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The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong equan

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Been doing some reading, I highly recommend "The Paradox of Becoming" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. In chapter two he discusses the analogy of "the field" in which the field is past and present kamma, i.e. the area in which consciousness (the seed) can be planted, and then fed by craving (the moisture.)

In this part he explains the functioning of craving, sounded a whole lot like the attention wave.

However, this process requires one further element for those seeds to grow:
the moisture of craving, the third factor in the field analogy. At first glance,
craving would not seem to merit a separate function within the field analogy, for
it is a type of present kamma, and as such could be included as part of the field.
However, in the Buddha’s definition of the craving that leads to renewed
becoming, he states that one of the primary functions of craving is as a locator:
choosing a location to relish, around which a state of becoming can form.
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the
craving that makes for renewed becoming—accompanied by passion &
delight, relishing now here & now there ….” — SN 56:11
Thus the moisture of craving is a type of kamma that chooses which seeds,
planted where in the field, will grow. Only the seeds moistened in this way will
develop into states of becoming. In other words, the mental qualities of passion,
delight, and craving select a particular spot in experience to focus on, and in so
doing provide a place for becoming to be produced. This is why discourses such
as Sn 5:2 and Thag 14:2 describe craving as a “seamstress”: It stitches the
elements of becoming together, like a button on a piece of cloth, in a particular
place. The story of flavor-earth illustrates this principle when it describes craving
as “alighting” on the flavor-earth. We should keep in mind, though, that the
notion of place here is not limited to a physical place. It can also denote a mental
event, as when a feeling, perception, or act of consciousness becomes the nucleus
around which a state of becoming can grow.
As we have seen in the analysis of the field, this nucleus can be composed
either of past or present kamma: either the raw materials provided by past
kamma or the activity of present intentions shaping those materials into a
desirable form. When the raw materials from the past are favorable, craving can
focus on trying to extend them and squeeze as much pleasure out of them as
possible. When they are unfavorable, it can focus on trying to destroy them or
convert them into something better. In either case, craving requires a constant
doing, in anticipation of the happiness to which the doing will lead. In using the
word anticipation here, however, it is important to note that, with so much
kamma focused on shaping the present, anticipation means not only a desire for
the future but also a desire to mold a favorable present moment.
This anticipation is often accompanied by delight—either in the prospect of
maintaining a pleasant situation or changing an unfavorable one. And as the
Buddha points out, this delight is equivalent to clinging.
“There is the case where one enjoys, welcomes, & remains fastened.
And what does one enjoy & welcome, to what does one remain fastened?
One enjoys, welcomes, & remains fastened to form. As one enjoys,
welcomes, & remains fastened to form, there arises delight. Any delight in
form is clinging. [Similarly with feeling, perception, fabrications, and
consciousness.]” — SN 22:5 (emphasis added)
This means that the origination of stress, as defined above, is not craving
alone; it is craving plus clinging. When these two qualities land on any of the
aggregates, they produce clinging-aggregates, which form the essence of
suffering and stress in the context of the four noble truths. And because craving
and clinging are the proximate causes of becoming, every state of becoming is
thus permeated—either subtly or blatantly—with stress.
This stress is compounded by the fact that craving and clinging are so
haphazard and erratic. As the standard definition of the origination of stress
notes, they relish “now here, now there.” They can change their focus at any
moment, abandoning the construction of one state of becoming to start work on
a new one.
In terms of the field analogy, the primary reason why craving and clinging
focus on a particular spot in the field is to enjoy the potential happiness they
anticipate that the spot has to offer. However, when the spot is fabricated, it is
tied to other conditions—those on which it depends, and those that depend on it.
Craving and clinging are thus tied to those other conditions as well, whether
they are desirable or not.
For example, a seed may be planted in a lovely spot, but if a drought, flood,
or fire comes through the spot, the resulting plant could easily be killed. Even
when craving and clinging try to avoid this drawback by moving their location
from place to place—this is, in fact, their most common tactic for avoiding pain—
the mind becomes exhausted from its inability to find genuine rest. Often, in rash
desperation to escape an undesirable place, craving and clinging choose another
place without careful consideration, landing in spots that quickly prove
disastrous. And of course the mind is extremely fickle. Having decided that it
likes a particular spot, it can immediately change its mind. This change can come
so quickly that the Buddha—normally a master of the apt analogy—had to admit
that he could not find an adequate analogy for it.
“I don’t envision a single thing that is as quick to reverse itself as the
mind—so much so that there is no satisfactory simile for how quick to
reverse itself it is.” — AN 1:48
Thus the fluid changeability of the moisture of craving adds even more stress
to the stress already inherent in the instability of the field and the seed.
In this way the field analogy shows how elements that are stressful and
conditioned—kamma, consciousness, and craving—combine to form states of
becoming that are inherently stressful and conditioned as well. “Being” is not an
absolute state; it fluctuates as becoming, which in turn is based on unstable
ground and given life by fleeting acts of consciousness and fickle acts of craving
and clinging.


