Non-attachment in a Materialistic World

If you live a “normal” western life in which the pursuit of career, family and social standing is important to you it is likely that you will be attached to all sorts of things. These might include your reputation, your children, your car, the pet budgerigar, your money in the bank, your self-image and your view of the world, your ideas on what constitutes life the universe and everything. You may well be prone to arguing the toss about mundane and trivial things. You may even imagine that you have a life philosophy of sorts. If you are so minded, missing the observation of grown men kicking a bag of wind around in front of tens of thousands of other “grown” men and women is something that you would prefer not to do. You may find it difficult not to care who is where in the premier league football results table, which on occasion you will feel impelled to check.

It is beyond your comprehension that anyone may not be attached to worldly and mundane things in a similar manner to you. You will have no concept or feeling or understanding of what non-attachment means. It might exist as a pseudo-intellectual possibility in which some geezers wearing funny robes, probably of Indian or Asian extraction and maybe be monks are non-attached. But it would be very hard to reconcile that someone you once knew, who was fond of a shandy or two, could be non-attached. Therefore, you would perhaps project your own attachment on to him and imagine that he had similar attachment-based drivers and motives as you do.

You would find it really difficult not to become attached to any thoughts which might arise in the mind, partially because you like to argue the toss. If you believe in binary answers like right or wrong, you would be seeking certainty and absolute certainty if possible. You may find it difficult to detach from your thoughts or rather the internal dialogue which masquerades as thought. You will live largely in a world parametrised by your internal dialogue and the social conditioning which surrounds you and into which you are a fully paid up and subscribed member.

If someone said to you read the Diamond sutra, you might read it, but could you attain it?

Pseudo-intellectual exercise and living practice differ considerably. The diamond sutra contains an intellectual trap for those keen on debate.

If you are keen or adamant on being right because you suffer from self-diagnosed omniscience the very first line will possibly slip by unregistered, because if you do fully register it AND agree with it your entire world view will come tumbling down.

All appearance is delusion.

Your view of yourself as a human being is a bit off. Your picture is assembled by mind.

What your eyes see is probably different from what you cognitively assimilate. If you think about it even a little, your pictorial images in your mind are built from a cis-trans isomerism photochemical reaction and yet you imagine yourself as some serious important dude or a glamorous chick!!

People are greedy, they covet all sorts of stuff. There is a psychologically manipulative industry which encourages covetousness, it is called advertising. We have this new species “influencer”, allegedly.

Inherent in the Diamond sutra is the teaching of impermanence, everything changes and fades.

I view this sutra as saying, please stop taking yourself so God dammed seriously, admit you don’t know everything, live fully in the moment, relax a little {if you can} and stop being so attached to shit because existence is fleeting, savour and respect it whilst you can.

My view is that we do not own anything we temporarily have a loan of things and can be grateful for that. We can appreciate instead of demand, insist and covet.

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Here is a little exercise.

Fill a sink partially with some water.

Open your hand and make a palm. Pick up some water with your hand.

How much can you hold and how long for?

Next place your hand under water and try to grab some water with your fist. Clench your fist as tight as you can.

How much can you hold and how long for?

Which of these two is best?

Dhyāna

From Wikipedia

In the oldest texts of Buddhism, dhyāna (Sanskrit) or jhāna (Pāḷi) is the training of the mind, commonly translated as meditation, to withdraw the mind from the automatic responses to sense-impressions, and leading to a “state of perfect equanimity and awareness (upekkhā-sati-parisuddhi).” Dhyāna may have been the core practice of pre-sectarian Buddhism, in combination with several related practices which together lead to perfected mindfulness and detachment and are fully realized with the practice of dhyana.

In the later commentarial tradition, which has survived in present-day Theravāda, dhyāna is equated with “concentration,” a state of one-pointed absorption in which there is a diminished awareness of the surroundings. In the contemporary Theravāda-based Vipassana movement, this absorbed state of mind is regarded as unnecessary and even non-beneficial for awakening, which has to be reached by mindfulness of the body and vipassanā (insight into impermanence). Since the 1980s, scholars and practitioners have started to question this equation, arguing for a more comprehensive and integrated understanding and approach, based on the oldest descriptions of dhyāna in the suttas.

