billzword

MY BUDDHIST-SPIRIT BLOG
Although starting this blog as a personal diary recording development, it has now become more of a description of my journey. On the way I make mistakes, and I try to go back to correct them; it is important to me that you note the warnings. Please read the journey that is part of all our journey. The blog is now archived.

2006 Contents - Archive Back to Current Buddhist-Spirit Blog

21/02/07

Warning against ACIM

05/11/06

Eclecticism

10/11/06

Emotional Blocks

13/11/06

Sati Overcomes Attachment

29/11/06

Detachment dominated

2/12/06

Sila - the only way

03/12/06

Sila - the only way to social order

26/12/06

Kicking into a Course in Miracles

27/12/06

I am a teacher

28/12/06

Disentanglement and Engagement


Eclecticism

This is important because of mental discipline. To try to understand consider the Nature of Mind - it flits. Watch it. In comes one idea then another then another. To discipline the mind we hold it still and focus.

In much the same way the mind deals with awareness. It wants to flit from one religion to another, one approach to another, this way, that way - flit, flit, flit.

Recently I have focussed on Theravada Buddhism, it would probably be more accurate to say that I have followed the Forest Sangha Tradition by either studying directly Ajahn Chah or indirectly through monks he has trained. I have been happy with this. It gave me a strength in the sense that I held to his doctrine, hopefully not in a doctrinaire way. The essence of Ajahn Chah's approach is meditation.

I have retired to Thailand in the hope of deepening the meditation and those studies, and instead I am less focussed. This needs explaining. Much of my spiritual development has occurred during my school holidays. Somehow I had developed the ability of quickly "becoming spiritual" during those breaks - although in truth it took longer as I got older. But now I haven't got to go back to the Dukkha of work this "becoming spiritual" is more difficult. In truth I see myself becoming more consolidated, but it is taking far longer - although not in a stressful way; I am moving forward.

It sounds as if I am flitting but this consolidation process is moving me away from a doctrinal approach to Buddhism. It is not totally eclectic because I am not drawing from different traditions, but I am not following the tried and tested practices that have helped me so much in recent years. In fact my meditation some days is more frequent but not regular and other days is non-existent. The focuses of that meditation is not spiritual or doctrinal but is more on emotion and health. I recognise I have attached to a burdening amount of emotion over the years, and equally I see it is necessary to develop a healthy lifestyle before I develop. Under the pressures of the world of work, such considerations often became secondary as I didn't spend enough time on meditation and Dharma.

The books I have picked up - minimally - have also tended to be old favourites - books that have taught me over the years - namely Pirsig and Castaneda. I might even be reviewing my spiritual development before moving forward - not sure about that one?

I must be aware of flitting.

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Emotional Blocks
This emotion is so deep-rooted (in my last entry I described how I had retired to meditate and ended up focussing on emotion and health). I stayed up late and so got up late to the realisation that writing (these blogs) was important - and I had missed out today.

I settled late when it was hot, and then found it difficult to address this emotion. This emotion is blocking the writing. It's not as straight forward as that. Too much of my activity in the past has been guided by emotion and desire, and even though will in some way managed to channel these emotions and desires it was still those two empowering. Now I would claim at the time that the desires were noble - teaching, and the emotions were empowered by that desire, but is this a good direction?

So the direction is my Path, that is an obvious answer. But on a daily basis what empowers actions? Is this mindfulness? Are the emotions and desires fogging sati?

My head's nodding, I am too full to go on. Blogless today, but I have a good dilemma to work on.

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Sati overcomes attachment
I found the answer the last night to my problem - it is sati that can drive out the emotion and it is sati that can fill the gap and it is sati that directs. Although this might sound crazy the moving of the emotion was a physical exercise of the mind. I found myself pushing against the emotion and there being a physical block. This process went on for a couple of hours, and at the end I felt lighter. Not so much now - late morning the next day - but still lighter. I'm now blocked because I am tired!!

I have avoided mindfulness(sati) even though it has regularly been pointed to. Whatever it is it is necessary for me to place that mindfulness throughout the body this eschewing attachment to emotion and desire. It is clearly necessary to understand mindfulness better.

