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Asoka

Like a tusker in the wild

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I am going through another dark night. I feel this oppressive vibe crushing down on my mind. I am trying not to take it personally. It felt like some people were being a bit off with me today, but I am determined not to let other’s moods affect mine.

If other people judge me, well that’s their problem. I know I have been far from perfect in the past, but that is the past. It is not who I am now, I am not the same person I was back then.

I have done my best to learn from past mistakes but reliving them over and over is not going to help anyone. The best thing I can do is resolve never to make those same mistakes again and move on, keep persevering on the noble eightfold path. Turn something bad into something good. That’s how I make amends and put right the bad kamma from the past. But I won’t punish myself anymore for mistakes I made when I was younger. I was ignorant and didn’t know any better. It is cruel to punish oneself for the past. Noone can go back and change it. What good does it do to continually relive it. I am not that person anymore. I’ve changed.

I will just allow myself to be misunderstood by others without worrying about correcting them. I know what’s in my heart and where I am in my spiritual development, as do my deva friends. What others think of me is their business. I don’t have to take on board anyone else’s negativity. I am not responsible for what others think. I am only responsible for what I think. And I don’t want to think negative thoughts or feel ill will.

I remember something a Buddhist teacher said once, that when difficulties like this arise, remember it is just the Buddha testing you, to see how far gone you are (-:

I have been here before, and the dark night usually happens just before I am about to make a sudden transition and make progress. It often feels darkest just before the light returns and becomes brighter still.

The dark night can be a sign one is making progress on the spiritual journey. I am getting familiar with this pattern. What I must do is try very hard not to react to it. No matter how uncomfortable and agitated I feel. I must not say or do anything I will regret later. Try to find some stillness and equanimity.

The truth is that I am the cause of my suffering, no one else is. It is the craving within me that causes my problems. The greed, hate, delusion, ignorance, and conceit. It isn’t something outside the mind, it is something within it. And that means I have the power to change it.

 If I react to the dark night, it will only increase the tendency of the mind to react negatively to it again in the future. But by choosing not to react, to patiently endure the unpleasant feelings and practise the four right efforts. That negative tendency of the mind gets weaker, and the power of right effort and mindfulness gets stronger.

This world can make you feel ashamed to be alone. But it is okay to be alone. I can be my own best friend. My own teacher, my own refuge. There’s great power in seeing that.

The noble eightfold path goes against the stream of this modern world, and the further one gets on the path, the lonelier it can feel.

 It has always been that way though, only the minority of people search for the higher paths and fruits. The majority just want the world and are content to spend their days chasing after sense-impressions and never going beyond that. But I no longer find excitement in the world. The things I used to enjoy; I have lost interest in now. I hunger for higher things. For nibbana, for liberation from craving, relief from the pain of wanting.

And this spiritual hunger is not a bad thing. Some people criticise me for having the desire to liberate the mind. But the Buddha encouraged it, he talked about right desire, he called it chanda. If one does not aspire to realise nibbana, one will never make effort, and if one never makes effort, one will never realise the paths and fruits of enlightenment. Effort is fuelled by desire. It’s what keeps you walking. It is only when the work has been done, that one lets go of the desire for liberation.

Do not be afraid to be alone. Sometimes solitude is the wisest course of action to take when the world is on fire with greed, hate and delusion. Sometimes solitude is the only way to make progress on the path.

In the words of the Buddha:

If you find an alert companion, a wise and virtuous friend, then, overcoming all adversities, wander with them, joyful and mindful.

If you find no alert companion, no wise and virtuous friend, then, like a king who flees his conquered realm, wander alone like a tusker in the wilds.

It’s better to wander alone, than have fellowship with fools. Wander alone and do no wrong, at ease like a tusker in the wilds.

[MN128] 

https://suttacentral.net/mn128








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Asoka

Sex and Buddhism

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Saturday, 12 Aug 2023, 11:14


I realise I haven’t really touched on this subject much. It is an important topic, so will write a little about it.

It is very challenging to become free of the desire for intimacy. The Buddha said if there was another energy as strong as sexual desire, no one would ever get enlightened, including himself.

For someone trying to go beyond, it can be helpful to look at the drawbacks of romantic relationships. But there isn't anything wrong with romance. It is not evil. And a lay Buddhist is not expected to be celibate, only monastics are.

The instruction in the noble eightfold path under right action just says to refrain from sexual misconduct, i.e., don’t cause harm with sex.

To be honest I am a bit afraid of sex now, afraid of romance. Which might be a strange thing for a bloke to say. But there you go...

It depends on what people want.

