Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Notes from Friday, June 26, DVD

The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

This week's DVD teaching finished up the form skandha by giving tips for off-the-cushion contemplation, then moved ahead to cover the skandhas of feeling and perception. Here are the notes:

We’ve been working with the skandha of form, trying to discover whether there is a truly existent self in the skandha of form. In this practice, we also work with the mindfulness of body. The actual practice of the mindfulness of body is realizing the selfless, egoless nature of this aggregate, the skandha of form. In order to achieve that realization of egolessness of that skandha, we also use other techniques of meditation during our everyday life, post-meditation states.

One is being mindful of all physical actions. Watching our body and mind together. In order to do such practice, we use various reminders of mindfulness in everyday life. One such reminder can be set with our digital watch. When it goes off, look at your thought and action. A moment of awareness, of mindfulness.

These days, we can set it with many things... cell phone ringing. Even other peoples’ cell phones, they are all around us. When we hear a phone ringing, we can say, “That is a reminder for my mindfulness. We look at our mind, body, and action.

Another mindfulness of body practice is a car horn honk. When someone honks at you, set that as a reminder. But you have to remember your reminder!

These kinds of reminders can help us contemplate throughout the day, which will lead us to realizing the selfless nature of our form.


This is sensation. We identify feeling skandha as a self, as I or me. When you feel joyous, bright, pleasure, then you say, “Oh, I am feeling happy.” The feeling becomes the “I.” “I” becomes a feeling.

Just as we analyzed the skandha of form, we will analyze feeling.

How does a feeling arise? It arises from contact of consciousness and the object of that consciousness. There are three things: the object, the consciousness, and the contact.

With the example of visible objects, say, a flower coming together with the eye sense faculty produces an eye consciousness. When that comes together, that is contact. When that contact happens, various thoughts happen, such as this is a beautiful flower or this is an ugly flower. And from that we experience pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings.

These feelings then become our object of fixation. Clinging onto these things as real, as solid, as existent. Not only that, but based on these feelings, we have fixation on these feelings as a self. “I” arises from that. It becomes a strong ground for fixation onto oneself as “I” or “me.”

There are three feelings at this level:

Once again, you should look at these feelings from the point of view of the three ignorances.
We cling onto them as being permanent.
Then as being singular: good, bad, etc.
We feel that feelings are independent.

The truth is, feelings are impermanent. This may be good or bad news, depending on if you’re having a good or terrible feeling!

Feeling is always changing. Nothing is permanent or solid as we cling onto them.

Our feeling of someone as being a good person, for example... someone who is our ally, a friend. It changes suddenly and that person “becomes a monster.” Feelings are changing, nothing is solid. Not long ago, you felt this guy was the best person in the world. And the next moment our feelings change.

We have many teachings from the Buddhist instructions related to this. Examples are often given such as the cases where enemies in the early part of one’s life become friends later on, and vice versa. So we can see that feelings by their very nature change into something else. If feelings were actually permanent, we would always have to experience the same feeling from the same object. If pleasant feelings arose from contact with an object, then we could never feel anything but pleasure from that object. But that’s not the case, is it?

For instance, when we first fall in love vs. a few weeks or months down the road. Why the difference? It’s a similar object, similar person, etc., but now we’re ready to punch them!

Feelings change all the time, so we can’t find any solid, real self there. No matter how you feel, there is no need to fixate on that feeling. No matter how bad or how pleasurable.

When we don’t see the momentary nature of changing, we create suffering for ourselves. The main suffering is coming from such fixation as clinging onto things as real and solid... clinging onto these feelings as real.

If we can see our feelings as an illusion or a dream, then that feeling will bring us joy, space, wisdom.

One of the main analyses we should do in terms of selflessness is, where is the self in the skandha of feeling?

Is the aggregate of feeling self or not?

The skandha of feeling is not just one.
It has three main parts: happiness, suffering, and indifference.
Which of these three is the self?