The next night the same process started to happen - hindered slightly by a mosquito!! Emotion has particularly amassed itself 4 inches above the belly button just below where the rib-cage starts. This particular emotional block also has a physical effect in that at times if heightened by emotional anger this block will force energy back upwards at worst case producing bile. This block was not so easily handled, and led me to consider more meaningfully what sati is - no not more meaningfully but differently.

It has great meaning to say that attachment to emotion and desire can be overcome by sati. As is often the case with me I go through a symbolic (?) internal war where the troops of sati bashed down the incumbent troops - the infantry division of emotional attachments and the cavalry of desires. But that war left troops behind enemy lines, and the second night those troops started to grow in strength again. And this time bludgeoning didn't work.

I have noticed since retiring a greater need to be consciously meticulous in daily life. Often enough I would start a chore with a kind of spontaneity that would show itself as a volitional desire to complete the chore. But the details would not be greatly considered, and then during the chore something would happen to make me angry. Apparently I did this a lot when a child.

Now for chores to go well I need to concentrate on detail. I notice it most when changing the fish tank, where water has been going everywhere and risking damage to electrics. Instead of having a vague notion of the use of hoses I have a detailed plan of where those hoses should be attached, and now have green string tied in places for the hoses. A chore that could previously have been approached with a vague overview now requires meticulous detail. The chore is more successfully carried out.

Sati is attention to detail, to use the Eckhart Tolle words Power of Now. It is necessary to be conscious of every moment, and if not then aware then actions should not be performed. The attached emotions and desires would be willing to empower actions, and in the past have done so, but now that has changed.

I learnt at an early age I was a teacher, and this awareness of being a teacher - this teacherness - was part of my being. In class it was not practical to be aware of all that was happening so this awareness would watch in the background. Then it would step in as a bell would ring that a particular conversation was getting out of hand, and leading to violence. This awareness would flag a change in mood (perhaps atmosphere is slightly better although not right) that might alter the working ethos, and would direct you to an intercession. Otherwise emotion would hold sway. Wanting to teach with the accompanying passion - well emotion passion is too strong a word for the number of years I taught - provided the strength that maintained the control. Teaching was a vague awareness empowered by energy from emotion and desire - and of course professionalism when immediate action was not required.

Such vagueness worked but is not conscious sati yet it is mindfulness in a sense because the mind was directing the emotion. But now in retirement this vague teaching consciousness is not applicable as conscious meticulous detail is required as a change. This detail is sati, and is needed to overcome the attachment to emotion and desire.

But sati is more than this, and I need to read to be prompted.

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Detachment dominated by Physical Symptoms
It is two weeks since I've blogged - came out like a confessional, so long I had forgotten how I had setup the html for my blog.

This process of attachment to emotion is so embedded into my life's history it is seriously damaging. I suspect that if I had worked until 65 my increasing inability to recover from emotional hiatus would have showed more in a lack of attendance. And the internal damage caused by internalising such power would have increased and perhaps been permanent - even leading to disease.

Where am I now? The freeing of some of the emotional attachments has led to powerful loose bowel movement. There has been shortness of breath as well. Whatever the phrase - pit of my stomach means, I visit there.

Less and less there is anger at inanimate objects but it is still there. I have sufficient time to watch for it, and when it comes take time out to try and release it. But I seem to have done this so often I wonder how I survived with so much inside. I always thought I had good self-control although some kids said I was moody. Repressing this amount of emotional power has to have caused mood swings if my guard was let down - or forced down by classroom stupidity (or worse).

I thought I had not done so much of this internalising but I have - far too much it is regretful. What do people do when they don't look at it? What pain do they create inside?

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Sila - the only way
I have now lost connection with the only two people in T who I would initially have called friends. And the cause was dishonesty - yet the dishonesty was not initially the actions of myself or the erstwhile friends. At present I am angry and totally frustrated by what has happened yet I have attempted throughout the dishonesty to ameliorate the situation. Well not totally, I have avoided confrontation but tried to detach myself from the situation. However because it has cost me money and inconvenienced me a great deal I sometimes got angry and made comments to my teacher (later).

