Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Goofaholix
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Goofaholix » Thu May 31, 2012 9:36 am

RatherSkeptic wrote: You talk about cause and effect reaction. I thought the purpose of meditation is to make a cut between these two things, so that the cause won't trigger a reaction anymore. But I found out that these two are processes that can't be divided, and a same cause will always result in a same reaction. Pretending to be detached from that - to be indifferent to that - doesn't sound like very useful either.
Yes you can't cut between cause and affect, that would be like cancelling gravity. However you can choose how you react, you don't have to react to what you experience.

Sitting for a long time (cause) = unpleasant sensation in the knee (affect), however you choose whether to multiply that pain through reactivity (Dukkha) or not.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Travis
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Travis » Thu May 31, 2012 7:06 pm

Hi RS,

This might be a bit of an over-simplification, but maybe it would help to think of it like this:
Cause = unpleasant situation + unpleasant emotions --> Effect = suffering.

Unpleasant emotions are inseperable from unpleasant situations. The situation is unpleasant because of the unpleasant emotions and conversely the emotions are unpleasant because of the unpleasant situations. So if there is one there will be a mutual-arising of the other. Do you have to suffer from unpleasant situations/emotions? No. Suffering (as has already been pointed out) is something added on to an unpleasant situation, an absolute rejection of an experience as unacceptable. Job interviews aren't inherently unpleasant or anxiety inducing. For those that have anxiety it is usually manageable, in other words, they recognize it as "being anxious," and leave it at that. For some the anxiety is unmanageable, and the stress is suffering. There are various ways for a person to move from suffering anxiety, to managing anxiety:
1. understanding that the situation will pass, that the emotions will pass
2. understanding that neither the situation nor the emotions are "You" or "Yours" just unpleasant "happenings"
3. understanding that the situation/emotions are, by nature of their impermanence and insubstantiality, unsatisfying & stressful.

Unpleasant situations exist, they can't be avoided only managed in a skillful (with equanimity) way. Unpleasant emotions are a result of "ignorance" (or nescience, literally "not knowing.") Suffering is the effect. In this makeshift equation the only variable is nescience. If nescience can be turned to wisdom then suffering can be taken up by its root, and pleasant, unpleasant, neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant judgements of experience loose their footing.

How is ignorance transformed into wisdom?
1. A calm mind is less reactive (in the sense of less feedback and the resultant backlash of emotions).
2. A concentrated mind is able to see "things as they are" instead of being tinted by desire, aversion, indifference.
3. Seeing "things as they are" produces "insight" or experience of "things as they are," which equates with wisdom.

How does one gain a calm mind?
1. Virtue/Morality = restraint from causing harm in action, speech, thought, intention, livelihood = a mind unburdened from guilt, anger, greed, etc.
2. Samatha-bhavana (meditation) = Cultivation of calm/tranquility through concentration. This temporarily unburdens the mind and gives rise to joy, clarity, and energy.

How does one gain wisdom?
1. (Conceptual) Understanding of "the way things are" aka dhamma.
*Note: This is where one has to initially have "faith" in the Buddha Dhamma, or the Buddha's insight into "the way things are," by taking the time to understand what he is talking about. But have no fear Skeptic, you verify this by:
2. Vipassana-bhavana (meditation) = using the calm concentrated mind to observe what is happening in light of what the Buddha has described, essentially insight into the anicca (impermanent), dukkha (suffering/no lasting satisfaction if nothing lasts), anatta (impermanent self) nature of "things as they are."

I don't think there is anything non-secular about any of these statements. There is a bit of "faith" involved, but no more than accepting that the world is round, or that gravity caused an apple to fall to the earth. Like science the "Dhamma Theory" has been tested and proven by monks and lay persons alike for 2500 years, but unlike science the evidence (nibbana) is not easily demonstrable, so you have to perform the experiments and verify their outcomes on your own using the notes of all those that have done so before you. Fortunately there are signposts and benefits along the way.

Two last pieces of advice:
1. Don't let your expectations get in the way of what is actually happening.
2. Don't get hung up on labels and notions of being "scientific" and "secular" or "mystical" and "spiritual." "Buddhism," as such, simply is what it is. The more you are custom-tailoring it to suit your preferences, the less likely you are to make progress. Be skillful not picky, or you will waste a lot of time making the Dhamma into a personal justification.

With metta,
Travis

RatherSkeptic
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by RatherSkeptic » Thu May 31, 2012 7:42 pm

Thanks for all of your advices.

So it is said you should not judge situations, even if they are unpleasant, right?
Well, I think that the two examples about unpleasant situations (job interviews and thirst) were a bit clumsy choosen by me . It's just first-world-pains. Maybe I should try it with another, much more severe example of an unpleasant situation:

Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?

