Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
LuisR
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by LuisR » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:42 pm

Thank you for the replies.

rolling_boulder
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by rolling_boulder » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:05 pm

It's the cultural milieu in the West to conceive a Self that is a sinner and deserving of punishment. It's basically Christian guilt. It runs very deep, below the conceptual level. The opposite manifestation of this same issue is to take the modern psychology "self esteem" path, to achieve things and base your self worth on that, which is also highly conditional. It probably explains the self-destructive spirals people get caught in when they fail only once. Because when your self esteem takes a hit, which it will because the world is out of control, suddenly "you" aren't "good enough" anymore...


One of the greatest revelations for me living a meditative life at a monastery so far is just how deep that "self"-critical guilty tendency runs. As time goes on I have started to realize that almost all of my actions and thoughts are slanted in this way. It is the root of almost all of my motivational structure. The tendency is to motivate myself through guilt (You should be doing X...) rather than positive emotion. It is an endemic problem in this society which is fundamentally based on strong self view and based on that, an attachment to a view that "your self" "should" be a certain way. This SHOULD word comes up a lot with the guilty self hating voice. It is a very good marker to check if your thoughts are tinged by aversion, to look within and check for "should" with regard to yourself or the world. This helps me a lot. A great quote from ajahn chah; "if it shouldn't be this way, it wouldn't be this way."

With time you can recognize and address that nasty voice as just a voice, which will deconstruct its power over your emotional structure. Acceptance of the way things are will emerge. This does not mean that you will suddenly be lazily accepting yourself however you are and making no effort, but it is a deSelfication of mental factors as just mental factors and there will be less unnecessary aversion in the system. Rather than seeing it as a Self that needs to be improved or will be punished by guilt, it becomes a gardening project. Imagine you are gardening. When there are weeds, you just pull them out, there isn't this emotional heaviness or guilt or anxiety about how the garden "should" be. When ripe tomatoes emerge you don't feel proud of yourself because the tomatoes are ripe, you are just pleased that ripe tomatoes have arisen. You want to get to the point where training the mind is like this, Just a nice gardening project.

This is an excellent talk addressing the topic.

The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

JohnK
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by JohnK » Sat Jul 07, 2018 9:52 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:
Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:05 pm
...
Nice reply, r_b :anjali:
"...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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DooDoot
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by DooDoot » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:00 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:
Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:05 pm
It's the cultural milieu in the West to conceive a Self that is a sinner and deserving of punishment. It's basically Christian guilt. It runs very deep, below the conceptual level.
The HHDL generalisation is simply about bad kamma. The Westerners HHDL met were likely druggies, sexual promiscuites or victims of child abuse that engaged in bad kamma. No amount of self-directed metta can erase bad kamma if bad kamma is continued & not purified. That is why it is called 'bad kamma'; because it diminishes self-esteem. 'Guilt' is a product of bad kamma. To do bad kamma but not feel guilt occurs to psychopaths (asura & animals).

SarathW
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by SarathW » Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:52 pm

To do bad kamma but not feel guilt occurs to psychopaths (asura & animals).
What about Angulimala?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

rolling_boulder
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by rolling_boulder » Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:49 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:00 pm
That is why it is called 'bad kamma'; because it diminishes self-esteem.
Highly questionable - can you provide a sutta quote?
DooDoot wrote:
Sat Jul 07, 2018 10:00 pm
'Guilt' is a product of bad kamma. To do bad kamma but not feel guilt occurs to psychopaths (asura & animals).
Please do not speak in such a way. This is well and thoroughly the wrong approach to putting an end to suffering, and it is directly refuted by the Buddha in the Sankha Sutta.
"[He reflects:] 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures stealing... indulging in illicit sex... the telling of lies, and says, "Abstain from the telling of lies." There are lies that I have told, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the telling of lies, and in the future refrains from telling lies. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.
Sankha Sutta:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html


In fact, afflicting yourself with guilt is bad kamma. It is the ignoble extreme of self-mortification. Indeed, it is even an offense in the Vinaya for a monk to speak intentionally inducing remorse in another bhikkhu.

What is the purpose of right mindfulness? For the putting aside of greed and distress (guilt included) with regard to the world.

RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

SarathW
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:44 pm

Indeed, it is even an offense in the Vinaya for a monk to speak intentionally inducing remorse in another bhikkhu.
Could someone provide this in details with the Vinaya reference?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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DooDoot
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by DooDoot » Sun Jul 08, 2018 9:01 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:49 pm
Highly questionable - can you provide a sutta quote?
If you need a sutta quote to support every reality, then this matter would be "questionable" rather than "highly" questionable; given it is obvious bad kamma diminishes self-esteem.
66. Fools of little wit are enemies unto themselves as they move about doing evil deeds, the fruits of which are bitter.

