Reviewing the Third Noble Truth

This talk continues a review of the Four Noble Truths, with a focus on how the mind is liberated from dukkha through dissolving the potency of craving and clinging, the topic of the Second Noble Truth.  Various views relevant to the Third Noble Truth are described, such as sunnata, translated as emptiness, and anatta, the absence of an enduring/autonomous self, which is another way to understand sunnata.  Different approaches to the experience of Nibbana, the Unconditioned, are reviewed, either through cultivating highly developed levels of concentration called jhanas, or through what is called “dry vipassana”, insight into the nature of craving and clinging and either liberating the mind momentarily, through letting go, or ultimately, through realizing Nibbana.  The traditional Theravada understanding that four levels of experiencing Nibbana are required for total liberation is also reviewed.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Reviewing the Third Noble Truth

Next week’s talk will begin a step-by-step review of the Fourth Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.


Dukkha As A Confused Mind August 7 2019

This talk is focused on the second of the two causes of dukkha which is clinging, upadana in Pali; last week’s posting of July 31 was focused on the other cause of  dukkha, craving, tanha in Pali.  Peter described ego as a dynamic process of the brain during which sorting through and prioritizing various sensory stimuli in the creation creates a “self”, emphasizing that this process is affected by “confirmation bias”, a psychological process which overrides new considerations, emphasizing already organized memories in self-state identifications.  This is clinging, and it inevitably creates a more or less confusing conflict between what the mind creates from memory and what actually happens.  He used the example of a personality organized around prior conditioning towards perfectionism that is adversely affected when a failure occurs, generalizing a mistake into “I am a stupid failure!”.

A Buddhist concept called sunnata (soon-yah-tah) was described, traditionally translated as emptiness, which misrepresents the term as similar to the space between stars.  It is better understood as, for example,  the absence of any determining description regarding sound before being interpreted by the mind’s confirmation bias.  Referring to a concept that Daniel Siegel terms the “plane of possibility”, the progression of self-forming process was related to as being clearly investigated and understood through the cultivation of mindfulness of breathing, which allows insight into more creative and flexibly adaptive self-state organizing processes to alleviate the conflicted personality confusion of dukkha.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Dukkha As Mental Confusion

Next week’s talk will focus on clinical anxiety as a pschological example of dukkha, suggesting ways that mindfulness practices can bring relief to this mental disorder.  Peter, who has a 35 year background in psychotherapy, will focus on how mindfulness has been clinically effective in resolving this condition, which is reaching epidemic proportions in current American culture.


Opening To Stillness

During this talk, Peter described his intentions for his upcoming annual two-week self-retreat, organized around applying the concept and practices derived from reading (multiple times) “Stepping Out Of Self Deception-The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching Of No-Self” and “Awakening-A Paradigm Shift Of The  Heart”, by Rodney Smith.  The books develop a concept of two relationships to the universe, the horizontal (time-bound, afflicted by craving and clinging) and the vertical (timeless, limitless, unbound by craving and clinging).  The vertical dimension is the eternal Now, the only moment of reality that is not inherently affected by craving and clinging, and can be realized through awareness of “stillness”, a quality of attention undisturbed by narrative, experienced holistically as “suchness”, an awareness described by and manifested by the Buddha.  Peter’s intention is to cultivate samadhi/passadhi (stable attention/tranquility) including full sensational awareness of body sensations, sound, light, etc. and abide in that flow to investigate and understand the experience of stillness.  This was followed by comments from those attending the meeting.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:OPENING TO STILLNESS

Here is the handout provided for those attending, illustrating an excerpt from the Numerical Discourses, Udana 8.1, and an adapted graphic illustrating the horizontal and vertical concepts from the book “Stepping Out Of Self Deception-The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching Of No-Self”:  Opening To Stillness handout

The next posted talk will not be available until early January as a result of Peter’s retreat, during which there will be no dharma talks.  It is hoped that all reading this posting will enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!



Emptiness And Fullness

This talk is a continuation from the posting of September 6 entitled “The Five Aggregates And Emptiness”.  This discussion elaborates on a guided meditation, posted separately, that facilitates how to use body sweep meditation to cultivate a primary, holistic awareness of body sensations to “starve” the selfing process of attention and opening to the awareness of sunnata (shoon-yah-tah) during meditation practice.  The intention of this practice is to reveal the essential “emptiness” of the internal narrative that constitutes the primary misperception of an enduring and autonomous “self” and realize the fullness of whole body awareness.  As this awareness is perfected, all subjectively derived boundaries are diminished between embodied experience and the all-encompassing nature of sensory reality, including sounds, odors, flavors as well as body sensations, leaving and all-inclusive, universal experience that is stable and serene.  This awareness, when sufficiently cultivated, creates the circumstances the facilitate realizing nirvana, unconditioned reality.

Here are the notes prepared for this discussion:   Emptiness And Fullness

The guided meditation entitled “Emptiness And Fullness Meditation” will be posted separately.


The Five Aggregates And Emptiness

The concept of emptiness (sunnata in Pali) is a core aspect of the Buddhist Awakening process.  This is the first of two discussions of emptiness, with the focus on how the operation of the Five Aggregates, Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations and Consciousness creates the false belief in a separate, enduring and autonomous self.  Each of the aggregates is described, with the emphasis on how craving and clinging affect mental formations and consciousness, creating what the Buddha called “The tyranny of I, Me and Mine”.  The ability to use mindful investigation with the underpinning of understanding the operation of the Five Aggregates to see through the illusory self was explained.  Emptiness is the creativity that is available when a person deconstructs the process of craving and clinging.

This was followed by a lengthy and lively discussion of the evening’s topic.

Here are the notes prepared for this discussion:  Emptiness And The Five Aggregates

Next week’s discussion will be organized around exploring how deepening one’s meditation practice provides a different way to recognize the reality of emptiness and benefits that can be realized from consistent daily meditation.