Phase Three: Learn from Your Experience & Transform Your Life

Week 5: Mindfulness in Depth
Mindfulness of dhammas in the training context of the hindrances and skandhas

The general emphasis in these two weeks is on insightful reflection within experience.The study is on sections 12 and 13 of the sutta, and Living with Awareness Chapters 10, 11 and 12; especially the emphasis on transformation through awareness of thinking.

Preparation

Read and apply in your daily practice Living with Awareness Chapters 10: ‘Reflecting,’ 11: ‘Analysing’ and 12: ‘Interlude: on Further Reflection.’

Do daily cankamana (walking meditation and reflection) practice at a regular time (see p.114) and consider some of the issues mentioned in the discussion section below.

Notice which of the five hindrances appear outside meditation as well as while sitting.

Action

Read sections 12 and 13 of the sutta on the Hindrances and Skandhas.

Study selections from the three Sangharakshita chapters.

Discussion – suggested topics:
Report in about personal practice.

The Five Hindrances:
Discuss Sangharakshita’s overall statement about the practice of mindfulness of dhammas on p.93: ‘Only with a clear way of understanding what a given state of consciousness really is can we interpret what the mind is dwelling on at any given moment and thus transform our state.’ Is he right?
Consider Sangharakshita’s statement on p.98: ‘We tend to shrug off responsibility by disguising as a practical necessity what is really our personal choice.’ Is that you?
How do you respond to Sangharakshita’s somewhat military-sounding approach to the ‘battle with the hindrances’ (p.101): ‘The best method of defence is attack: why not use the challenge and stimulation of ordinary life to cultivate even more positive states of mind than those you enjoyed on retreat?’ Could we rise to the challenge?
What is your own experience of the whole process of reflection?
Do you feel that when you wander off from some Dharma topic you are holding in your mind, that sometimes the wanderings are part of the process of deepening understanding?
Do you find that observation alone is enough to transform your mental states and tendencies? Can you say what actually happens when you become aware of something?

The Five Skandhas:
Study Living with Awareness definitions pp. 105-106. Do you agree it is a challenge to be mindful of your own consciousness?
Discuss your current understanding of śūnyatā (p.110 ff.).Do you agree with Sangharakshita (p.111) that ‘All (śūnyatā) is meant to do is remind us that the ultimate point of our practice is not to be found in the means we employ to realize it.’?

‘On Further Reflection’
In this chapter you get a sense of what Sangharakshita means by practising mindfulness full time. What would it mean to you?
‘Thinking should be under one’s control, and when it isn’t objectively necessary one just shouldn’t engage in it.’ Is that an impossible ideal? Could you plan in your thinking on a particular topic (e.g. p.115)?

Discuss –‘All your thinking should have an aim, even if that aim is sometimes best served by thinking associatively.’(p.119).

Assess Sangharakshita’s advice (rest of the chapter) on developing one’s thinking and ability to reflect – the points on ‘originality’, place of associative thinking, the place of logic, the need to infuse thinking with positive emotion (p.122). What do you think of argument as a means of clarifying thinking (p.117)? Do you really believe this is relevant to Buddhist practice?

Meditation – walking meditation (cankamana); reflection on emptiness; meditation on conditions.

Ritual
A suggested focus on Amoghasiddhi who is associated with the skandha of volition.