Reviewing The Three Characteristics Of Dukkha

This talk is the first of three talks regarding the fundamental nature of personal experience: anicca, dukkha and anatta.  The focus her is on three sub-categories of dukkha: Dukkha Dukkha (The distress associated with inhabiting a body), Sankhara Dukkha (The distress and confusion that comes from how the mind interprets experience) and Viparinama Dukkha (The distress and confusion that occurs as the result of circumstances changing beyond one’s control).  The review also addresses the causes of dukkha–craving and clinging–as well as ways to use mindfulness of breathing to decrease reactivity to the craving associated with dukkha and detachment regarding the internal “selfing story” of clinging,  There is an accompanying “Guided Dukkha Contemplation” posted the same day in the archives.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Buddhist Three Characteristics Part 1

The next topic for review will be the characteristics of anicca, the transient nature of subjective experience.


Working With Craving February 5 2020

This is the first of two talks on the primary causes of Dukkha, tanha (craving) and upadana (clinging).  Tanha is typically translated as thirst, an unquenchable desire, either for pleasant feeling to persist or for unpleasant feeling to be eliminated.  Peter talked about craving in the context of addiction, derived from his training as a Certified Addictions Professional, using neurological research results to describe how craving operates in the brain.  This was followed by description of how the regular practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation alters the structure of the brain to reduce the urgency of craving, regardless as to whether it is involved in an addictive process or simply applies to everyday emotional reactivity to environmentally stressful circumstances.  This explanation was followed by lively and extensive discussion among the participants regarding this topic.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  WORKING WITH CRAVING

Next week’s topical focus will involve upadana, the tendency of the mind to become attached to a particular thought or belief in maladaptive ways.


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.


The Nature Of Craving

During this talk, Peter reviewed the classic Buddhist concepts of craving and clinging in the context of the Second Noble Truth.  Special emphasis was placed on the insights of modern neuropsychological research that relates Buddhist notions of craving to the experience of addictive craving.  The three aspects of spiritual progress were reviewed as well: craving and clinging are to be understood conceptually, brought directly into mindful awareness, and noting and renouncing craving and clinging is to be mastered.  Next week, Peter will continue to explore the nature of the Second Noble Truth as regards clinging.

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Third Night: How The Self Is Formed, Deformed And Reformed

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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