What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Aloka
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Aloka » Thu Mar 29, 2018 2:44 pm

Yes, that author and site as well as self dramatizing teenage love songs is one of sources of this misappropriation, misunderstanding, and misuse of this term. A term that has nothing to do with Buddhism really. A lot to do with Christian mysticism
Oh, ok, thanks Caodemarte . I'm not a member of the site, I was just browsing it one day.


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Coëmgenu
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Coëmgenu » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:59 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:45 pm
binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 16, 2018 12:07 pm
SarathW wrote:
Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:47 am
What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?
What mental state is this?
It's not clear that there can even be a Buddhist equivalent to the "dark night of the soul"....
It is a specific technical term in Christian, specifically Catholic, mysticism that refers to the felt withdrawal of God’s grace from someone in a deep personal relationship with (the Christian) God, I don’t see how there could be a Buddhist equivalent. Spiritual depression or darkness, frustration, near despair, longing, great difficulty, etc. can of course be felt, but that is not what the term really refers to. The term has been misappropriated and abused by people wishing to “dress up” or dramatize their own experiences (as in songs for romantic teenagers) or simply don’t understand it. From there it has spread to others.
If you will forgive me to quote myself from a thread from a few years ago, this is from a different Christian tradition, note how he (Fr Archimandrite Zacharias) talks about the younger Saint Silouan not being able to himself sustain the spiritual state he entered into on account of lacking monastic training:
from ages ago wrote:pertaining to interreligious dialogue and general ecumenism, this is Father Archimandrite Zacharias, who was a disciple of Elder Sophrony, who was a disciple of Saint Silouan of the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), and who is also a practitioner of hesychast meditation (if one can call hesychasm meditation, which I don't think is too far a stretch, given its similarity to buddhānussaṭi).

..

I am not a Christian, nor am I posting this to evangelize, but I found this talk very illuminating, if one mentally replaces "God" with "the soteriological goal" and "hell" with "samsara/ignorance". As is to be expected, the soteriological goal is given undue agentification and athropomorphization, but that is standard issue with Christian-Buddhist dialogue. There are parts useful to Buddhists, there are parts useless to Buddhists, particularly parts relating to the participation in the mysteries of the Church. The part relevant to Buddhists (particularly meditators) starts moreso around 8:18, when he talks about the vain-glory that St. Silouan struggled with on account of his spiritual attainments. The demon that St. Silouan fights with, which appears before the icon, need not be interpreted as a spirit from hell, but instead as an "internal demon" of vain-glory. The injunction "keep your mind in hell" has two interpretations: it is either an appeal to tariki/他力 ("other-effort", a non-Theravada concept), or it is a statement that all things are hellish (like in the Fire Sermon?), coupled with a call to not despair on account of this. Even the glory of the contact with God, in the teaching of Father Zacharias, is subject to fall as it arose.

A discourse on the Three Stages of the Spiritual Life is given at 13:11. The term "grace" used here refers to the linking of the soteriological goal with the practitioner, and is described as a "foretaste" of said soteriology. Note the way in which even the stages of spiritual attainment in life are described, uniformly, as "impermanent", and they are subject to fall as they arose.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by binocular » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:59 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:59 pm
If you will forgive me to quote myself from a thread from a few years ago, this is from a different Christian tradition, note how he (Fr Archimandrite Zacharias) talks about the younger Saint Silouan not being able to himself sustain the spiritual state he entered into on account of lacking monastic training:
from ages ago wrote:pertaining to interreligious dialogue and general ecumenism, this is Father Archimandrite Zacharias, who was a disciple of Elder Sophrony, who was a disciple of Saint Silouan of the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos), and who is also a practitioner of hesychast meditation (if one can call hesychasm meditation, which I don't think is too far a stretch, given its similarity to buddhānussaṭi).
/.../
Could you summarize in what way any of what you've said and quoted indicates or proves that the term "the dark night of the soul" is meaningful in a Buddhist context?
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SarathW
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by SarathW » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:41 pm

A term that has nothing to do with Buddhism really. A lot to do with Christian mysticism.
What I am trying to understand is where this word (Dark Night of the Soul" is fitting to Buddhist terminology. It appears this is a particular mental state. In Abhidhamma it categorises 52 mental states.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... el322.html
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by binocular » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:55 pm

SarathW wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:41 pm
What I am trying to understand is where this word (Dark Night of the Soul" is fitting to Buddhist terminology. It appears this is a particular mental state. In Abhidhamma it categorises 52 mental states.
This is likely the wrong subforum for this question, at least if one wishes to get a straightforward answer.

The term "Dark Night of the Soul" only makes sense if God (per the Catholic conception) exists.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:39 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:55 pm
SarathW wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:41 pm
What I am trying to understand is where this word (Dark Night of the Soul" is fitting to Buddhist terminology. It appears this is a particular mental state. In Abhidhamma it categorises 52 mental states.
This is likely the wrong subforum for this question, at least if one wishes to get a straightforward answer.

