Vitakkarasanthana Sutra

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.

AI Summary: 



Good morning. Good morning. So today we have Kid Zindo to begin with. And our speaker is Andrea Thatch, whose Dharma name is Yakuso Ryushin, which means Healing Source Dragon Heart. She began practicing here while Meili Scott was here in the late 1990s. and then had priest ordination from Sogen Roshi in 2005 and was Chuso, or head student, here in 2009. So Andrea is a Zen priest and also a practicing medical doctor. In moments, I like to address her as Reverend So good morning everyone.


And good morning to the children. It's nice to find myself up here again while you're down there or with me here. And I have another story for you that's on the topic for today, which is what do we do when we're upset? What do we do when we have something that's in our mind that we can't get rid of? So this is a story about Carl, who has a good friend named Stillwater. And Stillwater is a kind of magical big panda. And they have all kinds of inventions together. So, let's see if I can read upside down. It's kind of small. That's Stillwater. And that's Carl. Carl went to visit Stillwater. Michael said I couldn't bring over the stuff I wanted to go swimming with. I'm mad at Michael.


He's always telling me what to do. So I brought everything. Hmm, said the sailor water. It's a little pool. I don't know if all those things will fit. They're all things. They're a lot bigger than he is. And there's the little pool. Let's see, said Carl. Let's see, said Stillwater. Stillwater looked at the pool. The things can go swimming, but we can't. I brought too much, said Carl. That's OK, said Stillwater. I'll help you carry it all home. So what do you think? Did Carl make a mistake in bringing all those things with him? Yeah? That way Michael couldn't have him. Is that a good idea? Let's see.


Maybe. Why does Michael always have to tell me what to do? said Carl. Well, if he were here, I would climb up really high and I would jump off like this and I would smash him like this. Whoa. What do you think? How would you feel about Michael if he was always telling you what to do? I'd be pretty annoyed. I'd hate him, but I'd be super annoyed. Super annoyed. And what would you do? I might not always listen to him. Good idea. Let's see. Later, Carl and Stillwater had tea. I don't know about tea. Maybe they had milk and cookies, actually. Carl, said Stillwater, you spent the whole day being angry with Michael.


Did you notice how much fun we had? Carl watched the steam rise from his cup. What do you think he's thinking? Remorseful. What does that mean? Guilty. Guilty. Yeah? Why? Because he was so mad at Michael. He could have been having a fun time. Because he could have been having a fun time. But somehow he couldn't stop being mad. That's really good. I don't think I need to read anymore. But maybe not everyone here got it, so I'll keep going. I'm sorry I brought all this stuff, Carl said. You don't have to be sorry, said Stillwater. Right now, you need to carry. Hold on tight, and I will tell you a story. Okay, this is a Zen story.


Not that that wasn't. This is the story of a heavy load. So two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step off The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn't step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place all the package she had brought, so they couldn't help her too. The younger monk noticed the woman and said nothing but walk by. The older monk quickly picked her up and carried her on her back, transporting her across the water and set her down on the other side. She didn't thank the older monk. She just shoved him out of the way and departed. What do you think?


That was rude. That woman was stupid. Yeah, she was stupid. Maybe so. What about the older monk? He was smart. Why? Because he carried the old nun across the room. No, actually nice. Nice. Nice. From looking at her, I could probably tell that she wasn't very nice. Yeah. So if she's not very nice, maybe you don't want to help her. Yeah. Maybe not. Let's see what happens next. As they continued on their way, the younger monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours of walking, unable to hold his silence anymore, he spoke out. That woman back there was very rude and selfish, but you picked her up on your back and carried her. Then she didn't even say thank you. He kind of agreed with you.


The older monk said, I set the woman down hours ago. And the older monk replied, why are you still carrying her? So what do you think? What did he mean? Oh, he meant like he could have forgotten about it and moved on, but he was still worrying about it. Like Carl was worrying about Michael. Have you ever had a time when you've been like that, where you've been like Carl worrying about Michael? Yeah. What do you do about it? It's kind of a hard question. I guess I try to think about that it's actually not very important that it happened or what. That's pretty great. Well, I think it's a really hard question and we're going to talk about it a little bit more.


So, thank you very much for coming. Thank you, Mira. You're welcome. Off you go. So here's a story for us from Kabir.


