Exploring “Energy” in Late July 2017

The parami of Viriya, or paramita of Vīrya, is the perfection of Energy. In Buddhism it is often defined as effort or diligence, but the root of the Sanskrit word literally means “Hero.” It also serves as the etymology for the English word virile. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, there are traditionally three types of diligence: Armor, Virtue, and Compassion. The Sangha will explore these dimensions in this way: Energy newsletter


~ Character & Courage: The Development of Virtues
Spiritual Training: Studying the Teachings
~ Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta

How do we practice Wise Effort and maintain Zeal?
Please join us these nights as we explore these important teachings of the Buddha.

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“Patient Acceptance of the Path”

Patient Acceptance of the Path
Theme: Patience

Discussion led by David C. Clark, Co-Chair Program Committee

We’ve titled the exploration of the Third Dimension of Patience as “Patient Acceptance of the Path”, but it could also be referred to Patience with Dharma, or Patience with the Truth. To me, I believe this Patience with Ourselves means:

1. Being Patient with the Dharma;
2. Being Compassionate with Ourselves;
3. Being Persistent on the path (i.e. even when our practice becomes stale and stagnant we keep at it).

Recommended Reading

Perfection of Patience: Three Dimensions of Patience by Barbara O’Brien:

The Six Paramitas: Perfection of the Bodhisattva Path by Chan Master Sheng Yen:



Patience with Dharma:

“World-transcending patience goes beyond the experiences of pleasure, pain, fatigue, etc. It is forbearance in integrating the Dharma into one’s life, in accepting the difficulties that come with exertion in practice, and in using one’s time wisely and fully.”

~ Chan Master Sheng Yen.


Lacking Patience in our practice may come from the hindrance of Doubt and obstacles of Uncertainty; or on the other extreme it can result in Spiritual Bypassing.


Doubt & Uncertainty:

Vicāra: Rubbing or Continous Attention is the antidote to doubt:

“Continuous attention is the opposite of doubt, for doubt is indecision. The doubting mind cannot fix itself on any particular object; instead it runs here and there considering possiblities. Obviously, when vicara is present the mind cannot slip from the object and behave in this manner.”

~ Sayadaw U Pandita


Spiritual Bypassing:

“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

~ Robert Augustus Masters, PhD


Expectation is often the cause of these spiritual dilemmas:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

~Thomas Merton



What does it mean to be Patient on the Path or Patient with the Dharma? Or, without making “truth claims”, what does it mean to Patiently Accept the Truth?

Is Doubt, or Uncertainty, an obstruction to Patience Acceptance on the Path? What is the role of expectation?

If not what prevents you from finding accepting of the Path? How do we cultivate Patience Acceptance of the Dharma?

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“Reflections On Forgiveness”

Open Discussion on “Forgiveness”
Theme: Patience

Discussion led by Phil Brown, President



The need for forgiveness arises after there has been a violation of individual or social norms that is substantial enough to have caused injury or suffering. The action that causes this suffering may be a break, disregard, or infringement of a law, rule or promise. Violation means to treat with violence. So, violence in this sense can be either personal or structural. We can violate a person through physical or emotional violence. We can violate a person’s trust in us, or violate the rules that govern social well-being in an organization. This experience of having been violated heightens our sense of separation. Forgiveness assists us in coming out of, emerging from this sense of separateness. We cease to feel resentment, the need for redress.


Remembering that the Buddha taught that all human beings want to be happy, we can focus on our commonality rather than our separation. Mindfulness and deliberation help us move from reactivity to responsiveness. From responsiveness, forgiveness arises. Each person acting to heal him or herself

(Phillip Moffitt – http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/talks/forgiveness)


Forgiveness is at the root of the chain of the Brahmaviharas. The practice of Metta, or loving kindness, begins the process of self-healing. Without it, compassion for others is difficult. Sympathetic joy – feeling joy for others’ success and being is difficult without compassion, and the state of equanimity is difficult without forgiveness, compassion and being able to feel sympathetic joy (http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/talks/forgiveness).


What do we have trouble forgiving others for, ourselves for? Every time we get near this memory or what sets off similar feelings of trauma we have trouble, and this conditions what we experience. What afflictive emotions come up when we remember or feel this – disappointment, anger, sadness, uncertainty, frustration, self-doubt, apathy, loss, regret, sorrow, hopelessness, rejection. This relates to somatic/energy sensations in the body/mind that also condition our experience. Being unable to forgive makes us feel depleted, detracted, closed, fatigued, withdrawn. We cling to this and cause ourselves and others suffering, which gives it solidity, but it can move if we don’t hold on to it.


