The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Pasada
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by Pasada » Mon Nov 16, 2015 4:33 am

I think if you look in the Suttas, you will find that the Buddha discusses many of the mundane benefits of Dhamma practice, which includes better and more stable enjoyment of life in the here and now, all the way up to favorable rebirth in future lives. So I don't think there's any problem with this at all. There's also no reason why you can't move from not practicing Dhamma to practicing Dhamma for mundane benefits to practicing Dhamma to reach the transcendent goal. It's unrealistic to expect everybody to just dive in to the deep end of practice, and also unrealistic to think that practicing must always be some kind of austere grind.

Even if we were to say, hypothetically, that somebody "gets stuck" practicing Dhamma for mundane benefits or "pleasant mind states", well, isn't that surely better than somebody not practicing at all? Isn't the person practicing for mundane benefits creating less suffering for themselves and the world by doing so? Isn't the pleasure of Dhamma better than than the pleasures derived from craving?

Speaking for myself I'll take pleasure from Dhamma over worldly misery any day of the week, even if that pleasure is not the ultimate or highest goal.
tiltbillings wrote:You think Joseph Goldstein is just making up this stuff? The Dhamma has no beauty, no joy, in its practice and experience?
Seems pretty clear that there is, and I'm pretty sure that the Dhammapada predates Goldstein:

We will feed on rapture
like the Radiant gods

Dhp 200

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seeker242
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by seeker242 » Mon Nov 16, 2015 11:50 am

phil wrote:
Hi, did you read my earlier post about unworldly ( forget the Pali) vs worldly pleasure? You are quoting the former above and they are undisputed, of course.

As for the happiness of the householder who enjoys sensory pleasures, the highest ( if I recall correctly, correct me if I'm wrong) is blamelessness.

Here is another quote from Goldstein that better gets at what I am so far unsuccessfully trying to communicate:

"our progress in meditation does not depend on the measure of pleasure or pain in our experience. Rather the quality of our practice has to do with how open we are to whatever is there."
Yes I read it. :smile: Although, I don't think people disagree with the above. What I think people are saying is that it's not exactly appropriate to harbor aversion to good feelings or label them as "psudo", because they are an inevitable byproduct of practice.

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kirk5a
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by kirk5a » Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:22 pm

Suffering -> Faith -> Joy -> Rapture -> Tranquility -> Happiness -> Concentration -> Knowledge and vision of things as they really are -> Disenchantment -> Dispassion -> Emancipation -> Knowledge of the destruction of the cankers

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el277.html
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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phil
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by phil » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:01 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And the understanding can be quite beautiful and joyous.
Yes, we don't seek understanding in order to get beauty and joyousness, we seek understanding and that understanding sometimes just happens to be accompanied by a sense of beauty and joyousness. I think the quote in the OP clearly says the latter but my guess is that phil may have read it as the former, is that your point phil?
Hi Goofaholix, Tiltbillins, all who responded

I see what you mean. The understanding goes without speaking.

I just posted about something I have been chewing over for awhile. As you know, the Buddha said that the uninstructed worldling knows no way out of pain but by seeking pleasure. I always sense that that is what Dhamma is for me a lot of the time, finding strategies for turning anxiety and other unpleasant mind states into pleasant ones. And I'm good at it. And without being able to speak for anyone else I should stop there and work it out for myself and not worry about whether my pseudo Dhamma represents a tendency that other people have. "Pseudo" is probably too harsh a word.

Anyways I am very happy that the tendency to engage in harmful behavior has been challenged and shows signs of being defeated in a real way, and really the happiness that goes with that is legitimate, for sure,

Thanks all, I'll drop it there,
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)

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phil
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by phil » Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:07 pm

Pasada wrote:I think if you look in the Suttas, you will find that the Buddha discusses many of the mundane benefits of Dhamma practice, which includes better and more stable enjoyment of life in the here and now, all the way up to favorable rebirth in future lives. So I don't think there's any problem with this at all. There's also no reason why you can't move from not practicing Dhamma to practicing Dhamma for mundane benefits to practicing Dhamma to reach the transcendent goal. It's unrealistic to expect everybody to just dive in to the deep end of practice, and also unrealistic to think that practicing must always be some kind of austere grind.

Even if we were to say, hypothetically, that somebody "gets stuck" practicing Dhamma for mundane benefits or "pleasant mind states", well, isn't that surely better than somebody not practicing at all? Isn't the person practicing for mundane benefits creating less suffering for themselves and the world by doing so? Isn't the pleasure of Dhamma better than than the pleasures derived from craving?

Speaking for myself I'll take pleasure from Dhamma over worldly misery any day of the week, even if that pleasure is not the ultimate or highest goal.
tiltbillings wrote:You think Joseph Goldstein is just making up this stuff? The Dhamma has no beauty, no joy, in its practice and experience?
Seems pretty clear that there is, and I'm pretty sure that the Dhammapada predates Goldstein:

We will feed on rapture
like the Radiant gods

Dhp 200

Hi thanks

What if the mundane benefits of Dhamma are actually subtly rooted in craving pleasant mental and physical states and we never see that? We would live out our lives using the Dhamma as a comforter and die blind to its deeper liberating aspects, And frankly I think that is not necessarily a bad thing, seeking pleasure though Dhamma means we are less likely to seek pleasure in harmful deeds that would make it less likely that we will have opportunities to develop understanding in future lives.

