Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:42 am

Greetings,


Brought up in the discussion in AN 10.76: What do shame, remorse, and negligence refer to?, my question is:

Can one learn hiri and ottappa?

Or are hiri and ottappa something one simply either has or doesn't have (or are such that one either learns them already as a small child, but cannot do so later in life)?

If it is possible to learn hiri and ottappa as an adult, how could one learn them?



Thank you.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:34 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:42 am
Greetings,


Brought up in the discussion in AN 10.76: What do shame, remorse, and negligence refer to?, my question is:

Can one learn hiri and ottappa?

Or are hiri and ottappa something one simply either has or doesn't have (or are such that one either learns them already as a small child, but cannot do so later in life)?

If it is possible to learn hiri and ottappa as an adult, how could one learn them?



Thank you.
I would imagine that most people have them to some degree already, by virtue of their human birth. It is very rare to meet anyone who has absolutely no sense of personal shame about wrongdoing, or who does not fear the consequences of their own unskillful actions. So I would think it is more about developing and strengthening them, rather than learning them ab initio. Cultivation or development can certainly be done:
By cultivating within ourselves the qualities of moral shame and fear of wrongdoing we not only accelerate our own progress along the path to deliverance, but also contribute our share toward the protection of the world
This is by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and the whole article is well worth reading.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ay_23.html

Like any other mental qualities, we can develop them by thinking about them, observing when they are present within us, and applying them as often as possible. We maintain mindfulness as to their presence and operation. Like Aristotelian virtues, we increase and refine them by exercising them.

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:09 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:34 pm
I would imagine that most people have them to some degree already, by virtue of their human birth.
As the contributions in the discussion in the other thread indicate, hiri and ottappa seem to be specifically Buddhist.
It is very rare to meet anyone who has absolutely no sense of personal shame about wrongdoing, or who does not fear the consequences of their own unskillful actions.
I would think it's not that rare -- especially among the people who live on the brink of exhaustion from work. There comes a point when one is so exhausted just from earning enough to make ends meet that nothing matters anymore, and shame or fear of consequences aren't motivating anymore.
Also, when society views the majority of people as expendable cogs in the system, it is to be expected that for such people, shame and fear of consequences won't be motivating anymore.
By cultivating within ourselves the qualities of moral shame and fear of wrongdoing we not only accelerate our own progress along the path to deliverance, but also contribute our share toward the protection of the world

This is by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and the whole article is well worth reading.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... ay_23.html
I've already quoted this essay in the other thread.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:04 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:09 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:34 pm
I would imagine that most people have them to some degree already, by virtue of their human birth.
As the contributions in the discussion in the other thread indicate, hiri and ottappa seem to be specifically Buddhist.
The words are Pali and tend only to be heard in Buddhist circles, but the concepts behind them are commonplace and almost universal. Nearly everybody has a sense of shame, and nearly everybody fears the results of their own wrongdoing.
I would think it's not that rare -- especially among the people who live on the brink of exhaustion from work. There comes a point when one is so exhausted just from earning enough to make ends meet that nothing matters anymore, and shame or fear of consequences aren't motivating anymore.
Also, when society views the majority of people as expendable cogs in the system, it is to be expected that for such people, shame and fear of consequences won't be motivating anymore.
I've not known this to be the case. Why are people on the brink of exhaustion from work unable to simply stop? Often, because they know that if they stopped they would feel ashamed, and suffer bad consequences. They have plenty of shame and fear of consequences, but need more discernment so that they are able to direct these characteristics more wisely.

