Collection of Source Materials for the Various Courses of Dharma Study undertaken by Members of the West Wight Sangha.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Winter Retreat 2014

Guided Meditations

11 Min Standing Meditation by Ajahn Sucitto



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Guided Meditation, Nature Of Mind by Steve Armstrong



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Alan Watts - The Self Illusion

The “primary consciousness,” the basic mind which knows reality rather than ideas about it, does not know the future. It lives completely in the present, and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment. The ingenious brain, however, looks at that part of present experience called memory, and by studying it is able to make predictions. These predictions are, relatively, so accurate and reliable (e.g., “everyone will die”) that the future assumes a high degree of reality — so high that the present loses its value.

But the future is still not here, and cannot become a part of experienced reality until it is present. Since what we know of the future is made up of purely abstract and logical elements — inferences, guesses, deductions — it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise enjoyed. To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you chase it, the faster it runs ahead. This is why all the affairs of civilization are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more. Happiness, then, will consist, not of solid and substantial realities, but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances.

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We don’t actually realize that there is no security, Watts asserts, until we confront the myth of fixed selfhood and recognize that the solid “I” doesn’t exist — something modern psychology has termed “the self illusion”. And yet that is incredibly hard to do, for in the very act of this realization there is a realizing self. Watts illustrates this paradox beautifully:

While you are watching this present experience, are you aware of someone watching it? Can you find, in addition to the experience itself, an experiencer? Can you, at the same time, read this sentence and think about yourself reading it? You will find that, to think about yourself reading it, you must for a brief second stop reading. The first experience is reading. The second experience is the thought, “I am reading.” Can you find any thinker, who is thinking the thought, I am reading?” In other words, when present experience is the thought, “I am reading,” can you think about yourself thinking this thought?

Once again, you must stop thinking just, “I am reading.” You pass to a third experience, which is the thought, “I am thinking that I am reading.” Do not let the rapidity with which these thoughts can change deceive you into the feeling that you think them all at once.

[…]

In each present experience you were only aware of that experience. You were never aware of being aware. You were never able to separate the thinker from the thought, the knower from the known. All you ever found was a new thought, a new experience.

What makes us unable to live with pure awareness, Watts points out, is the ball and chain of our memory and our warped relationship with time:

The notion of a separate thinker, of an “I” distinct from the experience, comes from memory and from the rapidity with which thought changes. It is like whirling a burning stick to give the illusion of a continuous circle of fire. If you imagine that memory is a direct knowledge of the past rather than a present experience, you get the illusion of knowing the past and the present at the same time. This suggests that there is something in you distinct from both the past and the present experiences. You reason, “I know this present experience, and it is different from that past experience. If I can compare the two, and notice that experience has changed, I must be something constant and apart.”

But, as a matter of fact, you cannot compare this present experience with a past experience. You can only compare it with a memory of the past, which is a part of the present experience. When you see clearly that memory is a form of present experience, it will be obvious that trying to separate yourself from this experience is as impossible as trying to make your teeth bite themselves.

[…]

To understand this is to realize that life is entirely momentary, that there is neither permanence nor security, and that there is no “I” which can be protected.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Four Noble Truths, Re-examined

We have just started a new round of Dharma studies, having a fresh look at the Four Noble Truths. We have been taking a wider view of the First Noble Truth by looking at Dukkha of birth in terms of becoming. The following two audio pieces were used for this study. The first is a reading from Ted Hughes' poem based on his translation of the Bardo Thodol or Tibetan Book of the Dead.



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The second is The Conceit Of Self by Marcia Rose.



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For the Second Noble Truth we are concentrating on dependent origination. The following are a series of talks on this by Rodney Smith.

The the first talk in the series is entitled "Causality".



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Second Talk: Co-Dependent Arising



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Co-Dependent Arising 2



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Monday, 25 February 2013

The Four Noble Truths by the Dalai Lama

We have just started to re-examine the Four Noble Truths and I have found these two talks by the Dalai Lama as a primer, they are rather long.




Monday, 16 July 2012

Mindfulness by Rodney Smith

Fundamentals of the Dharma; Mindfulness by Rodney Smith

Mindfulness is the ability to generate attention toward oneself or an outside object. It is a step toward more conscious living. But mindfulness is coming from our exertion of will, that is, we are making ourselves mindful. When we relax our efforts, mindfulness goes away. As long as we are in control we will continue to believe in the truth of separation and will not see the end of the assumption-of-self. This is the spiritual fix we are in, either we let go of mindfulness into effortless awareness, or we stay bound to the person who is making herself conscious and thereby limit freedom.



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Mindfulness Meditation as a Buddhist Practice

- by Gil Fronsdal, February 2006
While mindfulness can be practiced quite well without Buddhism, Buddhism cannot be practiced without mindfulness. In its Buddhist context, mindfulness meditation has three overarching purposes: knowing the mind; training the mind; and freeing the mind.


Knowing the Mind



It is easy to spend an hour, a day, or even a lifetime so caught up with thoughts, concerns, and activities as to preclude understanding deeply what makes us operate the way we do. People can easily be clueless as to what motivates them, the nature of their reactions and feelings, and even, at times, what they are thinking about. The first step in mindfulness practice is to notice and take stock of who we are. What is going on in the body, in the mind, in our emotional life? What underlying dispositions are operating?

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Five Eyes of Buddhism

Here are the notes relating to our latest Mindfulness Exercise, "Loving Eyes".

THE FIVE EYES

Five Eyes
1) heavenly eye, 2) flesh-eye, 3) Dharma-eye, 4) wisdom-eye, 5) Buddha-eye.

Those five non-corporeal 'eyes' are possessed by Buddhas and other enlightened beings. They can also begin to function to varying degrees in people who are not enlightened but are cultivating or who have cultivated in past lives.

Friday, 30 September 2011

New "Study Tool"

I have just added a link to "THE BUDDHA AND HIS DHAMMA", by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar onto our "Study Tools" section. This is taken from Columbia University's South Asia study resources compiled by Prof. Frances Pritchett.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011