Now someone will say " there has to be craving to get to the far shore, and then we get rid of the raft" etc. However I think it is possible - possible I say, I am not condemning, just pondering - that we are all pretty cavalier about the way Dhamma is used as a feel good panacea.

Understanding the texts in detail is important. If someone disputes that and thinks we should just develop understanding without reliance on the texts ( including commentaries) I guess are just have a different ...angle of approach to the path.

For example, you quote the "feed on rapture" from Dhammaoada. Think how easy it would be for a newcomer to Dhamma to make easy assumptions about rapture and assume that he or she has piti or other wholesome factors developing when it is just an exercise in longing for pleasant states. Doesn't matter, that longing is better than other longings? In a sense true but also in a sense it really does matter a lot because the opportunity to better understand Dhamma would be lost. Then again, when we improve our sila, there are better conditions to listen, so the person misunderstanding what he or she is doing as bhavana when it is actually just an accumulation of moha and lobha will still have the chance to reflect on more precise teaching as taught in the texts, ( For example, a moment of kusala must be accompanied by many factors, around 14 of them I think, including alobha, detachment, so kusala is rarer than we would like to think.) Again, you and others might not agree on the need to understand the teaching in detail. In which case my point is moot.

I can sense I am setting myself up for a time consuming enterprise here and that is a rare commodity for me these days so I will thank you all again for your comments and see if I can leave it at there...here?
Kammalakkhano , bhikkhave, bālo, kammalakkhano pandito, apadānasobhanī paññāti
(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)

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subaru
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by subaru » Tue Nov 17, 2015 12:30 am

My opinion ; take it with a grain of salt

Benefits: people feel 'good', feel 'accomplished'

Costs: Did someone speculated 2600 years ago that the teaching would disappear from the world in 2500 years?
:candle:

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Pasada
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Re: The costs and benefits of pseudo Dhamma

Post by Pasada » Tue Nov 17, 2015 1:10 am

phil wrote: What if the mundane benefits of Dhamma are actually subtly rooted in craving pleasant mental and physical states and we never see that?
My understanding is that until nibbana is attained, all activity is rooted in attachment to pleasant mental and physical states. Our task is to understand this. The early stages of the path seem to involve weaning oneself off the more crude cravings for sensual pleasures and replacing them with more subtle and refined pleasures (like the rapture of jhana). Eventually these too are let go, until eventually there is nothing left to let go of...but I suspect that's a long way off for most of us.

The Buddha does say that the mark of wisdom is being willing to sacrifice a lesser happiness for the sake of a greater happiness. Being willing to sacrifice sensual pleasure for pleasure derived from Dhamma practice is clearly a case of sacrificing a lesser happiness for something greater, so if somebody is willing and able to do this it would seem they have the beginnings of the wisdom. Being able to make this kind of trade is part of the training in renunciation.
phil wrote:We would live out our lives using the Dhamma as a comforter and die blind to its deeper liberating aspects, And frankly I think that is not necessarily a bad thing, seeking pleasure though Dhamma means we are less likely to seek pleasure in harmful deeds that would make it less likely that we will have opportunities to develop understanding in future lives.
Right, this was my point. Worst case scenario, somebody is still suffering less and causing less suffering for others than if they were chasing after sensual pleasure.
phil wrote:For example, you quote the "feed on rapture" from Dhammaoada. Think how easy it would be for a newcomer to Dhamma to make easy assumptions about rapture and assume that he or she has piti or other wholesome factors developing when it is just an exercise in longing for pleasant states.
Well, as a newcomer you shouldn't make assumptions, and if you have good teachers then they will point out and ruthlessly question those assumptions.

By the same token also, a newcomer could also hear all this talk about suffering and letting go of desire and think "Wow, how awfully nihilistic the Dhamma seems to be. The Buddha was a real downer. Life isn't just about suffering, you know! I want to be happy, but Buddhism is just about giving stuff up."

This could drive them away from practice altogether, or make them embrace an extremely austere form of practice, which could either lead to asceticism (which the Buddha rejected) or else cause them to burn out because excessive austerity is not sustainable. Just as it's not usually a good idea for an addict to quit "cold turkey", most of us cannot simply say "Okay cool, craving and attachment are the root of suffering. Let me just stop craving anything whatsoever and all my problems are solved!" Instead, there's a process - the Path - and we work toward that gradually. Along the way there are pleasures, and there's nothing wrong in acknowledging and even celebrating them.

It's like being on a mountain trail - if you're so relentlessly focused on reaching the summit, you will miss the view - and actually taking a moment to stop and take in the vista can help you orient yourself to the summit, and confirm you are on the right track. Sure, you could also get stuck on a particularly spectacular view and not make it up to the mountain before sunset, but that's surely better than not making the journey at all.

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