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Lions Roar : November 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2010 20 because we’ve made the five skandhas “mine.” The self actually never existed. We have solidified these five elements into “me.” So we’re stuck in a certain way of thinking and behaving, which only leads to more suffering. We need to step back, even if it’s just to try to imagine something more subtle than the “me” scenario: “Maybe my understanding is too one-sided. There is an interdependency, a play of experience that is like a mirage and that I’m not really able to comprehend.” how do we create a situation in which we can get a better per- spective and look into what is happening? To understand what is going on, we have to stabilize the situation. We have to slow down and get a feeling of who we are and what we’re doing. Through the practice of meditation, we learn to penetrate the confusion of our minds and perceptions. There are two basic stages to this process: shamatha—“peaceful abiding”—and vipashyana—“clear seeing.” The practice of peaceful abiding quells negative emotions. The Sanskrit word for intense emotionality is klesha, and it has to do with obscuration and contamination. We are afflicted with kleshas such as anger and jealousy, just as we are sometimes afflicted with illness. From the perspective of the nidanas, these afflictive emo- tions arise because we are misinterpreting the skandhas. Our mis- taken view of a permanent, solid entity called “me” has resulted in fixation, desire, and aggression. Afflictive emotion doesn’t just mean having a temper tantrum; it can also mean discursiveness— having a weak or scattered mind. Taking on those misunderstand- ings, the mind becomes obscured, thickened, and veiled by emo- tions. We are obscured because the truth is not coming out. Shamatha is a potent way to tame the conventional mind. The process is sometimes described as taking the stones and weeds out of a field and processing or nurturing the soil so that some- thing can grow in it. As we look at how thoughts, memories, and conflicting emotions rise and fall, our mind becomes more peaceful. Although the mistaken beliefs are still in place, there is less agitation, and the kleshas are not as strong and predominant. practice is taking the time to step back a little, release our grip, and see where we are. If we’re able to do that, we can begin to notice a pattern. Before that, we’re stuck in the pattern, and we can’t see it. It’s a very limited view. When our mind is at peace, we have the subtlety, stability, and clarity to see our mistaken assumptions about who we are and what the world is. We do this by contemplating impermanence, suffering, and the five skandhas. This is how we learn to see clearly, and develop the intention to change. practice is a gradual process. We have to stick with it and apply ourselves to work through our natural mistaken beliefs. Initially, the process is awkward because there’s still distance between us and truth of how things are. We think, “Is this cause and effect, as I’ve heard? Is this the suffering the Buddha talked about? Is this selflessness?” The more we stabilize our minds, however, the more we are able to point them toward the truth. The more we contem- plate the truth, the more we see clearly how karma and the twelve nidanas work. eventually, we are able to bring into our daily expe- rience the inquiry and inspiration aroused by practice. ♦