When I came to T I discussed with the French landlord about renting the house. I paid a retainer for one year at 2000 Baht a month, and agreed that I would have the option to stay in the house a further year. I signed a Thai contract for the first year with the Thai landlady but we did not sign for the second year as according to her it was difficult to write the change of rent on that contract. Come the end of the year no new contract was signed, and after two months the French landlord decided to try and sell the house.

Now the reason that no new contract had been signed is because I had begun to trust the landlady, and without doubt she helped me in a number of matters. Before the end of the first contract I had paid extra because I was living there full-time, it was fair but she had asked me. At the time I didn't mind - she had helped me.

She and this other friend were opening a restaurant so they went to a monastery for a week, and apparently were meditating 8 hours a day. This impressed the hell out of me and made me think of sila and therefore their trustworthiness.

This Thai landlady was not fully aware of the conditions of the agreement made with the French landlord because of language difficulties, so initially when the landlord discussed with her the selling of the house she had readily agreed stipulating that I had 3 months tenure after the date of selling the house to find somewhere else to live. At this stage the Thai landlady probably believed she had been acting with sila, the French landlord definitely was not and I am sure he didn't care although he might well have forgotten what he had agreed and signed with me.

The third party was a friend of the landlady and became my Thai teacher. When the For Sale sign was put outside my door I didn't react but became very angry later that day. I expressed my anger to my teacher, the friend. 3 days later I produced the agreement I had signed with the French guy, and my teacher explained this to her friend. At this point she was now totally in the wrong - lacking sila, and she should have taken action with her husband to rectify the situation. Instead she said that the only legal contract was the Thai one - that she had previously contravened by asking for an increase in rent.

Now I must admit that in all likelihood the landlady was probably trying to be supportive of her husband, but the point of this blog is that the only way she can have done that was through integrity by getting him to stick to his agreement. By supporting his dishonesty she became dishonest herself.

So the question then was how far does the dishonesty go? Suppose the French guy found a buyer who wanted immediate access, would I have got the three months to find somewhere new? Common sense dictated I find a new place asap, fortunately I did and by the end of the next month I had moved. One month later there is still a For Sale sign on the empty house. And the landlord and his wife have had to close the restaurant they had recently opened - I am sure if I was still paying rent the restaurant would still be open.

I had one other entanglement with the landlady, she had kindly used her name to purchase my motor-bike. She was offended but I wanted my name on the papers and could legally do so after living in Thailand more than 90 days. Again we have the issue of integrity - sila. They have had to close the restaurant, and are short of money. Maybe they would decide the bike could be sold as the landlady's name was on the papers. I don't think this likely but I didn't think the landlady would allow the rest of what here husband did.

I have severed entanglements with the French guy and his wife. Occasionally in lessons the issue came up as it did when I asked for help with the motor bike. Suddenly I find I don't have a teacher. Apparently her father wants her to work for him. I get a phone call cancelling lessons saying that she has to cancel all lessons and is wondering what to do with the guest house. After hearing nothing for four days and after repeated phoning I find her lieing on the floor of her guesthouse with her friend (Thai landlady) behind her. In walks one of her students. She has not been able to get a replacement teacher. It could all be true or it could be lies to cover up support for the Thai landlady - a solidarity without integrity. What do I do there as there is distrust?

I move on.

Sila comes before a man and his wife, and has to be fought for. It is the only way through the mess of life. I am unhappy now but it will work out. And throughout I have sila, and no meaningful regrets to eat away inside. Sadly I don't have two friends who I now know weren't friends.

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Sila -The only way to social order
It has taken me two hours to get started with this, but at least the washing is done.

Following the incident where my life has parted from the erstwhile friends in Trat, it has made me consider the issue further. There is only one way that social order can exist and that is through sila. One can have the rule of law and one can have political systems, both of which can externally be directed towards a good society, but no good society can exist simply based on an external code - despite the number of Shariyas that Islamic societies produce. External impositions can improve a society but if individuals are not acting with sila then in the end they cannot help. I suppose it is a tight-rope between the two, what is imposed because the people lack sila. But in the end the more you impose the more you detract from sila and therefore it is limiting if not self-defeating.

