The very source of suffering

The Buddha, 2500 years ago, after long years of meditation, saw that the source of suffer was desire, but not any desire, only unhealthy desire produces suffering; for example, the desire of liberation of suffering is a healthy one, while any craving, addiction, produces lack of freedom, also can easily turn into frustration and anger: suffering.

Buddhism also describes aspiration: “soft” desire that has an openness to a possibility that we see as good, but without a need for anything to happen, so without any expectation nor grasping. Also, Buddhism relates unhealthy desires to the discursive world of planning, thinking, and fantasy, while aspiration is related with inner stillness, with mental calm; that’s why meditation is needed for first calm the mind, and then calm the unhealthy desires.

Here, 2500 years after Buddha, we are going try to show a deeper vision of the very origin of suffering, thanks to our modern knowledge. First, let us define suffer in a very simply, wide way:

 Suffer is the tension produced by opposed forces.

Any object subject to opposed forces experiences tension; if tension is enough strong, eventually break such object. Let us give some examples:

1. I want to have a nice family, but I have not; disputes, anger, lack of kindness are instead the habitual. What are the forces here? One force is: want to have a nice family, that is directly derived from survival instinct expressed as want to live in a cozy environment, to feel being protected; note we don’t label it as desire or aspiration is only a natural force, and is good of course. On the other side there are personal conflicts between individuals, with causes that are usually diverse: different opinions, old unresolved quarrels, etc etc; such conflicts are the visible results of the same force,  survival instinct, manifested as negative emotions and behaviors, a reacting against things that are seen as ‘bad’. So the first force is constructive, and the second one is destructive, and their confluence causes suffering. Indeed, both forces are in fact one and the same: survival, protection of the individual against the environment, but it expresses in opposed forms.

2. Think now about a person getting old; she is trying to overcome the degeneration of her body, taking care of her health, trying to stay active, etc but as we know time does not stop, it is irreversible, so the degeneration and the chronic diseases also don’t stop; there are pain, and such person needs a very healthy mind for don’t fall in suffering. Again, there are two opposed natural forces acting:  survival of the individual and destructing of the individual for renewal of life on earth.

As Buddhism says us, when the person mindfully accepts the situation suffering vanishes; but the forces are still there one against the other, what happens? Suffering is produced by the mind, because all our actions and reactions are made by the mind; when we fully accept the situation, the mind are not reacting, she let things happen, let the natural forces acts one against other and observe the scenery wisely, recognizing the forces that act there, she knows that in a deep sense that forces are intrinsically positive, even externally, from a personal, partial point of view, seems negative. 

What about desire in our framework?

Desire is an automatic, so unconscious, mental reaction driven by the force of survival.

Our personal mind, complex, multifaceted, express the force of survival, of welfare, in a multiple ways, from desire to simply eat or have sex up to desire for luxury. We need a clear awareness of what is happen moment by moment, what forces are acting within us and out there, this awareness is beyond thinking, and also beyond  automatic unconscious desires. Indeed, we are saying the same that Buddhism: mindfulness meditation show us how  the mind is constantly under the sway of craving, chasing after its own thoughts; but we introduce the new element “forces of Nature” as the very source of desires and suffering. We think take into account such forces enrich our knowledge, making easier achieve and stabilize a mindful state of mind: we know what is the source and also why is there, and is good, because such forces are the ones that make everything exist. Such forces are the forces of the creation.

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Realizing our true “I” through constant meditation

What is meditation? Yes, we know it, the action or practice of meditating, so what is meditate?

Focus one’s mind for a period of time for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. Think deeply about (something). Also: contemplate, think about, reflect, engage in contemplation, be in a thoughtful state, debate with oneself,

Meditate for spiritual purposes (concerned with the soul, with the creation as a whole, etc, beyond material or physical things) is more related with contemplate, deep reflection, than simply think about, but thinking is not excluded of meditation. What’s the problem with thinking? Thinking produces thoughts, ideas, mental frames, judgements … but the reality is beyond all mental frame, so thinking too much can close us to spiritual reality. Though we need thinking as a kind of crutches for come closer and closer to reality, we need ask us questions, remain opened to answers beyond the scope of our previous mental frames, opened to intuition, and when it comes, try to integrate it with our mental frame, try to understand. We need be able to drop the crutches when the time comes.

