Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quietening the Inner Chatter

Nice descriptive pointers taken from

Quietening the Inner Chatter - Part 1

The inner chatter in our minds is something we are all familiar with.  While we may have good and sometimes bad experiences in our lives that may move us to ponder life's deeper meanings or to seek out answers it is this inner chatter, more-so out of it's insistent and consistent barrage on our minds, that we are finally driven to seek out someway to quieten it down.  It gets so unrelenting and so persistent that once we have decided that we have had enough of it and we want to quieten it down, there doesn't appear to be any way to stop it.  We can't even go to sleep because the mind just keeps going and going!!  It's like torture "Okay, I'm over this noise in my head now.  I think you should stop now.  Okay, stop.  No no, I mean stop .... now!  Shhh!  I really mean it.  Come on now, stop!!! STOP!!!"

We quickly realise as much as we want it to stop it just seems to keep going.  We try frantically to find ways to quieten the mind but none of it seems to make the slightest bit of difference. We'll typically at this point turn to all kinds of external means to find some peace and we'll drown it out with social activities, making ourselves busy, through entertainment media like TV, radio, music, x-box or even alcohol and drugs.  These only serves as a means of distracting us from the noise.  As soon as we remove the distraction the noise and inner chatter is back as loud as ever.  Actually over time doing these distraction techniques just make the inner chatter worse by perpetuating the cycle.  So how do we stop it?  Well really the secret is not to stop it, I'll explain more as we go.

If we are lucky, in our search for a solution, we may eventually stumble across meditation.  The common problem is people try it and think that meditation is about stopping the thoughts.  It's a very common misconception and unfortunately leads a lot of people to try it and then walk away thinking it didn't yield any results.  This is why I'm writing this article, to help bring some understanding to what is happening here. People often read a few blogs, a website or two, a book maybe or chat to someone about the basics of meditation and then sit down to try meditation only find it doesn't work.  Or so they think!

In talking to people about meditation I find lots of people have tried it. This is really heartening to see. You can see they too are seeking some peace and along the way have tried meditation as a means of finding this peace.  One of the main recurring themes I hear is that people say "Oh I tried meditation but it didn't work" or "I couldn't do it".  My immediate response is usually "This is like water saying, I just don't know how to be wet".  It's impossible for meditation not to work!!  It has to work because it is by it's very fabric the nature of all things, including ourselves, our minds and consciousness.  I'll explain this below as we go.


It is important to take a step back and ask ourselves first "What has lead me to have this mind and all this inner chatter?" and to really evaluate what is going on.  It is through wanting, conceptualising, grasping, categorising, judging, pushing away, and thinking about everything we experience in life that our minds become busy.  In our day to day we have a thought arise about every thing little, every teeny tiny thing and what we thinkabout it, how we feel about it, what it means to us and how we can get more of it orget away from it. Through this there is a perpetuating cycle of mind busyness which over times results in a momentum all of it's own. It's like a freight train that's been gathering more carriages along its journey.  The heavier it gets the harder it is to stop.  After a while it has so much momentum that even when the train driver sticks on the brakes the train will just keeping on skidding and take a long time to come to a stop!!!  Our minds are just like this.  We stick on the brakes expecting it to stop and, "Holy crap! It's still going!"

What is Meditation About?

So we have to be very clear, meditation is not about stopping thoughts.
 We cannot approach meditation with another "want", but often this is exactly what we do.  "I want to do meditation to find some peace" or "I want to do meditation to be happy" or "I want to do meditation to stop this inner chatter in my mind".  Again however this is the same cycle we just stated above.  In doing so we've just approached meditation in the same way we've approached everything else in our lives, and in trying it like this we continue to perpetuate the cycle of inner chatter.  So of course we walk away thinking "Well that stinks, it doesn't work".  Meditation is not about getting what you want, meditation is about letting go.  As you do this thoughts stop by themselves!

Ajahn Chah's has a little book of quotes called No Ajahn Chah: Reflections in which he says:
Remember you don’t meditate to "get" anything, but to get "rid" of things. We do it not with desire but with letting go. If you "want" anything, you won’t find it.
By this he doesn't mean to get rid of something we don't want or we remove something that we want to get away from. He's not saying to get rid of the inner chatter or noise. 

I'll explain exactly how that works in Part 2 and then in Part 3 what we can do to quieten the inner chatter, the common trap and how to apply this.  Check back tomorrow for Part 2.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Advice on Treading the Buddhist Path

By BuddhismNow. Follow them on Twitter @buddhism_now.


