Everfresh in the Changing

Month: February 2016 Page 2 of 3

To Come

As a practice which sharpens my appreciation for being alive, and – more importantly – reminds me to be mindfulness, so that my life’s purpose can be fulfilled, recollection of death is very powerful. It sharpens one’s resolve to be mindful day and night.

If I see a person either actually dead, or even fictionally represented in the movies or on television, I say, “This body, too, is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.”

Or, if you want to take up the recollection of death, simply remind yourself upon waking: “This body is of a nature to die, it is not exempt from that fate. Today may be my last day. May I live it fully, and look on others with eyes of compassion.”

The Nikāya Buddha places a big premium on freeing awareness from contracted and contracting structures – of expanding awareness to the extent of infinite space – so that, from there, the subtlety of interdependence can be appreciated. To this end, mindfulness has to be sharp.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I will explore the quote that began this blog:
Death is not the end of Being; it may the end of some sort of being. Being remains unaffected by death; only that which is fictitious, sham, is continuously dying.
– Herbert Guenther, in Longchenpa’s Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Vol. 1

Having just arrived home late at night form a weekend’s work in Sydney, this is probably not the right time. It will mean asking what the Nikaya Buddha could mean by:

“Name has conquered everything,
There is nothing greater than name,
All have gone under the sway
Of this one thing called name.”

– Translated by Nanananda. From his Nibbana – The Mind Stilled


“Beings are conscious of what can be named,
They are established on the nameable,
By not comprehending the nameable things,
They come under the yoke of death.”

– Translatred by Nanananda, Nibbana – The Mind Stilled.

And, what kind of freedom could it be, that they are speaking of, here:

“If, Ānanda, consciousness were not to find a footing, or get established in, name-and-form, would there be an arising or origin of birth, decay, death and suffering in the future?” “No indeed, Lord.”
-Translated by Nanananda, Nibbana – The Mind Stilled

Mindfulness Transcends Death

My approach to the subject of the Nikāyas is mostly: “What is of benefit, here, in respect of human understanding of the big questions?” For me, the big questions have been: the matter of identity, the meaning of life, and of the awakening of full human potential. Are we really this “busy monster, manunkind”? (e.e.cummings)

The development of positive human qualities has been my concern for forty-five years – not always nurtured skilfully, I admit. A broad Buddhayana (a path which includes almost all schools) is my way, but the Nikāya texts are my main interest.

As I have developed since a young man, I’ve come to understand what a dramatic part fear of death plays in human life – largely unconsciously. It has been there for me since I was a small child, but now I see what a prominent role it plays in all human life. So, I took up the way of the mindfulness of death, because death is a part of life. This acceptance probably began as a haiku writer when I was twenty.

oh, snail –
after rain,
life is short!

Then, when this blog began. last year – in part, as a way to keep myself on track with awareness of death – my focus shifted from a more Tibetan-influenced approach to death and dying, to an enquiry as to how dying and the preparation for it was treated by Nikāya Buddha. Of course, mindfulness (resting in the nature of the openness of mind) continued to be present, but now I asked myself, “What is the Nikāya Buddha’s focus, when he speaks of dying?”

And, I think we have two answers, each according to the development of the people to whom he was speaking. If people were ready for it, or asking for it, he went straight to the core matter – nibbāna. Otherwise, he advised them to develop in virtue, because that will give them an opportune rebirth.

I am interested in the first motivation, because that is, to me, the real deal, for a planet in such peril.

The Nikāya Buddha primarily ties relating to death to developing mindfulness. To be mindful, to live wakefully, is to be free from death. Mindfulness culminates in knowing what he called ‘the deathless element.’

Awareness is the place of the deathless;
Unawareness is the place of death.
The aware do not die;
The unaware are as though dead already.

Dhammapada, verse 21. Translated by Valerie Roebuck.

