To summarize the main ideas:
Thinking is not a substitute for lived experience. The idea of being a mother, combat veteran, a disciple of a spiritual teacher – pick any experience you don’t have – and having the idea about it is not the same as having lived it. And, it is worse than that, many of the experiences we do have, we’ve replaced the experience with thoughts, so we are alienating ourselves from our own lived experience, at practically every moment.
The substitution of our ideas for our lived experience is the source of our suffering. The idea of self, preferences and aversions for certain experiences, etc., all work to alienate us from our actual experience. The way to counteract this effect is by the three trainings: morality, concentration, and wisdom.
Morality is everything we do in the ordinary world that requires judgment and planning. Concentration is the ability to settle your mind on what you wish. Wisdom comes from focusing our attention on our lived experience to the point that we see it clearly, not through abstractions. Through these three trainings, we can improve our receptiveness, our focus and these will lead to a fundamental realization of what’s real and what is mind-made.
The unreal has three characteristics: impermanence, dissatisfactoriness, and no-self. Everything is impermanent. If nothing is permanent, then the person at birth is not the same as the person you are now. This is equally true, no matter how thinly you slice time. The person you were a nanosecond ago is not the same person you are right now. It is our desire to reject that reality for permanence, of condition and of self, that gives rise to dissatisfaction.
Drop to the level of sensations. The only thing that is real is what you are experiencing in this moment, and even then, by the time it registers, it is over. Everything is a phantom – memories of the past, plans for the future, ideas about the present and even sensate experience is over before we realize it. This is why it is difficult to understand what is real.
On the path to understanding the real, there are five spiritual faculties to cultivate: faith, wisdom, energy, concentration and mindfulness. The first four can be thought of as wheels on the bullock cart with mindfulness as the driver. Balance faith/wisdom and energy/concentration. Then, strengthen and balance them again.
Awakening is achieved through seven factors: mindfulness, investigation, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. The hindrances are sensory desire, ill-will/malice, sloth/turpor, restlessness/worry and doubt. Finding the right balance between focus and ease is the secret to a good life.
What makes it good? We are able to access peace and happiness by turning our minds to them. By renouncing certain aspects of life, we cut off sources of suffering. Just knowing that it is possible, right here in this life, right now, to be free of suffering is a huge relief.
These are the Four Noble Truths. You’re going to be dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction has a cause. It can end, and we have a method to end it. No need for heaven, secret teachings or being a saint. All you need to do is follow the instructions. If four is too much, all you need is one idea. Suffering can end.
There are people walking around right now that are enlightened. It wasn’t just back in Buddha’s day. You may know a person who is enlightened. If you don’t, perhaps you could. How?
Buddhists talk about the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Morality: right speech, right action, right livelihoo
- Concentration: right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration
- Wisdom: right view, right intention
If you want to make quick progress, then:
- Do lots of practice in daily life
- Go on more and longer retreats
- Consistently concentrate and develop the ability to investigate quickly and precisely
- Pay attention more often in their daily activities
- Be morally together
The best time to meditate is any time you can, preferably right now. With strong enough concentration, our whole inner landscape becomes subject to our control.