flying away

POSTCARD#500: Bangkok: Three years have passed since we were last on this Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight, the marker in time is COVID-19. Hard to believe it’s been three years. These days, the passing of time is all of a oneness… I’m ‘flying away’ in a manner of speaking, as the mind wanders where it will. Grateful for the mindful collectedness to ‘know’ the mind has gone adrift and bring it back to where it’s at. We landed in Chiang Mai and made our way to the apartment, stepping back into the quietude of mountains and trees all around.

An easefulness, this is how it was on the flight today, maybe it was that airborne feeling, but as soon as I close my eyes, I stop thinking, and there’s just nothing there. Awareness of the cold air on my head coming from the air vent above – that specific feeling. Otherwise, no thinking, no input, nothing. There’s a huge empty space where my thinking used to be… it leads me to consider that this is why the world exists; the desire to be thinking – but then I realise I’m thinking again.

I spend most of the time thinking about how to see it, how to get there, but not actually “seeing it” or “getting there.” How to get out of this conundrum? You have to be an accomplished meditator to do that, and there are only a few in this world, I have to find them and observe and see how it’s done. One Buddhist monk we can follow is Ajahn Brahm and I want to bring you into his world in the examination of this wonderful Pali word which means: ‘one-pointedness’ (ekaggatā)… he is talking about the first jhāna:

“One-pointedness is mindfulness that is sharply focused on a minute area of existence. It is one-pointed in space because it sees only the point-source of bliss. It is one-pointed in time because it perceives only the present moment, so exclusively and precisely that all notion of time completely disappears. And it is one-pointed in phenomena because it knows only one object – the mental object of pīti-sukha (joy happiness), and is totally oblivious to the world of the five senses and one’s physical body.

Such one-pointedness in space produces the peculiar experience, only found in jhāna, of non-dual consciousness, where one is fully aware but only of one thing, and from one angle, for timeless periods. Consciousness is so focused on the one thing that the faculty of comprehension is suspended a while. Only after the one-pointedness is dissipated, and one has emerged from the jhāna, will one be able to recognize these features of the first jhāna and comprehend them all.

The one-pointedness in time produces the extraordinary stability of the first jhāna (Note the Wobble), allowing it to last effortlessly for such a long period of time. The concept of time relies on measuring intervals from past to present or present to future of from past to future. When all that is perceived within the first jhāna is the precise moment of now, then there is no room for measuring time. All intervals have closed. It is replaced with timelessness unmoving.

One-pointedness of phenomena produces the exceptional occurrence of bliss upon bliss, unchanging throughout the duration of the jhāna. Mystic traditions more recent than Buddhism have been so overwhelmed by the pure otherworldliness of the first jhāna, they have understood the experience as ‘union with God.’ (April 29, 2022) However, the first jhāna is the first level of supramundane bliss and there are another seven levels of jhāna to experience.” [Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, Ajahn Brahm]

Following up on the Eckhart and Zen discussion recently, I came across another Buddhist monk who can bridge the gap between Christian and Buddhist Mystics:

“Just because Buddhism rejects a discussion of a personified Godhead, does not mean there are not many parallels that can be drawn to mystics in the various theistic religions.  Since theists tend to describe their God in terms of an infinite dimension, then I believe it is reasonable to acknowledge that the nonmaterial absorptions (arupa-jhanas) are fundamentally the experience of the union (yoga) with the infinite God/Jehovah/Brahma.” [Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)]

There’s more to be said on this subject and I’ll continue to research the parallels between the theists and the atheists. In doing so we will perhaps move away from the way the dhammafootsteps blog has been going since 2012 (Note: This is the 500th post), and mark the new decade with a new format. What I’m planning to do is reblog or reprint texts from related sources and write a short analysis here and there, similar to recent posts on Meister Eckhart. Let’s see, what I’m saying dear readers, is I cannot continue blogging the way I’ve been doing these last ten years. My eyesight is not good enough; macular degeneration in the right eye.

The condition alters what I see around the centre of vision; horizontal lines appear to have a ‘bend’ in the middle, it means lines of text are distorted and I can’t read the words unless I close my right eye and look through my left eye. Also, these small black spots like mosquitos moving over the page take the place of random punctuation marks. Treatment started in June 2022 and is ‘ongoing.’

You can imagine then; it takes a very long time to write a post and I depend on the spell checker app to tell me when I have the spacing between words all wrong. I’m dependent also on the automated suggestions app for rewriting sentences that don’t make sense in their present form. With the help of these aids, and my keen interest in the subject, I expect to be propelled into finding the texts to re-blog, re-publish… and re-new!

Let other people do the talking and I shall take a back seat for a while. Remember, your comments and dialogue are the actual Postcards from the Present Moment. Merry Christmas to One and All

Tiramit, 23 December 2022

13 thoughts on “flying away

    • Thanks Ellen, and ‘challenging’ is the word. Do I have the necessary wherewithal? Minimalism, “less is more,” and things will be as they were, only more specific.
      Tidings of Comfort and Joy to enter your world!

      • Thanks for this! Good to know it helps others learn as well. Happy holidays from Thailand, a Buddhist country and Christmas Day is just an ordinary day

      • You know the sad part is I have a few close friends who are Thai and I have no idea what any of them are. You’d figure in a country with all the cultures we’d have knowledge of them but we don’t. 😂😭

      • It has to do with the fact that Thailand was never colonised by any European power so, on a certain level, cultural behaviour/ thought is remote from today’s world (except maybe Japan). Sometimes doesn’t seem to fit in with Western culture… I dunno it’s a mystery.

      • Makes sense. It’s just America literally had people from all over. The monk who first taught me how to meditate is named Anjat. Come to think of it, most of the monks there are Thai which is funny because the Temple services the Vietnamese community in the area. We have access to cultures from all over the globe online too though. I don’t know. You gave me a new thing to learn about and I’m a nerd so I started reading about the holidays and culture over there.

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