This takes a fierce commitment. In the Anguttara Nikaya there are two suttas together, each called the Mindfulness of Death Sutta (Maranassatisutta 1 and 2), which reflect the spirit of this fierceness. In the first one, the Nikāya Buddha
powerfully says:
“(W)hoever develops mindfulness of death, thinking, ‘O, that I might live for the interval that it takes to swallow having chewed up one morsel of food… for the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in, or to breathe in after breathing out, that I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions. I would have accomplished a great deal’ — they are said to dwell heedfully. They develop mindfulness of death acutely for the sake of ending the effluents.” (Thanissaro).

For the interval that it takes to breathe out after breathing in“: the requisite attention is that finely attuned. Awareness can be present in the most infinitesimal gap. (The gap between the breaths is a powerful, still point.) “That I might attend to the Blessed One’s instructions” is code for: the practice aimed at realisation of the unborn, the un-ailing, the undying, the deathless.

If I can be awake in the world as it is, I would have accomplished a great deal in this life. If I can develop mindfulness in each breathing instant, I am dwelling in the world with heed for what matters. When a person fully awakens in the Nikāyas there is usually a line which says, “And she (or he) had done what had to be done.” A life fulfilled.

In the other Anguttara Nikāya Mindfulness of Death sutta he says:
“Further, there is the case where a monk, as night departs and day returns, reflects: ‘Many are the [possible] causes of my death. A snake might bite me, a scorpion might sting me, a centipede might bite me. That would be how my death would come about. That would be an obstruction for me. Stumbling, I might fall; my food, digested, might trouble me; my bile might be provoked, my phlegm… piercing wind forces [in the body] might be provoked. That would be how my death would come about. That would be an obstruction for me.’” (Thanissaro)

In this sutta, the he suggests that a practitioner should have a single-mindedness about liberation: “Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head, in the same way the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness…

Mindfulness (supported by the other six qualities of the awakening mind – joy, grounded enquiry, perseverance, calm, contemplative presence, and equanimity) makes it possible to feel and accept our greatest fear: voidness.

If we meet voidness in developed mindfulness, confidence follows; confidence in groundlessness, because we don’t interpret voidness, conceive of it, or project onto it. We experience it directly, and when the mist of ignorance falls dissolves, this very voidness is the source of all true values.

parting from, everything that is dear and pleasing

A few people have been surprised that the blog will die soon. There’s no special reason for this, except that my year is running out. Using the conceit that has shaped the writing for these months: I’m going to die in several days’ time. This writing is an example of the perspective that all conditioned processes exhaust themselves.

My blogging has been for a shorter time than my practice year, that’s true. My practice year began in February 2015.; while, the blog began when I was already some way into the practice.

So, I found myself recently with the choice of honouring either the practice year, or the writing year. I didn’t feel it was faithful to the spirt of the practice, to postpone my death for the blog. So, there it is. I suppose that like a life, a blog can be cut short.

As soon as I decided to be faithful to the practice year, not the blog year, I felt a sadness; and, I imagined that my few regular readers would feel something like that. It’s a poignant thing, isn’t it? This certainty that we part from all who are (and all that is) dear to us?

To me, no matter how much I accept the reality of trusting the no-thingness aspect of reality – that which is beyond karma – even so, I trust the karmic reality of cause and effect. It is best to respect contingency:

The Five Remembrances – Translated by Christopher J. Ash:
1. I am subject to old age. I am not exempt from old age.
2. I am subject to illness. I am not exempt from illness.
3. I am subject to death. I am not exempt from death.
4. There is alteration in, and parting from, everything that is dear and pleasing to me.
5. I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions. They are my matrix, I am related through them, they are my mediator. I become the heir of whatever actions I do, good or bad.

I’ve been travelling today, and I’m settling into Sydney for a weekend’s enquiries. So, I’ll go to sleep now, and leave it at this. Thank you, all. Back to the Nikāyas tomorrow.

