Cessation of dukkha

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Supramundane
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Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:04 am

One of the main themes of buddhism is cessation: cessation of suffering, of self, of delusion, for instance.

However, it can be argued that cessation of dukkha will only come about by breaking the chain that leads to dukkha, consciousness itself.

(...) Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the ancient path, the ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth... becoming... clinging... craving... feeling... contact... the six sense media... name-&-form... consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

— The Buddha, Nagara Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya ii.124.

In single pointed concentration meditation, we seek to arrest the wandering samsaric thoughts; in insight meditation, we seek to deconstruct mental formations to apprehend their emptiness: two means to the same end.

But isn't it impossible to stop consciousness? Focusing on one object is still a conscious thought. Consciousness does not stop. Or should we not try to stop consciousness but only those conscious thoughts that lead to dukkha?

The theme of "stopping consciousness" also arises in discussions of nirvana. When conscious-engendered dukkha is dispelled, nirvana will take its place.
Is stopping consciousness really possible?

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:25 am

I think that your understanding, that there needs to be some kind of end of of consciousness, is not accurate.
To use an analogy, consciousness is like an ocean. In this ocean, dukkha is like a boat headed in the wrong direction,
the boat representing mind.
You don't have to eliminate the ocean in order to stop the boat from continuing to sail in the wrong direction
although that would certainly work!
Instead, you merely have to redirect the boat itself.

However, you are correct in that, while having perfect awareness,
a Buddha doesn't function with consciousness in the samsaric sense, which is a constant duality
arising in dependence on the perception of self - and - other (Subject and object

Further, there are both the conscious thoughts which lead to dukkha, as you say,
but there are also unconscious habits and automatic patterns of behavior that we aren't really aware of, that also create the causes of suffering.

I'd like to see the source that suggests consciousness itself must cease.
.
.
.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by dolphin_color » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:27 am

The origin of dukkha is clearly explained to be the craving that makes for further becoming, not consciousness. Enlightened beings are conscious.

Trying to "arrest" thoughts is a great way to have a terrible time during meditation. We seek to not let thoughts become an impediment, and with time they fade. Consciousness and thought are not in the same category of the aggregates.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:57 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:25 am
I think that your understanding, that there needs to be some kind of end of of consciousness, is not accurate.
To use an analogy, consciousness is like an ocean. In this ocean, dukkha is like a boat headed in the wrong direction,
the boat representing mind.
You don't have to eliminate the ocean in order to stop the boat from continuing to sail in the wrong direction
although that would certainly work!
Instead, you merely have to redirect the boat itself.

However, you are correct in that, while having perfect awareness,
a Buddha doesn't function with consciousness in the samsaric sense, which is a constant duality
arising in dependence on the perception of self - and - other (Subject and object

Further, there are both the conscious thoughts which lead to dukkha, as you say,
but there are also unconscious habits and automatic patterns of behavior that we aren't really aware of, that also create the causes of suffering.

I'd like to see the source that suggests consciousness itself must cease.
.
.
.
There are many; googling "cessation of consciousness" will yield many hits.

"These are volitional formations, these are the arising of volitional formations and these are the cessation of volitional formations. This is consciousness, this is the arising of consciousness, and this is the cessation of consciousness. In such a way, he/she realizes the nature of dukkha within this fathom high body with consciousness and perception."

https://bhavanasociety.org/article/budd ... nd-insight

If there is suffering then there is cause. The Buddha explained how suffering arises in the cause and effect relationship i.e. causality/paṭiccasamuppāda showing the way of the arising of a whole mass of suffering:

"When this is, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises; that is to say, from ignorance as condition (arises) formations; from formations as condition (arises) consciousness; from consciousness ..... name-and-form, from name-and-form ..... the six sense-spheres; from the six sense-spheres ...... contact; from contact ...... feeling; from feeling .... craving; from craving ..... grasping; from grasping ..... becoming; from becoming ...... birth; from birth as condition arise decay-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Such is the arising of this whole mass of suffering.[3]
The Buddha’s enlightenment was totally dependent on this causality. While He was observing this process sequentially (see diagram below) he understood this is the arising of suffering. In reverse order, cancelling one by one, he realized that this is the cessation of suffering.

http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.co ... Anula_Devi

I agree with you: logically, we cannot stop consciousness; it is tantamount to trying to stop our heart from beating. Impossible.
And yet, there are many sutra references that seem to conclude that every thought leads to dukkha and thus, the only foolproof way to stop dukkha is the cessation of consciousness.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:59 am

dolphin_color wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:27 am
The origin of dukkha is clearly explained to be the craving that makes for further becoming, not consciousness. Enlightened beings are conscious.