In Chán and Zen, the names of which Buddhist traditions are the Chinese and Japanese pronunciations, respectively, of dhyāna, dhyāna is the central practice, which is ultimately based on Sarvastivāda meditation practices, and has been transmitted since the beginning of the Common Era.

Etymology

Dhyāna, from Proto-Indo-European root *√dheie-, “to see, to look,” “to show.” Developed into Sanskrit root √dhī and n. dhī, which in the earliest layer of text of the Vedas refers to “imaginative vision” and associated with goddess Saraswati with powers of knowledge, wisdom and poetic eloquence. This term developed into the variant √dhyā, “to contemplate, meditate, think”, from which dhyāna is derived.

According to Buddhaghosa (5th century CE Theravāda exegete), the term jhāna (Skt. dhyāna) is derived from the verb jhayati, “to think or meditate,” while the verb jhapeti, “to burn up,” explicates its function, namely burning up opposing states, burning up or destroying “the mental defilements preventing […] the development of serenity and insight.”

Commonly translated as meditation, and often equated with “concentration,” though meditation may refer to a wider scala of exercises for bhāvanā, development. Dhyāna can also mean “attention, thought, reflection.”

The jhānas

The Pāḷi canon describes four progressive states of jhāna called rūpa jhāna (“form jhāna“), and four additional meditative states called arūpa (“without form”).

Preceding practices

Meditation and contemplation are preceded by several practices, which are fully realized with the practice of dhyāna. As described in the Noble Eightfold Path, right view leads to leaving the household life and becoming a wandering monk. Sīla (morality) comprises the rules for right conduct. Right effort, or the four right efforts, aim to prevent the arising of unwholesome states, and to generate wholesome states. This includes indriya samvara (sense restraint), controlling the response to sensual perceptions, not giving in to lust and aversion but simply noticing the objects of perception as they appear. Right effort and mindfulness calm the mind-body complex, releasing unwholesome states and habitual patterns, and encouraging the development of wholesome states and non-automatic responses. By following these cumulative steps and practices, the mind becomes set, almost naturally, for the practice of dhyāna. The practice of dhyāna reinforces the development of wholesome states, leading to upekkhā (equanimity) and mindfulness.

The rūpa jhānas

Qualities of the rūpa jhānas

The practice of dhyāna is aided by ānāpānasati, mindfulness of breathing. The Suttapiṭaka and the Agamas describe four stages of rūpa jhāna. Rūpa refers to the material realm, in a neutral stance, as different from the kāma realm (lust, desire) and the arūpa-realm (non-material realm). Each jhāna is characterised by a set of qualities which are present in that jhāna.

  • First dhyāna: the first dhyāna can be entered when one is secluded from sensuality and unskillful qualities, due to withdrawal and right effort. There is pīti (“rapture”) and non-sensual sukha (“pleasure”) as the result of seclusion, while vitarka-vicara (“discursive thought”) continues.
  • Second dhyāna: there is pīti (“rapture”) and non-sensual sukha (“pleasure”) as the result of concentration (samadhi-ji, “born of samadhi”); ekaggata (unification of awareness) free from vitarka-vicara (“discursive thought”); sampasadana (“inner tranquility”).
  • Third dhyāna: upekkhā (equanimous; “affective detachment”), mindful, and alert, and senses pleasure with the body.
  • Fourth dhyāna: upekkhāsatipārisuddhi (purity of equanimity and mindfulness); neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Traditionally, the fourth jhāna is seen as the beginning of attaining psychic powers (abhijñā).

The arūpas

Grouped into the jhāna-scheme are four meditative states referred to in the early texts as arūpas. These are also referred to in commentarial literature as immaterial/formless jhānas (arūpajhānas), also translated as The Formless Dimensions, to be distinguished from the first four jhānas (rūpa jhānas). In the Buddhist canonical texts, the word “jhāna” is never explicitly used to denote them; they are instead referred to as āyatana. However, they are sometimes mentioned in sequence after the first four jhānas (other texts, e.g. MN 121, treat them as a distinct set of attainments) and thus came to be treated by later exegetes as jhānas. The immaterial are related to, or derived from, yogic meditation, while the jhānas proper are related to the cultivation of the mind. The state of complete dwelling in emptiness is reached when the eighth jhāna is transcended.

