Friday, April 26, 2019

what percentage of arahants had psychic powers?

An interesting topic of discussion from Dhammawheel

SN 8.7

“No ce kira me, bhante, bhagavā kiñci garahati kāyikaṃ vā vācasikaṃ vā.
“Since it seems I have done nothing worthy of the Blessed One’s criticism,
Imesaṃ pana, bhante, bhagavā pañcannaṃ bhikkhusatānaṃ na kiñci garahati kāyikaṃ vā vācasikaṃ vā”ti.
is there anything these five hundred monks have done by way of body or speech that you would criticize?”
“Imesampi khvāhaṃ, sāriputta, pañcannaṃ bhikkhusatānaṃ na kiñci garahāmi kāyikaṃ vā vācasikaṃ vā.
“There is nothing, Sāriputta, that these five hundred monks have done by way of body or speech that I would criticize.
Imesañhi, sāriputta, pañcannaṃ bhikkhusatānaṃ saṭṭhi bhikkhū tevijjā, saṭṭhi bhikkhū chaḷabhiññā, saṭṭhi bhikkhū ubhatobhāgavimuttā, atha itare paññāvimuttā”ti.
For of these five hundred monks, sixty have the three knowledges, sixty have the six direct knowledges, sixty are freed both ways, and the rest are freed by wisdom.”

so at an early time when the sangha numbered 500 monks, a little more than 10% (60/500) had full arsenal of psychic powers (levitation, cloning, the difficult psychic powers).

having 3 knowledges, means besides arahantship, the other 2 knowledges are having the divine eye that sees past lives, and sees where various beings are reborn, among other powers related to divine eye. So this would mean over 20% of the sangha had some competence with various psychic powers.

being freed "both ways", ubhatobhāgavimuttā, 
 (see MN 70) refers to having arupa samadhi attainments as the 'peaceful liberations'.

being freed by wisdom means one has 4 jhanas, but no arupa samadhi expertise, and no psychic powers at all.

45. Ubhatobhāgavimuttasutta
45. Freed Both Ways
“‘Ubhatobhāgavimutto, ubhatobhāgavimutto’ti, āvuso, vuccati.
“Reverend, they speak of a person called ‘freed both ways’.
Kittāvatā nu kho, āvuso, ubhatobhāgavimutto vutto bhagavatā”ti?
What is the one freed both ways that the Buddha spoke of?”
“Idhāvuso, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi … pe … paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.
“First, take a monk who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures … enters and remains in the first jhāna.
Yathā yathā ca tadāyatanaṃ tathā tathā naṃ kāyena phusitvā viharati, paññāya ca naṃ pajānāti.
They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. And they understand that with wisdom.
Ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, ubhatobhāgavimutto vutto bhagavatā pariyāyena … pe ….
To this extent the Buddha spoke of the one freed both ways in a qualified sense. …
Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu sabbaso nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṃ samatikkamma saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati, paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti.
Furthermore, take a monk who, going totally beyond the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of perception and feeling. And, having seen with wisdom, their defilements come to an end.
Yathā yathā ca tadāyatanaṃ tathā tathā naṃ kāyena phusitvā viharati, paññāya ca naṃ pajānāti.
They meditate directly experiencing that dimension in every way. And they understand that with wisdom.
Ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, ubhatobhāgavimutto vutto bhagavatā nippariyāyenā”ti.
To this extent the Buddha spoke of the one freed both ways in a definitive sense.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

🐱🐮 flying cat cow principles

4👑☸ → ☯🦍 → ⚔️🛡️ → 🐱🐮 flying cat cow  

Image result for cat cow yoga 

One of those is cat pose, the other is cow, I'm not sure which is which.

Image result for indian cow doing cow stretchImage result for indian cow doing cow stretchImage result for indian cow doing cow stretchImage result for cat stretch

Image result for cat stretch

video clips of basic cat/cow movement

The basic 🐱🐮 cat/cow principles

* too much tension: The way I see most people do it, there's too much tension and force getting into the pose.
* from my point of view, the basic cat cow, the way most people do it, is they move from one stiff tense posture, into another stiff tense posture, using force. If you watch a cat or tiger do the move, their bodies are much more loose, like a bag of water being stretched and reshaped, rather than a ball of stiff clay that needs great force to put into the posture.
* so the first big tip to get the most out of this move, don't try to muscle your way into maximizing the curvature of the spine to match the pictures of what flexible people are doing. Instead, close your eyes, gently flex your spine back and forth and let the curvature naturally increase as your body warms up, and over days, weeks, months, as you develop flexibility to increase the curvature without using force to make that stretch.

