Omnipresent Mental Factors and "Afflicted Determination"

When one studies Zen, they are first introduced to Abhidharma theory, which is like Catholic catechism of definitions for all the factors of the mind. Within this field of study, one is taught all the factors within the form, sensation, conception, volition and consciousness skandhas. Masters who later awaken typically first master Abhidharma  theory, and then practice various  meditation techniques to let go of these categories of mental events (illusions) which arise in the mind. Abhidharma theory helps you recognize the mental factors you observe in shamatha-vispassana practice, and thus observing, you can realize you must let go of them.

That’s how you make meditation progress…it’s called "wisdom insight." From introspection, you recognize the factors  of mind constraining you, and then let go of them once you realize you’ve been holding onto, or clinging to THEM.

One of the factors that always intrigued me in Abhidharma training are the "omnipresent mental factors of mind" present within the skandha of volition. It’s easy to get rid of the coarse thoughts of form and sensation skandha, more difficult to get rid of the refined thoughts of the conception skandha, and as for these — wow, it’s difficult to cultivate through the volitions skandha!

The omnipresent mental factors, as explained in Measuring Meditation, are ever present mental factors involved with all mental states. (Measuring Meditation by the way, has the most extensive explanation of these factors found in the English language and  that section alone took two plus  years of compilation using every English reference available at the time in addition to Master Nan’s lectures on Vasubandhu’s writings, which you can find through Numata Press. So if you want to learn more about the skandhas, pick it up.)   Since these are omnipresent events which accompany every state of mind, and since spiritual cultivation involves liberating ourselves from attachment to various mental states, in cultivation it helps to understand a little of the nature of these five omnipresent factors. It helps to know what you must stop clinging onto.

When we analyze the ten omnipresent mental factors that accompany all states of mind that belong to the skandha of volition, we find that they can be divided into two groups of five components each: the (1) basic omnipresent factors and (2) object-determining events (mental states which determine an object).

The five basic omnipresent events which are present no matter what activity the mind is involved with, include:

 (1) attention, mental engagement, or intentional action (concentration)
 (2) contact
 (3) feeling, or sensation
 (4) perception, cognition or discrimination
 (5) intention, or volition (also called penetration)

Various meditation methods actually try to tie up one or another of these factors to help you realize enlightenment, but that’s such a high level discussion that it’s not appropriate here.

The second set of five mental factors are called "independent" mental events, or "object-determining" mental states, because they occur in conjunction with objects of sense. They are determinative in regard to objects, meaning they are responsible for determining objects. These five mental factors include:

 (6) zest, interest or aspiration
 (7) determination, resolution or resolve
 (8) mindfulness, or recollection
 (9) concentration, one-pointedness, samadhi or stabilization
 (10) discernment, insight, wisdom or prajna

Okay, enough of this. Why bother to go into this, especially as it hurts the head? Indian culture loves this sort of hair splitting definition scheme, but  Chinese typically hate this sort of thing. Nevertheless, in the evolution of  religion,  theology, culture, etc. every school goes through this type of definition specification. The difference with Abhidharma theory is that it’s used  to help you awaken, whereas most schools simple want consistency or the intellectual development of dogma. Abhidharma theory is a tool to help you categorize mental states in meditation.

So why all the fuss? 

Because I want to discuss "determination" – one of the  factors within the Volitions skandha – determination

Determination is the act of staying with something. It is the activity of remaining firm with something you have selected for investigation because of your interest.

Now here’s the MAIN POINT, and the purpose of this blog post …

In many regimes, the government goes about punishing people for having "wrong thoughts." As my teacher says — an expert at controlling thoughts, emptying thoughts, analyzing thoughts —  this is ludicrous since absolutely everyone sports incorrect and nonvirtuous thoughts at times. It’s like Jimmy Carter honestly admitting he lusted in his heart, and the whole world gasped as if they never did. 

Big deal, everyone does that, so why persecute people just for having differing thoughts? Yet many governments or people punish, persecute, or even imprison you for having "wrong thoughts" or think people SHOULD punish or persecute or ridicule you. The living Hell is when they cannot defeat your facts or logic so they  try to assassinate your character for your thought independence from their norm, what THEY want you to think.
 My advice: be brave — we admire in history those who were brave int he face of this.

In other words, many people persecute independent thinking….and this problem is getting bigger and bigger today. In fact, it’s the hallmark of Communism, tyrannies and totalitarianism. And it’s encroaching into democratic societies.

