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In the Buddhas Words

An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon


Translated and Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi

MABAs Buddhist Study Group

Notes for Chapter 8: Mastering the Mind the first three Lessons
(Tentative dates: November 27th December 11th)

Lesson 1 The Mind is the Key (November 27

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Text 1 The Mind is the Key [AN 1: iii] Key Concepts: The Buddha describes three pairs of opposing qualities, which either a developed or undeveloped mind create. Text 2 Developing a Pair of Skills Serenity and Insight [AN 2: iii] Key Concepts: Serenity culminates with the abandonment of lust (greed); insight culminates with the abandonment of ignorance. Notes: The Buddha says that serenity, which requires the abandonment of lust, is necessary for liberation of mind; and insight, which requires abandonment of ignorance, is necessary for liberation by wisdom. Text 3 Four Ways to Arahantship [AN 4:170] Key Concepts: One develops either serenity then insight, insight then serenity, insight and serenity together, or agitation about the teaching creates a unified mind that culminates in the arising of the path Notes: The first method, developing serenity first and insight based upon that serenity, means to develop the jhanas, and then use the unified mind to cultivate the supramundane path. The second method is to develop insight first, then use the insight to unify the mind in serenity. The third method is to cultivate both serenity and insight in tandem, culminating in the arising of the supramundane path. The fourth method, which isnt all that clear from the texts (according to Bhikkhu Bodhi), refers to how a mind in great turmoil and great desire for the teaching can reach a breakthrough to the path. All four of these approaches involve abandoning the 10 fetters and eliminating the three underlying tendencies. Text 4 Four Kinds of Persons [AN 4:94] Key Concepts: Four kinds of persons who strive to gain insight into phenomenon. Notes: The first kind of person gains internal serenity, but not higher wisdom of insight into phenomenon; s/he then seeks guidance on the development of insight.

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Chapter 8 Course Notes

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The second kind of person gains the higher wisdom of insight, but not internal serenity; s/he then seeks guidance on the development of serenity. The third kind of person gains neither internal serenity nor the higher wisdom; s/he seeks guidance on both. The fourth kind of person gains both, and develops them to the full elimination of the taints.

Questions and Discussion points for Lesson 1: 1. Make sure we understand the basics of these key concepts: Serenity (samatha) Insight (vipassana) 10 Fetters (samyojana) Underlying tendencies (anusaya) The taints (asava) The jhanas 2. How important is it to train the mind according to the Buddha? Can we enter the higher path just through study alone? 3. How important is it for us to train the mind?

Lesson 2 The Hindrances to Mental Development (December 4

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Text 1 The Hindrances to Mental Development [SN 46:55, abridged] Key Concept: It is because the mind is subject to greed, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt, that we are unable to see ourselves, or remember what we should remember, clearly. Notes: The Buddha uses five analogies to describe a mind affected by these Five Hindrances: A mind with greed is like a bowl of water with dye in it. A mind with ill will is like a boiling bowl of water. A mind with dullness and drowsiness is like a bowl of water with plants and algae in it. A mind with restless and remorse is like a bowl of water stirred by the wind. A mind with doubt is like a bowl of water that is turbid, muddy and placed in the dark. In all these cases, a person is unable to see ones own facial reflection clearly. Text 2 Refinement of the Mind [AN 3:100] Key Concepts: Just as a goldsmith refines the impurities out of gold ore to produce pure gold, so too a meditator refines the gross and subtle impurities of body, speech, and mind to develop the six direct knowledges (abhinna), which culminates in the destruction of the taints. Notes: Gross impurities include the bad conduct of body, speech, and mind.

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Chapter 8 Course Notes

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Subtle impurities include thoughts of sensuality, ill will, harming, clinging to relatives, home country, and ones reputation. Still more subtle thoughts include thoughts about the Dhamma. Once the impurities are abandoned, then one can achieve whatever mental state realizable by direct knowledge, he achieves the capacity of realizing that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions are obtained.

Questions and Discussion points for Lesson 2: 1. What are ways to abandon the Five Hindrances in meditation? 2. What are ways to abandon them outside of formal meditation practice? 3. How is the mind refined to eliminate the impurities? 4. What is the difference between eliminating and repressing the hindrances? 5. Why are thoughts of the Dhamma a subtle impurity to be abandoned? 6. Make sure we understand what the six direct knowledges are, and their role in the supramundane path.

Lesson 3 The Basis for Meditation (December 11

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Text 1 The Removal of Distracting Thoughts [MN 20: Vitakkasanthana Sutta] Key Concept: The Buddha offers five ways to remove thoughts associated with greed, anger, or delusion, so that the mind may become unified and concentrated. Notes: The Buddha offers these five techniques for the removal of unwholesome thoughts include: One can replace the unwholesome thought with a wholesome one. Or one should these thoughts as unwholesome thoughts, which will inevitably result in suffering. Or one should not give attention to such unwholesome thoughts, trying to forget about them. Or one should give attention to stilling the cause of the thoughts (investigate their source, and abandon the cause of such thoughts.) Finally, if all else fails, one should use mental force to crush mind with mind to abandon any unwholesome thought from arising. Text 2 The Mind of Loving Kindness [MN 21: Kakacupama Sutta] Key Concepts: No matter how one should speak to us, or how they should treat us, we should train our minds to abide in loving-kindness. Notes: The Buddha states that if a person speaks one of the five courses of speech to us, we should train our minds to remain unaffectedabide in loving kindness, never in a mood of hate. The five courses of speech are: their speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, connected with good or with harm, spoken with a mind of loving-kindness or in a mood of hate.

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Even if bandits were to sever our limbs with a two-handled saw, [a person] who gives rise to a mind of hate toward them would not be carrying out my teaching. In keeping this teaching in mind of loving-kindness, there will not be any type of speech directed towards us that we would not be able to endure. Text 3 The Six Recollections [AN 6:10] Key Concepts: One who has arrived at the fruit and understood the teaching often dwells contemplating these six recollections. Notes: The six recollections are: 1. Recollection of the Buddha 2. Recollection of the Dharma 3. Recollection of the Sangha 4. Recollection of the Precepts (ones virtue) 5. Recollection of Generosity (ones own generosity) 6. Recollection of Devas (one possesses similar faith, moral discipline, learning, etc. as these devas) When ones mind recollects these six subjects, it is free from greed, hatred, and delusion; it is straight, with one of the six as the object of thought. Questions points for Lesson 3: 1. How do we tell unwholesome thoughts from unwholesome ones? What determines their respective qualities? 2. Do the Buddhas five techniques to eliminate distracting thoughts work? 3. What is your response to the Buddhas teaching on loving kindness, especially the example of the bandits? Can loving-kindness be taken too far? How do we prevent ourselves from becoming a doormat? 4. How can we employ the six recollections to help our minds enter concentration and stillness? What is their purpose?

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Chapter 8 Course Notes

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