using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 08 52 visceral sensitivity. Every sensation comes with its own dis tinct quality, with a sense of what it feels like to be having that experience right here and now. Even when it is not obviously pleasant or unpleasant, there is nevertheless an affect tone that strings our moments of experience into a continuous flow of feelings, much like the cognitive flow of the stream of consciousness, and contributes to the feeling of being a living organism. Meditation can focus on discerning the distinction between bare sensory contact and the feeling tone that colors the sensation. The stimulus is one thing, while the feeling tone that gives it depth and flavor is another. Perception (sañña, 3) is another mental factor occurring with every moment of consciousness. Its function is to inter pret what it is that we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or thinking in any particular episode of cognition. Perception puts together knowledge about the presenting object based upon a wide network of associations, memories, analyses, learned perceptual categories, and linguistic labels. These manifest as representations, symbols, words, icons, or other images we might form to interpret the sense data into meaningful categories of thought. This happens automatically and subliminally in every moment, but meditation can bring a heightened attentiveness to the process, so that we become more consciously aware of our perceptions, and the percep tions themselves can become more acute. So far we have referred to four of the five khandas, or aggregates (skandhas in Sanskrit): material form, conscious ness, feeling, and perception. Contact is the coming together of the organs and objects of sensation, both materially based, with consciousness, the men tal act of knowing one by means of the other. Feeling and perception expand upon this data to fill in a richer picture of what we are expe riencing. All four aggregates work together to answer questions like, “What is hap pening here?” and “How am I to understand what is aris ing in my experience right now?” Of the fiftytwo mental factors listed in the Abhidhamma, two of them (feeling and perception) are aggregates in their own right, while all of the remaining fifty are part of the fifth aggregate, formations (sankhara). These address the very different question, “What am I going to do about it?” or “What intentional stance do I take toward this?” Whereas consciousness, feeling, and perception are all based on words built upon the verb “to know,” the word for formations is rooted in the verb “to do” and covers the wide range of our emotional responses to what is happening. The mental factor of intention (cetana, 4) is the active mode of the mind by means of which we exercise our volition or will. Meditation can be understood as an intentional action of paying attention, of being present with, or of otherwise choos ing to be aware of what is arising and passing away in the field of experience. Even if one is trying not to direct the mind too much, as in the proverbial “choiceless awareness,” there is nevertheless a specific intention to attend carefully to whatever arises. Intention encompasses the executive function of the mind, the faculty by means of which decisions are made and karma is produced. An important nuance of Buddhist thought is that this executive function does not necessarily require an agent exercising it. Choices are made, but there is nobody who makes them—but this is a matter for another forum. One of the key decisions made by intention is where and how to place one’s attention (manasikaro, 7), the next mental factor to consider. More than anything, meditation has to do with deliberately directing attention to a particular object of experience. Attending to the breath, attending to an inten tion of lovingkindness toward all beings, attending to the vast sky against which thoughts come and go like clouds—all involve the function of pointing or steering the mind in some nonordinary way. The definition of daydreaming seems to be allowing attention to wander wherever it will, from one asso ciation to another; meditation is a mental discipline wherein the attention is trained to be more selective. Most meditation instructions include such instructions as “Allow the attention to settle on...” or “Bring attention to bear upon...” something or other. A particular way of doing this is by having attention focus (ekaggata, 5) or concentrate upon a single point. This men tal factor seems essential to any type of meditation, for by Scholars have tended to dismiss the Abhidhamma’s exhaustive catalog of mental states, but people with a mature practice of vipassana meditation are thrilled by its precision. Andrew Olendzki is the executive director and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts. MAtthewpAuli