We can examine the individual feelings as well. Even within pleasant feelings there are many different varieties. For example, if we took pleasant feelings to be the self, what kind of characteristics would we be looking for? We would want it to be permanent, singular, and independent if it existed.

So if feelings of pleasure were the self, then feelings of suffering would not be the self. So if suffering arose, why would we have a problem with it, because it’s not the self?

And in the same way, if we took feelings of suffering to be the self, then there couldn’t be any pleasant feelings with the self, because the self would be this one thing.

So if we analyze in this way, we cannot find any feeling that is the self.

Is the skandha of feelings self or not?
Is it different or the same?
If we continue analyzing in this way, then feeling does not truly exist.

We cannot find a true entity of feeling that exists as solid, real, as we ordinarily think they are.

Ordinarily, we take many things for granted and don’t analyze and see the details. Things just appear to be real. Suffering appears to be quite scary, so we don’t analyze it. If we analyze it, we don’t find the normal entity that we normally fixate on.

So we have to go by our own pace, in our own timing, trying to find a feeling and whether they exist or not and how they are existing.

This is the second skandha and its meditation on selflessness.


This skandha is referring to our conceptual mind. Our thoughts that make distinctions, that separates out things from other things, that brings divisions between phenomena. Clean, dirty, good, bad. Mainly a lot of judgmental thoughts. This skandha is referring to a particular object and fixating on it and seeing things as real truly in one way or another.

This is called the aggregate of discrimination. Clinging onto their existence as real becomes very surface level, conceptual level. What is clean, dirty, pure, impure? It’s very conceptual. When you look at that level of skandha, there is no true existence of such nature in reality.

So these latter two skandhas, of feelings and discriminations, are both in the list of 51 mental events that are discussed in the abhidharma of Buddhist psychology. The text: Classifications of mental states, available from Nitartha Institute.

The Buddha taught that these two aggregates are the source of a lot of conflict and disharmony in both a mundane sense and in philosophical debate. Buddha said that the aggregate of feelings is responsible for disharmony between worldly people. The aggregate of discrimination is responsible for disharmony among philosophers.

Skandha of discernment is also analyzed in the way we analyze the earlier skandhas. To see how such a concept exists, such as clean, dirty, pure, impure. Do they have true existence? How do they exist when you analyze them?

And also to analyze the clinging onto self and ask ourselves if this is one with the aggregate of discriminations, or are they two different things?

In the same way as in the other skandhas, we ask whether it is permanent, singular or independent.

Usually we cling onto these concepts very strongly. If you cling onto the view of emptiness or impermanence, what do you have? All these clingings we have to transform. So we contemplate on the skandha of discrimination and discover the selfless nature of such conceptual mind, of fixation onto things as pure or impure.

All of these clingings we have to transform.

If we cling to that which is impure as the self, then that which is pure could not be the self.

This is all being spoken from the perspective of ultimate truth.
From the point of view of mere appearance, yes there is relative clean and dirty.
Water, for instance, if you don’t discriminate that, you get sick.
But when you analyze from the ultimate point of view, there is no such concept.

Meditation on the Skandha of Feeling

First, begin with shamatha (calm abiding meditation). Once you have attained non-distraction, rest evenly in that space.

From within this state of calm mind, give rise to a thought that clearly recalls the feeling of suffering. An unpleasant feeling. You probably won’t have too many problems remembering an unpleasant feeling.

So look into what difference there might be between this feeling of suffering and the self. Is there a difference between this feeling of suffering and the feeling of fixating on a self?

As an antidote to clinging to this feeling as being permanent, contemplate the impermanence of this feeling. The momentariness of this feeling changing from instant to instant.

Through contemplating the momentariness of the feeling, we also transcend the clinging to feelings as being singular. If the feeling is composed of countless instances and moments, then it is impossible for it to be one thing.

As an antidote to our clinging onto the feeling as being independent, we meditate on its being interdependent. In order to feelings to arise, abide, and cease, they need to depend on various causes and conditions.


This Friday we'll review the Feeling and Perception Skandhas, especially using material from the book. Then we're off the following week, July 10.

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