Hear my best

Hear my best
[Photo copyright by Chrysti via Flickr under creative commons licence]

I work in a busy office with many people and thin walls.
Sometimes the noise level drives me crazy and I annoy myself further by judging me, for how bad I still am at not hearing things that distract me. I really wish this would at least improve on the meditation cushion, but it really doesn’t. If you are a meditator, you might have made the following experience, too:

You finally manage to get a moment of peace and you sit down on your cushion to meditate.
As soon as you close your eyes the kid next door decides to practice the drums. Obviously he has to do this, since Murphy’s law is as always fully applicable.
Also, this will reliably drive me mad even though that by now I really should know better. It will drive me even further up the wall to realize that an experienced meditator sitting next to me, after twenty minutes of deafening drum practice, would probably turn to me saying: “Drums? What drums. I didn’t notice any drums.”

So, a simple thing as sound can move my mind up the wall… This I find very interesting, since we do know that this is not true.
There is no sound that moves your mind.
There is only a mind that goes and decides to perceive a sound and then decides to get moved. Remember what is written in the Dhammapada verse 1:

Manopubbaṅgammā dhammā, manoseṭṭhā manomayā

All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind.

[Translation by Gil Fronsdal]

If I don’t move first, nothing is going to happen. Ever.
I recently found this very idea, described in a much nicer way, in a letter written by Sayadaw U Jotika to one of his students. 

A friend reported to me that when he was meditating and was aware of sound, at first he experienced sound as coming from somewhere at a distance. Later when he became more mindful he experienced sound in the ear, happening in the ear. And then when he became even more mindful he experienced sound happening in the mind. Without mind there can be no sound.
[Sayadaw U Jotika – Snow in the Summer – A collection of letters by a monk]


I go among trees and sit still

[Photo copyright by Pranav Seth via Flickr under creative commons licence]
“I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.”

[Wendell Berry]


This day will not come again.

[Photo copyright by thinkpanama via Flickr under creative commons licence]

A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time.
He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.
Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:

Not – twice – this – day
Inch – time – foot – gem

This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.

The five grasping Khandas

The Five Grasping Khandhas
(c) svenhaupt.com
This post really just re-iterates Bhante Sujato’s dhamma talk on the evolution of consciousness. You can find it –> here.
Let’s say, you try to understand the different steps that are are needed for consciousness to arise – according to the early Buddhist teachings. You will soon come across the concept of the five khandhas.
It is one of these lists that Buddhism has so many of. Three of these, seven of that, eight steps on a path, ten factors necessary for something else and so on…
Over the first years of me studying the early Buddhist teachings, I was mostly utterly confused by the amount of lists. Years later I finally realized (aka got told) that if the Buddhist teachings were transmitted orally for many hundred years, it is to be expected that the monks used mnemonic devices to ease their work load. Hence the many lists. If you know that you should have eight steps on the path, you will quickly notice when you miss one.
So, how do you memorize a short list? This gets pretty obvious, when you look at the five khandhas. This is a list that is referred to in the suttas most of the time as >The five grasping khandhas< (pañca-upadanakhandha).
Hmm, five and grasping, where have we heard that before? You can almost see a monk sitting in ancient India teaching a young student the five khandhas while counting his fingers, starting with his pinky:
First you have rūpa which is the whole physical realm, then comes  vedanā , the feeling of attraction, aversion or neutral. Number three is saññā, which is the capacity that takes the diversity of sense data and constructs meaningful symbolic abstractions. Number four is saṅkhāra which in this context is ethical intention.
Now we have four fingers. But since we are humans, we want to grasp for something with our hand (probably just to cling to it later). How does a hand grasp? With the thumb in opposition. Thank you Evolution. And what is the thumb? The thumb is khandha number five, viññāṇa, the consciousness, which closes(!) over the other four fingers. Isn’t that neat? I find that awesome.
As Bhante Sujato points out in his talk, the teaching of the five khandhas probably pre-dates the time of the Buddha. In the suttas it seems to be kind of understood what they are, they never are explicitly defined or explained. They are used as a way of classifying theories of the self and it’s development using the five aggregates as a framework. In this way the five aggregates map the evolution of consciousness. From something that is very basic and physical (form) to something that is very complex and abstract like awareness or purified consciousness.

A Monkey Monk

[Photo copyright by pelican via Flickr under the creative commons licence]

The Buddhist legends have a story about an certain >arahant<, which is a fully enlightened monk. According to the story that monk was travelling in a group. The group of monks came to a river one day. There was no bridge.

This arahant lifted up his robes and pranced laughing on his toes across the water to the other side, leaving his fellow monks dumbfounded.

The other monks thought this was more then undignified for such an exalted being.

So they went and complained to the Buddha.

The Buddha just smiled and said:

“Oh don‘t worry about it. In many previous lives he was a little monkey.

It is in his nature to behave like that.“


[Photo copyright by SiD-ii via Flickr under creative commons licence ]


Siddhartha: “Everyone gives what he has. The warrior gives strength, the merchant gives merchandise, the teacher teachings, the farmer rice, the fisher fish.”

Kamaswami: “Yes indeed. And what is it now what you’ve got to give? What is it that you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?”

Siddhartha: “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

Kamaswami: “That’s everything?”

Siddhartha: “I believe, that’s everything!”


[Siddhartha talking to Kamaswami the merchant. Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse’s ninth novel (1922), was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. (Source: Wikipedia)]

LEGO Hermitage

Lego Kuti
(c) svenhaupt.com

A while ago I played LEGO with my son. He built a house and I took a chance and finally came up with my very own monk-hermitage in the forest. Who says a father and householder can’t have his own hermitage?

Then my son looked up and decided it’s a bus stop… Ah, well…