67. Ill done is that action of doing which one repents later, and the fruit of which one, weeping, reaps with tears.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .budd.html
This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "There are these two things that cause remorse. Which two? There is the case of the person who has not done what is admirable, has not done what is skillful, has not given protection to those in fear, and instead has done what is evil, savage & cruel. Thinking, 'I have not done what is admirable,' he feels remorse. Thinking, 'I have done what is evil,' he feels remorse. These are the two things that cause remorse."

Having engaged
in bodily misconduct,
verbal misconduct,
misconduct of mind,
or whatever else is flawed,
not having done what is skillful,
having done much that is not,
at the break-up of the body,
the undiscerning one reappears in
hell.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has not done what is good, has not done what is skillful, has not given protection to those in fear, and instead has done what is evil, savage, & cruel. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'I have not done what is good, have not done what is skillful, have not given protection to those in fear, and instead have done what is evil, savage, and cruel. To the extent that there is a destination for those who have not done what is good, have not done what is skillful, have not given protection to those in fear, and instead have done what is evil, savage, & cruel, that's where I'm headed after death.' He grieves & is tormented, weeps, beats his breast, & grows delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is afraid & in terror of death.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
:alien:
rolling_boulder wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:49 pm
Please do not speak in such a way. This is well and thoroughly the wrong approach to putting an end to suffering, and it is directly refuted by the Buddha in the Sankha Sutta.
I merely pointed out bad kamma causes guilt. I was not referring to putting an end to suffering.
rolling_boulder wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:49 pm
In fact, afflicting yourself with guilt is bad kamma. It is the ignoble extreme of self-mortification. Indeed, it is even an offense in the Vinaya for a monk to speak intentionally inducing remorse in another bhikkhu.
I never referred to afflicting oneself with guilt. All I said was bad kamma naturally leads to the arising of guilt, shame, remorse, etc. That Dhamma is practised to eradicate guilt, shame, remorse, etc, does not change the fact bad kamma leads to the natural arising of guilt, shame, remorse, suffering, etc. This is obviously why the Dhamma teaches to do good kamma and why Dhamma has a path to end guilt, shame, remorse, suffering, etc.
rolling_boulder wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:49 pm
What is the purpose of right mindfulness? For the putting aside of greed and distress (guilt included) with regard to the world.
The purpose of right mindfulness is for the putting aside of greed and distress (guilt included) with regard to the world. But right mindfulness also results in the non-doing of bad kamma. Those Westerners who the Dalai Lama experienced obviously did not have Right Mindfulness. Again, your point is mute/moot. When right mindulness exists, the following occurs:
"[He reflects:] 'The Blessed One in a variety of ways criticizes & censures stealing... indulging in illicit sex... the telling of lies, and says, "Abstain from the telling of lies." There are lies that I have told, to a greater or lesser extent. That was not right. That was not good. But if I become remorseful for that reason, that evil deed of mine will not be undone.' So, reflecting thus, he abandons right then the telling of lies, and in the future refrains from telling lies. This is how there comes to be the abandoning of that evil deed. This is how there comes to be the transcending of that evil deed.

Sankha Sutta
Those Westerners the Dalai Lama made a generalization about obviously did not have Right Mindfulness. If they had Right Mindfulness, they would not be interested in Tibetan Religion.

ieee23
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by ieee23 » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:51 pm

SarathW wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:46 am
"Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves"
I heard above statement from many teachers more than once.
I still can't understand the reason behind this.
At the least, it is Westerners who bring up to teachers that they find it hard to project metta to themselves.

My intuition is that problem is more universal and likely caused by ignorant/harsh parenting.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by markandeya » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:41 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 9:01 pm


Those Westerners the Dalai Lama made a generalization about obviously did not have Right Mindfulness. If they had Right Mindfulness, they would not be interested in Tibetan Religion.
Hi Doodoot,

Could you explain what you mean by this please.

Kusala induces wholesome states of mind and Akusla unwholesome states of mind, so its quite possible for anyone around the world to have some negative self view, and the prescribed path is to not get absorbed into that view as it will become a hindrance and by cultivating kusala or wholesome states one can rise above or transcend previous conditions.

One thing I have noticed about many western people and also with myself is that when we read into the dharma, or we do practice we can see that the Goal or enlightenment and its path is very noble and righteous, skillfull and has many great marks of a great level of being, and that level is rarely found in its fullness. When there is a reflection on this high level and then an awareness of our own shortcomings this can bring in a type of negativity, sometimes that we are not good enough and make all excuses, maybe if I had done this and avoided that my practice and realization would be better, or maybe we think if we were born in a pious dharma family my situation would be better. So we can sometimes make ourself feel less due to the high standards and some of the difficult situations that we have had to face or still do.

