Week 34 - Factors of Awakening: Rapture II

In this continuing discussion of the Awakening Factor of Rapture, Joseph describes four reflections that can lead to strong piti or rapture. The first of these is Sila or moral virtue. There are several ways in which we can reflect on our commitment to non-harming, recognizing that the practice of sila is a training and we can always begin again. The second reflection is on acts of Generosity. Recognizing that it may be uncomfortable for some to reflect on one’s own generosity, Joseph suggests appreciating the generosity of others and then recognizing the value of our own. A third reflection is on the Devas, not always something westerners believe in. Joseph suggests we may have some of the same qualities as the Devas.
 
At this point, Joseph speaks at length of punna or merit or good fortune. He distinguishes between merit with attachment involved, and merit in which karmic actions are free of a sense of self. He points out that the four fields of merit are the same as the four qualities of stream entry. These are faith, virtue, generosity, and wisdom. As we develop these, he says, the merit cannot be measured.
 
The fourth reflection is on Peace. This is the peace that arises when the mind is free of defilements. Rapture, the fourth Factor of Awakening, fills us with joy in the Dharma and inspires us to fulfill this great path of awakening.

Questions

A. As a way to bring forth Piti, let’s try some remembrance right now, with the strength of the sanga. Take a moment to recall an instance of peace, of freedom from clinging, of restraint from causing harm (however slight or excessive), of merit, generosity, or a job well done.  Get in touch with the feeling of it, the felt sense or emotion. Then, with that heart connection, when you will, raise your hand to be acknowledged and with the fewest of words speak of two things: identify the action and then a word for the feeling or heart connection.  For example:  An act of generosity; a feeling of belonging.

B. Discuss and become clear about Rapture being something of benefit, of pleasure, of happiness, inspiration, yet something not to strive for, and perhaps to not even prefer.  Buddha says Punya, merit which can lead to Rapture, does not refer to anyone. It is simply a process of nature. Free of the notion of I or mine.  Motives: not for good result, but one of disenchantment, to cultivate non-attachment.

C. In this talk, Goldstein suggests not so much to think about qualities, but to embody them.  Does this point to an experience that is beyond the sense spheres?  How do you “embody” these qualities?

Exercises

A. While being mindful this week you may well experience instances of peace, freedom, or happiness.  Of coming out of the grip a defilement. We have a taste of peace.  Pay attention, at that instant, to feel that experience through your sense spheres, in the body and in the mind.  Hold that feeling, allow a heart-connection.  Observe how deep it can go.  This exercise can provide inspiration for the practice and can “hard-wire” neural pathways for happiness.

B. Before or after each meditation, think back over the past day to moments of acting with sila, “moral virtue”, with a commitment to non-harming.  It can be instances of generosity of any scale, or experiences of no-self or coming to peace.  Reflect on the feeling at that moment, in the body and in the mind. Do you experience a heart –connection? Can you view it as a process of nature, free of the notion of “I” or “mine”?