Dhamma Contemplations

As part of the Sangha experience, at least one week out of the month instead of having a Dhamma talk, we take the opportunity to break into small groups to contemplate the Buddhadhamma, connect on a more personal level with one other, and share our lived experience. Not only does this allow us to discuss the Dhamma in every day life but it also offers the opportunity to build our Sangha community more intimately. Below are some of the contemplations that have been discussed.

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.

“He abused me, attached me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those carrying on like this,
Hatred does not end.

“She abused me, attached me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those not carrying on like this,
Hatred ends.

Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.

Many do not realize that
We here must die.
For those who realize this,
Quarrels end.

Whoever lives
Focused on the pleasant,
Senses unguarded,
Immoderate with food,
Lazy and sluggish
Will be overpowered by Mara,
As a week tree is bent in the wind.

Whoever lives
Focused on the unpleasant,
Senses guarded,
Moderate with food,
Faithful and diligent,
Will not be overpowered by Mara,
As a stone mountain is unmoved by the wind.

Whoever is defiled
And devoid of self-control and truth,
Yet wears the saffron robe,
Is unworthy of the saffron robe.

Whoever has purged the defilements,
Is self-controlled, truthful,
And well established in virtue,
Is worthy of the saffron robe.

Those who consider the inessential to be essential
And see the essential as inessential
Don’t reach the essential,
Living in the field of wrong intention.

Those who know the essential to be essential
And the inessential as inessential
Reach the essential,
Living in the field of right intention.

As rain penetrates
An ill-thatched house,
So lust penetrates
An uncultivated mind

As rain des not penetrate
A well-thatched house,
So lust does not penetrate
A well-cultivated mind.

One who does evil grieves in this life,
Grieves in the next,
Grieves in both worlds.
Seeing one’s own defiled acts brings grief and affliction.

One who makes merit rejoice in this life,
Rejoices in the next,
Rejoices in both worlds.
Seeing one’s own pure acts brings joy and delight.

One who des evil is tormented in this life,
Tormented in the next,
Is tormented in both worlds.
Here he is tormented knowing, “I have done evil.”
Reborn in realms of woe, he is tormented all the more.

One who makes merit is delighted in this life,
Delighted in the next,
Is delighted in both worlds.
Here she is delighted, knowing, “I have made merit.”
Reborn in realms of bliss, she delights all the more.

One who recited many teachings
But, being negligent, doesn’t act accordingly,
Like a cowherd counting others’ cows,
Does not attain the benefits of the contemplative life.

One who recites but a few teachings
Yet lives according to the Dharma,
Abandoning passion, ill will, and delusion,
Aware and with mind well freed,
Not clinging in this life or the next,
Attains the benefits of the contemplative life. 

Below is the list of aramis. The invitation is to reflect on a few specific paramis and
contemplate them using, if you’d like, some of the below queries in a way that
works best for you (writing, drawing, meditation, etc.). You might choose to start
by circling a few that may tend to feel more “easy” recently and underlining a few
that may seem more challenging.

Generosity * Ethical Integrity * Renunciation/Letting Go * Wisdom * Wise
Effort/Energy * Patience * Truthfulness * Resolve/Determination * Loving-
Kindness * Equanimity

• What is my experience contemplating this parami right now? (Physical
sensations, mood, thoughts, energy level, etc.)
• When is this parami easier to practice/contemplate?
• When is this parami harder or more challenging to practice/contemplate?
• What questions am I holding about this parami right now?
• What intentions or aspirations do I have related to an individual parami or
the paramis as a whole?

It can be very useful to practice cultivating generosity. Instead of waiting until the impulse rises to be generous, we can actually look for ways and opportunities to share our time, attention, effort, skill, and material means with others. In addition, we can notice what happens when there is an opportunity to be generous, but we encounter barriers to letting go. We turn toward our experience and toward our feelings to explore, what is this? If we are willing to continue the exploration with a gentle and accepting heart, we may begin to understand certain core beliefs that operate within us as well as karmic patterns pertaining to letting go. As we know these barriers and patterns, we can choose to let go, to be and act differently.

It can also be useful during meditation to contemplate generosity. To let the feelings and intentions to be generous penetrate our heart and mind. The following are examples of phrases that can be spoken silently to ourselves, slowly and repetitively.

1. It is a great gain for me to give, giving frees my heart and mind

2. I choose to give freely, to connect with others, and to delight in letting go

3. I rejoice in giving and sharing 

1. Reflect on your experience of resting in awareness of the relaxed body. What did you notice about this experience?

2. What did you notice occurring in the body as you shifted your mind to a time of difficulty?

3. Can you speak to the mind-body connection you experienced?

4. As you shifted your awareness from the mental aspects of the difficult situation to the body sensations and you began to turn toward the body, what happened in the body? What happened in the mind? How did staying with the body sensations impact the overall experience? 

When, friends, a Noble disciple understands clinging, the origin of clinging, the cessation of clinging, and the way leading to the cessation of clinging, in that way he is one of right view and has arrived at this true Dhamma.  And, what is clinging, what is the origin of clinging, what is the cessation of clinging,what is the way leading to the cessation of clinging? There are these four kinds of clinging: clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self. With the arising of craving there is the arising of clinging. With the cessation of craving there is the cessation of clinging. The way leading to the cessation of clinging is just this noble eight fold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, write effort, Right mindfulness, and right concentration. When a Noble disciple has thus understood clinging, the origin of clinging, the cessation of clinging, and the way leading to the cessation of clinging... He here and now makes an end of suffering. In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view... And has arrived at this true dhamma. (MN 9: Sammaditthi Sutta, 46-55)


1. Can you make the connection between the arising of feeling tone (vedana) leading to craving and without mindfulness instantly ending in clinging?