Friend, please tell me what I can do about this world I hold on to and keep spinning out. I've given up sewn clothes and wore a robe, but now I notice one day the cloth was well woven. So I bought some burlap, but still I throw it elegantly over my shoulder. I pull back my sexual longings and now I discover that I'm angry a lot. I gave up rage and now I notice that I'm greedy all day. I work hard at dissolving the greed and now I'm proud of myself. When the mind wants to break its link with the world, it still holds on to one thing. Kabir says, listen my friend, there are very few that find that path. So here we are looking for that path today. We're settled into our aspects of practice, practice period in which we're studying the Pali Canon, the Pali Canon being a collection, several collections of the discourses that the Buddha taught that were transmitted by oral tradition.


And that foundational text of the Pali Canon and the one that we're doing our class on is the Satipatthana Sutra. Sati means mindfulness and pana means clear seeing. We had a wonderful introduction to that when Bob spoke about alertness and awareness and Peter got us settled into the discussion talking about the foundation of mindfulness in the body. Today we're going to talk somewhat about mindfulness of thought or how to tame the the mind. The Padisittana Sutta is not just about sitting meditation, it's about how we live our lives, walking, sitting, standing, and how we move out into daily activity. We like all of this activity is created by our thinking. I think sometimes we have the idea that when we sit enough meditation, we stop having thoughts At least we stop having thoughts that are so troublesome.


And in our meditation, we don't have them at all. In fact, it's not what happens. Thoughts only stop when we stop living, because that's just what our minds do. They make thoughts. And so, how do we work with them? Freud, who was the pioneer of the subliminal and the unconscious, was asked if he was bothered by his lustful thoughts. And he said, no, I enjoy them. I think that's the other side of our thinking, is that we are who we are and our thoughts will arise. So what do we do with them? How do we live them out in a way that's authentic? St. Augustine said that the two characteristics, the two qualities that were needed to live an awakened life were great faith and persistent temptation. That comes in the form of our thinking, the thought being that which cultivates our actions and is the manifestation of our life and relationship to each other.


And coming a little bit closer to home in our meditation practice, the Vipassana teacher Jack Hornfield said, the mind will do almost anything and has no pride. I think it's also that it has no shame. Buddha was a great psychologist and he had studied the workings of the mind very carefully. Some of how that understanding is manifest is expressed in one of the Buddhist psychologies called the Yogacara. I'm not going to say too much about it, but there's one point that's important. In the Yogacara there are eight or nine levels of consciousness. The seventh level is our egoistic form. It's what makes Andrea, Andrea with the particular characteristics and karmic tendencies that this person has. The eighth level consciousness is called the storehouse or the cosmic consciousness and it's made up of myriad numbers of bijas or seeds.


I think of them as potentialities. And those potentialities, some of which we all share in common, some of which we're born with, some of which get generated in our lifetime, they can either be watered and come to manifest fruition in this form, or they can be not watered and they dry up and have less and less of a tendency to manifest. When these unwholesome seeds are watered by the poisons, the three basic mind states that are part of our suffering, greed, hate and delusion, then unwholesome seeds manifest and they're manifest within our activity. Those activities are unwholesome activities or obstructions to wholesome activity are the five hindrances. The more you study Theravadan Buddhism, the more you see that there are lists and lists of different factors. The five hindrances are greed, hate, or aversion, and then three forms of delusion, stupor, worry and anxiety, or personal doubt, not great doubt, but personal doubt.


The hindrances blind oneself to one's true intentions, and yet we must see our intentions in order to overcome them. To do that, we depend on cultivating the five controlling factors. Those are great faith, the conviction that our happiness, or at least that the relief of our suffering is dependent upon our actions, that is, on our own karma, our own intentional action, and faith that our life is not limited by our usual small ideas of our life. By energy or exertion, That willingness to abandon hindrances as soon as they come up, those difficult mind states or ideas that are so alluring as Freud's lustful thoughts are. Or wisdom or discernment. Concentration, which is the ability to focus and stay with whatever is difficult, to not be pushed off one's seat no matter what arises.