Intimacy is not wrong, and neither is celibacy.

Platonic relationships are one way to connect with someone and fall in love without the biology getting in the way. And you can have as many of those as you like.

What matters in the end is one's inner development and spiritual progress, that's the real treasure in this life. The tendencies of the mind we have cultivated, the beautiful emotions such as generosity, kindness, goodwill, compassion, equanimity, samadhi and peacefulness, among others. That is what we take with us when we die. Everything else gets separated from us.

For those on the bodhisattva path, there's a story of when Gotama in a past life under the name of Sumedho made a vow to become a Buddha in front of Dipankara Buddha. Dipankara predicted he would be successful and would one day become a Buddha called Gotama.

A woman who overheard this was so moved by Sumedho's wish to become a Buddha, she offered to help him perfect the qualities of a Buddha (the paramis) over the course of his many lives. Sumedho declined her offer and said he was going to live in solitude as an ascetic in the forest. Dipankara Buddha cautioned him however and told Sumedho not to reject her offer as he would need her support. He said all Buddhas in the past have relied upon the support of a spiritual partner to help them develop the paramis. So perhaps for a bodhisattva a partner is a part of the path, at least until the very last lifetime when one becomes fully enlightened and reaches Buddhahood.

When someone ordains as a monk or nun it isn't because they are looking for sex or food. It is because they are searching for higher things, they want to go beyond all that. So, monastics are expected to be celibate, but they get support from the monastic community to help them get over the difficulties of it.

It is much harder to do this by oneself as a lay follower. It is not impossible though.

But I don’t think lay followers should get too hung up about sex. Just follow the precept about avoiding sexual misconduct. Don’t cause harm with sex. Anger and hate are a far greater stain on the personality than desire.

There is a story in the Pali canon of a woman who reached the first stage of enlightenment (stream-entry). She then got married and had ten kids. That was after realising stream-entry.

In fact, it is not until one has reached the third stage of enlightenment (non-returner), that lust and aversion completely go from the mind for good. But that is an advanced stage of enlightenment, and there are few like that in the world. To reach that stage one needs to master right samadhi. When one masters samadhi and can enter it at will and remain in that state for as long as they wish, they have a pleasure that is not dependent on anything outside themselves. It is said the bliss of right samadhi is greater than any pleasure offered by the world, and one naturally becomes a celibate then.

Overcoming the sex drive is not an easy thing to do. It's part of our biology. Part of our nature, our bodies and minds. There are whole sections of the mind devoted to reproduction. We release chemicals and hormones that alter our mood and behaviour when we are attracted to someone. The urge to reproduce is innate in us all, and a very powerful force. Whether we like it or not it is part of the human experience.

For a lay follower, this doesn't have to be a problem.
My thoughts are, if two people love each other and they want to be together, then why on Earth shouldn't they? What's wrong with that?

It’s okay to enjoy life, to enjoy intimacy, just be mindful of the craving and clinging, that’s what causes unhappiness.

Nothing conditioned lasts, it is empty. Empty of self.

Sense impressions create either pleasant or unpleasant feelings.
The mind craves for more of the pleasant sensations and less of the unpleasant ones.
This leads to the clinging, identification and becoming which causes suffering.

One can enjoy the pleasant moments, but when they’re gone don’t pine for them, let them go. Not because it is a commandment or anything like that. It’s because our attachment to things and the pain of wanting makes us unhappy. Peace of mind can be found by not clinging to conditioned phenomena, knowing it is impermanent and not-self.

Peace and love to everyone. I am going to have a rest from blogging for a month or so. Got a lot of catching up to do with studying. My father’s death caught me out and I fell behind. I have been struggling to get back into it, and there’s loads of revision to do for an upcoming exam in the middle of September.

Here is a good article for anyone interested in exploring this topic further:

https://www.againstthestream.com/read/buddhism-sexuality

I think it is a good thing for a person to learn how to be okay on their own. When one feels comfortable and secure by themselves; then if they meet someone they really like, and it becomes romantic. That person will be coming from a stable place. Building the relationship on solid ground. There won't be the wanty, clingy, angsty stuff that often kills relationships. It will make that person easier to be with, to talk to, and hopefully then the relationship will be a serene and happy one – easy-going. A blessing and not a needy painful experience.

May we all be safe, well, happy and feel at ease.
May all beings know peace of mind.

...

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Asoka

The second arrow

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Monday, 17 Apr 2023, 18:18

Working with fatigue and a sore back at the moment. It isn't my preference, but I am going to see what I can learn from this. Life as it is, my teacher, my sāsana (spiritual practise). The good and the bad. 

