Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:30 am

IanAnd thanks again. First, you gave me a great laugh (at my own expense) when I caught myself actually congratulating myself for my 'insight' as identified by you!
That is so off track on so many grounds - the 'me/I' in there exists, but doesn't need to be made into more than it is - or less than it is. The Bahiya sutta seems a good reminder that the opportunity is here, now - and available to our ordinary senses.
There gleam no stars, no sun sheds light,
There shines no moon, yet there no darkness reigns

These are extraordinary words and seem to point into that area/space or void (if it is that) before or behind or around perception - though I am not sure that is it helpful to conceptualise like that.
I have been quite ill with flu for a week - and in a state of mental fug that precluded meditation or any clear thought. It really did feel like suffering waiting for the thing to pass and prompted repetitive thoughts of 'old age, sickness and death'.
Best wishes
Norman

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tiltbillings
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Mar 09, 2013 7:09 pm

norman wrote: I have been quite ill with flu for a week - and in a state of mental fug that precluded meditation or any clear thought. It really did feel like suffering waiting for the thing to pass and prompted repetitive thoughts of 'old age, sickness and death'.
When I was in Thailand in the mid 70's I got to spend time with Ajahn Sumedho. He talked about dying well and the forest monk ideal that one has not really yet mastered meditation until one is able to sit in meditation through a bout of malaria.

This is something I took very seriously to heart, and now whenever I am sick or dealing with pain, I work very hard to do meditation practice. It surprising that even in a mental fog of illness how clear one can become, even if it is just for a few moments now and then during the course of the illness. One can either lay in bed being miserable, lost in the misery of feeling like something the cat dragged in and all the mental crap that can arise in such a state, or one can lay there feeling miserable (itself are markable and forceful object of awareness), paying attention to the misery as it manifests in the mind/body process that is playing out in a rather dramatic and unpleasant manner. And, as I said, in that there can be a remarkable sense of clarity of the rise and fall, seeing -- not thinking about -- seeing anicca, dukkha, and anatta of the "all" that rises and falls.

Ian highlighted from this from your previous msg: "To be able to see them appear and disappear does seem to of itself produce a sort of calm and happiness that is not dependant on external things - and to take away some of the fear which comes from having to defend that little 'self'. . . ." He is correct in pointing to this comment, but I think the sentence that immediately precedes it is also of significance: "I don't really want to 'feel' less - to sort of duck out of the range of experiences being alive offers, or to manipulate those feelings." I think you are quite correct here. I do not see the Dhamma practice need to lead to repressive states of mind of fear and loathing, which something we see here, on this forum, all too often in relation sex, but which can easily, and mistakenly, be extended to much of what we are.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:18 pm

Thanks again tiltbillings. I have just listened to Ajahn Sumedho's talk The Eight Precepts (1982) from the podcast collection 108 Talks. He offers pointers in the most undogmatic way - and encourages an open attitude to letting things (thoughts, feelings) arise - not repressing them, just observing them and not getting caught up in them.

So just to conclude (probably):
Suffering: pain exists but it is the second 'arrow' which we ourselves are responsible for that makes for suffering, and this needn't happen if one observes pain arising without making it 'mine'.
Revulsion, Loathsomeness: possibly inadequate translations as they imply (in English) a great personal involvement and identification with them.

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Dmytro
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by Dmytro » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:15 pm

Hi Norman,
norman wrote:Suffering: pain exists but it is the second 'arrow' which we ourselves are responsible for that makes for suffering, and this needn't happen if one observes pain arising without making it 'mine'.
You may find useful a thread on 'dukkha'.
Revulsion, Loathsomeness: possibly inadequate translations as they imply (in English) a great personal involvement and identification with them.
These are the remnants of the early twentieth century take on interpretation of Pali texts.

There's a thread on "nibbida'.

As for 'asubha' - it is intended to overcome the selective recognition of beautiful (subha-saññā), which leads to sensual desire.