Conversation Time


If you’d like to join in some conversation about the topics in this blog, or ask some questions, before it closes in a few weeks time, then you can sign up at the forum especially created for this purpose. Here’s how (and please take the time to read this closely. I’ve written it with beginners in mind, so it should make sense. Read it again in a week or so, because it’s got everything you need in it.):

1. Go to: community.cloudrefuge.org

2. Click ‘Register,’ and you’ll get a page to create an account. Choose an easy short username to your liking, and provide your mailing address. (This will only be accessible by myself, Christopher, on the admin side of things.)

3. In response to your registration, you’ll get the sign-in page. You can’t sign yet, though, until you check your email, and retrieve a unique, secure password.

4. Find your email in your mailing address’ inbox. If it’s not there within a couple of minutes, you better check your junk mail.

The email has the user name which you chose; and there will be a password assigned by the forum software. Please save it.

(It’s better not to delete your email, unless you have saved the password. I won’t have access to your password, at all. Though, if you do lose it, there is the ‘Lost Pass’ button on the community.cloudrefuge.org page.)

5. Now you can use these to sign in. Once in, look around. You’ve got three main areas:

A) From the drop-down menu (where it says “G’day”) at the top-right corner, you can change your password after you’ve signed in, if you like. Open the drop down menu, and choose ‘Edit My Profile.’

B) In the middle of the page you’ll see where you can enter the forum.

C: You probably won’t need the Dashboard.

6. When you’re ready, open the link in the middle of the page, which says: Private: Practicing ‘A Year to Live’

7. You can then create a topic; or if there are some topics already posted, you can open the link and write a response.

Create a new topic for each new sharing or question, etc. Or continue with an already-created topic, if you have more to add to it.

A Time for Review

I am winding down. In the previous year’s practice of A Year to Live, I co-ordinated my practice with Joyce’s Year to Live group, which finished in February 2015. I began my next year’s practice just a little after that date, at the end of February. However her group then decided to have a little break, and begin again in April.
So, I’ll be ‘dying’ in ten days time – the evening of 28 February – whereas, they will outlive me. What does that mean? I”ll go to sleep on the night of the 28th, doing a particular meditation practice, and treating my entry into sleep as though it were my last moment of waking consciousness on this planet. (Later today, I”ll start working on a translation of the practice, which is from the Nikāyas.)
I started this ‘dying’ year blog thinking that I would probably wouldn’t exactly follow Stephen’s book, because it’s all there in the book, and Joyce would cover that in her group. (May the Stephen elements in the universe be at rest.) I thought that, instead, I would probably write about the kinds of conventional ‘death and dying’ practices that I had practiced for most years of (approximately) the last twenty. These kind of (Tibetan) practices have as their focus the task of ensuring that one is “ready,” as it is often said, ready to “exit this life – “to get our lives in order” psychically and materially. Because death can arrive at any time, that’s an important thing, obviously. Someone who has done that well lives vibrantly, unencumbered.
However, very quickly, it seemed to me, that if this were indeed my last year, I’d want to look more deeply into the matter of death itself – in life, and at the ‘last.’ I’d like to be acquainted with death, not because I’m going to exit at some later time, but because I want to know what death is, in this ‘now.’ Maybe we don’t understand what the word ‘death’ refers to, and all our ‘preparations’ might be unnecessary social constructions? It occurred to me, as I got into the practice, this time last year, that I hadn’t ever – in all these years of death and dying practice – I hadn’t practiced A Year to Live with only the historical Buddha’s approach. What was it? And, so it was that this year of looking at ‘what is death’ from the Nikayas point of view came about. I’m so glad that I took this route. And, now I have ten days to complete the task (presuming that I do actually live that long.)
I’m going to open up a forum, so that if anyone would like to comment, question, or engage in dialogue for the next ten days, you are welcome. I’ll send instructions in the next day or so. (After I figure out how to work it.) Maybe these posts have made you think about how ‘death’ is in your living? Maybe it has made you touch the losses that are inevitable in life. Maybe it has helped you live more vibrantly by cherishing your daily evanescent and precious moments. Maybe you’re more realistic or more frightened? Maybe you’d like to share that with others. You’re welcome.

