This is the second of three Dharma talks focusing on the Three Characteristics of Buddhism: Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta. The previous talk was on April 28 and focused on Dukkha, and this one focuses on Anicca, typically translated as impermanence. During the talk transitory nature of objective experience was reviewed as well as several approaches to developing direct awareness of this experience while practicing mindfulness meditation in various ways.
This contemplation focuses on cultivating awareness of anicca (ah-nee-chah), the transitory and unstable characteristic of subjective experience. Everything in the universe is in flux–even mountains are impermanent, as evidenced by the Appalachian mountains, which are believed to once have been as tall as the Himalayas! However, our immediate personal experience is always changing, even when we want it to be stable. This Buddhist meditation focuses on the ephemeral, ever-changing nature of the mind and the constituent elements that are reflected in consciousness. During this meditation, you are invited to consider the various suggestions for practice as a “sampler” of various ways to contemplate anicca, the goal of which is to deconstruct the misconception that there is an enduring and autonomous self. See if your attention becomes sufficiently unburdened by craving and clinging to the various thoughts and emotions that arise and pass away during the meditation so that the occurrence of a thought is seen as a fleeting construct, less seemingly self-defining and controlling of behavior. In future meditations, consider applying one of the suggestions persistently to soak further into the process of transition that is always occurring.
This is the first of three talks exploring tilakkhana, the three basic characteristics of our subjective world, Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta. Tonight’s focus is on Anicca, the impermanent and transitory nature of reality. Impermanence occurs in two ways: externally, through the naturally transitory functions of organic and inorganic processes and internally, through one’s ongoing subjective […]
It is customary during the Wednesday night meeting after a significant retreat experience to allow participants to “think out loud” about what gains in understanding and living the Dharma might result from that retreat. This talk reflects the two-week year-end self-retreat Peter sat through recently. The title and topic are extraordinary because of the death of Peter and Paula’s beloved dog Jhana, whose health was declining before the retreat. Many reading this have spent time with her over the 12 years of her life; this may be how you learn of her death from cancer. Peter resided for over 1/2 the retreat in the cottage in the back yard as usual, but became painfully aware of how close to the end Jhana was on December 25, so he moved the retreat back into the home and contemplated the Three Characteristics, anicca, dukkha and anatta regarding the strongly felt distress, that is, craving and clinging to the loss. The intention was to have an immersive exposure to Jhana as an object of attachment and carefully investigate Namarupa (the mind related to form) and the law of cause and effect (karma), that is, how craving and clinging are caused and then overcome through vipassana practice. The retreat ended as scheduled on the 28th, and she died peacefully on the 29th.
The following essay describes the unfolding of the retreat in a more narrative way, and how that process relates to the death of the family dog as an opportunity to realize more about the Four Noble Truths in “real time”, not the abstractions that might occur otherwise in that contemplation.
During this talk, A Buddhist understanding of anatta, the absence of an enduring, autonomous self was described. The Western term “ego” was presented as a process that winnows through all the sensations stimulating the 5 sense doors, creating a dynamic flow of experience that, through inattentiveness and ignorance, is misperceived as something substantial, a separate self. This was related to the Buddhist concept of the Five Aggregates: form (physical sensation), feeling, perception, fabrication and consciousness. Due to the Buddhist understanding of anicca, impermanence
Peter then described the current perspective of “the narrative self”, that is, the primary importance of the internal narrative that is self-creating in the context of relating to others in the world of subjective experience. This description was followed by a lively discussion by those attending of the implications of this approach to life.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk, including a diagram describing the Five Aggregates: MINDFUL SELFING
Next week’s talk will be focused on “deconstructing and reconstructing the self”, to describe how mindfulness practices promote self-state liberation from distress and confusion.