And mindfulness, to see the hindrances as they arise. to clearly see its root and its extinction. I think they're called the controlling factors because in their cultivation we learn to refrain from. The task of refrain is the direct, proper attention to those aspects of our activity that are essential. That is another side of mindfulness. So what is most essential? It's that which is most intimate, what's most authentic. This is where our hearts lie. It's where our heart-mind lies. It's what brought us to practice and it is an intimate knowledge of that which is the ground of our faith. So we cultivate their awareness of the rising in the body and the passing away of sensations in the body. The same for feelings, thoughts, and mind forms. But you ask,


What do I do about those incessant visitors? What do I do about that continual habit that tends to arise? It's kind of like the music we hear on the elevator that we walk out and it plays in our mind all day long. We can't get rid of it. Or maybe it's like cheers that's playing on some television stations, some cable stations somewhere in the world at any point in time is always on. Whatever our top ten are, our top ten favorites that get pushed whenever we're in certain circumstances, how do we work with those? Sometimes it's more like a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach or a tension in the throat or the shoulders when the incessant visitors keep coming though. They're asking for more attention. And so the Buddha had an instruction about what to do. The Vittakaya Sangdhana Sutra is one of the suttas that's in the collection of the Majjhama Nikaya, which is one of the Pali Canon collections.


It's translated as stilling troubling thoughts or the removal of distracting thoughts. In studying it, I like I actually find more resonance with the clarification or mastery over obstructing thoughts. So we don't remove thoughts, they still arise. And we don't still them because there's a kind of vital activity. But we see through them directly. So the Buddha gave this particular teaching to his monks. So it was a monastic teaching. And it was meant to use from time to time or whenever necessary. And by that, it's meant this is an instruction to use when the mind is particularly active or particularly troublesome. As time goes on, you're often more settled and you don't need to rely on these particular instructions to be of help. But when you do, it's nice to know them.


So the first of the five instructions, just to say briefly, are to replace unskillful thoughts with skillful ones, to consider the unskillful side or the unwholesome side of a recurring or an obstructing thought, to completely turn one's attention away from it, to go down to the root core of it, or to sit still, clench one's teeth and bear one's full effort at turning the thought over. Let's talk about each of them. The first two might be seen as kind of preliminary practices, a concentration practice to help focus on one quality of a mind object instead of all of that which has one in its grips. Traditionally, the replacing unskillful thoughts with skillful ones, I think of as like changing the channel.


So when your top 10 is playing, can you change to something new that you haven't listened to before? Buddha called this, gave the example of changing a coarse peg that was in a piece of wood or furniture, holding it together with a fine, good fitting piece of wood instead. Traditionally, some practices are taught, for example, when there's a hateful mind state that's arising, if it's towards a particular person, instead to offer loving kindness to that person. Or if it's an aversion to a particular object or situation, it's to break it down to its component parts and just see its particular elements. If it's a strong feeling of desire or greed, it's to see the foulness or the negative side, that person that you think is so perfect actually has terrible smelling farts, for example, something like that.


Or if it's another kind of object, to see its impermanence. If it's delusion, the recommendations are to live with a teacher, a skilled teacher whose behavior you can model. or to study the Dharma, inquiring into the meaning of causes. Some time ago, probably any of us who've sat long retreats have had some example of spending the entire retreat with some kind of recurring theme, maybe the flavor, kind of pizza with extra spinach and cheese that you're going to get when the retreat's finally over. To give you an example of working with the mind in this way, there was one retreat that I sat in which a long-term kind of off again on again lover had fallen very seriously in love with someone and so I spent the whole retreat with my mind kind of lost in one of my usual constructs about abandonment and loneliness and I was having a particularly miserable time and decided that I would sit down the next period of meditation and offer sympathetic joy which is to


extend happiness to my friend and his partner. And what I found was over time, it was actually an easy meditation for me to do because this is someone I had enormous goodwill for basically. And that over the course of the meditation and the rest of the retreat that I had great joy and great happiness. which has sustained to a feeling of sincere happiness for their happiness. So it's important to see that working with the mind in this way is not about repressing your feelings. It's actually about going beyond your feelings. It's about going to the non-dual side of your feelings so that it wasn't about being happy for another person. It actually was that their happiness was my happiness and my happiness was their happiness. And that's the kind of transformation that can come with working with a mind state in this way.


The second of the recommendations or instructions from the Buddha are to contemplate on the drawbacks of the unskillful thought until one feels repulsed by them. Abe Lincoln said that his guidance in life and Abe Lincoln was a man of great spiritual character. said his guidance was that when I do wrong, I feel bad, and when I do good, I feel good. That simple. So in Buddhist psychology, shame is one of the wholesome qualities. It's a long list of unwholesome qualities. There's a short list of wholesome qualities, and one of them is shame. I think this is what Abe Lincoln is talking about. that when you do bad you actually don't feel very good and that helps you get back in touch with what's important with you. Buddha's particular instruction about this in this sutta is to imagine as with a vain person who decks themselves off in their wonderful robes and silken gowns and jewelry to actually imagine instead a draped carcass


