End of the 7 Sets Series

Unlike the movies, you usually don’t get a box car. You snuggle in between a container and the lip of the car’s chassis, in the gap between the chassis frame and the container doors. It’s very dangerous — you can get killed. It’s also very illegal.

I hope this series has benefited you by presenting a hypnotherapist’s practical approach to the Buddha’s core teaching.

I consider the 7 Sets to be the Buddha’s core teaching.  To study the 7 Sets was useful to me because it is highly applied and specific.  The 7 Sets teaching is far more structured and nuanced than the “just mindfulness” or “just letting go” stuff that tends to circulate in his name.

I believe a hypnotist’s point of view is helpful because it looks to me like the Buddha did not exactly teach philosophy.  He taught how to cultivate selflessness to the point that it becomes possible to magically transcend the limitations that we, as embodied humans, implicitly assume are integral to consciousness.

The joy and delight in this work is that it makes one useful for humanity, and for all sentient beings.  I believe in enlightenment — in real enlightenment, that adorns Buddhalands, that dwells in Nirvana, and that provides a true release from the conditional existence that spurs suffering.

The Buddha did not teach “everyday enlightenment.”  He did not teach mood management.  I’m a pretty good hypnotist — I know mood management when I see it.  Mood management, everyday enlightenment, just letting go, and the quirky philosophy that compares Buddhism to quantum mechanics are all fine as far as they go.  But I do not believe they are the gift of the Buddha, and I believe the gift of the Buddha is transcendently valuable. More

The 5 Aggregates (not part of the 7 sets series!)

The 5 Aggregates are not part of the 7 sets, so I’m not including them in the 7 sets series here on TiltedCandle.  But I won’t come back around to Buddhism for awhile, so, I’m sneaking them in here, so they’ll stand next to the 7 sets series, like a book on the bookshelf.

The 5 Aggregates, or Skandhas, aren’t really necessary in the 7 Sets, because they’re a philosophical scheme and all the sets in the 7 Sets are action-based.

The 5 Aggregates are implied in the 7 Sets by the 4 Frames of Reference.  The 4 Frames of Reference are basically Aggregates 2-5, given in terms of right effort.  “Matter” is omitted, since you can’t think with it.

The 5 Aggregates are:

  1. Form, or Matter
  2. Sensation and Feeling
  3. Perception, Cognition, and Discrimination.  Emotions go here, since they are based on the idea of discriminating between what is and what ought to be.
  4. Impulses, Volition.
  5. Consciousness

I drew you a little picture to show how this works. Consciousness arises out of the contact between consciousness and matter.  Note that when Buddhists talk about “form” they mean “matter,” which is structurally different from Western philosophy.  When Plato talks about “form,” he means a kind of intelligence inherent in nature — when we see something beautiful, Plato says it’s because our souls have contacted the form of beauty by seeing it in the beautiful object of perception.  Not so here. More

The 4 Noble Truths (not part of the 7 sets series!)

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first...

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first sermon on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya.

The 4 Noble Truths are not actually part of the 7 Sets.  Therefore this is technically not part of the 7 sets series… but I’m cheatingly squeezing them in.  They’re important.

The four noble truths are:

    1. The basic problem is suffering.  Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
    2. The origin of suffering is this craving (or attachment) which leads to reincarnation, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for life, craving for death.
    3. The cure for suffering is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it. (That is, Enlightenment.)
    4. The cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

For “suffering” also read “unsatisfactoriness.”  The Buddha wasn’t claiming that life is pure misery from birth to death.  It has its good points — it has moments of union with what is pleasing.  The overall point is, the basic situation is inherently unsatisfactory, and it is because satisfaction, or even non-misery, is conditional.

Hindu doctors would diagnose illnesses with four questions:

    1. What is the disease?
    2. What is the cause of the disease?
    3. What is the prognosis? — is it treatable, and what would a cure look like?
    4. What is the treatment?

The Buddha contemplated the problem of the human condition as a Hindu doctor considered a patient’s disease.  (Not everyone knows that.)  The basic unsatisfactoriness inherent in life was the problem.  The cause was attachment, clinging or desire, which keeps a person reincarnating as a human.  The solution was to surrender the attachment that causes that stuff.  This means radical letting go of Self, or enlightenment.  The treatment — how to get there — is the Noble Eightfold path, which is explicated in the 7 sets.

The 5 aggregates the Buddha mentions are the sets of mental phenomena that produce consciousness, starting with matter (the brain; the embodied person) and resulting in pure mind.  That’s also not part of the 7 sets, so we’ll consider that too.

