Emerging From Lockdown - The Freedom and Safety of the Middle WayTalks
Emerging From Lockdown – The Freedom and Safety of the Middle Way
For a complete understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma referenced herein within the scope and context intended, please read “Foundations Of The Buddha’s Dhamma” on our Home Page: Becoming-Buddha.com.
This introduction was updated on June 23, 2020.
In the Loka Sutta, the newly-awakened Buddha describes his view of the world: “The world is aflame. Rooted in ignorance, the world is afflicted by sensory contact and perceives suffering as ‘self.’ Rooted in ignorance, it misunderstands ‘self’ and becomes anything other than ‘self.” Noting has changed in the proceeding 2,600 years.
As we emerge from a global lockdown, constitutionally supported protests, and vivid examples of constitutionally denied systemic hatred towards each other, the wisdom found in an awakened human being’s understanding of stress and suffering continues to provide true refuge and a clear “how-to” manual for living peacefully in an always troubled world. (Reference is to the United States Constitution which the author is governed by.)
Du to continued ignorance of Four Noble Truths, individual and collective reactions to what is currently occurring will lead to individual and collective fear and the confusion, frustration, and rage that often follows.
In a world rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths, many decisions made prior to action are based on media-supplied scientific “facts” that support a view framed by ideological, political, and personal associations, and desired outcomes. Social protests are also prone to the same ignorance that pervades the world. This is not meant as denigration on protests or protestors or issues of racism. It is a commentary on the Buddha’s Dhamma in relation to the underlying ignorance that continues to fuel the social conditions that give rise to questionable decisions, protests, and violence.
Putting aside the severity of the Coronavirus, the same issues this author has observed for the past 64 years continue today. There has been a war somewhere in the world my entire life. There has been an extreme reaction to impermanent conditions my entire life. I have participated in large anti-war, anti-racism, and anti-poverty protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Despite great effort by many thousands of individuals, governments, originations, and organized movements, wars, violence, and social brutality continue in unabated and unnoticed ignorance.
Ignorance still breads organized wars between countries and organized and justified tension and often violence between individuals and disparate groups. This tension-rooted-in-ignorance can only erupt during favorable conditions such as pervasive media and social media manipulation, mass uncertainty, protests, and common ongoing violence.
Ignorance still breeds questionable decisions. Ignorance still breads racial cops. Ignorance still breads racist criminals. Ignorance still brands racist parents, children, cab drivers, carpenters, doctors, nurses, protesters, rioters, etc. There is no single class of people that are entirely free of violence, hatred, racism, and views influence by greed, aversion, and deluded thinking: The Three Defilements.
Both the social brutality of racism or the social brutality of war and violence, and reaction to eve-changing physical conditions, are rooted in the single aspect of human life that underlies and supports all stress and suffering: Ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Many government decisions and resulting guidelines are based on the best available science and statistical “facts,” which are often merely anecdotal observations. It is human nature to rely on scientific ‘facts” and manipulated “statistical data” to support an arbitrary view of impermanent phenomena. These facts are often adapted to support a position or political association, or grasped-after results.
The debate on the need for a complete lockdown of human beings will last for a long time with “scientific” conclusions supporting contradictory scientific findings. These debates will undoubtedly result in an infinite number of contradictory “expert, science-based” conclusions and are often used to support subtle fabricated views behind the mask of science. This arbitrary application of scientific “facts” and massaged or ignored statistics that now support an ignorant view negates both unbiased scientific inquiry and any realistic hoops of actual and skillful change.
My commentary is not an indictment of science. Scientific inquiry and the need to understand and manipulate worldly phenomena have led to great advancements in humanity as well as great destruction. It should be expected that scientific inquiry from a global community lacking understanding of the true nature of human life will often be conditioned by fabricated views of individual human beings and our human environment.
As Wise Dhamma Practitioners, we understand that scientific inquiry into ever-changing worldly phenomena is not an inquiry into the timelessness of Four Noble Truths.
Science cannot describe the formation of physical matter and its interaction with the mind. Scientific inquiry describes physical phenomena with an increasing scope but lacking the Right View informed by understanding Four Truths. This can only create a subtle tension between scientific facts and the reality of human life unfolding. Ignorance of Four Noble Truths is not protection from the greed, aversion, and ongoing deluded thinking that follows this specific ignorance. Ignorance of Four Noble Truths will always affect scientific and statistical conclusions used to support fabricated views of the physical world and the human beings fabricated existence
This subtle tension underlying fabricated though commonly agreed-upon conclusions ultimately fuels the subtle confusion, fear, and anger maintained in the world by disparate and often desperate groups clinging to their common views while canceling any differing views through subtle and obvious forms of coercion and violence. A realistic and unbiased view of recent and ancient human history reveals just this tension of conditioned views.
