Reflections on 2014

January 1, 2015

I started the website sometime in early January of 2014. Since there is no discussion forum at the site, I thought of making a summary on the 52 comments (excluding follow-up correspondence) that I received over the year (I did respond to all individual comments).

1. First of all, my heartfelt thanks for the many kind comments on the usefulness of the site.

2. Some people (mainly those I know personally) “complained” that once they start reading, they “got absorbed” in the material and they could not get to their “daily tasks”. This could be a concern for some others as well. The easiest solution is to set an alarm.

  • I assure everyone that once one gets a “foothold” one will become more responsible for their families, not the other way around. As one begins to understand the true message of the Buddha, one will start allocating one’s time wisely, taking time away from “entertainment” rather than from those tasks that are one’s responsibilities.
  • As some of you may have already noticed, one becomes more thoughtful and considerate, when one starts truly understanding the message of the Buddha. One realizes that we all are in the same boat, trudging along in this tedious rebirth process, and one feels true compassion for others. One will not shy away from one’s responsibilities to anyone let alone to one’s family.
  • If you do get absorbed in the material, it is not to my credit. From experience, I know that pure Dhamma is much more satisfying and fulfilling than any sense pleasure (even before the jhānā). Learning Dhamma is learning about nature in a way that had not been possible before the Buddha!  And there is no other task that is more important than one’s own “long-term” future.

3. There were several people who made suggestions for new posts. Such suggestions are always welcome. If I have not responded to a couple of requests that is because of a reason. I do not want to “jump ahead” until the background material is presented. Please do not shy away from making suggestions.

4. Another important comment was that, “in the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, didn’t the the Buddha recommend the “breathing meditation” contrary to what I described as anapana?”. If one is reading the sutta as commonly translated these days, that is indeed what the translations say. But we need to examine the Pāli text of the sutta to get the correct interpretation. I plan to write a series of posts on the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta carefully going through the Pāli text.

  • And we need to sort out the types of meditation recommended by the Buddha from those that have been practiced by Hindu yogis and are described in the Visuddhimagga. I think this is a “mental block” for even Theravada Buddhists. Unless one sits down and stay like a statue, it does not count as “meditation” for many people.
  • Those days, Buddha’s primary recommendation was to listen to Dhamma discourses. Many people attained magga phala just by listening to such discourses. The Satipaṭṭhāna sutta was delivered in the later years for bhikkhus who needed systematic guidance.
  • If one pays attention, one can get to samadhi while listening (and also while reading) Dhamma concepts. I highly recommend reading posts at this site at a quiet time, and see whether it makes you more calm. It will help in getting to jhānā in the longer term.
  • Whether listening or reading, one should fully concentrate on the subject, and may even want to stop reading and think about the material when a new concept is discussed. Then the mind focuses on that point and automatically gets to samadhi. This is the key to removing defilements from the mind (which are the biggest chunk that in turn trigger other defilements). When one focuses on a “worldly thing” such as breath or a kasina object, that just gets the mind to samadhi, without doing any cleansing.

5. One does not even need to do any formal meditation initially. If one can spend some “quality time” (quite times where one can think as one reads) a few times a week, that would be more than enough. As with anything with the mind, the mind will ask for more as needed (this is the chanda and citta part in the Satara Iddhipada of chanda, citta, viriya, vimansa). And when the mind asks for it, that is the best time to start getting absorbed in the material, making the effort (viriya) and critically examining the key concepts (vimansa).

  • One can get all the way to the Sotāpanna stage by just comprehending the main message that the Buddha was trying to convey: In the long run, it is unprofitable to strive for material things in this world. That there is a happiness of better quality when one loses craving for sense pleasures.
  • But that cannot be achieved by “forcefully giving up sense pleasures”, doing “breath meditation”, or just by following the five precepts. Rather, by understanding the deep message of the Buddha about the “real nature of this world”, one’s mind gradually realizes the futility of seeking sense pleasures as one gradually comprehends anicca, dukkha, anatta. Dhamma will be the guide.

6. I very much want to highlight the fact that Buddha Dhamma is not about hiding in a remote place and shying away from the society or subjecting oneself to harsh living.

  • It is not those enticing or seducing things that make us do immoral things and make our minds stressed in turn; rather it is our own defiled minds (defilements can vary from vile to just being ignorant of the true nature of the world) making us do immoral things.
  • One with a purified mind can live in the most seductive place and yet not be perturbed.
  • But to get there, one needs some self-control to stay away from such extremes initially. Learning pure Dhamma is the only way to break through that first barrier. Once the Sotāpanna stage is attained, one will never go back.

Happy New Year! May the Blessings of the Triple Gem be with you always!

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