don't brush it off as a beginner move

Don't think just because you're an expert in yoga, flexibility, qigong, that the cat/cow move is only for beginners, or old people, or injured people recovering from severe back injuries. This is a great move as a warm up, as a basic body check to see the spine is in good working order before you do the more challenging advanced move you like to do. It's also something you can do without hands while on a long drive and your back is getting stiff and tired, etc.

why this move is great

* there's a reason most back physical therapy programs incorporate some version of cat/cow. It's safe and highly effective

* Before I do any challenging yoga pose, I'll do a quick cat/cow or something equivalent just to make sure all systems are go, everything is loosened up before getting into a deeper stretch. So in a sun salutation sequence, in between up dog and down dog, I'll often throw in some cat/cow improvisation.

* subtle medusa principle: using the cat cow off the rails version (see below), you can work in some subtle stretching and angles you don't hit if you stick to the conventional yoga playbook. 

first improvement: continuous flow

make it into a qigong gentle flow
* cat/cow flex: A much better way to do the cat/cow pose sequence, is to do it in a relaxed way, with multiple repetitions in a set. For example, flex between cat and cow pose 18 times, experimenting with how many breaths you hold each pose, maybe 10% of the time experimenting with a full stretch using some force like the conventional way the move is done. The other 90% of the time, focus more on passaddhi/pacification/relaxation, smoothness, flow, release of tension while doing the movement at various speeds.

second improvement: around the world

* don't just flex cat/cow forward/backward spinal movement. Do it side to side, and then hit all 360 degrees around the world.
* make circle movements with your hips and tailbone  as your doing these stretches to really open a whole world of stretches not in the basic cat/cow.

third improvement (advanced level): gorilla jazz improv

* while doing basic cat/cow flexing around the world,  incorporate other types of qigong movement like neck circling, turtle qigong neck and spine undulation. To give your spine an infinite variety of subtle stretches.

I'll make a video one of these days to demonstrate an example of this.

you can do 🐱🐮  in all postures

*including from cross leg sitting on floor such as


* sitting in a chair
* standing with hands free, you don't have to brace your hands on your thighs or back
* lying down. Like it's 2am, time to wake up, you're in the sleeping bag and its cold. Do 36 cycles of cat/cow to warm up.

why do I call it "flying" 🐱🐮?

Because I'm taking a simple basic idea, and turning it into a powerful principle that you can apply throughout the day in any posture, taking it off the rails of the limited basic, liberating it, letting you fly, letting you soar and accomplish much more in loosening the spine than you thought possible. With good spinal health, good health in general, good samadhi is possible. You can not have  good samadhi without a certain degree of spinal health. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

🧘🐢FLT : switching left/right full lotus posture with no hands

Here is a post with some

pictures of good and bad full lotus postures. 

("Bad" leading to back/knee pain if held too long)
(warning for monks: pictures of women in skimpy yoga attire in sitting posture)
(warning for nuns: pictures of topless male yogis)

In a good lotus posture:

* your legs and knees contact the ground.
* your back is straight
* everything, your whole body and mind,  is relaxed like soft tofu

In a really good lotus posture,

 that you can do really long sits for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours...
* your hips, knees, everything is soft and relaxed, as relaxed as you're sitting in a chair or any sitting posture
* your spine is loose, soft, relaxed, like it's floating in a sack of ultra soft tofu, or even soy milk.
* your knees and legs contact the ground in FL, whether you sit with left leg on top of right leg,  or right leg on top of left.
* your hips are loose enough you can get into the FL posture without using your hands to bend your legs into position. You can fold the legs into FL as easily as you fold your arms across your chest into crossed lotus arms.

A video clip to demonstrate:

In this video, a yogi  is alternating between switching between left over right leg FL, and right leg over left, with no hands (hands holding cel phone camera filming themself)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

sitting: yoga wedge and elevating spine

In contrast to the zabuton problem (see sitting posture: better off without zabuton, the p...), which decreases the desirable 90deg, if you're lacking in flexibility you want to go the other direction to relieve work and strain on core and lower back, which is to increase the angle from 90.

#1 the best, the simplest, cheapest, and most versatile way to accomplish this is sitting on a folded blanket. You can control the height and dimensions easily.