Trusting Nothing

The one for whom there is nothing in front, behind, and in the middle;
the ungrasping one, without anything: that one I call a subtle person.

Dhammapada, verse 421. Translated by Christopher J. Ash.

Through his contemplative way the Nikāya Buddha shows a gentle method for us to build trust in the very thing of which we are most afraid: cessation of the ‘me’ – a method of calm and insight.

Trust (confidence) is the quality that results from staying right there openly, courageously, awake for the fact that all egoistic experience is marked by transience, non-self, and dukkha. And, there is one remarkable perception which we have when we stay there, which we finally get to trust: that of ‘nothingness.’ Trusting the empty quality of ‘This’ bring the confidence of a lion.

In the Sutta-Nipāta: The Master told Upasiva:
“Use these two things to help you cross the ocean [of dukkha]: the perception of Nothingness and the awareness that ‘there is nothing’.”
The Sutta Nipāta, verse 1070. Translated by Saddhatissa.

Let’s explore nothing, firstly from the point of view of our fear of a mind become silent, still and ungraspable. Think of it: Isn’t a large part of your self-talk about ‘my’ this, and ‘my’ that. My friends, my child, my partner, my job, my body, my thoughts. So, a silent mind – despite our yearning for peace – is an insult to our brain’s default mode.

Yet, in meditation, the traditional third level of formless meditation is exactly that of ‘nothingness.’ And, this naturally unfolds into the unity of no perception and perception – empty perception. To be free from placing trust in perception is totally peaceful.

‘When a man is free’, said the Buddha, ‘from all sense pleasures and depends on nothingness he is free in the supreme freedom from perception. He will stay there and not return again.’
The Sutta Nipāta, verse 1072. Translated by Bhikkhu Saddhatissa.

The thinking mind has the habit of naming, and grasping forms. When an untrained person encounters the open, ungraspable, and boundless dimension of the mind, then thought conceives this as a threat to its ‘world.’ Thought errs, in thinking that it needs a mental ‘something,’ or an innermost ‘someone,’ who is to do the reflecting, the naming, the perceiving, and so on. So, it grabs hold of the reflective process – simply a movement of thought – as ‘me.’

I’ll say it again: It seizes upon itself as the something that one is, most essentially. It cannot tell the difference between its image and the process. (Remember Beatrice couldn’t tell the difference, for a moment, between her image and the other person.) By naming the centre, a ‘me’ is born. It projects a face into the void nature of the mind. Just as Narcissus missed the pure clarity of the pool which had been touch by no creature, and he fell in love, instead, with his image on the surface.

If thought could see the process simply as movement, and not belonging to anyone, it could not project a ‘me’ into the openness of mind.

A goddess warns the sage Parmenides (5th century BCE) that a void cannot exist in nature. She said this to warn him against nihilism. When the thinking mind reaches the end of its habitual domain, its natural field – that is, reaches the inconceivable – it fears what it imagines is beyond. It fears the kind of ‘nothing’ which it projects onto that which remains. But the non-conceptual knowing which has no boundaries is not a nihilistic ‘nothing’; yet, neither is it a ‘something.’

I knew a man in my childhood, who used to irrationally say that when he died, he’d just go to the big sleep. No heaven, no god, no hell. Just a sleep. Notice that he was conceiving a ‘something’ – a state called ‘the big sleep’ – because the non-subtle thinking mind (the undeveloped mind) can’t grasp that there can be a non-conceptual quality to being here; neither ‘thing’ nor ‘no-thing.’ When the mind doesn’t not create something, that of which you remain aware is not another ‘something’ – like a place called nirvana, or heaven.
These and all ‘things’ are fashioned by thought.

We have to become accustomed to this – not falling into a nihilist interpretation; and yet, not making the mind in its silent stillness into a something. (That is the ‘metaphysical’ move that Heidegger named.)