Who we are? Complicated question, isn’t it? Well, is complicated when we try to answer from our rational mind, who depends on concepts, thoughts, logic, and also emotions and other unconscious stuff. When we relax our grasping to all this stuff, then the answer comes, but in a subtle intuitive form, non-rational, so difficult to integrate with our mental schemes. Time is required, dedication, patient, for integrate the answer, for understand it. While we identify with our conscious mind, we are ignoring our subconscious, but he are not ignoring us, on the contrary, the subconscious handles much of our doing in the world. How can it be? We are ignoring something that are so important for us? Again, our identification with our thoughts close our understanding, our vision, to the whole reality of who we are.

What are I? Many spiritual traditions say us, and years of daily meditation drive us to realize it, that “I” is a sense of be somebody beyond any concept, word, or description. Our true nature is beyond mind, but we need the mind for realize it, because the world exists thanks to the Mind; we now talk about the Universal Mind, some posts have been written in this site about it, for example, a mind inside a Mind.  With patient work, meditating, reflecting, our conscious mind slowly accept the strange idea: a) our mind, the one with whom we identified, is only a process controlled by the Mind, like the unconscious mind also is, and  b) emerges another deep sense of “I” beyond any concept, and we learn to identify ourselves with him.

Unlimited being, is the new sense that comes. When we are not any thought, we are not limited by any mental framework, because any thought is an approximation to reality, a partial view, not complete. Only when we are not grasped with any personal interpretation is when we are free for perceive the totality as it is. We still can use the mind for planning, thinking, etc but without grasping: we are able for stop judgement and simply be full aware. Is impossible to describe such high state of being, only is possible point to it with words, like peace of mind, mindfulness, equanimity, perfect empathy, etc etc but as we said before any word is only a crutch to help us move forward in understanding, but also an obstacle to walking freely. There are only one way for really understand what we are: practice meditation daily, constantly, asking ourselves the right questions, with a clear will for obtain the right answers; with such constant work, the answers always comes, sooner or later.

 

 

 

The reduced eightfold path: dual path

A high-sounding title, yes, I know it. But is my feeling, the feeling that comes to me after my daily meditation, after I was reflecting about suffering, a central concept in the Buddha’s teachings.

“Oh Bhikshus, there are four noble truths. They are the noble truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path to the cessation of suffering.”

Here suffering does not mean grave pain, but rather the mental suffering; Buddhist teach that our tendency to desire pleasure clashes with the fleeting nature of life and our experiences become unsatisfactory and ungovernable, causing us suffering.

This morning, after my short session of Hatha Yoga and Pranayama, sit down in my meditation room, soon in the morning, all in peace, out me and also within me, I put in front of my attention the question “why we suffer?”, and surprisingly for me the answer comes almost instantly:

All the suffering is product of mind, she create suffering and maintain it.

And then, the consequence come to my contemplative mind:

Pure awareness is not mind, is beyond mind, so is beyond suffering. Dwelling on pure awareness is to live free of suffering.

So simple! No mention about desires, clinging, grasping, hunger, and other possible sources of suffering that Buddhism explain and study. No attachment that we must overcome by years of practice. Is more simple. Is a matter of awareness, is to realize the substantial difference between thinking and be present without thinking, and learn to simply stay present, moving our sense of “I” from thoughts to pure awareness (or “the observer”). Then, all the obstacles pointed by Buddhism, like attachment,  desires, etc, are overcome without effort, they simply vanishes, because they are created and sustained by the mind, and when the mind stops their thinking, when we disidentify or our thoughts, becoming only awareness, such sources of suffering lost their bearer, and vanishes.

Maybe, I don’t know, is only an idea,  in times of Buddha the concept of become pure awareness beyond mind was too exotic, so the more secure way recommended by him was more complicated, was the eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (samadhi: meditative absorption or union, a concept very similar to the union of Yoga tradition). I think in our modern times, humankind has a enough powerful consciousness, product of centuries of rational thinking, for reduce the eightfold path to a simpler dual path:  right mindfulness, and right samadhi; here, samadhi means reflective meditation, a kind of meditation about we wrote something time ago in this blog. Of course, humans beings exists in a wide range of mental developing, so still there are people for the classic eightfold path is still the recommendable, but not for all the people were the best way. The dual path can be much more quick; we must be aware that almost nobody of the millions of Buddhist practitioners achieve samadhi in their lives, is a slow way.