#2.: a yoga wedge, a 10$ piece of equipment works really well.  The improvement it offers over #1, is that it smoothes out, reduces and nearly elimnates the pressure points excerted on your legs,  created in the transition point between blanket and floor. 

I bought 3 different brand wedges from, have tried it out for about a month now. I don't need a wedge if I'm warmed up, spine is loose, legs and hips are soft and loose, but on cold days, or if I'm doing a really long sit and my spine starts to get tired, then I'll slip in a wedge for the low vertebrae spinal support.

You can see the dimensions and weight of the wedges here:

I bought the gaiam foam (2in high), hugger mugger foam (2in high), hugger mugger cork (1in high).

Gaiam and hugger mugger foam are almost exactly the same dimensions, both made in taiwan, for all we know maybe even the same exact thing. Probably not eco friendly material, but it is very light, and more comfortable to sit on than the harder cork.

But the cork wedge, what's nice about it is it's real natural material, porous insulating material, so it's breathable, warm air gets trapped inside. Downside is it's a lot heavier than the foam if you plan to transport it around frequently, and cork is easy to break and chip away (already accidentally chipped a fragment off the corner).

Hugger Mugger Cork Yoga Wedge cork, 1in high 
Hugger Mugger Foam Yoga Wedge hugger mugger foam (2in high)

sitting posture: better off without zabuton, the physics of it


Zafu - Wikipedia:
zafu is a seat stuffed with the fluffy, soft, downy fibres of the disintegrating reedmace seed heads. ... In western terms, colloquially speaking, zafu refers to a meditation cushion, and zabuton refers to the cushioned mat upon which a zafu is placed.

zabuton is a bad idea

If you sit full lotus, you don't even need a zabuton,  because you almost have all padded muscle and fat pushing the ground. All you need is some insulating material if the ground is cold. 
The problem with zabutons is they tend to be too soft and cushy. 
Here's an example so you understand the problem. Try to sit your normal cross legged posture on a soft mattress bed. Compared to sitting on the flat ground, it's very uncomfortable after a while. Why? Because the soft cushioning takes away the support that would otherwise maintain a 90 degree angle between your back and legs, compared to ground sitting. The softer the mattress, the greater the decrease in angle from 90 deg. 
Sitting on a zabuton is the same problem as sitting on soft bed mattress, just lesser in degree. It decreases the angle from 90deg, which will fatigue your lower back faster. Your lower back and core will have to strain to maintain a straightened body/back in meditation. 

most zafus are a bad idea

especially the circular one above, it doesn't utilize very much square footage from your potential full base.
see article

The Physics of sitting comfortably

If you must get a zafu, here's how to do it properly

Image result for crescent zafu
For the cushion, your best bet is going to a crescent shaped one, to maximize square footage of butt and leg support, with buckwheat hull filling. 

The cushion in the picture above looks like it was predesigned to have a smooth decline. In the past, with other brands I've used, I had to adjust the amount of filling in the cushion to achieve the same effect.

When you first get the cushion, you can start by removing about one third up to one half of the hull filling. You can refill or remove more, by trial and error over time.
Before each sit, you shake and fluff the cushion into an incline wedge shape, so it elevates your spine and there's a gradual transition to the knees at a lower height. By default, a new cushion is stuffed to overcapacity, so that it's not possible to fluff it into an inclining wedge shape, with the result that the transition edge, at the edge of the cushion, creates pressure points on your legs/thighs. If you adjust the amount of buckwheat hull filling correctly, you shouldn't feel pressure points, it should be even support from knees to butt to spine. The recipe for comfortable long sits.

STED 31asb: 31 flavors of asubha

numerology of 31

* 31 is a centered triangular number,[4] the lowest prime centered pentagonal number[5] and a centered decagonal number.[6]

* No integer added up to its base 10 digits results in 31, making 31 a self number.[7]

* Pradjapati created the universe by articulating the odd numbers from 1 to 31, according to the Vajasaneya Samhita - white Yajur.

* The number of days in the months January, March, May, July, August, October and December

* The number of flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream; the shops are called 31 Ice Cream in Japan

Image result for 31 flavorsImage result for 31 flavors
Image result for 32 body parts

Happy A-subha day! (February 14th)

frankk Feb '18
Asubha isn’t just for Feb. 14th though. If you’re serious about your practice, it’s all asubha, all the time.

On this directory, you’ll find a nice PDF file of 32 body parts in pali, and 16 languages, with pictures.
Also a video of the same file with pali chanting of the 32 body parts, pronunciation sounds correct to me.