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Travis
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Travis » Thu May 31, 2012 9:09 pm

RS,
In principle the answer is the same regardless of the severity of the suffering, in practice the previous examples you gave were a lot easier to discuss in this format.
RatherSkeptic wrote:...how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?
You are still missing the point a bit here. In the previous example (interview) being "non-judgemental" towards your experience is a step towards skillfully regarding your own suffering. Being non-judgemental towards your experience of the suffering in the world is much the same, after all how does your aversion towards the emotions that you experience at the suffering of others help those suffering?. In the way you are using "non-judgmental" here (regarding acts of atrocity) you don't need to suffer to see that something is harmful, that is a skillful assessment. You do what you can to help those that are suffering, you have equanimity towards those inflicting it (for no one is without suffering), and you act out of compassion and loving-kindness. You are not giving up your humanity, you are refining your judgment and skillfulness-in-action to the benefit of yourself and others.

With metta,
Travis

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Goofaholix
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Goofaholix » Thu May 31, 2012 9:38 pm

RatherSkeptic wrote:Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?
I don't understand why you think you shouldn't judge something that is obviously so wrong to be wrong, where do you get this idea from? not Buddhism.

What you should do is observe objectively the thoughts and feelings that arise in you due to this situation, not adding Dukkha of your own, not reacting out of aversion or anger or delusion. Then if you were in a position where you could do something about it you could do so in a rational rather than aversive way.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Thu May 31, 2012 9:48 pm

RatherSkeptic wrote:Thanks for all of your advices.

So it is said you should not judge situations, even if they are unpleasant, right?
Well, I think that the two examples about unpleasant situations (job interviews and thirst) were a bit clumsy choosen by me . It's just first-world-pains. Maybe I should try it with another, much more severe example of an unpleasant situation:

Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?
This article might help:

http://watsriboenruang.wordpress.com/20 ... ifference/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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manas
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by manas » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:20 am

RatherSkeptic wrote:Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?
I used to let such thoughts bother me. Now, I try to use them to push myself, to make even more of an effort in the urgent task of mental purification. We don't know how we would behave if we were thrust into such a situation. It's easy to judge from the safety of our living rooms, but will that achieve anything, other than getting our minds all worked up? Will getting stressed about global events, terrible though they may be, actually help to alleviate the suffering of even a single human being?

Abstain from harmful acts, do what is beneficial for yourself and others, and purify the mind. We don't know how much time we have left to practice the Buddha's teaching. Today could be the day we have to die. Practise, while you still have the breath of life to practise with.


with metta,

manas.

:anjali:
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

pegembara
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by pegembara » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:14 am

RatherSkeptic wrote:
Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?

To be angry is to let others' mistakes punish yourself. In his famous Simile of the Saw (M 21.20) the Buddha states that: “ Even if bandits were severing you limb from limb with a two-handled saw, if you gave rise to an attitude of hatred towards them, you would not be following my teaching.” Instead he advocates being compassionate and wishing for the welfare of the abusers. The bar is thus set dauntingly high, but the Buddha perhaps uses this deliberately extreme example to indicate that all hatred is intrinsically non-Dhammic and that lovingkindness (metta) is always possible. In this respect it’s also important to recognize that metta does not mean liking everything, rather it means recognizing that everything has its place in nature, it all belongs – the beautiful and the ugly – true benevolence is a not dwelling in aversion, but a radical non-contention with all of nature, in this case the human nature. That is dealing with reality without the should or shouldn't.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

Yana
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Yana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:56 am

RatherSkeptic wrote:
Look at the world. Look - in this current time - at Syria. So much death. So many massacres. It's just horrible, itsn't it? At this point, a meditator should actually restrain from any judgements, but how could you justify a non-judgemental attitude towards things that are so OBVIOUSLY bad? Wouldn't I feel like betrayer to myself if I would not judge any of these events, even those that are clearly, in a very rational-understandable way, horrible?
Your are mistaking Equanimity with Indifference.

so quite naturally,I will have to disagree with you.

You need to be able to judge or discern your experiences.We learn this through meditation and mindfulness.

This could go a million ways but..

An example: a meditator on hearing the Bad News of the Massacre in Syria would feel sad.He will acknowledge this sadness.And say to himself.Sadness has arisen.The he asks himself why is there sadness? Because of his love for others.
Then you put a full stop there.Then maybe do something about it.Like sending medicine or clothing or volunteering or help spread the word so that something like this doesn't happen in the future.

It's really not that complicated.And despite your best intentions of drowning in the sorrows of the world you really aren't helping.After all in all honesty and i mean no disrespect...you Really can't bring Back the dead.

I have to add that this NON JUDGEMENTAL ATTITUDE does not agree with my understanding of Buddhism. :anjali:
Life is preparing for Death

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