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Ship of shadows

Very seldom happens to me, but it happens to me, and today it is happening: a certain pessimism about the human condition, a reason for Einstein when he said that “two things are infinite: human stupidity and the universe, and I’m not sure about the second“. It happens to me when in a day I receive too much negative information about the society in which we live, those days my faith in the possibilities of humanity fail. Deep down I still believe in ourselves, but I see so much backwardness, so much blindness and confusion even in the most basic things, that my mood drops.

nave_de_sombras_fritz_leiberI write this article not to regret about the human condition, which would be a useless act, but to try to put some light on some issues; that’s where the title comes from: ship of shadows, by Fritz Leiber, a story from the mid-twentieth century that moves between the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, a masterpiece of its kind, something like a work of cult, we could say that it is a Gothic fiction, and thinking about our society that title has come to me. To this ship of shadows that is our society and to ourselves as members of society, a good illumination is needed to clear obscurities.

I know very well that these lines will be read by very few people, and therefore probably their effect on society will be zero, and really the direct effect will be, but indirectly we can not know, the indirect effect is to put some light on certain issues in a handful of people, who in turn can bring some light to others, and thus propagate a more awakened vision. The original writing will fall into oblivion, but its effect, although minimal, may exist, and that is enough reason to try.

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There are simple statements that we should accept and apply without discussion because they are basically statements of ethical principles. For example:


The end does not justify the means.

Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.

In our society these two basic principles are often not accepted or applied. Absolutely. Quite the opposite. We get lost in a tangle of disparate thoughts, feelings, emotions, blind ideologies, and we end up acting against those principles. Let’s see examples of current events.

Amnesty International and other international organizations have been documenting cases of torture and other ill-treatment in some countries for decades, committed by members of state security forces and bodies on public roads, in police stations, and within the context of the fight against terrorism, which does not they have been duly investigated or sanctioned. https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/stop-torture/

Justice understood as revenge, and the fight against terrorism, are the ends that justify means of proceeding that violate basic human rights. The end does not justify the means.

A Maths department of an institute. At that time there were six teachers: four females and two males. One of the females tells another that she has a bachelorette party from a friend that night. She replies that the “boys” who usually “act” (without wanting to offend the guild of actors) are pigs, which disgust him, she tells that violently removed one of them, who asked “maybe are you a lesbian?Another female enters the conversation: they beat me, they throw you on top of me. The fourth female listens and agrees. The first female, the one that started the topic, says lapidary: “is that to enjoy you have to go drunk“.

The four teachers, all over 30, had participated in various occasions in that kind of light orgy in which bachelorette parties have become years ago. It’s like an obligation, whether it disgusts you or not, and if it disgusts you too much, get drunk. The ideology of feminist liberation has established that it must be done so, and, point, it is not discussed. You have to do it yes or yes to be equal, to defend equality … with whom? And what? In strip clubs for men, the woman was reduced to a sexual object, and that was not to be proud; well, let’s do the same with men, right? reduce them to sexual objects, so we equalize in lowering a human being to be an object for feel myself more powerful. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. The end does not justify the means.

Politics is another area of lack of common sense, empathy, kindness … although it should be the opposite. Just Google some assertions:

She gets out, and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” D. Trump about Fox News reporter Megan Kelly.

“One thing to be supportive, and another is to be in exchange for nothing “- M.Rajoy., Spanish president of government.

Often politics degenerates is a kind of boxing match in which cheats are allowed. The end does not justify the means.

I think the whole problem centers on a lack of awareness development. The thoughts, the ideas, are very powerful, very useful, as tools at our service are irreplaceable. But without constant supervision they can degenerate and produce monsters. It comes to be like Asimov’s laws of robotics, that over all the artificial intelligence of robots, are the simple and higher principles that ensure that the robot will not fall into Machiavellian, destructive behaviors:

 

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

pepitogrilloHuman beings also need simple principles of a higher level than we can think of, principles that we should not forget, on the contrary, we should continually review our actions and thoughts to verify that we are not losing ourselves in the shadow ship of our mind or from other minds. They may simply be human rights, or it may be that even those human rights are still too complicated to apply in all possible cases. Religions in part served for that, because that was the tables of the law of Moses, or the sacred books: basic rules directing all human action and thinking. In this 21st century we still do not have clear and present the basic principles of thinking and doing that should not be violated in any way. And it is not enough to know them, to apply them you need an awake, vigilant awareness that continuously monitors our activity, and alerts us when we deviate. A constant self-observation. Do not go on autopilot, it is dangerous, there are storms in sight. Something like Jiminy Cricket of Pinocchio. Or in a modern language, a metaconscience, a vigilant awareness of consciousness, or a mindfulness awareness, extended consciousness that includes what happens and what happens to us, simultaneously.

