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THE

SIX ELEMENT PRACTICE

INTRODUCTORY TALKS - GUHYALOKA '95

DHARMACHARI CITTAPALA SPRING 1996 CONTENTS Foreword 1. Introductory Remarks

2. The What and the How 3. Working in the Practice 4. An Application of Awareness 5. The Objective Content of our Perception 6. The Great Elementary Qualities 7. Space 8. Akasha 9. The Shepherd's Search for Mind 10. The Nature of Consciousness Appendix

FOREWORD I gave these talks on the 1995 Men's Guhyaloka Ordination Course. I have now transcribed and loosely edited them; they remain very largely verbatim, and I am keenly aware of their lack of literary merit. Since this project originated from talks, I hope you will bear this in mind and be patient. These talks are based on the unpublished transcripts of seventeen of Subhuti's talks on the same subject, and notes taken from Suvajra's own series of talks similarly based on Subhuti's talks. Obviously it is only to the extent that I understand what Subhuti and Suvajra said that I convey to you something of what they said. Therefore, albeit acknowledging my indebtedness to these men, and Urgyen Sangharakshita, I speak primarily on the basis of my own experience and thinking; any lack of clarity is entirely my own. In arriving at a point where I felt confident to give the talks, I found I had expanded on a number of Subhuti's and Suvajra's themes, and introduced new ones as well, most notably a talk on Akasha. I am very much a beginner when it comes to the Six Element Practice. What I offer here is primarily intended to help stimulate other Order members who take up this practice. I presume that in the future someone with far greater experience will write a much fuller account. In the meantime I wish you much fun and every success with your own explorations. My thanks to all those who have helped talks. Cittapala Spring '96 in producing these

CONTENTS 1. 1. 2. 3. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS Commit yourself Identify expectations Work with hindrances i.. Boredom ii. Fear iii. Distraction 4. Engage creatively 5. Work outside the shrine room 2. 1. 2. 3. THE WHAT AND THE HOW Introduction A simple outline of the practice The three major phases to contemplating an Element i. Analysing our experience both of ourselves and the external world in terms of a particular Element Primary characteristics of each Element - in brief. Engaging creatively ii. Recognising our impermanence iii. Letting go - resting happily 4. Why we contemplate a. Listening, reflecting and meditating b. The Argument The spatio-analytical and dynamic-synthetic approaches. The viparyasas & sunyata 3. 1. 2. WORKING IN THE PRACTICE Introduction Engaging creatively 'Scrap-books' A personal aside

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Imagination The Earth & Water Elements The Earth Element The Water Element AN APPLICATION OF AWARENESS Introduction Extending our awareness i. How to cultivate mindfulness? ii. Working against the hindrances Cultivating metta i. Equating self with other ii. The poetic dimension of metta The heart's release i. Transforming pride, conceit and arrogance ii. Cultivating non-attachment and equanimity iii. Working with significant examples Conclusion

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THE OBJECTIVE CONTENT OF OUR PERCEPTION Introduction The nature of our perceptual process i. The mercurial nature of perception ii. Reframing the emotional content of our perceptions iii. A provisional perceptual framework iv. Categorising 3. What is rupa? a. Defining our terms b. Clarifying the meaning of the word 'objective' 4. Conclusion 6. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 7. 1. 2. THE GREAT ELEMENTARY QUALITIES Introduction 'Matter' The Great Elementary Qualities The Great Magicians The Magicians' footprints The secondary qualities and their sub-categories Summary i. Educate yourself ii. Look beyond the rational SPACE Introduction Characteristic ways of experiencing space: i. as 'that which is between things'

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ii. as 'that which contains' iii. as 'that which gets filled' iv. as 'relational' v. as 'an infinite number of perspectives' Getting attached to space Our metaphorical uses of the term 'space' i. Boundaries ii. The boundaries of the healthy individual iii. The individual and the infinite nature of space

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AKASHA Different cultural perspectives i. Newtonian space ii. Influence of post-Renaissance camera reality iii. The Indian Buddhist perspective 2. What is Akasha? i. Mahakasha The primary nature of Akasha Symbolic associations between Akasha and the mahabhutas ii. Cittakasha: imaginal space iii. Cidakasha Akasha experienced as a higher level of 'being' The dakini 3. Conclusion 9. 1. 2. 3. 4. THE SHEPHERD'S SEARCH FOR MIND Introduction The Shepherd's Search for Mind Outline of remaining talks Vijnana - Consciousness i. It's dualistic character ii. It's momentary nature iii. At the meeting of sense-object and organ 10. THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS Introduction 2. Citta 3. Mental Events i. The complex interactive nature of the mind ii. Sparsa - sense impression iii. Vedana - feeling iv. Samjna and cetana - interpretation & volition v. Is all this analysis necessary? 4. Manas and klistomanovijnana 5. Absolute Mind 6. Dhatuvibanga Sutta

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Toward spiritual rebirth

Appendix 1. The contemplation of the Six Elements basic instructions Appendix 2. The contemplation of the Six Elements - long lead-through Notes

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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

Commit yourself Identify expectations Work with hindrances i. Boredom ii. Fear iii. Distraction 4. Engage creatively 5. Work outside the shrine room Before I describe the basic structure, form and method of the practice, I have some introductory remarks. The outline of our activities over the next week is going to break down into two major parts. Firstly there is the meditation practice itself and my leading you through it. There are six main stages to the practice. And I have identified a further seven subsections common to each stage; these come from my own conception of the practice. I'll be saying more about both in leading through the meditation and in these afternoon sessions. The practice. In casting your mind back to how it was for you then and with the benefit of hindsight, I'd like you to identify some working tips, which you can still apply usefully today. You can then remind yourself of them as you learn this new meditation practice of the Contemplation of the Six Elements. So please write them down; there's some homework for you! This introduction consists in me taking up a few such tips that have occurred to me. 1. Commit yourself First, 'Commit yourself

second major part of our activities is that I'll be giving a series of talks which will last anything from halfan-hour to an hour or more. By way of introduction I'd like you to take your mind back to the first time that you were taught to meditate at an FWBO centre, and back to what I assume to be the freshness of your 'beginner's mind'. Obviously you are very much further on now, but today you are in an analogous position. Just as you were then being inducted into the first and second great stages of Bhante's system of meditation, or stages of the spiritual path - Integration and Positive Emotion -, you are now about to be inducted into the third of those great stages: Spiritual Death. And it won't be long before you are initiated into the final stages: of Spiritual Rebirth and Compassionate Activity. In a sense, we are already preparing the ground for the latter in our evening evocations of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Now, you will have learnt certain useful lessons both from those first initial experiences of meditating and from the subsequent years of 2. Identify expectations The second lesson which I'd like to high-light comes from the fact that you are inevitably going to have expectations. So find out what they are. I don't want to put you off, but I suspect that some of you may not find

to the practice for a specific period of time'. It's no good thinking: 'I'll give it a try, and if I don't like it, I'll drop out, and spend my time doing something else,' in other words having a 'dip-mytoe-in' type approach. If you come at it like that, very likely the practice won't work; so you might as well not try at all. You do need to commit yourself to taking the practice up for a definite period of time. It's just the same as the hard-won experience of learning to ride a bicycle or swimming. Unless you keep going and keep trying, however many times you fall off, you'll never get the hang of it. If possible, my advice is commit yourself to doing the practice throughout this period right up to the public ordinations. It's not a very long period of time, and given the overall importance of this particular practice in terms of this third great stage of spiritual life, I think it is very well worth while taking this opportunity very seriously and deciding, here and now, that you are going to do the practice, and to give it your best shot. difficulties, we can do something about them; we can change our mental states that is the purpose of the practice! There are ways to deal with the hindrances. Just as we've learnt how to deal with the hindrances in cultivating the Mindfulness of

the practice easy. So don't expect it to be easy, but on the other hand don't expect it not to be! - necessarily. I'm not saying it's going to be one or the other. But there will very definitely be times when you'll feel that you'd far rather be doing something else. It is as well to expect that there will be difficulties. After all Mara has a vested interest in not letting us get to grips with the practice in any successful kind of a way. So he is going to make sure that as soon as we start to make any headway he does what he can to get in the way. On the other hand, the practice can be engaging, pleasurable and stimulating. In fact, if you get into the groove of the practice, it can be exciting, exhilarating, challenging, and extremely liberating. After all, this being a vipassana practice we are engaging in a direct assault on our minds, on ourselves. So in a sense it's the last great challenge which we could set out on. The practice, like most meditation practices has a whole breadth and variety of different sorts of flavours and tastes, some pleasant and some not so. 3. Work with hindrances Inevitably we do encounter hindrances. It's important to resolve to work intelligently and appropriately with these. For instance, you may encounter boredom, fears, or

Breathing and Metta bhavana practices, in the same kind of way we can learn to deal with any kind of difficulties that come up in this particular practice. i. boredom Remember we can learn how to engage with our boredom, with our moods. That we get bored may be a 'good' thing. The crucial question is how we respond to being bored. Looked at from one point of view being bored is being stalled, as it were, in the 'Gap' between feeling and craving. The temptation of course is to break the deadlock with a fresh cycle of either craving or aversion. Sit with your boredom and find a more genuinely creative alternative. We need to learn how to engage our emotions creatively in examining the reality of our experience. This cannot be a mere 'head' affair, but has to be done with our heart. Find and learn the language of imagination in relation to this practice. If we rely solely on the language of intellect we will not get far. The language of imagination, coming out of a transcendence of emotions and reason, is usually perceived in terms of 'images'; these are 'seen', 'heard', 'felt' and so forth by the 'heart'. To start with the practice may feel rather discursive and wordy. But the wordiness should only be something that is there initially. The wordiness of my introductions

distractions. When we encounter these sorts of the right direction. But remember to keep looking at the moon, not my finger pointing at it. The practice is, in essence, intuitive and imaginative in approach rather than rational and discursive. ii. Fear Fear is a common experience coming from engaging in the practice. This is fine; it may well be a very good sign. If this happens, remember to come back to metta bhavana. In other words, come back to the heartcentre, to being open and alive, and subtle, and warm, and as if there is light coming from your heart. Make sure that this is the main centre of your consciousness throughout the practice. Certainly early on in learning the practice we need to keep returning intermittently to concentrating on and relaxing into our heart-centre by way of cultivating metta. This is the key. It is no good trying to think our way to insight from our head, as it were. We'll just get a head-ache. That doesn't work. We don't have to have an unpleasant time. For instance, if we get frightened we don't have to eye-ball it out. It's quite OK to let go of the confrontation, to let go of the practice and return to cultivating metta. The important thing to remember is that we are in charge, that we can go at our

to the practice are attempts to stimulate you to set off in is about to go under. That is quite counter-productive. The chances are that, if we get into that way of working, something in our psyche will kick back and there will be a deeper reluctance to return with enthusiasm to the practice on another occasion. So take your time, go at the practice gently. If you build up an enjoyable taste for the practice, well you will gradually make progress. It's no good trying to crack this boulder with your fist in one blow, as it were. c. Distraction Yet another very common experience is being distracted. No doubt you have a variety of ways of working with distractions already. One common distraction for a certain type of person in this particular practice is that of intellectualism. What do I mean by intellectualism? The practise is not scientifically or rationally acute. It has not been designed with scientific knowledge as its corner stone. So it is very easy for those with scientific backgrounds to pick holes in it right from the start. The practice doesn't hold water in that way. But that is beside the point. The practice is not meant to be a piece of accurate science. So yes, those with logical, and, or scientific training may easily distract themselves by finding all sorts of

own pace. And when we feel more comfortable in ourselves, we can return to the Six Element practice. In this way, we can come to enjoy the thrill of being frightened, and enjoy a little bit of challenge. But we certainly don't have to jump in at the deep end, and learn to swim in one go. It's pointless having that desperate feeling of sinking, of feeling that one The third lesson that we should remember from our early meditation experiences is what of I've chosen to call 'Creative engagement and involvement'. I have quite a lot more to say about this in later talks. The essence of the practice is clear, creative thinking. This is what we're cultivating: clear, creative thinking. For me this is summed up in Lawrence's phrase: 'man in his wholeness wholly attending.' 1 We are cultivating a new way of being, reorganising ourselves quite radically. Don't slavishly repeat the phrases which I use to introduce you to the practice in much the same way that people can get stuck on the treadmill of 'may I be well, may I be happy' when trying to cultivate metta. As Lawrence says, it is 'not a trick, or an exercise, or set of dodges, or jiggling and twisting of existent ideas'. We won't break through to Insight by merely copying in this kind of fashion. We each have to maintain our initiative. We are each responsible for

'objections': 'yes but ...; that's all very well.' We don't need a Science A level to know the Elements don't necessarily 'make up' the body in exactly the way that the practice outlines. So put your scientific knowledge on one side and remind yourselves of the essential import of the practice. 4. Engage creatively bound to get little flare ups and reactions. So this can be 'very interesting', as we say. Our emotional responses give us clues as to where go find these miccha ditthis, to find out where they are lurking. They're a bit like scorpions, they hide under stones. They have to be flushed out. They don't immediately show themselves. But when we do surprise them, up comes their sting, and they're very ready to defend themselves. Keep up a creative dialogue with the practice: engage with the practice in terms of your own life in quite a practical day-to-day sense. Again in Lawrence's words, the practice is about 'gazing on the face of life, and reading what can be read.' The practice is to venture forth to discover the mysterious nature of life, the awe-inspiring magic of it, the wonderful, unknowable, indefinable quality which is inherent to life. In our practise we 'ponder over experience, and coming to a conclusion'; no doubt these conclusions are

sustaining our own interest, in sustaining our own process of clear, creative thinking. So this is a useful question with which to review each session of practice: 'did I succeed in some clear, creative thinking? Was that the flavour of what I was up to? How creatively engaged, with a clarity of mind and perception was I?' But creative thinking is not just clear intellectual reasoning, it is as much to do with positive emotional engagement, and responsiveness to the skilful. Miccha ditthis don't just come in terms of ideas, they come as emotional responses. If we're doing the practice as it is meant to be done, we touch on these, and prod these. We're which we make sense of our experience? To what extent can we speak the truth? Cultivate an inquiring, curious mind. We have to really want to know. Otherwise it is merely a matter of going through the practice by rote. This practice is a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Sleuth-like we're following up clues as to the real nature of things. Although we've got a few pointers, fundamentally it is down to each of us to creatively use the rough guidelines of the practice to engage with discovering the real nature and 'substance' of our experience. 5. Work outside the shrine room

provisional. Perhaps there can never be a final conclusion. Perhaps our pondering cannot be summed up in words; that's all well and good. We look at aspects of our experience which we have as a norm taken very much for granted, taken as being the basic building blocks of life; we look at the way that we order the world, the way that we get a sense of our identity. And this practice asks us to take a fresh look at all this, to make a 'testing of statements on the touchstone of conscience'. We're trying to look more deeply into the way we assume that we experience life. Do we agree with our normal everyday assumptions with important. Because inevitably in relation to being independent in the doctrine as dharma-practitioners, we need to learn to do whatever we need to do to keep ourselves on, as it were, the knife's edge, to keep it sharp. So this will be a very good exercise in discovering how to do that. I strongly advide you to keep a diary of what happens. It is so easy to think that you'll remember all of what happens. But I suspect you'll find that your experience is so rich, fertile and full that it won't be easy to remember. If you keep a diary it'll help stimulate your reflections. And then I suggest you review your diary regularly. Every two or three days, go back and

Given the nature of meditation in general, and the particular Insight character of this practice, to really make progress we need to devote not only time to the formal practice in the shrine room, but also we need to follow it up outside of the shrine room. Are we going through the motions of leaving the practice at the shrineroom door, returning to it once every twenty-four hours, or are we practising throughout the day, throughout our daily lives, learning to see ourselves and our worlds through different kinds of perspectives? The purpose of the meditation is after all to bring about a radical, and eventually permanent change in us. So to help us in this we need to reflect on how we are actually getting on in terms of the practice. We're not going to be having meditation interviews to prompt us. There won't be that making us to think or reflect over what is happening. We going to have to do this each for ourselves. This is very And above all, keep reflecting over your everyday activities in the kinds of way that I'll be trying to stimulate you to reflect in the formal practice. Use the commonplace experiences of everyday life to flesh out and enrich the practice. So when you are brushing your teeth, for instance, notice what it feels like to have that hard bristle pushing up against

read what you've written; see whether there is any more to be drawn out, any threads to be followed up, and so forth. Comment on the trends, and make resolutions in relation to what is going on, and keep the resolutions! In this way you'll make sure that you are moving forward in the practice all the time. You may need also to do some background reading. If you are the kind of person who has that kind of a mind. Actually you may have to do this from a number of points of view. If you are a bit dull and sluggish, you'll probably need stimulating. Or the other hand, if you have an intellectually sharp kind of mind, you may need a bit more than what I am giving you in these talks to satisfy you. If so, you'll need to be careful that your reading doesn't distract from the main purpose, taking you off down garden paths, which although interesting and productive in their own way, are not fundamentally helping you to engage more deeply with the practice.

your soft gums. That is the feeling of the Earth Element in your mouth. Notice what happens when you are eating a particularly lumpy piece of bread? You can feel the Earth Element crunching around, and you can feel it turning into liquid in your mouth. These sorts of everyday experiences are the raw material of reflections, and upon which you can be reflecting as they are happening. Lastly actively engage in the process of questioning. You can write questions down for yourself, and then set about answering them yourself. Please also write them down and pass them on to me. In this way, I can incorporate your concerns and developing interests in these talks.

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THE WHAT AND THE HOW Introduction A simple outline of the practice The three major phases to contemplating an Element i. Analysing our experience of both ourselves and the external world in terms of a particular Element Primary characteristics of each Element - in brief. Engaging creatively ii. Recognising our impermanence iii. Letting go - resting happily 4. Why we contemplate i. Listening, reflecting and meditating ii. The Argument

The spatio-analytical and dynamic-synthetic approaches. The viparyasas & sunyata 1. Introduction In this talk we are going to look at what we do in the practice, how we do it, and why we do it. In doing so, we'll explore something of background to the nature of contemplating, and the nature of the six Elements themselves. First of all, we'll run through the basic outline of the practice itself, to remind ourselves of the brief instructions that are given during the formal practice by way of an introductory framework. I shall be making some brief comments as we go through each section. 2. A simple outline of the practice The Contemplation of the Six Elements Preparation: a) in everyday life give sustained attention to a variety of personal experiences of the particular Element(s). We'll look at this later on in this talk. b) before starting the contemplation, generate strong metta, and positive emotions. I hope the importance of this is clear. It is crucial. The first four stages could be seen as an extension of the general requirement of cultivating positive emotion. This is because as the next section says, we 'experience each Element as vividly and stages to the contemplation of each Element; we will find that we repeat the seven stages of contemplation six times in contemplating the sequence of all six Elements. 1. Experience as vividly, and imaginatively as possible the Element in your bodily experience: 'In my body is this Element 'X', typically including:' If we approach this stage in a very stereotyped manner, merely repeating a formula, nothing much is going to happen. So it's important to bring the experience of the Element very much alive, and strongly feel its presence within our bodies. And of course this approach applies to the next stage. 2. Recognise as colourfully and richly as possible the same Element in the external world. This means we have to really look at the world around us. We have to learn how to look. And then, Recognise that your experience of the Element within your bodily experience and in the external world are essentially the same: 'In the external world, this Element takes a variety of different typical forms, and this is, for example, ... how I experience them. The Element in my body has the same characteristics as the Element outside it.' This is an important equation to make:

imaginatively as possible'. I have quite a bit more to say on this in the next two talks. The practice: We then contemplate each of the six Elements in turn, starting with Earth and progressing through to Consciousness. With each Element we follow all seven stages of contemplation, outlined below, before we move on to the contemplating the next Element in the sequence. In this way there are seven Element outside it in these various ways:' 4. Recognise that the Element in your body is constantly returning to the Element outside it: 'I experience the Element in my body constantly returning to the Element outside it in these various ways: ' We get a sense of being like a ongoing stream of energy flowing ever onwards. And then, 5. Recognise that when you die the Element in the body will finally go back to the Element in the outside world, never to return: 'When I die the Element in my body will finally return to the Element in the world outside it.' This is really quite straight-forward: we do not have ultimate ownership or control over the Elements; we, if you like, just borrow them for a short period of time. Our death really does make this point emphatically. In a sense, we're more an expression of the Elements, rather than being in possession of them and

the experience of the Element within our body is essentially of the same character as that outside of our body. The Element will invariably have different forms; for instance, we are not volcanoes or hurricanes, but we do experience warm liquids and air within us. Then, 3. Recognise that the Element in your body comes from the Element outside it: 'I experience the Element in my body coming from the temporarily borrowed this Element; though constantly coming and going within my experience, it is not to be relied on for security, as a safe refuge, so I let go of my preoccupation with it and possessiveness towards it. I give up my sense of it belonging to me, of my feeling that it is essentially 'me'." We'll be covering this later in this talk. So then, lastly, 7. Relax, confidently enjoying and appreciating your experience of the Element as it comes and goes; letting go of it, giving it up, and becoming free of attachment to it. We are not denying that the Element is there, and that we have an experience of it. But we are trying to come into a new relationship to that experience. We are changing the way in which we organise ourselves in relation to our experience; although of course this will, in a sense, also change the nature of our experience as well.

manipulating them at whim. And then, 6. Recognise that there is nothing in your experience of the Element with which you can permanently identify and that therefore you can have no permanent control over or ownership of the Element: "There is nothing in this Element with which I can permanently identify, and therefore call 'I' or 'me'; neither can I really say that I possess it or ultimately control it; it is not fundamentally 'mine'". It is not a matter of merely saying this to yourself; you have to really experience this deeply. Look for this 'I' that we all think we are; have a really good search for it. Perhaps you'll find it! But I suspect you'll have a hard job! And then consider: "I have only resistant and solid. We identify the Element's characteristics within our own experience of our self and in the world around us. And we identify how our experience of ourselves is made up of a continuous flow of the Element, as it were, passing 'through us', coming into us, going out of us. It is extremely important that we don't intellectualise this, but get a genuinely experiential feel for each one of these experiences of the Elements. We need to feel this as much with our hearts and imaginations as our intellects. These Six Elements make up our experience of ourselves

3. The three major phases to contemplating an Element As will be clear from the outline above, when we contemplate any one of the Elements, there are seven stages which we follow. Here, to give an overview of what we are doing during the contemplation, these seven stages will be subsumed under three main headings. We will now look at these three headings in turn. 1. Analysing our experience both of ourselves and the external world in terms of a particular Element. We start our contemplation with identifying the characteristics of the Element under consideration. For instance, we may recall that the Earth Element is essentially all that is fingers through your hair, or if you stub your toe on a rock. All of these different everyday experiences flesh out, so to speak, our actual experience of the Earth Element. In any of these experiences it's important to identify the actual feelings, and sensations rather than having an abstract notion of the experience. Primary characteristics of each Element - in brief What are the characteristic sensations of the different Elements? We'll look at these briefly. The Earth Element is the experience of something solid, resistant, firm, and

and our conditioned mundane world. This practice is deliberately structured to be simple, to appeal to our practical, down-to-earth, common sense appreciation of truth; it isn't at all metaphysical about the nature of the elements, certainly at this stage. We accept the Elements at the level of relative truth. It has to be said that Earth Element is much more readily accessible than say the Elements of Space or Consciousness. There is an increasing subtlety to the Elements, which is increasingly more difficult to identify even on this common sense level. I stress that its very important to bring to life each Element in terms of our actual experience. We have to go out of our way to really feel each Element. This is why the practice is structured as it is. For instance, feel the weight and resistance of your body as it is sitting on your meditation cushion; that is your actual current experience of the Earth Element. And there are all sorts of examples such as this: you might run your There are all sorts of ways in which we experience the Fire Element. For instance, there is the heat rising up off the baked earth on a hot afternoon: we can feel it drying us out, we can feel the skin on the back of our shoulders beginning to fry under the hot sun. The Air Element is even

substantial; we often associate this with the experience of dryness, but in fact the Earth Element is not always conterminous with the experience of dryness. Stubbing our toe is actually a good example of bumping into the Earth Element. The Water Element is everything fluid, liquidy, flowing, soft, cohesive, that coheres. The Water Element is often associated with the experience of wetness; but again, this is not inevitably the case. A good example of the Water Element is standing in a waterfall: that soft, gushing flow all around. It is not that water is purely the Water Element; the Water Element is the experience of liquid both internally and impinging on one from the outside. Surfing, having a hot bath, drinking a cup of hot cocoa, or the squidgy, even slimy feel of washing up liquid in ones hands, or olive oil in ones mouth are all examples of experience of the Water Element. And then, the Fire Element is radiant energy. We experience heat, or its absence, that is temperature. thick head feeling on getting out of bed after a bad night. And then gradually as everything starts to come back into focus, we begin to feel a bit brighter. That change is the experience of the Element of Consciousness coming into being. Obviously there are deeper and deeper levels into

more subtle. The Air Element is not just air. When we feel air going in and out of our noses that is certainly the experience of the Air Element. But the Air Element is more than air in just that simple sense. It is vibration, simultaneous multi-directional motion. We infer the activity of the Air Element at work when we see incense or smoke twisting up in the breeze its moving in all directions, moving in different patterns. It's a much freer expression of energy than any of the previous Elements. The Space Element is that which contains the other previous Elements. But it is not just Newtonian space; it is much more than that. To describe just what is meant becomes increasingly difficult. An appreciation of the subtlety of the Space Element requires a considerable subtlety of perception. And the same applies to the Element of Consciousness. Consciousness is awareness; it is that which illumines experience in the light of knowing, rather like the way that light lights up the darkness. When we turn on a light in a dark room, we then see things we could not see before. It's like that. And there is an 'objective' & a 'subjective' pole to this experience. We'll be exploring these subjects much more fully later in this series of talks. An example of a lack of consciousness, of losing it, is that groggy,

which we can penetrate each of the Elements to discover their, so to speak, essential nature; actually they don't have an essential nature they are empty (sunya) of all substance. But to start with we should stay with our very obvious down to earth, everyday, practical experiences of each of the Elements and work from there. The Elements are not so discrete and separate as the practice suggests at first sight. In other words, I know that when air is inhaled that some of it is absorbed into the blood stream. And, strictly speaking from a scientific point of view, it is oxygen that comes in and it is carbon dioxide which goes out. But the practice doesn't need to be informed by that sort of knowledge. Yes, it is true. But the fact is the Air Element is given back in some form or fashion, in one way or another, eventually. And that is the crucial point. It is important that you get a sense of where the practice is heading: our bodies incorporate the Air Element, it is an expression of it, the body takes the Air Element up into it. The body is doing this all the time, and its giving the Air Element back all the time. Just as air is coming and going from our lungs all the time, likewise the Air Element is literally flowing in and out of each of us; we are an expression of the Air Element.

Engaging creatively The Elements are the primary qualities and characteristics of our sense experience, which we have chosen to call by these terms 'Earth', 'Water' and so forth. We put symbolic labels onto these key categories of experience. The labels are entirely appropriate: if we want to describe solidity and resistance, then the term Earth is an excellent way of pointing to what we mean. But we can find in going through the practice that, when we use the word Earth, we only think of the soil and the ground we stand on and so forth. It is not that we should not think of these very obvious examples, but we should also be aware of the experience of the Element Earth in other ways as well, even in more psychological terms. This is not an ontological view. It is quite easy to get confused by this. So we need to bear in mind which level of discourse and experience we are attending to at any one time. And of course with familiarity, we get used to referring to a number of levels at the same time. In explaining the practice I encouraged you to 'experience the rocks and the soil'; so go out and get some of the actual stuff in your hands: study the experience so that it is vividly in your mind. And in doing so, attend to the increasing levels of subtlety of the experience. Feel the physical resistance

with deeper levels of meaning and significance. If you find that the way the practice is being presented causes you intellectual problems, sort them out. Even reword the practice; find a way that does actually work for you in terms of getting a strong experiential feel for each of the Elements. It may be that, for you, there is some better way of working your way into the practice. Here, an important assumption to bear in mind is to come to the practice as the second and third stages of cultivating Wisdom; this means being intellectually convinced at least to some considerable extent. If you are still skeptical of the terms in which the practice is conducted, then you need to be still at the first stage, srutramayaprajna, of listening to and investigating the language of the Dharma. When you take up the practice, and practise contemplating in the true sense of that term, what you are doing is taking your intellectual conviction deeper, finding deeper emotional equivalents and connections to inform and enrich and vivify your intellectual insight and understanding. We are intent on turning intellectual conviction into insight. We need to beware of making our observations too complex on the one hand; we also need to beware of making them too simplistic. There's

and solidity in the experience; and then, go further than just the physical sensation in a way which gives you a real heart connection with the psychological and even spiritual experience of resistance within our experience. In this way, the physical experience can come to act as a symbol resonating hand, we need to approach the practice with a simplicity, directness and faith in the archetypal nature of the symbols. Some people have more precise and complex minds: they have to get it all exact. So they have to be careful to not turn the practice into a discursive system of philosophy. Since the practice is poor philosophy, to do so is to get distracted. Take my way of leading as an indication, and pointer to the way to work. Also beware over-simplifying. These remarks conclude my introduction to the first major aspect of contemplating an Element. There are two further major aspects, which take the practice to its conclusion, and which we will now come to in turn. It is very important that we do practise this first aspect thoroughly, because it sets up the context, the base of the pyramid as it were. We need to have a very vivid, rich and colourful sense of each of the Six Elements in terms of what we actually experience. It is only if we have this that we can go on to see them more for what they really are, and in

very much a middle way to be explored. On the one hand, we have to look much more deeply into the subtle and rich nature of our experience, looking beneath the surface of our experience, asking questions, thinking things through. But, beware of falling into philosophising and abstracting. On the other do so in a relative sense. Obviously we each have a body: this is my body, that is your body, that is his body; this body belongs to me, yours to you, and so on. Nevertheless, the point is that our experiences of the Six Elements are actually very much more fluid than we usually tend to think of them as being. So this is what the practice is aiming us to acknowledge: "Look at your experience, it is much more fluid, much more insubstantial, than you really interpret it as being. Can you really find anything in what you actually experience of the Element which is really essentially 'you'?" The fact is that we just cannot identify in any genuinely satisfying sense such a thing. The main thing to realise is that there is nothing in the totality of our experience which remains with us all the time and which could therefore be an inherently lasting source of identity. And furthermore we see that these experiences of the Elements cannot be owned, possessed, or ultimately controlled. Obviously, in a

doing so let go of our attachment to them. ii. Recognising our impermanence In the second major phase of our contemplation of an Element we recognise that we label our experience, that we put concepts on it, somewhat necessarily and usefully, but usually in such a way as to cause us pain; the pain comes from being misled by them. And in particular this phase of the practice involves recognising that, within our experiences of any one of the Six Elements, we cannot find anything with which to identify in a permanent way, anything to call 'me' or 'I'. That is not to say we cannot tree growing. We can be lulled into a sense of permanency. But we are, in fact, constantly changing, just as speeded up films of growing plants show how dynamic plants are. A famous saying of Buddhagosa strikes an appropriate note for this phase of the practice: 'No doer of deeds is found; No one who ever reaps their fruits: Just bare phenomena roll on This view alone is right and true. No god, no Brahma, can be found, No maker of this wheel of life; Just bare phenomena roll on, Dependent on conditions all.' iii. Letting happily The last contemplating letting go of go - resting major phase of an Element is our

sense, the experience of the Water Element inside you is inside you, its not inside anyone else. It's your digestion, your food, you are building it up into your body and so forth. But these experiences cannot be held onto; these experiences flow onwards. We really have very little control over such things. It's much more that they happen to us. Our organism is a temporary comingtogether of these Six Elements. Even with a scientific analysis we come to see that something as apparently substantial as our bones are, in fact, going through a cycle of constant change. We're a bit like a of the Bark-garment: 'Then, Bahiya, thus must you train yourself: In the seen only the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the imagined just the imagined, in the cognized just the cognized. Thus you will have no "thereby". That is how you must train yourself. Now, Bahiya, when in the seen there will be to you just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the imagined just the imagined, in the cognized just the cognized, then, Bahiya, as you will have no "thereby", you will have no "therein". As you, Bahiya, will have no "therein", it follows that you will have no "here", or "beyond", or "midway between". That is just the end of Ill.' 2 I take this to mean in part that we tend not to have a freely appreciative,

possessiveness of, and our identification with the Element. And in doing so, we allow ourselves to experience the Element in a less ego- or self-orientated, selfreferential, selfinterpretative, appropriative manner; we let go of our craving, grasping, and attachment; we no longer look for security and refuge in this mode. We recognise all these tendencies within ourselves, that we tend to be very preoccupied with different aspects of our experience as they relate to us, as to how they effect 'me', and being 'mine', or 'not-mine'. Instead in the practice we relax into an easier, freer, appreciative, unconcerned relationship to our experience, one which is less self-concerned. In this way, we enjoy and appreciate our experience simply for what it is, allowing it to flow past and through us. This is one interpretation of the famous quote from the Udana of the Buddha's advice to Bahiya The practice is called The Contemplation of the Six Elements. We practise cultivating Insight via the Threefold Path of Wisdom: listening, reflecting and meditating. Our purpose is to work our way through each of the two earlier stages towards the goal of an unmediated meditation upon the nature of the Six Elements. To reach these purer heights of contemplative thought, we necessarily will have had to

unconcerned relationship to our experience. Instead, we normally interpret the elements of our experience in terms of a dualistic distinction, for instance, in terms of a 'me' and a 'notme', of a 'in-here' and 'outthere', and so on. In setting up this dualistic structure of interpretation, all sorts of distinctions take on a reality much more substantial than is actually the case. Within this structure there are two crucial reference points or poles, the subjective and the objective. All our experience is defined in relation to this dualism. This is the interpretative filter through which we view the world and our lives. Consequently this is the self-referential viewpoint, which has the emotional follow on of craving, grasping and strong attachment. 4. Why we contemplate

i. Listening, reflecting and meditating. can do this. Firstly, 'The Circling Wood Pigeons'. Here we set about discovering connections, images, metaphors in perhaps quite an associative manner, perhaps 'brain-storming'. Secondly, 'Becoming The Bamboo'. This involves learning via imaginative identification with that which is outside ourselves. For instance, we may spend some time wondering what it is like to be an ant, watching one go

have worked a lot at the prior stages of listening and reflecting. All that was said about reflection in my talk 'Listening, Reflecting and Meditating' applies here. I shall briefly recapitulate some of the main points here. First of all we learn to look, to pay close attention to our experience; we do so in the terms of the primary distinctions of six-fold analysis which the practice enjoins. We identify the Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space and Consciousness in terms of our actual experience, and we also develop our intellectual understanding of this six-fold analysis. The latter will involve studying the relevant texts, and listening to talks such as these. And then, after a certain amount of this kind of preparation, we reflect deeply on the nature and significance of our actual experience, perhaps reflecting in the ways I suggested in my talk, and which are summarised below. I'll quickly remind you of these. The essence is to employ our imaginations in effecting a synergy of our intuition with our capacity to think, both associatively, and with directed thought. I coined, borrowing some of Padmavajra's metaphors, six over-lapping ways in which we relaxed, purified, lucid, calm pool of the mind. As an aside, sraddha is said to be the great water-

