Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

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Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:23 pm

I appreciate that there is difficulty in translating from Pali. However these words seem very loaded and for me imply an emotional engagement with things that seems just the opposite of dispassion, observation of the way things are without judgement, letting things that arise naturally pass away again. I appreciate that I see these things arise in my mind, but do not see a need to hang on to them - or make them a special subject of contemplation. Perhaps these as contemplations are a sort of antidote to attachment to passing pleasure - to be used like medicine when necessary?
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:47 pm

You raise interesting and important questions. I am not sure if this is the appropriate section this discussion, but don't worry about that. If needs be, we will move as is appropriate.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby reflection » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:30 pm

Dukkha is a big problem, the thing to solve. If we would translate it with 'unsatisfactory' for example, this message may get lost a bit. But likewise, in some situations people will also misinterpret the word suffering. So what's wise?

The thing is, you'll never find accurate words to describe reality, no matter how long you try. Also if it is Pali, it still is wrong. So we could try many translations until we find one that we think suits, but still don't understand what it means. However, I think the usual translations still get quite close. During the practice we also learn more about them. When we learn how deeply suffering is ingrained within existence, the term starts to have more meaning. When you see happiness is also suffering, the term 'revulsion' also gets its strength, although it is another kind of revulsion people usually think off.

But in the end we don't need words. You can imagine how it feels like to have an ache, but now try to explain it to others.. You just won't find the words. Same with the Dhamma. The more we learn, the more we see it is not suitable to put into words.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:59 pm

Thanks - yes I can see that to get bogged down with words is to miss the point - and could even lead to a sort of dogmatic insistence just because it is 'in the book'. So to practice with openness to the rise and fall of 'things' - and let some sort of 'wisdom' emerge might be the way. Maybe to consciously remind oneself to be aware of others' suffering may be a good thing?
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby IanAnd » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:14 pm

norman wrote:I appreciate that there is difficulty in translating from Pali. However these words seem very loaded and for me imply an emotional engagement with things that seems just the opposite of dispassion, observation of the way things are without judgement, letting things that arise naturally pass away again.

Perhaps it is only a matter of perception and conditioning for you. You're perception of these words and the way you associate with them (i.e. the way your mind has become conditioned by them), for some reason (however consciously or unconsciously you may be aware of these processes), causes emotion to arise.

For some (like myself) the idea of revulsion or loathsomeness just points toward the vedana of "unpleasantness." If one is mindful, the observation of unpleasantness does not have to develop into an emotional response. Have you discovered the source of your emotions? Has that insight hit you yet?

Perhaps you need to develop your observation of these processes more keenly, more deeply in order to get to the bottom of them to see them for what they are. Perhaps seeing them for what they are will help in dispelling the emotional hangup. The emotion arising is dependent on a sense of self, it is not? And isn't the view that there is a self to become affected a wrong view? From there, it seems like only a short jump to becoming dispassionate about a phenomenon. To letting them arise and pass away without judgment or attachment. What do you think?

norman wrote:I appreciate that I see these things arise in my mind, but do not see a need to hang on to them - or make them a special subject of contemplation. Perhaps these as contemplations are a sort of antidote to attachment to passing pleasure - to be used like medicine when necessary?

And perhaps you have found the answer to your own question.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby pulga » Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:08 pm

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when Ven. Bodhi adopted "revulsion" for his rendering of nibbidá in his more recent translations. But Ven. Ñanamoli lists it as an alternative rendering in his Technical Pali Dictionary, so there is probably some justification for it. Under the influence of French existentialism Ven. Ñanamoli seems to have prefered "estrangement" as a rendering, which to me seems subtle, but a little too weak. I prefer "disillusionment".
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:31 pm

Thanks very much IanAnd - that is really helpful. I watch emotions rise and fall but see no source - and indeed sense them like a sort of 'atmosphere' whose root I do not see or whose nature is unclear, although they usually connect to something tangible like an unsettling thought, or perhaps the taste of a good espresso or just the neutral pressure of a cushion. This isn't a problem - just interesting.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:29 pm

"Revulsion" has gradually changed its meaning and has become in popular usage more like repugnance, or being revolted by something. Etymologically, it originally meant a turning or pulling away of the will. It would be good if we could keep a single noun that had this sense, and perhaps Bhikkhu Bodhi had this meaning in mind. But language changes, and I suspect this one has now long gone the way of terms like "refute" and "disinterested".
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby IanAnd » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:11 am

norman wrote:I watch emotions rise and fall but see no source - and indeed sense them like a sort of 'atmosphere' whose root I do not see or whose nature is unclear, although they usually connect to something tangible like an unsettling thought, or perhaps the taste of a good espresso or just the neutral pressure of a cushion.