The Noble 8-fold Path and Obstacles on the Way (part of the 7 Sets series)

English: Path near Gamesley Fold Farm

The Noble 8-fold Path is most known of the sets in the 7 Sets. It is something like the 10 Commandments in Judaism and Christianity. One difference is that most of the 10 Commandments are prohibitions — thou shalt NOT — while the 8-fold path is a set of positive obligations.

(Westerners often say that means Buddhism is more permissive, but I’m not sure that comparison is valid, or true if valid. Which is more permissive — to be told 10 things you can’t do, or 8 things you must?)

The Noble 8-fold Path is:

1. Right View
2. Right Resolve
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

Notice that 1-2 are internal, 3-5 are social, and 6-8 regard meditation and the path to attainment.  Some of these are addressed very thoroughly in the rest of the 7 Sets framework.

However, the social precepts — Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood — are less discussed.  There are rules for monastics.  There are guidelines for finding suitable employment.  Right Speech mostly boils down to not lying or being deceptive and not quarreling.

This is a good time to talk about the 5 Desires.  These are intrinsic drivers to attachment that are defeated on the path to enlightenment.

1.  Wealth
2.  Sex
3.  Fame
4.  Food
5.  Sleep

I hear the Buddha once said that if there were another desire like sex, he wouldn’t have attained enlightenment.

The 3 Sources of Bad Karma are:

1.  Hate
2.  Greed
3.  Delusion

These are to be avoided in yourself, but also one is to avoid stirring them in others.  No internet trolling, no being a con artist.

There are two lists of fetters.  There are the 3 Fetters and the 10 Fetters (which include the first three).

The 3 Fetters are:

1.  Identity View
2.  Skeptical Doubt
3.  Clinging to Rites & Rituals

Identity view is the idea that the self is real.  It is attachment to having a particular viewpoint.  The second and third are interesting in combination:  on the one hand, one ought not have skeptical doubt, but faith.  On the other hand, to cling to rites and rituals is a debased form of faith.

Rather than relying on rites and rituals, one should look into one’s own nature.  Doing this thoroughly shows up the emptiness of identity view.  The more you look at who you are, the more you find that you’re not there.

The expanded list of 10 Fetters, for those of you aren’t satisfied with only 3, is:

1.  Identity View
2.  Skeptical Doubt
3.  Clinging to Rites & Rituals  ………………The basic 3 Fetters
4.  Sensual Craving
5.  Ill-Will ……………………………………….. Fetters 1-5 are regarding this world

 6.  Desiring a Fine-Material Existence
7.  Desiring an Immaterial Existence ……… Fetters resolved with Bodhichitta
8.  Conceit
9.  Restlessness
10. Ignorance  ……………………………………Fetters 6-10 are regarding the next world

You can see how freeing oneself from the basic three fetters will tend to resolve the others.  Desiring a fine-material existence (to become an angel or guardian spirit, I imagine) will prevent attaining the enlightenment of the Buddha.  But really that has to do with identity view:  imagining that you exist, and further, that other sentient beings exist.

That doesn’t mean you should think that sentient beings do not exist:  it means that the language which expresses the question of whether sentient beings exist or not implicitly presupposes the problem that enlightenment resolves.

The 7 Factors for Awakening — Waypoints on the Journey to Enlightenment (part of the 7 Sets series)

English: Paticcasamuppada (In Pali), life Cycl...

Paticcasamuppada (Pali), life cycle wheel of beings, good to use for Vipassana mediators and important to understand.

The 7 Factors for Awakening set is a kind of a road map toward Enlightenment. (7 Sets main) These are the steps to take to become enlightened.

1. Mindfulness
2. Insight (or Analysis of Qualities — the behavior of insight)
3. Persistence
4. Rapture
5. Serenity
6. Concentration
7. Equanimity

The last four are the four Jhanas, which we’ve talked about.  These are levels of attainment achieved in sequence. One attains the Jhana of Rapture before one attains the Jhana of Serenity, and so forth.

Mindfulness and Analysis of Qualities probably do not need to be attained in that sequence. Rather, these are preliminary tools. Persistence clearly is necessary throughout.

I have seen Buddhism divided into three basic parts:

  • Vipassana — Insight into the nature of things.  This is the contemplation of what is true.  It is more intuitive than what we normally call “theology,” but constitutes a deep awareness of transcendent truths, and therefore might be considered metaphysical in nature.
  • Samatha — quiet mind.  This is the meditative version of what for a hypnotist is command of trance state, also called state control.
  • The Jhanas — the levels to Stream Entry.  These are enduring states of the psyche, or foundational changes in one’s spiritual body.
The 7 Factors for Awakening are these three, plus persistent effort.

