4 Foundations of mindfulness – DC Khandro Rinpoche study group – 12-7-11

facilitator: Larry Fallon

Note: There is a rough transcript of Khandro Rinpoche’s teaching on the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness referenced in these notes.

I highly suggest everyone go listen to the whole talk from August 27 at 3 PM.  Since it seems rude to edit one’s wisdom teacher, what I did was took some clips from different sections of contemplation of body, feelings, mind, and phenomena. I will play these in 4-5 minute segments.  Then we spend 3-4 minutes contemplating, and then talk about what it is like. Otherwise, it isn’t practice; it is just us running our mouths.

Being that it is Pali, not Sanskrit, it was not translated into Tibetan until fairly late. Came through other commentaries.  This being Pali – the language Buddha spoke – it’s very much how he communicated. This describes how they practiced as monastics and forest dwellers.  The Pali sutras were recited to memorize, since most people couldn’t read or write. Things are repeated like a chorus, which was necessary. None of this was written down for 500 years. It was almost like the repeating microphone from #occupydc, repeated through the centuries.

(Rinpoche starts reading)
HE Jetsün Khandro RinpocheThus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living among the Kurus, at Kammasadamma, a market town of the Kuru people. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhu thus: “Monks,” and they replied to him, “Venerable Sir.” The Blessed One spoke as follows:
This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering (dukkha) and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four corner stones of awareness. What are the four?
 
Herein (in this teaching) an aspirant lives contemplating the physical body ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; one lives contemplating phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief.

 This is how we reverse the nidanas.

The first 50 minutes of the talk was on the 12 nidanas. This explains her commentary, when she talked about how that is our minds. This how we spend moment after moment reinforcing our sense of self, because of how the 12 nidanas bring us back to our sense of self that keep us from experiencing this moment – “why wouldn’t I want to experience this moment if it is not about me?”  She set the ground – this is me, this is my trip, this is how I respond because of what YOU did, and so on. As we go into contemplations, remember we are letting go of all that. As we approach these 4 contemplations, it is with a fresh mind.

1)      Body

 “When you keep the story short, the mind is still.” – MJKR

Thus one lives contemplating the physical body internally, or one lives contemplating the physical body externally, or one lives contemplating the physical body internally and externally. One lives contemplating origination factors in the body, or one lives contemplating dissolution factors in the body, or one lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in the body. Or one’s awareness is established with the thought: “The body exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and awareness, and one lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus also, monks, an aspirant lives contemplating the physical body.

(Sit five minutes with it)

The body gives us a lot of opportunity to grab on to things of the body, like the pressure of my butt sitting, or my nostrils clogging up.  We can move into a head-to-toe scan, basically take the body apart. We can also go through the skeleton, blood, decay, and so on.  Breaking the body into the fire, water, earth and space elements is also the body.  Acharya Gaylon Ferguson did a very good book on the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness called “Natural Wakefulness.”  It is interesting to hear Khandro Rinpoche say, “Repeat it to self. If feeling a twinge in right toe, repeat to self “twinge in right toe.””

-LWD- I’ve been working with this part a lot recently: …”When the practitioner is walking, he is aware, “I am walking.” When he is standing, he is aware, “I am standing.” When he is sitting, he is aware, “I am sitting.” When he is lying down, he is aware, “I am lying down.” Whatever position the body is in, he is aware of this. (Taken from a different translation by Ticht Naht Hahn)

I find it a relief from the stream of “my back is sore because those people didn’t leave those laptops…”  This is just cutting the script to “my lower back is sore, my lower back is sore,” that clear simple statement.

Using mindfulness and awareness is setting attention to just stay with the body.  Notice when you start thinking about feelings. It is always a process of bringing it back with a gentle tone. Also “oh well, I lost my concentration.” Yet again after 30 year of meditating! (laughs)

Now we can move on to mindfulness of feelings.

2)       Feelings

Herein, monks, an aspirant when experiencing a pleasant feeling knows, “I experience a pleasant feeling”; when experiencing a painful feeling, one knows, “I experience a painful feeling”; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling,” one knows, “I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling.” When experiencing a pleasant worldly feeling, one knows, “I experience a pleasant worldly feeling”; when experiencing a pleasant spiritual feeling, one knows, “I experience a pleasant spiritual feeling”; when experiencing a painful worldly feeling, one knows, “I experience a painful worldly feeling”; when experiencing a painful spiritual feeling, one knows, “I experience a painful spiritual feeling”; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling, one knows, “I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful worldly feeling”; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling, one knows, “I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling.”
 
