUL at that time.
  6. All negativity arises from mistaken discriminations: we can judge constructively, friends as friends or negatively, enemies as enemies. Everything that appears to mind can be given a label. Choose not to slap labels on things, just watch. Even strong emotions have a name but don’t be concerned with which one you see or if you know what it is, just observe.
  7. Stop judging not stop thinking: You will be thinking many things, this is fine just watch. But if you get too caught up/involved in thinking then it sometimes helps to actively observe elsewhere such as the sensations of the body. These two techniques of watching both bodily sensations/thoughts can be alternated to the degree that you do not become too involved in either, you just watch. This is the essential point.
  8. Life will be waiting for you after meditation.

Silent Watcher in meditation: How to practice –  Just be:

  • Acceptance  – of what appears without involvement
  • Observation – in the vast spaciousness of the mind
  • Awareness – without boundaries

 

Buddha – the emptiness of forgiving

The Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and spit on his face. He wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was a little puzzled because he himself never expected that when you spit on somebody’s face, he will ask, “What next?” He had no such experience in his past. He had insulted people and they had become angry and they had reacted. Or if they were cowards and weaklings, they had smiled, trying to bribe the man. But Buddha was like neither, he was not angry nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. But just matter-of-factly he said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

Buddha’s disciples became angry, they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this.”

Buddha said, “You keep silent. He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me, he has spit on his notion. He has spit on his idea of me because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind. I am not part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something else to say because this is a way of saying something. Spitting is a way of saying something. There are moments when you feel that language is impotent: in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him, you are saying something. I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I’m asking, “What next?”

The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and you have lived for years with me, and still you react.”

Puzzled, confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. When you see a Buddha, it is difficult, impossible to sleep again the way you used to sleep before. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over and perspiring. He had never come across such a man; he shattered his whole mind and his whole pattern, his whole past.

The next morning he was back there. He threw himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked him again, “What next? This, too, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language. When you come and touch my feet, you are saying something that cannot be said ordinarily, for which all words are a little narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is again here, he is saying something. This man is a man of deep emotions.”

The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing, it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“And you also are new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet, touching my feet. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it. Those two people, the man who spit and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”

A Precious Human Life – in our time

Human beings have been around for a very short time and Earth is a relatively new planet. Science has yet to discover the many thousands of species here on Earth, even the depths of our oceans have hardly been researched.

It is interesting to know that we all came from the same single cell and we are 99.9% identical in every way to each other human being who has lived, died and is part of the human race. Remarkably, we share  many similarities with so many other people but even within this 0.1% there is tremendous variation. Some people are more fortunate than others, yet we all experience similar things at certain times; pleasure, pain, sadness, love, hate etc. We all share the very basic needs of food, water, shelter, sense of purpose and belonging etc. With all this humanity it is mind-blowing to note that all of it will one day end.

Our Sun will die. The death of every other of the 200 Billion stars in our galaxy alone will go out as will all stars in the universe. They will extinguish any possibility of life anywhere within the universe. This means that the universe will remain disordered, cold and full of radiation forever. It’s written into science as an inescapable fact that the cosmos will die, nothing will survive. Millions of extra-terrestrial lifeforms that potentially exist on other planets out in the vastness of space will also perish.

The conditions for life in the universe are incredibly minute. The sequence of events that create the death of the universe are the very same things that make life possible for the briefest periods of time here on Earth. It takes time for gravity to pull planets together. It takes time for mountains to form and trees to grow. It takes time for civilizations to evolve genetically.

Our Sun is a great example of a perfect condition for life. Earth is at the right distance to sustain life, just a small veering from this perfect distance and life would be vastly different. But this star will not always be here. It will eventually die. Long before this, man will have died out from the extreme heat of the growing Sun. There will be no conditions for life on planet Earth.

As a fraction of the lifespan of the universe as measured from its beginning to its end, to the evaporation of the last black hole, life as we know it is only possible for 1/1000th of a billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth, billionth percent.

Trillions of years along the arrow of time, the universe itself will have all but faded out – there will be no energy to sustain anything whatsoever. No new stars will be born and all lifeforms on the various other planets throughout the universe will also be extinct.The billions of different species will be no more.

I am sure you agree, that makes your life a pretty rare miracle. This is not a depressing thought, but one of great appreciation and awe that we are here right now under almost unbelievable circumstances.

Inner science or outer reliance

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.”

Buddha Shakyamuni apparently said this.

But who is to say that Buddha was actually enlightened and did actually say this? Did Buddha Shakyamuni actually write any books? Maybe a bunch of hippies from thousands of years ago imagined it and thought it would be cool if they invented a being who appeared infallible yet was beyond the ordinary appearances and sensory perceptions of the conventional world? But some would say that there is a lineage and there is a history of this glorious enlightened being.

Do we have to directly experience something to believe in it? Obviously not; as we know history no longer exists yet it was real and it did exist. Did man really land on the moon? The media told me so. Have I checked? No, I am happy to believe this conventional ‘fact’ yet many people believe otherwise. Why do people believe in ghosts or reincarnation?

Being a scientist involves relying on certain methods that others can test and validate: Psychologists are scientists of behaviour (actions and responses that can be observed directly) and scientists of the mind who study internal states and processes (these are often inferred from observable measured responses). Evidence to validate scientific conclusions referring to inner phenomena are not easily obtained.

I ask myself:

What are you asking me to believe? How do you know? What is the evidence? What other possibilities and alternative viewpoints are there? What constitutes a reasonable thought-out conclusion? What is most beneficial to believe?

Self-actualization and real experience from ones own investigations are extremely valuable since there is no benefit in probing things to the point of impotence of clear thinking but the proof of anything really lies in experiencing it for oneself.  Then again science doesn’t really prove anything does it? How do we find the middle-way between being objective and being subjective?

Perhaps there are more questions than answers. This is good news.