In EBT, it’s 31 body parts, not 32. Theravadins added the brain, and inserted it, poetically, right next to feces.

Another fun memory association with the number 31: I don’t think the brand is international, but in the USA, there’s 31 flavors of ice cream, one for every day of the month.

A local advertising agency, Carson/Roberts, advised a uniform identity and image under the name Baskin-Robbins 31 Ice Cream. Their recommendations included the “31®” logo to represent a flavor for every day of the month, Cherry (pink) and Chocolate (brown) polka dots to be reminiscent of clowns, carnivals and fun …

For the serious practitioner, there’s a different flavor of asubha you can explore for every day of the month, or even more frequently than that.

all asubha, all the time

"If you’re serious about your practice, it’s all asubha, all the time
I am not sure this is a helpful statement. Is practice about liberation? Yes. Is it all about liberation? No! The practice is about the cessation of suffering in a social context, and the skillful means of how to do that.
Is this incorrect?

The full on asubha with divine eye, or asubha with good samadhi and visualization, done all the time, requires proper training from qualified teachers, and one has to be not prone to depression or unstable states of mind. But I’m not exaggerating when I say it should be done all the time, for one serious about attaining arahantship. There’s clear and consistent, abundant exhortation by the Buddha to practice in this way. AN 4.14, AN 6.29, SN 51.20, SN 47.20, AN 8.63 just to name a few prominent examples off the top of my head.

I guess these practitioners could be said to be very serious, indeed.

The way I have thus far read it, the Buddha encouraged the right thing for the right time.

That same sutta which Aminah linked (SN 54.9) also occurs in multiple EBT vinayas. Notice the Buddha didn’t say people shouldn’t practice asubha, after that incident. He didn’t change the program, he added another technique 16 APS, that was particularly effective in helping people get the pleasant abidings of jhanas.

Thus, in AN 6.29, he first 3 jhanas (pleasant abiding), are listed first, then perception of light, and then the asubha practices. Once one can easily access pleasure, with 3 jhanas, the body also goes through a sublimation of energy, undergoes physiological changes, such that when the body is strong and robust, mind is sharp, clear, strong, then contemplating asubha is like a surgeon who’s used to seeing blood and gore all the time. No big deal. For people with weak bodies, weak energy, then their mind tends to be more frail, prone to fear and depression as well. You see this when people age. When they’re teenagers, full of vigor, they drive fast and recklessly. When old, they drive super slow and careful.

Ajahn Brahm has his serious side

In any case, I think Ajahn Brahm offers a pretty good example of the virtues of not being too serious too much of the time. :wink:

Ajahn Brahm has his serious side. One of the most inspiring quotes of his that I often repeat in my mind is “make this the last time.” (he’s talking about attaining arahantship in this life) Ajahn Brahm I’ve heard from sources, is critical of his monks in his monastery if he catches them being idle and not practicing seriously.

Ajahn Brahm’s teacher, Ajahn Chah, was fierce, and his teacher, Ajahn Mun, even more so. They have their cuddly warm grandfather side for lay people, but for those who are serious about their practice (i.e. arahantship as the goal), there’s a higher standard of conduct and practice expected. Asubha is not an optional part of the program, it’s a healthy chunk of the main course if you read through Ajahn Mun’s biography, and those of his disciples.

The part most people don’t understand is that asubha doesn’t have to be an austere, unpleasant practice. If you have at least the first 3 jhanas as a firm grounding (AN 6.29), you can be just as cheerful eating mangoes and chocolate as contemplating white skeletons. In fact you can experience jhanic bliss as you’re attending to the visual perception internally of a white skeleton as your “samadhi nimitta”. (AN 4.14)

You can even concurrently practice metta and asubha simultaneously. When I come into (visual) contact with another person, I try to train my first response to ignore gender, age, the usual marks people seize, and instead look at their 31 body parts, or just the skeleton, and radiate the pleasant feelings of jhana in their direction. With practice, this can be done with minimum of thought. With practice, this is just as pleasant as being in jhana, or doing metta without jhana, and grounds you in reality and truth, instead of delusions and fantasy.

excerpt from the musical “oklahoma”, with slight modifications, to give you sense of the cheerful emotional flavor that’s possible with asubha:

[Verse 1:]
There’s a bright, golden haze on the meadow
There’s a bright, golden haze on the meadow
The corn is as high as a elephant’s eye
And it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky

Oh, what a-subha-ful mornin’
Oh, what a-subha-ful day
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way