about its life in the long ant trails on the ground, and so on. We try to make the imaginative leap and seeing things from another, even radically different, point of view. Thirdly, 'The Kingfisher'. This is where we engage in intuitive listening: diving immediately into the heart of the matter, like a kingfisher dives into the pond to catch a fish. Fourthly, 'The Squirrel'. This refers to how squirrels run up and down the branches of trees; this is a metaphor for following the branches of logical analysis. Fifthly, 'Socratic Dialogue'. Based on our actual experience we investigate the categories of our thought and tease them out a bit more, challenging the basis on which we tend to interpret the world. Sixthly, having gone through all these sorts of different types of reflective processes in relation to the Six Elements, and when we feel confident to move on, we cultivate the third level of the Path of Wisdom. This sounds deceptively simple. We just sit meditating on a particularly pertinent aspect of experience, such as the nature of consciousness. I likened this to dropping pebbles, the essential points, the pith instructions into the reorganised our self to the point that we experience and see things from this Insight. A permanent restructuring of

purifying gem; this points to the importance of the heart. Sraddha, being the quintessentially positive mental event, purifies all those other mental events with which it is associated. This is likened traditionally to when a purifying gem is put into some cloudy water, it dispels all the cloudiness. In the same kind of way, sraddha associated with this reflective activity brings about lucidity and calmness. Into this kind of mind, we 'drop' the distilled essence, so to speak, of our reflections. It is perhaps a bit like repeating a mantra: resting in this state, we can say to our self over and over again, for instance, 'Earth ... Earth ...' And because we have such a vivid background of associations with such a term, images come to mind, and intuitively connections are made. One traditional image likens this process to a knob of butter dissolving into hot broth. The hot broth of the mind melts the solid butter of the distilled essence of reflection, and gradually the butter melts, seeping out and permeating the broth. In a similar fashion all the words and concepts and early stages of reflection are integrated and absorbed. Eventually words are no longer needed; our minds can be focused directly to the unmediated experience of a particular Element. On the basis of this comes a deeper

our being comes about. So this is how we set about systematically cultivating Wisdom. I hope I have communicated something of the colourfulness and vividness of the process. It's not like a dry tough ship's biscuit, which is hard work to masticate. I'm talking about the taste of a delightfully rich fruit cake, wet with brandy and delicious liquors soaked into the fruit, a mouthful of lusciousness which we can really enjoy. I hope you'll bear this in mind as we move on now into the next section of the talk, which explains the background from which this contemplation of the Six Elements comes. b. The Argument An important background for this section of my talk is 'The True Nature of all Dharmas', Chapter 1 section 12 of 'The Survey of Buddhism'. The Six Element practice engages in a two-fold attack on our greatest delusion: the notion of an independent unchanging reality of self (attavada) i.e. our delusion of our self as being noumenal or, having a 'fixed, permanent and substantial' nature. This is our fundamental miccha ditthi. This is what the Buddha was concerned to get us to dig out. And this is what we should use the Six Element practice to do. This wrong view is the tap-root of our being: 'amongst all the complexity of my brain etc., there is a permanent "me"

knowledge, we become 'one with it'. Rather than our knowledge being something separate, with a sort of object of knowledge outside of us, it becomes something part of us; we will have this 'thing' which we call 'me' which is, as it were, a kind of 'lump', or 'bit', which is located somewhere, in our brain perhaps, or guts, or heart, or it's just hovering somewhere around us, being either physical or incorporeal. Or we may have a rather more sophisticated rationale for 'it'. The second aspect of this wrong view is that we are convinced that this thing, that we call 'me', is the source of its own energy and life; it is selfsustaining, maintaining its own life-force. In other words, we believe that fundamentally it is not conditioned, that it is not dependent on anything else. In attacking this twofold delusion Buddhaghosa defines dharmas as being, firstly 'without-permanentessence' (nissata), and secondly, 'not in themselves the source of their own lifeenergy' (nijivata). In conceptual terms, the purpose of the Six Element practice is to cultivate this right view. So what is the basic conceptual argument employed by the practice? We can come at this question in a whole number of ways. So what follows is just one of these. There is a chaos of senseimpressions pouring in through

somewhere here.' Our delusion is two-fold. On the one hand, we believe that there is a permanently indivisible and irreducible 'atomic' essence to our self. We have a sense that there is that we distinguish our senseimpressions into what we think of as being 'in here', and label as 'me', and what think of as 'out there', and label as 'not-me'. What naturally follows is the distinction of 'mine' and 'not-mine'. This is not merely a cool, impartial, analytically cognitive process; there are strong emotions involved too. We become possessive and deeply emotionally engaged with what is 'mine', feeling very strongly that there really is a 'independently and permanently existing me' and a 'me-which-has-things'. There are 'things which belong to me' and 'things which don't belong to me'. From an Enlightened viewpoint, this interpretation is 'wrong'. In other words, albeit relatively 'true', this view is ultimately false; it is an illusory way of relating to, structuring and interpreting our experience. It's not that it is completely wrong; it's not that there is nothing there at all, that we don't exist in any sense whatsoever. What is wrong is the way in which we relate to our experience. Structuring our experience is an essential process within developing selfawareness. What we have to become increasingly aware of

all our different sense doors all the time. We have learnt to interpret, and work up our experience of this chaos of sense-impressions into a coherent, logically watertight, rationally satisfying picture; it is an apparently stable and convincing picture of an objective world and ourselves in relation to it. Consequently, we have a vivid sense of a self and a world, all being organised in terms of time and space. A particularly fundamental characteristic of the way we view our world is is only when it is pointed out to them that they see it in that way. Unfortunately, there is a tendency after a while to see it exclusively like that, to forget that there is more to it than that particular hand-like shape. We need to be careful that we don't come to see the categories by which we interpret our experience in too fixed and substantial a kind of way. We see 'things' as being separate from one another. It's not that they are not, but it is not that they are separate either! There is a middle way between the two interpretations; our language tends to fool us into thinking that they are more substantial and distinct than they actually are. Language structures our experience for us in a very useful way. But then we tend to get hoodwinked by the categories of our language. The Six Element practice

is that such structuring is just a device, a tool, a useful means, a system of metaphors, which can help us to be more aware. We tend to forget this and take our interpretations far too literally. For example, we call a certain rock in the middle of the Guhyaloka valley The Hand, because it looks very much like a hand thrusting itself up out of the valley bottom. But of course, the majority of people when they first come to Guhyaloka probably don't think of this rock as The Hand. It situation which prompts us to have this sort of response? Or, for instance, how do we feel when we get ill or when we start to bleed? All sorts of feelings come up in relation to these experiences which are much more to do with the way in which we are emotionally attached to the basic constructs of our experience than what a more detached understanding would bring. Or, for instance, what happens to our mind when we get very cold? We can get very tetchy. This sort of experience points to how dependent we are on really quite finely tuned parameters in relation to who and what we think we are and how we define ourselves. Another example is 'our space'; for instance, if someone is sitting in our chair, or gets a little bit too close to us or something like that, we can feel a bit as if we're being crowded out, that we can't breathe. We

attacks over-literalism, particularly in relation to what we regard as 'me' and 'mine', our sense of identity, who we are, and what we think defines us. All this may sound quite simple and straight-forward on the intellectual level. But when we do the practice in the way we are meant to do it, we start to get a sense of the depth of emotional attachment involved in the way we go about structuring our world. We begin to discover how so often we're very, very touchy in relation to basic distinctions. For instance, what do we feel when someone tells us we are fat or growing bald or something of this nature? Often our pride is injured; we start to check out the perception: 'I'm not that fat - a little tubby maybe ...' What is it about our perceptions in this sort of ourselves, and others, and that as a consequence we cause ourselves, and others, a lot of pain. And furthermore the practice is getting us to discover that it is much more pleasurable and satisfying to be free of our attachment to organising our experience in this manner; in other words, the practice enables us to see how we can become our own masters rather than slaves. If we can develop this kind of looseness to our experience, this kind of freedom, we'll rise into a very much more positive state of mind.

just don't want to have some people so close to us, and yet others we can't get close enough! These sorts of experience tell us something about how we go about making sense of ourselves in relation to the so-called objective world that we perceive around us. So often we assume that 'that's just the way it is', even, 'that's how it should be!' This practice is getting us to look more deeply at these kinds of frequently habitual automatic responses. It is also getting to us to see that our processes of identification are conventional and arbitrary. We put so much store by these processes. In effect, we go for refuge to and gain an enormous amount of security from our interpretation of the world. The practice is getting us to see that in doing all of this we limit is the sum total of these 'bits'. It's not that there is something wrong with having a sense of identity. It is our attachment to this identity which is being put under the spotlight. So we start to become aware of how attached we are to this body, and how attached we are to experiencing the world as we normally experience it through the senses of our body; we become aware of how attached we are to the sense of a 'me', and to possessing, and to liking things, and to not liking things, and to liking to be in control. And the

The spatio-analytic and dynamic-synthetic approaches. In the Six Element practice this twofold delusion of attavada is attacked from two closely related points of view: firstly, we view ourselves, as it were, spatially as objects made up of so called 'parts.' And secondly, we consider our experience of ourselves dynamically and as conditioned by other so called 'things' and processes. The first is known as the spatio-analytic method. In this respect we are progressively analysing ourselves as phenomena-asfact. In other words, we break ourselves down into the Six Elements, into six constituent categories of experiences, or heaps of processes, which reveals our composite nature. The traditional image is that of the manner in which we can imaginatively take a chariot to pieces, collecting it together into wheels, spokes, and so forth. What becomes apparent is that we are attached to the idea of 'the whole', that somehow all these 'bits' make up something 'more' than just the 'bits'. For instance, we are attached to the 'me' which internal and external conditions, an inter-related network of causal connections. Combining these two different approaches within the practice, we come to see that our experience of ourselves and the world is not

practice helps us to see how all these 'parts' do not constitute an essential true nature or an unchanging essence. And we start to realise how temporary, fluid and arbitrary these distinctions are within our experience, that they, in themselves, don't really define us. It's not that they are not part of the picture; it is not that they are complete illusions, but we realise that they are not fundamentally us. And then, in the dynamicsynthetic method we resolve ourselves, as a phenomenon-asevent, into the sum of our external relations. We analyse our experience in such a way as to reveal that we, and the elements of our experience of our internal world, do not live or move by their own power; the Six Elements flow into us, through us, and back out into the outside world. It is not as if we have created any of them; in a sense, we are borrowing them from the outside world temporarily. And we also analyse our experience and the elements making up our experience of our inner world in such a way as to reveal that they arise in dependence on a complex of impermanence, and hence on to our impermanence. In other words, taking the Elements to be empty, to be devoid of any inherent, permanently enduring substance, we acknowledge that they are constantly coming and going. And then secondly, we

at all a straightforward matter; there isn't an entirely separate 'me' standing aside from other separate 'things'. Instead, we come to appreciate something of the rich and subtle complexity of different types of processes which are, as it were, flowing through time and space, one effecting another, and that all of these contribute to the experience of 'me'. We come to see that the arbitrary, conventional analysis that sees things in simple terms is just that. ii. The viparyasas and sunyata Another very useful perspective from which to understand the dynamic of the Six Element practice is that of the viparyasas. The practice involves investigating, at least two, if not all the viparyasas; we examine how we look for the permanent in that which is by nature impermanent, and the substantial in that which is by nature insubstantial. In the practice we analyse our experience of ourselves and the world into the parts, or constituents, or heaps of the four Elements of rupa, that is Earth, Water, Fire and Air, and also the Elements of Space and Consciousness. When we've learnt to do this, which is, in fact, a bit artificial but nevertheless a useful analysis, we then progress in two directions simultaneously. Firstly we work from the

work from the fact of our constituents' and parts' impermanence to their insubstantiality, and hence on to our insubstantiality. In this way we convince ourselves of the propositions contained in the premises! In other words, that we are impermanent because what we are made up of is insubstantial; and that we are insubstantial because what we are made up of is impermanent. Let me attempt to spell this argument out a little further. We have no 'ownbeing', no 'self'-mastery, we are not self-originated (which is actually a contradictory concept) for two reasons. Firstly, this is because we are compounded; we are made up of the six Elements; we are just the sum of our components, being simply a momentary collocation of exterior causal factors. And secondly, since these causal factors are constantly changing, we are constantly changing. The material processes of the body, and mental process which make up the so called 'mind' do not belong to us, are not our own because they arise and change in dependence on conditions over which we have very little, if any, control. Because these aspects of our experience are impermanent, they can be taken away from us; what can be taken away from us is not our own; what is not our own cannot be regarded as our self. The exploration of all

fact of the insubstantiality of our analysed parts and constituents to their a so called Hinayana exercise. The Six Element practice also leads naturally enough into the development of the first three levels of sunyata, which is of course a Mahayana development with the same fundamental purpose. Why should this be significant? The experience of sunyata, as spiritual death, is said to be a crucial prerequisite to the organic development of, what Bhante has termed, the fourth great stage of spiritual path and Meditation, that is of spiritual rebirth. spiritual rebirth comes about through awakening of the Bodhicitta, a progressive communication and re-identifying with the Bodhisattva. Hence the Six Element practice lays the ground for this coming into ever deeper communication and reidentification with the Bodhisattva. Only if we have a strong experience of what Mr. Chen has called 'the fires of sunyata', will our sadhana avoid becoming what he says is just 'vulgar magic'. Consequently the third treat stage of the spiritual path and meditation, of cultivating sunyata, is an absolutely essential stepping stone, or platform, to go on to the next stage. It is not optional. Sadhana without this is not completely useless - that would be too extreme an assertion; but for sadhana to act as a focus for the arising

these Elements in terms of impermanence and insubstantiality is primarily of the Elements of rupa, the level of conditioned existence; then we go on to the level of akasha, which is fundamentally an Unconditioned dharma; and then we see through the difference between the conditioned and Unconditioned by working on Consciousness - if we go through that gateway sufficiently deeply then any apparent tension between conditioned and Unconditioned is resolved. Investigation of Form (rupa), that is of the Four Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, eventually leads to an understanding of the emptiness of conditioned (samskrta-sunyata). Investigation of Space (akasha) eventually leads, via accessing the fourth dhyana state of the sphere of infinite space and incidentally the third vimoksa, 'The release called the beautiful (subha)',3 to an understanding of the emptiness of the Unconditioned (asamskrta). Investigation of Consciousness (vijnana), also via accessing the fourth dhyana state of the sphere of infinite Consciousness, leads to an understanding of Mahasunayata; this understanding resolves apparent tension between conditioned (samskrta) and Unconditioned (asamskrta). At such a point we apprehend that consciousness is not limited,

of the Transcendental, it has to be based in the cultivation of sunyata. Sadhana without a strong experience of the third great stage of the spiritual path and meditation probably remains more of a psychological exercise, which helps us in terms of samatha. In the practice we have the possibility of working at ever more refined levels of understanding of the nature of sunyata: firstly, on the level 3. WORKING IN THE PRACTICE 1. 2.

conditioned by, or confined to any 'object' whatsoever, whether apparently conditioned or Unconditioned. I cannot really say very much about that; it is well beyond even my intellectual capacity!

Introduction Engaging creatively 'Scrap-books' A personal aside Imagination 3. The Earth & Water Element The Earth Element The Water Element 1. Introduction Today, I want to say something more about how to go about working in the practice, something more about the spirit with which we should apply ourselves. And then, I also want to give you some hints, a leg-up, so to speak, to start you off with your investigations into the Elements. So I say something about the Earth and Water Elements by way of introducing how we can approach them. 2. Engaging Creatively As you listen to me leading you through the practice, you may be developing certain impressions. You may think that when you do the practice on your own, what you have to do is to repeat what I am saying to yourself in much the same words. This is partly correct, at least initially. When we first start out, the practice can certainly be substantially based upon that kind of discursive commentary, just as it can be when we first start out with the metta bhavana. But, as we become more adept at the practice and more confident, we should naturally move on from this early preparatory stage. The process of meditating should become more intuitive, and more spontaneously imaginative. If so, we won't need to keep saying sentences over and over again to ourselves in much the way that I am talking us through the practice. Perhaps

from time to time, we may need to come back to these more discursive props as a way of reminding ourselves of the basic format of the practice. We may need to have resort to the rational, conceptual modes occasionally. But, we should certainly not be thinking of staying in these realms all of the time; far from it. What we trying to do through this practice is to learn a new way of experiencing ourselves and the everyday world which we walk around in. We're trying to learn how to live in a mythic context, in the same sense as we use that term on the Mythic Context Retreats at Padmaloka. The phrase 'Mythic Context' indicates the possibility of finding a very important new way of relating to ourselves and our experience. It is a bit like what I was talking about in relation to some earlier talks on the retreat on the Vajra; living in the realm of Vajric or Diamond Essence, where the Vajric essence is sparkling through each and every thing. 'Scrap-books' One very practical way of helping to broaden out from your conceptual understanding of the practice and to develop a more imaginative connection is to keep a note of all associations, examples, and vivid experiences that you have of these different Elements. Build up a colourful 'picture-book, or scrap-book', as it were, with a section for each of the Elements. Make this into an ongoing project; this is something that you can keep going as a regular practice, in much the same way that you do with any other spiritual practice that you build into your daily life. Keep adding to your 'collection' of vivid examples which particularly 'speak' to you of the Elements. The point is that there is an enormous amount of scope to each of the Elements. The conceptual definitions are useful, but we certainly must not leave our understanding of the Elements at that. If we set out to explore each Element, we will discover more and more in ever greater depth; they are very mysterious. It is not by chance that one traditional term for the Elements is mahabhuta - The Great Ghost. There is something mercurial and strange about each of them. At first, they may seem very simple and straight-forward. But the more that we look into them, the more wonderfully mysterious we will find them to be. I suggest that you can explore your experiences of each Element in a whole variety of different ways. For example, you could simply look, and observe, and watch. Or, you could perhaps go a step further: you could employ one or another of the talents you may have. You may be a bit of a painter or enjoy drawing; actually, it doesn't matter if you can paint, or draw well or not; you may just enjoy the process of making marks, or putting paint on paper as a way of expressing something of your

experience. A variation on this is to cut pictures out of magazines, and make up collages, or story lines. Or, you may be a bit of a poet; even though you may not wish to read it out to others, you may have that sort of poetic muse, or voice inside of you, which comes from jotting a few inspired phrases down. Or, you may enjoy finding poems, or bits of poems, or literary descriptions which seem particularly apt at evoking one or another of the Elements - for instance, there are many fine passages in classical literature which describe Nature. Here is an example which I found that someone had copied out into just such a scrap-book and left in the Guhyaloka Library. Full many a glorious morning have I seen, Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine With all-triumphant splendour upon my brow; But out, alack, he was but one hour mine, The region cloud hath masked him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth, Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.4 Another example which came to mind is a very vivid and dramatic description of a hurricane in Jamaica by E.M. Forester (I think). Or, you may be a bit of a story teller yourself, or you might have a flair for descriptive narrative and can write a good account of something which has happened. An aspect of your explorations could be to dwell on the widely ranging forms through which any one Element characteristically expresses itself. And then, we can also sense something more which goes beyond the immediate sensations, which also speaks of what the Element most essentially is. Another possibility is to dwell on the conventional symbols for these Elements: cube, sphere, cone and so forth; this may reveal subtler dimensions in your appreciation of each Element. I came across some notes I had taken from one of Bhante's seminars on the various geometrical forms of the stupa; Bhante suggested that we could dwell on these forms in quite a loose way. For example, he said that we could associate ripeness and fertility and richness and summer with the golden yellow cube. Of course, we could make all sorts of other kinds of associations, but he just happened to mention these ones as an example. And it isn't as if we have to just stay with the geometric shape of the cube; its shape and colour suggests

certain textures, and lightness and so forth. In this way we can explore our associations with the Element's qualities. Then he talked of the white sphere as the coolness and purity of the moon, perhaps suggesting harmony. And again the red cone as suggesting the heat of fire, even the passion and energy of aspiration. A personal aside I've been encouraging you to look to the poets. This may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it is one approach which can work. A couple of days ago I was looking through the Collected Works of Shakespeare, and I was reminded of the irony of King Lear's appeal to the elements. There Lear is, no longer in effect the King, on the 'blasted' heath, and in his anger and frustration he invokes the elements to do something to his ungrateful daughters. He's deeply and passionately moved. 'Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks; rage, blow. You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks. You sulph'rous and thoughtexecuting fires, Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head. And thou, all shaking thunder, strike flat the thick rotundity o' th'world; Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once, That makes ingrateful man. ... Rumble thy bellyful. Spit, fire; spout, rain. Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters. I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness; I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children; You owe me no subscription. Then let fall your horrible pleasure. Here I stand, your slave, A poor, infirm, weak and despis'd old man. ...' 5 This situation just struck me as very ironic: this man was King and he had succeeded in ordering and structuring not only his own life but the life of the realm. He was the King - so in a very practical sense, he owned everything; he had that divine right; he possessed everything. And now he is howling at the wind and the rain. And yet somehow, in attempting to order the future, in trying to bring it into line with what he wanted, the whole thing fell to pieces, it crumbled away, as inevitably life does. He suffered the fate of so many dictators and people who set themselves up as those who are going to order the world for the better. But fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the world won't behave in the way the human mind wants it to; the only predictable thing about Samsara is its unpredictability. When Lear ignored the message of his own fragility, he reaped the consequences, particularly through trying to control the future. Lear is humbled in the implacable face of the elements. And in a sense this is because he hadn't taken them into account; he hadn't really seen into the deeper nature of

that over which he was King. He had become too puffed up, proud with his assumed ownership and proprietorship. So, he suffers the hubris; he received the consequences of that. And that is what happens to all of us, unless we learn to delve much more deeply into the fabric of our worlds and the way that we structure them. Imagination This sort of imaginative activity is very important. In all these different kinds of ways you can set out to describe to yourself your actual experience, and come into relationship with it through, in a sense, externalising it to yourself. I want to emphasise the importance of actually engaging with the Elements in this way as a preparation for the formal meditation. It is one way of engaging with the practice in the right spirit, to enrich it and to enjoy it. If you do so, you'll become captivated by your practice, you'll become increasingly interested, fascinated and absorbed in it. We need to engage imaginatively with our experience. We need to learn to look, and look again, to see afresh, and then to understand more clearly and deeply the nature of our perceptual processes: 'what makes me think that something is the way that it seems to be?' On the basis of this sort of process, we learn to make new connections, both literal and metaphorical; we can start to understand more completely how things are connected, and flow one into the other. And when we start looking in this way, we start to see how the physical sensations of a particular experience can be a metaphor for something hidden, unseen, how they can act as a symbolic image for something beyond, which cannot be immediately apprehended through the six senses. All of this is essential to cultivating the right perspective for the latter stages of the Contemplation. Actually the last stage of 'letting go' won't be so much a letting go because the more that we come to appreciate things as they actually are, the less we have to hang on to what is only an illusion. The less the illusion will distract us from appreciating the richness and vividness of what is actually there. The more that we cultivate this type of awareness right from the beginning of the practice, and the more that we live in this appreciative manner, the more naturally the practice will come to us. The practice won't seem awkward or contrived or strange. It'll just seem increasingly straight-forward. You'll almost be able to just go straight into the last stage of the practice, sitting there happily watching the flow of your experience passing by, and knowing that you are not trying to appropriate it, not trying to seek refuge in it. If you do this, the next few weeks will be a very rich and exciting and inspiring; you

will be systematically cultivating living in and through your senses; you will enjoy becoming more aware and alive to what's going on around you; you will become more poet-like, susceptible and sensitive to the deeper hidden meanings. 3. The Earth and Water Elements I am now going to conclude this talk by spending some time talking about the Earth and Water Elements in turn. I hope to spark you off, so to speak; although, I'm sorry to say there won't be any fireworks. What I have to say is really little more than a prompt, rather than a performance in itself. The Earth Element We are familiar with the definition of the Earth Element as being that which is solid, resistant, firm, substantial, ungiving and dry like sand in a desert. So we can bring to mind all the different examples of these that we know. And then, as I suggested earlier, we can ask ourselves questions like, 'Why a yellow cube? What does that tell me about the experience of the Element Earth?' Next we can explore the Element's secondary characteristics: colours, textures, shapes. In doing this make sure that you explore the Element through all your different senses, that is in terms of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Through each sense we can find a very particular feel for the nature and character of the Element. At Guhyaloka we are very fortunate to be living in the mountains. We are in the realm of stone, rocks, cliff-faces. The Earth Element is very much right there in front of us. There are so many different ways in which the Earth Element expresses itself here at Guhyaloka. And then, bear in mind that the Earth Element is not just soil, rock, pebbles and so on. It is much more subtle than these particular forms might suggest. For instance, a interesting paradox is ice. Ice is an expression of the Earth Element. You might think ice is water, which of course scientifically it is. But ice is actually a very good example of the Earth Element. And the action of ice, in mountain landscapes, has carved out and ground down the surrounding mountains. Although this is not exclusively the activity of the Earth Element, we see in a particularly dramatic way the friction between different forms of the Earth Element as they struggle and fight with one another. Another example is the action of a tree breaking up rock as its roots work their way through the gaps. There are other expressions of the Earth Element in precious metals such as gold, and silver, and precious stones. Each example has its own particular flavour which reveals something more about the Earth Element of which they are an expression.

Coal and steel are more examples. There's a lot here to play with, a lot to discover, a richer and wider perspective on how the Earth Element finds various different expressions in the world around us, and within us. And then we should also explore our experience of the Earth Element in our mind. Psychologically, we can encounter the Earth Element in terms of blocked, locked, immovable, lumpy, resistant energy. Of course such a description conveys a rather negative view of the Earth Element. But then what are the positive expressions of the Earth Element in terms of our minds? The Earth Element could be seen as that which gives form and shape and substance. The relationship between 'spirit' and form is important here. In this sense, ideas, images, and even sounds, express the characteristics of the Earth Element: a solid, resistant quality. And then there is the experience of the strength, solidity, imperturbability and power of particular mental states, for example kshanti; this seems to me to speak of the Earth Element. We should also explore more poetic associations with the Earth Element. For instance, there is the voluptuous, beautiful Earth goddess, Drdha; what does that figure suggest about the nature of the Earth Element? And then, other Earth-beings such as the dwarfs in Tolkein's The Hobbit; these are stocky, squat beings who live under the ground. They somehow express what it is like to be wrapped up with the Earth Element. It struck me that the local farmers around here are very much like this: short, squat, they are baked brown and wrinkled by the sun, their fat, bulging muscles, and hardened stubby fingers seem to speak of a deep involvement with the Earth Element; and then they have these bright twinkling eyes, rather like the fire in a precious stone. These people seem to particularly express the Earth Element in human form. They convey, for instance, a very different impression to that of a male dancer. Another avenue of exploration is the notion of the earth being a repository, a seed-house. If you go down to El Morer at the moment there is a beautiful spread of red poppies and yellow flowers over one of the banks. This has come about through the bank being scraped by a digger revealing a band of earth in which there was clearly a large batch of seed. And now its sprung to into life. This says something about the nature of the Earth Element. The Water Element The Water Element is everything fluid, liquid, that is flowing, that is soft, that is wet and even slimy, and that coheres. We have a strong affinity with the Water Element; after all we are 90 percent water. When you stop to think about it, it's staggering that our bodies are so liquid. We certainly feel

our deep involvement with the Water Element on a very hot day, when we are dying for a drink, or a cool dip in the sea. Our bodies seem to drink in water through our skin. There are all sorts of experience which express the Water Element. For instance, dewdrops all over the grass and trees at Padmaloka in the spring morning sunlight are very beautiful, and the spiders' webs dripping with dew like diamond and pearl necklaces. And then the mist; up here the mist creates a very curious world as it wraps itself around the trees and rocks. Another example is rain over the sea coming out of a great black storm crossing over the surface of the ocean. And then, the sea is itself a world of extraordinary life and colour. I probably have more associations with the sea than many. The colour of the sea in the Bahamas and Bermuda, where I grew up, is very often a very beautiful, bright emerald and turquoise. The water there often has a particularly lovely translucency and depth. You see this in mountain lakes as well. Water also has fascinating reflective qualities. And then, there is an enormous amount of life going on in the sea: beautiful fishes, corals and so on. The sea also has immense power. The power of flowing water is awe-inspiring. Think of waves, even on a calm day there are ripples pulsing through the ocean. Or think of the Niagara falls, or the monsoon rains. These express something of the power of the Water Element as it flows from one form to another. But, of course, it is important to remember that the Water Element is not just expressed in the phenomena of water. It finds expression in other liquids and the forms that they take. There is the viscosity of oils, for example. Hot wax in the lip of a candle. The chip fryer. Petrol. Washing up liquid. Mercury as it coheres on the school science lab table. And then, how does the Water Element manifest in psychological terms? We experience it as energy flowing from side to side; a sort of repetitive, cyclical expression. We might associate this with rather negative mental states. But are there more positive associations? The Water Element seems to express the mysterious nature of our emotional depths, and the power that is hidden there. Think of the mythic beings which are said to inhabit the depths of the psyche: the Nagas. I'm afraid to say I don't know much about Nagas, but they certainly seem to be fascinating and mysterious creatures. The king of the Nagas is said to have looked after the Perfection of Wisdom before bequeathing it to Nargarjuna. We must remember that neither of these Elements, Earth and Water, are mutually exclusive. None of the Elements are mutually exclusive. The practice may give this impression that they are, but they do overlap, particularly in the most obvious sense of

finding expression together in almost every example we might come up with. For instance, glass is said to be a super-cooled liquid, and over very long periods of time, we can see that it creeps or flows very slightly. In this sense it is an expression of the Water Element. At the same time glass is solid and therefore an expression of the Earth Element. Our own bodies are very good examples of the combined nature of the Elements. Our sweating skin, for instance, is a obvious tangible example of Earth and Water Elements. So remember that very rarely will any one example solely be an expression of just one Element. But usually in any one example a particular Element will stand out as being the most prominent feature from a certain perspective.

4.

AN APPLICATION OF AWARENESS 1. 2.

Introduction Extending our awareness i. How to cultivate mindfulness? ii. Working against the hindrances 3. Cultivating Metta i. Equating self with other ii. The poetic dimension of metta 4. The Heart's Release i. Transforming pride, conceit and arrogance ii. Cultivating non-attachment and equanimity iii. Working with significant examples 5. Conclusion 1. Introduction With the Six Element practice we embark upon the third great stage of Bhante's system of spiritual life and meditation: spiritual death. And it is not surprising to find that the Six Element practice is an organic unfoldment of the two previous stages, Integration and Positive Emotion. Today I want to explore how the practices of cultivating mindfulness and metta naturally support, feed and extend into our practice of the Six Element practice. We will see how the Six Element practice consciously develops mindfulness and metta as a means to attaining the 'Heart's Release.' The Buddha certainly emphasised the crucial importance of cultivating mindfulness, or awareness, at all times; it's really the quintessential Buddhist virtue. It's interesting to note that Bhante spent many years concentrating on the mindfulness of breathing. We can't have too much mindfulness; there's always

further to be gone in developing it; in one way or another, the development of awareness or mindfulness should be a constant factor in our practice of the spiritual life. This is really the main theme of this talk: how awareness is expressed, drawn out and amplified in the context of the Six Element practice. 2. Extending our awareness The traditional terms for awareness are of course smrti (sanskrit), or sati (pali). In the Pali Text Society dictionary sati is said to mean memory, recognition, consciousness, intentness of mind (purposefulness), wakefulness of mind, mindfulness, alertness, lucidity of mind, self-possession, conscience (ethical significance), self-consciousness. The definition of sati as self-possession is interesting because at first sight, it would seem to contradict one of the purposes of the Six Element practice inasmuch as the practice works against a notion of possessing a fixed self. What is meant by self-possession as a dimension of awareness? First of all, we are aware of sense experience flooding in on us; we are selfpossessed to the point that we know what is coming through those different gates of the senses; we know what is happening to us and what is going on around us. We are self-possessed to the extent we are alert, attentive to, and aware of what we are doing in our body, and speech and minds, and aware of what is going on around us. I'm reminded of the Buddha's pithy words to Bahiya of the Bark-garment: 'In the seen, only the seen, in the heard, only the heard ...' and so forth. But self-possession is more than just 'bare awareness'. It also involves knowing our over-riding intentions and motives; it means knowing how our current activity serves our sense of purpose, ultimately that of attaining Enlightenment. This comes out clearly in the quote from the Samannaphala Sutta given below. To be self-possessed is also to know how we go about organising, structuring and working up the content of our experience into the various categories of interpretation, and how we arrive at certain conclusions, propositions, assumptions, interpretations. In this way, we are aware of the structures of interpretation we impose upon our experience, particularly the structure of a fixed, permanent self. And cultivating mindfulness in this way means that we become increasingly aware that our notion of our self simply could be a convenient label that we use to describe a vast complex of inter-dependent and constantly changing processes within our psycho-physical being. But in the Six Element practice we're not trying to get rid of the notion of a self in a crude kind of a way: we're not trying to kill our egos off; we're not trying to chop ourselves up, stick ourselves on a bonfire, and heave a huge sigh of relief as we go up in smoke. We're not so heavy handed. It's not this

at all. We are trying to become much much more sensitive to what we're doing and how we're doing it. i. How to cultivate mindfulness? How do we develop mindfulness? In the Samannaphala sutta of the Digha Nikaya, the Buddha outlines a complete path to Enlightenment, the lower stages of which, prior to formal meditation, consist in the cultivation of mindfulness and selfpossession: "... And how is the Bhikkhu guarded as to the doors of his senses? When he sees an object with his eye, he is not entranced in the general appearance or the details of it. He sets himself to restrain that which might give occasion for evil states, covetousness and dejection, to flow in over him so long as he dwells unrestrained as to his sense of sight. He keeps watch over his faculty of sight, and he attains mastery over it. Similarly, when he hears a sound with his ear ... And endowed with this self-restraint as regards the senses, he experiences within himself a sense of ease into which no evil state can enter. Thus it is that the Bhikkhu becomes guarded as to the doors of his senses. And how is the Bhikkhu mindful and selfpossessed? In this matter the Bhikkhu, in going forth and coming back, keeps clearly before his mind's eye all that is wrapped up therein: the immediate object of the act itself, its ethical significance, whether or not it is conducive to the high aim set before him, the real facts underlying the mere phenomena of the outward act. The Bhikkhu is self-possessed in advancing or withdrawing, in looking forward or looking round, in bending, or stretching his limbs, in wearing his inner and outer robes and bowl, in eating, drinking, masticating, and tasting, in answering the calls of nature, in walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, waking, speaking and keeping silence. In all activity he is aware of all it really means. Thus it is that the Bhikkhu becomes mindful and self-possessed ..." 6 One point out of the many that could be drawn from this passage is that we learn to practise mindfulness in the simple, straight-forward activities of life. We just take what we learn from practising the Mindfulness of Breathing and we put that into effect in our everyday activities, in such simple affairs as brushing our teeth, walking around, eating and so on. In all these simple activities, we just become aware of what we're doing in much the same focused, concentrated way that do when we are watching our breathing. And in the same way that we enjoy the process of breathing, the simple act of air coming in and out of our body, so we also cultivate an enjoyment of and an ease of attention in relation to all these other everyday activities. In this way we learn to be mindful in a very simple, basic, practical way. We generate a head of steam, so to speak, crank up the dynamo of our awareness, and then with that search-light

of awareness we can turn our attention towards increasingly subtle experiences, such as those symbolised by the Six Elements. ii. Working against the hindrances I'm sure we know all too well that cultivating mindfulness is not easy. We can veer between a variety of extremes. For instance there is the extreme of woodenness: the face of a long, sombre, dour, grey kill-joy, the cold super-ego watching over us to see that we never put a foot wrong; the schoolbeak who stands over us with a wagging finger, telling us to be ever so careful or else something horrible will happen to us. Another extreme is a sort of ebullient, boisterous exuberance: 'what the heck, life's for living!' I think often our difficulties in meditation come about from a lack of systematic cultivation of mindfulness in our daily round. There isn't this a kind of broad base of mindfulness in our lives. When we sit down we're still bubbling away with the different consequences of the way that we live our lives. So we spend a lot of time trying to calm ourselves down, and arrive and be present, rather than being actually present enough to get on with meditating. If we cultivate the Middle Way of genuine mindfulness what arises is pramodya - a sense of lightness, happiness, contentment, ease of mind, an easy conscience, even joy, happiness to be experiencing what we're experiencing. We won't feel guilty about the past or regret what might have happened in the past, and we won't be preoccupied with the future. These kinds of worries and restlessness just won't be part of our minds. In fact we'll be free of all the hindrances, and as a consequence be ready to enter meditation proper. I want to summarise some of these points about mindfulness being an important dimension within contemplating the Six Elements. We are, generally speaking, bound up and attached to our way of seeing things. Through becoming more aware of the Six Elements within our experience, we disentangle our attachments to our perceptions; we alter our relationship to the data of our experience, and hence to our clinging, ego-orientated, selfpreoccupied ideas arising in relationship to those data of experience. The more fully we see our experience simply as it actually is, the less attached we become to notions we add onto experience. As we become increasingly aware that our notion of our self, and that of our owning or possessing 'things,' is so provisional and temporary in relation to the continual flow of life around us, and through us, then we become less attached and clinging. The oscillations in the practice of mindfulness, that is between the poles of ebullience and woodenness and the fear of losing one's self, can be corrected by practising metta bhavana.

