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Meditation Practice Feels Stuck? - Here's what to do

In the article on Transcendental Dependent Arising we learn that the Buddha taught that moral behaviour is the basis of our pathway to Awakening, the ending of suffering.

Once we are established in moral behaviour, all the other steps of the pathway occur naturally, without the need for willpower. In that teaching, a new learning for me was that sense restraint is a subtle form of moral behavior. In the teaching of this article I again learned something: that Right View is an aspect of morality.

Now, to start at the beginning. If we feel our meditation practice is stuck, is not bearing fruit, the Buddha gives us ten wholesome actions to undertake. Three concern our physical actions, four concern our speech and three concern our thoughts. All address morality. So the basic take home message is, if our meditation practice is not going well, we need to examine our moral behaviour.

The three kinds of moral physical actions:

1. Do not kill any living beings. Be kind, gentle, compassionate to all. 2. Do not take what is not given (steal). 3. Do not engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour i.e. with underage people, with those married or engaged to another, with one's students or with those incapable of giving free consent.

The four kinds of moral speech: 1. Do not lie. 2. Do not use malicious speech. Do not use divisive speech. Re-unite those who are divided. Promote friendship and concord. 3. Do not speak harshly. Speak gently and courteously. 4. Do not gossip. Speak at the right time (don't try and distract someone who is busy or converse with someone who is tired etc). Speak what is factual. Speak what is good and beneficial. Speak of the Dhamma.

The three kinds of moral thoughts: 1. Do not covet what belongs to others. 2. Do not hold ill will towards others. Have intentions which are free of hate. Think: May beings be free from hatred, affliction and anxiety. May they be happy. 3. Have Right View. The Buddha mentions several aspects of Right View in this sutta. First is generosity. When we feel generous, the defilements are not present. We are not feeling desire or anger or sloth and torpor or anxiety. We are feeling the joy of giving. The Buddha said we should give where our heart inclines. This ensures that we will feel joy from giving. If we force ourself to give because we think we should, there will be no joy that arises. When we give joyfully, the memory of this comes to us when we sit in meditation and gives power to our meditation.

Next is accepting the law of kamma. This means that our good and bad actions have good and bad results. And our grey actions....those that aren't purely good or purely bad, have a mixed result. This concept also includes a belief in rebirth. The results of our actions follow us from life to life. A belief in kamma and rebirth gives us incentive to change our unskilful habit energies.

The next aspect of Right View is acting kindly towards our parents. We understand and forgive their faults.

Next we accept that the Buddha and other awakened people have seen and known the nature of the world through direct knowledge. We are confident that they know more about the world than we do.

Attending to these ten wholesome actions, we will have a favourable rebirth or Awaken.

Now, let's take a moment to examine the above teaching and the teaching in the article, “Transcendental Dependent Arising”. The teaching in both of these articles emphasize the development of virtue. How does this mesh with the Noble Eightfold Path, which has eight steps, not just one?

Step one of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right View. We have now learned that the Buddha sees Right View as part of virtue.

Step two is holding the intentions of loving friendliness, non-harming and renunciation. Renunciation (other than renouncing immoral behaviour) was not directly addressed in these two articles. But the other two qualities were directly addressed under Right View.

Steps three, four and five, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood were directly addressed in these articles.

Step six, Right Effort was implied. The Buddha said that will was not needed after the development of virtue for the rest of the path to unfold. So, I am concluding that most of our effort is diected towards perfecting our morality. Most of us are likely not engaging in any immoral physical acts. And we may have developed the habit energy of moral speech But what is happening in our minds? Are we making peace, being kind and being gentle toward ourself and others, in our thoughts? Once the gross defilements have been tamed, we have the subtle work of the mind left.

Step seven is Right Mindfulness....being aware of the present moment and remembering the teachings so we can make skilful choices. This wsan't directly addressed in the articles, but was certainly implied. We have to be aware in order to know if a behaviour is moral or not.

Step eight is Right Stillness, samadhi. This is the fruit of the other steps. So now we can see why the Buddha can say that no will is needed after the development of morality. It is because Right Virtue encompasses all the other steps of the Noble Eightfold Path.

This article is based on a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahmali. Saleyyaka sutta:

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