What drives our Decisions?

Every moment we are making decisions, large and small, which create our reality and can change the world. However, when we become more aware of the subtle forces of Greed, Aversion, and Delusion in our day-to-day experience, we may find that they are the driving forces behind all our decisions. Can we learn to act instead when these poisons are not present? Payton guided the Sangha this week in exploring this question based on a recent retreat with Carol Wilson, Mark Nunberg, and Alexis Santos.

The practice of vipassana, as I understand it, is: develop continuous, non-preferential awareness of the six sense doors. Use the least effort possible, by simply directing the awareness to the sense doors. Investigate the gross and subtle forces of clinging and aversion that motivate where the mind goes in response to the sense doors. Gain evidence that acting from these states leads to more unsatisfactoriness. Then begin to notice when clinging and aversion are not present, and learn to act from this state. Gain evidence that action from this state leads to happiness.


The following are quotes from the freely available book, Dhamma Everywhere, by Ashin Tejaniya

Do you know that you have a mind? How do you know that you have a mind? You can see or observe the mind through its workings/functions e.g. knowing, thinking, experiencing, feeling, wanting, focusing, etc. Now, put your hands together and look at your clasped hands. You know that your hands are touching, right? How do you know this touching sensation? What is the mind doing that you are able to know this? You know because the mind is aware and paying attention to it now. (p. 16)

Do you know that the mind is paying attention and aware? Would you know that your hands were touching if your mind was thinking about something else? No. So you can see that it is not merely because your hands are touching that you know but because the mind is paying attention and awareness is a quality that is a part of this attention that you know they are touching. (p. 16)

Can you shift your attention from your palms to your feet? You can, right? This shift in attention is actually the mind at work. It is the mind paying attention. If you know that you are paying attention, then you are aware of the mind. There is no need to go searching for the mind, as everyone more or less knows it. (p. 16)

We need right view … we also need inquiry and dhamma investigation, which is the investigation of phenomena and reflection on how we are observing or practicing, while we are practicing. The emphasis is on the need for wisdom along with the awareness… (p.18)

When we practice with wanting or expectations, we are meditating with greed. When we practice with dissatisfaction and discontent, we are meditating with aversion. When we practice without having a real understanding of what we are doing, we are meditating with delusion. (p. 19)

When we are focused on an object, we can’t see the workings of the mind. … we no longer see the mind, what it’s doing, or how it’s operating. … in mindfulness meditation, we don’t need to cultivate or work on objects or what we observe. We can and will need to develop how we observe. We do this first by noticing or acknowledging how the mind is already observing. Is it agitated or calm? Is there some kind of wisdom present? … You don’t need to try to change how the mind is observing. You want to take note of how it is observing and the corresponding effects of observing in that way. (p. 22)

Start with an awareness of any object. As you maintain awareness, keep checking the mind. What is the mind aware of? When it is aware, is the mind at ease or not? Is it relaxed? What is the attitude in the mind? Keep checking. (p. 24)

In vipassana, the eyes are one sense door and the ears are another sense door. Can you become aware with any object? Can you start with sounds? Do you have to go looking for sounds? Aren’t they always there? You can know that there is sound. Take whatever object is available. There’s no need to look for very subtle objects. (p. 25)

Many yogis have this idea that their meditation begins when they hear the bell. That’s not so! The bell is only there to remind you. The right time to practice is from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night. (p. 27)

How much effort do you need to know seeing, hearing, heat, cold, touching, or tiredness? Do you need to focus to know any of these? Is that tiring or difficult? See how easy observing is? … Trying to find the object you want requires energy. (p. 29)

There are three kinds of wisdom: … Sutamaya pañña is information you get from reading, from listening to Dhamma discourses, or from discussions with teachers. Cintamaya pañña is intelligence or knowledge acquired through thinking, reasoning, or intellectual analysis. Bhavanamaya pañña is insight or wisdom gained through direct experience. (p. 30)

Craving will surely arise when choosing one object over another. Aversion comes in when you don’t find the object of your choice. Believing that an object is “good” is really delusion at work! … You are not trying to change anything that is happening but working to strengthen and improve the mind… (p. 33)

Understanding that something is not beneficial is very different from thinking or judging that something is “not good”. If the mind labels something as “good”, there is craving already. With any object that arises, delusion is already on the scene. Delusion conceals an object’s natural characteristics … and labels it as “good” or “bad”. Lobha or dosa then do their work of grasping or rejecting. … Meditation is the recognition of gross and subtle forms of craving, aversion, and delusion, and all their relatives that are present in the mind while it is observing objects. (p. 34)

Because we want to learn about the nature of the mind and objects, we don’t try to calm the mind down or try to remove objects. We don’t want to interfere or control but observe, because we want to understand the mind and objects in their natural state, as they are happening. This is right view. As such, we also don’t try to remove aversion when it arises. We are not trying to get rid of aversion. As soon as we try to push aversion away, there is more aversion. (p. 35)

Sati means not to forget. Sati means to remember. … To be aware doesn’t mean we create awareness out of what was absent before. Sati is about not forgetting – sati is not energetic focusing. (p. 37)

It is the nature of the mind to take as an object what it thinks about. Doesn’t the mind go directly to your hand if you think about what is happening at your hand? If you ask, “What is happening on my head,” the mind is immediately at your head. How much focusing do you need for that? (p. 39)

It is samma-ditthi if you observe these objects of the mind and body as nature instead of as “me” or “mine”. … Take heat as heat, not that you feel hot. Everyone feels heat and cold and everyone experiences feelings. … Anger grows when you take possession of the anger with, “This is my anger.” When people are sad and they say, “I’m depressed, I’m feeling down,” then they really get depressed. Why is that? It’s because their attitude and ideas have assumed the sadness as their sadness. If you consider sadness as just one aspect of the nature of mind, then you’d feel much better. It’s the mind that’s sad, not my mind that’s sad. It’s not, “I want, I’m not satisfied.” It’s the mind that is angry or wanting. (p. 52)

When you look at your thoughts, don’t get swept away by the story. It is enough if you are aware that thoughts are happening. … Just acknowledge whenever thoughts happen, check the bodily sensations, and alternate between the mind and the body. (p. 57)

That’s how you need to meditate, with interest and inquiry every time defilements arise. When you are ready, the lesson will come and you will understand fully. … I used to watch feelings until they calmed or died down. Of course, the mind would calm down eventually. Why? The mind can effectively calm down if it looks directly at something without being able to think about anything else. But no wisdom or understanding arose. (p. 63)

The role of awareness is just gathering data. … The answer will come when the data set is complete. It can’t arise when there is still some missing data. However, you do raise the level of interest and curiosity in the mind by posing some questions. The solution will eventually come to you when you have enough data for the problem at hand. (p. 65)

We don’t want this doing, forceful effort that uses a lot of energy all at once, only to slack off when we are tired. When we get some energy back, we may recover from our drowsiness and start to be aware once again. It’s impossible to develop continuity of awareness in this random way. (p. 104)

Talk by Carol Wilson

Sayadaw U Tejaniya talk