Because it is a very special sort of awareness, metta helps to balance out any inadequacies in our other ways of practising mindfulness. 3. Cultivating metta My comments here are by way of a reminder. To cultivate metta is to deliberately develop a certain quality of awareness: imaginative identification. In his discussion of the First Precept in The Ten Pillars of Buddhism, Bhante quotes Shelley as saying, 'love [is]... a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. ...' Metta is a leap of imagination, beyond ourselves and our self-preoccupation, which identifies with that which is beautiful in another. We can join Keats: 'If a Sparrow come before my Window I take part in its existence and peck about in the gravel.'7 So much is familiar ground. i. Equating self with other Another familiar aspect of cultivating metta is the equating of our self with others; eventually, we come to feel an equally strong emotion for the other as we do for our own self, perhaps stronger. Shakespeare expresses this brilliantly in The Phoenix and the Turtle, which Bhante quotes in The Ten Pillars of Buddhism: 'So between them love did shine, That the turtle saw his right Flaming in the phoenix sight; Either was the other's mine. Property was thus appalled That the self was not the same. Single nature's double name Neither two nor one was called. Reason, in itself confounded Saw division grow together; To themselves yet either neither ...' Of course only the Phoenix and the Turtle are involved in this particular example. Metta goes far beyond just two people, because we develop a love for all beings equally. This is true metta as it spreads out beyond 'my' love. This is to cultivate the love of Mamaki's Wisdom. If we start to develop this kind of impartial love for all beings we cut away the roots of conceit, we become conceitless. Our pride in our self is extended to all beings alike equally; we no longer make comparison with our self because in a sense there isn't a self or another to be compared: everyone else's self is our own, and vice versa. So in this kind of way we find our self one within each, and all within the other.

ii.

The poetic dimension of metta What perhaps is not so familiar aspect of metta is Shelley's connection of love with imagination and thereby with poetry. 'The great secret of morals is love; ... The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all the other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void for ever craves fresh food. Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.' (Defence of Poetry) Shelley upholds the value of poetry in the same manner that Bhante pursues his theme in The Religion of Art. What I am suggesting is that a crucial dimension to the Six Element practice is the imaginative and hence the poetic; we needs must become poets. In the exercise I set you to write out how you would lead someone else through the practice, what I'd really like you to do is not to copy the way that I've done it but to write it in poetry, and best of all in the kind of poetic manner that you find in the most sublime poets such as (in English): Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley. If we could communicate how to do the Six Element practice in this form, I think we really would have understood what the practice is about. I feel the manner in which I have introduced you to the practice has been rather pedestrian, rather too earth-bound. Ideally speaking, you would have leapt from that into the realm of the poet, into the realm of imagination. We only really begin to engage with the Elements, their mystery and wonder, when our reason and emotion come together in the higher faculty of Imagination. This quote of Coleridge's makes the point: 'The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends, and fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power to which we have exclusively appropriated the name Imagination.' The goal and means of the Six Element practice is to give birth to this higher faculty of Imagination, a higher spiritual faculty, which apprehends much more deeply and clearly the nature of reality. This reminds me of Lawrence's phrase: '... man in his wholeness wholly attending'. It is as if we cultivate three levels of awareness: firstly we see what is actually there in terms of the sense objects. Secondly, we see what are the commonplace interpretations we

choose to make of these sense objects. And thirdly, we see something beyond that, or through it, something deeper or something higher, something sublime, something archetypal, something perhaps Transcendental, some sort of Truth shining through the situation. I think something of this last level is communicated in a lovely set of lines by Shelley in his Prometheus Unbound. 'Fourth Spirit: "On a poet's lips I slept Dreaming like a love-adept In the sound his breathing kept; Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses, But feeds on the arial kisses Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses. He will watch from dawn to gloom The lake-reflected sun illume The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom, Nor heed nor see, what things they be; But from these create he can Form more real than living man, Nurslings of immortality! One of these awakened me, And I sped to succour thee."' This is the language of the heart. What we place our hearts on is absolutely fundamental. So often we lose heart; we become broken hearted if we place them on that which is, by its impermanent nature, incapable of satisfying us. Put another way, we place our hearts in the wrong kind of way on that which is intrinsically impermanent, looking for that which cannot be had. The stress on the poetic and imaginative dimensions of awareness in the Six Element practice is one which encourages us to place our hearts upon the beautiful. We cannot own the beautiful, we cannot appropriate it; but we can love it, we can appreciate it, we can give ourselves up to it. And so with the eye of the Poet, with the eye of affection, with the eye of harmony, 'as milk and water blend' we can develop one mind by empathising with that which is both within us and without us. If we do this we are embodying the spirit of the Six Element practice: we'll generate the warmth and the colour and the vividness and the vitality which the practice is supposed to have. I'm trying very hard to get across the message that the practice is anything but the cold, rational analytical dissection of life on the mortuary table. It's not that at all. 4. The heart's release As I just said, so often we place our heart upon that which is innately unable to satisfy us. We do this through a lack of awareness. But, through cultivating mindfulness or awareness and metta we start to see the everyday 'things' of life differently,

and we consequently feel differently; our attitude and emotions change. In practising the Six Element practice we extend yet further our way of cultivating awareness and metta. And so, in engaging in the practice, we transform our emotions yet more radically. We shall spend the rest of this talk investigating the nature of this transformation. Although initially the Six Element practice may appear to be an intellectual exercise, and may involve garnering a lot of intellectual knowledge, we cannot afford to leave it there. If, as the practice urges us to do, we really do learn to look and see differently, then a radical emotional shift in our orientation and outlook will inevitable follow. This is what we can expect to happen, and to experience in the ongoing warp & woof of our daily lives. Perhaps its a little early for many of us to have experienced this as yet: we've only been doing the practice three or four days! But I hope very much over the next couple of weeks, particularly in doing the practice on a regular basis, you will experience perceptible shifts in your emotional orientation and outlook and in your relationship to yourself and the world about you. Through developing a greater awareness, coming about through the kinds of ways mentioned earlier in this talk, we become less attached and cling less to our experience; we get less wrapped up in it; we personalise it less; we are no longer as entranced, and as enamoured with it. We don't identify with it so rigidly as 'me', and 'mine'. a. Transforming pride, conceit and arrogance According to Mr. Chen, who apparently is the Order's own source for the Six Element practice inasmuch as he taught Bhante the practice, this practice is an antidote to the mental poison of pride, conceit and even arrogance: the notions that 'I am better than, or, equal to, or, worse than another person'. We compare our self to others; this is the habit of identifying and owning certain 'parts' of experience in relation to 'others', labelling some 'mine' and others 'not-mine'. Being strongly rooted within our conditioned nature, this poison is a deepseated manifestation of the miccha ditthi of attavada; it constitutes the eighth fetter, which is only broken completely by the Arhat. Why bother to attack this poison? Presumably you are familiar with the myth of Narcissus. Narcissus became infatuated and entranced with his own image reflected in the surface of a pool. He was so fascinated with himself that he became oblivious to all that was around him; he would not even take any notice of the beautiful Nymph called Echo, who, having fallen in love with him, was desperate to attract his attention. That, of course, adds a further twist to the story. Eventually, Narcissus pined

away and died because he couldn't bear to tear his eyes away. The significance of the myth is perhaps clear enough. One interpretation is that our preoccupation with our fantasy, or illusion, of an 'I' gradually cuts us off from the richness of life which surrounds us. In a sense, we may even die from this sickness. Certainly it leads to becoming increasing locked into an impoverished, mean, narrow humdrum life, which is centred around avarice, hatred and supporting rationalisation - which is inevitably painful. Pride and conceit is transformed through cultivating the Wisdom of Equality, that of Ratnasambhava and his consort Mamaki, whereby we appreciate a Transcendent Beauty that that shines through and in every phenomenon equally. This is very clearly the consequences of metta bhavana, as is clear from the previous section of this talk. We are no longer exclusively fascinated by our self. Instead this is the attitude that regards everything as 'mine', as my own, as precious and valuable, rejoicing, delighting, enjoying everything and everyone, regarding all as our own self. One way to think of cultivating the Wisdom of Equality is on the basis of Going Forth from the selfishness of being preoccupied with and attached to our 'self' and 'our' possessions. We become an akincana, as he is titled in the Pali canon, a 'possessionless one', the man-of-naught, one of the epithets of the Arhant, he who abides free of grasping, even of himself, he who leaves no tracks; he is 'a trackless one'. In owning nothing, paradoxically we own everything; we regard everything as 'ours'. Being trackless doesn't mean that the arahant ceases to exist! Nirvana isn't an ideal of non-existence. The trackless one may not appear to exist in any sense that we can apprehend or verify, but that doesn't justify our drawing the conclusion that he doesn't exist - at least, not as we understand existence to be. Habitually we experience our self and the world as existing in relation to our delusion of self, of possessing or not possessing; we leave behind tracks and a trail of wreckage from our attempts to assert ownership, of an 'I', a 'me', what we regard as 'mine'. We can be tracked on account of that. Once we've rid ourselves of this habit, then we've discover what real existence is; we become that which transcends such categorisation. We are free to love deeply every 'thing' equally, to delight in everyone equally, acutely aware of the beauty shining in all equally. Mamaki's Wisdom is closely associated with her sister Pandaravasini's Wisdom of Discrimination, Pandaravasini being the consort of Amitabha. From the point of view of the Wisdom of Discrimination we see the exquisitely unique nature of all

phenomena, as they come and go, and yet, relate to each instance with an equal degree of equanimity, seeing that each, in its own way, expresses Reality equally beautifully. Put conceptually, developing these two Wisdoms is the goal of the Six Element practice; this is where the practice is taking us. Developing the ability to appreciate the uniqueness, the beauty, the specialness in each and every situation, and yet being able to sit loose to all experience, because each experience is equally beautiful. There is no need to go running after any one particular set of experiences because there is always another beautiful one to be enjoyed. ii. Cultivating non-attachment and equanimity There are other useful ways of thinking of the aim of the practice. In 'negative' terms, we use the Six Element practice help to develop non-attachment, disengagement, disentanglement, even disinterestedness. In more 'positive' terms we practice to develop equanimity, imagination, freedom, and appreciation of beauty. We're talking about non-attachment in the positive sense. Clearly, we don't want to become detached in a negative sense. Non-attachment is a middle way between the extremes of alienation on the one hand and attachment or grasping on the other. By alienation I mean that we're unable, or we refuse, to acknowledge what is the feeling content of our experience. In this sense, we become detached, if you like 'dead from the neck down', refusing to accept the deeper emotional content of our experience. Or perhaps, we're not so much 'dead', but embody Bhante's description of a 'dragon's head, and snake's body'! By attachment or grasping I mean being emotionally intoxicated with our experience, where we get 'hooked' as we might get with some drug habit. This can unfortunately happen even in such a beautifully scenic place as the Guhyaloka valley; we can get addicted to certain aspects of being here: for instance, the sunsets, or having our particular spot in the valley to ourselves. Alternatively, we may be attached to a particular routine that we are used to having: for instance, our last cocoa at night, our hot water bottle, or hot milk for breakfast. If we stop for a moment to reflect, we will see that we actually have so many of these habits. We deliberately set them up, they suit us, they're ours, we feel very comfortable with them, and if anything comes along which interrupts our enjoyment of them, then we often can get really quite angry. We identify with particular elements of our experience to such an extent that we really believe there is a 'real me' involved who can 'own' and keep these real, enduring experiences. In this way we fly right in the face of the viparyasas; we constantly set up our life so

as to deny the flow of impermanence and insubstantiality, getting ourselves caught up in a web of sticky attachments. By contrast the Six Element practice encourages us to cultivate a new attitude towards life: where we get less and less caught up with the elements of our experience, happily allowing them come and go - as they inevitably will do in any event. Consequently life becomes much richer and much fuller than we habitually experience. Being much more open to the comings and goings of life, we are no longer so preoccupied with trying to 'order' and 'structure' our world to suit us, to make us feel comfortable. We happily allow the dynamic energy of life to ebb and flow. All the anxiety, irritation and desires with which we habitually preoccupied ourselves dissolve. The practice encourages us to learn to experience 'what is', and to experience it as fully and richly as it can be; then we let it go, realising we cannot possess, own or control our experience. A sense of lightness and ease comes quite quickly from practising, because we relate differently to our experience. iii. Working with significant examples To work creatively in the Six Element practice, make sure you are learning from the little things of life: the awkwardnessess, the difficulties, the disappointed expectations, the unmet desires, and so forth, where we get a bit upset, or irritated or frustrated in one form or fashion. Bring into the practice your preoccupations of the moment, whatever actually intoxicates you, ensnares, entrances you - examine these examples under the auspices of the practice, trying to really understand more deeply just what it is you're looking for, what's fascinating you, what holds your attention, what's getting you going in relation to any one particular example. Be sure to avoid using safe examples; these are OK to start with, but be more adventurous; go for the ones that really matter to you, you'll get far more interested in the practice! For example, how do you feel when the marmalade runs out, or there isn't any more of a particular type of herb tea you are fond of having? Investigate what is happening in these kinds of minor reactions; we see them as little pointers, teachings about this basic conceit of 'me' and 'mine'. Take for example the way you like your breakfast in the morning: some of us have a very particular breakfast routine which we just hate being disturbed in any kind of way whatsoever. Or, our last cup of 'something' at night - it has to be just 'right'. What is it about all of this which is so important to us? Why do we invest so much of ourselves. Food is quite a good area for examples because we are actually very tied up with it. Sex is another area - perhaps not the best thing to be contemplated here at Guhyaloka! But it is, for some, fascinating and ensnaring, a particularly alluring

combination of the Elements. What is it about this curious activity which draws us so strongly? Or, what about the clothes we wear? Most of us have a quite particular sense of dress and style, having strong preferences for what 'suits' us, and what doesn't; we like the way we dress and wouldn't 'be seen dead in' something that someone else may be wearing; 'OK on them'. What is it about this which is so important to us? Perhaps some of these examples may seem rather too complex to fit into your actual Six Element practice. A simpler example is our hair or the shape of our body; what is it about these that we like or don't like and why is it that we can get upset when someone makes out we're growing bald or too fat or podgy, or too thin or skinny? Why are we so proud, why are we so touchy, why do we take offence? 5. Conclusion This afternoon we have explored how the Six Element practice is an application of awareness, as most particularly experienced in terms of metta bhavana. I hope that I have communicated something of a richer and more elastic and flexible approach to the Six Element practice. I hope that gradually, over the next few days as I leave you more and more to lead yourselves through the practice, you will find your own way, poet-like, into an increasingly imaginative way of working in the practice.

5.

THE OBJECTIVE CONTENT OF OUR PERCEPTION 1. 2.

Introduction The nature of our perceptual process i. The mercurial nature of perception ii. Reframing the emotional content of our perceptions iii. A provisional perceptual framework iv. Categorising 3. What is rupa? i. Defining our terms ii. Clarifying the meaning of the word 'objective' 4. Conclusion

1.

Introduction In the Six Element practice we analyse our experience into the six Elements; we divide it into constituent parts or categories or compounds. And then, we look at each constituent part in turn. Broadly speaking, the six Elements fall into one of two major categories, (not that they are entirely distinct), that of: nama and rupa, that is, of mind and matter, or mind and form. Rupa comprises the first four Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Nama is comprised of the remaining Elements of Space and Consciousness. In the next two talks we will explore the nature of rupa, and in particular the Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air, otherwise known as the mahabhutas. In the remaining talks we will explore the nature of the Elements Space (akasha) and Consciousness (vijnana). To experience rupa there must be samjna i.e. Perception, or as Bhante translates it, 'interpretation'. Since in the Six Element practice we explicitly explore the nature of Rupa, we implicitly investigate the nature of our perceptual processes, and the way that we go about making sense of our experience to ourselves. By the by, you will be aware that rupa, samjna, and vijnana are three of the skandhas. Since the other two skandhas, vedana and samskara are inevitably bound up with these three, the Six Element practice is a practical exploration and meditation upon this basic Buddhist categorisation of the five skandhas. Later on in this talk we will discuss the definition of rupa, as being the objective content of our perception, and in the next talk go onto investigate in more depth the nature of the Elements of which rupa is composed. To start with, we will look at the general nature of how we interpret and perceive and go about making sense of our experience to ourselves. 2. The nature of our perceptual process i. The mercurial nature of perception On a certain level our experience of life seems very straight-forward. For example, when we pour tea into our mug, it usually stays there - we've come to expect that to happen. Or when we open a door, we anticipate that there's a space on the other side into which we can walk; it would come as a real surprise to bump into a wall stopping us walking through the doorway. So yes, generally speaking, the natural perceptions of life seem very obvious, common-sense and down-to-earth. But just occasionally we get glimpses that things aren't what they seem, and we get a sense that we only see things from our own very particular point of view. For example, I was sitting at the dining room table, and I suddenly thought to myself, 'That's Llam up there! ... But it can't be; you can't see Llam from here! It must be the Rock of Ages.' [Llam is one of the highest mountains in the Guhyaloka area. The Rock of Ages is

the rocky eastern ridge to the valley]. I've been coming here for eight years. And I'd always assumed that Llam was invisible from the Retreat Centre; in fact, I'd checked it out more than once, and so I was convinced that that was the case. And because I was convinced of this, I didn't see Yam. I had always assumed that what appeared to me to be one continuous mountain ridge was just that. But, in fact, it is two, one in front of another. So when yesterday, quite miraculously, Yam suddenly appeared behind the Rock of Ages, I was more than a little surprised! Once seen, it is crystal clear. Subhuti gives another example of how we cannot always take our perception for granted. One day he found himself at the end of the valley in thick mist. He describes how he was sitting on the rocks there and realised that the rocks was all that he actually knew to be there at that moment - there was nothing else around him except the mist. He describes how he started to think, 'Is there a way off here? Of course there is, I know that there is a valley down there! But I can't see it.' He describes the disconcerting experience of knowing that there is a valley there, but at the same time not being able to actually see it. There was a discontinuity between what his immediate senses were telling him and his certain knowledge that there is a valley down there somewhere; eventually, he just had to plunge off into the mist, and find it. I have another example of a commonly experienced change in perception. The other night we had been talking about snakes in the Order meeting. I came out of my hut at four in the morning for a pee. It was a very brightly moonlit night. Suddenly I saw this snake; I jumped backwards. And then, of course, I realised that 'it' was far too straight to be a snake; it was a long stick I'd left outside my door, which had fallen over. Another example from one of Subhuti's talks: we see a tree on a hillside, and we start to think, 'ah yes, there are its branches; I wonder what it is? Ah, it must be a chestnut; no maybe not, its branches look a little too vertical, perhaps its a pine.' And then the tree moves; 'oh, of course, it's not a tree, it's a goat!' And then, we go into a whole thing about how it's a goat, and eventually discover it's actually a man. All these examples are commonplace enough. What's interesting is that although for the most part we interpret life accurately enough, just occasionally something happens to suggest that we are only seeing a small part of the whole, or we are seeing things in black and white, when actually they're rich with a thousand hues. We can be so easily fooled - and that is an important point to acknowledge. Either we don't accurately register or interpret what our senses are telling us, or we have a predisposition to interpret the content of our sense experience in certain habitual ways which attribute to it either more or

less than what is actually there. As an analogy for this, Subhuti talked of 'the ship in the seafog'. Imagine you are at sea in a dinghy, and it's very foggy, and you hear a sound: 'blaarh', and then you see a light flashing. On the basis of what you hear and see you make the assumption that it is a fog-horn and it is coming from a ship's lantern, and that there is a ship out there with friendly people on it trying to communicate in such a way as to not run you over. This, in fact, would be quite an ordinary experience for yachtsmen in the Solent where there are lots of big ships going up and down the English Channel. The important point is that all that you actually hear and see is a noise and a flashing light. The notion of a fog-horn and a lantern which is attached to a real ship, with people on it, who are purposefully sending out these 'signals' to tell you that they are friendly and don't want to bump into you is what you add on to the raw data of the experience; it is actually pure conjecture, an informed guess, or opinion, albeit probably a well-informed one. The nature of our perception is an odd business! But we do have the capacity to adopt a wide range of interpretative conventions. For instance, we don't quibble with painters, with the scenes that they paint, or for that matter even photographers; we don't argue with the fact that the paintings or photographs don't actually correspond exactly with, say, how the landscapes are when we see them in front of us. We receive sensory input all the time, and then work it up into a story of real objects existing through time and space. This interpretative, perceptual capacity is the awe-inspiring wonder of the human mind at work. On the every day level of commonsense, more often than not it works very well. But if we insist that our perception is an ultimately true source of reliable information about the world, it is a bit like a man who sees a UFO and then insists that we are all about to be attacked by aliens from outer space; i.e. he jumps from seeing something unusual flying through the sky to a whole story that is built up around that. Our perception, and the language we use to describe it, is for the most part reliably adequate for our everyday purposes; but we can tend to get trapped by it into thinking that it describes reality quite literally, and entirely adequately. We forget the metaphorical, inevitably provisional and tentative nature of our perceptions and the language we use to describe them. For instance, to quote an example Guenther uses: 'the sun is setting' is a meaningful statement for two people standing in very much the same geographical spot. The language aptly conveys an experience. But for someone a fifty miles, or hundred miles West the sun is not yet setting. Every now and again it's salutary to remember that the sun is constantly rising and

setting for someone somewhere. There is no harm in using language in the conventional manner so long as we understand its provisional nature. ii. Reframing the emotional content of our perceptions The Six Element practice directs us to look at the way we structure, pattern, and interpret our experience, and to experience sensations in their 'raw' form. In the practice we learn to look, hear, feel, taste and touch, not so much again, but afresh; we are asked to learn to experience much more clearly what is happening, before we start to work it up into something 'more'. Put like this, it might sound rather coolly rational. But it is important that we use the practice to take a fresh look at that to which we are particularly attached. We will remain unmoved by the practice if we only use examples to which we're actually emotionally indifferent. If we use such examples, our practice will be intellectually interesting, but it won't really touch us, or even frighten us, or get down to our guts. On the other hand if we use examples of things to which we really are attached, we are forced to confront their ephemeral and evanescent nature; strangely, there is something about the nature of being attached which makes things seem much more solid and permanent than they actually are. The more accurate an understanding we have of what we are actually craving for, and the less we are building up supporting rationalisations for those cravings, the more likely we are to want to break those cravings as a habit; the more likely we are to see them for what they are: craving. After all a man is more likely to go on banging his head against a brick wall if he can convince himself that its good for him. As we start to undermine the rationalisation that we build to support our cravings, the strength of attraction of our habitual intoxicants does start to diminish. We do have to make a choice at some point to break the habit. If we can see more accurately these habits for what they are, then it is much easier to make a clean break. iii. A provisional perceptual framework When we analyse the nature of our perception we begin to distinguish a sequential process which starts out with the reception of 'raw data of sensory input' in the various sense organs. This raw data is immediately filtered by the sense organs, so that certain data is received as significant, and the rest is ignored. For example, some animals can smell smells emanating from, or see something of, an object that we cannot, even though the sense data comes from apparently the same object we perceive in other ways. The activity of filtering is conditioned by the capability of the specific organ. Filtering subsequently continues at a higher level of consciousness where

we effectively decide what we wish to attend to, whether we do this unconsciously, semi-consciously or consciously. The process then continues to interpretation: we recognise the experience in relation to a preexisting frame of reference. So we start to label and name different aspects of the experience: 'ah yes, that's a man, that's a tree, that's a goat.' The next step in the sequence is attributing particular meaning and significance to different parts of 'the picture', scaling that in a hierarchy of priority, and generally choosing to attend closely to that which is of highest value. All of this of course happens very, very quickly, at times in a flash of a moment. And often it happens automatically; we are not particularly conscious of how we have arrived at certain conclusions. Often we jump to conclusions; and we usually do so on the basis of scanty evidence. In this connection I am reminded of the Case of Dysentery, when the Buddha discovered a sick bhikkhu lying in his own excrement. The Buddha deliberately ascertained the full facts of what had happened before he made any pronouncements as to whether what had happened was right or wrong, should or should not have happened. So often, we just don't do this. I remember, for example, there was an occasion earlier on the retreat when a couple of us were rather late for a talk and I gave them a bit of a ticking off. Afterwards, I realised that I didn't actually find out what they'd been up to. I made assumptions. Of course I thought I'd made the right assumptions based on some very immediate sense experiences. But, the fact is I'd made a story up out of some sounds. I never found out whether I was correct in my assumptions or not. The point I want to make is that I didn't actually check out whether my interpretation of the basic sense data was the correct interpretation or not. I've noticed that I actually do this a lot of the time. As it happens I'm often right; my intuition is a useful talent which short-cuts the tedium of constantly have to double-check. But we need to be aware we're doing this; we need to be aware when it's appropriate to check out our intuitive assumptions and interpretations. My description of the levels of our perceptual process is rather rough; the Abhidharma has its own description of the seventeen different moments that comprise a moment of consciousness. So clearly we could explore the process in much more detail. It is important to realise that, in the course of our practice of the Six Element practice, we become conscious of how we go about perceiving. In doing so, we can simply rely on our powers of observation of the empirical evidence; in many respects this is best. And we can supplement this with whatever other knowledge, scientific or otherwise, we have or may choose to learn for the purpose. This is necessary preparatory work for

our formal contemplation: to learn how to make ever finer distinctions within our own experience of our perceptual process. Developing our abilities in this respect is actually fascinating and highly enjoyable: we discover the wonderfully mysterious, awe-inspiring nature of our selves and the world we live in. For example, when we discover that grass is not just green, and the soil not just brown, then we may discover a whole world of other colours, shades and hues, which we have never seen there before. In this sense it is a bit like a colour-blind man developing colour vision; whole new vistas of possibilities open up. iv. Categorising To categorise, to make comparisons and assign 'things' to categories, is essential to our normal mode of perception. We decide and label 'this' is like 'that', and not like 'that', so that 'this' is one of 'those', and 'that' is one of 'these'. When we assign a 'thing' to a particular category, it will undoubtedly be related to other categories. There are even hierarchies of categories, e.g. species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom. Categorising is after all one of the basic structures inherent in language. Being able to do this, to the extent that we humans can, was actually a major evolutionary step forward, and an essential step in the road towards full selfconsciousness; a child learns afresh how to do this from a very early age. Unfortunately we tend to forget that we structure, organise and pattern of our sense experience - or, perhaps it's not so much that we forget, but we are only dimly conscious of doing so. Through our lack of awareness we become convinced that our interpretation can be the only way of interpreting, seeing, feeling and experiencing whatever is going on: 'it's so obvious there it is, in black and white, staring you right in the face!' We fail to see that we are choosing one of a number of possible interpretations, and that, in doing so, we often ignore the existence of those other possibilities; we, in effect, insist that our perception is absolutely real. We also tend to jump to conclusions prematurely based on making rapid generalisations: 'this is one of these kinds of situations, I've been here before'. In other words, we lump something into an assumed category before we've really looked carefully to see if it really does belong to the particular category that we are going to lump it in with. 'It's got to be either 'this', or 'that'; since it's not this, it's got to be that'. Other people's motives are a prime example: 'he's doing it for this or that reason; he's late again! Well, we all know that's because he's lazy; he lies in bed far too long!' But we

don't know; there might be all sorts of reasons why someone happened to be late on a particular occasion. In this way we become the victims, rather than the masters, of our own ability to categorise: the mystery of life escapes through our fingers like water. We narrow down the breadth, depth, richness and 'colour' of what could be experienced; we limit, restrict, box in and define the range of our possible experience. A substantial motive for continuing to deceive ourselves in this way is that, by assuring ourselves that our categories are for real, in pinning, fixing 'things' down, fitting things 'into place' so we've 'got it', we feel safe. We feel as if we 'possess' our experience: 'I know; I've got it; and now it's crystal clear, I can relax'. And what is known can be controlled and therefore is amenable to our will. Do you see the strong emotional impetus which turns our categories into absolutes? If we convince ourselves of the ultimate validity of our categories, including that of a 'me' who feels it, then everything is so much more solid and dependably fixed, and feels right, and so therefore we can settle back, relax, and feel safe and secure in knowing where everything is. But actually we are living all the time in a mysterious, unknowable world. When I was thinking about this, I was reminded of Caliban's advice to ship-wrecked Trinculo - to get in my Shakespearian reference for the day. Unfortunately, I haven't time to tell you the whole story of the Tempest! Suffice it to say that some sailors are ship-wrecked on this magical island and they bump into a very strange creature called Caliban who is the son of a witch, a sort of nature-spirit, who tries to calm Trinculo's fears of the strangeness of the island. This is what Caliban says to him: 'Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices That, if I then had wak'd after long sleep, Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming, The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that, when I wak'd, I cried to dream again.' 8 We choose our mode of perception. It is a choice. So often we persuade ourselves that there isn't a choice, that the way that we see things is the only way. Buddhism is saying there is a vast number of different ways of perceiving life. We beguile ourselves with rational and scientific thinking. I'm reminded of Bhante's essay 'Buddhism and William Blake' in his book Alternative Traditions (p.185). Blake saw life very differently from his avowed enemies Bacon, Newton and Locke, some of the founding fathers of modern Western philosophy and science. I do

not have time now to elaborate on Blake's vision of Man, which was worked out in some considerable detail. The point I want to make is that Blake is an inspiring example to us of taking his perceptual processes in hand and consciously re-educating himself to awaken what he called his Imagination or Humanity from its 'deadly sleep' and thereby enter a process of selftransformation. There are some very interesting correspondences, which Bhante draws out in the essay, between Blake's system of the Four Zoas and so forth and the Five Jinas. Blake lived in a very ordinary kind of mundane world: that of late eighteenth century London, which in many ways was fairly grubby. And yet, he saw great beauty, at the same time as the ugliness that was also there. Familiarising ourselves with Blake's work gives us a window through which to glimpse what it means to master our perceptual process, and thereby the master of our destiny. This is integral to our main purpose. We will, in fact, be cultivating Wisdom, since as Bhante defines it, Wisdom is 'aesthetic, analytical appreciation' 9 Our capacity to analyse combined with aesthetic sensibility fuses together in appreciating, delighting in and fascination with what is actually there. In effect, we create a new mode of consciousness, a new mode of being, a new way of experiencing the world of our senses; this is a very different way to think of cultivating Wisdom than we might be accustomed to. 3. What is rupa? i. Defining our terms My remarks, so far, have been of a rather general nature. I want to move on now to investigate what we mean when we say that there that there really is something out there which we are perceiving. Let's state the obvious. As Guenther says, 'What Buddhism asserts and what everyone will be agreed upon, is that there are perceptual situations, in which we claim to be in cognitive contact with something other than ourselves.' 10 This is a good starting point. When we perceive this 'something other' through our senses as intractable and resistant to our immediate control, that, according to Bhante, is rupa. That intractability and resistance is the objective content of our perception; this is effectively Guenther's definition of rupa. By contrast, there is also something within our experience over which we feel we can have control, that we can influence; we may refer to this as the subjective pole of experience. Take for example when I can kick this rock. Being as large as it is, nothing much happens except I get a sore foot! It is intractable to, and resists, my influence; I certainly have very limited, if any, control over it. My experience of the rock is the objective content of my perception of it; it is my immediate experience of rupa within the situation. At the same time, I may feel frustrated, angry or