OK sila. This has a specific meaning in Buddhism yet as with all things Buddhist the depth of meaning is self-realising; this concept of the only way to social order is one of those insights. In the Four Noble Truths there is the Eightfold-Path and one English translation of that is:- Right View Right Intention Right Speech Right Action Right Livelihood Right Mindfulness Right Concentration Right Wisdom These eight are referred to in Pali terms as being sila, panna, and samadhi by Ajahn Chah and others, and for some reason I have associated sila with right speech, right action and right livelihood. In English I associate it with two words integrity and soul. Let's consider the first of those words - integrity. People need to act with integrity. Those who believe in legislation, making demands from the outside, would immediately point to chaos - how can you claim order when individuals make their own decisions? To understand this is in an understanding of the Nature of the Path. Our Paths are Karmic Design, Nature in a broad sense. They fit together and provide Natural Order. Disharmony in the world is as a result of people not following their Paths, and hence creating an Order that is not Natural. One might call that Chaos, humans following their paths of desire rather than the paths of Design. Order is in Nature and humans fitting into that Natural Order - something their egos will not allow.

So if we accept there is a Natural Order, and if we accept that Karmic Design is part of that Natural Order, then following our own Eightfold Paths is the Buddha's directions to fitting into this. Part of that design is sila. Sila is the integrity that governs our daily actions. By contemplating sila in our daily lives and our daily actions, we fit in with the Natural Order.

Now soul is a difficult word in Buddhism. Because of various internal arguments (I believe because it was one of the issues the Buddha would not talk about), it is a debate as to whether a soul truly exists; in Buddhist terms I avoid the use of the term soul. However this is a Buddhist-Spirit blog, and on the spiritual side soul is comfortable. Yet at the same time it is imprecise having different spiritual meanings depending on your beliefs. Using the term can be meaningless, yet it has such an integral meaning to many people it is not a term to be avoided but a term to be encompassed and expanded upon. In my own limited understanding soul and sila are synonymous. I experienced soul as soul when very young - early 20s. I started using the phrase "I knew" because deep inside whatever anyone said to me I knew certain things were correct. For example I knew I was a teacher, I know I still am - even though I retired early. I knew that under auto-pilot I could be relied to act as a teacher because my soul was that of a teacher. This was an essential teacher survivalist skill for me working in Brixton. This skill would never be accepted by Ofsted - the external law - unless it was written on paper and signed by millions of hierarchy whilst the students were not being taught.

Creativity and soul are linked for the artistic, their art is considered by many as an outpouring from the soul and without the inspiration of the soul they would claim their art would not exist. This is an observation, it is a description of what I understand they are saying but a person's description of the soul is a deeply-personal understanding. In the creative context for myself I need to be detached from entanglements, I need to be focussed and immersed in the writing, and something makes it the right time to write. When I write I write about an accumulation of my life's limited wisdom, and I place that in a science fiction context. I would happily call that above process expressing my soul.

Sila has a plus over soul on one level, and that is the concept of betterment. Instilled in us from birth is an instinct for competition. Initially this competition shows itself as competing to survive, and it then develops into a competition within a school context. Who is top? This adolescent concept of competition is useful for developing these mental skills but lack maturity as do many adults lack maturity for the same reason. That competitive skill has a purpose, the betterment of sila in other words to help us be better people - to beter ourselves.

In the world of the arts the artistic soul is improved through further acts of artistic creation. Maybe that does improve the soul I don't know but there is evidence that artists do not behave with right speech and right action. I would suggest that artists also need to use their competitive faculties to help be better people - to improve their souls - and art?

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Kicking into a Course in Miracles - Warning!
Well my spiritual journey has taken a turn. I was up in Bangkok for a week learnt about an interesting guy called Sulak Sivaraksa - and a little of a notion he talks about - Engaged Buddhism, and attended an interesting weekend of parlour Buddhism. After also buying my cheese I came back to T thinking I must go deeper, and the way I am going to do that is through "A Course in Miracles" - Warning!.

