Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Meditating on the Kleshas and the Stain of Thoughts

Let me start by providing a link I intend to quote extensively from in this seminar:


Let me also begin by stating that this is simply an out loud rambling meditation on the content of that seminar, and does not in any way represent anyone's thoughts other than my own.

My notes on the content:

The Four Noble Truths were presented in 3 stages:
1. The truth of the origin of suffering
2. The appropriate actions to neutralise suffering
3. The third one I will quote directly: "Third, he taught that if one knows suffering, there is nothing else that one needs to know; if one removes its origin, there is nothing else that one needs to remove; if one applies the practice, nothing else need be applied; and if one experiences cessation, there is nothing else to experience."

My thoughts:

So basically, we are dealing with Noble Truths 1 (life is full of suffering) and 2 (life is full of suffering because we want things) in stage 1. Stage 2 has to do with Noble Truths 3 (so stop wanting things) and 4 (deal with it). Stage 3 basically says, in my humble and possibly mistaken interpretation, if you fulfil stages 1 and 2 and accomplish the Four Noble Truths, you are done. Attained the Emptiness. Enlightened. Period.

The question, of course, is how?

My notes on the content:

The source of karma lies in the Six Kleshas, which I think is extremely well described by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. (My interpretation of his version of the kleshas is here. Note in particular that he also described the kleshas the one of the two kunjung, or sources of suffering. Basically, the model is that we suffer when we develop an emotional attachment to thought in one way or another. I really like his progressive model of it though.) I quote the seminar content wholesale again here:

1. hatred, or anger, which creates the experience of the hell realm;
2. greed, or miserliness, which creates the hungry ghost realm;
3. ignorance of how to act virtuously is the cause of rebirth in the animal realm;
4. attachment (virtuous action performed with attachment to the meritorious results) is the cause of human rebirth;
5. jealousy (virtuous action sullied by jealousy) causes rebirth in the demigod realm; and
6. pride, or egotism (virtuous action performed with pride) causes a godly rebirth.

The seminar goes on to describe a model as follows:

Kleshas/defilements => Unskillful actions => Karma => Suffering

Loving kindness + compassion = Diminished defilements/kleshas
Discriminating awareness (prajna) arising out of wisdom of emptiness = Complete uprooting of kleshas

My thoughts:

The "unskillful actions" bit in my simplified arrow model is interesting, because it implies something. Mainly, it seems to imply that if actions were uncoloured by the kleshas, then it is enlightened, or skillful action. So the "skillful means" so often discussed in Buddhism is really nothing more (or less) than methods which are untainted by the kleshas. This whole discussion is very important, because it answers the question of whether someone is enlightened or not. Basically, if you are subject to emotions still, stuck with kleshas still, then you are not fully enlightened, at least according to this model.

This angle is also incredibly important because it gives us a clue as to how to cease suffering. If the kleshas are the source of the issue, then it is a simple (if not easy) matter to dissolve them. And herein lies the problem. There are relative methods and absolute methods for dissolving the kleshas.

My notes on the content:
Solution: Loving kindness + compassion = Diminished defilements/kleshas
Discriminating awareness (prajna) arising out of wisdom of emptiness = Complete uprooting of kleshas

My thoughts:
There are other ways of relating to the kleshas. Since in a sense they form the very root of Buddhism, it is unsurprising that many approaches have developed. From the book "Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness" by Chogyam Trungpa, quote number 44 says: Train in the three difficulties. Paraphrasing, they are:

1. Understand how the kleshas trick you.
2. Dispel the emotionalism.
3. Cut the continuity of the emotionalism. (This is the source of the vow never to repeat it again. Incidentally, I used to think vowing might be too harsh a method, especially since it is a vow that is very difficult to keep. When walking in meditation at a retreat recently, it dawned on me that even the karmic effects of not keeping a vow help one to see the kleshas, for the enhanced "negative" (as perceived by the individuated mind) experiences push one back closer to truth. It is a method rooted more in relativity than the absolute, I'll grant, but there is definitely something about it.)

Looking at this, we can see that there is definite value in not being pushed around, or bullied, by the kleshas. If one can face them down with equanimity, then one has gone a long way towards being aware. So, one useful practice is to Notice. Noticing what emotions are doing, or are pushing you to do, is in my opinion getting to know the kleshas. You can't really dispel them if you aren't aware of them. It really doesn't matter what the justification for the klesha is - in fact one of the kleshas is related to holding stubbornly to a worldview. The kleshas, I think, basically attach to thoughts in order to survive.

Klesha = emotional push that becomes emotional bully if you let it
Emotional bully = evolves from the emotional push when it starts sticking to thought and congealing
Emotional despot = kleshas completely fused with thought harden the personality and the individual

So, when I developed a way of relating to fear for myself, I also found a way not to be pushed around by doubt and uncertainty. It certainly helped reduce my level of suffering, although I continue to think that examining the kleshas is a very worthwhile and important experience.

The notes say that compassion or loving kindness reduces the kleshas. There is relative and absolute bodhichitta. This is relative bodhichitta, I think. By practising compassion towards others and meditating on the suffering of others, our self diminishes, for we are meditating on how small our problems really are, compared to others less fortunate than us. This keeps the ego, which one could consider the emotional golem (definition of golem: blockhead. Think about it!), in check. But it still exists, and the golem is pretty sly - it survives in very sneaky ways. So, the only way to completely exit it is to observe the source of thought, the ultimate view - beyond thought. The emptiness. Again. Lovely how things go in a circle, isn't it? For if we can become aware and remain aware of the dreamlike nature of existence, then we are no longer fooled by the kleshas, and can do as we wish. We become free. The hot buttons disappear.

My notes on the content:
Loving kindness + prajna arises out of 5 paths:
1. The path of accumulation
Stage 1:
(a) Taking refuge
(b) Shinay - tranquillity meditation
(c) Listening to the teachings (the wisdom of hearing)
(d) Reflecting on them with the analytical mind (the wisdom of contemplation), which prepares the intellectual/conceptual mind for emptiness by making it fertile to the idea
Stage 2:
(a) Abandonment of negative actions
(b) Cultivation of virtuous actions to accumulate merit
Stage 3:
Development of four qualities relating to Dharma:
(a) aspiration/strong desire to practice
(b) diligence in practice
(c) recollecting/remembering one's practice
(d) developing meditative one-pointedness
2. The path of unification: Deepening of the first path.
3. The path of seeing: The first experience of emptiness. This is also the first bhumi - from this stage there is possibility of falling back.
4. The path of meditation: Stabilising the experience of emptiness in the path of seeing. This is the 2nd to the 10th bhumi. At the 10th bhumi all the subtle traces of the kleshas are purified.
5. The path of no learning: Complete purification. Enlightenment.

Notice that it is all very simple - it has to do with attaining emptiness, or seeing past the illusion of separation. Even when you see past the illusion (path of seeing), there is continued practice so that you learn to abide in the emptiness. You are no longer sitting as ego perceiving emptiness, but ultimately as emptiness perceiving thought. Yet you are totally unmoved by it because you have gone past the kleshas. Enlightenment, plain and simple. Om mani padme hum.

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