Have you looked into the practical aspects of satipatthana practice?

The four establishments of mindfulness, as I am fond of translating the word, as this tells you exactly what is needing to be done: that is, establishing mindfulness of the body, feeling (vedana), mind states (like awareness of states of anger or non-anger, happiness, sadness, distractedness, lust and non-lust, delusion and non-delusion etcetera), and mind objects (or mental phenomena). This is not easy, but it can be done. If need be, take it one step at a time. Eventually, mindfulness of all four will fall into place.

For instance, I recall having experienced bodily pain as "this is me, this I am, this is myself" — oh woe is me to have to undergo this pain. I connected the pain with mySELF, my sense of self, rather than just the body. Once I realized that the pain belonged ONLY to the body, I stopped causing myself pain (dukkha) and dissatisfaction. I stopped "feeling" sorry for myself for having to be in pain, and let the pain exist outside myself. That way, it stopped being a distraction, and I could focus on attending to ways to relieve the pain rather than just immersing myself in the pain and becoming helpless. It became a way of confronting the pain directly and at the same time releasing the pain from effecting the way I dealt with enduring it. I developed equanimity in response to the pain.

See if you cannot do the same.

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:40 am

Thanks for pointing me to this IanAnd. I had seen this before but not really absorbed it: it seems to first recommend getting a clear view of the body, feelings and consciousness - not to force change on them but 'to the extent necessary just for knowledge and remembrance'. With mental objects there are additional things to see - for example 'he understands how the arising of the non-arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be and how the completion by culture of the arisen enlightenment factor of calm comes to be' - to see clearly what is conducive to the abandonment of the 'fetters' and the culture of the 'factors of enlightenment'. I'm not clear what a 'painful feeling' is really though: if I feel a sudden physical pain (for example last night I splashed some hot fat onto my hand) within a few moments it doesn't seem actually painful as such but rather a particular physical feeling in a certain place - equanimity in the face of pain perhaps - but really it seems that the pain that distresses is gone leaving just a not-unpleasant hot or stinging sensation. Consciousness /mind-state seems to me much harder to 'see' - it seems fugitive and to change/disappear so fast that I really just remember it afterwards. Anyway - I've probably wandered off-topic. I think I could do worse than just to take this sutta as a guide.
Best wishes
Norman

Just to add (from http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Dhamma) - I find this a real encouragement that it is possible in this life:
Anguttara Nikaya 11.12 The Six qualities of the Dhamma:
1. Svakkhato: The Dhamma is not a speculative philosophy, but is the Universal Law found through enlightenment and is preached precisely. Therefore it is Excellent in the beginning (Sila: Moral principles), Excellent in the middle (Samadhi: Concentration) and Excellent in the end (Panna: Wisdom),
2. Sanditthiko: The Dhamma is testable by practice and known by direct experience,
3. Akaliko: The Dhamma is able to bestow timeless and immediate results here and now, for which there is no need to wait until the future or next existence.
4. Ehipassiko: The Dhamma welcomes all beings to put it to the test and to experience it for themselves.
5. Opaneyiko: The Dhamma is capable of being entered upon and therefore it is worthy to be followed as a part of one's life.
6. Paccattam veditabbo vinnunhi: The Dhamma may be perfectly realized only by the noble disciples who have matured and enlightened enough in supreme wisdom.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:12 pm

IanAnd wrote:The emotion arising is dependent on a sense of self, it is not?


I don't think so. There is no self that was mentioned in the dependent origination, only ignorance. This was defined by the Buddha as an ignorance of the four noble truths, none of which mentions self either.

As for the right view... all dhammas are non-self.

And isn't the view that there is a self to become affected a wrong view?


This is nihilism, also a wrong view.

From there, it seems like only a short jump to becoming dispassionate about a phenomenon.


I think that's annihilationism... it is not effective as a practice, according to the Buddha.

