All posts by Thad Settle

What is Perception?

Hoeft Marsh, Greenbottom, WV

 

For the Buddha, perception is pure and simple. When the eyes see a visual object they do so without embellishment. As the Buddha explained to his monks on the Connected Discourses:

And why Bhikkhus, do you call it perception? It perceives, bhikkhus, therefore,  it is called perception. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. It perceives, bhikkhus; therefore it is called perception.

(tr.Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Gunaratana, Henepola, ( forward by Bhikkhu Bodhi.)  Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate Mindfulness. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014. Print.

 

LIke A Mirage

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Distorted perceptions are like a mirage. Deceived by a mirage, a deer runs quickly toward what it perceives as water. As he runs, he sees that the water-like mirage is still far ahead of him. So he keeps running toward it to drink. When he is even more tired and thirsty, he stops and looks back. Then he sees that he has gone past the water. When he runs back, he perceives that the water is ahead of him. So he runs back and forth until he is exhausted and falls to the ground.

Distorted perception is like that for us. Pulled by our own attachments, we are always chasing phantoms. Terrified, we run away from monsters created from our own aversions. So long as perception is distorted, we are unable to see the true nature of what is in front of us—nothing but an ever-changing collection of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts or concepts. Moreover, nothing that we perceive has a self or soul; and nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.

In essence, when perception is distorted, we perceive impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, something neither beautiful nor ugly as beautiful or ugly, or something not self as self.

From Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate, by Bhante Gunaratana © 2014 Wisdom Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

The Everyday Sublime

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The experience of the sublime exceeds our capacity for representation. The world is excessive: every blade of grass, every ray of sun, every falling leaf is excessive. None of these things can be adequately captured in concepts, images, or words. They overreach us, spilling beyond the boundaries of thought. Their sublimity brings the thinking, calculating mind to a stop, leaving one speechless, overwhelmed with either wonder or terror. Yet for the human animal who delights and revels in her place, who craves security, certainty, and consolation, the sublime is banished and forgotten. As a result, life is rendered opaque and flat. Each day is reduced to the repetition of familiar actions and events, which are blandly comforting, but devoid of an intensity we both yearn for and fear. We crave stimulation, we long for a temporary derangement of the senses, we seek opportunities to lose ourselves in rapture or intoxication. Yet once we have tasted such ecstasies, we often sink back with a sigh of relief into the dullness of routine.

To experience the everyday sublime one needs to dismantle piece by piece the perceptual conditioning that insists on seeing oneself and the world as essentially comfortable, permanent, solid, and mine. It means to embrace suffering and conflict, rather than to shy away from them, to cultivate the radical attention (yonisomanasikara) that contemplates the tragic, changing, empty, and impersonal dimensions of life, rather than succumbing to fantasies of self-glorification or self-loathing. This takes time. It is a lifelong practice.

From “The Everyday Sublime,” by Stephen Batchelor, published in After Mindfulness: New Perspectives on Psychology and Meditation, edited by Manu Bazzano © 2014 Palgrave Macmillan. Reprinted with permission.

Here is a link to a talk on Dharmaseed.org of  The Everyday Sublime by Stephen Batchelor:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/talk/17170/

New Book by Bhante G

A new book,   Meditation On Perception by Bhante Gunaratana, the abbot of the Bhavana Society in Highview, WV has recently been published by Wisdom Publications. The method of mindfulness or insight meditation as taught by Bhante G in his book Mindfulness in Plain English is the meditation method practiced at the Meditation Circle. This new book is a wonderful addition to the resources available to those who would like to deepen their meditation practice.

From the Wisdom Publications website review:

Use the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception, as taught by the best-selling author of Mindfulness in Plain English, to learn how shifting your perspective can transform mental and physical health.

Perception—one of the basic constituents of the body and mind—can be both a source of suffering and pain, as well as a source of happiness and health. The Buddhist tradition teaches that perception can be trained and ultimately purified through the practice of meditation. When we understand how perception impacts our lives, we can use it, just as we do any other object of meditation, to overcome harmful ways of thinking and acting and to develop healthy states of mind instead. In Meditation on Perception Bhante G brings us, for the first time in English, an illuminating introduction to the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception as taught in the popular Girimananda Sutta.

The ten healing practices that comprise meditation on perception make up a comprehensive system of meditation, combining aspects of both tranquility and insight meditation. Tranquility meditation is used to calm and center the mind, and insight meditation is used to understand more clearly how we ordinarily perceive ourselves and the world around us. Alternating between these two practices, meditators cultivate purified perception as explained by the Buddha. As a result of these efforts, we progress on the path that leads to freedom, once and for all, from illness, confusion, and other forms of physical and mental suffering.

