The Buddhist First Noble Truth, the reality of dukkha, was described in contemporary terms. The traditional translation of dukkha is “suffering”; modern commentators prefer words such as “stress”, “insufficiency”, and “dissatisfaction”, among others, to describe current cultural experience. Peter talked of the increasingly stressful characteristic of modern cultures, with the imposed stressors of consumerism and media indoctrination, and the impact stress has on the human body/mind process. This was related to the Five Hindrances, with emphasis on the hindrance of restlessness/worry.
The ways and means that Buddhism provides relief from contemporary stress was described, followed by lively discussion of what this means to those attending the meeting.
Here are the notes prepared for this presentation: STRESS AND THE DHAMMA The notes provide data on the prevalence and impact on contemporary society as a result of stress, derived from the National Institute for Mental Health, a governmental organization.
Next week’s topic will address the issues associated with anxiety, from a Buddhist perspective as well as various levels of clinical anxiety disorders.
Peter participated in a one week retreat led by Steve Armstrong, a well-respected Buddhist teacher. During the retreat, he contracted a chest cold, having to spend most of the retreat and one week at home in bed recuperating. During this talk, he reviewed his experience of the three forms of Dukkha: that caused by physical circumstance, that caused by impermanence, and that caused by the conditioned response of the mind to the first two. The intention of the talk and ensuing dialogue was to foster concrete understanding of how Buddhist teachings and practice can be beneficially applied while ill, not with the intention to “fix” the illness, but to understand at a deeper level the body/mind experience of dukkha. Despite the physical misery, there was a quiet acceptance and equanimity about the disease process that consistent mindfulness of breathing provides us.
During this talk, Peter briefly reviewed the cultivation of samadhi/passadhi (concentration/tranquility) in the first three tetrads of the Anapanasati Sutta, then read a translation of the fourth tetrad, which is focuses on vipassana. The four characteristics to be investigated during the breathing in and out cycle are impermanence, dispassion, cessation and renunciation. The primary focus of discussion was on impermanence, which is more usefully termed inconstancy. This was associated with dukkha, dissatisfaction. This explanation was followed by a discussion of how different folks at the meeting experience inconstancy and the benefits of this investigation on the path of Awakening.
Next week’s talk will revisit the fourth tetrad, with more emphasis on the cultivation of viraga, dispassion.
During this talk, Peter described satta visuddhi, the stages of awakening developed to provide “markers” of spiritual attainment after the time of the historical Buddha. Beginning with fulfilling the precepts and setting aside the effects of the hindrances, the cultivation of the seven factors of awakening and vipassana reveals the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self at deeper and deeper levels of awareness. The realization of these different stages develops gradually and progressively, eventually leading to the experience of nibbana (nirvana).
Peter began a dialogue that is expected to last several months on the Four Noble Truths as we understand them in the context of 21st century neuroscience and psychology. He described the First Noble Truth as stress, and how stress manifests in our mind/body process. He emphasized that the Truths are to first be understood conceptually, then practiced, and finally mastered. The experience of stress is to be observed, not avoided, as it’s experienced in the body and the mind.
Continuing the discussion of Right Livelihood as manifesting in a culture much more complex than what the Buddha knew, this dialogue focuses on how relationship dynamics relate to the three characteristics the Buddha emphasized, that is, impermanence, dissatisfaction and interdependence. Modern research regarding attachment security and how levels of anxious arousal degrade a couple’s ability […]
This talk continues an integration of the Four Noble Truths and the cultural stresses that we face in the 21st century. Quotes from the Suttas were related to modern issues of consumerism and interpersonal alienation, with references to some of the comments of David Loy, a critic of modern culture from a Buddhist perspective. Participants […]