User avatar
L.N.
Posts: 486
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:01 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by L.N. » Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:52 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:09 pm
As the contributions in the discussion in the other thread indicate, hiri and ottappa seem to be specifically Buddhist.
I have not read the other Topic in detail, but my impression is that the terms hiri and ottappa are specifically Buddhist terms for universal phenomena. It may be that persons with sociopath traits (as sometimes appear to be on display in DW discussions) have no present capacity to experience hiri or ottappa. It may be that different people have different capacities to experience them.
The Buddha points to two mental qualities as the underlying safeguards of morality, thus as the protectors of both the individual and society as a whole. These two qualities are called in Pali hiri and ottappa. Hiri is an innate sense of shame over moral transgression; ottappa is moral dread, fear of the results of wrongdoing. The Buddha calls these two states the bright guardians of the world (sukka lokapala). He gives them this designation because as long as these two states prevail in people's hearts the moral standards of the world remain intact, while when their influence wanes the human world falls into unabashed promiscuity and violence, becoming almost indistinguishable from the animal realm.

***

In the present-day world, with its secularization of all values, such notions as shame and fear of wrong are bound to appear antiquated, relics from a puritanical past when superstition and dogma manacled our rights to uninhibited self-expression. Yet the Buddha's stress on the importance of hiri and ottappa was based on a deep insight into the different potentialities of human nature. He saw that the path to deliverance is a struggle against the current, and that if we are to unfold the mind's capacities for wisdom, purity and peace, then we need to keep the powderkeg of the defilements under the watchful eyes of diligent sentinels.
"The Guardians of the World", by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 5 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_23.html
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:56 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:04 pm
The words are Pali and tend only to be heard in Buddhist circles, but the concepts behind them are commonplace and almost universal.
They may be nearly universal in name, but not in content.
For example, just think of what an Abrahamic monotheist considers to be "shame" and fear of consequences." It's something quite different from what a Buddhist does.
I would think it's not that rare -- especially among the people who live on the brink of exhaustion from work. There comes a point when one is so exhausted just from earning enough to make ends meet that nothing matters anymore, and shame or fear of consequences aren't motivating anymore.
Also, when society views the majority of people as expendable cogs in the system, it is to be expected that for such people, shame and fear of consequences won't be motivating anymore.
I've not known this to be the case. Why are people on the brink of exhaustion from work unable to simply stop? Often, because they know that if they stopped they would feel ashamed, and suffer bad consequences. They have plenty of shame and fear of consequences, but need more discernment so that they are able to direct these characteristics more wisely.
I think there are many possible explanations for why someone behaves morally. That they feel shame and fear the consequences of wrongdoing is just one explanation; some others:
-- a person was raised to be a "good boy" or a "good girl", and they rigidly, habitually act morally, without any consideration of shame or consequences;
-- a person externally acts (what in a particular society is generally considered) morally as a matter of strategy, as an advantageous evolutionary strategy;
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of some psychological compulsion (having a lot of shoulds and musts in one's mind);
-- a person can have scrupolosity, a form of religious OCD, and due to it, behave morally (even though a scrupulous person can be obsessed with shame and fear of consequences of wrongdoing, because of the obsessive-compulsive nature of their thinking, it can't be rightfully said that they in fact act morally out of shame and fear of consequences);
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of enforcing their identity as being a member of a particular socio-economic class ("We are so and so, and we behave in such and such a way" -- there needn't be any sense of shame or disapproval from others in this);
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of their pride, as something they are proud of.


Bottomline, I find that hiri and ottappa, as have been described in the contributions in this and the other linked thread, make sense only if a person is a welcome and valued member of a community (or at least was raised to be such or has that community as a reference point, even though they might currently not be a living in it).

In a modern, multicultural society, fearing criticism from others amounts to fearing anything and everything; it doesn't make sense anymore. When there is such a multitude of standards present, it's not possible to develop a meaningful sense of shame either, as one feels pressured to feel ashamed about all kinds of things, and their opposites.

dharmacorps
Posts: 206
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by dharmacorps » Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:37 pm

