truthfulness, the seventh parami

POSTCARD#414: Bangkok: This pāramī highlights the capacity to be truthful, a quality that can be understood in two ways: truthfulness, as an aspect of morality and truthfulness as it refers to perception, the ability to see or know things in an undistorted way. To free the mind from distortion, tunnel vision or blind spots takes more than a moral sense. For this we need to examine the nature of our thoughts, attitudes and biases through introspection and meditation.

When we can find a stable abiding place in awareness, we begin to feel the pressure our preferences and expectations create – and how to get free of that. We can witness moods, feelings and impulses changing. That is their truth; and that is the truth of all conditions. We are not in their grip. They’re not me, not mine, not self. They arise and pass in awareness, and are what they are. We can act upon them or let them pass, with a clear understanding of consequences. So through being filled with the truth of awareness, one acts in terms of truthful behaviour. This full truthfulness, its brightness and peace, is what is meant by terms like ‘realization,’ ‘seeing things as they are,’ and ‘Awakening.’

Clear Awareness is Deep Honesty

Truthfulness as behaviour, and truthfulness as understanding and realization, are related. But so are dishonesty and confusion. We may find ourselves being dishonest simply because it’s more convenient that way, unaware of how our words and deeds affect others. So we adopt assumptions, in line with our preceding assumptions. Even if the assumptions are not based on truth, it seems as if they will fend off results that we fear. But what if there’s nothing to fear and you find that being straightforward and truthful gives you a quiet strength; and, that most people will respect and sympathize with your honesty?

As long as we don’t use truth, we let ignorance make us insecure and fearful. But there is the realization that the agent of events, of virtue and vice, is intention (or impulse) and perception, not self. And we can be aware of and investigate the feel of attraction, repulsion, defensiveness, and see they’re not fundamental states – they’re not self; they are as they are, and there’s no one behind them to defend or approve of.

So the real issue is not one of being affected, but of proliferating tendencies and assumptions of fear, irritation, lust or guilt; latent tendencies in how the programmed mind forms our experience. That voice in the brain or that surge in the heart is so familiar and habitual that it may seem like the real me. But what is it that witnesses it? Which is the ‘real me,’ the thought or the watchfulness? Maybe neither. No thought or mind state is there all the time, so how can any of them be a permanent aspect or possession? And if none of these can be possessed or under one’s control, what kind of possessor or controller lives in our mind? In truth, there’s not some self in charge of all this; nor do we seem to be able to be apart from this changing show. It all arises dependent on causes and conditions.

(continued next week 09 April 2021)

patience the sixth perfection part 3

POSTCARD#413: Bangkok: Join Ajahn Sucitto as he walks us through the various mind states arising from the application of Patience, the Sixth Perfection. Cultivating Patience “Encourages us to see that the unskilful or grasping energies the mind adopts can be borne with and released. And because we can let go of these impulses, we know there is an awareness that can come through the heat and pressure.”

The full text I have summarized here can be obtained from Amaravati Publications as a free download in PDF, Epub, or Mobi – a little over 200 pages. Also a print version can be sent to your address, also free of charge. Click on the link to get through to the book page: Pāramī Ways to Cross Life’s Floods

Building Patience Around One Point

At the core of our suffering is the place where we don’t want emotional pain. Our resistance leads to doubt and the feeling that we are useless. The mind creates either a self who is the victim or a self who is to blame. We blame others, we blame ourselves – we search for scapegoats to carry the pain. All this is caused by the mind resisting that painful feeling. And in this process, the mind loses the strength and clarity that would enable it to bear with and even let go of the feeling.

On the other hand, if we can find a place at the source of our suffering, where we can work and assemble our skills around this pain (rather than trying to find a way away from it), we can sense that the feeling has no intention; it has no aim to hurt us, it’s just doing what feeling does. Feeling feels. It’s not self; it has no aim, and belongs to no one. Why not let it go and keep the heart free from it? If we do that, even if the physical feeling remains, the mind can be serene. That which is painful, embarrassing or tedious can be used as a tool to purify and strengthen the mind.

To be patient one has to apply energy, the Fifth Perfection (viriya) – it’s not a passive response. Patience requires a courageous and full-hearted willingness to experience one’s mind and its reflexes. Resolve (adhitthāna) the Eighth Perfection strengthens the support structure – we need to be held by commitments. But as you may have noticed, things start out being attractive, interesting or inspiring, but eventually the wish will arise to change direction and get out of that commitment. But if you bear through the tides of feeling to get to a deeper source of wisdom, you begin to cross over your world.

When we cultivate patience within the floods, it encourages us to see that the unskilful or grasping energies, the desires that the mind adopts, can be borne with and released. And because we can let go of these impulses, we know that they aren’t the mind in and of itself; we know that there is an awareness that can come through the heat and pressure. But this realization depends on the patient fortitude to keep holding the mind steady so that it doesn’t adopt craving or aversion, fear or despair as a true thing. Which, even after a degree of realization, it will do. More patience! The reality of Dhamma practice is that, as much as we would like to be pure and free, we have to learn to develop patience with our attachments and passions, and our views and opinions about them. Then out of the crucible of these pāramī, deep compassion flows, and the mind broadens and opens so that its wisdom can penetrate.

Recognizing Patience Teachers

Living with other people, in families, relationships and communities, can be an occasion for developing patience. This is certainly the case in monastic communities: you’ve left your own space and following a discipline that operates independent of your wishes and moods; sometimes you’re in a foreign country, and living with people whose personalities you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to live with.

During the yearly summer retreat period in the monastery, which we call the Rains Retreat, it’s customary for the samanas (monastics) to take on resolutions. One year, I decided to not allow my mind to complain about anyone or anything. So with this resolution, I had to develop patience: patience with what my mind could do noticing all kinds of inner struggles. ‘You can’t complain!’ said the voice of resolution in my mind. So instead I had to watch the irritation.

Just putting up with it didn’t really take me across the floods. I could put up with things and become a patronizing old grump who puts up with things. But instead, as the practice of patience deepened, it took me to that point in the mind where I could feel the chafing, the tension, the disappointment – and the wanting to get away from it. At that point, where there was no excuse and no alternative, there was also no condemnation. After all, no one likes suffering. And we’re all in this together – wanting peace and harmony, but disappointing and irritating each other nonetheless.

And from there, my mind began to open into love and compassion for all of us. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is – and we have to support each other. I could realize, ‘There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re my patience teachers; they’re helping me to cross over the flood by getting me to jettison my demands, impatience and narrow-mindedness.’

(continued next week 02 April 2021)