The Nikāya Buddha has a genius for the gentle method of mindful enquiry. The Nikāya Buddha trains people to look into the mind and see the no-thing level of its presence. He has a process view of how we create something out of nothing, and so cause a great concatenation of suffering as a result. (See the wheel of ‘Interdependent Co-Arising’ in the last post, for some hints of the processes he sees working in all this self- and world-making.)

“There is an island, an island which you cannot go beyond. It is a place of nothingness, a place of non-possession and of non-attachment. It is the total end of death and decay, and this is why I call it Nibbāna [the extinguished, the cool].
“There are people who, in mindfulness, have realized this and are completely cooled here and now. They do not become slaves working for Māra, for Death; they cannot fall into his power.”
– The Sutta Nipāta, Verses 1094-1095. Translated by Saddhatissa

Interdependent Arising of False Sense of Self

I proposed a scenario, to help us see how this mass of suffering – from feeling ill-at-ease, to being mentally afflicted, and on to violence toward self and others, and between nations – how all this mass of suffering arises.

(Of course, I’m not talking about mental problems arising primarily from organic causes. If someone has a motor accident which destroys a part of their brain, resulting in outbursts of violence, we don’t have to look for a model based in psychic causes, do we? Some aspects of that illness might respond to this understanding, but in general, it’s not these cases we are talking about, here.)

Beatrice is out riding, and she thinks she sees a friend on the trail coming in the other direction. But, it’s someone who it is impossible for her to be encountering. The friend died last year, from a horse spill.

In the initial moment she reacts as though she has had a valid recognition, and some old patterns of behaviour begin to arise – delight at seeing her friend arises. It’s as though there was a fusion of a familiar image with the perception of the unknown rider coming the other way, meaning she couldn’t tell the two apart.

The early Buddhist texts, the Nikāyas, suggest that something similar is happening in you and I, every day. The quality of our awareness is compromised by an entrenched error of perception, an error which confirms a distortion as ‘me’; as ‘who I am.’ Putting it simply, we are functioning as if we truly have an ‘I’ at our centre. It is a spanner in the works, but we have, as a species, become habituated to it. We have built philosophies, psychologies, and religions around this structure of the human thought. And, we seem to avoid questioning its claims to centrality. Why? Because we have come to believe we are that. To question it would be to undermine our sense of ‘identity.’

How does the Nikāya Buddha break the spell which the egoic centre has on a person? By the cultivation of intelligence and independent enquiry, introducing direct insight into the human ‘I’-making system. Basically he teaches people to study how their minds create the impression of a separate mind, and their limited identity. The practitioners in the Nikāyas learn to recognise processes such as those detailed in our diagram (see the new version, below).


The Readiness is All

Christopher: “So, Beatrice, is riding, and – not being the master of her psyche at that moment – mistakes a stranger for her dead friend. I wanted to point to two aspects of the process. Firstly, her mindfulness may not be strong, in the first instant. It is easily overpowered by an unconscious desire to have her friend in her life, again. That being so, she sees what ‘a part of her’ wants to see.

“This ‘parts’ language has, in modern times, been differentiated highly, but it is not entirely new. The ancient Greek plays were a form of subpersonality work; and there are these verses from Talaputa Thera, presumably from the time of the historical Buddha. They are in the Kuddhaka Nikāya (KN 19. 1. verse 1094). He is talking to his own mind, as though it was a separate personality:

“17. I was begged by you, over long years: “Enough of this living in a household.” [Thus] I went forth into the mendicant’s life. What [then] is the reason, mind, that you don’t urge me [to practice?]

“18. Indeed, mind, didn’t you promise me [saying]: “On Giribbaja’s peaks the colourful birds greeting the thunder (the sound of the great god Indra) will bring you joy when meditating in the forest.”

“19. I have given up my dear ones, my family, and my friends, [abandoned] playing and loving, and worldly sensuality – all that I have given up to come at last to this. [But] even now you are not satisfied with me.