Advice on Treading the Buddhist Path
Variant of Varada mudra, left hand has fingers pointing down.  Teaching, calming and consoling.  © BPG
Variant of Varada mudra, left hand has fingers pointing down.
The Buddha’s teaching was given to help people find true happiness by putting an end to suffer ing. True happiness is attained by doing certain things and leaving certain things undone. The following has been adapted from various sources on how to tread the Buddhist path.
To make far-reaching plans as though we were going to establish permanent residence in this world, instead of living as though each day were the last, is foolish.
Sorrow and misfortune are teachers that convince us of the need to lead a religious life.
Reflecting upon the miseries which all sentient beings suffer will encourage us to attain liberation.
There is no real happiness outside of enlightenment.
It should be realised that all sorrows are the result of past actions.
Reflecting upon the nature of cause and effect will encourage us to avoid unskilful and unwise actions.
Avoid those actions which harm the mind and impede spiritual development.
Freedom from desire and attachment is necessary if we wish to be free of suffering.
Refrain from harming any living thing.
Eating meat is like eating one’s own chil dren.
We should consider that all sentient beings are no other than the Buddha himself.
Refrain from earning a living by means of deceit and theft.
Unless all ambitions are eradicated, we are likely to fall into the error of allowing ourselves to be dominated by worldly motives.
It is useless devoting our lives to the acquisition of worldly things, seeing that when death comes we must relinquish even our own bodies.
Act so that you have no cause to be ashamed of yourselves, and hold fast to this rule.
Act so that you have no cause to be ashamed of yourselves, and hold fast to this rule.
Instead of hankering after the transitory pleasures of this life, we should devote ourselves to realising the eternal bliss of nirvana.
To enjoy a single moment of nirvanic bliss is more precious than to enjoy any amount of sensual bliss.
Be content with simple things and be free from craving for worldly possessions.
Hurt none by word or deed.
Reason, being one’s best friend, should not be abandoned.
It is not only necessary to understand the teaching; it is also necessary to apply it to our own needs.
Awareness and humility are required to keep body, speech and mind free from defilement.
A team of the fastest horses cannot overtake a word once it has left the lips.
A team of the fastest horses cannot overtake a word once it has left the lips.
Don’t ever dispute on religious belief.
Constantly maintain alertness of mind in walking, sitting, eating and sleeping.
It is good to train the wandering mind. A mind under control brings great happiness.
If great attachment, craving, or unwhole some mental states arise, make an effort to eradicate them as soon as possible.
It is good to abandon attachment to all things and attain knowledge of reality.
Cultivate friendliness, compassion, and wisdom.
Reflecting upon death and the imperma nence of life will encourage us to live skilfully and without blame.
We can only acquire knowledge of the path by treading it.
Reflecting upon the uselessness of aimlessly frittering away our lives will encourage us to tread the path diligently.
To enter upon the path and not to tread it is foolish.
To know the precepts and not apply them to clearing away defilement is to be like a sick man who never takes his medicine.
To be idle and indifferent when the circum stances are favourable for realisation is foolish.
To be clever concerning precepts, yet ignorant of the experiences which come from applying them, is to be like a rich man who has lost the key of his treasury.
To enter upon the path and to cling to worldly feelings of attraction and aversion is foolish.
To live hypocritically is as stupid as poison ing our own food.
Without practical and adequate understand ing of the teaching, we are likely to fall into the error of religious self-conceit.
Don’t despise a beginner if you are a seeker of supreme enlightenment.
Don’t despise a beginner if you are a seeker of supreme enlightenment. Never say to anyone: You will not obtain superior knowledge.
Trying to reform others instead of reform ing ourselves is an error.
Let go!
Once spiritual knowledge has dawned, do not neglect it through laziness, but cultivate it vigorously.
Avoid concealing one’s own faults and broadcasting the faults of others.
Don’t boast of your own attainment, but apply it to the realisation of truth.
By permitting credulous admirers to congre gate about us, we are likely to become puffed up with worldly pride.
Performing good actions merely to attain fame and praise is like exchanging the mystic wish-granting gem for a pellet of goat’s dung.
To cunningly praise ourselves while dispar aging others is foolish.
To devote ourselves to selfish ambitions instead of working for the good of others is as foolish as a blind man allowing himself to become lost in a desert.
See all beings as on the way to their slaugh ter.
Fools think they harm themselves by putting others first.
One does no good to oneself by taking advantage of others.
If we slight others we harm ourselves.
Unless we are selfless and compassionate, we are likely to fall into the error of seeking liberation for ourselves alone.
If only the good of others is sought in all that we do, then it will be realised there is no need to seek any benefit for ourselves.
Helping others, however limited our abilities may be, should not be avoided.
The mind, imbued with compassion in thought and deed, should always be directed to the service of all sentient beings.
Reflecting upon the evils of life in the round of successive existences will encourage us to seek freedom from birth and death.
To spend our lives oscillating between hope and fear instead of understanding reality is an error.
Supreme enlightenment is easy to know—just cut yourself off from seizing upon false views.
When we understand the teachings, it is the same whether we meet with good fortune or with bad.
Those who tread the path should be indiffer ent to both comfort and hardship.
When we realise that all phenomena are illusory, then we realise there is no need to seek or reject anything.
When we are truly compassionate, it is the same whether we practise meditation in solitude or work for the good of others in the midst of society.
It is a great joy to realise that the path to freedom, which all the buddhas have trodden, is ever-present, ever-unchanged, and ever-open to those who are ready to enter upon it.
Straightforward action will lead us to liberation directly.
Study the teachings of the great sages of all sects impartially.
Page detail from the Diamond Sutra
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Books used
Dhammapada, J. Austin, (ed.), 1983, The Buddhist Society, London.
The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, E. Conze, 1975, University of California Press.
The Path of Freedom, Rev. N.R.M. Ehara, et al., 1977, BPS.
Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, W.Y. Evans Wentz (ed.), 1969, OUP.
Tibet’s Great Yogi Milarepa, W.Y. Evans-Wentz (ed.), 1969, OUP.
The Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui Neng, Wong Mou-Lam (trans.), 1969, Shambhala.
The Lankavatara Sutra, D.T. Suzuki (trans.), 1973, RKP.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blabbered and Stumbled