or something in a state of decay around them, how repulsive that is. And you see that how beauty or sense of vanity is quite limited depending upon what you put on yourself. I think there's something about the precepts in this as a grounding. to see what's wholesome and what's unwholesome in activity. I also think that it's a refined sense of what cause and effect is. So when you really understand how behavior, how a thought arises and its root causes, then it loses some of its stickiness. And I give you another example. time ago I had a relationship with someone in one of my workplaces who had done something that was quite hurtful to me and I didn't feel very good about this person and when I would see her at social events many people would flock around and they would relate to her like she was really a wonderful person and I would sit and I would


really be very angry inside, like, don't you really know who that person is? And it didn't feel very good to have that kind of an attitude. So I looked again. And first I saw, you know, rather with like the first instruction, I saw the good qualities and why people were drawn to her. And then I really saw how ugly I felt, how really uncomfortable I felt, the sense of vengefulness and negativity that I had. And that helped me drop it. It also helped me turn my attention away and just move on to the next thing. That is the third instruction that the Buddha gives, which is not attaching, that is looking away. It's grounded, that means that in order to do that, one has to have a fair amount of concentration, energy, and discipline to turn away.


It's like being able to pull your dog off the beginning of a fight with another animal when it's about to get into it. You just have to pull in a persistent way and say, no, over here. In its coarsest understanding, this admonition really is about needing to wait until the right time. putting something aside, not taking on that which is too hot, but to mindfully choose something else. But to do it in such a way that you're aware of sensation in the body with that feeling of anger, attraction, whatever it is, so that it doesn't leak out into your next activity. In a more refined sense, it's really about loosening the thinking around the object. This takes a certain kind of steadiness that's mindfulness and concentration. It's always good to ground it out of breath, like in perhaps you've had the experience of sitting in Sashin where you've had a really painful part of your body and you don't want to move all the time.


And so paying really close attention and breathing into, breathing with sometimes in those most painful Sashin moments I can remember it was just enough to be with breath and allow breath to be my grounding. It's also helpful to shift from the general to the more specific qualities of whatever is going on. So sometimes attention to the sensation in the body will allow a difficult thought to dissolve entirely, poof, and all of a sudden you're free. Sometimes it comes by opening up the field of awareness to stop tracing it. Uchiyama Aroshi, when he's talking about what the experience of Zazen is, he gives a very nice clear example. When the idea of flower arises in your thinking mind, it's just flower. As soon as it becomes flower is beautiful, you're off on a story.


And then it's the beautiful red roses. that you like because your father always gave you, but maybe your boyfriend never gave them to you instead. He really was kind of mature. Why didn't he give me something nice for my birthday last year? Before you know it, you're off on a long tangent. Opening the field of awareness is not to let your mind trace out, but it's just to see what comes up with one instance at a time. Suzuki Roshi calls this giving your mind a bigger pasture. So when your mind is caught up in the small things in a particular mind state, turning your attention out to the open pasture allows you to breathe with more freedom. It's important to be wary that letting go or looking away is not aversion. So you're not avoiding something unless you're intentionally saying this is too hot for me to touch right now.


But you're really just taking your attention to something else. To just let it be. This is a kind of action of faith. A faith in our small life is a part of a larger life. It's very important this point about the non-duality of our thinking. Suzuki Roshi talks about jumping off the hundred foot pole and he says it, describes it as this, evil desire is just another name for Buddha nature. When we practice Zazen, where would evil desire come from? In Zazen, there is no place for evil desires. Why is that? You want to eliminate your evil desires in order to reveal your Buddha nature, but where would you throw them away? Evil desires is just a name we use, but there is no such thing that we can separate out and throw away. So what arises in the mind is just what arises in the mind.


It's nothing more than that. So what do we do? We just let the next thing appear. The fourth of Buddha's recommendations are to trace the thought to its root. I think here we're really getting into the heart of the matter. For those things that are most difficult, to actually be willing to sit with it and see where does this come from? What is this really about? He describes it, the Buddha describes it also as relaxing thought fabrication. Opening it at the center to be able to trace themes to the source. It's about having a pliant and soft mind, one that's curious and open and not judging, but persistent, that's dogged, that's diligent, that stays on track. When there's incessant visitors, they're wanting something more. They're asking, what else is there here?