Thus one lives contemplating the physical feelings internally (inside the body), or one lives contemplating the physical feelings externally, or one lives contemplating the physical feelings internally and externally. One lives contemplating origination factors in feelings, or one lives contemplating dissolution factors in feelings, or one lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in feelings.[12] Or one’s awareness is established with, ” Feeling exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and awareness, and one lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, an aspirant lives contemplating the feelings.

Let feelings be vivacious, natural expression of awareness without becoming a personal experience. No added commentary. Don’t pretend to be dead.

(Sit five minutes with it)

This was harder to find. I had these gaps where I was looking for a feeling.

I wasn’t having any, so I was bringing some up.

I noticed trying to bring up feelings from earlier. I tried to feel something, and then quiet. When I try, usually it’s mostly how I reacted to a feeling versus the feeling itself.

Are you noticing and aware off the mat?

K – Buddha says “the monk in the world contemplates the body in body”, etc.  The running theme is to keep perspective and not get pulled off base. Otherwise we get all involved and lose self.

I was struck by these lines:

Thus he lives contemplating feelings in feelings internally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings externally, or he lives contemplating feeling in feelings internally and externally. He lives contemplating origination-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating dissolution-things in feelings, or he lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution-things in feelings.

What are external feelings?  Physical sensations, and mental are internal?  And origination and dissolutions… I think it starts here, it goes away, and then something else arises. After a while, pay attention to that moment that is about to give birth to that feeling.  See “I am feeling that feeling, now it’s going away”.  We are being asked to parse our moments carefully, with more mindfulness, to see “it’s arisen, I’m with it, its passing, and it’s gone.”

We can have feelings of feelings, for example, “I hate when I feel angry.”

3) Consciousness or mind

Herein, monks, an aspirant knows the mental state of lust, as with lust; the mental state without lust, as without lust; the mental state of hate, as with hate; the mental state without hate, as without hate; the mental state of ignorance, as with ignorance; the mental state without ignorance, as without ignorance; the shrunken cognitive state, as the shrunken state; the distracted cognitive state, as the distracted state; the developed cognitive state as the developed state; the undeveloped cognitive state as the undeveloped state; the cognitive state with some other mental state superior to it, as the state with something mentally higher; the cognitive state with no other mental state superior to it, as the state with nothing mentally higher; the absorbed state, as the absorbed state; the unabsorbed state, as the unabsorbed state; the freed cognitive state, as the freed state; and the unfreed cognitive state as the unfreed state.
 
Thus one lives contemplating consciousness in the various cognitive states internally, or one lives contemplating consciousness in the various cognitive states externally, or one lives contemplating consciousness in the various cognitive states internally and externally. One lives contemplating origination factors in cognition, or one lives contemplating dissolution-factors in cognition, or one lives contemplating origination-and-dissolution factors in cognition. Or one’s awareness is established simply as, “cognition exists,” to the extent necessary just for knowledge and awareness, and one lives detached, and clings to nothing in the world. Thus, monks, an aspirant lives contemplating consciousness in the various cognitive states.

We always try to alter it; we never allow the fundamental nature the freedom to be. It always seems so obvious when she says it. (laughs) it seems so easy. Just rest in the vast expanse. (laughs)  Recognize thoughts as thoughts, let them come, go. No other techniques. Just watching minds, thoughts arise, dissolve, and we can rest.

Let’s have 5 minutes of resting in the great expanse, free from thoughts. (laughs)

It is easier to catch them departing, hard when they are starting. Sometimes after the space of 2 weeks of retreat, I can see the space between them.

L –When Acharya John Rockwell was at DC Shambhala Center several years ago teaching on shamatha, he had everyone do a “Thought party”. The instruction was t, instead of trying to get rid of them, invite all the thoughts in.  It was interesting how the crowd reacted. Some were giggling, some looked like they were about to cry.  In the aftermath, we were then return to shamatha practice. A lot of people seemed to find it easier to just sit after getting some sense of how “yackety-yak” their minds usually are.    All these voices. (Joking about “telling me to burn monkeys”, etc.) J

One way to approach mental consciousness is to see how noisy it can be.  It’s a way of cutting mental fighting that is fundamental to these 4 foundations:  letting go of the struggle. 