...

the following is an interesting bit about unskillful equanimity

Thus the inherent stress of becoming lies not only in the instability of the
factors on which it depends, but also on the stress and pain involved in those
factors—pain felt not only by the person creating those states of becoming, but
also by any beings who provide nourishment for that person’s physical
existence. Viewed in this way, the two field analogies show why becoming offers
no lasting happiness, and why that happiness is rarely blameless. This means that
becoming, when looked at objectively, is not a desirable process in which to be
engaged. Because these analogies also suggest why renewed becoming is
potentially an infinitely renewable process, they show why anyone looking for
true happiness would want to search for a way to bring becoming to an end.
At the same time, the field analogies indicate why there would be a paradox
inherent in the desire to put an end to becoming: The desire to deprive the seed
of moisture would function as a form of moisture as well.
The Buddha expresses this point in his full description of the origination of
stress:
“And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the
craving that makes for renewed becoming—accompanied by passion &
delight, relishing now here & now there—i.e., craving for sensuality,
craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.” — SN 56:11
Like bhava, “non-becoming”—vibhava—is a term that the Buddha does not
define. It is related to the verb vibhavati, which means to stop becoming, to stop
being, to go out of existence. Iti 49 gives an example of how delight in nonbecoming
would be expressed:
“When this self, at the break-up of the body, after death, perishes & is
destroyed, and does not exist after death, that is peaceful, that is exquisite,
that is sufficiency!”
Thus craving for non-becoming would mean a desire for something already
existing to perish or be destroyed.
In terms of the field analogies, this craving could focus on the destruction of
the ground or the nutriment in the seed. Now, the desire to interact kammically
with these factors in any way is the moisture that nurtures the seed of
kammically active consciousness, thus causing renewed becoming to grow.
When the desire aims at destroying a particular spot in the field, all the elements
for producing becoming are nevertheless in place: the ground of past and
present kamma, the kammically active seed, and the moisture of clinging and
craving. In this case, the clinging and craving are focused in anticipation on
present kamma—as the desire to do whatever is necessary to bring about the
destruction of the field—and thus these factors function as moisture
nevertheless.
MN 106 shows that another form of craving for non-becoming would be the
desire to maintain equanimity in the face of a particular spot in the field, in
anticipation of the peace to be experienced in merely letting it pass. This, too,
contains all the elements needed to produce becoming: The act of trying to
maintain equanimity is present kamma; and the delight in the equanimity itself,
or in anticipation of a higher peace it will lead to, the moisture. The result, while
peaceful, is still a state of becoming.
Because becoming inherently involves suffering, these facts present a
strategic challenge to anyone who wants to bring suffering to an end: how to put
an end to renewed becoming without falling into the trap of craving for subtle
becoming or craving for non-becoming.
However, in addition to pointing to this strategic challenge, the field
analogies also point to a possible solution to that challenge. The ground provided
by past kamma in no way determines that the plants of becoming will have to
grow, or that suffering will have to continue without end. It only opens the
possibility that these events can happen. If, however, present kamma in the form
of the moisture is withheld or allowed to run dry, the potentials offered by the
field and seed will not have to be actualized. For this approach to work, though,
there must be a particular type of becoming that can supply the mind with an
appropriate identity in a particular location where it can develop dispassion for
all types of kamma, clinging, and craving. Once that dispassion has allowed all
other locations of moisture to run dry, it can then turn to allow the moisture
providing its own location to run dry as well. In other words—and this is the
practical corollary to the paradox of becoming—there must be a state of
becoming that can act as a preliminary stage of the path that leads ultimately to
the end of all becoming. The Buddha’s main strategic discovery was to find that
such a state of becoming actually exists, and that—with proper discernment—it
can actually be used to bring suffering to an end.


The rest of the book seems to expand on this last bit, still reading.