I dont come from a Christian background but some have mentioned here that it is inherent in their religion for self pity, in fact self pity is a sign of advancement, to feel oneself low and unworthy is a condition that gets the Grace of God, he likes people who are suffering and helpless, or so they say and to feel bad after one has broke the commandments shows sincerity and is worthy to be saved, unless they are condemning you.

In Dharma traditions there is more of an acknowledgement of the akusala and then to reinforce kusla and to cultivate a more happy state of mind, this is very skillfull because it breeds more balanced states of mind to avoid further mistakes.

i have lived half my life in Asia and Half in Western countries, most of my adult life in Asia and there is definite difference. West has more logical and emotional response to things, its all very clear and observable, while in Asia in general there are other forces at work and one can transcend that condition and refresh the system.

I notice a lot of things in media conditioning, also with photos and memories, the west has much more fixation on the external and whatever action one does remains stuck in their personal history. I follow some sports every now and again, and if someone has taken cocaine even if it was 20 years previous, whenever they write about that person they will always bring that up, making it into something that is fixed for ever in part of his personality, he may have got counselling, worked with other addicts and helped them, be clean for many years but still they keep it alive, without seeing or noticing the evolution and complete change of the person. The West in generally is egoic consciousness based, self centered around fixed personality, we have Freud to thank for this and materialism.

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DooDoot
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:40 am

markandeya wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:41 pm
Could you explain what you mean by this please.
Thanks M. If a person has Right Mindfulness, they have entered the Noble Path and thus are basically independent of the need for a Teacher.
Kusala induces wholesome states of mind and Akusla unwholesome states of mind, so its quite possible for anyone around the world to have some negative self view, and the prescribed path is to not get absorbed into that view as it will become a hindrance and by cultivating kusala or wholesome states one can rise above or transcend previous conditions.
Like the other poster, this seems to be putting the chicken before the egg. If the prescribed path is practiced, there will be no negative self-view. The path prevents unwholesome mental states; instead of only eradicating them. I understand many people wish to believe they are practising path when they are actually not. They take refuge, then do bad kamma, then try to practise the path to cure the bad kamma (instead of using the path to prevent bad kamma). The path has four right efforts, namely: (i) to prevent; (ii) to abandon; (iii) to develop; and (iv) to maintain & increase.
One thing I have noticed about many western people and also with myself is that when we read into the dharma, or we do practice we can see that the Goal or enlightenment and its path is very noble and righteous, skillfull and has many great marks of a great level of being, and that level is rarely found in its fullness. When there is a reflection on this high level and then an awareness of our own shortcomings this can bring in a type of negativity...
I have noticed this also. Again, the path is not being practised here. The path is not about negative self-judgment. Nor is the path about believing in achieving something a person is not capable of achieving. Well-trained monks actually do not exhort lay people to achieve the higher Dhamma. I think the phenomena you are describing is mostly a Western phenomena of those American Lay Teachers who sell Nirvana as a business venture.

The Dhamma doesn't exist for self-judgment. If you do an unwholesome action, this action should be regarded as "unwholesome" because you yourself know in your heart it is unwholesome. Any self-judgment is between you & yourself. I suggest reading MN 61.

As for the other things you posted (Christianity, Freud, West, Asia, etc), this sounds like a non-sense. Poor kamma itself causes poor self-esteem.

Regards

markandeya
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by markandeya » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:41 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 1:40 am
markandeya wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:41 pm
Could you explain what you mean by this please.
Thanks M. If a person has Right Mindfulness, they have entered the Noble Path and thus are basically independent of the need for a Teacher.
Kusala induces wholesome states of mind and Akusla unwholesome states of mind, so its quite possible for anyone around the world to have some negative self view, and the prescribed path is to not get absorbed into that view as it will become a hindrance and by cultivating kusala or wholesome states one can rise above or transcend previous conditions.
Like the other poster, this seems to be putting the chicken before the egg. If the prescribed path is practiced, there will be no negative self-view. The path prevents unwholesome mental states; instead of only eradicating them. I understand many people wish to believe they are practising path when they are actually not. They take refuge, then do bad kamma, then try to practise the path to cure the bad kamma (instead of using the path to prevent bad kamma). The path has four right efforts, namely: (i) to prevent; (ii) to abandon; (iii) to develop; and (iv) to maintain & increase.
One thing I have noticed about many western people and also with myself is that when we read into the dharma, or we do practice we can see that the Goal or enlightenment and its path is very noble and righteous, skillfull and has many great marks of a great level of being, and that level is rarely found in its fullness. When there is a reflection on this high level and then an awareness of our own shortcomings this can bring in a type of negativity...
I have noticed this also. Again, the path is not being practised here. The path is not about negative self-judgment. Nor is the path about believing in achieving something a person is not capable of achieving. Well-trained monks actually do not exhort lay people to achieve the higher Dhamma. I think the phenomena you are describing is mostly a Western phenomena of those American Lay Teachers who sell Nirvana as a business venture.