“20. You are mine, mind, and possessed by no-one but me; why then complain when the time has come for total effort? Seeing all as transient, I renounce all this, longing for, and desiring [Nibbāna], the Undying.
Translated by Christopher J. Ash

“The fierce determination which he shows in verse 20 indicates that he is not going to be bossed around anymore, by his mind. His courage to stand alone draws on an inspiration deeper than the fickle mind.

“The beauty in this, for me, is where Talaputa says, “You are mine, mind.” At this point he is so much in the present that he exceeds any subpersonality, and the sum of them. He is the one who self-possessed; that is, the whole person. It’s not another sub-personality, but something which is not an object. He had begun the poem with:

“Verse 1. Oh, when will I live alone on mountain slopes, undivided by desire. [Literally: without a second.] When will it come about, my wish to see clearly how everything is transient?

“At this stage of his practice, committed to the Deathless, he reminds me very much of Case 10 of the Wu-Men Kuan:

“A monk said to Ts’ao-shan, “I am Ch’ing-shui, solitary and destitute. Please give me alms.”
Ts’ao-shan said, “Venerable Shui!”
Ch’ing-shui said, “Yes, sir!”
Ts’ao-shan said, “You have already drunk three cups of the finest wine in China, and still you say that you have not moistened your lips.”
From Robert Aitken, The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan.

“Master Ts’ao-shan, no doubt, appreciates Ch’ing-shui’s gumption. He’s willing to stand alone committed to the Undying, the Unborn; though at this point in his journey, he confesses the fallow of the field. He doesn’t seem to see that his question, Ts’ao-shan’s call, and his clear and strong response are all the finest wine. Nevertheless, he gives himself to the exchange whole-heartedly, just as Talaputa does in his verse 20. The dedication certainly is the whole deal. This way the season of fallow is fulfilled.

“Beatrice’s practice is mature, if she stays for the delusion-making psyche, willing to be immeasurably more than it.”

Kent: “It takes a lot of courage and strength to be alone in mind.”

Ceasing Fabricating

Kent: “But, I’m still no clearer. If all these processes are involved in the arising of narcissism and selfishness, how will it ever be stopped?”

Christopher: Here’s a scenario. Beatrice is out riding, and she thinks he sees a friend on the trail coming in the other direction. But, it’s someone who it is impossible for her to be encountering. Let’s imagine that the friend died last year, from a horse spill.

“In the initial moment she reacts as though she has had a valid recognition, and some old patterns of behaviour begin to arise – delight, for example. But, then her body has the incongruity, doesn’t it – the difference between her perception and her implicit knowledge.

“We say: ‘She does a double-take.’ That is, (based on her implicit knowledge) she re-cognises that something is not right. ‘No, wait!” something silently says. As a result of looking again, she recognises that her initial recognition was not reliable.

“Maybe she marvels at the likeness; but, she sees more clearly, now. “How could I have done that,” she wonders. It’s as though there was a fusion of a familiar image with the perception of the unknown rider coming the other way. At that point, she couldn’t tell the two apart.”

K: “Okay. I think I get it. You’re suggesting that there’s some analogy in this; and, it has to do with how the trance of habitual perception works.”

C: “Yes. But I also think our example will help us see the way out, if we articulate it in the terms of the processes of birth and death.”

K: “Oh. She got born as…?”

C: “Beatrice has a clear misperception of reality, such that she really felt that her friend was there, and she even began to react as though she was.”

K: “So, in that moment she’s born as a false Beatrice; she’s relating to something that is not there. She’s not relating to herself correctly, then.”

C: “Yes. Let’s start there, then. Yes. Looking back at our chart of the processes of ‘co-emergent appearing’ (normally called ‘dependent arising’), this is process #1: ignorance, or lack of true knowledge. The Buddhist transformation is about correctly knowing what is; transforming ignorance.

“In ignorance, she’s seeing her friend. That’s what she actually ‘sees’ in that first phase. Obviously, you can’t stop the process there, because you have to first realise there is something wrong. Which means dukkha will have to become obvious.”