Of course it can be learned or enhanced. I think total absence of hiri and ottappa is probably rare although theoretically possible. If it couldn't be learned, then I would think the Buddhist path would only be for those who have some sort of innate morality. That doesn't sound correct to me.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Nov 18, 2017 11:42 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:56 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:04 pm
The words are Pali and tend only to be heard in Buddhist circles, but the concepts behind them are commonplace and almost universal.
They may be nearly universal in name, but not in content.
For example, just think of what an Abrahamic monotheist considers to be "shame" and fear of consequences." It's something quite different from what a Buddhist does.
I would think it's not that rare -- especially among the people who live on the brink of exhaustion from work. There comes a point when one is so exhausted just from earning enough to make ends meet that nothing matters anymore, and shame or fear of consequences aren't motivating anymore.
Also, when society views the majority of people as expendable cogs in the system, it is to be expected that for such people, shame and fear of consequences won't be motivating anymore.
I've not known this to be the case. Why are people on the brink of exhaustion from work unable to simply stop? Often, because they know that if they stopped they would feel ashamed, and suffer bad consequences. They have plenty of shame and fear of consequences, but need more discernment so that they are able to direct these characteristics more wisely.
I think there are many possible explanations for why someone behaves morally. That they feel shame and fear the consequences of wrongdoing is just one explanation; some others:
-- a person was raised to be a "good boy" or a "good girl", and they rigidly, habitually act morally, without any consideration of shame or consequences;
-- a person externally acts (what in a particular society is generally considered) morally as a matter of strategy, as an advantageous evolutionary strategy;
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of some psychological compulsion (having a lot of shoulds and musts in one's mind);
-- a person can have scrupolosity, a form of religious OCD, and due to it, behave morally (even though a scrupulous person can be obsessed with shame and fear of consequences of wrongdoing, because of the obsessive-compulsive nature of their thinking, it can't be rightfully said that they in fact act morally out of shame and fear of consequences);
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of enforcing their identity as being a member of a particular socio-economic class ("We are so and so, and we behave in such and such a way" -- there needn't be any sense of shame or disapproval from others in this);
-- a person can behave morally as a matter of their pride, as something they are proud of.


Bottomline, I find that hiri and ottappa, as have been described in the contributions in this and the other linked thread, make sense only if a person is a welcome and valued member of a community (or at least was raised to be such or has that community as a reference point, even though they might currently not be a living in it).

In a modern, multicultural society, fearing criticism from others amounts to fearing anything and everything; it doesn't make sense anymore. When there is such a multitude of standards present, it's not possible to develop a meaningful sense of shame either, as one feels pressured to feel ashamed about all kinds of things, and their opposites.
I disagree with the first bit, in that I don't think it matters all that much whether one is right or wrong regarding the consequences. That both religions would value a sense of shame `("letting oneself down"; failing to live up to one's own standards, etc,) and the sense that future suffering can be avoided by acting differently, is sufficient for me to think that they share common concepts. The content here is different (lakes of fire versus trees made of blades, etc) but the idea is the same.

I'm much more in agreement with the second bit. It's intriguing, and has got me thinking....

I'll get back to you later on this one, but my initial thoughts are that most of your counter-examples are to do with too much shame and fear, or shame and fear that are misdirected. That's uncomfortable, to be sure (it reminds me of Durkheim's concept of anomie) but it's not a disaster. A disaster would be lacking them altogether.

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 19, 2017 3:00 pm

dharmacorps wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:37 pm
Of course it can be learned or enhanced. I think total absence of hiri and ottappa is probably rare although theoretically possible. If it couldn't be learned, then I would think the Buddhist path would only be for those who have some sort of innate morality. That doesn't sound correct to me.
The question is whether they can be learned or enhanced when one is already an adult.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Nov 19, 2017 3:52 pm

Binocular:

Having thought about the issue you raised about hiri-ottappa only being viable in certain types of culture, my view is that the shame and moral dread are already in place in our society, but are too pervasive and diffuse to be of much use on the Eightfold Path, or indeed in any type of spiritual training. Our task as adults is not therefore to develop them anew, but to refine them, get them under control, and direct them in ways which are useful. If our sense of shame is misdirected towards, say, body image or work ethic, then a good move would be to pause and see what this is doing to us. Then, if possible, to use this sense of shame to reflect on what we have been doing and whether we have really been looking after ourselves and maintaining our dignity. If we have been taking on board fears which other people have supplied us with, then we need to sift and develop them to see which are profitable and worthwhile. I would see those types of things as our adult tasks.

justindesilva
Posts: 434
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:38 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by justindesilva » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:40 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:42 am
Greetings,


Brought up in the discussion in AN 10.76: What do shame, remorse, and negligence refer to?, my question is:

Can one learn hiri and ottappa?