Trying to "arrest" thoughts is a great way to have a terrible time during meditation. We seek to not let thoughts become an impediment, and with time they fade. Consciousness and thought are not in the same category of the aggregates.
And yet, where does craving come from? Is it not from stimulation picked up by the conscious mind? We cannot separate craving from consciousness...

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Vasana » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:22 am

If consciousness has to stop.to reach full awakening then the conclusion drawn from that logic is that Shakyamuni Buddha was not conscious for the rest of his life post awakening. See how that doesn't make sense?

Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:59 am
dolphin_color wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:27 am
The origin of dukkha is clearly explained to be the craving that makes for further becoming, not consciousness. Enlightened beings are conscious.

Trying to "arrest" thoughts is a great way to have a terrible time during meditation. We seek to not let thoughts become an impediment, and with time they fade. Consciousness and thought are not in the same category of the aggregates.
And yet, where does craving come from? Is it not from stimulation picked up by the conscious mind? We cannot separate craving from consciousness...
And yet the Buddha was conscious and free of all craving, as were some of his students stil on the path.
His concious mindstream was not cut off from the aggregate of perception.

If you follow the Theravada, then it is really the 4 dhyanis or absorbtions I think you might be interested in within the context of this discussion...and the nature of experience while alive and once the body dies. An arhat reaches cessation and there is no further cause for the 12 links to follow after physical death but conciousness hasn't ceased entirely here; it's movements are virtually non-existent but it's more like a very deep suspended animation according to the Mahayana, where a Buddha rouses them awake to the Bodhichitta of the Mahayana.
ཨོཾ ་ མ ་ ཎི ་ པ ་ དྨེ ་ ཧཱུྃ ། འ ་ ཨ ་ ཧ ་ ཤ ་ ས ་ མ །
Om Mani Peme Hum ། 'A Ah Ha Sha Sa Ma
'When alone, watch your mind,When with others, watch your speech' - Old Kadampa saying

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:47 am

Vasana wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:22 am
If consciousness has to stop.to reach full awakening then the conclusion drawn from that logic is that Shakyamuni Buddha was not conscious for the rest of his life post awakening. See how that doesn't make sense?

Is it possible that conditioned consciouness can be arrested while an 'awareness consciousness' persists?
Perhaps we can distinguish between consciousness of the aggregates and a consciousness which is empty?

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Vasana » Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:02 am

Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:47 am
Vasana wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:22 am
If consciousness has to stop.to reach full awakening then the conclusion drawn from that logic is that Shakyamuni Buddha was not conscious for the rest of his life post awakening. See how that doesn't make sense?

Is it possible that conditioned consciouness can be arrested while an 'awareness consciousness' persists?
Yes. But there's just as much awareness in conditioned conciousness, it's just differentiated in being conditioned by some level of cognitive ignorance or emotional affliction.
Perhaps we can distinguish between consciousness of the aggregates and a consciousness which is empty?
Yes but again the consciousness of the aggregates is technicalfly already empty (it isn't more empty for a Buddha or less for a being) but we just don't really experience it as such unless we have cultivated that meditative recognition and stability.

A Buddha's consciousness aggregate (and the others) arises as wisdom and knowledge (jnana, vidya, rigpa, yeshe), where as a beings conciousness aggregate arises and is conditioned by ignorance (ajnana, avidya, marigpa, namshe)
ཨོཾ ་ མ ་ ཎི ་ པ ་ དྨེ ་ ཧཱུྃ ། འ ་ ཨ ་ ཧ ་ ཤ ་ ས ་ མ །
Om Mani Peme Hum ། 'A Ah Ha Sha Sa Ma
'When alone, watch your mind,When with others, watch your speech' - Old Kadampa saying

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:23 am

Vasana wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:02 am
Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:47 am
Vasana wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:22 am
A Buddha's consciousness aggregate (and the others) arises as wisdom and knowledge (jnana, vidya, rigpa, yeshe), where as a beings conciousness aggregate arises and is conditioned by ignorance (ajnana, avidya, marigpa, namshe)
I believe you are referring to bodhicitta:).