The four arūpas are:

  • fifth jhāna: infinite space (Pāḷi ākāsānañcāyatana, Skt. ākāśānantyāyatana),
  • sixth jhāna: infinite consciousness (Pāḷi viññāṇañcāyatana, Skt. vijñānānantyāyatana),
  • seventh jhāna: infinite nothingness (Pāḷi ākiñcaññāyatana, Skt. ākiṃcanyāyatana),
  • eighth jhāna: neither perception nor non-perception (Pāḷi nevasaññānāsaññāyatana, Skt. naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana).

Although the “Dimension of Nothingness” and the “Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception” are included in the list of nine jhānas taught by the Buddha they are not included in the Noble Eightfold Path. Noble Truth number eight is sammā samādhi (Right Concentration), and only the first four jhānas are considered “Right Concentration.” If he takes a disciple through all the jhānas, the emphasis is on the “Cessation of Feelings and Perceptions” rather than stopping short at the “Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception”.

Nirodha-samāpatti

Beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception lies a state called nirodha samāpatti, the “cessation of perception, feelings and consciousness”. Only in commentarial and scholarly literature, this is sometimes called the “ninth jhāna

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And from Wikipédia

Dhyāna

Dhyāna (sanskrit : ध्यान (devanāgarī) ; pali : झान, romanisation, jhāna ; chinois simplifié : 禅 ; chinois traditionnel : 禪 ; pinyin : chán ; coréen : 선, translit. : seon ; zen (禅?) ; vietnamien : thiền ; tibétain : བསམ་གཏན, Wylie : bsam gtan, THL : Samten) est un terme sanskrit qui correspond dans les Yoga Sūtra de Patañjali au septième membre (aṅga) du Yoga. Ce terme désigne des états de concentration cultivés dans l’hindouisme, le bouddhisme, et le jaïnisme. Il est souvent traduit par « absorption », bien qu’étymologiquement il signifie simplement méditation ou contemplation. Le terme méditation est utilisé aujourd’hui comme un mot désignant de nombreuses techniques en occident, il s’apparente à la vigilance en psychologie ou en philosophie. Historiquement et pour le sous-continent indien, dhyana en est le plus proche.

Patañjali, le compilateur des Yoga Sūtra, en fait une étape préliminaire du samādhi. Les deux termes sont interchangés pour désigner ces états de conscience « transcendants ». Par exemple, les traductions Ch’an en chinois, Sŏn en coréeen, Thiền en vietnamien et Zen en japonais sont des noms d’écoles de dhyāna bouddhistes, dérivées les unes des autres, où dhyāna prend ce sens fort de samādhi.

On rencontre plus souvent, en bouddhisme, le terme pāli jhāna, parce que les enseignements qui y sont liés sont plutôt une préoccupation de l’école Theravāda.

Therāvada

Atteindre les jhānas correspond au développement de la tranquillité et de la sagesse (voir Samatha bhavana). On distingue cinq jhānas de la forme ou de la sphère physique pure, et quatre jhanas dans la méditation sur les royaumes immatériels. Anapanasati est la principale technique d’accès aux jhānas, la méditation metta en est une autre. Ces jhānas sont différenciés en fonction des « facteurs » qui les caractérisent :

  • Application initiale (mouvement de l’esprit vers l’objet de méditation) : vitakka ;
  • Application soutenue (saisie de l’objet par l’esprit) : vicāra ;
  • Joie, ravissement : piti ;
  • Bonheur : sukha ;
  • Concentration en un point : ekaggata ;
  • Équanimité : upekkha.

Pour être atteints, les jhānas nécessitent la suppression de cinq empêchements :

  • le désir des sens (kāmacchanda) ;
  • la colère ou l’animosité (vyāpāda) ;
  • la paresse ou la torpeur (thīna-middha) ;
  • l’agitation ou le remords (uddhacca-kukkucca) ;
  • le doute (vicikicchā).

