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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 08 54 function of applying the mind in a particular way. All discursive thinking is based on this ability to take charge of the mind’s attention, so to speak, and is responsible for our prodi gious planning and problemsolving skills. Having directed the mind to a chosen object, another factor is needed to hold it there; this is sustained application (vicaro, 9). As you may have noticed, there are considerable forces working to distract your mind and keep its attention moving from one object to another. No doubt this promiscuity of attention has survival value in a rapidly changing environ ment, but there is also something to be gained by exercising the ability to hold the mind on something long enough to fully understand it and its implications. Concentration meditation, in which one attempts to hold attention steadily on the breath, for example, will be effective only if this focus can be sustained without interruption. Both initial and sustained application work together to help train and discipline the mind around certain specific practices, such as breath awareness, guided Brahmavihara practice, and all forms of visualization. Additionally, they may or may not be further supported by energy (viriyam, 11). We know what it feels like to do something with or without energy. Some times the mind stays easily on course and no particular effort is needed. Other times it is recalcitrant as a mule and needs a good kick. Energy is a mental factor that is not naturally always present, and in common idiom we talk about putting forth energy, arousing energy, or otherwise conjuring it up when needed. Three other factors are considered ethically variable occa sionals: decision (adhimokkho, 10), joy (piti, 12), and impulse (chando, 13). Each of these three adds something else to the texture of consciousness, and manifests under different cir cumstances. Decision, literally “releasing toward,” also means conviction or confidence, and functions when we do or think something with an attitude of decisiveness or determination. Joy is an intense mental pleasure, which can manifest, alas, in either wholesome or unwholesome contexts. And impulse, it is important to note, simply refers to an ethically neutral urge, inclination, or motivation to act, and not to the desire (greed, hatred) rooted in unwholesomeness. If the Buddha eats a meal at the appropriate time, for example, we can say he is prompted to act toward that end without being driven by desire or lust for food. In experience, chando can be discerned as the impulse preceding even the most simple and functional actions. Are we practicing mindfulness yet? We have already seen that if I sit with my legs crossed and back straight, get in touch with the physical sensations of the breath, and intentionally One of the more astonishing insights of the Abhidhamma is that mindfulness always co-arises with eighteen other wholesome mental factors. stAnleylow