In this fast-moving world, meditation is regarded as an instant remedy for life’s ills.
If you look upon meditation as merely a tranquilizer, you are underestimating its true value.
Yes, relaxation does occur through meditation, but that is only one of its many results.
Meditation in Buddhism is neither an instant cure nor just a stress-relieving measure.
Meditation in Buddhism
means cultivation of the mind in order to achieve insight wisdom or panna, ultimately leading to liberation or Nibbana.
The natural inclination is to try to control the emotions.
But when they are kept under a lid, they try to escape. They either rush out with a bang or they leak out as sickness or neuroses.
That is the paradox. The moment we want happiness, we start to cling to it in our mind. First, we cling to our own idea of happiness. We relate to the outside world as a source of satisfaction and look outward for the things we normally associate with happiness accumulating wealth, success, fame or power. As soon as we become attached to any idea ” happiness, success or whatever ” there is already some stress. Clinging is itself a stressful state, and everything that derives from it is also stressful. For example, try to clench your hand to make a fist. A soon as you start to clench your hand, you have to use energy to keep your fingers clenched tightly. When you let go of the clenching, your hand is free again.
So it is with the mind. When it is in such a state of clenching, it can never be free. It can never experience peace or happiness, even if one has all the wealth, fame and power in the world.
Well, you see, love and hate are not so different.
They are two aspects of our discriminating mind, like two sides of the same coin.
But they feel so different.
Yes, initially they are different, but they both arise out of our habit of discrimination, and they both lead to suffering. Whether we love or hate someone is based on our own likes and dislikes. We automatically categorize people according to our own preconceptions. When they meet our ideals and appear to be to our liking, our mind starts to cling to them; and if they should fall into the category of dislike, our minds start to reject them. In this way we end up loving or hating.
To understand the mind, you have to watch and pay attention with an uncluttered, silent mind. When your mind is chattering away, all the time asking questions, then it lacks the capacity to look. It is too busy asking questions, answering, asking.
Try to experience watching yourself in silence. That silence is the silence of the mind free from discriminations, free from likes and dislikes, free from clinging.
Thoughts and emotions by themselves are just momentary and possess no life of their own. By clinging to them, you prolong their stay.
Only when your mind is free from clinging and rejecting can it see anger as anger, desire as desire. As soon as you “see” your mental process is fully preoccupied with “seeing,” and in that split second anger dies a natural death.
This seeing or insight, called panna, arises as a spontaneous awareness that can be neither practiced nor trained. This awareness brings new insight into life, new clarity and new spontaneity in action.
If you are to experience peace in this everyday world, you need to watch, understand, and deal with your anger, desire and ignorance as they occur. Only when you cease to be involved with your emotions can the peaceful nature of your mind emerge. This peace-nature enables you to live every moment of your life completely.
Normally, our minds are in constant motion, thinking, feeling, and endlessly flitting from one thing to another. Because of this perpetual motion, there is little room for awareness to arise. Awareness may peek though at times, but it is too timid. It is sluggish and dull. Most of our noisy thoughts and emotions dominate the scene. The mind must get out of this perpetual cycle for awareness to arise fully.
Awareness can not be practiced.
Oh? But we hear and read so much about practicing awareness in Buddhism, don,t we?
There is some confusion between awareness and mindfulness.
I have always thought they were the same.
They are related, but distinct. Sati, or mindfulness, implies there is action of the mind. We purposely set ourselves to pay attention to our minds. We exert effort. Awareness is different.
Awareness is devoid of any action.
When you speak of meditation, you may think of the type of meditation that is popular these days, the sitting form of meditation. But that form is merely an aid, a support to develop a mental discipline of mindfulness and equanimity. The form should not be mistaken for the path.
The popular notion is that you need to set aside a special time or place to meditate. In actuality, if meditation is to help you acquire peace of mind as you function in your daily life, then it must be a dynamic activity, part and parcel of your daily experience.
Meditation is here and now, moment-to-moment, amid the ups and downs of life, amid conflicts, disappointments and heartaches amid success and stress. If you want to understand and resolve anger, desires, and attachments and all the myriad emotions and conflicts, need you go somewhere else to find the solution?
If your house is on fire, you wouldn’t go somewhere else to put out the fire, would you?
If you really want to understand your mind, you must watch it while it is angry, while it desires, while it is in conflict. You must pay attention to the mind as the one-thousand-and-one thoughts and emotions rise and fall.
The moment you pay attention to your emotions, you will find that they lose their strength and eventually die out. However, when you are inattentive, you find that these emotions go on and on. Only after the anger has subsided are you aware that you have been angry. By then, either you have made some unwanted mistake or you have ended up emotionally drained.
Try being mindful of whatever you are doing at the moment ” walking, sitting, bathing, cleaning, looking at a flower. You can do this at any time and in any place. As you train your mind to focus, you will find you are less distracted. Later, as you go on, you can be mindful of your thoughts and emotions as they arise.
Suppose you are driving. You have to pay attention to the driving, don,t you? Your mind has to be there at the time and place of driving, concentrating on the road, watching the other drivers. You cannot afford to be distracted too much by other thoughts. It is something like meditation on the task at hand. But often we do not carry out other tasks in this concentrated way.
