Author Topic: Question about the way of "noting" the present moment. ( sati, mindfulness )  (Read 263 times)

testuser

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Hello everyone , can someone clarify this confusion about the way of "noting" the present moment since English is not my native language and have to "note" phenomena in different language which have different words for the two meanings I will specify next. In the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition the instruction is when standing to note "standing". My qustion is with what meaning: 1.What is called when a person is upright and not moving? (It is called) standing. (as a neutral vague description) or 2.What are you doing? - (I am) standing. (as an specific action that is done by a someone/subject) ? Lifting as : This is lifting , or I am lifting, Moving as: This is moving ,or I am moving. I am asking because I don't understand Pali and all english translations on the Accesstoinsight site on  Mindfulness like Satipatthana Sutta, Anapanasati Sutta, Kayagata-sati Sutta all state to be noting as of meaning "I am breathing in" ,"I am standing" ,"I am walking" and not as meaning "this is breathing in" ,"this is standing" ,"this is walking" ?

Kathaṃ ca pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati?

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu araññagato vā rukkhamūlagato vā suññāgāragato vā nisīdati pallaṅkaṃ ābhujitvā, ujuṃ kāyaṃ paṇidhāya, parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā. So sato va assasati, sato va passasati. Dīghaṃ vā assasanto ‘dīghaṃ assasāmī’ ti pajānāti,5 dīghaṃ vā passasanto ‘dīghaṃ passasāmī’ ti pajānāti. Rassaṃ vā assasanto ‘rassaṃ assasāmī’ ti pajānāti, rassaṃ vā passasanto ‘rassaṃ passasāmī’ ti pajānāti. ‘Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmī’ ti sikkhati, ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmī’ ti sikkhati. ‘Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmī’ ti sikkhati, ‘passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ ti sikkhati.


For example here the english translation is :

And how, monks, does a monk dwell observing body in body?

Here a monk, having gone into the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty room, sits down cross-legged, keeps his body upright and fixes his awareness in the area around the mouth. With this awareness, he breathes in, with this awareness, he breathes out. Breathing in a deep breath, he understands properly:5 "I am breathing in a deep breath." Breathing out a deep breath, he understands properly: "I am breathing out a deep breath." Breathing in a shallow breath, he understands properly: "I am breathing in a shallow breath." Breathing out a shallow breath, he understands properly: "I am breathing out a shallow breath." In this way he trains himself: "Feeling the whole body, I shall breathe in." "Feeling the whole body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "With the bodily activities calmed, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "With the bodily activities calmed, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself.


Is there an specific word in the pali verse for the "I am" part (self view) or is the translation not exactly correct in transmiting the meaning and should be "He knows there is breathing in a deep breath"?
Thank you in advance and all the best.

Middleway

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Hello testuser,

The noting is always from the observer/subject standpoint. When you are standing, you note that you are standing. When you are thinking, you note that you are thinking and so on with all your senses. It does not apply to external objects or people and what they are doing. If you notice a person standing , you note it as seeing (from your perspective) and not as standing because it does not apply to you.

This exercise is meant for eradicating thought trains. For example, if I hear a sound, then I recognize that it is a dog barking, then another thought may arise that this stupid dog always disturbs my meditation etc. This is how our “ normal” mind takes us for a ride. Instead, upon hearing the sound, if we simply note as hearing, then no further chance for intellect to arise to re-cognize that sound as dog, and then complaining about the stupid dog etc.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Middleway

« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 02:39:43 AM by Middleway »
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Laurent

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Hello testuser,

The noting is always from the observer/subject standpoint. When you are standing, you note that you are standing. When you are thinking, you note that you are thinking and so on with all your senses. It does not apply to external objects or people and what they are doing. If you notice a person standing , you note it as seeing (from your perspective) and not as standing because it does not apply to you.

This exercise is meant for eradicating thought trains. For example, if I hear a sound, then I recognize that it is a dog barking, then another thought may arise that this stupid dog always disturbs my meditation etc. This is how our “ normal” mind takes us for a ride. Instead, upon hearing the sound, if we simply note as hearing, then no further chance for intellect to arise to re-cognize that sound as dog, and then complaining about the stupid dog etc.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Middleway

Excellent !

testuser

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Thanks Middleway,

 If you notice a person standing , you note it as seeing (from your perspective)

But there are two ways to note it as seeing that both seems to be from the observer perspective but one depicts a self and the other doesn't (non-self) :

Subjective: (I am) seeing.
and
Objective: There is seeing. (that have arisen)

And it should be the word having the subjective (self) meaning rather than objective(non-self) descriptionari meaning.
I am really wondering because the second objective meaning would fit exactly into the Buddha's teaching on the three characteristics: impermanence ,unsatisfactoriness and non-self ?