What else is there? What am I missing? And in that willingness to really be present and show up completely, there's a possibility that even the most angry, raging mind state, one that you're ashamed of, that's so out of control, that you're able to be with it enough to see down through to its very core, to see where it comes from. And in that willingness to go to the core, you find a place of connection with everything. and that allows it to transform itself. Faith comes from here. We see our lives and the effects of our actions and thoughts. We see that we are an agent of effect and we can take responsibility for our lives in a way that's the opposite of burden. Uchiyama Roshi talks about not letting life be fogged over by thought based on desire or cravings, but to see all thoughts and desires resting on the foundation of life.


So this is the activity. I think the attitude is the fifth of the Buddha's admonitions in this sutta. And I want to read it to you because I find it so provocative. If evil, unskillful thoughts imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought fabrication with regards to these thoughts, than with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain and crush his mind with awareness. This has both the side of ultimate energy and diligence and whoa, I thought this practice was about not too much of the wrong kind of effort. Doesn't it sound that way? This is trying too hard. And I came here to stop trying too hard, I think. What is that about this? Now, when I first heard this, the image that came to mind, do you remember Lord of the Rings?


And that scene where Gandalf and those that are about to return the ring are running across this great crevasse filled with fire, being chased by Balrog, who's a kind of big, big demon with ugly eyes and fire coming out of his mouth, and they're crossing across the bridge of Khazad-Dum, which is this very narrow, kind of crumbling bridge. And everyone gets across except Gandalf, and he turns around at the very end of the bridge, and he stands to face down the monster and says, Thou shall not pass. At which point the monster roars again and Gandalf stands body open and says, thou shall not pass. At which point the bridge collapses and they engage Gandalf and the monster in this archetypal battle in which they come plummet down this great fiery crevasse, tumbling and fighting and you don't know who's going to win.


And they continue on and on and on through five minutes of film clip, actually. And the uncut version is on YouTube. And all of a sudden, it seems like Gandalf is lost. They appear on this mountaintop filled with snow. somehow has one last breath of life and takes on Balrog and finishes him off. And Gandalf the Gray is reborn as Gandalf the White and reappears to return to the end of the Return of the Ring. The most radical aspects of this practice is not to locate the problems outside of ourselves, but to look inside. Jack Kornfield calls this opening the full awareness of feelings and entering through to the center.


Sense what's being asked for and give it acceptance, give it space, neither struggling with it nor pushing it away. This is actually the radical battle. What's the resistance, fear, aversion, judgment, fear? We're biological organisms and self-preservation is an underlying motive, so I think fear is very often at the root of all of these feelings. We look everywhere but inside ourselves. This is called ignorance or ignoring the reality of what is. I think maybe because it's too difficult to bear But when we have enough concentration, mindfulness, and apply wisdom and energy, we can bear the reality of our lives. We can actually transform them. Like Buddha sitting on the night of his enlightenment, touching the earth, tongue at the roof of his mouth with full determination, he let go of everything and was enlightened.


So the sutta ends, this bhikshu or monk is the master of the courses of thought. He will think whatever thought he wishes to think, and he will not think any thought he does not wish to think. So I'd like to end there, and I have two questions myself. One is for Hozon Sensei, who's leading our aspects of practice, to see if he has anything that he would like to add to the talk today. Not at the moment, I'm just sort of musing on it, taking it in. This matter of crushing your thoughts, I think that stays with me, and how we do that seems to be a critical matter. The word crush has a certain baggage, so how do we do that in this


I guess that's the question. So I think that's really about, crushing means, I think it means crushing the tendency to move away from that which is most difficult and move towards it, to soften to it, to open to it. So it's paradoxical. It's the opposite. You have to actually soften and open, but you have to go through something quite difficult. The resistance to do that is quite difficult, and that's what I think the crushing is about, or the fierce determination is about. So maybe it's like crushing an orange to get the juice. Very nice. So, Jinroshi, is there anything that you'd like to add? Well, you know, when we first begin to do Zazen, we think that we have to resist the pain.


So, we clench our fists, we put the tongue at the palate of our mouth, and we tense all our muscles and go... You see, pain always wins. So, after you do this for a while, you realize the only way to deal with it is to open yourself up, which is kind of intuitive. Instead of resisting, you embrace, so to speak, or allow what's there to be and disappear. So, I think it's the reverse, actually, of the way it's stated, where that big effort is necessary at the beginning, and then that turns into effortlessness. Thank you. I think we're just about out of time actually, but Peter has his hand kind of persistently up. The key word for me in that instruction was to crush with awareness, which is what's crushing this thought is complete openness.


Thank you. Thank you. Any other questions will be over tea and cookies, I think. Thank you.