Beware of this — and remember that it’s usually done by people  of little culture themselves event though they’re standing up pretending THEY’RE the ones with a higher standard. Nonsense.

If you are critical or disagree with some religious or political policy,  history   shows you are often accused of all sorts of crazy names - a standard smear tactic because it immediately changes the subject. Now instead of people talking about the topic, they totally ignore the substance of your claims and start talking about your personality and what you’re like as a person….as if that mattered to the truth of the topic at hand and somehow negates the importance of the points you raise. It’s like I always say about reincarnation: opinions don’t matter, belief doesn’t matter — it’s either a fact or it’s not a fact, a truth or a falsity. What you believe has nothing to do with it being a fact or not, and the facts tend to support it more than dismiss it.

Anyway, as Dan Kennedy says, if we always "killed the messenger" because we disagreed with the message (the "thoughts") we’d all be dead. There are  times you just have to stand up for what’s right and speak it, offense or no offense, to arrive at a policy good for all.

You can see it on TV now where  commentators now just call you names when they disagree with you because they cannot debate your facts. You’re attacked for an idea, a view, an opinion. They cannot challenge your facts, so they revert to name calling. low class — as I said, men or women of little culture. People who lack cultivation.

Well, calling people names because you disagree with them  is just nonsense. Consider this: most everyone holds a religious conviction different than the rest of the world’s population,  and the world still goes on, and you don’t DARE call those disagreeing with you names. You respect their views, period. They have amazingly different opinions (errant views by your account since their religion differs), and yet everything still functions, the world goes on without a hitch. 

Frankly, the press can "make a sinner a saint, or a saint a sinner," so you should ignore this type of smear campaign. You are wiser than that, or I hope, as a reader of this blog, that you are … otherwise I’m wasting my fingers typing this.

Judge people by what they do, not by what is said about them. And furthermore, don’t trust the press 100%. Do your own investigations and thinking for that’s what cultivation teaches you.

For instance, even as I write this, there’s a  Republican political candidate running for President — Ron Paul — who keeps winning most of the straw polls and it’s been kept out of the news, or it’s on purpose reported that only a few hundred or dozen people show up at his speeches when it’s in the thousands and he’s nearly  the top campaign funds champion out of all the Republican Party candidates. The establishment doesn’t want him to win since he’d change ALL THE RULES, so there’s an unspoken news embargo on the guy so that you can’t find out about him. Bet you didn’t even hear of him or know he was doing so well … thanks to the popular press people so trust. Point made. (Apologies — I had to use some current issue). Go to google video or YouTube to find out about him. Great stuff to consider even if he doesn’t win.

Getting back to our main story, it’s now become popular once again, as it was in the Middle Ages and in Communist and totalitarian countries, to punish people  or inflict harm or reputation damage or even imprison people  for having "wrong thoughts" (see Germany).

This is wrong, extremely wrong as everybody  "errs" along these lines. EVERYONE!  It’s Communistic to be doing this. Ex-President Jimmy Carter was honest when he said he lusted in his heart. No big deal. I don’t know a man who escaped this sort of guilt. The big deal would be if he did something about it over and over again, and even there it would depend on WHAT he did if anything at all. What’s his business is his business. The point is – if you have "wrong thoughts" or "errant opinions" or "disagreeing opinions"  or a "difference of opinion" vis-a- vis others over some subject, does that mean you should be punished, persecuted or what not? 

No! Never punish someone for wrong thoughts.

This is where I big time disagree with the politically correct, the hate crimes people , the people ready to call you a bigot or anti-Semite or anti-American or racist or immoral or whatever at a moment’s notice. It’s all nonsense. You are allowed to hold whatever thoughts you want, or to criticize any policy you want (because that’s how you improve things), or say whatever you want.

HATE CRIMES are a big attempt at control. If you steal, kill, rape, or whatever,  the laws are good enough as is to find you  guilty … you don’t need to add an extra topping  on the cake to make that determination, which is just going to lead to all sorts of manipulations and attempts to gag people from speaking their mind. If someone broke the law they broke the law and that’s good enough, so the idea of categorizing crimes as "hate crimes" is actually an attempt at imposing censorship.

Abhidharma theory teaches that what you really have to worry about, at least in terms of cultivation or when you are trying to teach your children, is the case of afflicted determination, which is wrong resolve. Not false thoughts or wrong thoughts, but wrong resolve.

You do not have to worry about random wrong thoughts, but wrong thoughts held with determination and resolve as a barrier to cultivation. Determination is basically the activity of holding onto a particular thing without allowing the mind to be stolen by something else. 