Funny to have just blabbered about something, then click on stumbleupon and read a Master's deeper rendition on the topic.

Is Buddhism A Religion? - Part Two

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The Conditioned, The Unconditioned, and Consciousness

Religions always point to the relationship of the mortal, or the conditioned, with the Unconditioned. That is, if you strip any religion down to its very basic essence, you will find that it is pointing to where the mortal, the conditioned and time-bound , ceases. In that cessation is the realization and the understanding of the Unconditioned. In Buddhist terminology, it is said that "there is the Unconditioned; and if there were not the Unconditioned, there could not be the conditioned." The conditioned arises and ceases in the Unconditioned, and therefore we can point to the relationship between the conditioned and the Unconditioned. Having been born into a human body we have to live a lifetime under the limitations and conditions of the sensory world. Birth implies that we come forth out of the Unconditioned and manifest in a separate, conditioned form. And this human from implies consciousness. Consciousness always defines a relationship between subject and object, and in Buddhism consciousness is regarded as a discriminative function of the mind. So contemplate this right now. You are sitting there paying attention to these words. This is the experience of consciousness. You can feel the heat in the room, you can see your surroundings, you can hear the sounds. All this implies that you have been born in a human body and for the rest of your life, as long as this body lives, it will have feelings, and consciousness will be arising. This consciousness always creates the impression of a subject and an object, so that when we do not investigate, do not look into the true nature of things, then we become bound to the dualistic view of "I am my body, I am my feelings, I am my consciousness."

Thus, a dualistic attitude arises from consciousness. And then, from our ability to conceive and remember and perceive with our minds, we create a personality. Sometimes we enjoy this personality. Other times we have irrational fears, wrong views, and anxieties about it.

Aspiration of the Human Mind

At the present time, for any society in the materialistic world, much of the human anguish and despair arises from the fact that we don't usually relate ourselves to anything higher than the planet we live on and to our human body. So the aspiration of t he human mind towards an ultimate realization, towards enlightenment, is not really promoted or encouraged in modern society. In fact it often seems to be discouraged. Without this relationship with the higher Truth, our lives become meaningless. We cannot relate to anything beyond the experiences of a human body on a planet, in a mysterious universe, all our life really amounts to is putting in time from birth to death. Then, of course, what is the purpose, what is the meaning of it? And why do we care? Why do we need a purpose? Why must there be a meaning to life? Why do we want life to be meaningful? Why do we have words, concepts, and religions? Why do we have that longing or that aspiration in our minds if all there ever is, or all there ever can be, is this experience based on the view of self? Can it be that this human body, with its conditioning process, simply lands on us fortuitously in a universal system that is beyond our control? We live in a universe that is a mystery to us. We can only wonder about it. We can intuit and gaze at the universe, but we cannot put it into a little capsule. We cannot make it into something in our mind. Therefore, materialistic tendencies in our minds encourage us not to even ask those questions. Or else these tendencies make us interpret all life's experience in the realm of logic or reason, based on the values of materialism and empirical science.

Venerable Ajahn Sumedho


When it comes to matters of the mind, most are fearful.

The issue with the reaction ‘don’t screw with my mind’ does not lie in the screwing, it lies in the ‘my’. I am afraid that if enough ‘screwing’ is done, the mind won’t be able to take all these emotional upheavals anymore and be uncontrollable. It won’t be mine anymore.

The truth beneath is: probably it isn’t in the first place. It is just mind, with no one to belong to. Only processes of interactions that create this illusion, and millions around the world living in this illusion waiting to be awakened.

Some mistaken that to know the mind requires abandoning all that is present in the current life: our families, our work, our dreams, our aspirations and goals. And with this, delays with the reason it’s not time yet, I still have commitments to fulfill.  It need not be, and it should not be. For it is here in the very things that is happening in this life, that the understanding can be unraveled, experienced and matured.

The experience takes a turn to become richer and more colorful, as the grasping of the untamed mind is released; we pay more attention to what is present. The life is lived more fully, with a calm acceptance of all that comes into it as well as all that leaves from it.

So there is freedom, it’s always been.

Thursday, October 7, 2010