Consciousness without feature,
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, and wind
have no footing.
Here long and short
coarse and fine
fair and foul
name and form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of [the activity of]
consciousness
each is here brought to an end.
(Digha Nikaya 11)

"Just as all phenomena are rooted in desire, consciousness localizes itself through passion. Passion is what creates the "there" on which consciousness can land or get established, whether the "there" is a form, feeling, perception, thought-construct, or a type of consciousness itself. Once consciousness gets established on any of these aggregates, it becomes attached and then proliferates, feeding on everything around it and creating all sorts of havoc. Wherever there's attachment, that's where you get defined as a being. You create an identity there, and in so doing you're limited there. Even if the "there" is an infinite sense of awareness grounding, surrounding, or permeating everything else, it's still limited, for "grounding" and so forth are aspects of place. Wherever there's place, no matter how subtle, passion lies latent, looking for more food to feed on.

If, however, the passion can be removed, there's no more "there" there. One sutta illustrates this with a simile: the sun shining through the eastern wall of a house and landing on the western wall. If the western wall, the ground beneath it, and the waters beneath the ground were all removed, the sunlight wouldn't land. In the same way, if passion for form, etc., could be removed, consciousness would have no "where" to land, and so would become unestablished. This doesn't mean that consciousness would be annihilated, simply that — like the sunlight — it would now have no locality. With no locality, it would no longer be defined.

This is why the consciousness of nirvana is said to be "without surface" (anidassanam), for it doesn't land. Because the consciousness-aggregate covers only consciousness that is near or far, past, present, or future — i.e., in connection with space and time — consciousness without surface is not included in the aggregates. It's not eternal because eternity is a function of time. And because non-local also means undefined, the Buddha insisted that an awakened person — unlike ordinary people — can't be located or defined in any relation to the aggregates in this life; after death, he/she can't be described as existing, not existing, neither, or both, because descriptions can apply only to definable things.

The essential step toward this non-localized, undefined realization is to cut back on the proliferations of consciousness. This first involves contemplating the drawbacks of keeping consciousness trapped in the process of feeding. This contemplation gives urgency to the next steps: bringing the mind to oneness in concentration, gradually refining that oneness, and then dropping it to zero. The drawbacks of feeding are most graphically described in SN 12.63, A Son's Flesh. The process of gradually refining oneness is probably best described in MN 121, The Lesser Discourse on Emptiness, while the drop to zero is best described in the Buddha's famous instructions to Bahiya: "'In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized.' That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

With no here or there or between the two, you obviously can't use the verb "enter" or "reach" to describe this realization, even metaphorically. Maybe we should make the word nirvana into a verb itself: "When there is no you in connection with that, you nirvana." That way we can indicate that unbinding is an action unlike any other, and we can head off any mistaken notion about getting "stuck" in total freedom."

It seems to me that there is some connection being drawn between controlling (or curtailing) consciousness and ending dukkha. I meditate regularly, but never have i felt that i was stopping my consciousness.

Perhaps the key is not to cause a cessation of consciousness but to convert all thoughts that arise to bodhicitta.

Is this not what the Buddha meant when he said, "there are an infinite doors to the dharma: may you experience them all" !

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by dolphin_color » Fri Jan 03, 2020 10:20 am

And yet, where does craving come from? Is it not from stimulation picked up by the conscious mind? We cannot separate craving from consciousness...
Wrong. It's called becoming enlightened!

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by SteRo » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:16 am

Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:04 am
One of the main themes of buddhism is cessation: cessation of suffering, of self, of delusion, for instance.