2. Sensual Pleasures: Can you think of a recent time when you found yourself clinging to a pleasurable moment? Think about experience arising through the 6 sense doors (ears, eyes, nose, mouth, body, and mind). Examples to stimulate your thinking are a moment with your child, an excellent meal, a great conversation, a captivating book or movie, the weekend of no work, or a good night sleep.

3. Take a moment here and remember the situation? Can you see where there was first the arising of feeling and then the craving or desire for the experience to be a certain way and then the clinging (holding on tight)?

4. Views and opinions: Can you think of a recent time when you found yourself clinging to a view or an opinion? Think about how the experience unfolded. What were the consequences internally and/or interpersonally of holding on to the view or opinion? If you believe that your view or opinion is “right” or “true” what makes you so sure? Is there any room to loosen the attachment or even let go and let be?

5. Rules and observances: Have you ever found yourself believing that the trappings of the spiritual life is what gives meaning to life and brings peace ofmind (e.g if you wear the correct bracelet, wear the right t-shirt with the perfect spiritual saying, light the right incense, have the perfect statue, recitethe correct mantra etc.)? If you are living the noble eightfold path, what do you know about what actually brings peace of mind and heart? It might be helpful to go through the 8 factors to refresh and enjoy remembering what brings you peace.

6. The doctrine of self: On the more mundane level, we play many roles (formal and informal) in this life (mother, father, teacher, artist,...smart one, kind one, funny one, creative one, adventurous one, etc). and we tell ourselves many stories of who we are, as if we are this solid, never changing, static being. Reflect on the ways that you own these views of self, ways that you cling to, ways that you need to be seen by others, ways that this version of self needs validation. Remember this is a human tendency. Please let any shame or embarrassment go. The beauty of this reflection is that if we can look clearly at these ways we cling to this sense of “I am”, we also have an opportunity to flex, to loosen, and even to let go of these restraints.

“Monks, when the uninstructed worldling experiences a painful feeling, he sorrows, grieves, and laments; he weeps, beating his breast and becomes distraught. He has two feelings-a bodily one and a mental one. Suppose theywere to strike a man with a dart, and then strike him immediately with a second dart, so that a man would feel a feeling caused by two darts. So too, when an unobstructed worldling experiences a painful feeling, he has two feelings-a bodily one and a mental one.

“While experiencing that same painful feeling, he harbors aversion toward it. When he harbors aversion toward painful feeling, the underlying tendency to aversion toward painful feeling lies behind this. While experiencing painful feeling, he seeks delight in sensual pleasure. For what reason? Because the uninstructed wordling does not know of any escape from painful feeling other than sensual pleasure. When he seeks delight in sensual pleasure, the underlying tendency toward lust for pleasant feeling, lies behind this. He does not understand as it really is the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of these feelings. When he does not understand these things, the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling lies behind this.

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. If he feels a painful feeling, he feels it attached. If he feels a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. This monks, is called an uninstructed worldling who is attached to birth, aging, and death; who is attached to sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair; who is attached to suffering, I say.

“Monks, when the instructed noble disciple experiences a painful feeling, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament; he does not weep, beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling-a bodily one, not a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, but they would not strike him immediately afterward with another dart, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by one dart only. So, too, when the instructed noble disciple experiences a painful feeling, he feels one feeling-a bodily one,not a mental one.

“While experiencing that same painful feeling, he harbors no aversion toward it. Since he harbors no aversion toward painful feeling, the underlyingtendency toward aversion to painful feeling does not lie behind this. While experiencing painful feelings, he does not seek delight in sensual pleasures. For what reason? Because the instructed Noble disciple knows of an escape from painful feelings other than sensual pleasure. Since he does not seek delight in sensual pleasure, the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling does not live behind this. He understands as it really is the origin and the passing away, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case ofthese feelings. Since he understands these things, the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither painful nor pleasant feeling does not lay behind this.

“If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. If he feels a painful feeling, he feels it detached. If he feels neither painful nor pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. This, monks, is called a Noble disciple who is detached from birth, aging, and death; who is detached from sorrow, lamentation, pain, the injection, and despair; who is detached from suffering, I say. This, monks, is that distinction, the disparity, the difference between the instructed Noble disciple and the uninstructed worldling”.

(SN 36:6, IV 207-210

Contemplating Gratification, Danger, and Escape - Some Questions
The Pleasant

1. Contemplate all the ways that you experience the joys and pleasures inlife (e.g. through the sense doors of the ears, eyes, tongue/mouth, nose, body, and mind). Share with each other some examples of the many joys and pleasures in life that arrive through our sense doors.

2. Can you think of a recent time in which you were able to experience pleasantness as it arose without grasping and clinging and without lamenting it’s ending?

3. What were the consequences of letting the flow of life happen without control, resistance, or resentment?

4. In what ways do you get hooked into the sensual pleasures in life and find yourself grasping and clinging, resentful that you cannot make them last?

5. Have you noticed that the more you have ( material possessions, popularity, a higher standing or reputation in your community, etc) the more time you spend thinking about how to hold on to it, how to keep it, how to prevent others from taking it?


The Unpleasant

6. What is your experience of allowing a painful experience to be simply a painful experience-one experienced in the body, without adding a mental component/reaction?

7. What happens when you do not immediately become resentful, angry, irritated, or push away from an experience you find unpleasant or evenpainful?

8. What happens when you experience a painful moment in life and you do push away, wish it to go away, try and fight or run away?

9. Do you ever find yourself experiencing an unpleasant moment and seeking pleasure to fix the situation?  Examples?  The Neutral

10.When we are caught up in the grips of pleasantness and unpleasantness, we lose touch with the vastness of the moment (the world). Ignorance is reinforced and wise view is momentarily lost. What is meant by this statement? Contemplate this.

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