Middleway

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Thanks Middleway,

 If you notice a person standing , you note it as seeing (from your perspective)

But there are two ways to note it as seeing that both seems to be from the observer perspective but one depicts a self and the other doesn't (non-self) :

Subjective: (I am) seeing.
and
Objective: There is seeing. (that have arisen)

And it should be the word having the subjective (self) meaning rather than objective(non-self) descriptionari meaning.
I am really wondering because the second objective meaning would fit exactly into the Buddha's teaching on the three characteristics: impermanence ,unsatisfactoriness and non-self ?

I suggest you should go by your experience. What is your experience? are you seeing or there is seeing? There will just be seeing if you are no more. Are you no more? if so, you would not be asking this question, right?  For example, you see a bird on a tree. What does that mean? Doesn't it automatically mean that bird is "over there" and you are "here"? This is how the mind works. It constantly divides itself into duality because of the very strong identification with body-mind.

For practicing this technique, just note as "(i am) seeing" and not as there is seeing. You can drop the "I am" part because it is implicit in your experience anyway (that you are seeing).


Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

testuser

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Thank you,

does the same apply with regards to the states of mind. For example if I feel happy would the more appropriate mental noting be with a noun or an adjective meaning? He knows there is "happiness(noun- not self)" that has arrisen -impersonal/non-self, abstract of subject  or with adjective meaning: He knows he is "happy(adjective -self) as an adjective with meaning (there is someone who is) happy implying one(self). Sorry if this is not making much sense , wish I knew pali.

Middleway

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Thank you,

does the same apply with regards to the states of mind. For example if I feel happy would the more appropriate mental noting be with a noun or an adjective meaning? He knows there is "happiness(noun- not self)" that has arrisen -impersonal/non-self, abstract of subject  or with adjective meaning: He knows he is "happy(adjective -self) as an adjective with meaning (there is someone who is) happy implying one(self). Sorry if this is not making much sense , wish I knew pali.

Yes, all noting is from your "self" point of view. However, it does not matter whether you note as "happy" or "happiness". As I said earlier, when you use either of these words for noting purposes, they still implicitly mean it is you who are experiencing that feeling.

The non-self does not apply to us since we are still strongly identified with body-mind. For Buddha, the "self" is no more. Therefore, for him it would be seeing, hearing, happiness etc. For him these are just events in space-time and not in any way personal.

This noting exercise is a very good technique to:

1. Develop and strengthen mindfulness. This is because you are constantly watching your mind and noting what is going on within and without (you) from moment to moment. This will help you eventually note the gaps between thoughts and feelings. As you practice, those gaps become longer because your mind will have less and less thought trains. This is how you will eventually still your mind.

2. To go beyond (i.e transcend) names and forms. Each time when you note (as in my previous example of a person is standing versus seeing), you are suspending your intellect and preventing it from arising. For example, you see a form and your intellect re-cognizes it as a tree. When you note this as seeing, you are transcending the name and form (of the tree). So, essentially you are going from verbal to non-verbal way of experiencing the world around you. I.e seeing exactly "as it is".

With regards to learning Pali, it is never too late to learn a new language (or learn to play new instrument). This would keep your mind young. However, I would not recommend learning to understand the suttas because now you are adding more words to your mind's database. If the idea to go non-verbal, this would be going in the wrong direction.

In the Dhamma,

Middleway.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

testuser

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Thank you very much Middleway,
your answers helped a lot.

So if I understand correctly , it is not the word that is most important because words are still concepts but that the mind is focused/placed in the point of sense-contact of the experience / exact "spot" where the sensation/feeling/thought is perceived and kept there as long as it stays(or as long as one can) so there is left just the experience stripped of contamination.

Middleway

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Thank you very much Middleway,
your answers helped a lot.

So if I understand correctly , it is not the word that is most important because words are still concepts but that the mind is focused/placed in the point of sense-contact of the experience / exact "spot" where the sensation/feeling/thought is perceived and kept there as long as it stays(or as long as one can) so there is left just the experience stripped of contamination.

You cannot really point to where the mind is let alone pointing the exact spot of sense-contact in the mind. And keeping mind to focus/stay on one object as long as one can is called "concentration". Noting is not concentration. Noting is a witnessing mental formations/objects as they arise from moment to moment. So, you let the mind move as it wants to and you simply note whatever is arising without any judgement.

On another note, all experience is contaminated (inferred). The only exception is our sense of existence or sense of being.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

testuser

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Many years I have been practising the Mahasi Sayadaw technique.
 But it is begining to seems to me the Buddha's advice was more direct ("When making a long inhalation, I know I am making a long inhalation, When happy ,I know I am happy) rather than the modern Myanmar/Burmese noting technique based on Satipatthana sutta which seems to separate the experience and perceive it as it were autonomous, unrelated to anything else with phrases as "touching, touching, touching" (noun meaning: This/there is touching) ,rather than "touching" (verb meaning: I know I am touching), "lifting, lifting, lifting" (noun meaning: This/there is lifting) ,rather than "lifting" (verb meaning: I know I am lifting), as if each movement or experience is verbalized- as if the lifting ,the touching,the putting down, etc. were something that happened by itself. If there is in the pali an indication of a subject(or the first singular of the verb expressing individual action) then I would incline to thinking that the Myanmar/Burmese noting technique is indeed a later personal addition/interpretation not necessarily transmiting the original meaning of the Satipatthana Sutta etc. Can you confirm these assumptions are correct or are not justifiable in the pali version of the suttas? I just don't want to take anything for granted out of blind faith without thorough investigation? Thank you again ,really wish I knew pali language.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 10:37:37 AM by testuser »

Middleway

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Hi testuser,

Doubt is the biggest hindrance to our progress on the path. Mahasi Sayadaw was a Buddha. It may be just that he was addressing a group of monks at a different level in their practice than Buddha's bikkus.

