A human being is composed of Five aggregates (skandas): form, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
Form – Means our body including the five sense organs and our nervous system.
Feelings – There is a river of feelings inside of us. Our feelings are formations, impermanent and without substance.
Perceptions – Noticing, naming, conceptualizing, perceiver and perceived. All suffering is born from wrong perceptions. Understanding, the fruit of meditation, can dissolve our wrong perceptions and liberate us. “Where there is perception, there is deception.” -Diamond Sutra.
Mental Formations – There are 51 mental formations present in our store consciousness in the form of seeds. Every time a seed is touched it manifests on the upper level of our consciousness as a mental formation. With daily practice we are able to nourish and develop wholesome mental formations and transform unhealthy ones. Freedom, non-fear, and peace are the result of this practice.
Consciousness – Consciousness in this context means store consciousness, which is the basis of everything that we are, the ground of all our mental formations. Consciousness contains all other aggregates and is the basis of their existence. Consciousness is simultaneously both collective and individual.
The five aggregates are interconnected or as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “Inter-are.”
The Buddha came to be represented as having “three bodies”:
Dharmakaya – the source of enlightenment and happiness.
Sambhogakaya – the body of bliss or enlightenment.
Nirmanakaya – the historical embodiment of the Buddha.
When he was about to pass away, the Buddha told his disciples, “Dear friends, my physical body will not be here tomorrow, but my teaching body (Dharmakaya) will always be with you. Consider it to be the teacher who never leaves you. Be islands unto yourselves, take refuge in the Dharma. Use the Dharma as your lamp, your island.”
The original meaning of Dharmakaya, the way to realize understanding and love.
Emptiness always means empty of something. A cup is empty of water. A bowl is empty of soup. We are empty of a separate, independent self.
Emptiness does not mean nonexistence. It means interdependent co-arising, impermanence, and non-self. Emptiness is the middle way between existence and nonexistence.
Everyone we cherish will someday, get sick and die. If we do not practice the mediation on emptiness, when it happens, we will be overwhelmed.
Signlessness or animitta:
The second door of liberation is signlessness. “Sign” means an appearance or the object of our perception.
Signs are instruments for our use, but they are not absolute truth, and they can mislead us. Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion. Appearances can deceive.
If you see the signlessness of signs, you see the Tathagata. Tathagata means the wonderous nature of reality.
Everything manifests by means of signs.
Life span is the period of time between our birth and our death. We think we are alive for a specific period of time that has a beginning and an end. But when we look deeply, we see that we have never been born and we will never die. And our fear dissolves. With mindfulness, concentration, and the Three Dharma Seals, we can unlock the door of Liberation called signlessness and obtain the greatest relief.
Aimlessness or apranihita:
The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness. There is nothing to do, nothing to realize. The purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself.
Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.
According to the Heart Sutra there is “nothing to attain.”
Aimlessness and Nirvana are one.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
Waking up this morning, I smile
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live freely in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
These twenty-four hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only realize when we have opened the Third Door of Liberation.
The practice of aimlessness, is the practice of freedom.
According to Buddhism there are two kinds of truth: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth. We recognize the presence of happiness and the presence of suffering. One day we realize that suffering and happiness are “not two.”
Where ever there is joy there is suffering.
Suffering and joy are not two.
Our life is the path
We enter the path of practice through the door of knowledge
All conditioned things are impermanent. They are phenomena, subject to birth and death.
In the Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path. In the Heart Sutra, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara tell us there is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation of suffering, and no path. Is this a contradiction? No. The Buddha is speaking in terms of relative truth and Avlakiteshvara is teaching in terms of absolute truth.
The Buddha recommends that we recite the Five Remembrances every day:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.
All things dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end.
If we look deeply, we can see a wave is made of water.
While living the life of a wave, it also lives the life of water. When a wave touches her true nature, which is water, all her complexes will cease, and she will transcend birth and death.
Liberation is the ability to go from the world of signs to the world of true nature.
What is essential is to be our best while we are here.
Right livelihood is earning a living without needing to transgress any of the Five Mindfulness trainings; not dealing in arms, the slave trade, the meat trade, the sale of alcohol, drugs, or poison, making prophecies or telling fortunes.
A job that involves killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or selling drugs or alcohol is not right livelihood.
Making weapons or profiting from others superstition is also not right livelihood.
People may have superstitions such as believing that their fate is sealed in the stars, but by practicing mindfulness, we can change the destiny astrologers have predicted for us. Moreover, prophecies can be self-fulfilling.
Creating art can also be a form of livelihood. A composer, writer, painter, or performer has an effect on the collective consciousness. Any work of art is to a certain extent a product of the collective consciousness. Therefore, the individual artist needs to practice mindfulness so that her work of art helps those who touch it practice right attention.
As we study and practice the Noble Eight Fold Path, we see that each element of the path is contained within the other seven elements.
The practice of Right Concentration is to cultivate a mind that is one-pointed. There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes. The following poem by a Buddhist monk, Huong Hai illustrates active concentration.
The wind whistles in the bamboo
And the bamboo dances.
When the wind stops,
The bamboo grows still.
A silver bird
flies over the autumn lake.
When it has passed,
The lake’s surface does not try
To hold onto the image of the bird.
When we practice active concentration, we welcome whatever comes along. We don’t think about it or long for anything else. We just dwell in the present moment with our whole being. Whatever comes, comes. When the object of our concentration passed our mind remains clear.
When we practice selective concentration, we choose one object and hold onto it. During sitting or walking mediation our attention is focused on our object.
We concentrate to make ourselves deeply present
Right concentration leads to happiness, and it also leads to Right Action
Samadhi means concentration. To practice samadhi is to live deeply in each moment.
Mindfulness brings about concentration
Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration lift us above he realms of sensual pleasure and craving, and we find ourselves lighter and happier.
There are nine levels of meditative concentration. The first four are the Four Dhyanas. They are on the form realm. The next five levels belong to the formless realm.
After the fourth dhyana the meditator enters into a deeper experience of concentration.
The object of the fifth level of concentration is limitless space. According the Buddha’s teaching, nothing has a separate self.
The object of the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.
The object of the seventh level of concentration is nothingness.
Level eight is neither perception nor non perception
Level nine is cessation. Cessation from ignorance in our feelings. From this level is born insight. When someone practices well, the ninth level of concentration shines a light on the reality of things and transforms ignorance.
The Buddha taught many concentration practices. To practice the Concentration on Impermanence, every time you see your beloved see her as impermanent and do your best to make her happy today. The insight into impermanence keeps you from getting caught up in the suffering and craving, attachment, and despair. See and listen to everything with this insight.
According to the Lotus Sutra, we have to live in the historical and ultimate dimensions of reality at the same time. We have to live deeply our life as a wave so we can touch the substance of water in us. We walk, look, breathe, and eat in a way that we touch the absolute dimension of reality. We transcend birth and death and the fears of being and nonbeing, one and many.
Live every moment of your life deeply, and while walking, eating, drinking, and looking at the morning star, you touch the ultimate dimension.