Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:09 pm

From personal experience I have seen that I can't control thoughts. One cannot stop a thought from arising. You can easily check it yourself.

Sit down in meditation posture, close your eyes, be aware of the present moment, and give yourself a firm resolution "for the next 5 minutes do not think any thought or imagine any thing". You will see that very quickly thoughts or images will arise. Perhaps in as soon as 10 seconds.

If one cannot stop a thought or a mental image from arising, this means that one really can't stop wholesome thought or unwholesome thought from arising. It
would also mean that one can't control thought to stop a split second after arising... My refutal to that was that one should practice those skills, to "put in"
necessary conditions for non-arising of unwholesome thoughts and for arising of wholesome thoughts. But even this "putting in the causes" cannot be controlled as all things are Anatta. Things arise due to causes and conditions rather due to free will agency of the Self. Even putting in the causes is not-self and without any controlling agency. Even here there is no free-will.

So what do we have?




With metta,

Alex
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:38 pm

Why do you want to control thoughts?

What we have is a clear teaching that the thoughts I experienxce are not me, are not self, therefore I have no need to react to them or try to control them.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:44 pm

A lot of my sitting meditations were following a certain Ajahn's teaching to get into deep samatha, where all thoughts are supposed to cease and so do the 5 senses. He had (what sounded brilliant to me) teachings about "put the peace between the observer and the observed", or "stop struggling with the hindrances" . But, as if The One could put peace or anger toward whatever one is doing. As if one could just observe without interfering. It seems to be missing the point of anatta. Not only there is no control over big events, there is no control over smaller scales.

One can't control what is happening (anatta, remember?) or how one reacts or doesn't react toward anything.


If there was control, I'd be an Arahant by now and any and every meditation sessions would be very blissful and productive. Some say, "put in the required causes and the effects will follow". But even "putting in the causes" is still beyond control, fully conditioned, and not-Self. There isn't any Self-Agency that can do things...
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Reductor » Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:00 pm

Alex123 wrote:From personal experience I have seen that I can't control thoughts. One cannot stop a thought from arising. You can easily check it yourself.

Sit down in meditation posture, close your eyes, be aware of the present moment, and give yourself a firm resolution "for the next 5 minutes do not think any thought or imagine any thing". You will see that very quickly thoughts or images will arise. Perhaps in as soon as 10 seconds.

If one cannot stop a thought or a mental image from arising, this means that one really can't stop wholesome thought or unwholesome thought from arising. It
would also mean that one can't control thought to stop a split second after arising... My refutal to that was that one should practice those skills, to "put in"
necessary conditions for non-arising of unwholesome thoughts and for arising of wholesome thoughts. But even this "putting in the causes" cannot be controlled as all things are Anatta. Things arise due to causes and conditions rather due to free will agency of the Self. Even putting in the causes is not-self and without any controlling agency. Even here there is no free-will.

So what do we have?


A really screwed Alex123.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:26 pm

"Now when a monk... attending to another theme... scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts... paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts... attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts... beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress." - MN 20


Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 7:52 pm

Thank you for reminding about MN20 sutta.

I've tried, unsuccessfully some of its advice. Unfortunately there is no self that can control what happens "let the thought fabrications be relaxed! Lets crush mind with mind. Lets change the subject!".
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:18 pm

Unfortunately there is no self that can control what happens "let the thought fabrications be relaxed! Lets crush mind with mind. Lets change the subject!".


How did Gotama become the Buddha? By mere chance? Was it an accident?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Kenshou » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:42 pm

Since when does the fact that there is no self mean that there is no control or choice? There is, (though not complete control) and they're just also empty of self.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:45 pm

Kenshou wrote:Since when does the fact that there is no self mean that there is no control or choice? There is, (though not complete control) and they're just also empty of self.


Well, what do you mean by choice?

If we were to suppose Agent A had the capacity to make a free choice, and Agent B obeyed the principles of determinism, how would the behaviour of Agent A and Agent B differ in Situation X?
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:58 pm

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a simple straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. - Thanissaro Bhikkhu


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:03 pm

bodom wrote:
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu


:anjali:


I still don't get it. What is doing the diverting?
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Kenshou » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:11 pm

Viscid-

I mean choice in the most conventional sense. You chose to make that post, I'm choosing to write this reply. But there is no particular agent which owns these choices, these intentions, they come about due to other conditions. A doer isn't necessary. I suppose you might say that the mind does them, but we know that the mind is also a conditionally functioning thing, empty of self.

