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.
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Alex123
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Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Goofaholix
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Alex123
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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...
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

Reductor
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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.

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bodom
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Alex123
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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!".
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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bodom
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

Kenshou
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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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Viscid
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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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bodom
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Viscid
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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

Kenshou
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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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Viscid
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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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bodom
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Alex123
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Re: Meditation, conditionality, and anatta

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Peace, anger, restlessness or concentration belong to saṅkhāra khandha.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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