Or are hiri and ottappa something one simply either has or doesn't have (or are such that one either learns them already as a small child, but cannot do so later in life)?

If it is possible to learn hiri and ottappa as an adult, how could one learn them?



Thank you.
With regard to Hiri Ottappa may I indicate that they are two mental states within the 52 mental states.
In Anguttara 2 Hiri Ottappa sutta lord budda states that Hiri Ottappa are two states which protect the world. Lord Budda in this sutta indicates that if not for Hiri Ottappa wives or wives sisters or uncles wives or teacher's wives or the wives of the respected will not be protected.
Thereby Hiri Ottappa are mental states which protect the moral values of societies. And also they are two states which has to be developed as moral shame and moral fear. Those who do not have moral shame or moral fear ( Hiri ottappa) will be treated by societies as immoral characters and are destined to act unwholesome in karma.

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:43 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 3:52 pm
Having thought about the issue you raised about hiri-ottappa only being viable in certain types of culture, my view is that the shame and moral dread are already in place in our society, but are too pervasive and diffuse to be of much use on the Eightfold Path, or indeed in any type of spiritual training. Our task as adults is not therefore to develop them anew, but to refine them, get them under control, and direct them in ways which are useful. If our sense of shame is misdirected towards, say, body image or work ethic, then a good move would be to pause and see what this is doing to us.
I think a lot more is necessary. As long as one contemplates issues of shame and fear of consequences while one's metaphysical framework remains the same (and unaddressed), what can be accomplished? It's like rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship.

If one starts out in the metaphysical framework of YOLO (in which all of one's efforts can come to naught at any time), then why try to improve or change anything, how to find the motivation to try to improve or change anything?
Then, if possible, to use this sense of shame to reflect on what we have been doing and whether we have really been looking after ourselves and maintaining our dignity. If we have been taking on board fears which other people have supplied us with, then we need to sift and develop them to see which are profitable and worthwhile.
Profitable and worthwhile to what end? Being a pretty corpse? Enjoying halibut and jasmin rice? -- Pointing out the importance of one's metaphysical framework.
I would see those types of things as our adult tasks.
I suppose children couldn't do those things to begin with. Nevertheless, there's the sense that despite being an adult, one is still a child in many ways. That is disconcerting.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:12 pm

binocular wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:43 pm

I think a lot more is necessary. As long as one contemplates issues of shame and fear of consequences while one's metaphysical framework remains the same (and unaddressed), what can be accomplished? It's like rearranging the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship.
I agree. The work is in changing the metaphysical framework, or (in many cases) adopting a metaphysical framework. My hope is that the path does this, if it isn't in place as it is.
If one starts out in the metaphysical framework of YOLO (in which all of one's efforts can come to naught at any time), then why try to improve or change anything, how to find the motivation to try to improve or change anything?
Two points here.

1) The secularist/materialist reply might be that even within YOLO perspectives, one might have one's priorities wrong and reorganise them to give oneself a greater chance of happiness. A bit like epicureanism, maybe.

2) The fact that you already think like this means that the metaphysical framework is, with you, no obstacle for the development and cultivation of hiri-ottappa.
Profitable and worthwhile to what end?
Nibbana?
Enjoying halibut and jasmin rice?
Ah, I know what thread you've been on! :rofl:

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:17 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:12 pm
2) The fact that you already think like this means that the metaphysical framework is, with you, no obstacle for the development and cultivation of hiri-ottappa.
I don't understand what you mean here ...?