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Tangled unconsciously

We live continuously receiving a huge amount of information, both sensory and cognitive; we react to some of that information, we ignore the rest, perhaps unconsciously, maybe repressing it. We thought that we were conscious beings, but with the rise of mindfulness – full consciousness – we see that not so, that in fact we are only semi-conscious, because that is what the mindfulness programs are about, that we become more conscious. The vast majority of the population really lives semi-automatically: their thoughts come and go randomly, their emotions arise automatically in reaction to what happens at the moment or to what they are thinking or remembering, even their decisions , so rational that they seem at first sight, they are taken largely unconsciously.
The common person, then, moves, reacts, motivates, excites, thinks, etc. driven by numerous external and internal forces over which it has little or no control, and is not even aware of it, of what is really happening, of what is happening to it. And yet, she is convinced that she is conscious, that she is free in her decisions, impartial in her opinions. This conviction is necessary for psychological stability, provided that the person is identifying with their ideas and opinions. Thus, the more identified you are with your mental schemes and automatic reactions, the more dependent on them you will be, and the more resistance you will oppose to any factor that questions or weakens those schemes. The real person, who is much more than the mere union of his thoughts and automatisms, lives entangled in his mechanisms, moved from one side to another by the forces of existence. When these forces really squeeze, the person goes like a drift, dragged by them.
Living in this way, one can suffer and suffer much, out of sheer unconsciousness, or ignorance, as the ancient spiritual traditions would say.

Partial ideas accepted as absolute ones

The personal fixed idea of “how things should be” when it hits reality produces frustration, pain, insecurity, anger, and other negative emotions. And this is a complicated point, because we need to get an idea of the world, the problem is when we take our personal idea too seriously, imagining that it is an absolute truth, or identifying ourselves unconsciously with it.
Nature knows no political boundaries; places new beings on the terrestrial globe and contemplates the free play of the forces that work on them. The one who is then superimposed by his effort and character, grants him the supreme right to existence. – Adolf Hitler: My Fight –
The previous observation about Nature is at first sight correct, but applied in a generalized manner led to the idea of the elimination of the “inferior races” at the hands of the “superiors”, more “fit” for existence. We must realize that our ability to grasp and model reality with our thinking is very limited, and therefore our decisions will always have a high degree of bias, and therefore may even be unfair. That perception can make us feel insecure, but it is that we are in fact, there are very few things safe in life, a life too dynamic, too immense to be confined in a limited mental framework.
tempest

Boat in bad weather and with an unconscious helmsman!

The only solution to the entanglement of opposing forces in which we live, to insecurity, to the partiality of our ideas and models, is to be more and more aware. For consciousness is a mode of direct knowledge, without previous ideological filters, without partiality; pure observation without judgment allows us to better grasp reality, and if later we need, for practical reasons, to make a judgment about what is observed, we must also judge with full consciousness, without pre-judgments based on previous fixed ideas, and knowing that all judgment, opinion or model is partial.
When we really realize the habitual way of functioning, so unconscious, so tangled, of people, we understand and accept it: we stop fighting against the opinions of others, because to do so is to sink into the same state of unconsciousness, and someone who is asleep is unable to wake up another who is also asleep. First we wake up, and remaining in full consciousness, from that position, observe, listen, speak and act with unbiased or partial knowledge.
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Inspired daily acts

Always act correctly … is it possible?

In life we ​​are acting constantly, we have no choice, we must do it. Our actions may have more or less success, it will depend on the circumstances and also on our ability.

Skills can be acquired and improved by practice, while circumstances are changing, dynamic; the action that can be appropriate here and now, maybe will not be in another time and place, which is appropriate for someone does not have to be for another person. Every moment and every situation is new, it must be evaluated without falling into automatisms, in predetermined actions. Therefore, a perfect act is a new creation, linked to the instant and the conditions. Automatic, repetitive acts can only be correct in repetitive, static environments.

But evaluating each situation can be difficult, even impossible, perhaps because we do not have all the information, or because it is inaccessible, or because we do not have enough time to evaluate it, or perhaps we have preconceived ideas that prevent us from realistically evaluating the situation. In fact, we will never have the security of not being mistaken in our actions, by much experience and ability that we have.

This reasoning is valid for every act, also for acts of kindness and love. It is well known that good intentions are not usually enough to carry out actions of kindness, of helping others; It may even happen that, wanting to do good, we cause evil, that loving, we harm.