However, it can be argued that cessation of dukkha will only come about by breaking the chain that leads to dukkha, consciousness itself.
...
Is stopping consciousness really possible?
"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of the six sense media. From the cessation of the six sense media comes the cessation of contact. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. From the cessation of feeling comes the cessation of craving. From the cessation of craving comes the cessation of clinging/sustenance. From the cessation of clinging/sustenance comes the cessation of becoming. From the cessation of becoming comes the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Simon E. » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:22 am

It might be worth observing that this whole discussion is happening within a framework which is sutrayana , or even Theravada.

The Vajrayana consideration of such issues takes its very departure from other sources.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by SteRo » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:56 am

From a Mahayana perspective cessation of dukkha isn't pursued to attain one's private nirvana but it is pursued to attain the capacity of a Buddha which excludes private nirvana. Also in the Mahayana there is a wider variety of skillful means to achieve that goal, one collection of means is subsumed under 'vajrayana' another under 'prajnaparamita' but there are more. Maybe 'cessation of ignorance' is more appropriate in Mahayana since cessation of afflictive ignorance and cessation of cognitive ignorance are the basis of buddhahood.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:51 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:22 am
It might be worth observing that this whole discussion is happening within a framework which is sutrayana , or even Theravada.

The Vajrayana consideration of such issues takes its very departure from other sources.
The framework is the third noble truth.
I believe that includes all Buddhists.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jan 03, 2020 4:25 pm

Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:57 am
There are many; googling "cessation of consciousness" will yield many hits.
"These are volitional formations, these are the arising of volitional formations and these are the cessation of volitional formations. This is consciousness, this is the arising of consciousness, and this is the cessation of consciousness. In such a way, he/she realizes the nature of dukkha within this fathom high body with consciousness and perception."
Oh yes, I see what you are referring to now.
But I think you are maybe mistaking the cessation of consciousness as being some kind of end point.
What the Buddha is saying is that consciousness comes and goes, it fluctuates, it isn't a constant thing.
It arises -- and ceases--with objects of consciousness.
Dukkha occurs because we experience a continuous sense of "me" that ultimately doesn't really exist.
That experience of a continuous "me" results from the illusory experience of a continuous state of consciousness.

Motion picture film has often been used as a good analogy to this.
We watch a movie and what we see is the action on the screen as continuous movement.
But, this is an illusion, because, as you know, a motion picture is really
a series of still images shown in very rapid succession.
The movie film actually stops and starts again in front of the projector lens 24 times a second.

What the Buddha taught was that rather than there being a continuous flow of consciousness, as we experience,
(which is, I think, what you are talking about as stopping),
what we really have is a series of "consciousness moments", each one giving rise to, or causing the next one, like a line up of dominoes falling.
I recall somewhere that the sutras say each moment is something like 1/64th of a second, but I'm not sure where In heard that.

Again, using the analogy of motion pictures, yes, each frame starts and stops. Each moment of consciousness arises and ceases
but the movie itself never ends.
.
.
.
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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by SteRo » Sat Jan 04, 2020 10:39 am

Supramundane wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:51 pm
The framework is the third noble truth.
I believe that includes all Buddhists.
Sure. Since this is the "meditation" forum in the context of the truth of cessation it might be a good idea to get to practice the signless door to liberation.

Arya Vimuktisena comments on the first Aid to Knowledge that Penetrates Ultimate Reality (of Abhisamayalamkara):
In the Mahayana, signlessness is an aspect of two truths-cessation and path. This is based on what [is signless] and why [there are no signs], in the sense [that cessation] is the exclusion of conceptual signs by the path.
...
About the superior objective support and aspect of the [first aid] contemplating the emptiness of the truth of cessation and the truth of the path Subhuti [in the large Prajnaparamita Sutra] says, He does not settle down in the idea that "This stopping should be realized, by him stopping should be realized." "This path should be developed, by him the path should be developed," etc. ... He is saying that here cessation and path are the signless door to liberation
In reality there is nothing that ceases because nothing is born. This approach is very different from the essentialist approach to cessation in the Theravada. However this approach is accessible only if the sphere of experience is of the lineage of Prajnaparamita which however can be developed.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by SteRo » Sat Jan 04, 2020 4:00 pm

