Tuesday, July 12th

On Tuesday night, the subject of sound during meditation came up briefly and that got me thinking about something I still remember from reading Joko Beck’s first book Everyday Zen many years ago.Sadly, I don’t have that book now so I found a couple of other passages for us to think about in the coming week.

This is from Joko Beck’s later book, Nothing Special:

When I tell students to experience the body, people tell me, “Oh yes, I’m feeling my body. I label my thoughts, and then I feel my body. But it doesn’t solve anything.” “Yes, I feel the tightness in my chest, and I just center in on it and hope it will disappear.” Such comments reveal a personal agenda, a kind of ambition. At bottom, the thought is, “I’m going to do this practice so that I—my little self—can get something out of it.” In fact, as long as our little self is talking like this, we are not truly experiencing. Our practice is contaminated by such agendas, and we all sometimes have them.

We can get closer to an accurate understanding of experiencing by the word listen. Not “I’m going to do this experiencing,” but “I’m simply going to listen to my bodily sensations.” If I truly listen to that ache in my left side, there’s an element of curiosity, of what is this? (If I’m not curious, I am always caught up in my thoughts.) Like a good scientist who is simply observant, without preconceived notions, we just watch or observe. We listen.

If our mind is stirred up with personal concerns, we can’t listen—or rather, we don’t want to listen; we want to think. That’s why labeling, watching the mind and its activities, is often necessary for quite a while before the second non-state of experiencing or being can even start.

And this is from A Tree in A Forest, a collection of Ajahn Chah’s similes:

Not having full, clear knowledge of the true nature of things, we will go on thinking that we are the sankharas or that we are happiness and unhappiness. The truth is that we can’t force things to follow our desires. They follow the way of Nature.

A simple comparison is this: Suppose you go and sit in the middle of a freeway with the cars and trucks speeding down toward you. You can’t get angry at the cars, shouting, Don’t drive over here! Don’t drive over here!” It’s a freeway. You can’t tell them that. So what can you do? You get off the road. The road is the place where cars run. If you don’t want the cars to be there, you suffer.

It’s the same with sankharas. We say they disturb us, like when we sit in meditation and hear a sound. We think, “Oh, that sound’s bothering me!” If we understand that the sound bothers us, then we suffer accordingly. If we investigate a little deeper, we will see that it’s we who go out and disturb the sound. The sound is simply sound. If we understand it in this way, then there’s nothing more to it. We leave the sound alone. We see that the sound is one thing and we are another. This is real knowledge of the truth. We see both sides, so we have peace. If we see only one side there is suffering. Once we see both sides, then we follow the Middle Way. This is the right practice of the mind. This is what we call straightening out our understanding.

In the same way, impermanence and death are the nature of all sankharas, but we don’t want it that way. We want the opposite to be true. We want to find truth within the things that aren’t true. Whenever someone sees like this and clings to the sankharas as being himself, he suffers. The Buddha told us to contemplate this.

The schedule is:

6:00 – 6:30 sitting
6:30 – 7:15 discussion
7:15 – 7:30 sitting

The sitting takes place at BIBS.