On the eleventh day of Christmas, my True Self gave to me;
11 Virtuous Mental Factors;
(10 Realms of Existence; 9 Points of Death Meditation; 8 Great Tenets of Mahayana; 7 Factors of Awakening; 6 Paramitas; 5 Indriyana; 4 Noble Truths; 3 Dharma Seals; 2 Satyas; and a Buddha by the Bodhi Tree)
Within the Marvellous Abidharma, there are 51 mental factors, as found in the Abidharma samuccaya, and these are divided into several categories based on what I like to describe as their flavour. Because in my own deep meditative experience these mental factors seem to flavour the mind, maybe this is because I am inclined to experience the taste/smell of an object/memory primarily before the other signals are explored. For another, these mental factors may colour the mind around a certain object; or perception for you may be one more of noise, of frequency. However you may relate, you will come across these mental factors, not only in the Abidharma, but in your experience- the flavours of your experience within the faculty of the mind.
In this post my True Self gave me; the 11 Virtuous Mental Factors (kuśala), these eleven are deemed essential to fruitful Buddhist practice, and thus for Great Peace and Total Freedom. The 11 Virtuous Mental Factors are:
Faith. Faith in what? As I have mentioned before, I see this faith as a confidence in something observed and experienced. The confidence that, for instance, the Dharma is True only comes from recognising that through practising it, if it even comes at all. For me, what one must have faith in first and foremost is one’s own innate ability to realise and actualise Buddhahood, and one’s own responsibility to practice the Dharma. Faith in our-self, that you are basically decent. Don’t take my word for it- explore the question deeply yourself, are you basically decent?
Self-Respect. With Faith, with the flavour of that confidence that you are closer to Buddhahood than anything else; we cultivate automatically self-respect, if the faith is not blind. With self-respect we are able to cautiously tread the path of our life, and of course mindfulness provides the appropriate lubrication for this. In this way, engaging in actions, even intentions, that would be disastrous for one’s maturation becomes more difficult than engaging in those that are skillful.
Decorum. Not necessarily conforming to society, but is the practice of respecting those societal/public conventions that exist in such a way they are naturally in line with the eight-fold path, and the ability to distinguish between the two is the product of wisdom. I also like to approach this factor with a scenario; someone that is ignorant of any contemplative practice (has not yet touched the wisdom the of Dharma) is suffering, you (a seasoned meditator) approaches and spiels away on non-self. Is that going to help? Or cause further confusion, frustration and even alienation and distance? So in this scenario, I think decorum is what is primarily needed- act appropriately, maybe a hug given in mindfulness (but don’t say that!!) is more skilful?
Non-Attachment. Attachment to what? Possessions? certainly. People? ok, it’s getting difficult. Outcome? Woah! For me, the most difficult “thing” to not be attached too is outcome. Possessions are just stuff; people, though sometimes difficult, I see as essentially free, so the point of attachment can never latch on; but the intended outcome of my actions, I feel that is intimately “me”. I am wrong. Practising non-attachment of this kind alleviates so much suffering and anxiety. As long as my intentions and actions come from a place of mindfulness, I need to not be attached to their outcome- I have done all I can, all is done.
Non-Aggression. Here lies the capacity of the mind to not look upon something, or someone, with hatred. What do you absolutely despise? Sit with it. I have a tea set, with 2 cups, when I meditate alone, I often begin by brewing some tea, and I pour tea in both cups. I sit, cultivating the energy of mindfulness, and sip the tea from my cup- recognising the wonder of the moment, however it happens to present itself. When any feeling arises that may lead to destructive thoughts of angst, aggression, or hatred- I recognise it as a beast starved of love, and I mindfully pick up the other cup and sip- offering the sweet taste of the tea to whatever it is that has arrived at the cushion. In that way, I hope to cultivate and flavour my mind with non-aggression.
Non-Bewilderment. This brews during meditation. It’s the tendency of the mind, during the practice of the dharma, to see things- situations- differently. No longer are we a rag doll to the misery of life, but a spectator, content with the show.
Diligence. When times are good- we may feel that we don’t need to practice. When times are bad- we may feel it’s too difficult to practice. So when are we actually practising? Are we waiting for a cosmic sign, the alignment of the stars in the heavens? Diligence means keeping up the practice, in the good times and the bad. What brings us to the cushion every morning is not anything but the joy of it itself. In the good times- practice is possible; in the bad times-practice is possible.
Pliancy. Just do it.
Conscientiousness. With practice, with getting to know oneself- the ability to become increasingly sensitive to another’s situation at a certain moment is possible. One is better able to respond creatively and appropriately to a given situation, perceiving more clearly and subtly the causes and conditions of the situation. This is not meaning to say one never makes a mistake- says the wrong thing at the wrong time, or is anyway in control of the situation. That’s not it. It’s just that when this is the flavour of the mind, it’s easier, more natural not to step on anyone’s toes; exacerbate suffering.
Equanimity. From a place of equanimity, the good, the bad and the ugly are basically decent. Without equanimity, the mind is prone to all kinds of unskillful tendencies. With equanimity, all the other virtuous mental factors are more favourably cultivated.
Non-Violence. I relate to this as gentleness. The manner by which we enter a room, the way we ask a question, how often we smile gently and authentically to ourselves. I don’t mean we should put-it-on, act it out, but just quieten down. In that state, taking one’s time- respecting time- naturally gentleness manifests through our intent and actions.
These Eleven are cultivated as we practice diligently and deeply, but I think also they are qualities of everyone’s mind- capable of arising just as much as any unhealthy factor given appropriate conditions. And this means that just as they are cultivated as we practice, our practice is ever nourished by these factors, calling us to the cushion, calling us back to our True Home.
Thank you for visiting Only Yoking,
A lotus for you, a Buddha to be.