Wise Dhamma Practitioners developing Right View within the framework of all eight factors of the Path gain the ability to see and reference what is occurring with a calm and peaceful mind established through understanding Four Noble Truths.
Grasping-after unrealistic views of government-induced protection or a “new normal” are avoided while maintaining the Eightfold Path’s refined mindfulness.
Rapid or gradual changes to the world’s environment or systems is not grasped-after or avoided. Rapid or gradual changes to the world’s environment or systems is understood with a calm and peaceful quality of mind.
The Buddha taught the Eightfold Path as the “Middle Way” between extreme views that otherwise manifest as extreme reactions to ordinary occurrences. This confusing tension reveals a subtle aversion to life-as-life-occurs and is experienced as distracting and often debilitating stress. As has been recently seen, those suffering from subtle, long-term aversion to life-as-life-occurs can lead to overt rage and violence that is then institutionally ignored by “righteous” actions supported by ideological social and political associations.
There can be no resolution in this mental feedback-loop maintained by clinging to associated ideology.
Clinging to fabricated concepts and associating with those clinging to similar fabricated views forms the basis for a nearly world-wide Messiah Complex. It does appear as if the world is populated with many antagonistic groups, all believing that their Progressive. Conservative, Racist, Woke, or Marxist/Socialist ideology must be adhered to by all for any particular group to feel satisfied with their actions. This is the essence of clinging to fabricated ideology through ongoing self-identity with the ideology, i.e., “I am a person who hates racism, and so I must hate all racists. All hatred is rooted in ignorance, and all hatred destroys the mind of any who cling to hated or fabricate justification for hatred.
With continued practice and taking continued refuge, the vivid examples of ignorance present in the world is understood. From understanding, true compassion now framed by the living example of wisdom resting in an awakened, salvation-free, and fully mature mind. This quality of mind understands the often subtle forms of clinging-to-ideology maintained and encouraged by clinging to others with like views. Modern examples o “engaged Buddhism” show just this form of subtle and not-so-subtle hatred towards the objects of their “engagement.”
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner understands change.
- The Wise Dhamma practitioner’s mind is established in life-as-life-occurs.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner remains well-concatenated, well-secluded, and established in Refined Mindfulness. No entanglements with the world or fabricated ideologies occur.
- The wise Dhamma Practitioner emerges from lockdown and amid civil unrest with the same calm mind that entered lockdown.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitionde resolves conflict within their mind. They are then a living example of conflict resolution through peaceful undertsnding rather than a living example of fear-based decisions and often reactive violence.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner understands that worldly manifestations of ignorance often is maintained by the institutionalized support of continued societal ignorance and mutual agreement and associations.
Viruses and other disease-causing agents are part of a worldly environment. This environment is rooted in ignorance. Racist cops, racist whites, racist blacks, racist Doctors, racist teachers, racist house painters, racist meditation teachers, racist meditators, are all part of this same ignorant environment. The resolution is not anger against these manifestations of ignorance. The resolution does not reside in fear-based actions or fear-inducing actions. In democratic societies, the most peaceful and immediately effective peaceful protest is regular intervals of well-informed individual voting.
If one is concerned with police violence, voting out of office tho mayors and governors who have maintained racism on their local police forces for generations will prove immediately effective. Voting for those who have demonstrated a view as close as possible to the individual freedom and gentle concentration and refined mindfulness found in the Buddha’s Dhamma will prove immediately effective. This will bring real and sustained peace. This same well-informed view will also support a vote for those who have exampled reason and leadership without political bias or ideological ignorance.
When established with integrity, a constitutionally-based democracy allows for freedom, economic and social innovation, and skillful, well-balanced progress through qualified public servants.
Now is always the best time for Wise Dhamma Practitioners to engage in this type of gentle protest while maintaining a calm and peaceful mind.
A mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths will always feel distressed when its fabricated views are threatened. This mind will attach to the tension created by clinging to fabricated views. The reaction to this tension now can only fuel further clinging to ever-more-extreme-views. Grasping-after this fabricated tension then produces further fear and clinging to fear-based views.
A Wise Dhamma Practitioner has the wisdom to know what the Buddha taught and what he did not teach.
- The Wise DShamma Practitioner understands that all things in the phenomenal world are impermanent – even established “facts.”
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner scientist’s experiments and observations of phenomena is rooted in Right View and a profound understanding of Three Marks Of Existence.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner naturally abandons all aversion and hatred
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner abandons clinging to social and political ideology and makes life (and voting) decisions based on the reality of Four Noble Truths.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner is established in True Refuge, taking refuge in the example of a human Buddha, his authentic Dhamma, and a well-focused and well-informed sangha.