Through meditating on forgiveness, we open the space to be kinder to ourselves and others, and be less caught in the emotions that drive unskillful actions and reactions. Through mindfulness we grow the capacity to see what’s going on, and see how our lives are being affected by the causes and conditions that have led to the violation, a sense of victimization. It allows us to move from reacting mind to responding mind. Not forgiving distorts us, as it grabs only one side of us, and it feels awful. Forgiving is not condoning a harmful act. We forgive a person, not the act. We can still act compassionately to change the causes and conditions of the violation/suffering.


Through forgiveness we deepen ourselves as human beings.






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“Patient Perseverance with Ourselves and Obstacles”

Patient Perseverance with Ourselves and Obstacles

Discussion led by Leslie Morgan, Assistant Secretary; and Marc Kaye, Communications Committee

“Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.”

~Jalaluddin Rumi

“The Buddha famously declared khanti to be the supreme purification practice. He was playing on the Vedic term tapas, which signifies the taking on of an austere or ascetic practice such as fasting or mortifying the body in order to cleanse the mind of passions and attachments. But the Buddha pointed not to physical asceticism — which he frequently spoke against — but of the restraint of holding the heart still in the presence of its suffering until it lets go of the ways in which it creates that suffering. That is, the mind/heart (citta) habitually creates suffering and stress through reacting to, holding onto or getting caught up with what life throws at us. All the perfections contribute to the lessening or dismantling of that dukkha, but the specific quality of patience is to carry the heart through the turbulence of existence so that it no longer shakes, sinks or lashes out.”

~ Ajahn Sucitto



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2017 Retreats

This is a list of retreats we are aware of. If you know of others please let us know 

Bhante Suddhaso
Over the weekend leading up to July 4th, we’ll be exploring two discourses: the Sallekha Sutta (MN 8), a wide-ranging discourse on humility; and the Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta (MN 140), a profound explanation of elements-meditation as a path to enlightenment.
More info / RegistrationCLICK HERE
July 7th-9th
Bhante Suddhaso

Quiet, peaceful environments, far from the chaos of population centers provide an invaluable opportunity to escape the clamor and claustrophobia of the city and dive headlong into serenity and insight. This Summer we’ll be spending a weekend at Straight Out of The Ground, a small organic farm in upstate New York in the East Branch River Valley in the Catskills. THERAVADA TRADITION

More info / Registration: CLICK HERE

July 8 – 16, 2017  Mindfulness, Insight, Liberation: Insight Meditation Retreat (8 days) (Saturday to Sunday)  Register Now

Monday, July 31 to Sunday, August 6, 2017
(6 nights)  Noble Eightfold Path Retreat Register

Aug 02 2017Aug 13 2017 10-Day Vipassana in Dhamma Delaware, Claymont, DE Dhamma Delaware Courses  Website  Map  Instructions

August 11-13, 2017 Led by Rebecca Li

Beginner’s Mind Retreat

Beginner’s Mind Retreat—If you are relatively new to the practice, this is a good first retreat although many experienced practitioners find the variety of practice activities helpful.  Besides sitting, walking, moving and eating meditation, we will also be practicing in workshops ranging from the Art of Seeing to the Art of Communication to learn about how to bring our practice into daily life.  $190 (scholarships available; no prior retreat experience needed) Available –Register Now

August 23-27: Together We Are One Retreat 

Awakening Together – 2017 US Tour


Oct 13 (Fri, 6 pm) to October 18 (Wed, 1 pm)  Western Zen Retreat—Within the context of Chan meditation, participants will make use of a question to penetrate the mind to gain a deeper understanding of our habitual tendencies and patterns of thoughts and insights into the working of our mind.  I will be co-leading this retreat with Simon Child and Hilary Richards from the UK.  This retreat has limited spaces as each participant will receive lots of individual instructions in private interviews.  Suitable for both beginners and experienced practitioners.  $320 (scholarships available; no prior retreat experience needed) Available – Register Now

November 21 (Tue, 6 pm) to November 25 (Sat, 5 pm) Thanksgiving Chan Retreat—For those of us who will not be getting together with families over Thanksgiving, we take advantage of the days off from work to engage in retreat practice.  In this five-day Chan retreat, participants will immerse in the practice through sitting, walking, eating and moving meditation with the support of useful teachings passed down the generations and private interviews.  $320 (scholarships available; no prior retreat experience needed) Available – Register Now

