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

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:13 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:38 am
Laughable? You really think that? :tongue:

I guess you are in the second category I mentioned...

Mike
The comparative mind is always demanding something to hang its hat on.
BTW, thinking in categories is not going to make a bit of difference.

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mikenz66
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:41 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:13 am
The comparative mind is always demanding something to hang its hat on.
BTW, thinking in categories is not going to make a bit of difference.
Not make a bit of difference to what? Whether certain possibilitues are laughable or not?

Mike

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

Post by Modus.Ponens » Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:52 am

SarathW wrote:
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"
Hello.

The Dark Night, in the buddhist context, refers to a phase in a vipassana meditator's practice when the meditator can be filled with feelings of dread, fear, anger, depression, worry, and so on. This phase happens during the period of the insight knowledges related to dhukkha, after the insight knowledges related to impermanence. It is similar to the grieving process talked about in psychology, but the grief is not over the death of a family member, but over the death of every thing that is impermanent. (Which is why it's important to then realize that there are no essential independent "things" that are dying, just anatta.)

It is not buddhist terminology, and I don't think any sutta contains this expression. But it is regularly used in some buddhist communities to mean just this. The expression "Dark Night" was adopted from the christian context, but it does not have christian connotations.

:anjali:
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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

Post by binocular » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:26 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:01 am
Yes, as I said, it depends on how one views spiritual practice. If one takes the view the first steps are to develop virtue, wakefulness, mindfulness, etc, then practising any (reasonably sensible) path will be perceived to be helpful. If one focusses on dictrine, one will have a different view.
It's kind of hard to ignore the threat of eternal damnation.
You think the Christian religions are "reasonably sensible paths"?

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

Post by binocular » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:28 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:52 am
The Dark Night, in the buddhist context, refers to a phase in a vipassana meditator's practice when the meditator can be filled with feelings of dread, fear, anger, depression, worry, and so on.
There's already a term that covers that: samvega.

The question is, insofar "samvega" and "the dark night" can be construed as overlapping eachother.

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

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Mar 30, 2018 2:50 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:28 pm
Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:52 am
The Dark Night, in the buddhist context, refers to a phase in a vipassana meditator's practice when the meditator can be filled with feelings of dread, fear, anger, depression, worry, and so on.
There's already a term that covers that: samvega.

The question is, insofar "samvega" and "the dark night" can be construed as overlapping eachother.
No, not really. They are not the same or equivalent states. I am not the language 👮 and you can always make your own language up with meanings only understood by the in-group. Teenagers, gangs, clubs, professions, clubs and cults do it all the time. Of course, Orwell pointed out that sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking, which is sometimes the intent.

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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 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:45 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:26 pm
mikenz66 wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:01 am
Yes, as I said, it depends on how one views spiritual practice. If one takes the view the first steps are to develop virtue, wakefulness, mindfulness, etc, then practising any (reasonably sensible) path will be perceived to be helpful. If one focusses on dictrine, one will have a different view.
It's kind of hard to ignore the threat of eternal damnation.
You think the Christian religions are "reasonably sensible paths"?
In the terms in which Mike is talking, I think that Christianity has, inter alia, every right to be called a "reasonably sensible path". I have just spent two years living among very devout Christians (priests and those training to be priests, and eminent Christian theologians) in a Cambridge college. Their virtue was, generally speaking, far better than most people that I have met, and I cannot imagine that any group of non-monastic Buddhists living in such close proximity would do any better. I was very frequently humbled by their selfless actions and the care they took over speech. I learnt a great deal from them. The same applies - to a lesser extent - to their wakefulness and mindfulness. Now I am living in a rural parish, and am still interacting on a daily basis with Christians, albeit in a more ordinary and less intense environment. Again, though, my neighbours seem to be virtuous people. I've no doubt that the same applies to Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs, all of whom have from time to time impressed me with their personal qualities.

I can't recall anyone ever talking about "eternal damnation", except ironically. They may have had beliefs about eternal damnation, of course, but this is precisely the kind of doctrinal point that Mike said would lead to different conclusions.

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

Post by Modus.Ponens » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:55 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:28 pm
Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:52 am
The Dark Night, in the buddhist context, refers to a phase in a vipassana meditator's practice when the meditator can be filled with feelings of dread, fear, anger, depression, worry, and so on.
There's already a term that covers that: samvega.

The question is, insofar "samvega" and "the dark night" can be construed as overlapping eachother.
These two things are not the same. They can exist at the same time, or just one of them, or neither.

If I understand correctly, samvega is a sense of urgency for spiritual liberation. It can be brought about by reflecting on death, on the shortness and fragility of life, on the precious opportunity that is associated with a human life, on sickness, on old age, on impermanence, on unsatisfactoriness.

The "dark night" is quite similar to the grieving process associated with the death of a loved one, or with knowing that you have a deadly illness. Except this grief is not brought about by the direct confrontation with your death, or the death of a loved one. It is brought about by the direct confrontation with impermanence. Samatha can make the difference between a long difficult "dark night", and a short easy "dark night". But I don't think liberation is possible without a direct confrontation with (or rather, a direct knowledge of) impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not self.

So, one is a sense of urgency, the other is similar to grief. They originate from similar themes, but they're not the same.