- The Wise Dhamma Practitioner is Free of worldly entanglements.
In the Sallatha Sutta, the Buddha uses the metaphor of being struck twice by arrows – once by common circumstance and again by grasping-after desire. It is by personalizing the common worldly circumstance of stress and disappointment by reaction rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths that the second arrow of desire brings additional pain and obsession.
This sutta clearly explains what, for many, is a confusing aspect of the Dhamma – the nature and cause of Dukkha. This common confusion arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and has resulted in many adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments to the Buddha’s Dhamma. The Buddha’s profound understanding of the origination of all manner of confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory life experiences is taught in the Patticcasamupada Sutta – the primary sutta on Dependent Origination.
In this commonly misunderstood and misapplied sutta, the Buddha clearly teaches that it is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that is the requisite condition that results in all manner suffering.
The Buddha teaches the meaning of understanding Dukkha and awakening to Four Noble Truths:
- Understanding stress and unhappiness
- Abandoning the cause of stress and unhappiness
- Experiencing the cessation of stress and unhappiness
- Developing the Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of stress and unhappiness.
Understanding the First Noble Truth means understanding that as a consequence of living in the phenomenal world, there will be stress and unhappiness, there will be suffering. Understanding Dukkha ends any fabricated view that would cling to suffering through personalizing Dukkha.
As a human society, we will continue with violence and hatred issues that can only be managed and occasionally contained by legislation. As a society, we will only end violence and hatred through understanding Four Noble Truths. As Wise Dhamma Practitioners, we can contribute to true human maturity by developing and exampling an awakened human being. If we as Dhamma Practitioners truly care for other human beings, we will “take to the Dhamma like our hair is on fire” and complete the task. In this way, we can truly “protest” worldly conditions in the most effective way: by changing our minds and understanding the reality of a world rooted in fundamental ignorance.
This is the Radical Acceptance example by the Buddha as a mature and realistic response to all worldly conditions. Undesrtabdiubg brings peaceful acceptance resulting in a conflict-free mind that is incapable of introducing conflict of any kind into an already troubled world. This is true compassion informed by profound wisdom.
Attempting to negate stress is aversion to what is simply present is a common result of clinging to, and personalizing stress. Creating beliefs of a better life after physical death as compensation for the suffering present in life creates more confusion and delusion and personalization of stress and continued self-identification to stress and fabricated views. Engaging in ritualistic practices or appealing to deities is another manifestation of aversion.
As is clearly shown here, insight into Three Marks Of Existence is the specific insight that the Buddha taught developing awakening as the Buddha describes awakening and profound Right View.
This Sutta is also another clear teaching of the Buddha on what constitutes an authentic Dhamma practice and how to recognize a practice that will only continue distraction and ignorance.
Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” continues to be remarkably relevant 100 years after he wrote it. Mr. Kipling had a confusing relationship with Buddhism, as evidenced by his “East is East, and West is West; never the twain shall meet. Despite this view, there is much Dhamma in this poem:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Human, my friend!
Eng Of Poem
My comments within the suttas below are in italics.
The newly-awakened Siddartha, now Buddha, was enjoying the peace of release. Established in concentration, he observed the world around him. He noticed human beings aflame with the fires born of the defilements of passion, aversion, and deluded consciousness.
Realizing the significance of what he saw, he thought:
“The world is aflame. Rooted in ignorance, the world is afflicted by sensory contact and perceives suffering as ‘self.’ Rooted in ignorance, it misunderstands ‘self’ and becomes anything other than ‘self.’
“Becoming anything other than self, the world clings to becoming, is afflicted by becoming, and yet delights in that very becoming. Where there is delight, there is fear. Where there is fear, there is stress.
“The life integrated with the Eightfold Path is lived for the abandoning of becoming. Those that say that escape from becoming is by non-becoming are never released from becoming, I declare.
“Stress (Dukkha) arises in dependence on becoming ‘self.’ With the ending of clinging to ‘self’ and maintaining ‘self,’ no stress will arise.
“Look at the world: Human beings afflicted with ignorance crave for and cling to becoming. All forms of becoming, anywhere, in any way, are impermanent, stressful, always subject to change.
“Knowing this – the arising and the passing away – from Right View craving for becoming and non-becoming is abandoned.
“From the abandonment of craving for becoming and non-becoming comes unbinding. For those unbound from lack of clinging and maintaining, there is no further becoming. They have conquered ignorance, completed the task, and have gone beyond becoming. (a self rooted in ignorance)
End Of Loka Sutta
SAMYUTTA NIKAYA 36.6
In the Sallatha Sutta, a question is put to the Buddha as to the distinguishing factor between a well-instructed and well-informed dhamma practitioner and those with no understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
The Buddha responds: “Friends, listen and pay close attention. An ordinary uninformed person feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral (ambiguous) feelings. One well-informed of the Four Noble Truths also feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral feelings.