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“Practicing Patience with Others”

Patience with Others

Discussion led by Phil Brown, President; and Janet Weathers, Program Committee

Introduction to the Importance of Patience on the Buddhist Path

The parami of Khanti, or paramita of Ksanti, is the perfection of Patience. In Buddhism it is often defined as forbearance, endurance, acceptance, or forgiveness, but according to its Pali roots it may be best defined as “willingness.” In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism it is said that there are three dimensions to this practice that we will be examining over the next few weeks: Practicing Patience with Others Patient Perseverance with Ourselves and Obstacles Patient Acceptance of the Path

In ordinary language, what do we typically mean by ‘having patience’? For example: ‘Waiting patiently for someone else to do something or finish doing something so we can have our turn.” Other definitions?

In Buddhism, patience has a different, deeper meaning that supports the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. It is one of the ten Paramis (perfections or attainments) that evolve from and come into being through practice of the dharma.


patient kitteh

  1. The truth of suffering [Human life is characterized by suffering, dissatisfaction, anguish.]; (Dukkha)
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering [It is possible to understand the origins of suffering.] (Samudāya)
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering. [It is possible for us to end suffering.] (Nirodha)
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering. [Practicing the Eightfold Path.] (Magga)


To summarize how and why patience is important to these truths: We need patience born of wise intention to see clearly and deal with the clinging, grasping quality of human that life. This creates the conditions for the end of suffering and discontent, and brings forth a felt sense of generosity, kindness and resolve to live more in accord with the Buddhist path.

In Buddhism Without Beliefs Stephen Batchelor talks about the truths not as propositions to believe, but “challenges to act” in the course of everyday life.  We need a calm and clear acceptance of what is happening in the moment, which takes both patience and perseverance when craving and avoidance arise. Letting go of these afflictions leads to a deeper appreciation of life and the path of compassion.

How Patience Can Inform our Practice

In a recent dharma talk, Phillip Moffitt carefully details how we can use our heart to have patience with what arises in the mind (“How Patience and Resolve Cultivate Equanimity”, March 22, 2017: dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/139/39940.html)

Patience is the ability that allows us to stay with the mental, physical and emotional states that are difficult or challenging. Moffitt emphasizes that it is not passive – waiting around for something to happen. Patience is an energetic endurance that needs to be cultivated. It embraces the willingness to start over when we lose our breath or other object of meditation; it allows us to be with the feelings of failure, restlessness, and impatience for success that characterize our life and practice. Patience is a virtue, not just an attitude.

When we sit or live with patience, we are willing to start where we are at, soften into our experience, and develop a practice, a way of life that supports the other paramis and endures.

Patience and Wisdom

The parami of wisdom tells us where we want to go on the path. It is in stark contrast to an ‘only results matter’ attitude and philosophy. In cultivating wisdom, we concentrate on the value of the truth of our experience in the context of the Buddhist path. Wise intention invites us to be in the moments of our experience with a spirit of loving kindness, a non-harming attitude, joyful empathy and equanimity.

The formula: Patience supports mindfulness, mindfulness powers discernment, and discernment leads to wisdom.

To aid our practice, patience needs to rest on a bedrock of these core values. As we move through life, we plant seeds from moment to moment that help create the causes and conditions of subsequent moments (karma). Patience helps us govern how we meet the intention to talk or act in accordance with these core values, the basis for Buddhist morality and guidance. We are not responsible by ourselves for all of our thoughts and the sea of impulses that push us in mindless or harmful directions for ourselves or others. But we can be responsible for how we relate to our thoughts and actions so that we can learn from them while resting on the bedrock of core ethical values (the Bhramaviharas, the Eightfold Path), and performance values (resolve, persistence, perseverance).

Patience with Others

Patience can be both internal and external. Internal patience is patience with ourselves. External patience is patience with others. Let’s explore together our experience of some of the conditions with others in our lives that result in impatience or call forth patience.