PS: There is also another more general sense in which the expression "dark night" is employed. It can mean any significant negative side effect of meditation. But this use of "dark night" is not as common.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:24 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:55 pm
binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:28 pm
Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 11:52 am
The Dark Night, in the buddhist context, refers to a phase in a vipassana meditator's practice when the meditator can be filled with feelings of dread, fear, anger, depression, worry, and so on.
There's already a term that covers that: samvega.

The question is, insofar "samvega" and "the dark night" can be construed as overlapping eachother.
These two things are not the same. They can exist at the same time, or just one of them, or neither....
The "dark night" is quite similar to the grieving process associated with the death of a loved one, or with knowing that you have a deadly illness. Except this grief is not brought about by the direct confrontation with your death, or the death of a loved one. It is brought about by the direct confrontation with impermanence. Samatha can make the difference between a long difficult "dark night", and a short easy "dark night". But I don't think liberation is possible without a direct confrontation with (or rather, a direct knowledge of) impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not self....
This is somewhat like redefining the term “passion of Christ” in Christian mysticism as an eager or happy feeling, desire for liberation, or the temptations offered by Mara (or calling Mara the “Buddhist Satan”). It is not a crime, but does not increase understanding. And with that I betray my own passion for clear speech and bow out.
:namaste:

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

Post by binocular » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:32 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:45 pm
I can't recall anyone ever talking about "eternal damnation", except ironically. They may have had beliefs about eternal damnation, of course, but this is precisely the kind of doctrinal point that Mike said would lead to different conclusions.
Well, eagerly ignoring doctrine like that, we might also hang out with, say, gangsters. Gangsters place a great amount of importance on virtue -- as they understand it.

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mikenz66
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 8:38 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:45 pm
...
binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:26 pm
It's kind of hard to ignore the threat of eternal damnation.
You think the Christian religions are "reasonably sensible paths"?
In the terms in which Mike is talking, I think that Christianity has, inter alia, every right to be called a "reasonably sensible path". I have just spent two years living among very devout Christians (priests and those training to be priests, and eminent Christian theologians) in a Cambridge college. Their virtue was, generally speaking, far better than most people that I have met, and I cannot imagine that any group of non-monastic Buddhists living in such close proximity would do any better. ...
Thanks Sam Vara, that fits with my experience. I have a Seventh Day Adventist friend who I have worked with extensively (he's a professor at a US University, which I have visited briefly), and, though of course we disagree strongly on theology, we certainly have a lot of commonality in general outlook.

As for "eternal damnation", we have "aeons of damnation" in the suttas. I have had door-knocking Jehova's Witnesses talk about eternal damnation, but apart from that, I've not heard Christians obsess about it, any more than I hear Buddhists obsess about avici hell.

Perhaps I've been lucky...

:heart:
Mike

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mikenz66
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Re: What is the Dark Night of the Soul in Buddhist terms?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:01 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:31 am
Comparing Fransciscan monks to Thai Forest meditators is laughable. Just sayin'.
I don't think Thomas Merton would agree with you if he was still around: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Merton

I can't find a reference right now, but I understand Catholic (Jesuit?) monks who resided in Buddhist monasteries in Asia provided some of the earliest accurate reports of Buddhist monasticism (in the 16th-17th C?).

:heart:
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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 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:11 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:32 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:45 pm
I can't recall anyone ever talking about "eternal damnation", except ironically. They may have had beliefs about eternal damnation, of course, but this is precisely the kind of doctrinal point that Mike said would lead to different conclusions.
Well, eagerly ignoring doctrine like that, we might also hang out with, say, gangsters. Gangsters place a great amount of importance on virtue -- as they understand it.
I am, of course, talking about virtue as I understand it. The virtue which gangsters prize has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

I'm not "eagerly ignoring" doctrine; just talking about virtues. Doctrine is another thing which I am happy to talk about, but it's not relevant here.

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

Post by Modus.Ponens » Fri Mar 30, 2018 9:23 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:24 pm
Modus.Ponens wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:55 pm
These two things are not the same. They can exist at the same time, or just one of them, or neither....
The "dark night" is quite similar to the grieving process associated with the death of a loved one, or with knowing that you have a deadly illness. Except this grief is not brought about by the direct confrontation with your death, or the death of a loved one. It is brought about by the direct confrontation with impermanence. Samatha can make the difference between a long difficult "dark night", and a short easy "dark night". But I don't think liberation is possible without a direct confrontation with (or rather, a direct knowledge of) impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not self....
This is somewhat like redefining the term “passion of Christ” in Christian mysticism as an eager or happy feeling, desire for liberation, or the temptations offered by Mara (or calling Mara the “Buddhist Satan”). It is not a crime, but does not increase understanding. And with that I betray my own passion for clear speech and bow out.
:namaste:
I understand what you're saying. The expression "dark night", as used in some buddhist circles, means something quite distinct from what it meant originally in the christian context. But I am merely describing how the term is used in buddhist circles, which was SarathW's question. I guess pointing both these things will clarify SarathW's question.

I actually agree with your objection regarding precise language. I like to see commonalities between spiritual traditions, because some of the differences are merely semantic. But I don't like to see different things being equated (often in a strained effort of ecumenism). It seems to me that this is a case where the christian "dark night" and the buddhist "dark night" are genuinely different things. I don't think the buddhist use of "dark night" has an ecumenic motivation _ at least not anymore _ , but the term has already become a part of the buddhist lexycon on the internet.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:32 am

SarathW wrote:
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"
Some compare it to the “Knowledges of Suffering” and regard it as an inevitable stage of practice:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/gu ... Dark+Night
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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