The Dhamma doesn't exist for self-judgment. If you do an unwholesome action, this action should be regarded as "unwholesome" because you yourself know in your heart it is unwholesome. Any self-judgment is between you & yourself. I suggest reading MN 61.

As for the other things you posted (Christianity, Freud, West, Asia, etc), this sounds like a non-sense. Poor kamma itself causes poor self-esteem.

Regards
Hi DooDoot,

Seems you have given me quite a bit to reply to this morning. I will try to address them as time permits.

I dont like debate and I am quite comfortable to let people see things in their own way. So I will just explain from my perspective and experience.

You use the word if quite a few times, if only this or if only that and if they have this then they will not need that. If is quite a word and sometimes comes under the realm of an idea or sometimes a dream or illusion, its projecting an idea onto someone or something that may not exist as a reaity. If everyone was enlightened at birth then there would be no need for this conversation, but they are not and here we are.

Most people will not have the right type of mindfulness, so to inject that if they did or they are supposed to have deals a large blow to the current state of most humans existence, also right mindfulness in the real context of the experience is very rare. So we are mostly ascending into mindfulness from a place which is not right mindfulness, I think your expecting to much from a world that is inherently not awake in most cases, so I cant accept the word if. Also right mindfulness would not project that people should be a certain way. Right Mindfulness will just deal with situations as they naturally occur with wisdom.

About the chicken and the egg, again i think your reading it only in your way. People usually live unwholesome lives compared to the ariya marg, this doesnt mean on purpose but due to social and environmental conditions. I was referring to mental state where people may feel a certain way about themselves, people will experience the same things in the west and Asia but may have totally different response and ways to deal with it.


In regards to Christianity and Freud the west is very much conditioned by these ideas, where as in Asia the cultural phenomenon is different, so they have different attitudes to life. This is my experience. Your right that poor karma leads to self esteem but again its a bit to black and white, a person may lose a loved one and they have been dependent on them and if they pass it might give them low esteem, there are many reasons that a person may feel low esteem, a sports person may have lifetime injury and can never do what they love and have passion for again, this may give them low esteem, a person may have an idea of what enlightenment is and what meditative states are and if they cant reach that idea it may cause them low esteem, I couldnt live with myself If i judged them as having bad karma, all should be dealt with understanding to uplift and not condemned as being in ignorance and being unlucky to have poor bad karma or just lacking mindfulness, again your starting off from the top and assuming that people should have right mindfulness from the start of their lives. This world that I have seen doesnt seem to reflect that, most people start off in life in conditional fashion and we gradually evolve into mindfulness, to expect and then judge them from the start to be a Buddha or self enlightened or by default should have right mindfulness just seems to be like an Utopian idea.

When you said that if a person has right mindfulness they would not go to the Tibetan Religion. Firstly Tibetan Buddhism is not a religion, they are dharma margs, paths to awakening that have lineages. I know many people and have met so many all round the world that come to Tibetan Buddhist practice that are wonderful human beings, they might be attracted by the culture, the teachers, the teaching in a positive way, it doesnt mean they lack in right mindfulness or are suffering from some bad karma or low esteem, and even if they do nobody should be judged and nobody should be expected to be something or at a certain level. Its to hard to coin any seeker as being a certain way and attracted to follow a certain way as anything in particular, as life is to diverse, people have many reasons to many to count, but the resolve to find the awakened should be one.

Myself I was travelling and wanted to visit India and China, I looked into their culture and the first book I found was on Cha'an and the picture of Bodhidharma sitting in meditation instantly attracted me, I read a few pages and in that moment I decided to I wanted to be a monk, I had no such intention before seeing that book, attraction to the path comes in many ways. Also the inherent nature of all sentient beings has a certain amount of Dukkha, its just part of life, birth, old age, disease and death is an inherent part of life, nobody can escape, for this we need universal compassion and support.

With Metta

:anjali:

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DooDoot
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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by DooDoot » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:18 am

Thanks M but I don't have any expectations. I was merely suggesting lack of self-esteem is not something exclusively externally conditioned by society & culture (what Freud called the 'Super Ego'). While external expectations & external lack of love can harm internal self-esteem; internal unskilful karma can be the primary contributor.

Regards

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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by binocular » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:09 pm

SarathW wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:46 am
"Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves"
Religious/spiritual teachers teach us that we aren't worthy of loving-kindness, or just plain goodwill. They mostly do so indirectly, though, esp. with the way they ridicule and belittle our concerns.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves?

Post by Saengnapha » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:46 am

binocular wrote:
Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:09 pm
SarathW wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:46 am
"Westerners can't extend loving kindness to themselves"
Religious/spiritual teachers teach us that we aren't worthy of loving-kindness, or just plain goodwill. They mostly do so indirectly, though, esp. with the way they ridicule and belittle our concerns.
Quite true.

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