"When those with discernment listen, they regain their senses, seeing the inconstant as inconstant, the stressful as stressful, what's not-self as not-self, the unattractive (asubha) as unattractive. Undertaking right view, they transcend all stress & suffering."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

In the result, one sees the things in all their complexity - not just attractive sides.

An excessive emphasis on the disgusting aspects of the body once led a group of Buddha's students, who practiced asubha, to suicide.
We need not to repeat this error.

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:09 pm

Thanks Dmytro. Some serious error that is (that we need not repeat)!
Yes - the Vipallasa Sutta again usefully points to clear 'sight'. For me this makes entire sense, and is more than compatible with living a full life.
I keep coming back to Ajahn Sumedho: in his talk Opinions (1981) he tells how stubbing his toe and the subsequent terrible infection put paid to his wish to be a hermit in an idyllic / perfect place, and how he eventually saw it clearly and was released from it (and I think this hangup that 'I can't meditate until the conditions are perfect: total silence, feeling well, confident in one's teacher etc').
I suspect that in terms of attitude to the body there is a big difference between the life of a monk and lay life: I would have thought that a celibate monk may have some problems having a cool attitude to the body, whereas a lay person as I see it can live a 'good' life provided that they avoid wrong-doing in relation to the body. After all the precepts are different - I do my best to keep to the first four which includes for lay people:
Kāmesumicchācāra veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi
(the 5th for me is only for weekdays!)
Best wishes
Norman

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kirk5a
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by kirk5a » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:34 pm

norman wrote: (the 5th for me is only for weekdays!)
Best wishes
Norman
That means you're a virtuous lay follower only 5 days of the week.
"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

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:42 am

More like four actually. I'm not really clear whether it's helpful to define yourself in any way though - except perhaps as a 'work in progress'.
The problem with definition as I see it is that you end up trying to judge if you fit the 'rules' to be a member of the club - but working from written rules seems to lead to possible dogmatism and intolerance - and maybe bizarre behaviour based on misreadings or corrupt documentation. Rather than starting from clear view it seems to start from a need to build a permanent self who somehow has to be made to fit some model and be rewarded with enlightenment!

Just to add - I don't find a reference to abstaining from alcohol in these texts on Right Action:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... index.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I think one must make one's own decisions: the general principle of sila seem good to me, helping the community to live well, not building up memories of wrong-doing that would plague the here and now... and probably make concentration more difficult.

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kirk5a
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by kirk5a » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:24 pm

The point isn't to "define yourself" as "a virtuous lay follower" - it is to cultivate virtue and abstain from action which has very bad results.
"The drinking of fermented & distilled liquors — when indulged in, developed, & pursued — is something that leads to hell, leads to rebirth as a common animal, leads to the realm of the hungry shades. The slightest of all the results coming from drinking fermented & distilled liquors is that, when one becomes a human being, it leads to mental derangement."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

We can't ignore the countless times the Buddha advocated against drinking alcohol just because he didn't specifically mention it here or there.
"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

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:07 pm

Fair point. I think these precepts are (should be) freely entered into, and I suppose individuals will differ as to how many or which they will (try to) adhere to.
My sceptical approach is to try to follow the eightfold path in a straightforward way and try not to hold opinions on anything that I cannot see clearly here and now. I do this not in order to obey the Buddha as an authority figure, but because my own small trials of it lead me to some trust of it. For me I can only go ahead (if that is the right way to put it) by telling myself the truth as seen here and now and not trying to make beliefs by auto-suggestion. I have no evidence of what may happen after I die - and thus no fear of any consequences after I die (though there are obvious consequences of actions within this life, and like a lot of us I have some fear of the process leading to death). That doesn't stop me considering a whole set of future possibilities as vanishingly unlikely based on present evidence (not what I have been told or read): going to heaven/hell, reincarnation, and in fact any continuation after death. I don't find this depressing at all - as Seneca says - consider this self as a loan - just give it back in effect at death and be thankful for having been 'given' it. If a few small glasses of wine per week makes you mentally deranged, I might suspect other non-wine causes!