Les cinq jhānas du monde de la forme comportent tous des facteurs différents ; leur nombre est souvent réduit à quatre (en ne tenant pas compte d’un état intermédiaire entre le premier et le deuxième, dépourvu de vitakka, mais avec un reste de vicāra) :

  1. premier dhyâna : vitakka, vicāra, piti, sukha et ekaggata (le monde des cinq sens est complètement transcendé) ;
  2. deuxième dhyâna : piti, sukha et ekaggata (il n’y a plus d’action, de mouvement du mental, sont seulement ressentis la joie et le bonheur).
  3. troisième dhyâna : sukha et ekaggata (seul le bonheur demeure).
  4. quatrième dhyâna : upekkha et ekaggata (pure équanimité, il y a arrêt temporaire de la respiration dans cet état).

Ces deux facteurs, équanimité et concentration, resteront présents dans les 4 jhānas du sans-forme ou non physiques.

Les quatre royaumes immatériels de la méditation sont :

  1. la sphère de l’espace infini
  2. la sphère de la conscience infinie
  3. la sphère du néant
  4. la sphère sans perception et sans non-perception

That Infernal Internal Dialogue.

{Written in 2011}

Earlier on this year I was overcome by a very strong sense of how much apparent suffering there is in the world, and I mean that more in the sense of angst, fear and frustrated desire than in the sense of genuine suffering. For most people in the west life is relatively speaking, comfortable. Even if times are financially difficult the vast majority do not have to exist under the conditions in refugee camps such as Dafur; so many are unhappy and actually quite grumpy about their lot. The world then has to it a sense of malaise or disease, in which most are not at ease with themselves nor their life conditions. I was filled with a sense of deep love for my fellow humanity and the folly which creates and perpetuates this sense of malaise.

As such I was drawn to the word’s of Shantideva’s Bodhisattva vows:

As long as diseases afflict living beings

May I be the doctor, the medicine

And also the nurse

Who restores them to health.

Altruistic and life affirming as these sentiments no doubt are there are some people who do not want to change, nor lift themselves out of the apparent suffering in which they live.  I have pondered long and hard as to what causes most of this apparent suffering and it is fairly plain to see that it is that infernal internal dialogue which is causative of apparent suffering. Through what we say to ourselves we create our own sense of reality and for some that is infernal, or a living hell of sorts. So my premise for today is:

Our internal dialogue is the cause of most of our apparent suffering, as such it is not our friend rather our own self created enemy.

The basis or neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is that reality and behaviours can be changed by altering both what we say to ourselves about stuff and how we act within this self created framework. People live life in a manner which is very much akin to building a house. As we evolve, we lay the foundations in youth, the first bricks in early adulthood and leave a gap perhaps for cavity wall insulation. We then construct the rest of the house as life progresses. The nature of our construct does not change that much as it evolves and apart from a few variations the basic design is set at some point in the past. The extent to which our house differs from the others on the housing estate which is humanity speaks volumes on our individual tendency towards being avant garde or herd like. The house, the castle, is what ever we tell ourselves it is or aspire to.  We build our lives by telling ourselves all sorts of stories about ourselves, our capacities, our desires. These stories are often heavily influenced by our peers, the media and the times. In our talking both internally and with others we create our own “reality” and our shared “reality”.

Internal dialogue is very repetitive and as such it is our internal mantra. These dialogues of course vary, though perhaps not quite to the extent that one might first imagine. Some of the dramatic elements are common and shared, these might be related to house, children, jobs, careers, health, holidays, religion, sex, food, drinking and television based entertainment. These are the building blocks of the common dream, that larger housing estate upon which we build our own little houses. 