The term "Dark Night of the Soul" only makes sense if God (per the Catholic conception) exists.
I think it is certainly a fruitless enterprise to look for a Buddhist counterpart, but the terms seems to have slipped its Catholic moorings by now:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Nigh ... In_culture

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by SarathW » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:43 pm

but the terms seems to have slipped its Catholic moorings by now:
Agree.
That is why I confused about this.
It seems some people use this word to denote "depression"
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:13 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:39 pm
I think it is certainly a fruitless enterprise to look for a Buddhist counterpart, but the terms seems to have slipped its Catholic moorings by now:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Nigh ... In_culture
I guess people have simply used it in the Buddhist context as a convenient and catchy label for times when there are extreme difficulties and doubts. Difficult episodes are well documented in the Suttas, Commentaries, and the life stories of modern teachers and practitioners.

Of course, trying to relate the technical details to Christian doctrine is most likely pointless, but perhaps one can learn something from how Christian or Sufi mystics faced their problems. [However, I have not paid much attention to these other paths, other than hearing quotes in talks... ]

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binocular
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by binocular » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:17 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:13 pm
Of course, trying to relate the technical details to Christian doctrine is most likely pointless, but perhaps one can learn something from how Christian or Sufi mystics faced their problems.
It's not clear how that is or could be the case.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:28 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:13 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:39 pm
I think it is certainly a fruitless enterprise to look for a Buddhist counterpart, but the terms seems to have slipped its Catholic moorings by now:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Nigh ... In_culture
I guess people have simply used it in the Buddhist context as a convenient and catchy label for times when there are extreme difficulties and doubts. Difficult episodes are well documented in the Suttas, Commentaries, and the life stories of modern teachers and practitioners.

Of course, trying to relate the technical details to Christian doctrine is most likely pointless, but perhaps one can learn something from how Christian or Sufi mystics faced their problems. [However, I have not paid much attention to these other paths, other than hearing quotes in talks... ]

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Mike
Yes, I agree. Doctrine tends to proceed deductively from axioms or first principles, so if you don't accept them, then the whole doctrine is alien. Learning about human nature and virtues, however, is inductive and built from common experiences.

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:39 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:17 pm
mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:13 pm
Of course, trying to relate the technical details to Christian doctrine is most likely pointless, but perhaps one can learn something from how Christian or Sufi mystics faced their problems.
It's not clear how that is or could be the case.
Some seem to take some inspiration from the efforts of others to overcome their doubts and difficulties. The Buddha recommends recalling not only the good qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, but also the good qualities of the Devas, who are in heavenly realms because of their good (but not liberating) actions...

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by binocular » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:40 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:28 pm
Yes, I agree. Doctrine tends to proceed deductively from axioms or first principles, so if you don't accept them, then the whole doctrine is alien. Learning about human nature and virtues, however, is inductive and built from common experiences.
Even when at the core is a mere article of faith, and all the trouble that the person is experiencing comes from recognizing that at the core is a mere article of faith?

Trying to develop virtue to hide a rotten core, but leaving the core rotten?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:43 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:40 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:28 pm
Yes, I agree. Doctrine tends to proceed deductively from axioms or first principles, so if you don't accept them, then the whole doctrine is alien. Learning about human nature and virtues, however, is inductive and built from common experiences.
Even when at the core is a mere article of faith, and all the trouble that the person is experiencing comes from recognizing that at the core is a mere article of faith?

Trying to develop virtue to hide a rotten core, but leaving the core rotten?
Sorry, I don't understand this. It doesn't seem to connect with what I said; which probably means that I didn't say it very well.

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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:56 pm

I guess the disconnect is whether or not one sees the development of virtues, and so on, is a positive thing common to all (sensible) "spritual" paths.

If one takes that view, then the difference between the Dhamma and other paths is at a quite technical level (not-self, dependent origination, etc). In that case, there is plenty one can learn from other paths.

If one does not take that view, then the other paths may seem completely misguided and worthless.

In support of the "much of it is universal" view, I offer:
There are some other ascetics and brahmins who claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really. They describe the complete understanding of grasping at sensual pleasures, views, and precepts and observances, but not theories of a self. Why is that? Because those gentlemen don’t truly understand this one thing. That’s why they claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really.
https://suttacentral.net/mn11/en/sujato#sc17
Of, if you prefer Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation, it is here: https://suttacentral.net/mn11/en/bodhi#sc12

Mike

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Sam Vara
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:35 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:56 pm
I guess the disconnect is whether or not one sees the development of virtues, and so on, is a positive thing common to all (sensible) "spritual" paths.

If one takes that view, then the difference between the Dhamma and other paths is at a quite technical level (not-self, dependent origination, etc). In that case, there is plenty one can learn from other paths.

If one does not take that view, then the other paths may seem completely misguided and worthless.

In support of the "much of it is universal" view, I offer:
There are some other ascetics and brahmins who claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really. They describe the complete understanding of grasping at sensual pleasures, views, and precepts and observances, but not theories of a self. Why is that? Because those gentlemen don’t truly understand this one thing. That’s why they claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really.
https://suttacentral.net/mn11/en/sujato#sc17
Of, if you prefer Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation, it is here: https://suttacentral.net/mn11/en/bodhi#sc12

Mike
Indeed, and on a practical rather than doctrinal level we can note how similar monastics from different traditions seem to be; and the similarities between people from different religions who take their prescribed ethical responsibilities seriously.

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