As I said, the words do not matter much.  It is the quality of our experience and our ability to not get the intellect come in the way and cloud our "direct knowing".  After practicing verbal noting for while, you need to drop the verbal part of the noting anyways.

Again, with regards to Pali, there are millions who know Pali and practice Buddhism. Why aren't they all enlightened? It is their intellect (mind) comes in the way from direct knowing. So, even if you know Pali, I suspect that you would still be in this predicament. Go with your experience and continue your investigation.

Warm regards,

Middleway
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

testuser

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I see. Well that is all. I guess I will just continue practising focusing more on the experience rather than the exact words (which are concepts anyways).
Again appreciate your detailed answers, Be happy and well friend.

mobius

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I have an honest question about these things if anyone could help me understand; Keep in mind, I've only been meditating intermittently for several months. And I have a neurological condition which may make me very abnormal especially in the results of my meditation (and subsequent thought processes on this). I hope my post doesn't sound harsh or argumentative in any way.

This noting exercise is a very good technique to:

1. Develop and strengthen mindfulness. This is because you are constantly watching your mind and noting what is going on within and without (you) from moment to moment. This will help you eventually note the gaps between thoughts and feelings. As you practice, those gaps become longer because your mind will have less and less thought trains. This is how you will eventually still your mind.

2. To go beyond (i.e transcend) names and forms. Each time when you note (as in my previous example of a person is standing versus seeing), you are suspending your intellect and preventing it from arising. For example, you see a form and your intellect re-cognizes it as a tree. When you note this as seeing, you are transcending the name and form (of the tree). So, essentially you are going from verbal to non-verbal way of experiencing the world around you. I.e seeing exactly "as it is".

1.
I understand and agree to an extent on why getting carried away by thoughts is bad for you. But at the same time; can't this also be a good thing? I mean to a certain extent; how else does our mind work? One thought leading to another can remind you of something you forgot; or inspire you to create or do something you wouldn't have otherwise.
If you are not thinking you can enjoy life sure, but sort of in an ignorant way, no? Maybe there's nothing wrong with that. What I mean is you can sit for hours staring at a beautiful view; and being in this state of non-though and be super happy about it. Or you could sit for hours staring at a beautiful view and be thinking about it a lot; going into all the details of everything your looking at and extrapolating that into other thoughts and still be very happy. Is there anything wrong with that? Is one preferable to the other? If so, why?

This is matter which disturbed me when I was meditating often. As I was apparently losing this ability of 'thought train' I didn't feel liberated. I felt like I was literally losing the ability to think at all and it felt sort of empty and depressing. My imagination is part of my joy of life, it's how I create and have fun. I felt I was losing that.

2.
Why exactly is this a good thing? I mean what benefit does it have?
Other than the 'disk de-fragment' like process I can see it having, which is good to have once and a while...
Again I will admit that I believe having too much of a reliance on labels leads to all kinds of terrible things but the opposite to me seems just as bad: I mean if you follow this to it's logical conclusion if you eliminate all label, all discernment of any kind then everything becomes the same and everything is meaningless.
Language is part of our life; it's a tool like any other tool which has helped us survive simple elements to building rocket ships. We know of creatures that have non-verbal ways of experiencing the world: animals. So we as humans knew what that was once, and nothing else.

I've listened to lectures by some Yogi's who claim the intellect is in too much control and there are other parts of the mind that are dormant or inactive in everyone. But I haven't yet heard (or seen in my own experimentation) much in the way of these other modes or parts of mind. I'm not getting at all yet why the intellect is so "bad". It seems to me the rejecting the intellect is going backwards.
"I have seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it has never come to pass" - Mark Twain

"If you learn to laugh at your own stupidity, all your crap will turn into manure very fast. And manure is good for growth." -Sadhguru

Middleway

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Hi Mobius,

I agree with your middleway approach. Yes, we should not be obsessed with trying to silence the mind or let it run wild. We should do what is natural and feels appropriate at that time with complete attention.

Developing mindfulness is useful because it is opposite of forgetfulness. It helps remember and we respond naturally and correctly without “doership” getting involved.
Going beyond names and forms helps us see things “as they are” without judgement. That in fact makes life that we are living more beautiful.

Thinking is important for our day to day affairs, but for being receptive to new ideas and to be creative, silent mind is a prerequisite.

Warms regards,

Middleway
« Last Edit: November 21, 2018, 11:28:58 AM by Middleway »
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.