Even there, that’s not the problem society-wise, just cultivation-wise which is your own personal concern. The problem societywise is acting detrimentally on afflicted  determination to commit a crime. Not even thinking about something with afflicted determination is the crime (knowing what they do, you’d have nearly all the men in the world arrested for lust - LOL!), or just acting on it, but acting on afflicted  determination to commit a crime.

That’s why we just ignore crazy people in the world as long as they don’t do anything wrong. They’re always operating in the realm of wrong thoughts and wrong thoughts held with determination, but unless they commit a crime you just ignore them. The world’s a big place, you should not try to kill all the germs. Sometimes germs are useful - they do have a role to play.

Now think about this slowly … in today’s world, has society progressed that you are now in danger of being criticized, ostracized or persecuted and attacked for having "wrong thoughts?"   What type of "wrong thoughts" ? Who’s to say your thoughts are wrong and theirs are right? Is it because they’re int he position of power and you aren’t? Probably.  If discussion is the means by which we arrive at correct thinking, policies, views or ways, why is it so wrong or dangerous  to talk about difficult subjects and consider conflicting opinions? Our country was born that way, and now it’s considered a threat or vice? So who’s to say your thoughts are wrong?

Answer: Vested interests. Those  in power who want THEIR agendas to reign, not yours. Put someone else in power and then THEY’LL do the same thing.

And who (what groups) typically threatens you with persecution on this account, having the gall to mix your right to personal opinions (or even active criticism)  with a crime?

Be careful of any groups that try to do this to you. Most likely, they are the ones trying to pull something over on you. Just to bolster you a bit, please remember that the attack is a low class attack, an attack showing lack of culture, and so that double calls to mind the fact that their views and positions better be  carefully examined.

Everyone has wrong thoughts, wrong habits, wrong prejudices and pre-dispositions. You ignore them for the majority of people int he world every single moment of every single day. Thoughts are your own personal karma, and it’s your job to cultivate to get rid of them in order to achieve enlightenment, not someone else’s job to put you in a straight-jacket just because your thoughts disagree.

Do you march into someone else’s church and shout obscenities, saying they’re all wrong? Do you do that to a mosque or a temple? Of course not, but you so disagree with the views of these other groups because you most probably DO have a religion of your own.

That in itself tells you to ignore the name calling when it happens. It’s usually someone trying to hide something or protect something — a vested interest that really, under scrutiny, cannot be defended.

So that’s afflicted determination held with the intent to commit a criminal act….the only thing to worry about.

And as to cultivation and meditation …

Yes, the key to eliminating ALL wrong thoughts is self-cultivation to reach the state absent of thoughts, including the thought of being an ego, individual or separate being. In self-cultivation, the target is to silence the mind and abandon "false thoughts." Then you can be free of  the 5 errant or deviant perspectives or prejudices that are ALSO components of the volition skandha. What are those?

* the view of taking the body, identifying with the body as the self
* taking one-sided views or extreme views
* holding false, errant views - views of untruths proven by facts to be wrong
* holding your own views as supreme (self-cherished views, clinging to your own subjective perspective)
* the view of holding rules and rituals as the way to spiritual excellence, the Tao

When you cultivate enlightenment, you actually free yourself from these 5 errant perspectives, so for someone to call you prejudiced is just laughable when you are a real cultivator with accomplishment. It’s their own agenda at play, that’s all. Upon enlightenment and the smashing of the ego  you can call yourself one with God, and so forth, though of course, you’ll probably get killed or be persecuted when that happens as was the case with Jesus, al-Hallaj, and so forth. Typically, the higher your Tao, the more "yin" that will arise to attack you because you are now "yang." That’s another reason why masters proclaiming the way are typically killed.

Anyway, the path of cultivating away false thoughts is why I champion stopping & seeing, cessation-contemplation, shamatha-vipassana practice in the website, as well as in my book on Socrates. That practice  of self-cultivation is not only the  way to empower people with a tool for self-improvement,  but a way to help people become self-correcting, and a way to strengthen society and eventually free it of prejudice.

Forget about the people who call you a bigot, racist, traitor, non-patriot, anti-American, anti-Semite, anti-Christian, Communist, Socialist, fascist, conspiracy nut, immoral,  gay lover, nut case, disloyal, evil, criminal, non-progressive, reactionary, and all the other terms popularly bandied about with vehemence when you happen to pull away the curtain on some issue that some people want  to keep secret, or propose change that threatens vested interests. They have their own issues. Just work on yourself with spiritual cultivation.



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