During this talk, Peter continues the discussion begun in the last meeting on the Second Noble Truth. Again it was emphasized that there are three levels of approach to the Four Noble Truths: to be understood conceptually, to be noted upon emerging into awareness, and for the first two to be mastered. This talk explored the concepts associated with clinging, particularly from a neuropsychological perspective. The value of this approach is to demonstrate the impersonality of the various neural networks involved as initial sensory input is processed through association to prior experience. This is another way to look at the Buddhist concept of karma and the resultant effects, known as vipaka.During the next talk Peter will present in a few weeks, we will discuss the Third Noble Truth as a progression from personality integration (the mastery of virtue) to spiritual attainment (the mastery of wisdom).
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During this rather extensive Dhamma talk, Peter reviewed the concept of paticca sammupada, usually translated as dependent origination. He explained why he prefers to name the process “contingent provisional emergence”. This concept is key to the Buddhist understanding of karma, the law of cause and effect. The formation of a momentary self-state, it’s fulfillment as a moment of “selfing” in awareness, then the dissolution of that composite of conditioning factors was described in depth. Emphasis was placed on how important mindfulness of sense inputs is for the practice, and the critical emphasis placed on understanding the emerging self-state as provisional and the value of dispensing with unwholesome states as soon as possible. This furthers the process of personality integration, which is followed by nurturing wholesome states to fruition. The concepts of craving and clinging were described, with tanha, unquenchable thirst for craving and upadana, fuel or nutriment, for clinging. Peter described the “glue” of craving and clinging as raga, passion, heat or fire. The antidote for raga is viraga, dispassion, or the absence of fueling the fire. This was followed by a lively discussion of this process and it’s implications for alleviating distress.
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In this talk, the neurological underpinnings of the Second Noble Truth, tanha (craving) and upadana (clinging) were explored to emphasize the importance of being clearly and immediately aware of the felt sense of urgency and the “enchantment” of internal narrative experience. This clarity is crucial for setting the conditions for the realization of the Third Noble Truth, through the action of the Noble Eightfold Path. In this as well as future discussions, the relevance to current cultural and economic crises is established, with an encouragement to find a “Middle Way” between consumerism and ideological purity and material denial and skeptical withdrawal from society. How can we as a spiritual community support each other in finding this Middle Way?