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:23 pm

binocular wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:17 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:12 pm
2) The fact that you already think like this means that the metaphysical framework is, with you, no obstacle for the development and cultivation of hiri-ottappa.
I don't understand what you mean here ...?
Sorry, I might be being presumptuous here, but if you can see the drawbacks and unsatisfactoriness of YOLO frameworks, then you have the potential to develop hiri-ottappa.

dharmacorps
Posts: 206
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:33 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:39 pm

one can be afraid of wrongdoing because they are afraid of the consequences. It doesn't absolutely have to go deeper necessarily-- people can have developed moral compasses without the dhamma. Although admittedly best, most highly developed kinds of hiri and ottappa are more elevated and relate to concern for kamma, etc.

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:43 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:23 pm
Sorry, I might be being presumptuous here, but if you can see the drawbacks and unsatisfactoriness of YOLO frameworks, then you have the potential to develop hiri-ottappa.
I'll have to think about this. It seems bold.

chownah
Posts: 6586
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by chownah » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:58 am

Are some people here of the view that the only way to make progress on the path is through shame, fear, and dread?
chownah

justindesilva
Posts: 434
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:38 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by justindesilva » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:56 am

binocular wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:43 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:23 pm
Sorry, I might be being presumptuous here, but if you can see the drawbacks and unsatisfactoriness of YOLO frameworks, then you have the potential to develop hiri-ottappa.
I'll have to think about this. It seems bold.
There is more emphasis in hiri-Ottappa in eastern Buddhist countries rather than western countries.
Let us realise that developing Hiri Ottappa ( moral shame and moral fear) means developing restraint on pleasure over happiness. Though a westerner might not agree such restraints were trained by encouraging women ( say in sri lanka and India) to wear clothes covering the body other than the feet and arms. They were encouraged to smile without showing the teeth.(this is not always observed in modern society) Bathing in public in swim suits in the past were discouraged to create such restraint . Of course good manners as of sociable and good families were maintained on the dining table and while seating with visitors to home etc were to establish this Hiri Ottappa. Having sex or exhibiting sexual habits in public is not having restraints of happiness over pleasure. A night club is often a place with less Hiri Ottappa. The often heard story of the father abusing the daughter sexually is a result of not developing Hiri Ottappa. Rapes often heard is a result of not having Hiri Ottappa.
This is why Lord budda emphasised on these two mental qualities to make this society a better place while developing Hiri Ottappa one trains better virtues or develop sila for marga phala. Mindfulness on our day to day habits and deeds are necessary to develop Hiri Ottappa.

binocular
Posts: 4058
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Can one learn hiri and ottappa (as an adult)?

Post by binocular » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:12 pm

chownah wrote:
Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:58 am
Are some people here of the view that the only way to make progress on the path is through shame, fear, and dread?
AN 10.76, from the thread linked to in the OP, states:
“Bhikkhus, one who has a sense of moral shame and moral dread is heedful. One who is heedful is capable of abandoning disrespect, being difficult to speak to, and bad friendship. One who has good friends is capable of abandoning lack of faith, uncharitableness, and laziness. One who is energetic is capable of abandoning restlessness, non-restraint, and immorality. One who is virtuous is capable of abandoning lack of desire to see the noble ones, lack of desire to hear the noble Dhamma, and a mind bent on criticism. One whose mind is not bent on criticism is capable of abandoning muddle-mindedness, lack of clear comprehension, and mental distraction. One who has an undistracted mind is capable of abandoning careless attention, following a wrong path, and mental sluggishness. One who has an unsluggish mind is capable of abandoning personal-existence view, doubt, and wrong grasp of behavior and observances. One without doubt is capable of abandoning lust, hatred, and delusion. Having abandoned lust, hatred, and delusion, one is capable of abandoning birth, old age, and death.”
Moral shame and moral dread are stated to be the foundation of a complex process and practice that eventually leads to abandoning birth, old age, and death.

So it seems that according to this sutta, moral shame and moral dread are necessary in order to make progress on the path.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: m0rl0ck, narhwal90 and 77 guests