The particulars of determinism-or-not will go over my head though honestly, so I can't give you a good answer on that second part. As far as I understand things, what's important is to understand the impermanent conditioned nature of intention, not so much the deeper philosophical implications. Not that there's any harm talking about it.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:17 pm

Kenshou wrote:Viscid-

I mean choice in the most conventional sense. You chose to make that post, I'm choosing to write this reply. But there is no particular agent which owns these choices, these intentions, they come about due to other conditions. A doer isn't necessary. I suppose you might say that the mind does them, but we know that the mind is also a conditionally functioning thing, empty of self.

The particulars of determinism-or-not will go over my head though honestly, so I can't give you a good answer on that second part. As far as I understand things, what's important is to understand the impermanent conditioned nature of intention, not so much the deeper philosophical implications. Not that there's any harm talking about it.


Yes well practicalities are boring and philosophy is fun.

In what way did I choose to make that post? I did not choose my physical capacity to type, my intellectual and linguistic capacity to form coherent words and sentences, I did not choose, at the moment of my decision to post, to be relatively capable at philosophical argument and I did not choose to be convinced of a lack of 'free choice.' And yet all of these factors produced the decision to make that post. Where was the choice?
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby bodom » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:18 pm

Viscid wrote:
bodom wrote:
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu


:anjali:


I still don't get it. What is doing the diverting?


There is no one doing anything. Only intention rising and falling.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:18 pm

Kenshou wrote:Since when does the fact that there is no self mean that there is no control or choice? There is, (though not complete control) and they're just also empty of self.


What it means is that things happened due to causes & conditions. Because of that, there is no such thing as free choice. If there are causes for X to arise, it arises no matter what, and if there are causes for X not to arise, then it will not arise, no matter what.


"Bhikkhus, determinations are not self. Were determinations self, then these determinations would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.' And since determinations are not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of determinations: 'Let my determinations be thus, let my determinations be not thus.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html


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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:20 pm

bodom wrote:There is no one doing anything. Only intention rising and falling.

:anjali:


And can One control the intention such as "let me intend like an Arahant. Let me not intend things that a worldling does!". ?
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:23 pm

bodom wrote:There is no one doing anything. Only intention rising and falling.

:anjali:


How can you justify the existence 'free will' if intention is as mechanical as the float ball in a toilet tank?
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Kenshou » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:26 pm

Viscid wrote: And yet all of these factors produced the decision to make that post.

This right here is more or less what I've been trying to say. That decision (and consequential action and result) came about due to many other conditions. When I say choice, decision, or intention, I'm not referring to something exactly the same as what people tend to call "free will", since in most people's minds "free will" does sort of defy causality. My fault for being too vague maybe.

Alex123 wrote:What it means is that things happened due to causes & conditions. Because of that, there is no such thing as free choice. If there are causes for X to arise, it arises no matter what, and if there are causes for X not to arise, then it will not arise, no matter what.

I don't disagree. Sankharas, and intentions among them, arise due to conditions.

But that doesn't mean that choice doesn't exist. It's just conditional. Is that wrong?
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:46 pm

Kenshou wrote:
Alex123 wrote:What it means is that things happened due to causes & conditions. Because of that, there is no such thing as free choice. If there are causes for X to arise, it arises no matter what, and if there are causes for X not to arise, then it will not arise, no matter what.

I don't disagree. Sankharas, and intentions among them, arise due to conditions.

But that doesn't mean that choice doesn't exist. It's just conditional. Is that wrong?


Choice (I think word intention is better) is there, but it is fully conditioned and without any free will. The choice that has arisen is the only possible choice that could haven arisen given those circumstances and would always be that choice if those circumstances were 100% identical.
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Postby Alex123 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:51 pm

Hello Bodom,

bodom wrote:
For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a simple straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. - Thanissaro Bhikkhu


:anjali:


If there is no freedom of will and whatever happens, happens due to impersona; causes & conditions... Then there is no such thing as control, oe easier/harder situation to control, and things happen the only possible way that they could have happened given those conditions.


For free will there must be an Agent, a Self, that has the power to change things.



As for kamma. The quote above only says that it is not linear and 100 units of kamma don't always have to give 100 units of vipaka. If one becomes an Arahant, 99.99% of kamma goes defunct or is attenuated to play out in the remainder of this, the last life of an Arahant.
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