"Furthermore, there is the case where a monk might say, 'Although the signless has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken by me as my awareness-release, still my consciousness follows the drift of signs.' He should be told, 'Don't say that. You shouldn't speak in that way. Don't misrepresent the Blessed One, for it's not right to misrepresent the Blessed One, and the Blessed One wouldn't say that. It's impossible, there is no way that — when the signless has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken as an awareness-release — consciousness would follow the drift of signs. That possibility doesn't exist, for this is the escape from all signs: the signless as an awareness-release.'
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

Just note "escape from". Why has there to be an escape? Because signs are taken to be real. But from Prajnaparamita perspective from the outset in reality there are no signs at all to escape from. Prajnaparamita's signless door to liberation is awareness-release, too, but the starting point is reality, which implies there being no awareness to be released. In Theravada the starting point is afflictive ignorance and that's why these two are comparable only from a worldly conventional, i.e. deceptive, perspective.

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:50 am

Thank you all for your comments. Upon reflection, i think my initial topic question was not properly formulated. I believe that although there are allusions in sutras to cultivating emptiness, cessation of conditioned thoughts, etc., there is no explicit instruction to attempt to cease the flow of consciousness in single-pointed meditation. 

For guidance, I looked to a classic Mahayana sutra, King of Samadhi, where i found some pertinent quotes:

“Knowing the nature of phenomena

As having no coming or going,

They have reached the perfection

That is nonconceptual and effortless.” {34}


"The wise know that they are without thought,

Are devoid of thought, and that there is no object. [F.44.a]

They have eliminated without remainder

Every conception of cessation and noncessation. {4}

12.­8

“They do not see the one with ten strengths as form,

But see the lion of men as the dharmakāya.

Neither do they conceive of attributes

Because they have eliminated all error. {5}

12.­9

“The qualities are inconceivable, beyond thought.

They have the nature of complete peace.

With this knowledge they thus see

The buddhas as the supreme among humans. {6}

12.­10

“Just as they know their own conceptions to be,

Thus they direct their understanding of everything.

All phenomena have that nature,

Which is as completely pure as space.541 {7}

12.­11

“Nothing arises to their conceptual mind.

They know emancipation542 from all phenomena.

They are liberated from the three realms

And they have no aspiration for them.543 {8}

12.­12

“They are those who see correctly and do not say

Anything to the contrary or any untrue words.

All the words that they speak

Come forth through the power of the jinas. {9}

12.­13

“They transcend the level of desire,

And the levels of kleśas, form, and formlessness.

Their minds have no attachment to phenomena.

They practice with joy, benefiting beings. {10}

12.­14

“They have transcended the level of words;

Their knowledge of language is obtained from its nature.

For however long they speak

They know those words have no basis. {11}

12.­15

“There is no activity of conceptualization;

Incorrect views have completely ceased.

Their understanding is completely assured.

It has a stability like that of space. {12}

12.­16

“Even though quintillions of māras

Come to disturb their mind,

They overcome all the māras

And do not fall under their power. {13}


In his work entitled Stages of Meditation, the Dalai Lama alludes to striving for a pure "vacuity" in single-pointed meditation when all thoughts are banished which is when familiarity with the consciousness can be gained (p. 89).

The key is thus not curtailing consciousness to bring about cessation of dukkha, but to curtail that which impedes familiarity with consciousness. 

Do you agree with the above? Or do you believe single-pointed meditation has a different purpose? Is it to achieve sukkha? Or to reach enlightenment itself?
Interested as always to hear your thoughts.

Much metta
SM

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by SteRo » Sun Jan 05, 2020 2:07 pm

Supramundane wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:50 am
... explicit instruction to attempt to cease the flow of consciousness in single-pointed meditation. 
What do you consider to be an "explicit instruction"? Sutras never say "first do that, then do this" or the like.

What means "to cease the flow of consciousness in single-pointed meditation"? To avoid being distracted from the object of concentration?

I took your title "Cessation of dukkha" at face value meaning "Cessation of ignorance" which entails "Cessation of formations and consciousness"

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Re: Cessation of dukkha

Post by Supramundane » Mon Jan 06, 2020 3:11 am

Yes, your understanding is correct.

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