Simply be where you are rather than letting your mind roam.
“Staying with the moment is only a figure of speech. It is not a commandment to be followed rigidly. This is not a proficiency test. You must understand this from the outset, otherwise you will be tied up in knots trying too hard every second of the day.
If you become too involved with staying in the moment, you lose the art of living life “free flowing.”
You must realize that staying with the moment is just a means to break the mind,s old habits. Usually the mind flitters between thoughts and feelings about the past, present and future. Staying with the moment is just a way to train the mind to cease flitting.
It is not important that you be with the moment every single moment of the day.
What is important is that you learn to get out of the constant mental run-around and to be more focused and grounded.
Once you break the habit of the roaming mind, you will find you are more centered and more with the present moment.
The term “letting go” has become a catchword in Buddhist circles.
It is true that “letting go” is crucial for arriving at self-realization of inner freedom, but you have to understand how to let go.
Let go of your clinging. Let go of the motivating desire behind whatever you’re doing. It may be a desire to succeed, to be perfect, to control others or to glorify yourself.
It doesn’t matter what it is specifically; what matters is the desire behind your act. It is easy to mistake the act for the desire.
To let go is to let go of clinging to desire,
not to let go of the act.
We have been talking about stopping and looking at emotions. Try to stop and look at an act; see if you can identify the desire propelling it.
When you see the desire, you can also detect the clinging to the desire.
When you see the clinging, you see it resolve and you spontaneously let go.
Of course not. We don’t let go for the sake of letting go. There is a parable about a Zen master who was approached by a pupil. The pupil asked, “I have nothing in my mind now; what shall I do next? “Pick it up,” replied the master. This an excellent example of the negation that comes with the proper understanding, as opposed to nihilism.
If we are bound to the concept of letting go, then we are not free. When we are not free, understanding “panna” does not arise. But if we truly see the clinging to desire and let go of it, our act becomes a pure act, without any attendant tensions or frustrations. When the act is pure and simple, we can accomplish more with less stress. At that point, you are “picking up” just as you are “letting go”.
That’s because desire and clinging precede anger and hatred. In any fit of emotion and our mental formations occur so very fast, we can only identify gross emotions like anger and hatred. Desire and clinging are much more subtle, so it takes stronger samadhi (focused concentration) to be able to see them.
You have been conditioned since you were very young to relate everything to yourself. As soon you learn to recognize people and things, you’re taught how to relate these to the “I” and “mine” – my mom. my dad, my toy, etc.
As you grow up you’re taught how to relate ideas and concepts to yourself. You have to learn that so that you can function properly in society.
But at the same time, this process slowly and unconsciously creates a concept of selfhood, and you build up your ego. You learn to compete, to achieve, to accumulate knowledge, wealth and power. In other words, you are trained to possess and cling.
By the time you are grown up, the concept of ego-self has become so real that it is difficult to tell what is illusion and what is reality. It is difficult to realize that “I” and “mine” are temporary, relative, and changeable.
Not understanding that “I” and “mine” are temporary, you struggle to keep them permanent; you cling to them. This desire to try to keep everything permanent is what makes it so difficult to learn to let go.
The Illusion of Self
You have become so used to functioning with the “I” and “mine,” so used to thinking your “self” is real, that it is naturally difficult to understand the Buddhist way of thinking.
The “I” and “mine” being illusions themselves, survive only by clinging to illusions of their own making. They cling to all kinds of mental possessions: be they power, wealth, status or whatever, which are themselves conceptual creations of the mind with no substantial reality.
In short, they are illusions.
How can you get rid of something that never was?
You have to understand that what you lose is merely an illusion. It never was. You empty the mind of illusion about self. Just let go of the illusion.
In fact, you are not losing anything. You just remove an imaginary screen before your eyes. In the process you gain wisdom, or panna. From this wisdom unfold the four virtues of unconditional love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These virtues manifest themselves as concern, humanness and sensitivity to others. When you have panna you can fully experience the beauty and warmth that is within all human relationships.
That is why letting go is not losing your illusory ego. You are actually uncovering a great treasure.
Panna (wisdom) and patience are like two sides of a coin. If there is intelligence, then patience arises by itself.
Patience without intelligence is just contrived benevolence; it doesn’t last long. Sooner or later one runs out of patience. True tolerance arises only through panna.
You see panna bring with it the
- four brahma viharas
or sublime states, namely:
metta (unconditional love),
mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity).
Only love, compassion and equanimity provide a person with true benevolence.
Equanimity leaves the person concerned detached from clinging; love and compassion help the person identify with others; and panna leads the person to take the right action. All these together lead to true benevolence.
Sae Taw Win II
The central image in the logo is a mythical bird, called Karaweik in Burmese. Please notice how the bird is also a barge traveling on a seemingly infinite ocean. On top of the barge there is a structure depicting a shelter. You might think of it as a Burmese Buddhist Noah’s Ark ” a safe vessel which takes passengers through the dark night on a mysterious ocean, to a fulfilling existence. Of course this is just symbolic imagery, but it is a good representation of my Guru’s mission: to bring all beings together and make our way to the goal, which is Nibbana.
Since Sae Taw Win II is an extension of my Guru’s work, I decided to use the mythical bird as our logo.