K: “But, because everything continues to move and change, then her incarnation (as one seeing her friend), so to speak, must come to an end in the face of it’s not being a reliable experience. That birth as a person happy to see her friend triggers the death of the one she’s become, given that it’s not her friend.”

C: “Yes. Process 12, decay – or old age – and death (jarāmaraṇa). Keep going. Anything else you see?”

K: “But that isn’t the end of it, usually, is it.”

C: “It can be. For a meditator that can be an important point. For an advanced meditator it can be quite freeing. Because the gap that is there at the moment of the dissolution, that can be recognised if you’re subtle-minded. And, the gap, where nothing is created, that can be freedom, instantly.

“But, normally, it’s less complete. And, the process can go two ways: a whole next birth is set in motion. She can be born as a mouthpiece for her inner critic, for example. “What an idiot! Of course it’s not her. You dolt!”

K: “Ouch!”

C: “Yes. But that’s one pattern that is common.”

K: “And the other pattern?”

C: “In our scenario, the way out…”

K: “Is in the double-take.”

C: “Yes. It’s in the recognition that she’s suffering (process 12). Something doesn’t feel right, right there. And, because Beatrice has learnt to be interested in dukkha (which is equivalent of decay and death), she stays right there to experience it mindfully.

“As a result, positive qualities emerge. In the Upanisa Sutta, of the Samyutta Nikāya, the transition is detailed: “dukkha has birth as its prerequisite, faith has dukkha as its prerequisite, joy has faith as its prerequisite…”, etc. (‘Faith’ here is more like our ‘conviction.’)

K: “I suppose it’s not that strange. Confidence emerges from facing our mental pain, and seeing it realistically. It reminds me of a saying I heard: ‘The way out is the way in.’ Or, was it the other way around?”

C: “Find the way into an instance of dukkha and you’ll inevitably – albeit slowly – find the way out of all dukkha. That’s good. If Beatrice is very practiced at the contemplative’s discipline, she might then take time to explore what factors (process #2) shaped her moment of trance.

“Maybe she’ll recognise that she has been pushing away the thought of her friend, lately – as too painful. This avoidance she finds conditions the misperception.”

K: “Karma.”

C: “That’s karma. And, she might, if she’s really been working consistently and persistently, ride this one instance all the way home to liberation. It may seem a small thing, but it has all the processes of trance in it.

“I think of the nun… Oh, dear. I’m out of time. I’ll tell you about her, later. Maybe tomorrow. Let me say in conclusion, Beatrice has to be able to tolerate the dissolution of who she thinks she is, and to not identify with a substitute image, to be free.”

K: “That helps. The processes in that circle, they are the creation of false identity.”

C: “Name and form – process #4. (Don’t take any notice of the ‘mind and matter’ thing, in that diagram. In the Nikāyas it’s about name and form. I’ll have to make a better diagram.)”

K: “Okay. So, the dukkha is ended by trusting the actual non-creation of identity.”

C: “Oh, yes. Which reminds me: another translation for
saddhā – the word I translated above as ‘faith’ and ‘confidence’ – is ‘trust.’ It’s trust in ‘This,’ the unfabricated; based on seeing ‘things as they as they actually is,’ as Suzuki Roshi used to say.”

“Tomorrow, I’d like to compare our everyday narcissism to the part in Beatrice’s story where she experiences a fusion of a familiar image with the perception of the unknown rider coming the other way. Where she couldn’t tell the two apart. We do this myriad times a day – fusing self-images with our own raw experiences.”

Open, Respectful, Curious, and Welcoming

“To be where you are does not mean adopting a particular spiritual posture, such as clarity and equanimity, or an open-hearted stance of compassion and love. To be where you are means just that: to be where you are. Exactly where you are—warts and all, as the saying goes. But it also means becoming aware of where that is—aware in a way that is open, respectful, curious, and welcoming.”
– A.H. Almaas. The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence

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