[Advayavada Study Plan – week 21] Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. In weeks 14 to 18 we again treated the preliminary subjects, in week 19 we again honestly reviewed and took stock of our personal situation (first step on the Noble Eightfold Path), in week 20 we again took an appropriate and timely decision to adjust our course (second step), and to continue with this quarter’s 13-week Advayavada Study Plan, this week we shall again put our decision and improved objective in writing as precisely as possible. This task is based on the third step on the Noble Eightfold Path: samma-vacha (in Pali) or samyag-vac (in Sanskrit); in Advayavada Buddhism’s fully personalized usage: our very best enunciation or definition of our intention; in Dutch: onze beste uitleg (de derde stap op het edele achtvoudige pad). (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 20] In week 19 we again honestly reviewed and took stock of our personal situation at this time, and to continue with this quarter’s 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP), this week we shall again take an appropriate and timely decision to adjust our course. This task is based on the 2nd step on the Noble Eightfold Path: samma-sankappa (Pali) or samyak-samkalpa (Sanskrit), in Advayavada Buddhism: our very best resolution or determination; in Dutch: onze beste beslissing (de tweede stap op het edele achtvoudige pad). In Advayavada Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths suffice to start off and proceed on the Path at any time. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 19] When the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path is followed conscientiously it becomes nothing less than the main karmic factor in one’s life, i.e. in one’s fleeting share in the universal interdependent origination process (cf. madhyamaka-pratityasamutpada). The 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year for this lofty purpose: in weeks 14 to 18 we therefore again treated the preliminary subjects and, to continue with the current second quarter of 2016, in week 19 we shall again honestly review and take stock of our personal situation at this time. This task is based on the 1st step on the Noble Eightfold Path: samma-ditthi (Pali) or samyag-dristi (Sanskrit), in Advayavada Buddhism: our very best comprehension or insight; in Dutch: ons beste inzicht (de eerste stap op het edele achtvoudige pad). (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 18] In Secular Buddhism generally, firmly bearing in mind the impermanence and selflessness or emptiness of all things, the focus is on the correct interpretation and realization of the historical Buddha’s so-called ‘four noble truths’: 1) that of the ubiquity of existential suffering in the world, 2) that ignorant craving and attachment are the actual and immediate causes of such suffering, 3) that this suffering shall cease altogether when we deal with and overcome its causes, and 4) that the sure way to achieve this is by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which, in Advayavada Buddhism, is understood as an ongoing and fully autonomous, non-prescriptive, investigative and creative process of progressive insight, reflecting in human terms wondrous overall existence becoming over time in its manifest direction, this evolution or progress being, then, the fourth sign or mark or basic fact of being. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 17] Man is basically prone to existential suffering (dukkha, duhkha) because he wrongly strives after and tries to hold on to things, concepts and situations which he believes to be permanent, but are not. His mistaken view of things is produced by a thirst, craving or clinging (tanha in Pali, trishna in Sanskrit) which is in turn caused by his fundamental ignorance (avijja in Pali, avidya in Sanskrit) or disbelief of the true nature of existence, especially its changeability and selflessness or emptiness. This is the second noble truth of Buddhism, and this thirst, craving or clinging can moreover easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will, laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder the individual’s efforts to better his or her circumstances, as well as contaminate the efforts of others to improve theirs. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 16] Dukkha (Pali) or duhkha (Sanskrit) means suffering, sorrow, dissatisfaction, frustration, anxiety, or stress; it is the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism and also the third of the three, in Advayavada Buddhism, four signs or marks or basic facts of being. In Advayavada Buddhism, it furthermore does not include emotional grief nor physical pain, and is, above all, not seen as a permanent feature of reality; it is chiefly understood as the existential distress and distrust of life non-liberated human beings are prone to, and which is essentially caused by the unhealthy and socially infectious feeling that reality does not conform to their desires and mistaken expectations. The unremitting persistency of human distress, alienation and conflict is undeniably due to the very many everywhere not knowing or not understanding or simply disbelieving the true nature of existence. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[week 14] Anicca (Pali) or anitya (Sanskrit) means impermanent, changeable, unstable, transitory. The Buddhist aniccata or anityata doctrine teaches that impermanence or changeability is the most fundamental property of everything existing; it lies at the very heart of the interdependent origination (and emptiness) of all things, and evolution, progress and liberation would not be possible without it. In Advayavada Buddhism, karma is the incessant universal process of interdependent origination as it is experienced at the sentient level and our own share of it is the everchanging knotlet of biopsychosocial (bps) events in which we are personally embedded.