R – This reminds me of a story I’ve heard of how to separate.  A student is told by his master to “go to sit in that cave and just don’t think for 48 hours.”  He goes up and tries, and he can’t do it. He comes back down early completely worn out. Then, his teacher said “go back up to that cave and think for 48 hours continuously” The student tried, and couldn’t churn up thoughts.   I forget the rest of the story. (laughs)

It sounds awful, but it’s what we do all the time. Ego wants to get involved, trying to pull us off.

L – Khandro Rinpoche used examples of us greeting each other. We should do so, and then go about our business. Instead, we take them with us on our shoulder. It reminds of the old Zen story of 2 monks meeting a woman at a stream trying to cross. The older one picks up the woman, even though as monks they are forbidden to have physical contact with a woman, and caries her to other side of stream. They then go along their way. The younger monk keeps going over in his mind ‘that was an infraction, he shouldn’t have done that, etc.’ When they make camp that night, the younger monks blurts out these thoughts. The wiser older monk responds, “I left her at the other side of the stream. You have been carrying her around all day!”

The practice is to stay with the thoughts, without judging. You’ll know what kind of thought it is, that’s good enough.  You’ll know a lustful thought as a lustful thought, and know it’ll go away.  They come and go of own accord.

4) Phenomena or Mental Objects

When desire arises in the mind, and other hindrances, notice “this is desire, this is mind not experiencing desire.” Have a clear awareness of how hindrance arises or don’t arise.  If left as simple as that without fabrication, that is the death of that thought, that is the cessation.  Knows how the non-arising in the future arises- simply not interfering with anger/etc. he “..knows how the arising of the non-arisen anger comes to be; one knows how the abandoning of the arisen anger comes to be; and one knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned anger comes to be. You must put in the full form, don’t take the short cut.  Each of them, read slowly to self. As with the 5 poisons, take into consideration the 5 aggregates of clinging.

In same way, the 6 internal and 6 external sense bases. To truly bring about cessation, Buddhahood is dharma based on wisdom.  We are reversing dualistic concepts. To break them, need to break down what we consider solid entities.  Almost like taking a hammer and smashing those things we haven’t checked. The beauty of the sutta is it articulates……

L – This section seems the core of the Madhyamaka teachings, how one thing leads to another. In this case, it seems to be more about coming to bare perceptions versus Madhyamaka debate and arguments.

K – It reminds me a lot of mahamudra contemplations.  The skandhas are aggregates because they take vast array of phenomena and aggregate them into 5 categories. The Foundational schools are sometimes called the Abhidharma schools.  These are the mental objects.  You can get really detailed and see tiniest mental events.

If we did have time, how WOULD we do these?

L- Top of paragraph on page 4, I am going to write out the parts that are “…”
I sometimes have to do that with liturgies. It would be hard to memorize otherwise.  It needs to be read slowly, and read in full.  To me, the 4th foundation isn’t a “sit on your cushion, close your eyes and “get it”. “

K- Also, this was made to be recited, not read.  Leave it to you to memorize.  After reciting enough, you will know once you are in sitting.  Also, recitation has its own value.   For example, right now (with sick relative), reciting is a way to get into practice. And then get inspired. The poetry of it.

J- Still, it is contemplation.

5) Conclusion

One of these 2 fruits may be expected: “highest knowledge here and now, or if some remainder of clinging is yet present, the state of non-returning.”  This leads to the path of seeing, which is the “state of non-returning”, otherwise known as arhatship. This is not dissimilar to the Mahayana path of no-more learning, or the 5th path, which is purification from the constant enslavement of habitual patterns.

So, I hope this is also approved by you. (laughs)  Ultimately, all confusions arise because body is not understood, feelings are not understood, mind is not understood, and phenomena are not understood. When you know things as they truly are, that is known as prajnaparamita.

I strongly suggest everyone listen to Rinpoche’s talk.  Listen to the first 45 minutes too, because they will cover the 12 nidanas, which is our next class.

(editor’s note: In order to get these notes up in a timely manner, the text of the Sutta itself was cut-and-pasted from here: http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/satipatthanasutta.htm My apologies for the minor differences between this version and the translation Khandro Rinpoche taught from.)

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Filed under DC Khandro Rinpoche study group, Dharma teachings

One response to “4 Foundations of mindfulness – DC Khandro Rinpoche study group – 12-7-11

  1. Pingback: H.E. Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche – 4 Foundations of Mindfulness « randrolsramblings

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