Prajnaparamita. The Noble Eightfold Path. Upright Mindfulness. Upright Remembrance

Dear Friends,

Before writing about Upright Mindfulness or Remembrance, here’s a reminder about the upcoming retreat; The Art and Wisdom of Being Human. Three full days and an intro and closing few hours bookending them; June 20 – June 24.. There are a few more spaces available. So if you have considered coming but have thought up some obstacles or reasons for not coming, please reach out to me directly so I can talk you out of them (grin emoji and lol)! For more information check your emails (search “retreat”) or contact me and I will send the summary and schedule to you. (Thank you for putting up with our sponsor. : )

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Sati is a Pali and Sanskrit word and has most frequently been translated as “mindfulness”. Weellll…. I think that most of us have observed what has happened to that word and how it is being used in virtually all aspects of society today. Large corporations have mindfulness training in order to produce more productive producers in order to have improved productivity to produce greater profits. It is taught in schools to get the children to have better attention spans so that they can become good producers. It is taught to athletes so they can be better at what they do. It is introduced in psychological contexts to help folks get “better” than what they think or what society thinks they are. It is even taught in religious settings in order to get enlightened, experience the divine, or attain bliss. These may be worthwile, even noble goals to work toward, and this is not “sati”. This is more of a practice to lessen distractions from the task at hand. 

While searching through wisdomlib.org, there was a listing of the Noble Eightfold Path from the Buddhist Door Glossary , which translated samma sati  as “Right Remembrance”.  For me “Upright Remembrance” gets to the heart of the practice of sati  in a way that mindfulness does not, especially in today’s consumer/achievement oriented culture. 

In this particular coalescence of cosmic dust (my fancy way of saying “for me”.), Sati, is the practice and experience of remembering what is true, or what is real, or simply what is here. Another way to say it might be that it is the practice and experience of “unforgetting”.

This might sound totally off because it seems that all of our thinking and doing is based on memory. When looking closely, we might see that all of our thoughts are constructed from concepts that are dependent on thoughts, feelings and experiences from the past. And most of the time we identify ourselves and others by these thoughts or even as these thoughts. “I’m a good boy.” I’m a bad boy” They’re annoying.” She’s smart.” “I’m happy.” “That’s wrong.” I’m right.” Looking even more closely there is a chance that we might see that these thoughts/concepts are just transient, impermanent, insubstantial wisps of formless impulses. They cannot be held on to, no matter how hard we try to concretize them or turn them into permanent substances, “He’ll never make it.” “I’ll always be your BFF.” “The earth is flat.” They are just not really real, not ultimately true, and certainly not the final definition of you, me or anything else. All of this dependent on the past or memory, but this is not what “remembrance” in the context of practice is.

So then what is Upright Remembrance? This normal remembering described above  is similar to the drops of ocean in a wave crashing on the shore except the drops have completely forgotten that they are ocean. They are soaring and forming into a separate water being, flying through the air, then seeing what is ahead. They will soon be crashing on the rocky shore, and fear and aversion come up. Instead of the thrill of breaking free into the air, there is the fear of death and hating whomever or whatever caused this to happen and SMASH!, into the sand and dragged back out to … ocean. “Oh yeah I remember this! This is just ocean, there is no separate soaring, crashing me, there is just ocean. Deep, broad, unfathomable ocean.” Then “I” , the drop, senses movement and activity and color up there, over there. “Gotta go, gotta get that, gotta have that experience.” And “I” forget “just ocean”. Now drop thinks (as if a drop could) it’s “just me.” soaring, forming, dropping, crashing, forgetting. 

But then this being comes along and tells drop on their way back to ocean, “Hey maybe next time you join wave try remembering “just ocean” and see what happens. It may take a few times or three eons, but it seems that when I practice and have Upright Remembrance of just ocean there is just that. The soaring, the colors, the freedom, the crashing, the fear, the vengeance, the being drawn back, all…just ocean. Maybe check it out and see for yourself. I’d like to hear what your experience of just ocean is whatever you’re doing. I’ll bet that it is totally unique and the same… just ocean.

When speaking to his students during sesshin about practicing sati, Tenshin Anderson said;

“One of the main ways you remind yourself, which you have already done, is remind yourself how you forget.”

Practicing Upright Remembrance is noticing just what is here, just as it is, it is the practice of seeing the experiences/thoughts of “I” as separate and “I” not separate.And noticing in the moment of thinking “I” as separate, that even that thought is inseparable. It is the practice of noticing “how you forget” and how you remember. Practicing noticing that I think that other is separate, a separate drop, not ocean, is the practice of Upright Remembrance or unforgetting.  And practicing noticing that I think that “I” is not separate is the practice of Upright Remembrance. What are we remembering or unforgatting in this practic where there is nothing to achieve, produce, gain, or become by practicing?  Just notice separate and inseparable merely as they are in the moment that they are and then see, and see, and sea.

( For a very thorough and informative dissertaion on Samma Sati: https://www.wisdomlib.org/buddhism/essay/the-buddhist-path-to-enlightenment-study/d/doc1187817.html )

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With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

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Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays: Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays: Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays: Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays: Zazen Practice 7:00 AM Pacific Time.
  • Sundays: Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

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If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”