On the 5th Day of Christmas

On the 5th Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my True Self gave to me…

5 Indriyana/balani

(4 noble truths, 3 dharma seals, 2 satyas and the Buddha by the Bodhi tree)

Close your eyes. Let the colours settle. Let the noise settle. Now from the silence and the quiet allow an image to emerge- a meadow. Not just any meadow, but the meadow of your consciousness. What is the ecosystem like in your meadow? Is it vibrant and colourful, full of beauty and stability? Or is it an ecosystem in decline, torn by the invasive plants of kleshas?

What have you (allowed to be) sown? What have you (allowed to be) watered?

The 5 Indriyana, or bases, are the seeds of your native nature and they will, no matter what, always be present even just as dormant seeds in your store consciousness. The 5 balani, or powers, are the manifestation of those seeds, the growth- the action of an increasing health of consciousness into Buddhahood. It is important to note straight away that though we call these 5, when watered by daily practice they all grow, they all fruit.

The 5 Indriyana/balani are:

  1. Faith (shraddha)

  2. Diligence (virya)

  3. Mindfulness (smriti)

  4. Concentration (samadhi)

  5. Wisdom (prajña)

How do these help? 

By cultivating these qualities in your consciousness, you will become empowered. They are called powers after all. There is great energy locked up in the fruits of these 5 and this energy is required for daily practice. Otherwise, whatever you may be doing, it will likely be a facade- whether you know it or not- and Mara will arrive and it will be so easy to wander off with the Great Tempter.

Instead with these great powers cultivated, the strength of practice also increases and Mara can b e recognised more easily, and perhaps we can invite Mara in for tea instead.

Faith. Is the path worthwhile? What brought you to read on the Dharma today? Why do you choose to sit on the cushion in the half lotus at the crack of dawn in the morning? Why? Because you have faith. Faith in what? Personally, I have faith in Life (Love is synonymous in my own understanding). I have faith that I am basically ok, and so are you. I have faith that by sitting up straight and settling into whatever is there, I can do the good work. I have faith there is a seed on Buddhahood deep down in the soil of consciousness that we must all water.

Where has this faith come from? Is it blind? No. I have been touched by moments of true awe, I have seen in the eyes of others this basic goodness, felt the energy of  teachers and masters of the path, and most importantly- I have practiced and this has only increased my faith in the practice. Like a scientist who has ran experiments, observed and recorded phenomena, collected data, ran statistical tests and made several inferences (and a fair amount of assumptions by the way) and now have great confidence that they have identified a new drug target or new drug compound. It is still not certain whether it will work in practice, but clinical trials increase the faith in the new drug. So faith here is not listen to me and then believe it. It’s try it and see what happens, have your own trial run. But most of all, cultivate faith in yourself– that you are basically decent- but don’t take my word for it.

Diligence. Ok at first I had a little bit of faith. I was attracted to the dharma through an introductory meditation class and was advised to go to that for my anxiety issues by a friend who has benefited in a similar way from meditation. I had faith in my friend, I trusted their experience and having tried it myself, I trust my own experience. There’s something in this. My anxiety is causing less problems and so my faith in the practice increased, and last week I meditated for my longest run- 90 minutes- but it’s been 6 days now and I haven’t meditated since. I feel my anxiety creeping in again, and I’m afraid it will gain control over my life once again. I don’t understand. 

Diligence is not how long you can sit, but how easily you can come back to the present moment. The energy from diligence may come from faith, and increased diligence may reinforce faith since it often depends one’s practice. But diligence is not difficult, it’s not an effort or a fight- it’s holding the hand of ease (prashrabdhih). Always. What we need to be diligent of is specifically our own business, but more generally whether we a residing with mindfulness whatever we may be doing. Diligence is not torturing oneself on a zafu until one is burnt out and subconsciously never wants to sit on a zafu again! Be easily diligent of where you are, come back and settle, wherever you are. The practice is joyful.

Mindfulness. Most people I have spoken to these days are familiar with the term mindfulness. The Sanskrit means “remembering”. Personally, the breath is an auspicious anchor of mindfulness, because it is always present and often the pattern and nature of the breath is closely related to your mind state and body state; when I am anxious the breath may become shallow and fast, when calmer the breath seems much deeper but yet hardly moving at all. Becoming intimate with the breath, the breath inside and the breath outside, is another way in which energy for diligence can arise and of course mindfulness is a practice in itself. Let us not live in forgetfulness, but remember, remember, remember.

Concentration. Now sprouts concentration. There are nine levels of meditative concentration, and I hope to explore each soon in a series of posts. For now, what is concentration (samadhi)? I remember being asked, rather impatiently, by teachers at school when I way a young child to “concentrate” and I would do as they told me to, and I would concentrate hard. I would reaaaally look at the equation. And Eureka! I got a headache. So I went to the nursing room and got out of doing maths. This concentration is not what samadhi is. Concentration is not something you do in meditation, it’s something that diligent and mindful practice fruits or sets in motion. It’s a state of dissolving into experience with a flavour of natural attentiveness. Clarity has never been clearer, and wisdom awoken.

Wisdom. Wisdom cannot awake without faith, diligence, mindfulness and concentration, and faith, diligence, mindfulness and concentration are supported and energised by (the potentiality of) wisdom. Wisdom is born and awakes when these other powers are cultivated. What is not wisdom? Understanding that doesn’t guide and lubricate the way/flowering of peace and liberation is not prajña (wisdom). With wisdom sprouting in the meadow of consciousness, in a stable ecosystem of flowers of shraddha, virya, smriti, and samadhi, whose roots are all intertwined essentially one super-organism, the possibility of Buddhahood is realised. Wisdom, I feel, is best left to speak for itself.

The Five Indriyana/balani if cultivated, if carefully and respectfully allowed to manifest, and move and grow and inform our actions both internal and external, Mara will be recognised as an old friend, and we will know in our own way who each of us is at the core. And it is nakedly beautiful.

Thank you for visiting Only Yoking,

A lotus for you, a Buddha to be,

– dharmacaterpillar


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