  1. In your small group remember a time that impatience with someone else’s behavior or interaction with you led to dissatisfaction, suffering or unhappiness. In retrospect, how might patience have led to more kindness and support (and a different outcome)?
  2. Can you remember a time when exercising patience changed how another person related to you or reacted to you? How did that feel? How did you talk to yourself to keep from reacting in a way that would have sown the seeds of additional suffering or disappointment? How did the idea of a solid self that needs to be buttressed or protected show itself? What impulses or needs did you overcome? What sources of wisdom did you use? What core values did you rely on.
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Unconditioned Awareness, Presence, & Suchness

Monday night (6/12/17), Lowell Arye led a discussion on a challenging topic–the Now and Unconditioned Awareness. It’s a topic that, as Lowell stated, is not capable of being expressed; it’s that which does not come and go. For new comers, the topic, at times, must have caused peoples’ heads to spin. Yet, Lowell did a wonderful job of navigating the group discussion. Listen to the audio recording here:


During the course of the night, we went back and touched on the three marks of existence which we’ve been studying at BSBC. For anyone that missed these talks or would like a refresher, here are a few links that provide excellent overviews:

Lowell stated, “the suffering from craving is the conditioning of who we’ve become. What remains unmoved all the time is this unconditioned awareness.” He then referenced a zen koan to help contemplate this:
What was your original face before your parents were born?

Throughout the talk, Lowell came back to this fact that the whole exercise of discussing unconditioned awareness is self-defeating to an extent. How do we talk about something using a language that is based on our conditioned, dualistic world? It reminded me of the phrase used when referring to Lord Voldemort (in the Harry Potter books)–he who can’t be named. So unconditioned awareness is that which can’t be defined or explained; it can only be experienced. And so we continued on, plotting an indirect path similar to each of our practices’ journey where we balance (the silence of) meditation, dharma and community. What comes up for me is what we do with the space of the silence. My inclination is to fill it with stuff so I think I comprehend it. And the irony is what’s most skillful is to leave this space alone and just be a quiet observer, aware of the conditioned things that come in mainly thru our senses. But I digress…

Several people provided inputs for ways they’ve approached this topic and this led to helpful exchanges. In the closing minutes, Lauren offered advice on what has helped her practice in gaining insight toward this state of unconditioned awareness. On occasion, she’ll say to herself, “that which is aware of <fill in the blank> is not itself <fill in the blank>. For example, that which is aware of unhappiness is not itself unhappy.” She explained how her teacher repeatedly reinforced the value of practicing continued awareness not of the thinking or conditioned mind but of the open or unconditioned mind where we leave judgement and other conditioned thoughts at bay.

Lauren’s timing made for a smooth closing where Lowell shared with us the 3 essential points that strike (see link below for more background on this)–

  • teacher points (the student) to (unconditioned) awareness
  • the student sees & practices it (unconditioned awareness)
  • the student rests in unconditioned awareness

Three Words that Strike to the Heart of the Essential Point

The Audio of Monday’s dharma talk:




Please join us Monday, 6/19/17 where we’ll discuss “Practicing Patience with Others”. We look forward to seeing everyone who is able to attend.

Further Reading:


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The Ganges Mahamudra

The Ganges:

Essential Instructions on Mahamudra

Sanskrit: Mahamudra Upadesham | Tibetan: Chaggya Chenpo Menngag


Homage to glorious coemergence!

[Mahamudra cannot be shown, …] p.15

Intelligent Naropa, tolerant of suffering, you have endured hardships and are devoted to the guru.

O! Look well at worldly phenomena! Like dreams and illusions that cannot last, they do not exist in actuality.

Therefore, giving rise to disenchantment, abandon worldly activities.

Completely severing the bonds of attachment and aversion, the domain of samsara, meditate alone in forest and mountain hermitages!

Through remaining in an ongoing state of meditation, non-attainment is attained.

When non-attainment is attained, Mahamudra is attained.

These worldly affairs are the useless causes of suffering.

Look at the ultimate essential meaning [that realizes] the futility of deliberate action!

The truth that transcends the intellect will not be seen by means of the intellect.

The point of non-action will not be reached by means of deliberate action.

If you want to achieve the point of non-action transcending thought, sever the root of mind itself and rest in naked awareness!

Leave the polluted water of conceptual thoughts [to settle] into its [natural] clarity.

Without affirming or denying appearances, leave them as they are.

When there is neither acceptance nor rejection, [mind] is liberated into mahamudra.

For example, [if] the root of a tree with flourishing branches and foliage is cut, its ten thousand branches and hundred thousand leaves wither.

Just as the accumulated darkness of even a thousand eons is dispelled by a single lamp flame, similarly, an instant of luminosity of mind itself dispels, without exception, eons of accumulated negativity and obscuration.

Those of inferior intelligence who [can] not abide in ultimate meaning [should] hold the vital point of wind energies and give up exerting [themselves] in awareness.