Interesting, 3 alternatives

The first of the three alternatives listed in the prose part of this passage— adhering to becoming—is nothing more than the continued desire to engage in the process of becoming, unwilling to heed the Buddha’s warnings of its drawbacks. The second alternative, delighting in non-becoming, is here given its clearest definition in the discourses. It consists of delight in the idea that what is currently becoming will pass away.
The third alternative—seeing things as they have come to be—is best understood by reviewing the approach the mind takes in giving rise to becoming. Delight in becoming focuses on the ground and nutriment for becoming in anticipation of converting them into a sense of self and the world. Delight in non-becoming focuses on the ground and nutriment in anticipation of their passing. In both cases, the mind inhabits a location in the focal point of delight. To see things as they have come to be, however, means looking at them without the interference of delight of any sort, simply to watch them as, having arisen, they pass away.

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/3/12 11:43 AM as a reply to josh r s.
Because the ground for becoming is composed of old kamma as experienced through new kamma, this means, ideally, trying to experience the old kamma directly with no new kammic input. This, however, requires a great deal of skill, which is developed by trying first to see old and new kamma simply as events per se, so that one can ferret out the subtle levels of delight that can turn these events into becoming. When seeing these types of kamma simply as events— rather than as raw material for delight—one is struck by how inconstant and evanescent they are, totally dependent on causes and conditions that are also inconstant and evanescent. This gives rise to a sense of disenchantment for them, thus making it easier to abandon progressively subtler levels of passion and delight for new kamma and the process of becoming, until ultimately the moisture for becoming is all gone.


so, for a permanent shift to occur it is necessary to not be making new kamma, which is a condition met through jhana.

Of course, jh›na on its own does not automatically function in this way, for as we have seen it is a prime example of becoming on the form and formless levels. To become a factor in the path to the end of becoming, it needs the insight provided by right view—seeing phenomena in terms of the four noble truths—together with the other factors that lead from right view to right concentration. Only then can it function in this new way. Nevertheless, it provides an absolutely essential vantage point from which right view can do its work. Unlike many later teachers in the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha did not regard right concentration—the four jh›nas—as a dispensable factor of the path.


Interesting, so one must separate experience into the 4NT's. The attention wave would seem to be stress, the still background the cessation of stress, what exactly in experience is the cause of the attention wave?

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/3/12 1:46 PM as a reply to josh r s.
Yeh, I dig Thanissaro Bhikkhu's take on it too.

If we are using the term "attention wave" to mean the stress of fabrication or "becoming", I would say that "knowing" what causes it isn't half as interesting or practical as being able to discern it as it arises from moment to moment - in particular learning to "split" fabricated layers away from the "still background" which presents itself more and more radically the closer you get to it.

I've found that this leads to an experiencial understanding of what lessens it, and what increases it. If you do it well enough, paying attention to the stress of fabrication can really do nothing but show you the causes of it.

Said another way, the money lies in figuring out what type of attention and / or focus peels back, attenuates or dissolves fabrication, and what seems to manipulate fabricated layers of experience without much lessening the stress.

This is really subtle stuff, and can be great fun with a certain attitude emoticon

Thom

when i say attention wave i mean the effect distorting of parts of the field of experience and causing consciousness to focus or "alight" on particular places in attempt to either push away pain or maximize pleasure.

is this what you mean, and think thanissaro bhikkhu means by the "stress of fabrication?" he seems to describe the alighting of consciousness as craving and clinging which then results in becoming

that's just some terminology stuff, as for your practical advice, sounds good

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/3/12 4:42 PM as a reply to josh r s.
josh r s:
when i say attention wave i mean the effect distorting of parts of the field of experience and causing consciousness to focus or "alight" on particular places in attempt to either push away pain or maximize pleasure.

is this what you mean, and think thanissaro bhikkhu means by the "stress of fabrication?"


Yeh absolutely. Although as the game gets subtler and subtler the words "pain" and "pleasure" start to feel a little extreme. Rather than "cravings or aversions", the fabrications become the remaining habits of mind and uber-subtle self-conceptions that lie at the root of the "alighting" of consciousness in particular places. At root these are cravings and aversions, but get more and more sneaky, and harder to "see". That's where the fun starts!

For me, many of the subtle fabrications could be described as stemming from a "psychological" self...or subtle background beliefs about the most basic premises of "self" and identity. How is this alighting or focusing or zooming in caused by an unexamined solidity given to "you" - an evolutionary psychological construct designed to be projected forwards and backwards in "time" to most efficiently pass on gene copies? This is a really slippery fish!