[week 15] Anatta (Pali) or anatman (Sanskrit) means no-self. The Buddhist anatta or anatmata doctrine teaches that no imperishable self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance. In Mahayana Buddhism, the nissvabhava doctrine teaches further that in fact all things without exception are empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava); svabhava-shunyata (lit. self-nature emptiness) is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy. In Advayavada Buddhism, the selflessness of all existents is one of the four signs or marks or basic facts of being, the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything, the ubiquity of existential suffering, and evolution or, in human terms, progress. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[weeks 12 & 13] In week 11 we concentrated on mustering our very best effort and commitment to fulfil our improved objective (sixth step on the Noble Eightfold Path), and, to conclude this quarter’s 13-week Advayavada Study Plan, in week 12 we shall again make our best possible evaluation of our efforts to date and in week 13 we shall continue to develop and deepen our very best meditation towards samadhi*. These tasks are based on the seventh and eighth step on the Noble Eightfold Path: respectively samma-sati and samma-samadhi (in Pali) or samyak-smriti and samyak-samadhi (in Sanskrit); in Advayavada Buddhism’s personalized usage: our very best observation or reflection and self-correction, and our very best meditation or concentration towards samadhi; in Dutch: onze beste aandacht en onze beste bezinning (de zevende en achtste stap op het edele achtvoudige pad).
*Samadhi (Pali and Sanskrit): total or perfect concentration (of the mind, enstasy); total absorption in the object of meditation; the merging of subject and object; realization of the sameness of the part and the whole, of the identity of body and mind, of form and emptiness, of samsara and nirvana, of the immediate and the ultimate; perfect attunement with wondrous overall existence advancing in its manifest direction; oceanic feeling; wonder, awe, rapture; essential purity; deep love and compassion; awareness of our common ground and the innocence of sex. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
[week 11] In week 10 we implemented our improved way of doing things (fifth step on the Noble Eightfold Path), and, to continue with this quarter’s 13-week Advayavada Study Plan, in week 11 we shall concentrate on mustering our very best effort and commitment to fulfil our improved objective. This task is based on the sixth step on the Noble Eightfold Path: samma-vayama (in Pali) or samyag-vyayama (in Sanskrit); in Advayavada Buddhism’s personalized usage: our very best effort and commitment; in Dutch: onze beste inspanning (de zesde stap op het edele achtvoudige pad). Importantly, as we advance properly along the Buddha’s Middle Way responding to his promise of Nirvana, we shall be ridding ourselves of the so-called ten fetters (dasa-samyojana) that restrict us to samsaric life: 1) belief in the self, 2) scepticism regarding the Path, 3) attachment to rituals, 4) partiality for certain things, 5) prejudice against certain things, 6) clinging to physical life, 7) hope of a hereafter, 8) conceit and pride, 9) intolerance and irritability, and 10) the last remnants of our ignorance. (from advayavada.org/#plan)
Experiential factors shape the neural circuits underlying social and emotional behavior from the prenatal period to the end of life. These factors include both incidental influences such as early adversity as well as intentional influences that can be produced in humans through specific interventions designed to promote prosocial behavior and well-being. Key extant evidence in animal models and humans is reviewed. While the precise mechanisms of plasticity are still not fully understood, moderate to severe stress appears to increase growth of several sectors of the amygdala while effects in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex tend to be opposite. Structural and functional changes in the brain have been observed with cognitive therapy and certain forms of meditation and lead to the suggestion that well-being and other prosocial characteristics might be enhanced through training. (Richard J. Davidson and Bruce S. McEwen, in Social influences on neuroplasticity: Stress and interventions to promote well-being, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491815/)