Until you abide in the ongoing state of awareness, by means of myriad gazes and [modes of] focused attention, make effort!

For example, if you examine the center of space, the one who fixates on the boundary and center ceases to be.

Likewise, when you investigate the mind with the mind, the multitude of thoughts ceases and you see the nature of the mind.

{When] the multitude of thoughts ceases, you see the nature of the mind.

Just as [when] vapors from the earth or clouds disperse into space, they have not gone anywhere, but nether do they remain anywhere, so it is with the multitude of thoughts that arise from the mind: by seeing the mind itself, the waves of thought dissipate.

Just as space transcends color and form, being immutable and without any tinge of black or white, similarly, the mind itself, beyond color and form, is untainted by the white and black phenomena of virtue and evil.

For example, the clear and pure orb of the sun is not eclipsed by the darkness of a thousand eons.

Likewise, eons in cyclic existence cannot obscure the luminous nature of mind itself.

Just as space, although it is labeled ‘empty,’ is indescribable by such [terms], similarly, the mind, although described as ‘clear light,’ has no basis for such designation through verbal expressions.

For example, in space, what is supported by what?

Like [space], the mahamudra that is mind itself has no supporting ground.

Rest at ease in the uncontrived, innate continuity.

When the bonds are loosened, there is no doubt of release.

In that way, the nature of mind is like space.

There is no phenomenon not contained in that.

Completely give up physical activity and remain at ease.

Without much speech, [sound] is like an echo.

Without thinking, look at decisively-resolved reality.

The body is insubstantial, like the hollow stalk of a reed;

and the mind, like the center of space, transcends the realm of thought.

Rest at ease in that state, without releasing or placing.

When the mind is without a focal point, that is mahamudra.

By habituating yourself to it, unsurpassable awakening is attained.

When there is no object of focus, the mind is naturally clear.

When there is no path, the path of the buddhas is entered.

By habituating non-meditation, unsurpassable awakening is attained.

Transcendence of all subject and object [duality] is the king of views.

When there is no distraction, that is the king of meditation.

When there is no deliberate effort, that is the king of conduct.

When there is neither expectation nor doubt, the fruition is made manifest.

The uncreated ground of all is clear of the obscuring veil of propensities.

Do not engage meditation and post-meditation [but] rest in the uncreated essence.

[Thus, outer] appearances, [inner] perceptions, and intellectual faculties are exhausted.

The complete release of limits is the supreme king of views.

Boundlessness, deep and vast, is the supreme king of meditation.

Free from action, abiding in its own state, is the supreme king of conduct.

Freedom from expectation, abiding in its own state, is the supreme king of fruition.

To a beginner, [mind] is like a waterfall.

In the middle, it flows gently [like] the Ganges River.

In the end, it is like the confluence of a river [with the ocean], like the meeting of mother and child.

The luminosity that is mahamudra will not be seen through expounding the Secret Mantra and Paramita Vehicles, or the collections of scripture such as the Vinaya, or even through individual philosophical scriptures and tenet systems.

When you do not fabricate anything in the mind and are devoid of any wish, [thoughts] are like self-arising, self-subsiding ripples in water.

When a wish arises, luminosity is obscured and not perceived.

Preserving the vows conceptually, you violate the samaya on the level of ultimate meaning.

If [mind] does not stray from the non-abiding, objectified ultimate meaning, the unimpaired samaya is a lamp in the darkness.

When, devoid of any wish, you are not confined to any position, all the teachings of the scripture collections, without exception, will be realized.

If you exert yourself in this truth, you will be freed from the prison of samsara.

If you [cultivate] steady meditation upon this truth, all unawareness, negativities and obscurations will be burnt away.

Thus, it is known as the lamp of the teachings.

Those foolish people who are disinterested in this truth are continually swept away and wasted in the great river of cyclic existence.

How sad that they [must endure] the unbearable suffering of evil rebirths!

If you want release from suffering, follow a masterful guru!

If you rely on the karmamudra, the wisdom of bliss and emptiness will arise.

Thus, unite the blessings of method and wisdom!

The seed essence should slowly descend, stop, reverse and spread.

It should be brought to the inner abode and pervade the body.

When there is no fixation to that, the wisdom of empty bliss arises and, flourishing like the waxing moon, one [attains] longevity without graying hair.

One becomes lustrous and radiant with the power of a lion.

The common attainments will be swiftly accomplished, leading one to the supreme attainment.

May this essential advice on makamudra abide in the hearts of fortunate transient beings.