whatever - that is part of the subjective pole of my experience, because I do have some measure of control over how I feel about it. This seems straight-forward enough. But beyond this, things get complicated rather rapidly. This 'something other' is an epistemological object; it is an object which is known by a self, i.e. a 'me'. However, as Guenther continues to say, '... the existence or presence of an epistemological object does not guarantee that there exists an ontological object which corresponds accurately to [it] ...' 11 To make this clear let's take an example: I see this microphone in front of me; the microphone is the epistemological object of my perception. I could go on to make the assumption of the microphone existing as an ontological object if I think of it existing independently of my perception of it, or existing in some pure ideal sense distinct from the immediate phenomena, as somehow having some essence or being which exists either outside, or beyond, or behind, or inside, or above the epistemological object of my perception, and that that is its real nature. This is to reify the evanescent nature of the phenomena of my perception, to materialise it into an 'idea-thing', which exists solely as an idea, and cannot be known empirically i.e. to assert a noumenal existence. I think this is what is going on in the 'designer God' argument. What seems to happen is that people infer from their experience of a designer who creates an object of great beauty that in a similar way someone must have designed and created Nature. It is the same ontological thinking we apply to our selves writ large on a universal scale. Buddhism denies the validity of ontological thinking. Subhuti in his 1992 talks on the practice was at pains to remind his audience that for Buddhism an ontological 'objective content' to our perception does not exist - that is just pure conjecture. Instead, Buddhism asserts that there is a content of our experience which appears to 'present itself' to us as 'objective' - this is rupa. The 'objective contents' derive from the sense data we perceive: for example, the noise and lights that we attribute to the fog-horn and fog-lamp. Within our perceptions there are only epistemological objects - and a epistemological subject - this view accords with modern physicists' acknowledgement that the observer influences that which is observed. Buddhism attacks our habit of attributing a ontological status to our self. We usually think of our selves as ontological: as existing in some pure sense 'above' our changing experience of our selves, as somehow, in essence, independent of conditions, enduring substantially and permanently. Buddhism acknowledges that yes, there is an epistemological subject;

there's a 'me' who exists in the conventional sense, who walks around from here to there, but who only does so in a conventional sense. But, to assert that, behind the changing current of the phenomena of 'me', which changes from one situation to another, there is a substantial, enduring 'me' is a just a fiction; it is just a mistake. A mistake which we are all very much in the grips of, according to the Enlightened perspective. It is only an idea; that is all it is. But we have this sense that there is a 'me' or 'I' which somehow stands 'outside' of the experience, looking in. This is why it is so difficult to find the 'I' in our experience; we go looking for it, but it isn't actually there. And then because we have this sense that we're looking in from the outside of our experience we try to get outside of it to find what it's looking into it. But it's impossible to get outside of our experience to find it! Buddhism asserts that generally speaking there is just the 'perceptual situation', in which there are two aspects. One aspect seems to belong to the subject and the other seems to belong to the object. It isn't easy or perhaps even necessary to define exactly which belongs to which. We just simply assert that there seems to be something which is 'out there', and something which seems to be quite definitely 'in here'. In our practice of the Six Element practice we train ourselves to see the 'objective' pole of our perceived experience as simply that, i.e. as a seemingly or apparently 'objective' aspect of our experience. Rupa is that content of our experience which is apparently outside or resistant to our immediate influence, but which is inevitably linked to the 'subjective' pole, i.e. inevitably linked to what we think of as the 'me' doing the perceiving or having the experience. For example, in looking at one of these trees, we learn to recognise that its seeming solidity and independence of us is just rupa, i.e. it is just the objective content of our perceptual experience. In learning to do this, since we will have to learn how to look much more acutely than we probably do at present, we'll learn to recognise, much more clearly and vividly than we usually do, that our experience of the tree is shifting and changing all the time e.g. as a consequence of the change in light as the wind blows through the branches. Do you see what I mean? Even quite a simple example like a tree, we tend to think, 'Well, it's there', regardless of whether we're looking at it or not.' I'm not going to now argue that it isn't there! But we do tend to think of the tree as being something outside of our perception, as being completely independent of whether we're experiencing it or not. But actually every time we experience it, we experience it afresh and as new. This is not to say that the tree is therefore merely an idea of ours, and therefore that it doesn't really exist; but in what

sense it really exists outside of our immediate perceptual experience of it existing is extremely difficult to say. And even the fact that a number of us share a similar experience, but not exactly the same one, of a particular tree, so that even if I'm not here, but you are and you still experience it when I don't, doesn't really help us get any further down the road of discovering in what sense the tree exists outside of perceptual situations in general. To explore this line of enquiry seems to take us down the road of metaphysics which is not actually what Buddhism is primarily interested in exploring. There probably is a Buddhist answer to this, but I'm not currently aware of it. ii. Clarifying the meaning of the word 'objective' Before moving on I want to just spend a little time on the term 'objective'. According the Collins Dictionary, the first definition is 'existing independently of perception or of an individual's conceptions'. Another meaning cited is 'reality'. And the term 'subjective' is defined as 'belonging to, proceeding from or relating to the mind of the thinking subject and not the nature of the object being considered'; and also as 'existing only as perceived and not as a thing in itself.' Consequently if we are to use this term 'objective' as in the phrase 'objective contents of the perceptual situation', it's important to remind ourselves of just what we mean, given that the dictionary definitions, general connotations, and comparing it with the definition of the term subjective, all point to a rather different understanding of the term 'objective' to the one that we really mean to convey. In other words, what we mean by 'objective' is more what the dictionary says is the meaning of 'subjective'! And when we hear the word 'objective', because in common parlance it has this connotation of reality and as being something which exists outside of perception, so we then tend think of the objective contents of our perception as being outside of our perceptions, which is precisely the bad habit we're trying to break. When we use the phrase 'objective contents of the perceptual situation' as defining the nature of Rupa, we do not mean all those dimensions of our experience which are real, in the sense of being ultimately true, and that everything else in our perceptions is unreal, false and a mere empty illusion. That is not what we mean when we use this phrase. But this is what we are tempted to think, given the dictionary definition, and its prevalence in our language. 4. Conclusion: The simple, yet crucial, point I want to make is that we inevitably organise, pattern, structure and categorise our experience - this is one of our greatest human qualities, but

also our greatest Achilles' heel. We necessarily interpret. We do this all the time; it takes some considerable skill to recognise how we are doing it. Probably the most basic categories within which we interpret our experience is into 'objective' and 'subjective': that 'this' is 'in-here', i.e. 'me', and 'that' is 'out-there', i.e. 'notme'. Making these distinctions is so fundamental to our way of viewing the world that it seems very obvious and straightforward. But, especially if we start to pay closer attention to how we go about making this distinction, we can begin to get a sense of how provisional our perceptions really are. Apparently the exact nature of how we interpret is strongly culturally conditioned, so that people from different cultures can get quite confused by the results of one another's categorising. Subhuti gives the example of how the North American Indians' notion of territory differed very substantially to that of nineteenth century redneck Yankees, so much so that, when they made treaties as to land rights, they had very different conceptions of what the letter of the agreement actually meant. Subsequently they got very angry with one another because as far as they could see there was no honour in the opposing party. The human 'problem' comes from taking apart something that is a whole and splitting it up for the purposes of categorisation. It is actually impossible to isolate objective constituents of the perceptual situation from subjective constituents. It cannot be done in an absolute way, because subjective and objective constituents are part of the one experience. So how we do decide what belongs to subject and what to object? Apparently, even ancient Indian Buddhists couldn't really come to very specific definition. Guenther concludes that the 'wide range of meaning of the term rupa, extending from an objective constituent of a perceptual situation to an interpretive concept, made it particularly unsuited as an aid to clear thinking, and as a consequence to the communication of thought'. 12 Eventually the definition of rupa came to be a very general one: it was simply restricted to 'the objective content of the perceptual situation', divided into the Elements, on which all schools seemed to agree as existing, and a number of secondary qualities therefrom derived, the exact nature of which varied greatly from school to school. We'll come to these details in the next talk.

6. THE GREAT ELEMENTARY QUALITIES 1. Introduction 'Matter' 2. The Great Elementary Qualities 3. The Great Magicians 4. The Magicians' footprints The secondary qualities and their sub-categories 5. Summary i. Educate yourself ii. Look beyond the rational 1. Introduction We are in the midst of discussing the nature of rupa, the intractable and resistant content of our perception which is outside of our immediate control. Rupa is the first four of the six Elements: the Earth, Water, Fire and Air Elements. Each of these Elements is has what are termed secondary qualities. We will continue with our discussion of rupa through examining the nature of the Elements, and then their secondary qualities. Before we do that I want to go into whether rupa has the everyday connotation of material matter. 'Matter' At the beginning of the previous talk I mentioned that the Six Elements fall into one of two categories: nama or rupa, which can be translated as mind or matter. If rupa is translated in this way we can get confused, because we immediately think of matter in the scientific sense. But rupa is not matter in the sense of being a specific 'thing' or a 'phenomenon', but is to be understood as a 'heap' or an aggregation of phenomena or events of the, as it were, 'material' order. Bhante clarifies this with the analogy of labelling bags of rice, maize, millet etc. The labels do 'not stand for so many entities of the cereal order but simply for the various heaps, each one of which is composed of millions of tiny grains.' 13 Inasmuch as the Elements are different heaps of events within the heap of rupa, we are therefore '... concerned not with a specified number of combinations between solid and discrete things, but with an uninterrupted succession of permutations of an only more or less stable number of processes.' 14 The fact is that Rupa is very mysterious, and, at first

sight, not a little confusing! The nearest that Buddhism gets to talking of the 'matter' of the physicist is to say that matter is essentially an aspect of our experience and of our perceptual situation. In fact, even 'the distinction between "mental" and "material" becomes irrelevant and it is a matter of taste to speak of physical objects. In other words, although we shall continue to speak about matter and mind, we must bear in mind that it is but a figure of speech as untrue as the statement the sun is rising or setting.' 15 2. The Great Elementary Qualities We experience rupa, the intractable and resistant content of our perception through our senses in four primary ways. Rupa has four primary and fundamental qualities, or dimensions, or even flavours. The traditional terms for these are either dhuta or mahabhuta. These are are variously translated as the Great Elementary Quality, Element, or even Great Ghost or Magician. I prefer to use the original term mahabhuta because I can more readily associate with it the mysterious, indefinable, magical, chimera-like nature of rupa, which has more of the nature of a very lively and unpredictable spirit than what is conveyed by the concept of dead Newtonian 'matter'. We might even like to think of rupa as 'energy' manifesting in our experience in one of four ways. Rupa is like a mirage which constantly changes shape, and can appear to manifest either in four distinct basic patterns, or more frequently as a complex of all four. The mahabhutas are symbolised by the terms Earth (prthivi), Water (apas), Fire (tapas) and Air (vayu); these names, according to Guenther, 'are derived from the 'objects' which common-sense assumes ...' These mahabhutas of Earth, Water, Fire and Air should not be equated exactly with the phenomena of earth, water, fire and air. The mahabhutas are not four different types of atomic stuff, distinct one from another; the connotation of the English word 'element' is not particularly helpful in this context. These terms are to be taken as images which suggest symbolic truths. The image of, say, Water stands both for the qualities to be experienced quite literally in the experience of water, and for what is suggested, by using such a term as Water, to be characteristic of a particular aspect of the experience of rupa. We see a strong coincidence between the experience of the mahabhuta Earth and the soil, pebbles and rocks and so forth. But the former finds much wider expression than simply in referring to the latter. The mahabhuta Earth is the symbolic expression for all that is solid and able to carry a load (dhrti). The mahabhuta Water is all that is fluid and cohesive (samgraha). The mahabhuta Fire is all that is warm or has temperature (pakti). And the mahabhuta Air is all that is light and moving, i.e. extensive &

vibrant (vyuhana). The mahabhutas' greatness (maha) is due to their being the basis of all the secondary qualities of rupa; they are elemental in that they knit together the whole of that which appears to exist. The external world comes to us through or via their agency. Everything that exists appears through some combination of the mahabhutas; and yet apparently we learn of them only by inference from the 'physical objects' which emerge from these primary qualities. I want to reiterate my main point: it is easy to confuse these symbols Earth, Water, Fire and Air with the literal things that these terms suggest. Hence we may think that our experience of the water we drink and wash in and so forth is exclusively that of the mahabhuta Water, and only that. But, even such a basic experience as water can have all the mahabhutas involved in it. For instance, we see that when 'water carries ships, it also has temperature and movement so that in it there is also earth, fire and air, besides its own property of cohesion.' 16 In another example of, say, drinking a cup of tea, we experience something flowing, where there is cohesiveness, and there is also temperature and warmth as well as some sense of solidity. In this way, if we analyse almost every one of our experiences, there is a combination of most, if not all four, mahabhutas present. For instance, 'In rocks and other terrestrial objects we find cohesion, temperature, extension ... In a flame we observe continuance, compactness, movement, so that in it there is earth (solidity), water (cohesion), and air (movement). In wind we see that it is able to carry things, has temperature, warm or cold, and possesses tangibility, so that in it there are present earth (ability to carry) water (continuity and tangibility) and fire (temperature).' 17 It's fascinating to dwell upon this analysis of even such basic experiences as of water, or fire, or air, and to see that they are not so straight-forward as we usually are accustomed to thinking. Take another example: we might assume that we only experience a candle flame as containing the mahabhuta Fire. But we only feel warmth and temperature when we get sufficiently close to the flame. And yet we definitely see something. When we are looking at the candle from a distance in a still room, the flame appears to be solid to the eye; it's as solid as the candle beneath it - I cannot see through the flame. So am I looking at the mahabhuta Fire or is what I am seeing more characteristic of the mahabhuta Earth, and, if the flame is moving and flickering, of the mahabhutas Air and Water? Well perhaps it doesn't really matter! We could get hung up on trying to define things as being this or that. Huge wrangles might start. What's important is that we begin to look at our

experience afresh, with a greater openness to what might be happening. Surely this points to the mysteriously fluid nature of our experience: a constant stream of ever changing phenomena? Even something as apparently substantial as a tree, is actually, in terms of our experience of it, constantly changing because of the constantly changing terms of that which is involved in the experience. Yes, there is an objective content to the perceptual situation, but that objective content is changing as well most, if not all, of the time. 3. The Great Magicians In the Six Element practice we try to get a sense of this fluidity, and changing ebb and flow between the different mahabhutas. 'What is the true nature of rupa? of the mahabhuta Fire? of Air? of Water? of Earth? When I start to think of these stones on the ground as being made of light, then my conventional assumptions and frame-work, by which I organise my world, finds itself being rejigged. When I see a tree swaying in the breeze, just what I am seeing? There are some fascinating conundrums, koans, paradoxes. The mysterious, even magical and illusory-like nature of experience was often alluded to in Buddhist texts as being like a magician's show. There is of course that famous verse from the Diamond Sutra. 'As stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp, a mock show, dew drops, or a bubble, A dream, a lightning flash, or cloud, So should one view what is conditioned.' The magical nature of the mahabhutas is stressed, they are seen as the Great Magicians spinning the illusion of maya. 'Just as a magician shows water which is not a gem as a gem, or clay which is not gold as gold, or himself not being an ogre or a bird, makes himself appear as an ogre or a bird, so also the four great elementary qualities, themselves not being either blue or yellow, or red or white show themselves as the secondary qualities blue, yellow or red, and white. Thus because of their resemblance to the great feats of magicians they are termed mahabhutas. Just as such great beings as Yaksinis hide their fearful nature by graceful deportment, by fair complexion and shape, and deceive sentient beings, so also these great elementary qualities hide their true characteristics of hardness and other properties; in their appearance as woman and men, by lovely complexion, by graceful shapes of limbs, by seductive movements of hands and feet, finger and eyebrows, they deceive simple people and do not allow them to see their real nature. Therefore, because of their resemblance to such great beings as Yaksinis, due to their deceptiveness they are termed "great elementary qualities."' 18 From this description, we get a sense of something more going on than meets the eye. Somehow I'm reminded of the three

witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Like black spiders at the centre of an intricate web they spin the story of Macbeth's destruction; he's like a puppet dancing to their whim. To set the scene, the play opens with these three old hags sitting on a heath, in the middle of a nasty storm: 'Where shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain? When the hurley-burly's done, When the battle's lost and won. ... Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.' And then, Macbeth and Macduff bump into these three, and they make a pronouncement about Macbeth's and Macduff's future, and this is what Macduff says, '... things that do sound so fair In the name of truth are ye fantastical or that indeed which outwardly ye show?' These particular yaksinis don't look so attractive; in fact, they're revolting. But what they speak about is very attractive! Macduff can't quite make out what is going on. Later on Hecate, one of the witches, who has really got Macbeth in her grip by this stage, says, '... upon the corner of the moon there hangs a vap'rous drop profound; I'll catch it ere it come to ground; And that, distilled by magic sleights Shall raise such artificial sprites as, by the strength of their illusion, shall draw on to his confusion.' 19 So Hecate is in the game to wrap Macbeth up, and get him completely stuck. So she tells him that he can only be killed 'if Burnham wood come unto Dunsinane' and that he cannot be killed by 'one of woman born'. Unfortunately Burnham wood does come unto Dunsinane, and Macbeth finds himself fighting on the battle-field for his life: he bumps into Macduff. By this time Macduff has a great deal to settle up with Macbeth because Macbeth has killed Macduff's wife and children. Macduff isn't in any mood to hang about; he wants Macbeth's blood. So they fight, and as they pause for a moment Macbeth says, 'Thou losest labour. As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air With they keen sword impress as make me bleed. He's still puffed up with the pride prompted by Hecate's promises. He's completely taken in the story she has spun him. 'Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests; I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.' But Macduff isn't put off for a second. He comes straight back, 'Despair thy charm: And let the angel whom thou still hast served Tell thee Macduff was from his mother's womb Untimely ripp'd.' This completely floors Macbeth. This is his death knell. At long last he realises that he has been duped, that he's been completely taken in by these witches' promises. He replies, 'Accursed be that tongue that tells me so, For it hath cow'd my better part of man; And be these juggling fiends no more believed That palter with us in a double sense, That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it with our hope!' 20

Are these witches for real, or, are they the ambitions of Macbeth's heart? Who knows! I find this story very interesting because it seems to reflect something of the story that the mahabhutas are spinning for us all the time; we get taken in and entranced by it. We get taken along with it all. We make up our stories out of our sense experiences in a way that leads us on into all sorts of escapades and ambitions based around me and self. But, of course, because life isn't actually fundamentally structured, patterned and built up in the way we would like it to be, and because we have in a sense duped ourselves with the allegiance of these Great Magicians, we come to untimely ends. In one of Bhante's seminars, he says in speaking of the mahabhutas as magical appearances and Great Spirits, that the 'universe' is not dead or inert, as Blake criticised Newton for lulling Man asleep into thinking. Blake's greatest criticism of Newton was that Newton's advances in scientific thought lull us to sleep; we are no longer in touch with the magical nature of life. Nevertheless, as Bhante goes on to say, we cannot actually junk our scientific conditioning; it has to be accommodated. (We could interpret the analogy of being asleep slightly differently: from the Enlightened point of view we encounter sprites and magical magicians in our sleep and we happily live entranced in a dream of illusions.) The key question: is how do we rediscover the mystery, wonder and magic that is there even in the most everyday of experiences? We will have to work against our tendency towards a self-referential and utilitarian approach. Bhante makes this point in a story where he is admiring a magnificently beautiful and mature pine tree somewhere near Kalimpong. As he was doing so a Nepalese friend arrived and commented that the tree was indeed wonderful because it represented many months worth of firewood. His friend saw the tree simply from one perspective and consequently that was all that it was and could be for him. 4. The Magicians' footprints According to the Abhidharma there are primary and secondary (upadayarupa) qualities of the objective content of our perceptual experience. The primary qualities are the mahabhutas. Clearly we apprehend the mahabhutas through sense experience. But to complicate the picture, not all Abhidharmists believed we could directly experience the mahabhutas: for them, we infer the mahabhutas' existence from secondary qualities; we never actually encounter them face-to-face, as it were; all we see of the Magicians is the puff of smoke and the edge of their cloaks. But other abhidharmists disagreed: they believed that we do experience the mahabhutas of solidity, temperature and motion directly but only through the organ of touch. In other words, we 'feel' them directly, as we say.

All our other sense experiences are of one or another aspect of the mahabhutas in an indirect 'secondary form'. For example, I directly encounter the mahabhuta Earth when I squeeze this rock. When I see 'it', I infer its existence. But when I touch it, then I encounter it directly. Whether this distinction is really that useful, I'm not that sure; I'll leave you to work out from your own experience what you think. Here is an example of what I take is meant. If we are inside our hut, we can hear the wind in the trees outside: from this indirect secondary sense experience we infer the mahabhuta Air. But if we then go outside and feel it, the wind, on our skin, we feel impact of the mahabhuta directly. At the same time of course, we may see the trees waving and bending over from which we also infer the indirect presence of the mahabhuta Air. What I find interesting is to reflect on how, for instance, I know something is solid. Obviously if I feel it, that is straight-forward. But what if I am not in skin contact with it? Not everything I see which is opaque i.e. which appears solid is solid on further inspection. For example the light on the water surface of a mountain lake reflects a picture of the mountains above so solid that they look as real as the actual mountains. We only see the difference when we get up close to the water. Or take another example, the other way around: the way light is reflected off the brass candles sticks appears to suggest the surface of a liquid, and since the only content of my perceptions is sight at that point, am I experiencing the mahabhuta Water or Earth? If it is the mahabhuta Water, when I then touch the candlesticks and experience solidity, has the Water mahabhuta changed into the Earth mahabhuta? And then again, can I taste the mahabhuta Earth, or smell it - I can't think of any obvious examples, maybe you can? But I can hear it as when it resonates and vibrates. So far I haven't been able to disentangle these sorts of reflections to the point of working out whether they're actually useful or not. So again I'll leave you to follow that up. Here, I'm simply trying to stimulate your thinking. The secondary qualities and their sub-categories The secondary qualities are sights (primarily in terms of light), sounds, smells, tastes, and tangibles (feelings). The last category is difficult to get a sense of because in English there is so much which is subsumed under the heading of feeling. But even a feeling as refined as metta is felt quite tangibly as a physical sensation inside us. Our processes of categorising and hence describing and interpreting our experience to ourselves goes further than just saying I see, hear, taste, feel etc. We subdivide each of these categories into sub-categories, and even subdivide these. So,

for example in the Abhidharma, the content of what we see is subdivided into categories of colour and shape, each of which can be further subdivided, e.g. primary and secondary colours. The Abhidharmas of various different schools of have done this in their different ways, perhaps not as extensively as one might think, and yet, at the same time, there are some quite strange categories included, which I'm not going to enumerate. And, there was quite a lot of disagreement over what should go where. I don't intend to elaborate any further, because I'm not sure that it really helps to pursue the traditional categories maybe one of our more scholastically inclined Order members will unearth some deeper usefulness in these categories. But the basic principle is nevertheless clear: if we want to apprehend the mahabhutas, we need to develop our capacities to describe all our different sense experiences. 4. SUMMARY Here I want to round up our discussion of Rupa. It seems to me that we need to go in two different directions at once: i) Educate yourself First of all we need to acknowledge that we inevitably categorise, structure and interpret our perceptual experience; that is the way we are built. We must consciously master these processes rather than remaining unconsciously passive to them. In doing so, we will learn how to move freely from one system of interpretation to another as is appropriate. We need to learn how to make increasingly fine and subtle distinctions within our sense experience. This will be greatly aided by increasing our vocabulary in relation to each of the senses. For instance, we cannot really appreciate the visual field if our range of description of colour is a mere five or six words. There is the hoary example of the Eskimo's ten different kinds of snow. The Eskimos learnt to make those distinctions because it is important to them. Or, for instance, we often have a very poor ability to describe what we actually feel. We need to extend our vocabulary, and become more adept at making finer distinctions between different feelings. So often I find myself opening and shutting my mouth, and then coming out with that horrible word 'nice'. It's all I can think of! And we need to learn how to look; so often we just don't know how to look. So how do we do this? We can learn how to look by paying attention. Learning how to draw, to paint, or do ikebana, or any of the different fine arts will teach us how to see what there is to be seen in the visual and tactile field. And we need to learn how to listen. Perhaps through learning to listen to music, or making music, or learning how to sing, or perhaps learning different birds' calls. It is interesting that the Abhidharma

includes communication under the heading of sound. So there may well be a sense in which we can learn to listen more acutely through the practice of communication skills. And so on: we need to learn how to smell and taste. And lastly, while this may not be strictly the case in relation to the five senses, learning how to think clearly is essential to the perceptual process. We should master such basic skills as how to use a dictionary, how to use definitions effectively, and how to categorise; we can learn more about the categorising process itself and what the principles are that inform it, so that it is not unconscious but something we know that we are doing. We can learn to think clearly through learning how to write, how to communicate and how to converse, and through learning a new language. These are all quite simple, but also strong and effective ways of increasing our range of perceptive ability. We need to take these practices quite seriously, not only for the reasons already mentioned, but also because this is what the Bodhisattva is said to need to do, to master all dharmas, and specifically in the area of arts and crafts. It enables him to see more clearly what he's involved with and to help other people more effectively as a consequence. Whilst we are sharpening up our sensitivity via one or another of these disciplines we should remember to apply what we learn to distinguishing the mahabhutas more acutely. In other words we should remain conscious of our purpose which is to come into more direct and immediate contact with the basic and primary Elements of experience. So far the discussion has indicated an enriching of a picture of, so to speak, a horizontal field of experience. And yet, if we explore our experience of the mahabhutas at increasingly refined levels, we will begin to enter the rupaloka, the realm of archetypal form. To perceive the subtler and more refined depths of the objective content of our perception, we have to rise to a subtler more refined level of consciousness. Through the agency of this very important preparatory work we refine our awareness so that we can study awareness itself, and make our awareness the object of its own perceptions. This is where the Six Element practice is leading us: to study the so called 'subjective' pole of our experience. We start off with rupa because it is objective, solid and something 'we can get our hands on'. As we work our way through the practice we go to ever increasingly refined and subtler levels or dimensions of experience, until eventually we work directly with awareness itself, which is very mercurial and intangible. To summarise this first direction in which we must go: we must educate ourselves. We must educate ourselves in a variety of different systems of interpreting and categorising as an aid

to refining our attention and awareness. It struck me that Manjughosa is a good symbol for this; he is the Bodhisattva of the arts and speech, he holds the Sword of Wisdom, that is capable of making very fine and subtle distinctions. 2. Look beyond the rational The second direction we should go in, which really grows out of the first, is to learn to avoid falling into the trap of thinking our categories and labels are real. Our categories are only like fingers pointing to the moon. They direct us to a truer awareness of incessant flux of experience which we constantly structure through our perceptual processes. To become the masters of our interpretative process, we must break free of being its victims, passive and hoodwinked by it. Instead we must develop the freedom to choose how we interpret. Remember that, however good our definitions are, however effective our categorising is, inevitably experience is 'too big' to be described completely accurately. Not only can our categories lead to contradictions, they can only be provisional. Being provisional our categories cannot do full justice to our actual experience. This is just fine. This is not to say that defining is not actually essential to clear thinking. Of course it is. But eventually we have to realise that there there is something 'more' that cannot fit the interpretative and categorising process. If we are open to this, we won't be frightened of contradictions. We won't be frightened of paradoxes and illogicalities. In fact we'll enjoy the fact that our logical processes are not adequate. For instance the difficulty of marrying the Hinayana and Mahayana versions of the Path will be amusing, rather a cause for getting uptight and engaging in Procrustean tactics to make everything fit together. If we cut two identical cakes up in two different ways, the parts of each cake cannot match the parts of the other cake. It's silly to try to make them do so. If we go in both these different directions, we'll set up the conditions to learn how to let go of our possessiveness to, our grasping after, our craving for, and our intoxication with material experiences which reinforce our false sense of self, e.g. hot cocoa, second helpings, my space etc. More importantly, we'll also learn how to let go of our possessiveness, our attachment in relation to how we're interpreting, categorising, making sense of experience to ourselves, i.e. we'll let go of our possessiveness in thinking in terms of 'my way of making sense of things is the right, the only way', of insisting that things are exclusively this or that. It is surprising how often in study groups how people are attached to 'their' point; they've invested a lot in a particular

way of looking at something, and, because it isn't expressed the same way as another's, this discrepancy becomes a source of disharmony. The funny thing is that a third party can see that everyone is really saying the same thing! Like two rutting deer, they have an urge to prove their point of view. We must remember that life is always too big for us to categorise it, to put into nice little boxes, too big to label neatly and accurately. There is something much much bigger out there which cannot be boxed up. It's vital to stay in touch with this wider dimension. If we do all of this we will learn to let our perceptual experiences reveal something 'more', 'beyond' immediate categories of interpretation, something of the deeper poetic, 'darker' mystery of life: something Bhante as a poet, despite being a master of analysis, seems really adept in doing. In contemplating a very ordinary experience, that of a candle flame, he sees something more, something which speaks of the deepest truths. Twisting, writhing, leaping, Low curtseying, ne'er the same, Burns in its silver cresset, Blue-eyed, a tawny flame. Life from the air receiving, Light to the world it gives; No winds its pride extinguish: Because it yields it lives. Yet drop by drop, in darkness, Consumeth that whereon Its bright fantastic beauty Must feed, or else begone. For whether fire or water, Earth, air, or flower or stone, The seen lives from the Unseen, The known on the Unknown. And man, within whose bosom Lurks the subtlest flame of all, Must feed on The Undying Or flicker, fade and fall Must feed on The Undying, On that which has no name, But which the Dark Sage calleth 'An Ever-Living Flame'.21

7. 1. 2.

SPACE Introduction Characteristic ways of experiencing space: i. as 'that which is between things' ii. as 'that which contains' iii. as 'that which gets filled' iv. as 'relational' v. as 'an infinite number of perspectives' Getting attached to space Our metaphorical uses of the term 'space' i. Boundaries ii. The boundaries of the healthy individual iii. The individual and the infinite nature of space

3. 4.

1. Introduction Subhuti, in his own talk said that we can easily wax metaphysical on the subject of space, but he strongly advised his audience not to do so. Following his advice I intend this talk to be very down to earth. Subhuti went on to advise us to start off in the Six Element practice by 'experiencing' space in the most immediate, straight-forward, common-sense way we can. My discussion follows the general outline of his talk, although elaborating on some points quite considerably. After taking this rather more down-to-earth approach today, tomorrow I want to stretch our horizons somewhat by introducing the Buddhist notion of akasha. 2. Characteristic ways of experiencing space We experience space in a variety of different ways. going to introduce five of the principal ones. i. I'm

as 'that-which-is-between-things' Firstly, we experience space as 'that-which-is-betweenthings', as an 'openness', or as a 'potentiality for unimpededness'. Take, for instance, the gap between me and you, my audience: there's nothing between us, I'm free to move right up to you - there is an emptiness within which we can move

without anticipation of resistance to movement. It's particularly apparent in the experience of standing on top of a large mountain - like some of the ones around here. You can see for miles and miles around, with the big open skies, and you can see the sea stretching away maybe thirty, forty, even fifty miles away one way, and then miles and miles of open mountain-tops, valleys and open moorland stretching off in the other directions. We get a tremendous feeling of expanse just going out, on and on and on, all around us. And then compare that experience with being squeezed into a Mini with say five, or six, or seven, or eight other people. There is an immediate difference: one is openness, freedom, expansiveness, and the other is confinement, not being able to move, and everything is hurting because you're squashed and pushed up against something else. The experience of space is that open gap of distance which is between what you experience as yourself, generally your body, and those objects which are experienced outside you. So this is very commonplace; I'm just trying to articulate what it is like. 2. as 'that which contains' Secondly, space is experienced as that within which things, including at times ourselves, are contained. This is often associated with a sense of containment, bounded-ness, and therefore a boundary, or boundaries. An obvious example: a box is a space. We look inside the box, and we perceive a space, which has got some definite boundaries. Some boxes are bigger than others; some bound bigger spaces than others; there are bigger and smaller spaces. Similarly a room gives us a very immediate perception of space in this sense: different rooms give us an immediate impression of the space they contain. And of course there is an outside to the room or the box, so there is a space within which the room and the box is contained. When we speak of space in the more universal sense, it is something outside which we cannot go. We could go on going and never get to the end of it! Because we can go on and on, and never get to the end of it, space is quite different from anything else we experience. So it is a quality of experience which is potentially infinite. We can travel in any direction within space, but actually never at any point be absolutely any further East, West, North or South than when we started to move! Movement in space is experienced as being in relation to something else. This can get quite complicated. Because if that something else is also moving, then our sense of direction, is still only in relation to that other moving object. I know very little about navigation, but I would imagine one has to take these sorts of things into account.

iii.

as 'that which gets filled' Thirdly, we necessarily take up, or use a certain amount of space; we 'fill' up space. We may even have quite a strong sense of ourselves being a certain size and shape, and therefore taking up, or even needing a particular 'me-sized and me-shaped space'. Our sense of space is strongly conditioned by how we experience 'our' use of space. For example, when a particularly large friend of mine comes to Padmaloka he needs two beds! There is actually a fair bit of variation in the human size and shape. What we might be accustomed to thinking of as the norm probably isn't the norm at all. If we are 6'6" and 15 stone, and rather rotund to boot, we would have a rather different feeling of our space than if we're 5'4", only 8 stone, rather thin and delicate. Inevitably we make a shape with our bodies, which we may or may not like. And our feelings in this respect will say something about how we feel about using up space. For example, I have another close friend who is at least 6'6" and probably 15 stone or more. But I get the impression that he's trying to pretend that he's considerably smaller; he has the most amazingly hunched shoulders and stoop. And he seems to be apologising for being so big; he appears to not really want to be noticed. Actually he's a real shocker when he does actually pull himself up to his full height, and opens up his shoulders: good grief! What a mountain of a man! But it's very difficult to get him to stand up like that. It may be that he's actually very shy and lacks the confidence of his own stature. Generally speaking, how we move around through space can say quite a lot about 'where we're coming from', to use that phrase. We probably don't think about how we're moving around; what we do just feels normal. But, of course, we all know that people do move about very differently; in other words, they move through space very differently. For example, some people stump around, leaning forward, and then others are very slow, and 'laid back', and almost seem to glide around. There are all sorts of possibilities. Anyway, along with an awareness of our body as having a particular shape and size is an ongoing sense of where we physically stop and start, and indeed where the world starts and stops. And more than that: we have an emotional and psychic sense of where we and others stop and start, which may or may not coincide with where we and others physically stop and start. Quite often people stop way beyond where their body does! Some people seem to take up a lot of space; these 'big', exuberant personalities contrast with those who are trying to pretend that they're not actually there, who may be even apologising for filling up even the physical space they occupy! So in a deeper sense 'my space', as the contemporary idiom has it, is not just limited to our physical boundary, to how far we physically

extend, it is also how far we psychically extend and 'body forth'. This feeling of extension is apparently integral to our experience of space. The notion of extension and bodying forth is demonstrated in the teaching of the five sheaths (kosha) of human consciousness, which Govinda introduces in Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism 22 . What he outlines is: i) the densest sheath which is built up through nutrition i.e. the physical body (anna-maya-kosa). And, ii) the 'ethereal body', a subtle, fine material sheath (pranamaya-kosa), consisting of prana, sustained and nourished by breath. This might correspond with what is known as the astral body, which apparently we are automatically born with as a subtle counterpart to the physical body. In one of Bhante's discussions of this, he points out that we don't actually stop where we normally see the body as stopping. If we were to take a certain kind of electronic photograph we just see a cloud of particles surrounding the body, without any distinct boundaries, and it would be very difficult to decide where we stopped. The astral body is a bit like this: a low level 'physical aura' of charged particles surrounding body, which has no distinct boundary. And, iii) the thought body (mano-maya-kosa), a personality formed through active thought. I get the impression that this sheath has to be made. It is, in a sense, something we create, particularly through karmic action, and spiritual activity. An intensity of spiritual practice would seem to build up a certain presence, which can be definitely 'picked up on'. Clearly this is associated with the physical body, but is somehow is much more than it. For example, when we see someone 'glowing' after a puja, or meditation, perhaps this is what we're experiencing? And then, iv) the body of potential consciousness (vijnana-mayakosa), which is the totality of spiritual capacities. This is really beyond my understanding. It may have some connection with mind-made body that comes from developing the mundane siddhis of the fourth dhyana. This radiant, luminous 'mental' body is that by which some Bodhisattvas are said to carry out their work for the emancipation of all sentient beings. And then finally, v) the highest sheath is the body of universal consciousness (anandamaya-kosa) or, the body of bliss, or, the body of inspiration. Apparently this is equivalent to the sambhogakaya. What Govinda is keen to point out is that these bodies are not distinct; they mutually interpenetrate. They are mutually interpenetrating forms of energy from the finest all-radiating to the densest form of materialised consciousness. Why I am mentioning all this is because I want to point out that not only do we have this sense of taking up space, but also there are degrees of subtlety to it, which go beyond literal physical displacement of, say, the water in our baths.