Inspiration and inspired acts


Inspiration: Act of filling with air the lungs | State in which you feel a special facility for creation.

Inspiration is usually associated with artistic creation, also to scientific discovering. But we have just seen that an act can, and should be considered as a creation that we do, is our contribution to a concrete situation. So, if every act is a creation, we can talk about inspiration linked to every act. Let us therefore think of inspired daily acts. As we know from artists and scientists, inspiration must be sought before the act; when it arrives, we are passed to such special creative state: the mind is filled with ideas, sensations, feelings, and then the act “comes out” effortlessly, and it is an act we could say “perfect”. There is no prior intellectual process, any thinking, yet you experience a creative state, and an impulse to act, your mind is filled with creative energy.

Since there is no previous reasoning process, the inspired action is always impersonal, because anything that is personal always arise from our thinking.  Indeed, you do not decide, rather inspiration, when comes, decides for you, she takes you,  you are her channel of expression. By acting in an inspired way you are not striving, even if outwardly it is a demanding, exhausting work, internally you feel no effort, you do not need to force anything, instead, you flow with action naturally. Although it is impersonal, so you are not seeking any personal benefit, however you get it: the satisfaction of performing, of materializing an inspiration, fills you as no personal action could do.

The same rule applies to acts of love-kindness: if they are inspired, they will be impersonal, and always, always, they will benefit the receiver. The mind will know, beyond all doubt, the correct line of action for the benefit of the other person. There is no longer a possible failure in an action of inspired loving-kindness. And the satisfaction of performing an act of inspired love is the greatest of all, fills you with unconditional joy. In fact, searching inspiration for the material realization of love is itself a direct path of self-realization and happiness.

How do we get inspiration?

In the same way that we acquire any skill: with practice. You have to go for it. Some indications for the work:

  • The mind must be calm, relaxed, attentive. It is not a question of thinking as much as we have to act. Quite the opposite. The mind must be in a receptive, open, even expectant state. Only in this state of mind can we receive inspiration. This is an indispensable requirement. If we practice relaxation and / or meditation this requirement will not be a big problem for us, if not, is a good point for start to meditate.
  • Mentally we “put” the situation on which we want to act “in front of us”, but without thinking about, we only contemplate it, with voluntary attention and relaxed mind. We observe, and we also put “on hold”, as if we put a question in the situation, but waiting for the answer, calmly, without forcing. In a way it is a very mindful attitude, related to Mindfulness state, because we observe without judging, with a mind in silence but that is asking, very open to what comes. Even being perhaps experts in the subject, we get into mode “beginner”, asking for an answer.
  • Keep the impersonal attitude, we are only an intermediary between the situation and the inspiration that we hope will fill us. Maintain the will to want to act, but waiting for inspiration.
  • If we are faced with a situation that really requires our immediate action, the inspiration will always come, it will not leave us in the lurch, except when we do not have the right mental state. If the mind is not relaxed, calm and receptive, it will simply be closed to inspiration.

With practice the results will come. The more we practice, if we do it right, the more inspiration we get.

When the inspiration comes, I hope she find me working.”    – Picasso

The experience of loving is only yours, and no one else’s

Learning to still be in-love,,
Without any concrete person to be in love with,
May seem impossible,
And in truth it is not so easy,
Because the mind goes, wanders, remembering those times,
In which love flowed easily between the two,
Or so you thought, at least you imagined.

In these moments of remembrance, of melancholy,
Seems as if you lack the air,
As if you could not breathe, you drown,
You lack the person who ignited your love,
But then, with an effort of will,
You give the attention to the sensation of loving itself,
Not to the external object that provoked it, but to your own experience of loving,
You remember that feeling, and you revive it, at will,
Without thinking, without judging, only living the wonderful feeling of loving,
With full consciousness.

You realize then that the experience of loving was yours,
Which is still yours, which has always been yours,
You believed that it had been taken away, denied, that you no longer had it,
But it was only a belief,
For now you see that you can still evoke it, experience it, live it, it is in you,
Then you feel as if you are back in the air, you breathe again.

And so, day by day, being very attentive, very mindfulness,
Capturing the moment when the mind wanders,
Capturing the moment when the sadness returns,
Realizing that that love is still in you, that you have love within,
That you thought you needed someone to live it,
And it was just a belief in your mind,
Which needs to be convinced otherwise,
Showing him, patiently, the truth,
Then you learn to be permanently in love,
To stay there, in your love,
In what you are in the background, what you have always been, without knowing it,
And that no one can ever deny you, ever again.

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