Our internal dialogue is often of a very comparative nature, discussing whether we are as good as our peers, better than them and whether our house matches up to our own expectations and the perceived expectations of others. Much of this dialogue creates an imaginary and self limiting reality in which we are forever unhappy because we fail to live up to expectations. In a very real sense we conspire with each other to limit and by and large strive towards the lower common denominator called social acceptance. My guess is that the self esteem, self confidence and self belief of many is way lower than any outer presentation to the world.  Most of all internal dialogue is the most fertile of grounds through which fears are propagated and amplified by the means of collective mind.  Internal dialogue provides for us all a justification as to why it is foolish to try something entirely new and perhaps even slightly unknown. It breeds an infernal fear of ill health, death and dying and a terror of complete social exclusion; and in so doing creates an earthly hell of sorts.  The desire for longevity is misplaced. When my sell by date is up I hope to be taken off the shelves and not to be left there to rot.

Internal dialogue bolsters the sense of shared victimhood and “it is not fair” mentality. When, if one is detached, it is easy to see that for most people in the western world, there is really not that much to be grumpy about. There are relatively few who face starvation and gang rape on a daily basis. That might be something to complain about!!

Much internal dialogue centres around the concept of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness in which access to horizontal jogging is placed a little too high on the great mantelpiece of life. The vast tracts of advertising imagery based upon idealised physical forms, fashion and lifestyle, acts as an accelerant to the fire of internal dialogue, through which the comparative fire of mind says we are not good enough. Very few stop to ponder on the fact that physical beauty can in it self be a real curse. Internal dialogue is mostly about the form side of life and where we may or may not stand in some imaginary pecking order.

The plethora of fears associated with diet, health, exercise and longevity fill the mind with a mass of bric-a-brac such that the thoughts and sounds of internal dialogue are like so many young birds in a nest clamouring for the parental worm. The internal dialogue needs and demands constant feeding, as such it is a harsh master. There is simply no space or room amidst all that noise to stand back and consider about where life is going. The apparent urgency of internal dialogue causes the days, months, years and decades to flash past like an express train. The desires of the internal dialogue appear paramount and are rarely, if ever, sated.

My experience of most internal dialogues is that they are filled with such words as you can’t, you should, you ought to, that is normal, you have failed, that is not what is done here and would daddy be proud of that? For many there is a relative cacophony of entirely negative thought forms which create a climate of some grim application to life.  This is so very familiar that, just like heroin, it is very addictive.  Internal dialogue needs a fresh score every morning and to be shared with all the other pushers within our social circle whom we might choose to call friends. The reality is that pushers are criminals and hence we the junkies and the pushers are all, partners in crime.

I am going to make another premise here:

You are not your internal dialogue

This might seem mildly radical but it is true. If you can examine your internal dialogue from a detached view then, you are not it. In any case much of what you say to yourself is a pack of lies with which you have created your own mythos, your precious self image. The internal dialogue does not like to be challenged and is very defensive. Most conversation is shared internal dialogue and is mutually bolstering.

For the reader of a religious bent I have a simple question which points directly at the folly of internal dialogue; does God care about whether you are pretty, have a large cock, a nice car, a fashionable wardrobe or if you achieve the national average of extended multiple orgasms each week? Is Buddha all that interested? I suspect not. Viewed from this angle the contents of most internal dialogue are “chitta” which is onomatopoeic and exactly like the sound of birds in a nest. If you were about to die, would you really be bothering as to whether Mr Jones’ new Audi looked better than your Volkswagen?

Perhaps as a beginning it might help to look at the interaction between internal dialogue and fear, which is the very basis of the corrupt and manipulative insurance industry. This plays directly on the fear of losing possessions, accidents etc. and is a part of the fabric of the blame culture which abounds today. If you are stupid enough to trip over a paving stone is it really the fault of the council for putting it there? I don’t think so. Deep down everyone knows this, but the litigious “victim” can these days seek recompense. “I didn’t deserve to trip up…”

The fear of litigation is a product of the internal dialogue which supports the blame culture. It is always someone else’s fault!! If you had not been stuck up in your mind, within the circles of your internal dialogue, you might have been sufficiently wide awake to look where you are going.

In what way does the chitta in the mind reinforce all your fears, how does it limit you and above all does it make you at ease and happy? The internal dialogue is one of humanity’s major diseases and my prescription is first of all to become aware of your own internal dialogue and then simply to stop doing it.

If you must have internal dialogue then your mantra might be; “I am a Magical Being of the Universe”. Try this and as the saying goes; “Trust me I am a Doctor!”