iv.

as 'relational' Fourthly, our sense of space is relational, in two respects. Firstly, we experience space by dint of our immediate physical relationship within space to other objects around us. I've touched on this already: we have a sense of where we are located in relationship to the world around us, by virtue of being related to other things. For instance, I'm here, you're there in a chair, there's a table next to you, and so there is a set of spatial coordinates. We build up a sense of space in relation to these 'things' around us. And then secondly, our sense of space is relational in terms of how we relate to things we regard as ours, and definitely not ours, and of those things which are, as it were, public property. We build up a sense of space and freedom to move around, and use, that space according to how we relate to the objects that fill that space. For instance, it's amazing how rapidly we can lay claim to a space. I was thinking of how airline seats become very rapidly appropriated - people get very attached to a seat, even it isn't the seat they should be in! We define ourselves very quickly in relation to others through laying claim to a particular space. Another example is how we like to 'jostle' to get comfortable in the cinema - we need to be in the right relation to the screen and all those around us. We get it just right, and then in comes someone late, and plonks himself right in front of us, or right beside us. It's infuriating! More particularly, we get a very strong sense of our own space in relation to our possessions. For example, we think of 'my room', 'my house', 'my car', 'my bed', 'my office', 'my chair', 'my desk', 'my computer', 'my knickknacks', 'my photos'. Some of these examples are much more obviously conventional spaces than others; others are more things that 'fill' up space emotionally speaking, making it 'ours'. In their different ways, we define space through them. For example, you must already identify with particular spaces here at Guhyaloka: your hut, your part of your hut, your wash stand, your place in the shrine room, the place where you tend to sit perhaps at the dining table, your favourites spots where you can be on your own, places where you like to walk to. Our whole pattern of life and routine is built around using these spaces and what they contain as we wish. If somebody else starts to use these spaces, we can very easily get upset. Some of these examples are more metaphorical, and others more literally open spaces, within which we can organise, arrange, structure, and pattern our possessions in the way we feel we want. We may even like this or that possession because of the way it takes up space in a peculiar and characteristic way, and offsets itself against other things which take up space

in their own characteristic ways. The combination of a number of these is often aesthetically pleasing to us. I have another friend, a graphic designer, who spends his time fascinated with setting up the relationships of typeface and images on pieces of paper. He feels really happy, when he's got it 'right'. In a similar kind of way we seem to do this with the spaces that we live in; we set things up so that we feel right there: it's aesthetically pleasing - whether it's aesthetically pleasing to others is quite another matter! Part of the joy and comfort of 'our space' is that we're completely free to do what we want; often, this means not even having to take others into consideration, or only rather marginally. Our will and desire has full reign; it's the focal point around which everything is arranged. This is enormously gratifying; we're right at the centre of it all, the world revolves around us. This sense of expansiveness and freedom is even more the case in relation to those 'possessions' which afford us opportunities of extension and movement. For example, a car can make an enormous difference to our sense of space and our sense of freedom. I remember the very great difference owning a motorbike made in London; the city was so much more accessible. Travelling on the Tube is so much more narrow, confined, even tortuous, antagonistic, confrontational and competitive to use. A motorbike gave me so more 'freedom of choice'; I could choose when, how, where I wanted to go. Strangely enough, I think money is a particularly good example of space. Money is obviously not strictly speaking space in the Newtonian sense, but it affords to us space, in a more metaphorical sense. If we have money, we are free, in a sense, to do what we want - obviously within a rather particular sphere of concern. We can go places, buy things, do this, do that etc. I think this is one of the reasons that we get so attached to money, and identify with it so strongly. Money gives us the possibility of extension and movement into the wider world. If we don't have money, if we don't have two beans to rub together, well, in a sense, we're stuck and confined by that lack. OK, I know that there is a lot more to life than what money can buy. v. as 'an infinite number of perspectives' As I said earlier, our experience of space is relational. It is relational in the sense that we experience an immediate physical relationship to other objects around us: we have a sense of where we are located in relation to the world around us by virtue to our relationship to specific objects. In this way, we come to occupy a point in space by which we orientate ourselves to other objects in space. Hence, we experience space from a particular view-point. So this is the fifth point I want to make: wherever we are,

we experience space from that position, not from any other; space is the infinite number of different viewing points. For instance, I'm over here, and you're over there. They're actually very different experiences. And what is so easy to forget is that what we are experiencing is just one of an infinite number of possible ways of experiencing space, and what is contained within it. For example, sitting at one end of the shrine room rather than the other does make a big difference to how we experience being in the shrine room. We tend to see our experience as 'the' way of seeing things, rather than just one out of a very large number. And so we interpret and make sense of our experience from 'our' point of view. Subhuti used the example of the mountain Puig Campana, which is such a prominent part of the landscape of Guhyaloka. Campana means bell. From Finestrat, a small town on the other side of the mountain, this name makes perfect sense; but, from over here it certainly doesn't look like a bell, but rather more like a camel! We can so easily forget that there are very different experiences of the same mountain; there is literally another point of view, one which we never can have from here. We have to learn to consciously bear in mind that there are other points of view, sometimes radically different ones to ours, and equally valid to our own. And sometimes some points of view are better, or truer, or afford a better view, so to speak, than others; and then again, sometimes not. In reality, life, even our own life, is not organised around a focal point. But our sense of there being a point in space from which we see life encourages us to think of 'our' life, and life in general as having a central focus to it. But it's not like that really; it's much more open that that; there are so many more possibilities of looking at things, either literally, or more metaphorically and psychologically speaking. 3. Getting attached to space In many of these examples we tend to identify our experience of space as ours. We attach a label to it: it's 'mine'. In being free to use these spaces, or the things contained within these spaces, as we wish, depending on the degree of flexibility they afford, we have a sense of possession, control and ownership of the space. And as I said earlier, we can lay claim to what we regard as 'our space' really very quickly indeed. Of course, in the literal sense, where we are, others cannot be; where our things are, others possessions can't be. Even something like this chair, for instance, is 'my' chair; 'I'm sitting in it sorry, that's mine, that's where I am.' Therefore nobody else can be there! This feeling of ownership comes out much strongly in some situations than others. For example, the English are renowned

for queuing; queuing at a bus-stop, we have a strong sense 'our' place in the queue: I'm here, and there are some people in front of me, and other people very definitely behind me. And those behind me better stay where they are, because I'm not going to put up with any queue-barging! But when the English go to India, they have a real shock; the Indians don't seem to relate to space in that sort of way at all! And we can experience this sense of ownership of space when we go into a stranger's house. Our sense of space can contract quite markedly, pretty much on occasion to that which our bodies are taking up. Everything else is theirs; we try not to infringe too much on their space. So the strength the feeling of 'our' space can come and go very considerably. We identify much more strongly with 'our' space, as an extension of ourselves, and its boundaries defining us, when we feel completely free to do and be what we want to be within that space: when we are the boss. In those spaces where we are free to order things and to arrange everything around us, then we feel we own that space. Our room is a very good example; we'd be outraged if someone came in and started moving things around. Although it is interesting that it is said to be one of the marks of good friendship, that we feel happy if that is what our friends feel free to do. This possession, ownership and control of the freedom and scope to be free is highly prized. It's deeply instinctual, coming perhaps out of territorial imperative, which is presumably deeply imbued within us by virtue of biological conditioning. We certainly compete for this space, and we institutionalise our ownership of it, and we go to considerable lengths to define it legally. We've got a very stark reminder of this just yards away from us: our neighbour has bulldozed the scrub on the perimeter of our land with theirs, explicitly to remind us of where we stop and they start. In a variety of ways we go to considerable lengths to define 'our' spaces, parcelling them up, even putting fences around them, often literally; the English seem particularly fond of doing this. At times this seems ridiculously absurd; if we fly over English countryside, we see all these tiny little patches of grass outside people's houses. And we will go to considerable lengths to protect what we regard as our space, to protect our 'rights'. Apparently it's even worse in the States: you can get peppered, shot up, or have dogs put on you if you 'trespass' onto another's space; it seems people feel they have every right to do this. Ownership of space is clearly closely related to other people! We can feel crowded out, invaded, even violated, and abused by others coming into our space. For instance, people often experience burglary very keenly on just this account; it's not so much what they've lost, maybe they haven't lost much at all in terms of possessions, but it is the fact that someone has

forcibly intruded upon their space - this can be traumatic. There are some people we don't just like being close; we feel tense and awkward around them. But there are other people who we don't really mind being right next to, or even touching us, although we may not know them well or not at all. And then, of course, there are those very special people who we want as close to us as possible, wrapped up in our space with us. When you stop to think about it, all this is rather odd: especially when we can feel perfectly happy in a crowded shopping mall amongst hundreds of people, and then we can get really touchy about someone walking past on the pavement outside our front door. The way we identify ourselves with different types of space describes our conditioned nature; as a habit it is useful because it roots and grounds us in the situation. It gets unhealthy to the extent we get attached and cling. It's so easy to think we're not attached; but what if I said we're going to change around huts after the public ordinations? Or everybody had to change places in the shrine room this evening? It might be alright if you thought you were going to get a better deal! But unless you were pretty sure that was going to be the case, well it just wouldn't be on: you are quite happy where you are; you've got used to it. Well, that's OK; but, it does show how something that we take very much for granted is actually something to which we are very attached. For instance, when you leave this retreat, you'll go back and find that the situation has moved on, people will have changed things, particularly if you are living in a large community. They've gone on with life without you; they won't have forgotten you, but all the familiar spaces which you were used to using have probably being taken and used by somebody else. So when you get back, you'll in a sense have to reclaim your space, but it may not be the old familiar ones that will be free! This experience of attachment to space really hits us apparently when we die. At least initially we cannot really accept that we have died. There is an attachment to being 'here'. And apparently one of the really distressing things is seeing people using our spaces without any apparent regard to us whatsoever! And then, they start selling off our possessions! "Hoi! what you doing with my bed!" They just don't take any notice of us any more. So gradually everything by which we are accustomed to orientating our self gets dispersed and scattered in the four directions. Apparently, this is really very disorientating, and not a little upsetting. 4. Our metaphorical uses of the term 'space' Much of what I have so far talked about in terms of our experience of space has already touched upon or can easily be

extended into our psychological-cum-emotional experience of ourselves; it also refers in a metaphorical sense to the pattern of our lives working itself out in a particular field, or sphere, or arena, world, or domain. So I want to explore this a littler further; my comments here are inevitably rather general in character, but nevertheless will I hope stimulate some productive reflection. The word space is often used metaphorically to say something about how we are feeling, and how we relate psychologically to our situation. We use phrases like 'my space', 'I need space to be myself', 'I'm feeling spaced out' to convey something about our state of minds. In this way, the term space can come to say something about our sense of ourselves and about us as developing individuals. In the same way that our sense of physical space is relational, i.e. is determined by objects one in relation to another, many of these psychological feelings are relational, often with regard to other people. Other people seem to be the key factors in determining how much space we feel we have - and this at times can have very little to do with how physically close or distant we are to them - they almost literally take up space in our minds. In a similar way that we use the metaphor of a mandala, which is a graphic and spatial depiction of what is of meaning and significance to us, we highlight what is central to our lives when we talk about the way in which we "need to create space in our lives for 'this' or 'that'". And when we talk in terms of priorities, and of what is most important to us, there is an implicit spatial reference as what is closer or further away to what is most central to us. Do you see the point I'm making? We have, so to speak, a model in the back of our minds: a spatial model, of our lives, of who we are, of what we're about, of what we're trying to do with ourselves. i. Boundaries And in a similar way, through our use of language, we indicate the nature of our boundaries i.e. how far we extend, and the manner in which we do so. We say something about where we stop and start as an individual in relation to others, as a personality in terms of our interests, perceived needs and wants, our capabilities and talents. Our sense of individuality seems to be bound up with a sense of our space, whether we have space to be ourselves, whether we feel free to be ourselves, to be creative, to play or act out what are our deeper urges, instincts and impulses. The notion of our boundaries is interesting because the way we conceive of ourselves in this respect says something about how flexible we are in responding to external influences, and how

much we may invest in terms of time, energy, and money even, in preserving what we regard as 'our space', or, to use another term, 'our sphere of concern'. For example, we may have twelve foot high walls with barbed wire and broken glass surfaces surrounding us, and, in effect, be very interned and selfabsorbed because of the nature of this impenetrable boundary in relation to external influences, particularly other people. Or, we may be so lacking in our depth of personal integrity that, in effect, we have no boundaries, and what sense of boundary we do have is defined by others' boundaries, and as a consequence we are open to every fashionable wind that blows. These are two, of many, hypothetical extremes; but sadly, sometimes we do come across actual examples! ii. The boundaries of the healthy individual By contrast, a healthy individual seems to have the integrity of personality to the point that his space, or sphere of activity and concern, is well-defined, with a characteristic integrity and sense of appropriate containment specific to that individual. It's not as if there is one particular way in which an individual has to be. If someone is acting as a genuine individual, they have a characteristic integrity and appropriate containment about them; it's an identifiable flavour. The individual has definite boundaries, and yet at the same time, his boundaries have a plasticity to them that allows for genuinely compassionate and friendly interaction and engagement with the demands and needs of the 'outside' world. In biological terms, a metaphor might be a semi-permeable membrane; there is a boundary and there is traffic of a specific character which is allowed to pass across it. Such an individual in knowing his strengths and capabilities, in knowing the limits of his own resources, is able to persevere, and even enhance the richness of 'his inner space', of himself and his particular 'world' through engaging with that beyond it. This is the middle way between the two extremes cited at the end of the last section. Such an individual's concerns, i.e. interests and desire to respond to the needs of others, mean he goes out beyond himself; and in extending himself, he stretches and develops his capacities even further, and thereby enriches his own inner world. So there is an appropriate relationship between inner and outer space. His sphere or the space of his concern is neither too grandiose, e.g. thinking that he is some sort of Christ-like genius who is about to save the whole world, nor are his concerns so self-preoccupied and narrow that what he actually does is considerably smaller than his potential capacities and sphere of influence. Some people get very excited about saving the world; but they do so in a way that loses sight of who they are, of

where they're 'at', of where they stop and start. They have got inflated by something much bigger which is outside of themselves. The other kind of person almost implodes, getting so wrapped up in himself that he achieves very much less than he has the capacity to do; he fails to get around to doing much at all, being so preoccupied with his own entrails. The best thing for such a person is to get out and give, because in that way he realises that there is much more to life than his own immediate concerns or difficulties. The truly developing individual will be stretching himself, and hence growing through a continual series of small incremental expansions of his capacities into an ever expanding sphere of concern which is just effectively bigger than his immediate capacities. He is always challenging himself to extend yet further; it's a process of continual expansion and selftranscendence. In this way, the growing individual continually goes forth from identifying himself with a particular sphere or space of concerns, with a particular world of self-defining patterns and boundaries, to discovering fresh and new ways of meeting his desire to include yet ever more within his sphere or space of concerns. He goes for refuge to the process of continually breaking out of his immediate sphere of concern to something bigger and better. The real individual is not a static globe; he is an expanding globe, shining ever more brightly with energy. Since such a growing individual knows where he currently stops and starts, consequently he knows where others stop and start. He doesn't get confused as to what is him and what is other people. Emotionally he remains distinct: he doesn't project emotions and so forth on to others, and then mistake that projection for something other than it really is. In knowing where his real boundaries are, the individual has a much more realistic understanding of what is within his sphere of control and influence and what isn't. He has a truer perspective on who he is, what he can do, and where he is going. He has a truer perspective on who others are, what they can do, and where they are going. Hence he has a much more realistic expectations of what he can achieve, and what others can achieve. He doesn't rely on others to make him feel happy, confident and safe. If he is a buddhist he relies on the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha as effective refuges because he knows that only they can provide a true perspective, a means of genuine growth, and meaningful human communication. And in exploring these refuges, somewhat paradoxically he comes to rely essentially on himself, because he knows fulfilment, happiness and confidence can only come from 'within'; he is not looking for it outside. Since he looks and sees what is really there in himself and

other people, the feelings he has, as a consequence of this broader awareness, are much more appropriate. He empathises, he makes the imaginative leap and shares with others their joys and pains. Hence he is really able to be a friend - he can really give to others without any strings attached, without any hidden agendas. These are some of the consequences of having a healthy sense of space, sphere of influence, and concern. iii. The individual and the infinite nature of space This notion of boundaries to our personality reminds me of our fear of emptiness, of a blank nothingness, which seems to be often at the root of our perception of space. It's as if the fragile walls of our personality are keeping at bay this vast ocean of unlimited nothingness, extending on for ever and ever, both spatially and in time. It's not surprising with that kind of picture in our minds that we're frightened - but actually there is nothing to be frightened of. This pseudo-scientific nihilistic view of space is just an idea. It is true that the nature of space is awe-strikingly inconceivable. Space is after all actually unbounded, undivided, impartite, completely open, unlimited, undifferentiated, not organised around any focal point(s), infinite, vast. In the end, space is indefinable; space is just space. At first sight, the infinite universal character of space is apparently the polar opposite to that of the individual struggling to assert his independence and autonomy within his sphere of influence amidst the vast ocean of unpredictable possibilities of life. It feels like we could just simply drown, get swamped out and swallowed up by the immensity of space and all that it contains. But Bhante has a much more positive vision of how the individual emerges out of this fear of the enormity of space to contain, in a sense, the entire universe, and certainly to express it. He says, 'It is not as though their individuality has simply merged into something non-individual, or even supra-individual, so that they become rather featureless. They seem to be more 'themselves' than ever before. There is a strange fusion of individuality and universality; they are more universal, but at the same time more individual. ... paradoxically, it is the individual that expresses that universal experience. If there wasn't limited form, what medium could there be for the expression of the universal experience? ... the use of the term 'universal' can be misleading, if it makes us think of something abstract and common. When the individual, to use that language, attains the universal, it is not as though the individual is merged into something which is non-individual. From a spiritual point of view, universality is a particular way in which the individual behaves. For instance, when the individual is

developing metta, ... it is an individual being universal. ... universality is an attitude that pertains essentially and distinctively to the individual. ... universality is one of the ways in which an individual functions, not a thing into which the individual disappears. Any apparent contradiction between the notion of individuality and the notion of the universal arises when we make the universal something more abstract, and then reify it.' 23 This is what we practise in the metta bhavana - it is not so much that we literally explore space, but that, through a very definite expansion of our being beyond being immediately bound up with our self-concern, we learn to cultivate a boundless unlimited infinite love; our love is more universal, it knows no barriers, neither of space nor time. So in this way we learn how to overcome identifying our experiences of space as limiting. Our contemplation of the Element Space in the Six Element practice is an extension of this basic practice.

8.

AKASHA

1. Different cultural perspectives i. Newtonian space ii. Influence of post-Renaissance camera reality iii. The Indian Buddhist perspective 2. What is akasha? i. Mahakasha The primary nature of akasha Symbolic associations between akasha and the mahabhutas ii. Cittakasha: imaginal space iii. Cidakasha Akasha experienced as a higher level of 'being' The dakini 3. Conclusion

Different cultural perspectives i. Newtonian space Our English word 'Space' is used to translate the Buddhist term 'akasha'. The Buddhist notion of akasha is radically different from that of 'Newtonian space' posited in Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687). Speaking rather generally, Newton defines space as the unlimited three-dimensional expanse within which all material objects are contained; that expanse is characterised by absence of matter, and furthermore is a mechanical, mathematical, and a geometric postulate. It is an abstracted formula necessary to Newton's explanations of natural phenomena. Space was a theoretical notion, something that Newton had to come up with in relation to such things as gravitational fields, and other scientifically observable phenomena. All of this would suggest that the nature of space is essentially inert or 'dead'. Given our normal mode of perception this seems accurate enough; we think of space as an absence, a nothingness between us and 'something out there'. This view of our experience is from the Buddhist perspective strongly conditioned by our being rooted in the kamaloka, the realm of the senses. ii. Influence of post-Renaissance camera reality Our everyday notion of space, strongly conditioned by our cultural and scientific background, has from time to time been radically affected by particular technological developments. One such development evolved as the post-Renaissance camera reality, which Aloka discusses in his third talk in The Refuge Tree as Mythic Context. Apparently the photograph (taken by the camera!) was the logical technological conclusion to developments in what is called the theory of perspective, a way of looking at the world developed by the fine artists of the European XIV century Renaissance in relation to easel painting. This strongly influences the way we currently perceive reality. As an aside, Aloka mentions that we are now beginning to move into a postphotographic era, known as 'digital imaging' 24 . This in its own way will profoundly effect the way we see images and the world around us, as did the photograph in its own day. Perspective drawing was developed as a way of representing ordinary everyday reality, although, in itself, it is based on a false assumption, that light travels in straight lines. In fact, light travels in curves, which accounts for why perspective drawing, according to Aloka, 'looks more acute than things actually do' 25 . Developing the skill of appreciating the conventions of perspective also involves understanding the convention of a snapshot of an instant in time as a good way of representing our experience as one whole. We tend to forget that

this is something we have learnt to do; there are people (and animals) who cannot do this: show them a photograph and they can't make sense of it. The nature of our experience of a particular 'thing' is not of 'one whole' but of a sequence of parts, and the parts are constantly changing. This is because our eyes never stay still for a moment, adverting at one moment to one aspect of 'the object', now to another, sometimes focusing in on detail, and at others times taking in a broader focus. What we construct as one stable reality is actually made up of a summation from a sequence of 'stills', each slightly different. David Hockney has constructed a series of pictures illustrating this: each one is a collage of photographs of a particular scene, each photograph being focused on a slightly different aspect of the scene. In this way he suggests a more accurate manner of depicting how we really go about seeing the world. By contrast, perspective drawing involves, according to David Hockney, being 'a frozen man with one eye looking through a window'. If you want more details read Aloka's talks. (ibid. p.27f) With the convention of perspective drawing we look at the scene depicted in a picture, or photograph, from one particular point of view, and, once this point is determined, we cannot change our relationship to what is depicted. Also, we view the scene portrayed in the picture or photograph from outside it as a spectator at a distance; we look in on the scene as through a window, or through the frame of the picture. This means there is always an irreducible gap between us and what we experience outside of ourselves. (ibid. p.30f). The phenomenon of what Bhante calls alienated awareness seems closely allied with this way of 'not'-experiencing life. Somewhat naturally we assume that what we see with the eye is real and true. But we forget that we interpret what comes to us through our various senses. We easily assume that interpreting our experience according to the conventions of perspective drawing is the only way of perceiving what is real and true. iii. The Indian Buddhist perspective I hope the connection between what I have been saying and our experience of space is clear. Our experience of space is strongly conditioned by our cultural background; so it is important that we are familiar with our Western cultural conditioning. At the same time we are Buddhists, and the traditional Buddhist conception of space is very different. As Govinda says, 'while the Western experience of space was increasingly concerned with the optical and mathematical definitions so that an inner feeling turned into the observation of external optical space, the Indian conception of space

developed in the opposite direction. Instead of exploring visible space they regarded it merely as a projection of an imperfect reflection or symbol of their inner experience and consequently they dived into the centre of their own being, into the depth of human consciousness in which the whole infinite world is contained.' 26 Govinda has a fair amount to say on this, both in the book just quoted and his 'Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism'. Space, to the Indian Buddhist, was much more to do with the nature of the mind; it was to be felt, explored and discovered in the heart as an inner 'imaginal' (to use Bhante's term) dimension of extension, expansion and movement, 'of which external space is a mere symbol, a reflection, limited by the finite qualities of our eyes, our physical faculty of vision. In fact what we see with our eyes is not space but only a world of light-resisting objects which we interpret in terms of our inner space consciousness.' 27 2. What is akasha? What is akasha? There are actually three terms describing different dimensions of the term Akasha. We will look at each of these by turn. i. Mahakasha 'Mahakasha' is used to describe the three dimensional space of sense perception. So all that has been said so far in this and the previous talk by way of our common-sense understanding of space goes some way to explaining this level of akasha. The primary nature of akasha Unlike the Newtonian view of space, Buddhism asserts that our mind is the source of our experience of space. 'Space and time are not objective realities external to consciousness but part of the conditions under which it perceives things. ... The elements of existence are not only mind-preceded (manopubbangama) and mind-determined (manosettha) but also made up or composed of mind (manomaya)' 28 This is very much where we left off the last talk when I introduced Bhante's distinction that universality is an attitude of the individual, a way in which the individual functions, not an abstract notion, as it would appear that Newton understood space to be. From the Buddhist point of view, any particular experience of space we have is part of the way we choose, or our minds choose, to organise, structure and interpret our experience. 'Our consciousness determines the kind of space in which we live, ... the way in which we are aware of space is characteristic of the dimension of our consciousness. The three dimensional space, which we perceive through our body and its senses, is only one among the many dimensions.'29 (We could also

say the same for our experience of time, but let's not get involved in that one just yet!) Akasha is a function of consciousness, and a function of perception (samjna) i.e. the way we experience space is a reflection of the current nature of our minds. This isn't such a strange assertion. After all, we are used to our emotions and our moods strongly affecting our perceptions - even a bright sunny day can irritate us and make us feel grumpy, or the opposite. Here I'd like to remind us of something in the last talk. We tend to think of space as just 'that-which-is-between-things', as an open gap or extension within which there is no anticipation of being impeded, as essentially unchanging in character at all times and places. We also think of space as being discrete and separate from the objects we perceive to be in space, such that space is 'that-where-there-is-no-object'. So what we experience is: object, space, object, space etc.; objects displace space, much like we might push water out over the sides of our bath when we get into it. In addition to the everyday view of space seen by the optical eye, Buddhism stresses the possibility of awakening an inner, visionary eye. With this inner eye we see that there is very much more to our normal perception of space, even as perceived through the gates of our five senses, than we think. According to Govinda we can come to see that 'All that is formed and that has taken spatial appearance by possessing extension, reveals the nature of akasha. Therefore the four great elements or states of aggregation ... are conceived as modifications of akasha ... in its grossest form akasha presents itself as matter; in its subtlest forms it merges imperceptibly into the realm of dynamic forces {... [i.e.] all that causes movement, change or transformation [is]... prana'}. ... Akasha's nature is emptiness; and because it is empty, it can contain and embrace everything. ... {it}is the space within which all possibilities of movement {prana}are contained, both physical and spiritual, that in which motion takes place, which makes movement possible, 30 and is therefore that through which things step into 'visible' appearance. Akasha is the condition upon which whatever has extension, corporeality and form appears, without being itself movement or appearance. 'Space is the precondition of all that exists, be it in material or immaterial form, because we can neither imagine an object nor a being without space. Space, therefore, is not only a conditio sine qua non of all existence, but a fundamental property of our consciousness.' 31 This would suggest that akasha is even more mysteriously magical, illusive, indefinable, chimera-like, and deeply poetical in nature than the great ghosts, the mahabhutas themselves. Akasha is the, as it were, esoteric dimension of the mahabhutas, the mahabhutas the exoteric expression of akasha.

We might find this odd! In our normal everyday experience space appears to be the opposite of the mahabhutas, or rupa. After all, we experience rupa as the intractable, 'objective' resistant content of our perception. Our perception of rupa is of differentiation, structure, partiteness, separateness, form, thingness. This is how we experience rupa in its various different forms. We see it as a 'thing', as something experienced 'out there'. By contrast, we tend to experience space as that which offers no resistance, which has no structure and no form, and is insubstantial and impartite. Given these two extremes of experience, how can the former come out of the latter? It is not that our experience is false. The literalism of dualistic thinking dupes us into mistaking space and rupa to be mutually exclusive. We see space, as it were, wrapping itself around objects: where there isn't an object there is space; space is that which is between objects; space is, in a sense, just another object, albeit a non-material object. Inasmuch as we treat all objects as discrete and separate one from another, obviously we conceive of space as different and separate from all other objects. If it is in one labelled box, it cannot be in another one. But according to Buddhism, akasha is not distinctly separate from rupa, from the mahabhutas. Akasha is the subtler more refined, even primordial, 'ground' of which the mahabhutas are the discernible and apparent manifestation. We infer the nature of akasha from our experience of the mahabhutas. Akasha is that which contains everything; and therefore, akasha is, if you like, the basic stuff out of which rupa arises. Akasha is a complete openness and unboundedness of primordial energy from which other manifestations and aggregations of energy arise. The nature of akasha is revealed by all that has formed and has taken spatial appearance, and which possesses the different qualities of extension and states of aggregation. That which is 'objective', or appears so, has so to speak a hidden non-'objective' dimension to it. An analogy for this might be an iceberg, which has a large bit one cannot see under the surface - we wouldn't be able to see the bit above the sea if it were not for the bit underneath; also, an iceberg is formed out of the sea. We should bear in mind that the intractable, resistant, and hence so called 'objective' pole of our perceptual experience is just part of the picture, and that there are other less resistant dimensions to the perceptual experience as well. Because we can feel something 'objective' and solid 'out there' does not mean that therefore it is separate. I cannot help being reminded of Bhante's lumpy porridge analogy for the nature of reality. The lumpy bits are what we perceive as the objective content of our perceptions. But the lumpy bits are not separate from the rest

of the porridge; it's difficult to really ascertain where the lumpy bits stop, and the creamier bit starts. (I think this is in one of Bodhisattva Ideal mitratas) b. Symbolic associations between akasha and the mahabhutas The interesting implication of what has just been discussed is that when we explore the nature of the mahabhutas we explore the nature of akasha. Just as in the mandala the significance of the central focus is drawn out and explicated by that which is in the different quarters, so, in exploring the mahabhutas, we investigate the nature of akasha. Akasha finds outward expression in the substance of the mahabhutas. Within the mandala of the five Jinas the correspondence between the mahabhutas and akasha and vijnana is made. Ratnasambhava is associated with Earth, Akshobya with Water, Amitabha with Fire, Amoghasiddhi with Air, and, at the centre of the mandala, Vairocana is associated with Space and Consciousness. Perhaps an interesting set of correspondences could be worked out between all the various consorts or prajnas of the Jinas and Akashadhatesvari, Vairocana's consort, whose name means The Lady of the sphere of Akasha. In a very similar set of correspondences made within Tantric meditation the different organs of the body are seen as different modifications or expressions of akasha. Particular bodily organs are imagined as cakras or lotuses, each with different numbers of petals. Currents of lunar and solar prana are imagined to flow through channels, or nadis, which pass through these cakras. Speaking very generally, through a conscious redirecting of the dynamic forces of prana within the alchemical crucible of yogin's body, each lotus cakra undergoes a transmutation, symbolised by a blossoming. In this way the yogin's spiritual identity, as mediated by his perception of akasha manifesting as the mahabhutas of his body, is transmuted; the yogin distils and creates in meditation a new spiritual body, his mano-maya-kaya. The Earth and Water Elements respectively correspond to the Root Centre (muladhara-cakra), positioned in the plexus pelvis, and the svadisthana-cakra, positioned in the plexus hypogastricus (i.e. the organs of elimination and reproduction). In Buddhist practice, these are usually taken as one. The Fire Element is associated with the manipura-cakra, positioned in the solar plexus (i.e. above the navel, being near the organs of digestion, assimilation etc.). The Air Element corresponds with the heart cakra (anahata-cakra), and organs of respiration and heart. The three highest Centres are the Throat Centre (visuddhacakra) positioned at the plexus cervicus, the centre between the eyebrows, and the crown centre (sahasrara-Padma). These three centres correspond to higher dimensions of akasha, which merge with prana. Often the upper two are regarded as one.32 It is

interesting that in Buddhist practice, we focus more on the upper centres. For instance, as in the practice of salutation, where we recite OM AH HUM. I mention all this in response to some of your questions, by way of hinting in which direction you could go looking. It may seem abstract, but the practice is actually rooted in the experience of the body. It is not something 'out there', or just a theory on a piece of paper, but something which can be explored within one's own experience. We don't have a formal exploration in these terms within the Order; perhaps some Order members may experiment at some point in exploring the implications of the Six Element practice in this sort of way. 2. Cittakasha: imaginal space Our feeling for the nature of akasha may develop further if we examine the meaning of the second dimension of akasha as contained in the term cittakasha, literally 'the space of consciousness'. This is what Bhante defines as imaginal space, an inner dimension, an inner visionary space; it is the space you experience when you enter into your own heart, entering from within rather than from without. The word akasha comes from root 'kas' meaning 'to radiate, or, to shine'. Hence akasha is experienced as alive, and creative with emotional resonance akin to ancient belief in the 'ether' of the 'firmament' i.e. as a medium for movement of the vital force (prana). This experience of akasha is inseparable from aloka, the light that illuminates that space; this is the same light apparently experienced in the after-death bardo. Light and space are one and same thing. We may find this notion rather odd, given our scientific metaphor of light rays travelling through space. But this light, aloka, does not spread out from a central source, as it does, say, from sun and stars; it is just one even luminosity, radiating equally from every locus - like the deep blue luminosity of the sky. Increasingly, our experience of akasha in this inner dimension of the heart, in this imaginal space or inner visionary space, tends towards neither 'subjectivity' nor 'objectivity'; it is illuminated evenly; there is an even luminosity. Any sense of boundaries becomes increasingly attenuated - like a very thin veil. The tendency is towards there being no differentiation between a subject viewing objects, as there is in our normal mode of perception. And hence there is no split between 'in here' and 'out there', a 'me' looking out 'at something'. Instead the tendency is towards a state of deeply wholesome, tranquil integration and harmonising: of all our energies, of inner and outer, of heights and depths. This is what I take to be the experience of the 'space' or sphere of samadhi. The traditional image is of a man, who, after a walk in the very hot Indian sun,

