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Develop insight

Yeshe Norbu
Foundations of SELFLESSNESS

Understand yourself and others

Transform dissatisfaction to happiness

 

This module is designed to provide a clear framework for the practice of applying mindfulness to gain insights into ourselves & the world of our experience. In Buddhism this is often referred to as vipashyana practice. Here the word ‘selflessness’ is used as a generic term encompassing all insights into reality.

Recommended reading:

  • Minding Closely by Alan Wallace
  • How to See Yourself as You Really Are by The Dalai Lama

The Eight Sessions

  1. Change – Body
  2. Change – Mind
  3. Dissatisfaction
  4. No Self
  5. Emptiness
  6. Potential – Mere ‘I’
  7. Potential – Mind
  8. Selflessness in Daily Life

The Buddhist assertion is that it is our distorted view of reality that is the underlying source of our mental afflictions and suffering. In this module we will be investigating four common distorted views that tend to pervade our life. The four distorted views are:

  1. changing as unchanging
  2. pleasure as happiness
  3. no self as self
  4. dependent as independent

And in the process we will explore how to overcome them through gaining four insights. The four insights are:

  1. impermanence (session 1 & 2)
  2. suffering (session 3)
  3. no self (session 4)
  4. emptiness (session 5, 6 & 7)

Finally in the last session we will look at how to integrate these insights into daily life.

Session 1: Change – Body  (Minding Closely  p.113 – 132)

We think we suffer because things change but in fact we suffer because we don’t accept the law of change.

Of course we all intellectually understand that everything we experience is constantly changing. However our behaviour is not driven by our intellectual understanding. It is driven by our instinctive habits. In this particular case instinctively seeing things around us as not really changing from one moment to the next. If we want to change those instinctive habits we need to bring our intellectual understanding into experience through vipashyana practice.

In this first session we will do this by focussing on the body. Coming to experientially see that the body is constantly changing. And thus coming to see that the world we experience is a constant flow of change.

And by so doing we can be more experientially in harmony with the flow of life and use it to our advantage to improve our lives instead fighting against that flow of life and thereby inducing mental afflictions and suffering.

Session 2: Change – Mind  (Minding Closely  p.175 – 186)

In this second session we will focus on the mind.  Coming to experientially see that the mind is constantly changing.  And thus coming to see that we, the experiencer of the world, are a constant flow of change.

And by so doing we can be more experientially in harmony with the flow of life and use it to our advantage to improve our lives instead fighting against that flow of life and thereby inducing mental afflictions and suffering.

Session 3: Dissatisfaction  (Minding Closely  p.65 – 66 & p.141 – 144)

We tend to believe that the source of our happiness is out there in the external world and as a result one of the main methods we use to try to find happiness is that we try to manipulate the things around us. We try to attract people, places and things that seem to be the source of our happiness.

However no matter how hard we try to get those things we still seem to encounter suffering and we’re still chasing after that elusive happiness. And even if we get the things we want they never really fully satisfy us and hence remain stuck in this state of dissatisfaction.

In this session we will introduce a simple practice that can help us to realize that there is no genuine happiness to be found out there in the world. And as a result come to realize that the real underlying source of happiness is to be found within our own mind.

Session 4: No Self  (Minding Closely  p.67 & p.128 – 130)

Does a self exist or not?

The short answer is that it depends on how we define the word ‘self’.

In this session we will be looking at a number of different ways we conceive the self. And in the process focus in particular on our sense of being an ‘autonomous self’.

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for this autonomous self that seems to be here. Also discussing some of the most common ways in which we tend to go astray in this practice.

Session 5: Emptiness  (Minding Closely  p.275 – 287 & How to See Yourself as You Really Are)

Is there an independent objective world out there? Is there an independent subjective me here?

We will begin this session by briefly presenting the view of emptiness. The view that nothing exists independently, that everything is a dependent-arising. And in particular how we grasp onto the ‘me’ seeing ourselves as completely independent of the world that we experience.

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for this independent me.

Session 6: Potential – Mere ‘I’  (same as session 5)

If there is no ‘me’ to be found does that mean that we don’t exist at all?

In this session we present in more detail the flipside of emptiness – the view of dependent-arising. And come to see that like everything else we exist depending on other factors, in particular as something merely labelled on the basis of the body & mind.

We will once again engage in the vipashyana practice of looking for the independent me, this time also placing some emphasis on dependent-arising.

And through understanding that emptiness and dependent-arising are like two sides of a coin how we can avoid the two extremes of existence and non-existence.

Session 7: Potential – Mind  (Minding Closely  p.288 – 301)

If there is no independent object world and the world exists in dependence on our mind does that mean that the mind is the only ‘real’ thing and everything else is like an illusion?

In this session we turn our attention to the mind. How does the mind exist? What is the nature of the mind?

We will first begin be defining the mind and what we mean by the nature of mind.

We will then engage in a simple nature of mind practice looking directly at our own mind to come to realize how the mind exists.

Session 8: Selflessness in Daily Life  (same as session 5)

How can we bring these insights into daily life? In particular how to bring the insight into emptiness into daily life.

We will begin by first explaining the process of how grasping onto an independent me and an independent objective world is the underlying source of our mental afflictions and suffering. How through this grasping we turn lines and boundaries and then briefly present both short-term and long-term strategies to help reduce and finally eliminate this grasping.

We will then engage in the vipashyana practice of seeing everything as like an illusion.

 

 

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