So far I have the same concerns that I had with Krishnamurti, it is designed to unhinge - freedom from the past. The first four lessons are concerned with not attaching to the past associations by examining surroundings in the home and outside, not giving theme meaning, giving them meaning, not understanding anything and then thoughts not having meaning. In all this I am being asked to unlearn all that the system has taught me - excellent, but then unlearn all the good Buddhist teachings I have learnt - not good.

I can accept that it can challenge the little wisdom I have gained through Buddhism, and it can destroy the dogma that doesn't matter but is it going to ask me to unlearn the wisdom and then relearn it? Cannot. You cannot unlearn wisdom, that is the way. But if the course is asking me to say all thoughts have no meaning then there is conflict. Or is there? Are thoughts wise? Or are they just thoughts? Is wisdom judgement? Or is wisdom beyond judgement? How do I know when I am being wise and when my mind is judging?

These are good questions that I have no idea what the answer is, so the course is worth starting. But I am wary. And of course is it glamour? Jane Roberts' books were wonderful but at least she said Seth. Enough to know to leave well alone. Is a miracle a short cut? Is this appealing to a lazy mind? Discipline and hard work is good. Working hard to improve yourself is definitely a worthwhile activity rather than looking for a miraculous shortcut.

There are many doubts so perhaps I will not finish the course but the questions are good so my journey must go deeper - the purpose.

Then I got floored by today's lesson - my issues of anger. These have filled me since retirement, and I have slowly worked on them as a means of controlling anger and releasing emotion I have trapped in my stomach. But the anger attached to the system, society and education is just my heart forced to turn the anger away from my own lack of direction - moving away from my heart's purpose has caused me years of anger.

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I am a teacher
I am going to duplicate this in my education blog, but this is a spiritual blog so why is it here? This opens up a lot of questions.

I started ACIM (Warning!) as I said, and yesterday understood my anger. Previously I have written about this deep anger, even to the extent of suggesting that it is Karmic. I haven't rejected that thought despite what I am saying here.

This deep anger was because I was going against my heart. But why when my anger was mainly based in teaching? Real anger is not following the heart so teaching was in my heart. But isn't teaching external? And then the job is, but teaching isn't.

Once I started teaching, I knew I was a teacher - I knew it was innate, to such an extent that I was prepared to trust that in the classroom my actions would be those of a teacher irrespective. And I relied on that. Where did that reliance come from? My heart. Why? Because teaching was part of my heart.

But the spiritual decisions of the heart are not about employment. So being a teacher was not about the job of being employed as a teacher in a school. Teaching is spiritual. What does a teacher do? They pass on knowledge and hopefully build wisdom across generations. Therefore teaching is evolutionary, it is part of evolution, part of Nature, part of the Dharma. As such there is a spiritual root that can lead through the heart to teaching, an essence, a nub, a noumenon, a seed.

And therefore a vindication of all the heads-banging. And an understanding of all the anger.

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Disentanglement and Engagement
I am beginning the first of these spurred on by starting the Course in Miracles. It is frightening what pain and suffering is inside, and perhaps more frightening the pain and suffering that is inside people and they don't know. And if they don't now what happens to it? It comes out in other ways, hence we have so much irrationality, crime and nastiness through bottling up what is nasty in their societies and through the guilt those people feel deep down for the crimes their greed commits in the name of their governments.

Again I fear for others in that I have spent long periods in my life dealing with the emotional pain that I internalise yet buried in my stomach is such a level of emotion that every time I feel I am beginning to clear it, further huge deposits unleash themselves. Others don't consider this as repression is the order of the day, but repression is an equal and opposite force and as such has to be expressed, drowned or drugged.

What do I look forward to once this repression has been exhumed - will. It reminds me of the Hindu Will, Wisdom and Activity. Without the emotions and other hindrances then will can reign guided by wisdom hopefully gained through the years leading to activity or engagement. And I draw a military parallel here. The military engages with ensuing casualties, they withdraw, heal their wounds and engage again. So life goes on for the engaged Buddhist.

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