The 5 Faculties and the 5 Strengths (part of the 7 Sets series!)

English: Vietnamese devotional statue of the h...

Vietnamese devotional statue of the historical Buddha

The 5 Faculties and the 5 Strengths are the same 5 items. (7 Sets index) Really this is one set. The difference is only whether you have attained the virtues.

Some translations have Faculties and Strengths, while others have 5 Roads to Power and 5 Pillars of Strength. It’s a road to power when you’re on it and a pillar of strength when you have attained it.

Or you could say it’s a road to power when you’re cultivating it and a pillar of strength when you’re using it. Since using these virtues and attaining them are inimately linked, there is probably a good reason the Buddha linked them the way he did.

The 5 Pillars of Strength, the 5 Roads to Power, are:

1. Conviction
2. Persistence
3. Mindfulness
4. Concentration
5. Insight

Sometimes #5 is translated “discernment.”

Insight, #5, is the most useful and important. Making this point seems to be the Buddha’s primary purpose in mentioning this set.

The reason insight is the best of these is that it naturally leads to cultivation of the other 4.

4 Bases of Power (part of the 7 Sets series!)


Nirvana (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

The 4 Bases of Power are the fundamentals of proper motivation toward right action. (7 sets index) This is not only the “motivation” of getting in gear, but motivation coupled with a confidence in progressive attainment and a knowledge of what one needs to do from moment to moment to take the next good step.

Develop the base of power endowed with concentration founded on:

1. Desire and the products of exertion
2. Persistence and the products of exertion
3. Intent and the products of exertion
4. Discrimination and the products of exertion

These things make you powerful in your development. They properly motivate right action. To develop desire for enlightenment (*or salvation, if that’s your thing), endowed with concentration, founded on desire and the products of effort, powerfully motivates you toward right action.

Most people understand what these things mean, but let’s consider them a little more deeply. More

The 4 Right Exertions (part of the TiltedCandle series on the 7 Sets!)

The 4 Right Exertions are the moral actions of the psyche to lead one to attainment. (7 sets main

This painting depicts Devadatta on one of his ...

) You can use the term “wrong” here. It means evil, bad, or simply unskillful — they are interchangeable in terms of leading you toward or away from enlightenment, which are the only terms relevant.

Endeavor, arouse persistence, uphold and exert one’s intent for the sake of:

1. The non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not arisen.
2. The abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
3. The arising of good, skillful qualities that have arisen.
4. The maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude and culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. More

The 4 Frames of Reference (part of the 7 Sets series!)

cachemash #90: vipassanā

cachemash #90: vipassanā (Photo credit: eaubscene)

The 4 Frames of Reference are contexts toward which you direct your attention. (7 Sets indexYou just kind of zone out and focus on them. This is like a master painter contemplating his canvas and his paints. He may contemplate the colors of his paints, their texture, and so forth.

In your case you work backwards, unpainting your painting until you are contemplating the canvas, and then further until you are contemplating your not-even-the-canvas: Somehow considering the mental medium that will carry the form of the picture in the witnessing of it.

Again, you have perhaps looked at a computer or TV screen up close, seeing then the individual pixels and the pixellated fabric of the image. You might then become absorbed in the nature of the pixellated fabric itself. Or you might listen with an ear to the sounds you are hearing, the forms of the sounds, and the possibility of those forms.

Your thought itself has structure, and you can consider that structure. Beginning to pay attention to the right things is the 4 Frames of Reference set. More

Enlightenment Is the Goal — What Is Enlightenment? (7 sets series)


Maura O’Halloran
was a young Irish lady who went to live as a Buddhist monastic in Asia.  She greatly impressed her teachers, but was killed in a bus accident in Thailand after only a few years.  Her diary has been published by her family.

Patricia Dai-En Bennage quoted the following as a requiem for O’Halloran.  It is a quote from an unknown source.  Bennage explains that she copied the text into her notebook years ago, as a college student, at a time when finding any information in English about Buddhism was relatively hard.  She did not copy the source.  Therefore there is only this fragment.

Once renunciation and the awakened mind have been fully realized, the way to Buddhahood is clear.  Liberation is complete and such liberated beings are bodhisattvas and buddhas:  “enlightened ones” or “empty dwellers.”  Their usefulness to others both before and after their physical death is impossible to conceive.  They are nothing but useful energy leading to liberation for all beings still caught in conditional existence.

–source unknown.

That is enlightenment:  to become a bubble of pure consciousness, without attachment to any conditional state of affairs, free of the idea of self.

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