I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

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Sunflower
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I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Sunflower » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:42 am

When I look at the Eightfold Path I do not see them as asking people to abandon music, sex, food entirely, only to behave in an ethical manner and avoid excess. In my view, for the lay person and practitioner, it’s all about the Middle Path and being present for all of life- leaning in to pain, physical difficulties, a tasty sandwich or a beautiful song- it’s all part of the integrated experience of life, good and bad.
I see the idea that one must give up life’s pleasures to reach “enlightenment”...where is this supported in scripture or in Buddha’s words?
I am sincerely asking, by the way, not saying that it’s untrue. I just want to understand better.

SarathW
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by SarathW » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:33 am

It is gradual training and you become and Arahant in four stages.
The first stage Sotapanna you still enjoy the life pleasures in a wholesome manner.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

JohnK
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by JohnK » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:39 am

It's more about not craving and clinging to pleasure; not following a strategy of seeking sense pleasure as a path to true happiness; not seeking sense pleasure as a cure for dis-ease -- realizing that the full eightfold path is the cure.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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Kim OHara
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:55 am

JohnK wrote:
Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:39 am
It's more about not craving and clinging to pleasure; not following a strategy of seeking sense pleasure as a path to true happiness; not seeking sense pleasure as a cure for dis-ease -- realizing that the full eightfold path is the cure.
:goodpost:

We should also remember that a lot of the stuff about abandoning worldly pleasures is directed quite specifically at monks, not at lay people. Monks have voluntarily undertaken to focus on the spiritual life, so they have to give up distractions - much as serious athletes have to give up junk food.

:namaste:
Kim

santa100
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by santa100 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:27 am

Sunflower wrote:I see the idea that one must give up life’s pleasures to reach “enlightenment”...where is this supported in scripture or in Buddha’s words?
I am sincerely asking, by the way, not saying that it’s untrue. I just want to understand better.
Humans are capable of abstract thinking and inductive reasoning. Without even resorting to sutta references just yet, going with simple logical reasoning, it's fairly obvious that sensual pleasures in this world is certainly not the highest kind of pleasure out there. Looking at a colony of maggots feasting on some bloated, oozing, smelly dead corpse, the occassion must've been like a huge festival to them, but how do we humans feel about that? Nothing but a sense of disgust and somewhat pity for those poor tiny little creatures! Now, simply go up one level higher, imagine a more advanced race of sentient beings looking at us humans feasting/enjoying on all that we thinks are great and wonderful, at the exact same time we humans are observing those tiny maggots feasting on that smelly dead corpse. What would those advanced beings think about the humans situation? Not much better than the maggots! So, renouncing sensual pleasures is not some forced action one has to carry out. When one's reached an advanced enough level of meditation and wisdom, one naturally lost all interest in such crude and gross activities, just like it'd be insane for humans to enjoy feasting on some dead corpse like those maggots. Lastly, back to sutta reference, please refer to the leper simile the Buddha taught in MN 75

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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Srilankaputra » Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:22 am

I don't mean to scare you, but we all have to face the moment of our own death. Just imagine your self lying in a sick bed unable to eat anything but burning with the desire to eat a tasty sandwich.
It's certainly better to train for mastery over sensual desire while still young and able. One monk I like very much said, try to make it a good death. Since we all have to face it.
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:54 am

If you want to climb a mountain, you do not carry any excess baggage. You take only the food, water, and oxygen that you expect to need for the journey. You would train hard before beginning the climb so that you are at peak fitness. It is strongly advised to take a guide who has climbed the mountain before. You should expect to encounter great hardship and dangers that you would not if you stayed at home enjoying sensual pleasures whenever you wish.
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frank k
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by frank k » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:07 am

Sunflower wrote:
Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:42 am
When I look at the Eightfold Path I do not see them as asking people to abandon music, sex, food entirely, only to behave in an ethical manner and avoid excess. In my view, for the lay person and practitioner, it’s all about the Middle Path and being present for all of life- leaning in to pain, physical difficulties, a tasty sandwich or a beautiful song- it’s all part of the integrated experience of life, good and bad.
I see the idea that one must give up life’s pleasures to reach “enlightenment”...where is this supported in scripture or in Buddha’s words?
I am sincerely asking, by the way, not saying that it’s untrue. I just want to understand better.
It's all over the scripture suttas, and completely embedded into the noble eightfold path. Look for passages that explain 5 cords of sense pleasure (b.bodhi) or 5 strands of sensuality (b. thanissaro).

The middle path doesn't mean you reduce sensual pleasure by 50% to arrive at a middle or compromise. It means you transcend coarse sensual pleasures entirely by understanding and developing spiritual pleasures (such as jhana) that are far more sublime than coarse worldly sensual pleasures. The reason its comparable to a 'middle', is because previously, the Buddha and contemporary ascetics believed that any kind of pleasure, including the spiritual pleasure from jhana, was also dangerous, liable for attachment, an obstruction for spiritual progress.