On the banks of the River Ganges, this was taught to Naropa by Lord Tilopa.

May it be virtuous!


Re-transcribed for Bucks County Buddhist Sangha,

on May 30th, 2017, by John Wenz

for continued study after

Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam

offering an oral transmission to the Bucks County Buddhist Sangha on April 22,2017

English Text Source:

The Wisdom Flame Experiential Commentary of the Ganges Mahamudra

By His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, pp. 9-12

Translated by Ina Bieler

1st-4th April 2009

Tai Pei Buddhist Center, Singapore



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Discussions on “Patience” in the Beginning of Summer 2017

The parami of Khanti, or paramita of Ksanti, is the perfection of Patience. In Buddhism it is often defined as forbearance, endurance, acceptance, or forgiveness, but according to its Pali roots it may be best defined as “willingness.” In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism it is said that there are three dimensions to this practice:
khanti pic

~ Practicing Patience with Others
~ Patient Perseverance with Ourselves and Obstacles
~ Patient Acceptance of the Path


Please join us these nights as we explore these important teachings of the Buddha.

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“Wisdom in Practice”

“Wisdom in Practice”
Part I & II
Panel Discussion & Open Discussion

Over the course of the last month and a half the Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County investigated “Emptiness” and The Three Marks of Existence in the practice of the Parami of Paññā, or the perfection of Wisdom. We considered what it meant that all conditioned things are marked by Impermanence, Suffering, and Not-Self. The question was posed: “What is Wisdom and how does Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta help us to understand it?”

It’s one thing to understand these concepts intellectually and grasp them as abstract ideas, and quite another to engage them as part of our practice. This posed some profound questions: “How does Wisdom differ from Knowledge?” and “How does a Buddhist perspective on Wisdom differ from our Western understanding of life experiences?” It’s clear that we will spend a lifetime cultivating wisdom, so how does one move forward with a consideration for The Three Marks of Existence? As a Sangha we arrived at two practical methods.

One way is to consider the role of Paññā as the Wisdom Training of The Noble Eightfold Path: Wise View & Wise Intention. In previous discussions a definition of Wise View was put forward as:

“Acceptance of The Four Noble Truths, discerning the difference of mind and matter, an understanding of the cause and effect nature of reality, and clearly seeing into the characteristics of existence gives us insight into the cessation of suffering.”

To phrase it differently, this present moment is the culmination of causes and conditions that arise and will pass away, an understanding and acceptance of which leads to equanimity and the cessation of suffering.  In this way, The Three Marks of Existence inform our approach on discernment and skillful action.  In Selves and Not Self, Thanissaro Bhikku states:

IMS 2017 040“The path begins with discernment—the factors of right view and right resolve—and discernment begins with this basic question about which actions are really skillful: ‘What, when I do it, will lead to long-term welfare and happiness?'”

While we may grow increasingly concerned with ways to understand The Marks of Existence and practice Wisdom, it is incredibly important to consider Wise Intention, or Right Resolve.  No matter what action we undertake, our very existence does harm to other beings and individuals. This is what makes Intention so important to our practice. Setting a distinction between remorse and guilt, we remember that remorse can be a valuable tool to act more skillfully in the future, but guilt as a way of self-flagellation is useless. As long as we set the intention of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness we can remain confident in our path.

However, approaching The Three Marks of Existence in this way may still be too abstract for some people. So another method for investigating Wisdom as a realization of the emptiness of all phenomenal existence is the three stage process within the teachings of The Three Prajnas: listening, contemplating, and meditating.  Over the last month and a half, the Sangha had listened to Dharma regarding Impermanence, Suffering, and Not-Self and has even to some degree practiced contemplating them from a conceptual level to something deeper and more meaningful. Moving forward to a realization of Wisdom manifests itself in meditation practice. The cultivation of this unbound awareness may come as Insights from thoughts, or deeper levels of concentration where one can experience the rising and passing phenomenon in a state of bare attention.

These interrelated ways of seeing guide us toward a better understanding of The Three Characteristics and ultimately cultivates the perfection of Paññā. Therefore, a Buddhist perspective suggests that these realizations can only be achieved through a balance of Wisdom, Compassion, and Mindfulness. This inclusion of compassion and mindfulness is what separates Paññā from Knowledge, and from our Western cultural understanding of Wisdom.

For further information, please read Reginald Ray’s article in Lion’s Roar How to Study the Dharma and make use of the many great resources on Access to Insight, including the writings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

With Gratitude & Metta,



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