:anjali:
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:55 pm

For me right now 'to be' means to be detected by my senses - here and now, and with some confidence that comes from the memory of repetition and 'triangulation' (more than one sense, corroboration by other people, part of a cause-and-effect sequence etc). In that sense this 'self' that is me is - right here, right now: it can suffer and feel joy etc. Much further than this I would rather not speculate as it would just build a mountain of words. It (the self, 'me') seems just like the rest of nature - it comes to be, lasts a while / changes, disappears. I don't really want to 'feel' less - to sort of duck out of the range of experiences being alive offers, or to manipulate those feelings. To be able to see them appear and disappear does seem to of itself produce a sort of calm and happiness that is not dependant on external things - and to take away some of the fear which comes from having to defend that little 'self', and perhaps reduces the need to exploit others in that defence. I like the sutta mentioned above as it suggests a method of development which (in my view) is designed to increase awareness without using rational argument to 'win' a point and persuade.
Thanks all for your advice
Best wishes
Norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby Bakmoon » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:26 pm

norman wrote:I appreciate that there is difficulty in translating from Pali. However these words seem very loaded and for me imply an emotional engagement with things that seems just the opposite of dispassion, observation of the way things are without judgement, letting things that arise naturally pass away again. I appreciate that I see these things arise in my mind, but do not see a need to hang on to them - or make them a special subject of contemplation. Perhaps these as contemplations are a sort of antidote to attachment to passing pleasure - to be used like medicine when necessary?


The Pali terms for these are Dukkha, Nibbida, and Asubha.

Dukkha can encompass a whole spectrum of meanings. At one end it refers to full fledged suffering, and at the other, it simply means that something is unable to grant satisfaction. I personally prefer to translate it as unsatisfactoriality although I don't think that is an official english word.

Nibbida just means disenchantment. When you develop disenchantment towards something, you lose interest and craving in it. Revulsion is a mistranslation.

The last word, Asubha, I have seen translated other ways too. I think in a lecture the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi mentioned that he actually prefers to understand it as meaning unattractiveness rather than loathsomeness and I tend to agree.

I hope that helps.
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The performance of what's skillful,
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby pulga » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:20 pm

Bakmoon wrote:Nibbida just means disenchantment. When you develop disenchantment towards something, you lose interest and craving in it.



Disenchantment is a nice rendering for nibbidá.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby IanAnd » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:32 pm

norman wrote:For me right now 'to be' means to be detected by my senses - here and now, and with some confidence that comes from the memory of repetition and 'triangulation' (more than one sense, corroboration by other people, part of a cause-and-effect sequence etc). In that sense this 'self' that is me is - right here, right now: it can suffer and feel joy etc. Much further than this I would rather not speculate as it would just build a mountain of words. It (the self, 'me') seems just like the rest of nature - it comes to be, lasts a while / changes, disappears. I don't really want to 'feel' less - to sort of duck out of the range of experiences being alive offers, or to manipulate those feelings. To be able to see them appear and disappear does seem to of itself produce a sort of calm and happiness that is not dependant on external things - and to take away some of the fear which comes from having to defend that little 'self', and perhaps reduces the need to exploit others in that defense.

Congratulations, Norman. You are tremendously ahead of the game if, by the insight you express here, you are able to live according to those parameters. If so, you have penetrated the essence of the Dhamma.

norman wrote:I like the sutta mentioned above as it suggests a method of development which (in my view) is designed to increase awareness without using rational argument to 'win' a point and persuade.

If you enjoyed that sutta (the Satipatthana Sutta), I have another for you that will definitely test the insight you have gained. It is called the Bahiya Sutta in the volume called the Udana from the Khuddaka Nikaya, which contains (depending on whose definition you adhere to for the volumes contained in this Pitaka) 15 or 18 shorter volumes of discourses. I won't spoil it for you. Read through it and see if you don't understand it instantly.

It is unfortunate that this online version doesn't contain a very helpful footnote that can be found in the physical published version (which book I happen to have) by John Ireland to the following passage:

"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering." *

The footnote follows:

* This is a difficult passage. An explanation of it derived from the Comy. would be something like this: "In the seen is merely what is seen" without adding one's own views, opinions, concepts, personal likes and dislikes, etc.: that is, just seeing what is there as it actually is. "You will not be with what," bound by that view, by attraction or repulsion, etc. "You will not be in that" situation of being deluded and led astray by views and emotions. "You will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two": neither in this world nor another world. This means the experience of Nibbana or enlightenment, which is a stepping out of the mundane world.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:30 am

IanAnd thanks again. First, you gave me a great laugh (at my own expense) when I caught myself actually congratulating myself for my 'insight' as identified by you!
That is so off track on so many grounds - the 'me/I' in there exists, but doesn't need to be made into more than it is - or less than it is. The Bahiya sutta seems a good reminder that the opportunity is here, now - and available to our ordinary senses.
There gleam no stars, no sun sheds light,
There shines no moon, yet there no darkness reigns

These are extraordinary words and seem to point into that area/space or void (if it is that) before or behind or around perception - though I am not sure that is it helpful to conceptualise like that.
I have been quite ill with flu for a week - and in a state of mental fug that precluded meditation or any clear thought. It really did feel like suffering waiting for the thing to pass and prompted repetitive thoughts of 'old age, sickness and death'.
Best wishes
Norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 09, 2013 7:09 pm

norman wrote:I have been quite ill with flu for a week - and in a state of mental fug that precluded meditation or any clear thought. It really did feel like suffering waiting for the thing to pass and prompted repetitive thoughts of 'old age, sickness and death'.
When I was in Thailand in the mid 70's I got to spend time with Ajahn Sumedho. He talked about dying well and the forest monk ideal that one has not really yet mastered meditation until one is able to sit in meditation through a bout of malaria.

