“What in the world does the ‘cessation of happiness apart from equanimity’ mean–that happiness ends when equanimity does? And what does that have to do with just letting yourself breath?”
The equanimity referred to is equanimity with respect to the multiplicity of the senses. So the cessation of happiness apart from equanimity means there’s only happiness while there is equanimity with respect to the multiplicity of the senses, no happiness apart from that. In my experience, there’s usually a moment in zazen where equanimity with respect to the senses becomes necessary to the movement of breath, meaning although the mind is not excluded, other senses may be more crucial at the moment.
In his article on the vestibular organs, which I linked previously (“Part Two”), David Brown offers this:
Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and the creator of Sensory Integration Theory and Therapy, is more concise and states simply that:
“The Vestibular system is the unifying system. All other types of sensation are processed in reference to this basic Vestibular information. The activity in the Vestibular system provides a framework for the other aspects of our experiences.”
I would agree with Ayres, and I would agree because that’s my experience in the moment where the inclusion of any and all of the senses becomes necessary in order to breath.
“The cessation of happiness apart from equanimity” for me involves jumping through the suffocation response to experience a freedom of breath to move, with activity of the body taking place autonomically in the movement.
In Bielefeldt’s “Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation”, he translates the “Lancet of Seated Meditation” (“Kannon Dori Kosho Horin Ji”), which includes the dialogue between Ta-chi and Nan-yueh about polishing a tile. Here’s part of that dialogue:
Ta-chi said, “How can you produce a mirror by polishing a tile?”
Nan-yueh replied, “How can you make a Buddha by sitting in meditation?”
Ta-chi asked, “Then, what is right?”
Nan-yueh answered, “When a man is driving a cart, if the cart doesn’t go, should he beat the cart or beat the ox?”
(“Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation”, Carl Bielefeldt, pg 195-195, UC Press ed. 1988)
There’s a moment in my sitting where only equanimity with respect to the senses preserves ease in the stretch of breath, and a moment where only equanimity with respect to the senses preserves happiness in the movement of breath.
As to Gautama’s teaching with regard to suffering–the way I understand it, the four truths are only relevant when suffering exists. Lots of folks interpret the first of the four truths to mean all of life is suffering, but I believe it is the recognition that right now, “suffering exists”, that brings the second, third, and fourth truths into play.
Second truth, the origin of suffering is in ignorance, and from ignorance habitual action or volitive action, and from such action consciousness and the chain of dependencies down to grasping after self in the five groups.
Third truth, with the cessation of ignorance is the cessation of the whole chain, including grasping after self in the five groups (which is identically “suffering”).
Fourth truth, not going to help me much in its original statement, but maybe this does:
(Anyone) …knowing and seeing eye as it really is, knowing and seeing material shapes… visual consciousness …impact on the eye as it really is, and knowing, seeing as it really is the experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye, is not attached to the eye nor to material shapes nor to visual consciousness nor to impact on the eye; and that experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye–neither to that is (such a one) attached. …(Such a one’s) physical anxieties decrease, and mental anxieties decrease, and bodily torments… and mental torments… and bodily fevers decrease, and mental fevers decrease. (Such a one) experiences happiness of body and happiness of mind. (repeated for ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind).
Whatever is the view of what really is, that for (such a one) is right view; whatever is aspiration for what really is, that for (such a one) is right aspiration; whatever is endeavour for what really is, that is for (such a one) right endeavour; whatever is mindfulness of what really is, that is for (such a one) right mindfulness; whatever is concentration on what really is, that is for (such a one) right concentration. And (such a one’s) past acts of body, acts of speech, and mode of livelihood have been well purified.
(Majjhima-Nikaya III 287-290, Pali Text Society volume 3 pg 337-338)
No, I don’t much experience sense object, sense organ, consciousness, impact, and feeling the way Gautama described it, but I do take something from what he said about the nature of the path, the fourth truth.
As Ayres put forward, “all other types of sensation are processed in reference to this basic Vestibular information”–for me, that begins here:
Let the mind be present without an abode.
(Translation Venerable Master Hsing Yun, from “The Rabbit’s Horn: A Commentary on the Platform Sutra”, Buddha’s Light Publishing pg 60)
This is the famous passage (from the Diamond Sutra) that the woodcutter Huineng heard read aloud, that resulted in his awakening and later becoming the 6th patriarch in the lineage of Zen in China.
The reference is not to awareness and its object (“mind” and its object), but to the sensed location of awareness (“let the mind be present”), a sensed location that can move as though in empty space (“without an abode”).
The eyes can play tricks, resetting the location of awareness with the thinking mind, but the coordinating sense is equalibrioception (the vestibulars).
As far as sitting cross-legged, I return now to something like this, as a necessity of breath at about 30 minutes:
Awareness of the forward and backward motion wherever consciousness takes place and relaxation of the activity of the body in awareness stretches the ligaments and fascia of the ilio-sacral joints, between the sacrum and the pelvis. Similarly, awareness of the side-to-side motion wherever consciousness takes place and relaxation of the activity of the body in awareness stretches the ligaments and fascia between the sacrum and the sit-bones on either side. Likewise, awareness of the turn left, turn right wherever consciousness takes place and relaxation of the activity of the body in awareness stretches the ligaments and fascia between the sacrum and the lower front sides of the pelvis, left and right.
The stretches initiate activity in the muscle groups of the legs, activity that returns to the pelvis to initiate stretch and activity in support of the spine and the skull.
It’s all I can do to just breathe, at about 35, but there is happiness in letting go to breathe.
To unfurl the red flag of victory over your head,whirl the twin swords behind your ears–if not for a discriminating eye and a familiar hand, how could anyone be able to succeed?
(emphasis mine; from “The Blue Cliff Record”, translation by T. and J.C. Cleary, case 37 pg 274)