Meditation on Perception gives us the keys to move beyond ordinary, superficial perception into an enlightened perspective, freed from confusion and unhappiness.

Here is also a link to related Blog posts that contain excerpts from Meditation On Perception. These links can also be found on the Wisdom Publication site,

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-1

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-2

Moral Health

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That morality is a natural feature of the natural world is an insight we all have to learn if we hope to be deeply well. The more the sense of an autonomous self is injected into any situation, the more it acts as a lightning rod for greed, hatred, and delusion, which inevitably bring suffering. The more we can get the self out of the way, the more clearly we can see the effect of our thoughts, words, and action upon ourselves and others.

 

 

—Andrew Olendzki, “Moral Health”

 

 

Your Interwoven Self

For a few moments just feel the body’s warmth and strength, its ability to hold itself upright. The vitality and aliveness that you experience in your body require various chemical and mineral substances, a continuous supply of oxygen, the energy of the sun, and the cohesion and conductivity of water. The Buddha instructs us to reflect on the body as composed of the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, so that we will see how this life is interwoven with universal processes.

Wes Nisker, “Evolution’s Body”

Read More

 

With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation.

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In addition to Bhante Henepola Gunaratana‘s excellent meditation manual Mindfulness in Plain English, which is available in print from Wisdom Publications or as a PDF file online (http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html), Thanissaro Bhikkhu has a very thorough book available free of charge on the Metta Forest Monastery website  in either PDF, epub, or mobi file.

With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation. (e-books revised Oct. 19, 2013) A new breath meditation manual by Thanissaro Bhikkhu drawing on two sources: the Buddha’s own set of instructions on how to use the breath in training the mind, and Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo’s method of breath meditation — which builds on the Buddha’s instructions, explaining in detail many of the points that the Buddha left in condensed form. A page has been added to this site with download links to all of the .mp3 dhammatalks referenced in this manual: With Each & Every Breath audio files.

The link to With Each and Every Breath is http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html#eachandeverybreath

Rethinking Karma

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Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, and produced by mind. If one speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows even as the cart’s wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, and produced by mind. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows like a shadow that never departs.

Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada

Rethinking Karma (Kamma) Tricycle Wisdom Collection. Read the entire article in the Wisdom Collection through November 12, 2013. 

Sound Meditation

 

One specific method for practicing mindfulness of body sensations is to focus your attention on sounds. Sounds, like everything else, arise and pass away. Just by listening, you can experience the insight of impermanence, an understanding the Buddha taught as crucial for the development of wisdom.

– Sylvia Boorstein, “Sound Meditation”

Read the entire article in the Wisdom Collection ofdroplet
Tricycle Daily Dharma October 28, 2013
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Read Article

Why is full awareness important?

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…Mindfulness trains us to do everything we do with full awareness.

…Why is full awareness important? As anyone who tries mindfulness practice quickly discovers, the more aware we are of our actions and of the feelings, thoughts, and perceptions that give rise to them, the more insight we have into why we are doing what we are doing. Awareness allows us to see whether our actions spring from beneficial or harmful impulses. Beneficial motivations include generosity, friendliness, compassion, and wisdom; harmful actions are caused primarily by greed, hatred, and delusion. When we are mindful of the deep roots from which our thoughts, words, and deeds grow, we have the opportunity to cultivate those that are beneficial and weed out those that are harmful.

The Buddha is very clear that the primary aim of all his teachings is the “end of suffering”. Mindfulness helps us to recognize that beneficial actions bring peace of mind and happiness to our everyday lives. …

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana  –  The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness.

 

Our Goal

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As meditators, we must all have a goal,for if we do not, and blindly follow somebody’s instructions on meditation, we will simply be groping in the dark.There must certainly be a goal for whatever we do consciously and willingly. It is not the vipassana meditator’s goal to become enlightened before other people or to have more power or make more profit than others. Meditators are not in competition with each other for mindfulness.

Our goal is to reach the perfection of all the noble and wholesome qualities latent in our subconscious mind.This goal has five elements to it : purification of mind, overcoming sorrow and lamentation, overcoming pain and grief, treading the right path leading to attainment of eternal peace, and attaining happiness by following that path. Keeping this fivefold goal in mind, we can advance with hope and confidence.”

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana- Mindfulness in Plain English