Interesting thread for me to make my first post on here
But lust has a special prominence in my practice, so I'm chiming in
I'm sorry for the lack of sutta quotations. I'm relatively new to Theravada after years of Zen, still getting acquainted with all the writings.
None of the intellectual sort of approaches have helped me with what is a very visceral drive, like contemplating the parts of the body, repulsiveness, unsatisfactoriness... In my opinion, masturbation may be this or that argument, but it's primarily like practicing something we already know inside and out when we could be learning something new. Should we be using this rare day we're still alive to further refine our mastery of satisfying sensual desires?
Two things have helped me. One is practicing sila in general, cultivating loving-kindness, noticing other sources of suffering like my temper, greed and working with them, being milder and more easily content. Cooling the mind down in daily life makes lust less tricky to handle.
And second, simply viewing it as not a very useful way to spend time
. There's a big difference compared to other "useless" activities, like playing an instrument, reading fiction, or relaxing in the sun. I find during those kinds of things, I can remain mindful and see the aspects of dhamma in everyday things, even as the body or mind are satisfied. The mind is calmed. For me, to be able to masturbate requires doing the opposite: forgetting everything and zeroing in on a physical sensation, or a mental image. And the mind is stirred up.
Lust is samsara in a nutshell. You can almost feel on fire from needing to do this thing that by definition cannot be satisfied. And we willingly cloak ourselves in distortions and misperceptions to have a little drop of good feelings. Maybe it isn't this grandiose for others.
I've heard it said that celebate monks give up sex for something far better: a calm and joyous mind
We already know what masturbating feels like. But do we really have an intimate idea of the luminosity of a mind at ease? It may be more appealing in the heat of the moment to think "Let's try something new" than "I shouldn't X or Y".