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kirk5a
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by kirk5a » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:14 pm

If you're going to approach it that way, there's nothing stopping you or anyone from conducting a "trial" of not drinking alcohol and seeing what comes of it here and now. I would say 1 month of total abstinence at a minimum will probably reveal a few clearly visible things. :stirthepot:
"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

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:03 pm

Actually... that's a great idea! I like a challenge. Whereas the first four precepts are clearly pointing at avoiding gross wrong-doing, the 5th - though done to excess would lead to bad results - is a bit different: minor consumption is not harmful I think, but to follow the precept literally could give a good opportunity for reflection! In this way I would categorise it with precept 6. Not right now though (OK - cop out... birthdays etc) but from the next full moon (25th Apr) to 24th May... We'll see - should be interesting!

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kirk5a
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by kirk5a » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:39 pm

norman wrote:Actually... that's a great idea! I like a challenge. Whereas the first four precepts are clearly pointing at avoiding gross wrong-doing, the 5th - though done to excess would lead to bad results - is a bit different: minor consumption is not harmful I think, but to follow the precept literally could give a good opportunity for reflection! In this way I would categorise it with precept 6. Not right now though (OK - cop out... birthdays etc) but from the next full moon (25th Apr) to 24th May... We'll see - should be interesting!
Is alcohol required for birthdays etc.? :lol: But that's the spirit, accepting the challenge. Who knows what interesting things you might notice.
"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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Nyorai
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by Nyorai » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:29 am

norman wrote:I appreciate that I see these things arise in my mind, but do not see a need to hang on to them - or make them a special subject of contemplation. Perhaps these as contemplations are a sort of antidote to attachment to passing pleasure - to be used like medicine when necessary?
Perhaps arising buddha in your mind is a good antidote of contemplation, it replacing all these things you see as buddha in your mind :twothumbsup:
ImageTo become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana.
If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self.Image

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ground
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by ground » Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:57 am

norman wrote:I appreciate that there is difficulty in translating from Pali. However these words seem very loaded and for me imply an emotional engagement with things that seems just the opposite of dispassion, observation of the way things are without judgement, letting things that arise naturally pass away again. I appreciate that I see these things arise in my mind, but do not see a need to hang on to them - or make them a special subject of contemplation. Perhaps these as contemplations are a sort of antidote to attachment to passing pleasure - to be used like medicine when necessary?
Why should one follow the constructed ideal of " observation of the way things are without judgement"? There is nothing bad about aversion against fetters if one wants to get rid of these. The aversion does not necessarly have to become a fetter itself. :sage:

norman
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Re: Suffering, revulsion, loathsomeness

Post by norman » Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:01 am

We'll have to disagree on that one, ground.
For example, doubt (though I think it applies to the others too): I would say doubt does not need to be labelled 'bad' or 'good' - it just exists. It should not be the subject of aversion which just adds another layer of problems. To need aversion to be there to be able to gather enough energy to tackle issues is itself a problem...

I have heard the metaphor of 'using a thorn to extract a thorn' (not sure where that comes from) - but I think this is only useful in more positive situations - for example to want to follow the path is a prime mover for starting to follow the path (though I'd assume that later on even this want would be let go of).

Doubt about the 'teachings' to me is a good approach because it leads to a need to test the teachings for oneself - and if the test reveals the teachings as true (not judged true but seen directly as true) then the doubt about those teachings disappears for itself immediately. Doubt about oneself (for example - is my meditation getting anywhere?) I think is also useful and leads to a dispassionate and honest look at oneself - and maybe change or increased understanding (for example - meditating to 'get somewhere' isn't useful - meditating - 'being there' - perhaps is).

Just to add - kirk5a's signature seems to me to sum it all up perfectly (and can be tested by any one of us directly):
"When one thing is practised & 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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