Maybe what you're referring to is 8 precepts, rather than noble eightfold path. Completely different thing.
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Sunflower
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Sunflower » Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:47 pm

Thanks for the perspective on this issue. I guess I see a middle ground, in my practice of meditation, I have been able to loosen the ties between myself and sensual pleasures...these things do not control me, but I enjoy them.
I think maybe my path to "enlightenment" - which I suspect is not going to part of my destiny this round on Earth, truthfully- I've had a lot of trauma, depression, anxiety, pain...Buddhism is maybe here just to get me through this life as a decent person....Anyway, I wonder if there is another path to enlightenment, like love or service. I just don't think that being some sort of ascetic is my path, at least not this lifetime. My love, empathy and compassion is fierce- my sense of duty to humanity is strong. Maybe I am just too attached to this world.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:11 pm

Lay people do not need to become full time ascetics. They can attend retreats for periods of several days, a week, or longer to develop detachment and insight before returning to regular household life. Intensive periods of meditation will greatly accelerate the progress on the path.

Social service, a wholesome livelihood in the caring professions, rather than one that encourages sensual indulgence, can bring about fundamental changes in one's thoughts, habits, and character over a period of years. Since lay people spend at least half of their waking hours engaged in employment, a wise choice of occupation (right-livelihood) is a powerful aid for one following the Buddhist path, while a bad choice of livelihood can be a significant obstruction.
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Nicolas
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Nicolas » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:35 pm

Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 45.8) wrote: And what, bhikkhus, is right intention? Intention of renunciation [nekkhamma], intention of non-ill will, intention of harmlessness: this is called right intention.
Renunciation is in opposition to sensual desire [kāma].

Dan74
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Dan74 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:55 pm

It's a funny thing.. We tend to think that the middle way between indulging and anascetic's austerity lies in moderation. Moderation is certainly preferable to how most of us live, but it is not the actual middle way, any more than the middle way for an addict is just to inject every second day or a moderate dose, rather than daily and a high dose.

It seems that when it comes to pleasure, we don't really realise how hooked we are,so used are we to being lead by our noses in pursuit of it. With proper insight we begin to see it for what it is - burden and bondage. But it's subtle.

I don't think renunciation can succeed ifinsight lags far behind. The bond is too strong.
_/|\_

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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Srilankaputra » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:57 am

I hope this doesn't muddy the waters. I think the following sutta is important for us to consider as lay persons. It in no way contradicts all the wonderful comments made in this thread.
At Savatthi. Standing to one side, that devatā recited this verse in the presence of the Blessed One:

“As if smitten by a sword,
As if his head were on fire,
A bhikkhu should wander mindfully
To abandon sensual lust.”

The Blessed One:

“As if smitten by a sword,
As if his head were on fire,
A bhikkhu should wander mindfully
To abandon identity view.”
https://suttacentral.net/sn1.21/en/bodhi
O seeing one,we for refuge go to thee!
O mighty sage do thou our teacher be!

Paccuppannañca yo dhammaṃ,
Tattha tattha vipassati

“Yato yato mano nivāraye,
Na dukkhameti naṃ tato tato;
Sa sabbato mano nivāraye,
Sa sabbato dukkhā pamuccatī”ti.

sunnat
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by sunnat » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:36 am

https://accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an ... .than.html

Brahmavihara Sutta: The Sublime Attitudes

"Monks, I don't speak of the wiping out of intentional acts that have been done & accumulated without [their results] having been experienced, either in the here & now or in a further state hereafter. Nor do I speak of the act of putting an end to suffering and stress without having experienced [the results of] intentional acts that have been done & accumulated.

"That disciple of the noble ones — thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful — keeps pervading the first direction[2] with an awareness imbued with good will, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will. He discerns, 'Before, this mind of mine was limited & undeveloped. But now this mind of mine is immeasurable & well developed. And whatever action that was done in a measurable way does not remain there, does not linger there.'

"What do you think, monks: If that youth, from childhood, were to develop the awareness-release through good will, would he do any evil action?"

"No, lord."

"Not doing any evil action, would he touch suffering?"

"No, lord, for when one does no evil action, from where would he touch suffering?"

"This awareness-release through good will should be developed whether one is a woman or a man. Neither a woman nor a man can go taking this body along. Death, monks, is but a gap of a thought away. One [who practices this awareness-release] discerns, 'Whatever evil action has been done by this body born of action, that will all be experienced here [in this life]. It will not come to be hereafter.' Thus developed, the awareness-release through good will leads to non-returning for the monk who has gained gnosis here and has penetrated to no higher release.

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Bundokji
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Re: I don’t understand rejecting life’s pleasures

Post by Bundokji » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:16 am

There are useful distinctions that i try to remind myself of when i study the Buddha's teachings:

1- There is a correlation between pleasure and well-being, but they are not the same thing. Whenever we experience pleasure, we are in a state of well-being, but the problem lies in our tendency to reduce well-being to pleasure. Well being involves "equanimity" when things do not go our ways. A pleasure seeking mind is more vulnerable to stress when things do not go as expected

2- There are a coarse type of pleasure (sensuality) and a more wholesome type of pleasure. The former is addictive leads to entanglement (slavery to the object of pleasure which turns into pain) while the later is contentment with the ordinary and the simple. People's craving for the extraordinary or peak experiences (sensuality) negatively affects their ability to enjoy simple things in life. It also affects their temperaments and behaviors in ways they are unaware of such as perceiving everything as a mean and becoming manipulative.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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