has taken a bath in the refreshing waters of a cool lake, and is now relaxing in the light breeze under the deep shade of trees, having covered himself in a thin cotton shawl. Bhante says it is difficult to appreciate this 'space' from the perspective of a common-sense level of consciousness, because we are bound to see it as an object, when it isn't. This inner imaginal space is a realm of visionary experience within which 'objects' are not solid but are luminous, and radiant, made of light, diaphanous and translucent, and although apparently 'out there' and separate from us, are also paradoxically very much 'in here' as part of us. These 'objects' interpenetrate one another, each reflecting one another, each shining within the other, each, in a sense, containing the other. Perhaps this is something of what that great Visionary Blake meant when he wrote: To see a World in a Grain of sand And Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.33 As an aside, these first few lines of his long poem are a prelude to an advocation of loving kindness, particularly towards animals, and those who are weak and cannot look after themselves. The image of the deep radiant blue depths of the even luminosity of the sky is such a good image to act as a symbol of 'not-two-ness', the transcendence of subject-object duality, and the deeper unconditioned akasha-like nature of our minds. Clearly the blue sky has an important place in visualisation. Increasingly, as we refine more meaning and significance from this image, we get a sense of a radically different experience of perception, which, from our point of view, will nevertheless tend to have an apparent bipolarity to it: that of object and subject, or of form and space, or space and movement, or of space and consciousness. But in reality these 'things' are not two, although they appear inevitably to us to be to some extent separate. As Govinda says, '... if we contemplate the mysterious depth and blueness of the firmament, we contemplate the depth of our own inner being, of our own mysterious all-comprising consciousness in its primordial, unsullied purity: unsullied by thoughts and mental representations, undivided by discriminations, desires, and aversions. Herein lies the indescribable and inexplicable happiness which fills us during such contemplation. From such experiences we begin to understand the significance of the deep blue as the centre and startingpoint of meditative symbolism and vision.' 34 iii. Cidakasha In the rest of this talk, I want to suggest how we may move towards a perception of akasha at its highest level, which, according to some Abhidharmic classifications, is one of the

three Unconditioned dharmas. This highest level of akasha, cidakasha, is equated with sunyata, the subject-object distinction being eliminated. In this highest sense akasha is said to be the precondition of all that exists, be it material or immaterial, and hence is inseparable from prana the principle of movement, the breath of life, the all-powerful, all-pervading rhythm of the universe, the primordial force manifesting in macro- and microcosms. 'Eh Ma Oh! Dharma Wondrous strange! Profoundest Mystery of the Perfect Ones. In the Unmoving, all things come and go, Yet in that movement, nothing ever moves.' These two, akasha & prana 'condition' one another, so to speak, like left & right, below&above, existence&non-existence. This I take to be something of the meaning of the yab-yum of Vairocana The Illuminator - and his consort Akashadhatesvari - The Queen of the Sphere of Space. Talking in this way we may perhaps have a sense that all our terms are synonymous. This is in a sense true. We are, as it were, approaching the top of the pyramid of the Six Element practice; and perhaps it doesn't matter which side of the pyramid that we look at it from. We are talking about fundamentally the same thing. When we look into the depths of akasha, we see into the depths of our minds, into the essential nature of consciousness, and the fundamental nature of perception. When we pursue the next contemplation, that of Consciousness, we will effectively cover much the same ground, but from a slightly different point of view, or perspective. But essentially we talking about the one and same experience. Akasha as a higher level of 'being' So although we may well develop some feeling for the qualities of akasha in our more usual mundane world using our inner imaginal eye, we experience akasha much more vividly and directly as an expression of higher levels of consciousness, within the dhyanas, in the Imaginal realm par excellence. Higher levels of consciousness are higher levels of akasha; for example, the first arupa dhyana is the sphere of infinite space. It is not surprising to find Bhante saying the sphere of infinite space that we experience in the first arupa dhyana is not a 'thing' we identify as 'infinite space'; we experience space within our self as a complete freedom from any obstruction. We feel as if we could move unimpeded in any direction. [Having no first hand experience of this I cannot explain it any further.] These higher realms of space and consciousness are also the realms or the space of the Deva and Brahmalokas. Being higher realms of space and light, they are also distinct levels of being, so they body forth, as it were, in Pure forms. In these

higher realms of space we can meet higher beings such as Brahmas, literally 'beings of light', or devas, literally 'shining ones'. As an aside, it is an interesting fact that in Amitabha's pureland of Sukhavati there is no sun and moon. This indicates that Sukhavati is a manifestation of a higher realm of akasha. It also tends to indicate that only a higher level of being can enter a Bodhisattva's Pureland. We experience the manifestation of the mahabhutas on a relatively gross material plane with the familiar sense impressions. At a higher level of consciousness, akasha, still being the primordial source of form, bodies forth in pure archetypal forms, not apprehended through the senses. The capacity to experience higher levels of akasha and consciousness has to be brought into existence in the form of a subtle material body (the mano-maya-kaya); this is built up as a consequence of directed spiritual efforts. Once done, our new body has the perceptual capacity, the organs so to speak, to experience 'beings' with archetypal forms. So instead of experiencing akasha and its manifestations optically as 'objects out there', as we do more usually on mundane levels of experience, we experience akasha as 'in here' as well as 'out there'. The distinction between the two, 'in here' and out there', is rather nominal, more by way of trying to describe the actual experience in language than inherent to it. The actual experience of akasha is an aspect of how we are, how we have reorganised ourselves, reorganised our minds, reorganised our being (which is incidentally one of Bhante's definitions of meditation.) This imaginal space is more akin to a mandala, a sphere or space of great beauty, a perceptible experience of vast expanse within which we meet 'beings', so to speak, of radiant light. This mandala of our new self is not static or inert, or passive (as we usually tend to think of and experience space); instead our perception of time and space become integrated, so that our experience of this space is one of movement; this sphere is alive and moving; it is dynamic; we are dynamic, we are moving in a beautiful luminous space, perhaps even dancing. b. The dakini Another type of being we are very likely to meet in such higher realms of space is the dakini. In Tibetan, the word for dakini is khandroma (kha = space.); literally one who goes in space. Govinda says a dakini is literally a heavenly being of female appearance who moves about in space, partaking of its luminous nature, appearing to earnest seeker as guide to lead him on way of higher knowledge. Being naked, dakinis embody naked, unveiled reality, and their stance is often heroic in attitude. Vessantara's book has an excellent chapter (No.23) on dakinis;

one of the points he makes is that dakinis actually appear in almost every conceivable form e.g. Naropa's old woman. dakinis, from a more psychologically interpretative view-point are the flashes of 'inspiration, moods of great happiness and exhilaration, dauntless courage, sudden laughter, or total relaxation, the urge to give of ourselves completely, bursts of energy, poetry, and song.' 35 According to Guenther, these dakinis transform the power of nature within us into the creative consciousness of genius, directing the forces of nature, whilst having the property of intensifying, concentrating and integrating these energies until they are focused in one incandescent point and ignite the holy flame of inspiration. The highest form of the dakini is the 'prajna' or female consort of the Jinas. 3. Conclusion We meet such wonderful and mysterious beings through learning how to 'experience' space in a completely different way. We have to awaken our imaginations, our imaginal faculty, and learn how to connect with images that have symbolic significance for us. Clearly this is all the easier through the direct medium of higher meditative consciousness, but it is not the only way. Imagination is born of sraddha, intense spiritual effort, and a willingness to learn to look again. In other words, imagination is also born of letting go of our habitual conditioning, whereby we normally see 'an irreducible gulf between us and what we see as being external.' 36 This is why I urged us to engage in educating, or reeducating, ourselves our sensitivities, particularly through one or another of the arts. So I will let Bhante have the last word, in a rather Edmund Lear fashion: 'We usually experience the things that make up the universe as being completely separate and distinct from one another, and we can hardly imagine seeing things in any other way. A mountain, a bicycle, an ant, a block of flats, a policeman - just a mass of separate objects - this is how we see the world. But in reality, so the Buddha says, it is not like that at all. From his point of view - that is, from the point of view of the highest spiritual experience - everything in the universe, great and small, near and far, reflects everything else. All things reflect one another, mirror one another - in a sense they even contain one another. This truth applies not only throughout space but also throughout time, so that everything that happens anywhere is happening here, and everything that happens at any time is happening now. Time and space are transcended, all the categories of logic and reason are superseded, and the world we 'know' is turned upside-down37

9. 1. 2. 3. 4.

THE SHEPHERD'S SEARCH FOR MIND Introduction The Shepherd's Search for Mind Outline of remaining talks Vijnana - Consciousness i. it's dualistic character ii. it's momentary nature iii. at the meeting of sense-object and organ

1.

Introduction We finally come to the Element Consciousness, probably the most difficult, by dint of being the most subtle, of all the reflections in which The Contemplation of the Six Elements enjoins us to engage. I certainly know that I am very much a beginner and I presume that the majority of my audience is too. Consequently, as with all these talks, my intention is merely to give you some hint as to the direction in which you and I should be going if we wish to really explore this subject fully. This is the most difficult intellectually of our reflections because the nature of our subject is elusive, and consequently it is not easy to articulate exactly what we mean, even if we know what we mean! I often feel as if I create more questions than I answer. There is a very wide range of different approaches to the topic of consciousness even within the Buddhist tradition, and some of them seem directly at variance with each other. In fact, there were long debates over very long periods of time between different schools of Buddhism concerning the nature of consciousness. So, when we open up Buddhist textbooks on this subject, inevitably we find ourselves walking into a large minefield . And experientially the contemplation of consciousness is difficult because of the subtlety and refinement of awareness required to see what is going on in our minds. We cannot do this immediately; in order to set up the appropriate conditions it is important to work our way systematically and organically through each of the earlier stages of the Six Element practice. If we do so, we gradually and in quite a natural manner progressively refine our consciousness to the point that, at the final stage of the practice, we can see the nature of our consciousness more directly for what it actually is. And, practically speaking,

that really is the pith instruction for these next two talks. That we should want to get to grips with this subject I take for granted, particularly given the primacy of the place of the mind in the Buddha's Teaching. In the first verses of the Dhammapada the Buddha says, 'Skilful and unskilful mental states are preceded by mind, led by mind, and made up of mind. If one speaks or acts with an impure mind suffering follows him even as the cartwheel follows the hoof of the ox. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind happiness follows him like his shadow that never leaves38 Other translators' versions of these same verses are: 'All that we are is the result of what we have thought' (trans. Babbit); 'Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.' (trans. Easwaran) The Buddha also says, 'i' 39 , But then remarks, 'Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants'.40 And elsewhere in the Dhammapada the Buddha marks out the consequences of engaging effectively, or not, with our minds: '... a trained mind brings happiness. The Wise guard their minds, which are subtle and elusive, wandering at will. A guarded mind brings happiness. /More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, greater is the harm done to oneself by a wrongly directed mind. /Neither mother, father nor any relative can do you as much good as a well-directed mind41 And, 'Though one should conquer in battle thousands upon thousands of men, yet he who conquers himself is truly the greatest victor. Conquer yourself and not others. When you live ever self-mastered and self-controlled, neither god, nor heavenly musician nor yet Mara can undo that conquest.'42 2. The Shepherd's Search for Mind Perhaps the Buddha's observations will spur our curiosity and desire to make greater efforts to understand the nature of our own minds. Such curiosity and passion for a knowledge of the mind is a key feature of the well-known story 'The Shepherd's Search for Mind', from chapter 12 of the first volume of The Hundred Thousand Songs of Mila.repa; this tells of the shepherd boy Sangje Jhap's encounter with Mila.repa, and how this young prodigy was drawn into becoming one of Mila.repa's foremost disciples. So I am going to retell this story, partly in my own words, and partly using some key passages from the original. Mila.repa, as was his custom, was living in a cave up in the mountains, but on this occasion not so distant from local supporters. One day, two shepherd boys, out tending their flocks of goats and sheep, probably not too dissimilar from those on the hillsides here, encounter Mila.repa, and being curious to find out more about him, no doubt having heard something of him from their elders, they draw Mila.repa into conversation. The younger of the two, sixteen years old, and apparently the much more confident and curious, and indeed, rather more precocious,

eventually asks Mila.repa the unusual question: 'Is there only one mind in the body, or are there many? If many how do they live together?' Mila.repa may have been rather startled by this coming out of a sixteen year old shepherd boy. In any event, Mila.repa cunningly challenges the boy, Sangje Jhap, to find out the answer for himself. Undaunted, Sangje Jhap says that he will. Sangje Jhap returns the next day, having spent the night trying to find out the answer to his own question. He says to Mila.repa, 'Dear Lama, last night I tried to find out what my mind is and how it works. I observed it carefully, found that I have only one mind. Even when we want to we cannot kill this mind. However much we try to dismiss it, it won't go away. If we try to catch it, it cannot be grasped, nor can it be held by pressing it. If we want it to remain, it will not stay, if we want it to go, it will not go. If we try to gather it, it won't be picked up. If we try to see it, it cannot be seen. If we try to understand it, it cannot be known. If we think it is an existing entity, and cast it off, it will not leave us. If we think it is non-existent, we feel it running on. The mind is something illuminating, aware, wide-awake, yet incomprehensible. In short it is hard to say what the mind really is.' I find that very impressive for a sixteen year old! It did cross my mind to just set you the question, and see how you'd fare, but I would have had to have hidden all the copies of The Hundred Thousand Songs! Anyway, Sangje Jhap then asks Mila.repa to explain the meaning of the mind. Mila.repa sings him a song by way of reply! I find this a touching scene: high up in the Himalayan mountains a dishevelled, cotton clothed yogi, rather gaunt, perhaps slightly green coloured from all that nettle-eating, being closely questioned by this ardent, youthful, bright-eyed young man. This is part of what Mila.repa sings: 'Listen to me, dear shepherd, the protector of sheep, /By merely hearing about sugar's taste, /Sweetness cannot be experienced. /Though our mind may understand what sweetness is, /What sweetness is it cannot experience directly, only the tongue can know it. /In the same way we cannot see into the full nature of the mind ...' With a little more conversation, Mila.repa entices the boy into pursuing the riddle of the mind yet further, and Sangje Jhap finds himself with some more 'home-work'. Mila.repa asks him: 'What is the colour of the mind? What is its shape? Is it oblong, round, or what? Where does it dwell in the body?' The youth is keen to find out, and perhaps thinks he has found out the answer because he's back at Mila.repa's cave the next morning at sunrise. And he tells Mila.repa what he has discovered: 'It is limpid, lucid, moving, unpredictable, and ungraspable, it has no colour or shape. When it associates with the eyes, it sees; when with the ear, it hears, when with the

nose, it smells; when with the tongue, it tastes and talks; and when with the feet, it walks. If the body is agitated, the mind, too, is stirred. Normally the mind directs the body; when the body is in good condition, the mind can command it at will, but when the body becomes old, decayed, or bereft, the mind will leave it behind without a thought as one throws a stone away. ... It is clear to me that all my sufferings are caused by the mind.' This lad is certainly perspicacious. Mila.repa is actually very pleased with this answer, because he offers to show the boy the way to Enlightenment. In other words, he offers to become Sangje Jhap's Guru. So this lad is doing very well for himself, isn't he? The boy immediately takes up the offer and is given the refuges by Mila.repa. In our terms Mila.repa ordains him. Mila.repa then sets him the task of repeating the refuge prayer, which presumably he has just recited formally after Mila.repa, constantly like a mantra, and asks him at the same time to find out the answer to the following question: 'Which takes refuge, the mind or the body?' The next day the boy returns. But this time he is rather more perplexed by the consequence of his enquiries - things seem to be getting rather more complicated than they appeared at first sight! He tells Mila.repa, 'As to which takes refuge, the mind or the body, I found that it is neither of them. Does the body as a whole take refuge? No, because when the mind leaves the body, the latter disintegrates and no longer exists. Is it the mind that takes refuge? The refuge seeker cannot be the mind, as the latter is only the mind and nothing else. If the present mind is the real mind, the succeeding one the refuge seeker, there will be two minds. The mind of yesterday has gone, that of tomorrow has yet to come, the present mind does not stay. When the act of Refuge-seeking takes place, both the present and succeeding minds have passed away.' The deeper meaning of what Sangje Jhap is hinting at I hope will come out in this and the succeeding talk. What he has to say here is definitely worth pondering over. By way of response, Mila.repa sings him another song in the course of which he 'says' amongst other things: 'If we look into this consciousness no ego is seen; of it nothing can be seen. Clinging to the notion of an ego is the characteristic of consciousness. See how wrong are the fears, hopes and confusion, and self-deception of one's mind.' Mila.repa then goes on to say that practising the teaching of Mahamudra is what will resolve the boy's questions, but that such practise requires 'great faith, humility and zeal' just for starters. He goes on to sing,'When you sought the "I" last night you could not find it. /This is the practice of the Non-ego of Personality. /If you want to practice the Non-ego of Existence, /Follow my example

and for twelve years meditate. /Then you will understand the nature of Mind'. So we can see from Mila.repa's comments that if we really want to pursue this subject, we have a lot of hard work to do. But Sangje Jhap is not put off; in fact, he is only more determined than ever before to understand the nature of his mind, and he offers himself completely to Mila.repa. Mila.repa obviously still needs more convincing that the boy is worthy to become a full-time disciple, so he tells the boy to meditate on the image of the Buddha. Off the boy goes. The next thing that happens is some time later, in fact seven days later: the boy's anxious father arrives at Mila.repa's cave inquiring as to Sangje Jhap's whereabouts. Mila.repa replies that he has not seen him for a whole week. A big search-party is sent out, and finally they discover the boy sitting in a clay pit, in meditation posture, with his eyes wide open and staring straight in front. He is oblivious to everything around him. Eventually when they have aroused him from his absorption, they ask him, 'What are you doing here?' And Sangje Jhap replies, 'I am practising the meditation my Guru taught me.' 'Then why have you not returned home for seven days?' The boy replies rather indignantly, 'You must be joking, I've only been meditating for a little while!', but realises, as he says this, that the time of day is earlier than when he had started meditating, upon which he becomes rather confused. For some time after this Sangje Jhap is continually getting 'lost' in dhyana; as a consequence, he and the rest of his family become increasingly unhappy until his family finally decide it would be best if he went to live with Mila.repa. This is of course what Sangje Jhap wants most of all, and so happily he goes off with their support to pursue his full-time discipleship under Mila.repa's instructions. Although there is a happy ending to this particular story, the rigours of Sangje Jhap's journey are not over. In the final song of the account in The Hundred Thousand Songs Mila.repa is shown exhorting Sangje Jhap concerning some of the pit-falls that we can fall into even within deeper meditation. 'Alas! Those proficient yogis who long have practised meditation /Mistake the psychic experience of illumination /For Transcendental Wisdom. /My dear son, listen to me carefully! /When you body is rightly posed, and your mind absorbed deep in meditation, /You may feel that thought and mind both disappear; /Yet this is but the surface experience of Dhyana. /By constant practice and mindfulness thereon, /One feels radiant SelfAwareness shining like a brilliant lamp, pure and bright as a flower, like the feeling of staring into the vast and empty sky. /Awareness of Voidness is limpid and transparent, yet vivid. This Non-Thought, this radiant and transparent experience is but

the feeling of Dhyana. /With this good foundation /One should pray to the Three Precious Ones, and penetrate to Reality by deep thinking and contemplation. /He thus can tie the Non-ego Wisdom /With the beneficial life-rope of deep Dhyana.' There's actually a tremendous amount in this story, which covers much of the ground that I hope to say something about in the course of the two talks on Consciousness. It is worth noting that Bhante has done a seminar on this story; unfortunately we don't seem to have a copy of it here at Guhyaloka. So I'm not going to comment directly on the story now, but probably will refer to it by way of illustrating the points I want to make in the rest of this talk. 3. Outline of the remaining talks We're exploring how to contemplate the Element Consciousness. It may be that some of you will find the discussion rather complex and conceptual. An important point to bear in mind is that pretty much whatever we say about the mind can only be a metaphor; it can only suggest, or point out a direction in which we should go to experience the mind directly, face to face as it were. Whilst some models of the mind, such as the abhidharmic analyses, are very much more complex than others, all of them assert the primacy of an unmediated exploration within our own direct experience. This is the main purpose for which these models have been constructed. So, whilst at first we may find these models intellectually difficult to grasp, it's important to understand them for what they are: models. No one mistakes a map for the actual landscape, and yet as we can readily appreciate a map can be very useful indeed. In the same way, if we learn how to read the different models that have been put forward by the Buddhist tradition to describe the experience of our minds, we will be able to explore our minds much more easily. The only other way to go about exploring our minds is to simply say, 'Off you go, you've got a mind, go and find out what it's all about!' Obviously we've each got a mind, and our own mind is the raw material with which each of us has to start. But somewhat reasonably most of us want rather more help than just being told this. Of course the nature of our minds is a huge subject; and I suspect it gets more and more complex the more one looks into it. And every now and again, we have to cut through the brushwood of detail and get back to the essentials. Inevitably in giving these talks I've only been able to touch on a number of different aspects of this massive area of exploration. I hope I will not confuse you; my intention has been to wet your appetite, so that you look in the books that I've been exploring to at least get a better grasp of what the Buddhist tradition has to say.

The rest of this talk and the next one will explore five closely related terms related to our English word Consciousness. These are vijnana, citta, manas, manovijnana, and alayavijnana the first three often are used synonymously, although as I hope will become clear each term has its own distinctive flavour. 43 Actually it is the term vijnana which is used in the Pali suttas to describe the sixth stage in the Analysis of the Six Elements (dhatuvibhanga). To start with I'll be restricting my remarks to what perhaps might be said to accord with the Theravada perspective and then I'll say more to include the perspective of Yogacarin or Cittamatrin thought. Inevitably what I say would probably satisfy scholars of neither school and is therefore to be taken very much as by way of introduction. You will have to do your own research for more precise definitions of these terms and their dependent terms. 4. 1. Vijnana - Consciousness it's dualistic character In the Six Element practice we are asked to become aware of how we are aware of the variety of different types of experiences we have in our body, and then to extend this investigation to all the different types of experiences we are aware of having of the external world. So for example, we might examine a particularly familiar experience: sitting on our chair. When we become aware of sitting in our chair, there are two obvious and immediately prominent aspects to the experience. Firstly we have a sense of something being experienced, i.e. the external sensations of sitting in the chair, and secondly a sense of someone, i.e. 'me', experiencing sitting in the chair. There is an experience of 'something' being known by a knower. The roots of the word vijnana point to the divisive nature of our normal state of consciousness, the bipolarity in our awareness of our experience. The prefix 'vi' means 'to divide' and the Indo-European root 'jna' means 'to perceive', 'to know', 44 and so is closely related to the Greek term 'gnosis' and Latin term 'cognitio'. The nature of our perception is to divide our experience by making a distinction between that of a subjective sense of someone, i.e. a 'me', having the perception, and an objective content of the perception which 'me' is having. One of the most fundamental ways we divide our experience is in terms of time and space: but, '...space and time are not objective realities external to consciousness but part of the conditions under which it perceives things'45 . This is actually an extraordinary statement - think about it! In the first five stages of the Six Element practice, we explore the objective content of our perceptual experience. When we come to contemplate the Element Consciousness in the sixth stage of the practice we review our perceptual experience

as a whole, whilst concentrating more particularly on what we might call the subjective pole of our experience. In other words, we set out to examine in more detail just how and in what sense we have this very tenacious and distinctive experience of an 'I' experiencing something objective. Of course, in doing so we cannot neglect the fact that this experience of an 'I' is intimately bound up with experiencing an apparently objective content 'out there'. Consequently our investigation of consciousness in the sixth stage necessarily explores the objects of consciousness, and the nature of the feeling of a 'me' in relationship to them. This is what we're asked to do in the initial stages of the contemplation of Consciousness in the Six Element practice. When we examine the nature of our normal experience, we recognise the distinctively divided character of vijnana by the fact that we distinguish between different objects within our experience. We have an experience now of 'this', and now of 'that', each experience separated one from another within a timespace framework. This vijnana of ours is a subtle tool, which can be honed to have a great deal of flexibility and ability to distinguish a whole spectrum of very fine or broad-based distinctions. For example, whilst distinguishing between aspects of our experience, we can often allow any one 'thing', so to speak, to slide into the next 'thing'. We may not wish to distinguish so closely within our experience to the point of having a succession of very discrete packages or parcels, so to speak, of experience, one experience completely separate from another - (unless of course our experience is involved with that which we like and dislike, in which case we are very keen to separate them out!) What we find is we can have both a broad spectrum of experience, and yet, within that range, the capability of focusing in on particular aspect of it, making any particular 'part' of it distinct and separate from another within our awareness. Take for example one of the dramatic thunder-storms that happen out here. Within our overall experience of a thunderstorm, we will have discrete experiences such as the flashes of lightning, and the claps of thunder, both of which we can distinguish one from the other in terms of time and space. The thunder-claps and flashes of lightning appear to be discrete experiences often happening in different places at different times, although part and parcel of the same general experience. And to illustrate my point yet further, we may at the same time as watching the thunderstorm, also be eating a meal, having a conversation, which all go to make up our general experience of that particular occasion. ii. It's momentary nature

In the Six Element practice we develop our ability to make ever finer distinctions within the time-space framework. Consequently, we find that any particular experience can always be subdivided, and that subdivision can usually be subdivided again, and so on, until, according to the Abhidharma, we are capable of making distinctions within consciousness which only last for a fraction of a moment. In this way the character of consciousness, vijnana, can be discovered to be momentary; each moment or 'flash' of consciousness is said to be separate and distinct from the one before and the one after it. Despite other differences this is something upon which all schools of Buddhism agree. The momentary nature of consciousness is a very important insight at which to arrive. This insight undermines our conviction of being or possessing a separate, stable, unitary, substantial, independent and permanent 'mind' and 'self', which, as the permanent subject of experience observes the flow of different objects of perception externally. Our use of language and such terms as 'my mind' promotes the wrong view of there being a 'something', normally what we think of as 'me', that subsists unchanging throughout the ever changing ebb and flow of experience. But since 'the moment before has gone and the moment to come does not yet exist' applying a sense of an enduring, stable, unitary self to such an ephemeral phenomena as the mind seems ludicrous 46 . Subhuti likens the stream of momentary flashes of consciousness to the way that a TV screen refreshes itself all the time. Apparently the pixels, of which the screen is made, are constantly being relit one after another in a sequential order: left to right, from top to bottom. The seemingly stable image we see on the screen is actually being constantly adjusted and shifted as the electrical charge crosses the screen. Subhuti comments that our minds are a bit like that: each moment, or fraction of a moment, is akin to an individual pixel on a TV screen; the totality of our awareness constantly recharges itself by a recurring reapplication of attentiveness to different objects of consciousness. The question then arises: what is it about our experience that makes it seem so stable? And where does this this subjective sense of self arise? There are many answers to such a question; here is one. The apparent stability of our minds expresses our preoccupation with a particular mode of consciousness, one that is wrapped up with Rupa: we are entranced by the maya of the the Four mahabhutas and their secondary qualities. Because our experience of rupa, both within our body and in the external world, seems stable and enduring, both in terms of time and space, we fool ourselves into extrapolating this apparent stability and coherence to the subjective pole of our experience as well.

Strangely enough, from the Buddhist point of view the body would be a much more satisfactory phenomenon with which to identify a self, because it is much less evanescent and momentary in character than the mind. But then of course Buddhism is set on eliminating such a belief all together. In the Six Element practice we contemplate the demise of our body through the enforced giving up of our bodily association with the mahabhutas. To the extent we do identify a sense of self with the body, which inevitably we do do to some extent, we are forced to contemplate the relative impermanence of that selfhood. Despairing of the body as a secure haven for our sense of self the practice leads us to a direct investigation of the mind and the momentary nature of consciousness. iii. At the meeting of sense-object and organ The fact that vijnana is one of the skandhas draws our attention to another meaning to the term. To jog your memory: a skandha is a 'heap'; it is a labelled category in much the same way that we might see an area of a grocer's labelled Grains, or Pulses-and-Beans, or Vegetables, or Dairy products and so forth. Within any particular category we will find a wide variety of yet further sub-categories: Grains are made up of Rices, Oats, Wheats, Sorghums etc. Within each of these there are yet further different categories. So vijnana is not 'a permanent unchanging element or ultimate principle of consciousness, but is simply the collective term for all our evanescent mental states.'47 The process of categorising could theoretically produce an infinite variety of possible categories. We saw something of this at work within the Abhidharma's definition of the secondary qualities of rupa. And, 'The Theravadin Abhidhamma ... distinguishes within the 'heap of consciousness' no less than 89 different types of 'grain', each consisting of an infinite number of infinitesimally minute 'particles'. Of these [different types of grain], 21 are karmically wholesome, 12 unwholesome, and 55 neutral.' 48 . By contrast to the Abhidharma the method of analysis employed within the Sutta tradition is relatively simple: ... In the Pali suttas six classes of consciousness are distinguished, each representing the series of infinitesimally brief 'flashes' of consciousness that arise in dependence on the conjunction of a sense-organ with its particular sense-object. 49 As Sangje Jhap says to Mila.repa, 'When [the mind] associates with the eyes, it sees; when with the ear, it hears, when with the nose, it smells; when with the tongue, it tastes and talks; and when with the feet, it walks.' The six categories of objects are: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tangibles and the objects of the mind: thoughts, images, moods etc.; the last category of mind is something Sangje Jhap doesn't mention.

To make this clear: each sense-consciousness arises in dependence upon the conjunction of a particular sense-organ with its sense-object. So there are six sense-consciousnesses: consciousness of sight, consciousness of sound, consciousness of smell, consciousness of taste, tactile (body) consciousness, and mental or thought consciousness (manovijnana). Although the process is simple enough, it is worth spelling out here. We know any particular consciousness, e.g. sightconsciousness, has arisen when we are aware that there is contact between what we perceive to be an external sense-object, such as a sight, and the appropriate sense-organ, in this example the eye. To give a particular instance: the way we make sense of our experience of a candle is from the light, coming from the candle, entering our eyes, where there is then contact between the eyeorgan and the light, of which we then become aware. Through becoming involved with each of the different categories of sense object, '... consciousness is involved in a process of perpetual objectification of itself to itself ...' 50 It is through the conjunction of an object of consciousness mediated by the sense object that consciousness, as it were, 'knows' it is there; it objectifies itself to itself. In more everyday language, we talk of 'sensing' or 'making sense' of our experience i.e. vijnana is that activity of making sense of our experience, coming to 'know' it through the senses. We come to be aware, and to be aware of being aware, through employing this discriminative awareness: this is a knowing which is, as it were, split or divided, which arises through splitting and dividing, and thereby objectifies itself to itself, reflecting itself back to itself. The analogy of light with consciousness is common in Buddhist literature. And of course the nature of light has fascinated our modern day explorers, the physicists. A modern researcher recently conducted a scientific experiment in which he viewed an empty box filled with bright light, but where particular care had been taken to ensure that the light in the box did not illuminate any interior objects or surfaces in the box - quite how this was achieved I'm not sure, but is explained at some length in the researcher's book. As the author asks, The question is: What does one see? How does light look when left entirely itself? ... Absolute darkness! I see nothing but the blackness of empty space.' But if an object was made to move through that space, it became brilliantly lit up. He concludes, 'without an object on which light can fall, one sees only darkness. Light itself is always invisible. We see only things, only objects, not light. 51 And apparently the same is true of outer space: astronauts find that they are bathed in strong sunlight, and yet if there is no object to reflect the light, there is only darkness.

In a similar fashion we become aware by our consciousness being reflected back to us via the conjunction of sense-object and sense-organ. If the analogy holds, it raises the fascinating question as to what consciousness is like if it doesn't have a sense-object and sense-organ with which to associate. When we die, consciousness can of course no longer be associated with a physical sense organ; and when we meditate we withdraw our awareness from the senses. According to Sangje Jhap's investigations: 'If we try to see it, it cannot be seen. If we try to understand it, it cannot be known. If we think it is an existing entity, and cast it off, it will not leave us. If we think it is non-existent, we feel it running on. The mind is something illuminating, aware, wide-awake, yet incomprehensible. In short it is hard to say what the mind really is.' Let us return to the traditional analysis of our experience into this threefold format of contact between sense-organ with respective sense-object giving rise to the respective senseconsciousness. If each element of this analysis is added up over the six sense objects we have the eighteen physical and mental elements (dhatu) traditionally enumerated that constitute the conditions or foundations of the process of perception. Dhatu or element is also the term used in the Pali canon to describe the six particular elements we take up in the Six Element practice. In fact it seems that the term dhatu is extensively used to describe a large number of different experiences, a bit like the way we use the term 'energy'. In the Six Element practice we consider the six Elements, or mahabhutas, or dhatus of Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Akasha and Vijnana, as well as detailing our experience of Vijnana in more depth according to this second list of 18 dhatus.52 The fact that consciousness can be bound up with each of the different sense organs, which are distributed all over the body, means that our consciousness is wherever we choose to be aware of contact between a sense-organ and its respective sense-object. It's quite important to get a strong sense of our flexibility in the locating our consciousness - surprisingly for some, it is news that consciousness is not exclusively restricted to our heads! Although it is understandable that we should strongly associate our heads with our consciousness because our eyes, nose, tongue and ears are located in our heads. The important point to reflect on is that we choose to be aware of different sense stimuli, both within the body and external to it, and, in choosing, our consciousness moves to the sense-organ concerned. Depending on what we choose to be aware of, so we create, so to speak, the corresponding experience of our self and the world. That we create 'our world' is actually a profound point worthy of much reflection. But even in a quite simple strait-forward sense, we can learn to recognise that

through habitual patterns of attentiveness to different sense objects we come to see a particular world characteristic to us. To give some examples: some people arrange their worlds around pubs and newsagents that sell particular brands of cigarettes, others arrange their worlds around pretty men or women, others around types of motor-cars and so on. Normally the way we select where we locate our consciousness, particularly in our body, is relatively unconscious. But a moment's reflection shows that we have the capacity to become conscious in many parts of our body. It is worth experimenting with this, consciously moving our awareness around our bodies. Doing so gives us a much more grounded sense of ourselves; assuming that we manage to stop telling ourselves to do it, and just do it. If we are still in our heads, so to speak, thinking about being aware of, say, our feet, our consciousness is still much more predominantly in our heads than in our feet. This is something we can learn to do very much better than we usually 'think' than we can, with very beneficial physical consequences. This constitutes a substantial aspect of such disciplines as Hatha Yoga, T'ai Chi, Feldenkrais, and Alexander Technique to mention just a handful of examples. Aside from the physical benefits, learning how to move our consciousness around our body and around the world about us gives us a much deeper experience of the momentary nature of consciousness. Not only can we learn to become much more conscious of physical sense experience, we can also learn to become very much more conscious of the other objects of the mind. We cover this fully in the next talk. In doing so, we are not just aware of the objects of mind in a passive manner, but actively distinguish between them in all sorts of ways, and furthermore we develop the capacity to selectively cultivate some rather than others through bringing them more into our conscious attention. Of course this is what we are doing in meditation all the time; the art of meditation is this skill par excellence, as is the training discipline of sila. For instance when in this practice we are asked to contemplate with the heart, this is because maintaining our awareness principally in that particular part of the body, as well as allowing it to extend to other sense organs, prevents us getting to 'caught up in our heads' as we say, inasmuch as the experience of spiritual emotions seems to be strongly associated with the 'heart centre'. Keeping a strong emotional connection alive whilst reflecting is crucial to successful contemplation and it works against mere intellectualising. I'll leave the Buddha with the last word: '... a trained mind brings happiness. /The Wise guard their minds, which are subtle and elusive, wandering at will. /A guarded mind brings happiness. /More than those who hate you, more than all your

enemies, greater is the harm done to oneself by a wrongly directed mind. /Neither mother, father nor any relative can do you as much good as a well-directed mind.' 53

10. 1. 2. 3.

THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS Introduction Citta Mental events i. The complex interactive nature of the mind ii. Phassa - sense impression iii. Vedana - feeling iv. Samjna and cetana - interpretation & volition v. Is all this analysis necessary? Manas and Klistomanovijnana Absolute Mind Dhatuvibanga Sutta Toward spiritual rebirth

4. 5. 6. 7.

1. Introduction There is no such thing as the mind, not in the sense of there being an identifiable thing that we can get our hands on and examine as we can with the body, identifying bones, muscles, organs etc. The word 'mind' is just that: a word. It indicates a category, a label describing an identifiable 'heap' of continuously changing 'mental' processes; these come and go in so many different combinations that any particular mental 'state' is, in fact, unique, albeit sharing characteristics with other mental states. Inevitably, whenever we look into our minds, we are looking into something which is unique: each time we look, we encounter a unique phenomenon in the history of our mind. At the same time, different 'types' of mental states share similar characteristics, traits and tendencies. The mind is just a word which simply describes the complex phenomena of mental processes. To illustrate the nature of the mind I particularly like the metaphor of the light box, which I described in my last talk. The box is set up in such a way that we know it to be full of brilliant light. And yet strangely we cannot see anything inside the box - nothing at all - until an object is made to pass through it: then the object becomes brilliantly lit up. As soon as the object is no longer there, the box goes black once again.

In a similar way, we sense that our minds as fully alive, as if full of brilliant white light; but we do not 'see' anything of our mind until an 'object' passes through it. The Buddhist tradition identified a number of different categories of mental objects which, as it were, pass through the mind and which give us some feeling for what the mind is; yet, unlike in the analogy of the box and the objects being made to pass through it, the mind and its mental objects are not discrete, separate entities. In this second talk on the Element Consciousness we will investigate the character of different categories of mental objects. To do so we need to acquaint ourselves with the term citta, which of course means mind. Citta often has a much wider meaning than vijnana, and there are often quite differing meanings attributed to it. I am not going to explore all those different meanings here, but it is as well to know this to avoid confusion when reading different texts. After investigating citta and the different categories of mental objects, we will look at the terms manas and manovijnana before passing on to briefly explore the Absolute Mind. The talk will then finish by looking at a classic source from the Pali Canon for the Six Element practice, and in particular pay attention to the implications of the Buddha's comments for contemplating Consciousness. 2. Citta All schools of Buddhism agree that, despite the way we use language to the contrary, there is no such thing as the mind in the sense of a separate, stable, independent entity that is the permanent subject of experience. But this is exactly how we habitually interpret our experience: a mind or ego that is the permanent subject of our experience, illuminating our experience, a subjective source lighting up the objects of consciousness. A not inappropriate analogy for this is a beam of light, lighting up now this and now that; but this is simplistic. The notion of mind (citta) in Buddhism is much more complex than the terms of this analogy initially suggest. If we were to use this analogy appropriately from the Buddhist point of view, we would also have to include a host of additional factors such as the way in which the objects are illuminated - the angle and breadth of focus of the beam, the manner in which particular aspects of the object(s) are highlighted, the colour of the light, the way the light is reflected and absorbed by different objects and so on. The key to investigating the mind from the Buddhist point of view lies in the momentary nature of consciousness (cittakkhana) - we covered this in the last talk. Consciousness lasts only for a moment! This is quite contrary to our everyday experience: we assume the existence of a stable and permanently lasting substance. According to the Pali commentaries each

discretely separate moment of consciousness is said to last for no longer than the billionth part of the time occupied by a flash of lightning. What we experience as the mind is a stream (vijnana-srota) of momentary flashes of consciousness, one following on from the next, each arising in dependence on the preceding one. Buddhaghosa likens the mind to a forest monkey, or a wild horse, presumably having in mind that neither stays still for a moment. A personal image which I like is of 'a babbling brook', sparkling in the sunlight, several different streams of water falling over rocks, coming together at one moment, then parting and so on. The Abhidharma systematised the mind's complexity: even an apparently simple unit (cittavithi) of sense-perception, e.g. seeing a candle, is made up of as many as seventeen quite distinct 'moments', 'functions' or 'phases' (vinnana-kicca) of consciousness, one following on from the other in rapid succession, all of them occurring within the briefest flash of a moment.54 Although the Abhidharma can appear abstract to us, its authors claim that their analysis arises from their own experience; their system is not merely intellectually derived from conceptual premises. As yet I'm unable to verify the details for myself; we will all probably have to carefully watch our experience for some time to be deeply convinced of the momentary nature of consciousness. After all, we actually experience a lot of things as stable and permanent. Take, for example, even something as apparently temporary as a candle. Whilst we know the candle is burning down, nevertheless we tend to think of the flame as being the same flame which burns all the time until the candle is burnt up. This is the more normal way that we tend to think of what is happening. But a few moments thought will show us that it is not actually the same flame from moment to moment, and there never can be a single, independent flame which endures throughout the time the candle is burning. All we can really say by way of trying to represent the facts more accurately is that whilst the candle is alight, there is just a continual process of burning, the incandescence of which we see flaming in a characteristic manner. 55 We are told that, if we carefully analyse our experience, we will come to see increasingly clearly that the content of our consciousness is continually changing, flowing like a river from one moment to next, from one object to another. As I have already said the clearer we become of this momentary nature of consciousness the more absurd it becomes to attach a sense of 'self' or a sense of a 'knower' or of an 'experiencer' having an experience to any one particular moment of consciousness and its attendant object. Clearly the momentary nature of consciousness undermines the belief in a permanent enduring, self-sustaining

self (attavada). It is far better to think of our minds having much more the character of a river or stream, dynamic and constantly changing, than of something as apparently stable and unmoving as a rock, the latter being probably closer to our normal conception of our mind. Like a river of water constantly moving onwards and towards its goal, the primary feature of the mind (citta) is to reach out, or stretch out towards, even seize hold of, an object which, through this act, it apprehends or discriminates as being distinct and of a specific character different from all the other potential objects of perception. 56 Guenther gives a further twist to this function in translating citta as 'attitude' in the sense of being that which builds up its own continuity by way of what he calls 'apperceptive [being aware of perceiving] processes'.57 The mind generates a sense of its own continuity by becoming aware of its own processes; 'it' knows it's there, and 'it' knows that it continues to be there because there are 'objects' or mental events which pass through it. 3. Mental Events Nevertheless even though we talk of the mind (citta) in this way, it is not a phenomenon existing by itself detached from other psychic factors or mental objects; it is intimately connected with all of them and only precedes them by way of being, so to speak, their elder brother or being like a king who is always understood to be accompanied by a retinue of attendants. This is a traditional analogy: the king is the key person, but is only king by virtue of being surrounded by his subjects.58 In the same way the ordinary mind is never found separate from it's accompanying mental objects. Citta is always accompanied by what are termed mental events (cetasika); these are the different ways in which the mind becomes involved with the object of its perception. Particular mental events give the stream of the mind its particular character and flavour at any one moment, rather as some rivers are fast-flowing, falling and tumbling over rapids, others sleepy, slow, and meandering, others deep and powerful and yet deceptively placid. The difference between the two, citta and cetasika is likened to the following analogy: citta is the activity of recognising someone in a crowd of faces; cetasika, mental events, is the activity of remembering whether we like them or not, and in what manner we are choosing to respond to having seen them. The characteristic activity of citta, per se, is the simple action of picking out or distinguishing a 'particular category' from the chaos of sense impressions that are pressing in on our senses all of the time. In other words, it is the process of highlighting some 'thing', making it prominent within a 'background' of other 'things.'

The principal types or categories of mental events, agreed upon by all schools as being omnipresent or present whenever the mind perceives an object and moves towards it are the following: sense impression (sparsa /phassa), feeling (vedana), interpretation or perception (sanna), and will or volition (cetana = samskara). Advertance (manasikara), concentration (samadhi) and vitality (jivata) are also generally included - and some schools include several other items. This list of omnipresent cetasikas obviously closely mirrors the list of the four mental skandhas (vedana, samjna, samskara, vijnana). In addition to these omnipresent cetasikas there are a large number of positive and negative 'optional' cetasikas. They are optional in the sense that we can, and do, choose to cultivate them more or less consciously. The positive cetasikas are highly significant in terms of spiritual life: sraddha, hri, apatrapya, virya, ahimsa, apramada to mention some of the most prominent.59 All the categories of omnipresent mental events are inseparable. The Buddha makes this point: 'Whatever there exists of feeling, of perception and of consciousness, these things are associated, not dissociated, and it is impossible to separate one from the other and show their difference. For whatever one feels, one perceives; and whatever one perceives, of that one distinguishes.60 . And again elsewhere he says, 'Impossible is it for anyone to explain ... the development of consciousness independent of corporeality, feeling, perception and mental formations.' 61 The point is that although we may be particularly aware of a one mental event, inevitably, whether we are aware of it or not, the other omnipresent mental events will be there too. For example, a feeling or a volition does not exist on its own. Perhaps it is a bit like the colours of a rainbow: they appear to be different, but they are all merge together as part of the one continuous experience. Whilst these omnipresent mental event are always present, only one or another type of particular mental event from within each category is present at any one moment. In this way, for example, it is not possible for there to be both pleasant, painful and neutral feelings present at one and the same moment. Only a pleasant, or a painful, or a neutral feeling can be present at any one moment. To illustrate this point: for example, associated with the visual sense-impression and eyeconsciousness will be, say, a feeling of pleasure, as well as a particular interpretation labelling it as 'this' or 'that', and a definite inclination, perhaps to move towards it, or alternatively to move away from it. We cannot be wanting to move towards and away from something at the same moment in time. Prevarication, conflict and hesitation are states alternating in a cycle between these two inclinations.

a.

The complex interactive nature of the mind If we explore the mind's principal mental events we get a sense of what it is that we call the mind. The mind is that discriminative awareness which reaches out to distinguish and to know it's object of perception. And the mind is intimately associated with mental events, such as with a feeling tone there are also sense impressions, which is determined by the process of perceiving and ordering those sense impressions into a coherent picture in accordance with our previous experience, as well as in relation to our current and past volition and attitude towards life. The mind's mental processes are more complex still by dint of there being six sense consciousnesses, five relating to the physical senses and the sixth, the manovijnana, which might be best called the intellect. The latter not only receives the five physically-based sense consciousnesses and works them up into something of meaning and significance, but also distinguishes immaterial mental objects such as concepts, ideas, images, feelings, which can be categorised if we wish under the headings of vedana, samjna, cetana. This description of mine seems to closely mirror how Buddhaghosa describes mind-consciousness 62 Incidentally this approach to the contemplation of Consciousness in the Six Element practice seems to mirror what is involved in developing the last three stages of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Feelings, Citta, and Mental Objects (dhammas or cetasika). The implication is that the Six Element Practice is a form of, or extension of, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. b. Sparsa - Sense impression I will now briefly enumerate what is meant by each of these different categories of mental events. First of all let's look at the mental event of sense impression, sparsa or phassa. In the last talk we distinguished the six categories of consciousness (vijnana) which arise in dependence upon contact between their respective sense organ, and sense object. The conjunction of these three elements (dhatu) of sense-object, organ and consciousness constitutes the mental event of sense impression (sparsa /phassa) 63 . This definition clearly does not necessarily signify physical contact, which is a common misunderstanding of the term sparsa. It is through the activity of sense impression that we become aware of the mahabhutas and the Element Space. We either perceive the different mahabhutas directly or we infer their existence through one or another, or a combination, of our different sense impressions; in the course of the Six Element practice we reflect upon just how we do this. When we do so, we remember that sparsa also includes the apprehension of 'mental objects' (dhamma-dhatu) of the mind by the mind organ (mano-

dhatu): for example, memories and mental images, as well as the other objects of mind, which are categorised under such categories as feelings, interpretations, and volitions. All of this gives rise to what is termed the mind consciousness (manovijnana).64 Since our sense impression of the mahabhutas is not discrete and separate from the other more subjective omnipresent mental events, it follows that our apprehension of the mahabhutas is subjective. I hope this answers one of your questions which was along the lines of 'where do our moods, likes, aversions and so forth fit into the practice?'. Well, they fit in here: we bring to mind that we have different types of moods, feelings and images associated with these moods. These are mental objects (dhammas) which arise in relation to being observed by a mind-organ (manodhatu), in the same way that we distinguish objects passing in front of our visual eye, for example a butterfly. In the same way, even the notions of identity: 'I', 'me', 'myself', 'my attributes', 'what belongs to me', what is 'mine', are mental objects. And even what we call self-consciousness is becoming aware of ourselves as an object: we form ideas, notions and views about our self, as being this or that sort of a person, with certain personality traits, talents, capabilities. All of these events are mental objects of sense impression. So in the practice at this stage we can remind ourselves of this fact: that all these different objects of mind are aspects of either physical and mental sense impression. And we can learn how to distinguish more clearly between them, as well as exploring just how and where we get our sense of their permanency and substantiality. So for example we might have a very strong sense that we are a certain type of person with certain strong character traits. That impression is said to be a mental object. So how has that impression come to be? Where have we got that from? And in what way do we continue to reinforce it, and ensure that it is a permanent part of our 'psychic furniture'? c. Vedana - feeling Sense impressions will of course include being aware of our feelings (vedana), which automatically arise in dependence on sense impressions (sparsa). We are familiar with this relationship from the enumeration of the nidana chain of the Wheel of Life. It is as well to remember that the term vedana doesn't just cover immediate hedonic feelings of pleasure or pain such as a mosquito bite or when we see (or anticipate eating) one of Vimalabandhu's mushroom fritters! Vedana also includes our general feeling tone, or mood, i.e. that which 'colours' the content of our experience with a characteristic ambiance of pleasure or pain or indifference and so forth.

d.

Samjna and cetana -interpretation & volition In the course of our reflections it's important to remember that our minds are not as mechanical as might be suggested by this description of the conjunction of sense-object, organ and arising sense-consciousness along with the resultant feeling. The world of which we become aware is as much to do with our interpretation (samjna) of our sense experience as with the uninterpreted sense experience. I made this point in the second talk. Furthermore, the choices that we make in choosing what sense impressions to attend to, and what kind of interpretation we make of them are an aspect of our volition (cetana). And of course what we decide to do in dependence upon all of these other mental events is also volitional. So you can see I hope from this description that all the omnipresent cetasikas are indeed wrapped up one with another. Arthur Zajonc, the author of the book Catching the Light from which I quoted earlier, illustrates this point about what we bring to our perceptual experience by quoting examples of the congenitally blind who have had their eyes restored to perfect biological health and yet who still cannot see normally in the sense of being able to make sense of the experience of light impacting on the eyes. Much to the surprise of the optical surgeons conducting these operations they found that their patients had to be taught how to see, which was something the patients found very difficult, and often failed to follow through, despite the restoration to perfect health of their organ of sight. He concludes that, 'vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. ... The cognitive capacities we ... possess define our world, give it substance and meaning. ... Besides an outer light and eye, sight requires an 'inner light', one whose luminance complements the familiar outer light and transforms raw sensation into meaningful perception. The light of the mind must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world.' 65 The 'inner light', to which he refers, in our terms is the coming together of all other mental factors necessary to making sense of the impact of light on the eye's retina. I hope you can see the mistake which can be made through a simplistic scientism: light impacts on the retina, and with that event there will be recognition of the source from which light has come. But the Buddhist analysis has never allowed for it to be as simple as that. Buddhism says that we make sense of such an impression, which is of course what these optical surgeons discovered: that we build or bring meaning out of sense impressions. In other words there is a tremendous amount of interpretation going on. This emphasis on the interpretative power of the mind reminds me of that tantalisingly elusive statement of Bhante's '... The 'objective' world we perceive, with all its seas and

mountains, trees, houses and human beings, is in reality a state of mind. Contrariwise, what is in reality a state of mind can appear as an objectively existing world which those who inhabit it or more precisely, those who have been or who are in the mental state correlative to it, can actually experience and perceive.' 66 I'm not going to try to unpick that statement any further; but it is clearly worth considerable contemplation. Is all this analysis necessary? From the point of view of practising the Contemplation of Consciousness in the Six Element Practice, the usefulness of developing the capacity to categorise our mental life in this kind of way is that we can see more clearly the constantly streaming momentary mental events that make up our experience of our minds for what they are, and hence not get so deluded by the operational concepts or ideas that we then use to label these experiences as if they were permanent and substantial entities in themselves. Whilst this is easy enough to intellectually acknowledge, it seems quite another matter to accept in the depths of our emotions. It is really a matter of becoming more familiar with our mental processes, of getting to know ourselves very much better than we currently do. To do this some sort of conceptual framework is very useful; it gives us a language with which to describe our experience. Without this kind of mindfulness, it is all too easy to potter along in a happy enough, yet rather hazy, foggy state, which can easily delude itself into thinking that it is not deluded and possessive of its own mental states. Closer acquaintance with how we go about building up our mental life brings a much better understanding of how we create an impression of ourselves as being substantial and permanent. Clearly understanding how we build up a notion of an ego is an essential step in being able to let go of clinging to it as a permanent source of identity and security. This is of course one of the primary aims of the Six Element Practice. 4. Manas & klistomanovijnana Clearly such an analytical process contributes considerably to an intellectual appraisal of wrong views and right view. But unfortunately however many objects of the mind we may analyse, and discover to be unsuitable to permanently identify with, we will find we're still left with a irreducible sense of 'me', albeit increasingly bereft of anything to possess, but nevertheless intent on assertively defying anything which denies its existence. Our analysing has a innate subjectivity. I'm sure you have encountered this feeling of a 'me' that just will not be analysed away. We could identify our sense of self with the constant stream of mental processes, which does have a kind of permanency to it.

But even doing this involves creating an object of the mind, which in itself will change, just as a river changes as it moves downstream. Since the nature of the mind is to constantly change, the 'me' associated with it necessarily changes. For example, no one would insist that they are still exactly the same 'me' as they were twenty years ago, even though they may at times feel as if they are. In spite of there being a constant sense of a 'me' passing down through those twenty years, the character of that 'me' has actually been continuously changing. So however much we analyse, we'll always be left feeling there is a 'subject', so to speak, doing the analysing - of course this is the very nature of vijnana. Generalising grossly, it seems that the Yogacarins attributed this tendency to a seventh level of consciousness, the manas or klistomanovijnana the defiled mind consciousness. (Unfortunately Govinda attributes the klistomanovijnana to the 6th consciousness, the manovijnana, which is rather confusing! 67 The manas has a tendency to misinterpret the six sense consciousnesses taking them to be an objective world, in terms of space and time, existence and non-existence etc., to what it takes to be an objective self, i.e. itself. Suzuki likens the manas to an army general receiving intelligence reports at his HQ, interpreting them and then sending out orders to be executed, the general rarely seeing the actually fighting on the ground. 68 Inasmuch as there appears to be an externally objective world, so the manas feels there is a substantial subject in relation to it. As well as deriving a sense of identity from mistakenly interpreting the six sense consciousnesses, the manas also substantiates its own sense of self-consciousness as emanating from, what is called by the Yogacarins, the alaya-vijnana, the eighth consciousness. The term alaya is twofold in meaning. On the one hand it describes Absolute or Universal Consciousness or Enlightened Mind, that which is free from all dualistic conjecturing, and which is permanent. On the other hand alaya means literally a store house or treasury in which all impressions or 'seeds' are stored; these seeds are accumulated from our previous experience in this and previous lives, and come to fruition whenever the appropriate conditions prevail. In this latter sense the alaya has an evolving nature, which is perceptible to the manas and misinterpreted by it as the source of its own irreducible sense of self. It would seem that this is the Yogacara way of accounting for our constant sense of a 'me'. The manas is another mental concept, albeit rooted in the actual deeply rooted experiences of an irreducible 'self'. It is diagrammatically represented by Govinda as that common space between two overlapping spheres, the sphere of empirical consciousness and the sphere of universal consciousness. 69

The common space represents the 'body' within which the universal is manifested, albeit as defiled by adventitious elements, and therefore it represents the potential for the realisation of the universal. As a defiled mind the manas is a metaphor for the fundamental error that we make as discriminating beings: the sense of a permanent, self-creating self. The strange thing is that although the manas is convinced of its own identity as a permanently enduring substantial selfconscious self, it can be so only indirectly, as yet another mental object. The manas cannot experience itself directly as a subject! We cannot turn round and examine our sense of selfconsciousness directly, or unmediated by an object because as soon as we think we are doing so, we are actually examining a thought, an idea, a mental object about the self, rather than directly experiencing it. Since the subject of consciousness is the subject of its own awareness, it cannot experience itself directly as its own object. It is like the light in that box trying to see itself. There is nothing to be got hold of! It is actually quite mystifying and mysterious. A traditional image for this is a hand trying to grasp itself. The grasping hand is the subject, so it cannot take hold of itself as an object. Another image is that of a torch: a torch cannot shine on itself. As the subject of light it cannot become the object of its own illumination. All that can be got hold of is an idea, the idea of self. That is all that the self is: an idea. So in the Six Element Practice we not only try to realise that the objects of mind are so transitory as to be possessionless, we also try to realise there is no identity to be found anywhere in anything in the mind which can 'possess' anything. We spent a fair bit of time earlier in the talk referring to 'objects of mind' and concentrating on their momentariness. Being momentary we cannot really possess them; they are gone in a flash. We can hardly claim to control or own them in any real sense. But we are still left with this sense of a 'me' somehow, somewhere or other. What is being pointed out by use of these analogies of the hand and torch is that this feeling we have is really nothing other than an idea; it's nothing more than that; it is simply another mental object. Somehow or other we've become completely fascinated and deluded by this idea to the point that we're convinced that it is absolutely real, enduringly permanent. It cannot have these characteristics; nothing

contingent and dependently conditioned can. 5. Absolute Mind Yogacarin or Cittamatrin thought asserts that Absolute Mind is the sole reality. There are antecedents to this teaching in the Pali Canon. There is, for instance, the story of a monk who is keen to find where the material elements cease. He travels up to the highest Brahmas who cannot answer his question. Eventually he asks the Buddha: Where do earth, water, fire and air come to an end? Where are these four elements completely annihilated? The Buddha answers: Not thus, Bhikkhu, is this question to be put, but: Where is it that these elements find no footing? Where is it that both name and form die out, leaving no trace behind? And the answer is: In the invisible, infinite, allradiant consciousness of an Arahant - [vinnanam anidassanam (invisible, imperceptible), anantam sabbato pabham]; there neither earth, nor water, neither fire nor air can find a footing. When intellection ceases they all also cease. 70 This is echoed in another statement of the Buddha's: 'there exists that condition wherein there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire nor air; wherein is neither sphere of infinite space ... neither this world, nor any other world, neither sun nor moon. There I declare is no coming to birth, thither is no going from life; there is no arising. It is not something fixed, it moves not on, it is not based on anything. That indeed is the end of Ill.' 71 . The implication of Yogacarin doctrine is that only ideas, or perceptions, exist (vijnaptimatra); a corollary is that the existence of matter is denied. Sangharakshita explains that Yogacarin thought does not deny 'the existence of sensible qualities, ... but of an independent material substratum in which they are supposed to inhere. A flower, ... for example is merely the sum total of certain visual, olfactory, and tactile sensations; it is not a lump of matter which possesses these sensations as its attributes. Matter is an abstraction, a mere word. ... When we realise that the so-called objective universe exists nowhere save in our own mind, all attachment to it will be destroyed, and with the destruction of that attachment liberation will be attained.' 72 This is not crude solipsism, saying that everything is just a figment of our imagination; it is not solipsism because the notion of a personal mind is also denied: there is no permanent self to have a mind with which to fantasise. This means that, whilst we have 'inward' and 'outward perceiving' aspects to our perceptual experience, corresponding respectively to what we label as mind and matter, our experience is just simply all there is, the one single flow of experience, nothing more or less. Consciousness is all that there really is, 'luminous and

undefiled by adventitious defilements' 73 ; an 'intrinsic naked awareness' unobscured by 'thought-coverings'. The experience of the flow of purified consciousness is what the final stage of the Contemplation of the Six Elements asks us to rest in. Since there is only experience, we cannot ever contact anything outside experience. We impose upon our experience of consciousness the secondary activities of our interpretation of sense-impressions within terms such as a time-space framework, or in terms of 'existing' as opposed to 'not-existing' etc. We are asked to recognise this secondary activity for what it is and just let it flow on. We can never prove that we have contacted anything outside our experience because if we think we have done so, by definition it has to be within our experience. It is not that our perception of the mahabhutas is mere fantasy, it is just that consciousness in its innate purity does not apprehend reality in such terms or make itself known to itself as such. Our process of objectification, our desire to make manifest, or intellection as the translator has it, is the basis for our apprehension of the mahabhutas. If we can let go of this then we can rest in 'something else'. That there is something else which has a very definite positive content is assented to by the Buddha and echoed by Padmasambhava in this quote: ' ...when one seeks one's mind in its true state, it is found to be quite intelligible, although invisible. In its true state, mind is naked, immaculate; not made of anything, being of the Voidness; clear, vacuous, without duality, transparent; timeless, uncompounded, unimpeded, colourless; not realisable as a separate thing, but as the unity of all things, yet not composed of them; of one taste and transcendent over all differentiation. ... Mind being, as it is, of this nature, and thus unknowable, how can one assert that it is created.' 74 Dhatuvibanga Sutta But how do we set about getting to actually perceive Absolute Mind? 'Just do it!'? It surely must be the work of regular steps: by means of the Six Element Practice we progressively dis-identify from, at first, the apparently cruder objects of 'matter', concluding with the subtler aspects of consciousness. The progressive dis-identification is drawn out by the Buddha in his discourse on the Analysis of Elements, or Dhatuvibanga sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (Sutta 140) 75 , a source for the Six Element Practice in the Pali Canon. We'll spend this section of the talk exploring some of the implications of the comments with which the Buddha presents the practice. The Buddha, before presenting the analysis of the four mahabhutas and akasha, in the straight-forward fashion that we do when first introduced to the practice, draws our attention to the

consequences of each variety of consciousness being bound up with its respective sense-object. He says that each is a cause for either delight, distress or equanimity (i.e. feeling - vedana). He likens this to heat and light arising from the contact and friction of two sticks being rubbed together. This reminds me of the Buddha's Fire Sermon, in which he says, 'the whole world is burning. Burning with what? It is burning with the fire of craving, and neurotic desire. It is burning with the fire of anger, hatred and aggression. It is burning with the fire of ignorance, delusion, bewilderment and lack of awareness.' And in another sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya 76 when exploring the same topic of the Six Elements, the Buddha talks of destroying, giving up and casting out the grasping after and hankering after the Six Elements; or, as another translation (Evans) has it, giving up our 'compulsion, predilection, and innate bias' towards the Six Elements. In this way, the Buddha sets the Six Element practice within the context of describing our usual state of mind: we are caught up with, enamoured, entranced, fascinated, excited by and entangled with each of the different categories of senseconsciousness, which in their own way express the six great elementary qualities of perception. At each stage of the Six Element practice we work against our fascination and entanglement with each of the different, apparently objective, aspects of our perceptual experience. One way we can do this is to see the transitory and hence insubstantial nature of each of the Elements: that each is constantly flowing like a stream both into and out of and through our experience in a way over which we have little control. Coming to realise the impermanence of that which we are usually so bound up with has the tendency to undermine our dependence and feelings of possessiveness. Instead of giving way to these perceptions, we let them flow by us; whilst maintaining a sense of detachment from them, we experience them for what they are. I envisage this process as if we are looking at life in a very dirty mirror; we get fascinated and caught up with what we imagine we see there; what we see is more what is on the surface of the mirror than what the mirror is actually reflecting, which is distorted by the dirt on its surface. And in seeing what we see, which has as much to do with what we want to see as with what we actually see, we convince ourselves that there is something solid, substantial and enduring which we want to possess. In the course of our reflections in the Six Element practice we, so to speak, clean the mirror of our minds, both of the dirt, by seeing the dirt for what it is, and of our predilection to want to make the dirt into something which it isn't, i.e. to seek permanent, substantial happiness in that which is innately impermanent, insubstantial and incapable of making us permanently happy. In other words, we purify our heart

of all that which distorts how we see and prevents us from more clearly appreciating the richness and beauty of life. As Blake said: 'If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.' The Buddha makes a very similar point in the Dhatuvibanga sutta, when, after having gone through the contemplations of the Elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space, he elucidates the contemplation of Consciousness. He says that Consciousness by this stage, through turning away from each of the mahabhutas and then akasha, purges itself of each of them, and so remains pure and cleansed. He says it is as if the two rubbing sticks have ceased to have contact. The Buddha goes on to say that in this way just equanimity remains, pure and cleansed, soft, workable and bright. He likens this equanimity to a skilled goldsmith who 'after preparing a furnace, ignites a smelting pot, and seizing the pure metal with forceps, places it in the smelting pot. From time to time he might blow on it, might sprinkle it with water, might look carefully at it. That pure metal - blown, purified, cleansed and removed free from dross is soft, workable, and bright for whatever kind of ornament, ring, earring, necklace or golden garland that is desired.' 77 The Buddha then goes on to say that, because of this equanimity (which clearly is the upekkha of the fourth dhyana), there arises the knowledge that if we chose to focus on one of the so-called 'objects' of the fourth dhyana, for example, the infinity of space, or the infinity of consciousness, that this equanimity will stand supported and nourished for a long time. But then the Buddha says that 'one comprehends: If I focus this equanimity on levels of experience such as these, that is something contrived. (sankhatam i.e. confected - and hence as an karmic act will lead to consequences)' So one does not prepare or plan for existence or separation from existence. Not preparing or planning thus one clings to nothing in the world. Not clinging one is untormented, and from that one comes of oneself to final nibbana.'78 We can see that from the Buddha's perspective, when we follow through the sequential practice of this last stage of the Contemplation of Consciousness, it naturally emerges into final complete liberation. The Buddha continues, '... one knows that, if one experiences a pleasant, painful or neutral feeling, it is transient, not to be held onto, not to be rejoiced at. Experiencing a feeling limited by the body or bounded by the lifespan, one comprehends it as such. One knows that, on the breaking-up of the body at the end of one's lifespan, all enjoyable experiences here will become cool. Monk, as an oillamp burns because of the oil and the wick, but goes out from their consumption, given no replenishment - so it is with such

worldly experiences.'79 It seems to me that the implication is quite clear: we become fascinated and bound up with the five Elements because we mistakenly anticipate enjoyment from them. The Buddha then concludes his discourse by saying: '... Where there is steadfastness [perhaps a translation of upekkha?] the flow of opinion does not persist and thereby the sage is said to be calmed. But what is the basis for saying this? "I am. I am this. I shall be. I shall not be. I shall have form. I shall be formless. I shall have perception. I shall not have perception. I neither shall nor shall not have perception." All such are opinions. Opinions, monk, is an illness, an abscess, a barb. From the surmounting of all opinions the sage is said to be calmed. Indeed the sage who is calmed is not born, does not age, is not agitated, desires nothing ...' 80 Although it is not explicit, the implication is that the conceit of an 'I' and the opinionatedness which goes with it is bound up intimately with our desire for the mahabhutas themselves. In seeing how baseless the mahabhutas are, we cut away the ground upon which our egos stand and hence the ground upon which we stand as conditioned beings. Something of this approach is echoed in Padmasambhava's words as recorded in The Self-liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness. 81 'Now, when you are introduced (to your own intrinsic awareness), the method for entering into it involves three considerations: Thoughts in the past are clear and empty and leave no traces behind. Thoughts in the future are fresh and unconditioned by anything. And in the present moment, when (your mind) remains in its own condition without constructing anything, awareness at that moment in itself is quite ordinary. And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly (without any discursive thoughts), since there is only the pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer; only a naked manifest awareness is present. (This awareness) is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever. It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness. It is not permanent and yet it is not created by anything. However, it is not a mere nothingness or something annihilated because it is lucid and present. It does not exist as a single entity because it is present and clear in terms of being many. (On the other hand) it is not created as a multiplicity of things because it is inseparable and of a single flavour. This inherent selfawareness does not derive from anything outside itself. This is the real introduction to the actual condition of things. It is certain that the nature of mind is empty and without any foundation whatsoever. Your own mind is insubstantial like the empty sky. You should look at your own mind to see whether

it is like that or not. Being without any views that decisively decides that it is empty, it is certain that self-originated primal awareness has been clear (and luminous) from the very beginning, like the heart of the sun, which is itself selforiginated. You should look at your own mind to see whether it is like that or not. It is certain that this primal awareness or gnosis, which is one's intrinsic awareness, is unceasing, like the main channel of a river that flows unceasingly. You should look at your own mind to see whether it is like that or not. It is certain that the diversity of movements arising (in the mind) are not apprehensible by memories, they are like insubstantial breezes that move through the atmosphere. You should look at your own mind to see whether it is like that or not. It certain that whatever appearances occur, all of them are self-manifested, like the images in a mirror being self-manifestations that simply appear. You should look at your own minds to see whether it is like that or not. It is certain that all of the diverse characteristics of things are liberated into their own condition, like clouds in the atmosphere that are self-originated and selfliberated. You should look at your own mind to see whether it is like that or not.' 7. Toward spiritual rebirth The Six Element practice is our means of practising the third great stage of spiritual life: spiritual death. Spiritual death gives way to spiritual rebirth. This is the context within which we practice. It's as if we cannot fully rest in the state of illuminated, radiant, pure consciousness without exploring some sort of form. This is how I see our sadhana practices: as explorations of the purer forms or expressions of purified Consciousness. It's as if the last stage of the Six Element practice and the sadhana practice go hand in hand, each unfolding into the other: being symbolised by the diaphanous, translucent forms of the yidam emerging out of the radiant blue sky and then dissolving back into it. Our yidam is our new self - with whom we set out to identify with, to Go for Refuge to, having Gone Forth from our old identity as felt in the experiences of the mahabhutas and Element Space in our material bodies. The Six Element practice does not exhort us to abandon rational, conceptual analysis; in fact, our practice embraces these tools, using them to their limits. We recognise the provisionality of the models and paradigms derived thereby. At the same time we begin to sense the metaphorical nature of language which points to a meaning and significance beyond the literal content. New paradigms are sensed through the agency of images. These new paradigms are essentially those of the liberated Imagination: and they represent I suggest the inception

of the next great stage of Bhante's path of meditation: spiritual rebirth. One particularly useful paradigm is that of the mandala of the five Jinas: this image represents both the totality of enlightened purity of Mind, whilst corresponding in its particular aspects to the different attributes of the defiled mind. In this way the experience of the eighth Consciousness of relative alaya is revealed in its essential purity as the Mirrorlike Wisdom of Akshobya - the purified mahabhuta of Water; the experience of the seventh consciousness of the manas is revealed in its essential purity as the Wisdom of Equality of Ratnasambhava - the purified mahabhuta Earth; the sixth consciousness manovijnana is revealed in its essential purity as the All-distinguishing Wisdom of Amitabha - the purified mahabhuta Fire; and the five sense consciousnesses are revealed in their essential purity as the All-Performing Wisdom of Amoghasiddhi - the purified mahabhuta of Air. 82 It's as if our grasping natures misinterpret and try to appropriate the reality of things which is there all the time to be appreciated. If we can learn to let go of our deeply-rooted habit of limiting our perceptions to an ego-orientated, selfish preoccupation, well we'll discover that an unlimited, infinite, radiant reality has been there all the time shining in its essential purity and beauty. And we'll burst out laughing! This is what I take Vajrasattva to be doing in his one hundred syllable mantra: HA! HA! HA! HA! HOH! This new paradigm is that of Wisdom i.e. jnana or prajna which can be translated as analytical aesthetic appreciation.83 This new paradigm is one of beauty, a beauty which is so beautiful that it cannot be possessed, used or controlled; it can be only be appreciated for what it is. How is this turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness (paravrtti) or actual transformation of the analytical mode of consciousness to this new paradigm to be cultivated? By going forth from depending on, and looking for security in, and grasping after in our old utilitarian manner the rationalised categorisations of vijnana, which we usually perceive primarily in relation to the selfish appropriative preoccupations of 'me' and 'mine', and instead Going for Refuge to an ever fresh open dimension of becoming, which has the impartial, universalising perspective of metta. It may seem strange to have apparently gone full circle: I seem to be saying that the Six Element practice starts out with the cultivation of metta, and apparently ends up with that. What I mean is that the Six Element practice takes our metta practice to new heights. We need to remember that the Six Element practice is about cleaning the doors of our perceptions. Wisdom is not cold and detached, but burns with warmth of feeling joy, delight and appreciation of beauty in the infinite net of the

mutual interpenetration of all things. And from that flows the spontaneity, freedom, and creativity of unlimited, luminous, and radiant consciousness.