This is something I took very seriously to heart, and now whenever I am sick or dealing with pain, I work very hard to do meditation practice. It surprising that even in a mental fog of illness how clear one can become, even if it is just for a few moments now and then during the course of the illness. One can either lay in bed being miserable, lost in the misery of feeling like something the cat dragged in and all the mental crap that can arise in such a state, or one can lay there feeling miserable (itself are markable and forceful object of awareness), paying attention to the misery as it manifests in the mind/body process that is playing out in a rather dramatic and unpleasant manner. And, as I said, in that there can be a remarkable sense of clarity of the rise and fall, seeing -- not thinking about -- seeing anicca, dukkha, and anatta of the "all" that rises and falls.

Ian highlighted from this from your previous msg: "To be able to see them appear and disappear does seem to of itself produce a sort of calm and happiness that is not dependant on external things - and to take away some of the fear which comes from having to defend that little 'self'. . . ." He is correct in pointing to this comment, but I think the sentence that immediately precedes it is also of significance: "I don't really want to 'feel' less - to sort of duck out of the range of experiences being alive offers, or to manipulate those feelings." I think you are quite correct here. I do not see the Dhamma practice need to lead to repressive states of mind of fear and loathing, which something we see here, on this forum, all too often in relation sex, but which can easily, and mistakenly, be extended to much of what we are.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:18 pm

Thanks again tiltbillings. I have just listened to Ajahn Sumedho's talk The Eight Precepts (1982) from the podcast collection 108 Talks. He offers pointers in the most undogmatic way - and encourages an open attitude to letting things (thoughts, feelings) arise - not repressing them, just observing them and not getting caught up in them.

So just to conclude (probably):
Suffering: pain exists but it is the second 'arrow' which we ourselves are responsible for that makes for suffering, and this needn't happen if one observes pain arising without making it 'mine'.
Revulsion, Loathsomeness: possibly inadequate translations as they imply (in English) a great personal involvement and identification with them.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby Dmytro » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:15 pm

Hi Norman,

norman wrote:Suffering: pain exists but it is the second 'arrow' which we ourselves are responsible for that makes for suffering, and this needn't happen if one observes pain arising without making it 'mine'.


You may find useful a thread on 'dukkha'.

Revulsion, Loathsomeness: possibly inadequate translations as they imply (in English) a great personal involvement and identification with them.


These are the remnants of the early twentieth century take on interpretation of Pali texts.

There's a thread on "nibbida'.

As for 'asubha' - it is intended to overcome the selective recognition of beautiful (subha-saññā), which leads to sensual desire.

"When those with discernment listen, they regain their senses, seeing the inconstant as inconstant, the stressful as stressful, what's not-self as not-self, the unattractive (asubha) as unattractive. Undertaking right view, they transcend all stress & suffering."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In the result, one sees the things in all their complexity - not just attractive sides.

An excessive emphasis on the disgusting aspects of the body once led a group of Buddha's students, who practiced asubha, to suicide.
We need not to repeat this error.
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Postby norman » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:09 pm

Thanks Dmytro. Some serious error that is (that we need not repeat)!
Yes - the Vipallasa Sutta again usefully points to clear 'sight'. For me this makes entire sense, and is more than compatible with living a full life.
I keep coming back to Ajahn Sumedho: in his talk Opinions (1981) he tells how stubbing his toe and the subsequent terrible infection put paid to his wish to be a hermit in an idyllic / perfect place, and how he eventually saw it clearly and was released from it (and I think this hangup that 'I can't meditate until the conditions are perfect: total silence, feeling well, confident in one's teacher etc').
I suspect that in terms of attitude to the body there is a big difference between the life of a monk and lay life: I would have thought that a celibate monk may have some problems having a cool attitude to the body, whereas a lay person as I see it can live a 'good' life provided that they avoid wrong-doing in relation to the body. After all the precepts are different - I do my best to keep to the first four which includes for lay people:
Kāmesumicchācāra veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
(the 5th for me is only for weekdays!)
Best wishes
Norman
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