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[ Sitting Practice ]

Using Paticca Samuppada

This is a "technique" which will be helpful both in seeing the Paticca Samuppada, and accomplishing the implied next step, which is "not-doing."

In the past we acted in ways that produce in the present pleasant sensation, unpleasant sensation, and sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

Reacting to the unpleasant sensation we behave with avoidance; reacting to the pleasant sensation we behave with persuit; generally we do not act on sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

These actions do nothing more than repeat the cycle. Experiencing a pleasant sensation from eating a McDonald's Hamberger, we remember that pleasant sensation the next time we are hungry and act in ways that we hope will produce another McDonald's Hamberger and the familiar pleasant sensation. Under some circumstances this can get so out of hand that we find ourselves eating McDonald's Hambergers exclusively daily for lengthy periods of time. We may even find ourselves observing the phenomena as though from the outside and unable to do anything about the situation.

What we need to do is to use our intellect to turn the underlying mechanics to our advantage.

What we must do is to deliberately, consciously, introduce a new behavior. It is probably too late to try to do this if one has waited until the time when the recollection of a previous pleasant sensation is at work inducing "going-after-getting" behavior. A better tactic is to take the opportunity provided by a period of indifference or detachment to introduce the new behavior. This will insert a "break" in the previous pattern at some point in the future, and this break can be used to expand the period of freedom from the old pattern.

So here, with regard to bringing the pain associated with living to an end, the behaviors we want to introduce are those conducive to letting go.

Even without desire to do so, sit down to meditate, "if only for so short a time as it takes to snap the fingers." Every day, as often as possible, again, even if there is little or no desire to do so, resort to dhamma study.

What one will have done by this behavior is to produce at some future time a memory of the results of this behavior. Remembering the results, one will see the advantages and repeat the behavior and a new cycle of behavior will have been introduced into one's repertoire of behaviors.

What is special about introducing This Way of behaving is, that done correctly, this behavior will produce sensation that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It will take some insight to see that this is freedom from the exhosting pattern of persuit of pleasant sensation and avoidance of unpleasant sensation, and until this is seen, one will need to repeat this behavior "intellectually" or in a way that we might say is "out of faith." Once the benefit is actually seen, the hardest part is over; a new "habit" will have been begun.

This is a technique which could be successfully used to diet[1] or withdraw from drugs or to break any other bad habit -- not by directly confronting the bad habit itself[2], but by introducing a new habit which creates "spaces" between periods of indulgence in the bad habit[3]. Gradually one works towards larger and larger spaces.

But here, in this system, there is much more sophistication to the technique. This is a system which speaks of not-doing any habits; good or bad[4]. So if one were simply to replace a bad habit with a good habit, in terms of this system one would have accomplished nothing much in that we already understand that even the pleasant sensations associated with good habits come to an end that results in pain.

Here, putting into practice this system, what one is doing is putting into practice a habit of "not-doing". Meditation, sitting practice, is the "not-doing" of the world. Dhamma-study is the study of the science of "not-doing." Just simply spending some time in Dhamma Study is already the spending of some time "not-doing" other things (most, if not all of which will naturally be downbound to the world) but deeper than that, part of that study will be being made familiar with the idea that it is only by putting the system into practice that it's benefits can be known, and, even deeper, it is also a part of the theoretical presentation of the system that it includes the idea that the system itself must be let go of after it's purpose has been served. So what one is doing, by using this system to break one's worldly habits, is introducing a habit that ends habits, even the habit of resorting to the system itself.

For those who are discovering the advantages there is one problem which I do not see much mentioned and which the "enlightenment" mind set out there will work against. Using this system, appreciating what it is doing for one, one will be spending greater and greater periods of time devoted to it's practice. This practice is something like continuously placing one's self on the front lines of battle[5]. We see in the advertisements for meditation retreats and such; the beaming smiles and twinkling eyes[6] of enlightened gurus promising us instant success and a life after a week's practice (and a couple hundred bucks "donation") of uninterrupted joy. Horse pucky. Unless you are an individual who has done a lot of work in a previous lifetime, the greater likelihood is that there will be years and years and years of work where the only reward is intellectual...not very long after one begins practice one can see "Ah! I have avoided such and such a mess," but because one is already knee-deep in working on the next mess, there is no (or only momentary) "bodily"[7] appreciation of this freedom in the sense of "feeling" free. This comes only later, or if one abandons practice for a while. You need to be told this up front. You are digging your way out of a pile of shit. Half way out of that pile (or even 99% of the way out) is not going to give you much in the way of pleasant sights, sounds, scents, tastes or touches. You need to encourage yourself using your objective mind.

 


[1]Suppose your habit is to eat 3 meals a day and this is producing a weight problem and that is producing health problems etc. You introduce a "one-meal-a-day" diet. This produces observable weight loss, but you are not able to maintain the new behavior, and return to the old 3-meals a day behavior. You can look at the situation and berate yourself for having "failed" in your efforts to "break" the old habit, or you can look a the situation as having changed already: "I have established a new eating pattern, that which alternates between eating 3-meals a day and eating one meal a day," and you can continue in this way which will result in continued weight-loss and improved health over time.

[2]Sometimes directly battling a bad habit works, but generally I have found that it is better to try and out-wit the opponant. Substitute a more rewarding habit for a bad habit. Often, in the same way that governments are always making the mistake of battling rebellious groups and by that reinforcing the rebellious attitude and giving the rebel groups the status of enemy (and the support of the other enemies of that government), direct confrontation of a bad habit results in becoming obsessed by a bad habit, and what more could a bad habit hope for? ..."I am continuously battling my desire for food"...or such-like statements can just as easily be read "I am continuously indulging in thoughts about food..." What one needs to do is to switch one's thinking to some other topic altogether.

[3]Implicit in this is the belief in the strength of the mind and the satisfaction mind experiences in freedom. There really is a problem here and the mind really is aware of it and really does appreciate it when some effort is made to solve that problem.

[4]Strictly speaking this is not true. The Buddha makes the point that he teaches the abstaining from bad habits and not from good habits. But the good habits of which he speaks of encouraging are those that relate to the not doing of bad habits. In another place he speaks of not doing good deeds -- deeds done with the intent of creating good kamma -- and that is really the intent of my words here.

[5]Meaning not quite the same thing here as directly battling the enemy, this is spending one's time fighting the enemy by tactics that will really result in victory...using the "Front Line" analogy is just a convenience.

[6]If, looking at these faces, so convincing in their projection of deep inner joy and satisfaction, one find's it hard to believe these images cannot be deliberately conjured and projected, I invite one to examine the expressions we see daily on the faces of beautiful young women in advertisements, and the convincing way emotions are projected by actors.

[7]On this idea see the footnote at: ../../dhammatalk/bd_dhammatalk/sitting_practice/to_be_seen.htm#n6 and from there read The Seven Types of Individual for the seven ways liberation is experienced.


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