“When, through the six-sense base, an uninformed person experiences a feeling of pain they are sorrowful, they grieve, they become distraught and irate. The uninformed feels two pains: the physical pain of the experience and the mental pain caused by the reaction arising from clinging (to views ignorant of Four Noble Truths). This would be like being hit with an arrow and then, by request, being hit again by another arrow.
The six-sense base is the five physical senses perceived through consciousness. Consciousness here refers to ordinary, ongoing thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths resulting in perceptions that can only continue ignorance. It is at the six-sense-base that a Dhamma practitioner develops restraint an avoids the second arrow.
This lack of restraint should also be seen as mindlessness rooted in distraction as the reaction has caused the mind to become objectified – focused now on the reaction – and disjoined from the physical feeling through self-referential desire – wanting the experience to be different than what is occurring described below as differing but similar types of obsession.
As the person is experiencing pain, pain-resistance occurs, leading to resistance-obsession. As the person experiences pain, delight (obsession) in sensual pleasure occurs. Reaction brings obsession as the uninformed does not understand what is actually present: the origination, the allure, the drawback, and the passing away of the “feeling.” As the uninformed does not understand the origination, the allure, the drawback, and the passing away of the feeling, any ignorance-obsession about this feeling of pain, pleasure, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain (ambiguity) overcomes and obsesses them.
Here, the Buddha teaches how the self-referential reaction to impersonal and ordinary events reinforces views ignorant of Four Noble Truths that support continued ignorance. This is described in the Nagara Sutta as being mentally stuck in a feedback loop of self-referential views continually reinforced by thinking rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
Feeling in this sense is any disturbance in the mind arising from lack of restraint. Any desire that an experience must be different than as occurred and wanting more, or less, or no experience, is a “feeling.” This feeling arises from ignorance of Four Noble Truths and is rooted in a personalized and fabricated view of self.
The first arrow is simply the stress and unhappiness that occurs in the phenomenal world. The second arrow is the stress and unhappiness caused by ignorance giving rise to clinging, craving, desire, and aversion. In other words, wanting the people and experiences of life to be different than what occurs compounds the initial pain of an experience.
The Buddha continues: “Sensing pleasure or pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain the uninformed (through self-reference or personalizing the experience) joins with it. The uninformed is joined to birth, aging, sickness, death, and joined with sorrows, grief, pain, and despair. Through reaction to the experience, the uninformed joins with and furthers their confusion and suffering.
Now the Buddha teaches how a person well-informed of Four Noble Truths and understanding the true nature of stress and unhappiness responds to the arising of Dukkha:
“The well-informed person, when stress arises, has no resistance. With no resistance, no resistance-obsession is formed. They feel one pain – physical – but not mental. Just as if they were shot with an arrow but not another, they would feel only one pain – the physical pain.
“With no delight (reaction) in sensual pleasure, no pleasure obsession occurs. The well-informed person understands what is actually present and understands its origination, its allure, its drawbacks, and its passing away. They do not become sorrowful, regretful, or distraught. They remain disjoined from pleasure and pain.
“The well-instructed person, understanding stress (Dukkha), does not generate a mental reaction to pain, pleasure, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain.
“This is the distinction between those uninformed and those well-informed of the Four Noble Truths.
“A well-instructed person who has developed the Heartwood Of The Dhamma (The Eightfold Path ) understands the arising and passing away of all phenomena (Three Marks Of existence )
This also relates to Right Meditation and remaining mindful of the arising and passing away of the breath-in-the-body. Obsession with what is stressful causes one to become stuck in a feedback loop only focused on the arising of the stressful experience. Jhana meditation is the unique meditation method taught for the sole purpose of developing the concentration necessary to remain mindful of the arising and passing away of the breath-in-the-body. From this well-concentrated foundation, one can then clearly notice the arising, the allure, the drawbacks, and the passing away of ordinary phenomena. They avoid becoming obsessed with and stuck to only the arising of ordinary phenomena.
Noticing the arising, the allure, the drawbacks, and the passing away of ordinary phenomena is also taught as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
“Craving and aversion no longer distract the mind or continue ignorance. Approval and rejection are dismissed, no longer in existence.
“Now, no dust remains, or sorrow or regret either. For those that understand the Dhamma, they have left behind becoming further ignorant and have arrived at the Far Shore (of awakening,)”
“No dust remains” refers directly to the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, and many others, and who the Buddha is directing his Dhamma to – “those with little dust in their eyes.”
End Of Sallatha Sutta
For All Who Reside In The Dhamma - Agantuka Sutta
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
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