Appendix 1. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SIX ELEMENTS basic instructions Preparation: a) in everyday life give sustained attention to a variety of personal experiences of the particular Element(s). b) before starting the Contemplation, generate strong metta and positive emotions. main practice: 1. Experience as vividly and imaginatively as possible the Element in your bodily experience: 'In my body is this Element 'X', typically including ...' 2. Recognise as colourfully and richly as possible the same Element in the external world. Recognise that your experience of the Element within your bodily experience and in the external world are essentially the same: 'In the external world this Element takes a variety of different typical forms, and this is, for example, ... how I experience them. The Element in my body has the same characteristics as the Element outside it.' 3. Recognise that the Element in your body comes from the Element outside it: 'I experience the Element in my body coming from the Element outside it in these various ways: ...' 4. Recognise that the Element in your body is constantly returning to the Element outside it: 'I experience the Element in my body constantly returning to the Element outside it in these various ways: ...' 5. Recognise that when you die the Element in the body will finally go back to the Element in the outside world, never to return: 'When I die the Element in my body will finally return to the Element in the world outside it.' 6. Recognise that there is nothing in your experience of the Element with which you can permanently identify and therefore you can have no

permanent control over or ownership of the Element: "There is nothing in this Element with which I can permanently identify, and therefore call 'I' or 'me'; neither can I really say that I possess it or ultimately control it; is not fundamentally 'mine'. I have only temporarily borrowed this Element; though constantly coming and going within my experience, it is not to be relied on for security, as a safe Refuge, so I let go of my preoccupation with it and possessiveness towards it. I give up my sense of it belonging to me, of my feeling that it is essentially 'me'." 7. Relax, confidently enjoying and appreciating your experience of the Element as it comes and goes; letting go of it, giving it up, and becoming free of attachment to it Appendix 2. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE SIX ELEMENTS long lead through84 Preparation: a) in everyday life give sustained attention to a variety of personal experiences of the particular Element(s). b) before starting the Contemplation, generate strong metta and positive emotions. Main practice: Bell: Contemplation of the Element Earth: now relaxing into feelings of metta 1. Take your attention to the sensations associated with sitting, the contact of your body with your meditation seat and mat, your clothes; your body is resisted by the seat and the ground beneath it, the seat is resisted by your body. Your body is solid, it has substance, it has weight, firmness, rigidity, resistance; it feels impenetrable - you can feel this now through a number of your different senses, and you can bring to mind similar experiences. This is the experience of the mahabhuta of Earth, the Earth Element in your body. Feel your spine rising upwards out of our pelvic bones, keeping you upright, giving you a feeling of uprightness, solidity, firmness, strength. This is the Earth Element. Feel all the associated sensations: the shoulders, neck, and head, arms resting on your legs; all this is Earth Element in the body; feel the sensation of solidity. Feel the Earth Element in the body, in the form of skin and then bones and muscles, and in all the different parts of your body: your skeleton: in your pelvis, in your spine and chest, in your fingers, in your feet, in your legs and arms and neck and in your head: in your jaws, your

teeth, tongue. Bring to mind how it feels to touch your nails, your hair, to feel the movement of your muscles, and any other part of your body: your eyes, your nose, your ears, your lips, all with their solid Earth Element. They all have their own characteristic shape, texture, and colour, all being expressions in their own different ways of this Earth Element. Feeling the Earth Element within your body in its many different forms, bring to mind as vividly as possible this Earth Element in your body. 2. This Earth Element you experience in your body is fundamentally the same as the Earth Element outside your body. The solidity, resistance, rigidity and substance is the same as in the meditation seat you're sitting on, and in the marble flagstones on the ground underneath us. This Earth Element is in the concrete blocks and the tiles of the shrine room; it is in the rocks, stones, earth, soil, clay, limestone, dust, mountains, trees, bushes, leaves, wood, metal, glass, houses, machines, other living organisms; all Earth Element. Experience the Earth Element all around you, realise it is the same as the Earth Element in you. 3. The Earth Element in you has come from the Earth Element outside you. You have, as it were, borrowed it for a short time. The Earth Element you experience in your body was built up from the food you have eaten. You eat the Earth Element in your food in your meals. You break it up with your teeth, you chew it, and swallow it, you can feel it being digested in your stomach. Every bit of the Earth Element in us comes from the Earth Element outside of us. You didn't even provide the Earth Element you had at birth, even then your body was formed and built up from the conjunction of your parents' sperm and ovum and nurtured in your mother's womb. 4. All the time you are giving the Earth Element in your body back to the Earth Element outside you: when you excrete, your skin is continually falling off, when you cut hair and nails. So the Earth Element is coming into and going through your body in a flowing stream - that is what your body is! - a continuous stream of flowing Earth Element. There is no single particle of Earth Element that is with you throughout your life. 5. One day when you have died, when your body is cremated or placed in the ground to rot, the Earth Element in your body will return completely to the Earth Element outside you. You will, so to speak, 'give it back' for the last time. You will no longer need to borrow the Earth Element. 6. Your experience of the Earth Element in your body and in the external world is one of a constant flowing from one form to the next, from one expression to another; each of your experiences of the Earth Element arises in dependence on an infinite network of supporting conditions and causal connections, some more obvious and immediate than others. And in your

experience of this Earth Element, in spite of its solidity, substance, and firmness, there is nothing there to be got hold of as permanently unchanging and enduringly substantial. This Earth Element is not an independent 'thing'; you cannot separate it out; it is not isolatable; it is constantly flowing through your body. It does not produce itself; it is not the source of its own life and force. If you look very carefully, there is nothing in your experience of the Earth Element, either within you or in the outside world, with which you can permanently identify, in which you can find a 'me', or in which you can find a permanently enduring 'self', saying that this or that part of the Earth Element is essentially me, or 'I'. You have not created the Earth Element; you are only borrowing it for a time; there is nothing in the Earth Element which finally belongs to you, which you can ultimately possess and control, which you can call 'mine'. So you cannot own the Earth Element, you can only borrow it and use it temporarily in your body, before you inevitably have to give it back to the Earth Element outside you. 7. You cannot rely on this Earth Element; you cannot ultimately depend on it; there is no permanent security to be found in it; it is not a safe refuge. To the extent you become enamoured with it, bound up with it, entranced by it, entangled with it, seek security and refuge and permanency in the Earth Element, you cause yourself and others pain. Give up your preoccupation with the Earth Element, give up yearning for it, craving and grasping it, give up your attempts to appropriate it, to hold on to it, free yourself of your attachment to the Earth Element, be free of any feeling of identity with it, let go of wanting to possess and have control over it. And instead rest confidently and contentedly enjoying having let go, enjoying a new freer, easier way of relating to the Earth Element, simply appreciating the flow of the Earth Element within your experience of yourself and the outside world. Bell. Secondly, the contemplation of the Element Water. 1. Take your attention to the sensations associated with the body. Experience the saliva in your mouth, feel the pulse of blood flowing through your arteries and veins. And bring to mind all the different kinds of bodily fluids that you experience in your body: your urine, sweat, snot, tears, digestive juices, mucus, semen, blood and so forth, all flowing, oozing, everything liquid, and watery that moves downwards, dribbles, splashes, drips or forms puddles, each moving in their characteristic way. This is your experience of the Element Water in your body. You feel this Element Water in your skin, in its softness and pliability, and the same in the muscles and organs of the body.

2. This Water Element you experience in your body is fundamentally just the same as the Water Element outside your body. The same liquidness, fluidity, motility, undulation, softness is there in the water you wash in, or in the drinks you drink. You can see the Water Element in the external world all around you: in the springs, in the rain, in the clouds, and mist, the streams, the rivers, the lakes, seas and oceans; it's in all the plants, the trees, their leaves, and flowers, and in the animals and birds you see. It's there in all the different liquids we encounter: oil, paint, petrol, shampoo. Just see the Water Element all around you, and realise it is the same as the Water Element in you. 3. The Water Element in you has come from the Water Element outside you. You have, as it were, borrowed it for a short time. The Water Element you experience in your body was built up from the food you have eaten, and the drinks you have drunk. You are borrowing the Water Element all the time. You eat and drink the Water Element in your meals every day, if you don't you quickly feel very sick, as when you dehydrate. You can feel the Water Element in your mouth as you break your food up with your teeth, as you chew it, and swallow it, you can feel it passing through your stomach. Every bit of the Water Element in you has come from the Water Element outside of you. You didn't even provide the Water Element you had at birth, even then your body was formed and built up from the conjunction of your parents' sperm and ovum, and nurtured in your mother's womb. 4. All the time you are giving the Water Element in your body back to the Water Element outside you, in your faeces, in your urine, when you sweat, you even breathe it out in your breath, and when you spit, or blow your nose, and when you cry. The Water Element is coming and going through your body in a flowing stream - that's what your body is! There is no single particle of Water Element that is with you throughout your life. 5. One day when you die, when your body is cremated or placed in the ground to rot, the Water Element in your body will return completely to the Water Element outside you. You will, so to speak, 'give it back' for the last time. You no longer need to borrow the Water Element. 6. Your experience of the Water Element in your body and in the external world is of a constant flowing from one liquid form to the next, from one expression to another; each of your experiences of the Water Element arises in dependence on an infinite network of supporting conditions and causal connections, some more obvious and immediate than others. In your experience of this Water Element, there is nothing there to be got hold of as permanently unchanging and enduringly substantial. This Water Element is not an independent 'thing'; you cannot separate it out; it is not isolatable; it is constantly flowing through your

body. It does not produce itself, it is not the source of its own life and force. And if you look very carefully there is nothing in your experience of the Water Element, either within you or in the outside world, with which you can permanently identify, in which you can find a 'me', or in which you can find a permanently enduring 'self', saying that this or that part of the Water Element is essentially me, or 'I'. You have not created the Water Element; you only borrow it for a time, use it temporarily, before you inevitably let go of it and let it flow back to the Water Element outside you. There is nothing in the Water Element which finally belongs to you, which you can ultimately possess and control, which you can call 'mine'. You cannot own the Water Element, you can only borrow it and use it temporarily in your body, before you inevitably have to give it back to the Water Element outside you. 7. You cannot rely on this Water Element; you cannot ultimately depend on it; there is no permanent security to be found in it; it is not a safe refuge. To the extent you become enamoured with it, bound up with it, entranced by it, entangled with it, seek security and refuge and permanency in the Water Element, you cause yourself and others pain. Give up your preoccupation with the Water Element, give up yearning for it, craving and grasping it, give up your attempts to appropriate it, to hold on to it, free yourself of your attachment to the Water Element, be free of any feeling of identity with it, let go of wanting to possess and have control over it. And instead rest confidently and contentedly enjoying having let go, enjoying a new freer, easier way of relating to the Water Element, simply appreciating the flow of the Water Element within your experience of yourself and the outside world. Bell. Thirdly, Contemplation of the Element Fire 1. Take you attention the experience of heat and cold in your body, notice how different parts of your body feel warmer and cooler. Experience the warmth of your blood and in your breath and in your stomach. Experience the sensations of energy and vitality in different parts of your body: in your different muscles. Bring to mind the experience of your own body heat when you are wearing different sorts of clothes, and when you are in bed. All this is your experience of the Fire Element in your body. You are in fact very sensitive to the Fire Element in your body. 2. Your experience of the Fire Element in your body is fundamentally the same as the Fire Element in the outside world. You experience heat in the general temperature outside, whether it is a cold chilly morning or a baking hot afternoon; you experience the Element Fire first and foremost from the sun, the great source of the Fire Element in the world, a great orb of

radiant Fire Energy, which gives life and sustenance directly or indirectly to all that lives. You experience it with heating systems, a simple wood or coal fire, or gas or oil-burning central heating system. You can see the evidence of the Fire Element in great natural events such as forest fires, volcanoes, hot springs, and its absence in snow and ice, frozen glaciers, icebergs, frozen sea etc. This Fire Element is made use of by all living beings from simple photosynthesising algae to complex carnivores; it is being successively built up and dissipated in chains of interdependent life forms. 3. The Fire Element in your body comes from the Fire Element outside the body. You take it in from your food, can feel it being released in the warmth of your stomach, and in the expenditure of energy when you move about. You constantly borrow the Fire Element from the external world. You use this Element in creating and maintaining your body, and keeping it warm. You are so dependent on the Fire Element, you have to have just the right amount of Fire Element: too much and you're too hot; too little and you're too cold; if you are too hot or cold you can easily die. So all the time you're working to keep the Fire Element in your body, bringing it in in food; maintaining a balance between trying to stop it escape and getting rid of it by wearing the right sort of clothes, by insulating your house. 4. We are constantly giving the Fire Element back to the Fire Element in the world around us. The Fire Element is escaping from us all the time. As quickly as you take it in, you use up the Fire Element, it takes a lot of energy even to digest the food you eat. And then you radiate it out - all the time you're giving off heat. So there's not one bit of the Fire Element which remains with you all the time. 5. When you've died, the Fire Element will just pass out of your body as it grows colder and colder. And when your body is put in the ground to rot or is cremated, you will no longer need to borrow the Fire Element; you will finally give the Fire Element back, so to speak, for the last time. It will return completely to the Fire Element in the outside world. 6. Your experience of the Fire Element in your body and in the external world is of constant change, a constant flow of one form to the next, from one expression to another; each of your experiences of the Fire Element arises in dependence on an infinite network of supporting conditions and causal connections, some more obvious and immediate than of the others. In your experience of this Fire Element, there is nothing there to be got hold of as permanently unchanging and enduringly substantial. This Fire Element is not an independent 'thing'; you cannot separate it out; it is not isolatable; it is constantly flowing through your body. It does not produce itself, it is not the source of its own life and force. If you look very carefully

there is nothing in your experience of the Fire Element, either within you or in the outside world, with which you can permanently identify, in which you can find a 'me', or in which you can find a permanently enduring 'self', saying that this or that part of the Fire Element is essentially me, or 'I'. You have not created the Fire Element; you are only borrowing it for a time, using it temporarily, before you inevitably let go of it and let it flow back to the Fire Element outside you. There is nothing in the Fire Element which finally belongs to you, which you can ultimately possess and control, which you can call 'mine'. You cannot own the Fire Element, you can only borrow it and use it temporarily in your body, before you inevitably have to give it back to the Fire Element outside you. 7. You cannot rely on this Fire Element; you cannot ultimately depend on it; there is no permanent security to be found in it; it is not a safe refuge. To the extent you become enamoured with it, bound up with it, entranced by it, entangled with it, seek security and refuge and permanency in the Fire Element, you cause yourself and others pain. Give up your preoccupation with the Fire Element, give up yearning after it, craving and grasping it, give up your attempts to appropriate it, to hold on to it, free yourself of your attachment to the Fire Element, be free of any feeling of identity with it, let go of wanting to possess and have control over it. And instead rest confidently and contentedly enjoying having let go, enjoying a new freer, easier way of relating to the Fire Element, simply appreciating the flow of the Fire Element within your experience of yourself and the outside world. Bell. Fourthly, Contemplation of the Element Air 1/2. Take your attention to the sensation of air passing in and out of your body, coming in through your nostrils, down the back of your throat, into your lungs, the sensation of your chest and diaphragm opening and expanding. Experience the breath as it comes and goes. This is the experience of the Element Air in your body. And it is fundamentally the same as your experience of the Element Air outside the body. This Element we call Air is characterised by lightness, transparency, vibration, multidirectional movement, gaseousness in the ways that we experience it in the wind, and hear it's passage over the ground: either as in soft gentle breeze or a howling gale. We can see and hear the Element Air moving through the trees and bushes. We see its effects on clouds in the sky, or when it whisks up dust and dead leaves off the ground. We see it moving across the face of water on rivers, lakes, on the sea, scurrying along city streets blowing dust and litter about. It is sometimes cold; very cold; and sometimes hot; sometimes it carries with it fragrances, as

from

incense or the fumes of petrol. 3-5. You take air in, and give it back, every few seconds a complete cycle. You take it from the atmosphere around you, and give it back. You are constantly borrowing the Element Air, and then giving it back to the Air Element in the external world. You use this Air Element constantly in your blood as it circulates around the body. If you didn't do this you would die. Just as one of your first acts in this world in being born was to breathe in, so your last act in dying will be to breathe out. One day you shall breathe in and breathe out one last rasping breath, and not breathe in again. One day, when you are dying, you will give up borrowing this Air Element, you will no longer need to use this Element Air. 6. Your experience of the Air Element in your body and in the external world is of a constant flow; there's nothing there to be got hold of, to hold onto; as soon as you've breathed in, you have to breathe out, and this goes on day and night, even when you're asleep. In your experience of this Air Element, there is nothing there to be got hold of as permanently unchanging and enduringly substantial. This Air Element is not an independent 'thing'; you cannot separate it out; it is not isolatable; it is constantly flowing through your body. There is nothing in your experience of the Air Element that suggests that it is the source of its own life and force. If you look very carefully there is nothing in your experience of the Air Element, either within you or in the outside world, with which can you permanently identify, in which you can find a 'me', or in which you can find a permanently enduring 'self', saying that this or that part of the Air Element is essentially me, or 'I'. You have not created the Air Element; you are only borrowing it for a time, using it temporarily, before you inevitably let go of it and let it flow back to the Air Element outside you. There is nothing in the Air Element which finally belongs to you, which you can ultimately possess and control, which you can call 'mine'. You cannot own the Air Element, you can only borrow it and use it temporarily in your body, before you inevitably have to give it back to the Air Element outside you. 7. In spite of feeling so very bound up with breathing in this Air Element, it is impersonal; impersonal as the wind which blows where it lists. So experience this Air element coming and going, without attachment, without identification: "it's not 'I', not 'me', not 'mine'". Rest happily appreciating, and enjoying the coming and going of the Air Element, free of entanglement with it. Bell. Fifthly, Contemplation of the Element Space 1. Take your attention to your sense of yourself sitting here in this shrine room. You have a sense of where you are in

space, at what place or point, or location you are, and, how being in this place, how you are related to other things and people in the shrine room. You experience the world around you from this vantage point: this is your point of view. You even have a sense of where the shrine room is in relation to the rest of the retreat centre, in relation to the valley, and perhaps a vague sense of where the valley is in relation to the rest of Spain and Europe. Space goes on further still into the skies, and beyond this planet, into the solar system, the galaxy, our Universe. Become aware of your sense of your body as a whole, it's shape, and size. And it's immediate relationship to that with which it is in contact: your sitting cushions, your clothes as they hang on your body. You have a sense of where you stop and the rest of the world starts, where the rest of the world stops and you start. You have a sense of your boundary, your space. This is your experience of the Element Space in your body. This Element Space contains the other four Elements Earth, Water, Fire and Air which you experience in your body. In borrowing these four Elements in making up your body you also take up a very definite space, with a specific shape and size to it, a shape and size specific to you. Even simply sitting here you are borrowing a particular space from the external Element Space in which to sit. This is the experience of the Element Space in your body. And generally speaking you like this experience, it feels comfortable, it feels right, it suits you, you're used to it, you feel in control of it, you even feel quite attached to it. 2. In the same way other objects in the world around us use the Element Space. Bring to mind your room: your bed, your treasured possessions: your books, papers, clothes, pictures; all of them use the other Elements in various combinations and forms, necessarily taking up a certain space with definite shapes and sizes; they all have a relation in space to you and to one another. This is your experience of the Element Space in the external world. You like to have these different things in your room arranged around you in a certain way. You like them to take up certain spaces; you're actually quite attached to them being the way that they are; many of them you've put in certain spaces because you like it that way. And you like to go to certain spaces and occupy them; you may like your place in the shrine room; perhaps you have a favourite spot in the valley. And you like some things to be closer to you and some things further away. You even like some people to be closer to you and others further away. If some people get too close to you, you feel crowded out, that your space has been invaded, been infringed. Generally speaking you like to be in control of the spaces that you use, you quite attached to being in control of what you think of as your space. And so you behave in such a way as to go to

spaces where you can be the boss. 3-5. Reflect on how you cannot be in two spaces at once. As you move from one space to the next, so you leave the old one behind. So in this simple way just moving about all the time you are borrowing, usingthe Element Space. But even if you didn't move about you'd still be borrowing the Element Space from the world outside simply by virtue of having a physical body; your body necessarily takes up space. But one day when you are dead, and your body is being cremated or is rotting in the ground, your body will no longer be using this Element of Space. You will have given up borrowing it for the last time. 6. When the Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air have completely returned to the Elements in the outside world, you won't occupy a space any longer. Your space will have gone completely. And all your familiar spaces that you love so much: your room, your bed, your favourite chair, your books and possession will be used by other people. If you look carefully you'll realise that your experience of the Space Element both in your body and in the external world is a constant change, a constant flow of one form into the next, from one expression to another; each of your experiences of the Space Element arises in dependence on an infinite network of supporting conditions and causal connections, some more obvious and immediate than others. And in your experience of this Space Element, there is nothing there to be got hold of as permanently unchanging and enduringly substantial. This Space Element is not an independent 'thing'; you cannot separate it out; it is not isolatable; it is constantly flowing through your body. It does not produce itself, it is not the source of its own life and force. If you look very carefully there is nothing in your experience of the Space Element, either within you or in the outside world, with which can permanently identify, in which you can find a 'me', or in which you can find a permanently enduring 'self', saying that this or that part of the Space Element is essentially me, or 'I'. You have not created the Space Element; you are only borrowing it for a time, using it very temporarily and provisionally, before you inevitably let go of it and let it flow back to the Space Element outside you. There is nothing in the Space Element which finally belongs to you, which you can ultimately possess, control, parcel up and which you can call 'mine'. You cannot own the Space Element, you can only borrow it and use it temporarily in your body, before you inevitably have to give it back to the Space Element outside you. 7. You cannot rely on this Space Element; you cannot ultimately depend on it; there is no permanent security to be found in it; it is not a safe refuge. To the extent you become enamoured with it, bound up with it, entranced by it, entangled with, seek security and refuge and permanency in the Earth

Element, you cause yourself and others pain. Give up your preoccupation with the Space Element, give up yearning for it, craving and grasping it, give up your attempts to appropriate it, to hold on to it, free yourself of your attachment to the Space Element, be free of any feeling of identity with it, let go of wanting to possess and have control over it. Now reflect what will happen to your experience of the Element Space when you are no longer preoccupied with the Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air through the six doors of the senses, eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin and ordinary mind. Consider what happens when you meditate deeply and enter the dhyanas, and progress into the deeper dhyanas. You are no longer preoccupied with these four Elements in the usual way; and you enter a different kind of space - a space which doesn't contain the usual kind of forms and combinations of the other Four Elements; a space made of light, shining with light, a space in which every point is as bright and important as the next. If you explore this space you'll find that it is infinite, that it spreads infinitely in all directions and that everywhere it is equally bright and luminous. In its essential nature it is not conditioned, it is not limited by association with the other Four Elements. Space is just space, completely open, unlimited, undifferentiated, boundless, impartite, infinite, vast, inconceivable and free. Space is not divided up into sections. It is just our minds which do that. Space is not organised around any particular point. Every point in space is a valuable and important as the next. If you become absorbed, resting confidently in contemplating this space, you can enjoy feeling happier, freer, lighter, and brighter, more refined and subtle, suffused with happiness and contentment. Bell. Lastly, Contemplation of the Element Consciousness. 1. Becoming deeply absorbed in experiencing your body, you become aware of the different ways in which you experience the five Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space in your body. Each of these experiences is illuminated by your awareness; when you take your attention to a particular aspect of yourself, that part of you is lit up, so to speak, by your awareness. For example, if you take your awareness to your left big toe, you begin to experience your toe; you experience your toe in terms of a number of the five Elements: your toe is solid and firm, at the same time your toe is soft, and pliable like the Water Element; and then your toe has a certain temperature. And so on. Being aware of your body in this way your experience of the Five Elements in your body is saturated, permeated by the Sixth Element of your awareness and Consciousness. You even think of these experiences as being your experiences because they are illuminated by your consciousness.

You are conscious of being aware sometimes by way of involvement with these other Five Elements. The way in which you experience your awareness and consciousness is through close association with one or another of your different sense organs. Your experience arises in dependence on associating with your different sense organs, it is conditioned by them, it arises in causal connection with your sense organs. Your usual experience of your consciousness is individualised, is particularised, is defined by associating with your different bodily organs of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body. You also experience the inner and outer world through the door of the ordinary mind in the form of memories, images, ideas concepts, theories. The coming together of your awareness with the different aspects of how you experience the other Five Elements in your body is your experience of the Element Consciousness in your body. 2. In the same way your consciousness can illumine different manifestations of the Five Elements in the external world. Just as your consciousness illumines your experience of your body, so in the same way, like a beam of light shining in the darkness, your consciousness shines out through one of the windows of the six sensory organs. And this as far as we can tell seems to be what is happening in various ways and degrees with other sentient life-forms: even an ant seems to manifest a degree of awareness. 3-5. Now reflect what happens to your experience of the Element Consciousness when it is no longer preoccupied with the 5 Elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space through the 6 doors of the senses, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and ordinary mind. Consider what happens when you meditate deeply and enter the dhyanas, and progress into the deeper dhyanas. Your consciousness is no longer preoccupied with the Five Elements in the usual way. It is no longer conditioned, and limited by its association with the Five Elements through the six senses. In this way your awareness becomes more absorbed in itself, becoming more concentrated, and focused; you come to feel freer, lighter and brighter; you feel more refined and subtle. Your experience of yourself is permeated with light, suffused with happiness and contentment. And in the same way when your body has died, and with it your sense organs, and has been cremated or is rotting in the ground, your consciousness will not be able to associate with the six sense organs, nor to be aware of an external world that you perceive through your sense organs; in fact, there will no need for you to associate again with any of the five Elements, no need for you to be conditioned by them, tied up with them, limited by them; your consciousness will be free to become more and absorbed in itself, to become brighter and ever brighter, ever more free, open and expansive.

6. In the light of all these reflections, examine your experience of the constant flow of your consciousness coming and going with the flow of the Five other Elements and ask yourself where you can find a permanently enduring 'self', which you can say is 'I', or 'me'. Ask yourself what are the consequences of becoming permanently identified with your consciousness in this way, entangled, bound up enamoured with it, entranced by it? Seeking security and refuge in an impermanent and limited consciousness surely only causes pain for yourself and others? Consider that just as you could not find a substantial, enduringly permanent self in any of your experiences of the other Five Elements, either through your five sense organs or in the mind, so too you cannot find a substantial, enduringly permanent self in your experience of consciousness. 7. Give up being limited by your attachment to consciousness in this fixed way, identifying yourself so rigidly and definitely, restricting your consciousness so fixedly. Instead rest, confidently enjoying the constant flow of your consciousness in relation to the five Elements; allow your awareness to expand, to become free of restrictions, and limitations, allow your awareness to become absorbed in itself, becoming increasingly focused, and concentrated, ever more content, happy and blissful, becoming ever lighter, and brighter, suffused with unlimited, unbounded, radiance like the radiant depths of an infinite blue sky stretching away infinitely into every direction of an inconceivably vast, and wonderfully mysterious open space of endless possibilities. OM SVABHAVA SUDDHAH SARVADHARMAH SVABHAVA SUDDHO HAM

_______________________________ 1 'Thought' Selected Poems D.H. Lawrence p.227 Penguin '79 22 p.10 Udana - Minor Anthologies Part II. trans. Woodward. Pali Text Society '85 3 see Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma Guenther p.270 Motilal Banarsidass Delhi '91 4 Shakespeare's Sonnet No.33 5 Act 2 sc.2 Lear 6 DN I.47 7 Religion of Art p.133 Sangharakshita Windhors 8 Tempest 3/2 9 Sangharakshita Wisdom Beyond Words. Windhorse

10 Philosophy and Psychology of the Abhidharma. H.V. Guenther. p.145. Motilal '74 11 ibid. 12 ibid. p.177 13 see The Survey of Buddhism p.161 Windhorse '80 14 ibid. 15 Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma. H.V Guenther p.145 16 Abhidharmakosa I.12 - quoted ibid. p.147 17 Abhidharmakosa I.12 - quoted ibid. p.147 18 Attasalini IV 8 - quoted ibid. p.150) 19 Macbeth 3/4 20 ibid. 5/8 21 'Meditation on a Flame' - The Enchanted Heart p.92 22 p.147f Rider '75 23 Mitrata 84 p.42 24 Aloka The Refuge Tree as Mythic Context (Padmaloka Books) p.22 25 ibid. p.23 26 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Creative Meditation and MultiDimensional Consciousness (Unwin London '77) p.239. 27 ibid. p.241 28 Sangharakshita The Three Jewels (Windhorse '77) p.62 & ibid. p.67. . 29 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider London '75) p.116. 30 ibid. p.137f 31 ibid. p.116 32 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider, London '75) p.184 33 William Blake Auguries of Innocence 34 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider London '75) p.116 35 Vessantara. Meeting the Buddhas. (Windhorse) p.289 36 Aloka The Refuge Tree as Mythic Context, p.30 37 Sangharakshita The Drama of Cosmic Enlightenment (Windhorse) p.7 38 trans. Sangharakshita Dhammapada v1/2 (unpublished) 39 Dhammapada v33 40 Dhammapada v35/6 41 Dhammapada v42 42 Dhammapada v103/4/5 43 D.T.Suzuki.The Lankavatara Sutra p.xxi 44 ibid. 45 Sangharakshita The Three Jewels (Windhorse '77) p.67 46 Shenpen Hookham Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso. (Longchen Foundation) p.30f. 47 Sangharakshita A Survey of Buddhism. (Windhorse '93) p.198 48 ibid. [my addition]

49 ibid. 50 Sangharakshita The Three Jewels (Windhorse '77) p.82 51 Arthur Zajonc Catching the Light (Bantam '93) p.2 52 see Dhatu Nyanatiloka Buddhist Dictionary 53 Dhammapada v.42 54 Nyanatiloka Buddhist Dictionary p.194 & Govinda, Lama Anagarika, The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy (Rider '69) p.132 55 see Arthur Zajonc Catching the Light (Bantam. '93) p.227 56 Sangharakshita Mind in Buddhist Psychology - unedited seminar transcript p.85 57 Guenther Philosophy and Psychology in Abhidharma (Shambhala '74) p.12 58 Sangharakshita Mind in Buddhist Psychology - unedited seminar transcript p.85f & Guenther Philosophy and Psychology in Abhidharma (Shambhala '74) p.12f 59 H.V. Guenther & Leslie Kawamura Mind in Buddhist Psychology. (Dharma.'75) p.38 60 Majjhima Nikaya Sutta 43 61 Samyutta Nikaya XII, Sutta 53 62 Nanamoli Visuddhi-magga p.558 63 Majjhima Nikaya.Sutta 18 64 see Dhatu Nyanatiloka Buddhist Dictionary & Nanamoli Visuddhi Magga p.558 65 Arthur Zajonc Catching the Light (Bantam '93) p.5 66 Sangharakshita The Three Jewels (Windhorse '77) p.81 67 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider, London '75) p.74f 68 Lankavatara Sutra p.xxiv 69 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider, London '75) p.74 70 Kevaddha-Sutta Digha Nikaya Vol. 2/11 71 Udana VIIIi 72 Sangharakshita A Survey of Buddhism (7th Ed.) p.400f 73 Horner Anguttara Nikaya I.10. 74 Evans-Wentz translation The Tibetan Book of Great Liberation 'The Yoga of Knowing the Mind' (OUP '80) p.211f 75 Horner vol.III p.285. for full version 76 Horner Chabbisodhanasutta Sutta.112 -. vol.III p.84 77 Evans Discourses of the Buddha. Middle Collection. p.423 78 ibid. 79 ibid. 80 ibid. 81 trans. John Reynolds. Station Hill '89 para. 7&10 p.12-14 82 Govinda, Lama Anagarika, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Rider, London '75) p.84 83 Sangharakshita Wisdom Beyond Words (Windhorse, '93) p. 84 this format for the lead through is only one possible way of

doing the practice, which I devised during the Men's Ordination Retreat at Guhyaloka in '95, hence the topical references. Take from it what you find useful