I'm not arguing for not being able to operate from this perspective or construct, but to the extent that it is operated from without realising it is the extent to which sneaky fabrications will still occur. These are always stressful to some degree, and it's that stress that lights the way to its gradual reduction. Interesting paradox, that stress is the cause of its own demise. Just one of many cosmic jokes... emoticon

Thom

ok, so should i purely focus on the background as that is what seems to minimize the attention wave the most? I'm just thinking of ajahn sao's advice posted on EiS's thread to minimize the wave and then look at it in its most subtle form. i prefer focusing in on the background non-stop, and i suppose i could get some experiential insight understanding what exactly it is that attenuates the wave.

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/3/12 4:59 PM as a reply to josh r s.
Yeh, that advice sounds right on the money to me...I like it as it's simple, direct, clear but open-ended.

Don't neglect the beliefs thing though...picking these apart can yield surprising results in the lessening or even radical attenuation of the wave...who do you believe you are? How do these beliefs reinforce habits of mind, or even habits of practice? What is practice? Who is practicing? All fun things...the most stupid questions are sometimes the easiest to pass over...but they're gold when approached from the right base, or angle...

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/3/12 9:08 PM as a reply to josh r s.
josh r s:
The attention wave would seem to be stress, the still background the cessation of stress, what exactly in experience is the cause of the attention wave?


Can you discern tension as a separate experience from distortion?

A simple way that I think of the tension is that it's "object-oriented"; it is linked to wanting things to be a certain way (wanting a particular experience, wanting a person to do a particular thing, wanting a situation to work out a particular way). Fewer wants, less attention wave, less stress. (I wouldn't say this is the whole story, but it's useful as far as it goes.)

Also, cf. this:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.063.than.html:
The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality, not the beautiful sensual pleasures found in the world.

Thom W:
For me, many of the subtle fabrications could be described as stemming from a "psychological" self...or subtle background beliefs about the most basic premises of "self" and identity.


I find concentration really useful for examining things along these lines, because it suppresses a bunch of these subtle background beliefs (or "construings"), and so offers a way to make them salient...concentration increases, they disappear, concentration decreases, they re-appear...I find it a good way to single them out.

Thom W:
Yeh, that advice sounds right on the money to me...I like it as it's simple, direct, clear but open-ended.

Don't neglect the beliefs thing though...picking these apart can yield surprising results in the lessening or even radical attenuation of the wave...who do you believe you are? How do these beliefs reinforce habits of mind, or even habits of practice? What is practice? Who is practicing? All fun things...the most stupid questions are sometimes the easiest to pass over...but they're gold when approached from the right base, or angle...


This would be the crux of the matter; once some level of 'lack of permanent self' is understood, then what makes up the content of the felt self/attention wave? Habits, beliefs, thoughts, etc, weird mind made sensations, including the thoughts about being a meditator/actualist/buddhist etc. The experience of life becomes clearer after the dust settles a bit after pulling down some of those belief structures. This is something that I have benefited from the AFT writings. But too much will get one off track pretty quick, it all needs to brought back down to earth I have found. Or one is indeed only demolishing one belief and replacing it with another one.

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/6/12 2:18 PM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew Jones:
But too much will get one off track pretty quick, it all needs to brought back down to earth I have found. Or one is indeed only demolishing one belief and replacing it with another one.


Well, yes, if by "too much" you mean a mode of practice that leads to increasing fabrication rather than lessening it, then it is already off track. Naturally, the line will vary depending on where you are in your practice, and the identifications that are conditioning fabrication from moment to moment. What do you mean by bringing it back down to earth exactly?

Thom

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/15/12 11:38 PM as a reply to Thom W.
Sorry didn't see the question;

Bringing it all down to earth;
Getting out of the house, noticing how my thoughts and actions are affecting my family, noticing how I am relating to life's challenges, generally comparing where I think I am in 'breaking down beliefs' with how I am living in the real world. Contemplating what I may or not believe requires some place from which to assess them. It is all too easy to simply not notice that this 'mission' has itself become a belief system.

Without personal honesty on this level, one could very well begin to believe that all has been sorted out because one has 'no beliefs'. So yes, by 'too much' I do mean a 'mode of practice that increases fabrication' if that could also be said 'a mode of practice in which I begin to believe my own bullshit'.

of all the beliefs that I have, there is none more insidious than the one that says 'i know what is going on'.

RE: The Field Analogy - attention wave, relevant discussion of wrong e
Answer
2/16/12 10:31 AM as a reply to josh r s.
Thanks for posting these excerpts. Very interesting. I downloaded the book, and, unfortunately, look forward to reading it with great delight.