Meditation was challenging today. It was not easy sitting with a bad back. And going for a walk was unpleasant, almost every step was painful. I have a disc in my lower back which is pressing on a root nerve, and sometimes when I take a step it feels like when you bash your elbow on the funny bone, only in the lower back and it goes up the spine, and definitely not funny.

How do I make that which is unwelcome, welcome?

I observed how the pain and fatigue kept pulling my attention away from being centred, away from the mindfulness of loving-kindness and the breath. So I decided to explore why this is. Noticing how it was affecting my mood, my thoughts, how it made me feel restless and stressed. This is suffering.

I investigated and saw how the three aspects of craving where present. The desire for the pain and fatigue to cease, to change, to not be there, to not exist. The desire for pleasant feelings, for happy feelings, for some intoxicants to ease the pain. And there was also the desire to be a good spiritual practitioner. To handle this pain and fatigue like an enlightened being would. To become a Buddha. 

So I was watching all this, how it proliferates into stories, and how one keeps adding more to it. How the mind creates imaginary scenarios about it, how it worries, how memory can also come into play... and before I knew it I had created these complex delusions just from the discomfort I was feeling. These stories were not helpful, and they were distorting reality and making things worse. I was adding mental suffering on top of the physical. And it's tiring, all this wishing, this worrying, this disliking, this longing, this identifying, this clinging - it is tiring.

So I observed what happens if I switch all that off. If I stop talking to myself about the pain and fatigue. If I stop thinking about it. If I ignore the perception this is painful, I am tired. It all became sensations then arising and passing away in the here and now, just feelings, movements of changing energy, rising, flowing, fading. Nothing personal.

I am not the sights that enter these eyes. I am not the sounds that hit these eardrums. I am not the smells, the tastes, the tactile sensations. Nor am I the thoughts and ideas that enter this mind from the world.

What happens if I stop holding onto the six senses, if I stop identifying with them, stop trying to change them? If I just rest in awareness and knowing, without the story. Allow things to arise and cease but without any of it taking root in the mind? Who am I then?

This line of inquiry and investigation did bring some relief. The physical pain is still there, the fatigue is still there, but mentally one can be okay with it.

Is this what the Buddha means in his metaphor of the second arrow?

...




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Asoka

Breathing through it

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 30 Dec 2022, 10:14

 Present to the here and now, embodied, anchored, centred with the breath. 

Attention not too forceful or too lax. 

Not a laser beam type focus, not a  contracted awareness. But with an open and expansive awareness, a holistic awareness that includes it all, everything that is happening in the here and now, not grasping for or pushing anything away. Remaining composed and still, with the breath and the whole body at the centre. An anchor for attention. The breath energy like the changing waves of the ocean. 

Allowing it all to happen, whatever is present in the here and now, the sense impressions, the thoughts, feelings, pleasant or unpleasant. Letting things arise and cease without trying to change them or make them otherwise; but also not going along with them, not being drawn in and pulled in different directions by them. 

Not getting involved and tangled up by desire in its three forms, not following the passion, aversion, or selfing. Not making it into a story. Not trying to change the world, not judging anything, not pushing anything away, not clinging to it, and not adding anything to it.

 Just anchored in the body, composed and still. Present to the present moment and letting things be as they are, life as it is, the good, the bad, and breathing through it.


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Asoka

Extinguishing craving

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 30 Dec 2022, 22:30

The four noble truths

1. Knowledge of suffering. (Which is to be understood).

What does it feel like to suffer? To feel stressed? To feel dissastisfaction? To feel discontent? How does that feel?  No need to give it a perfect label, sometimes it is hard to put it into words. Just say, suffering feels like this. Most of us know from our own direct experience of life what it is to suffer.

2. Knowledge of the cause of suffering. (Which is to be abandoned).

Knowing that whenever there is suffering, desire is also present in its three forms:

1. Wanting something. (greed)
2. Wanting something unpleasant to end. (aversion, pushing away)
3. The desire for becoming. (Our aspirations. The mind's tendency to identify with things, to take things personally. The story of self. The selfing. ' I want to become this, I want to become that. I don't want to become this. I don't want to become that. I am this, I am that. This is mine, I own this, I own that. I want this, I want that.'  To counteract this tendency of the mind, it is good to recite often: 'Not me, not mine, not self'. 

The desire for becoming can be used skillfully to realise the end of suffering. As desire is what drives us.

 Desire comes from feelings, which are either pleasant or unpleasant. And feelings come from sense impressions: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and ideas/ thoughts. 

We cling to what we want more of; and push away that which we don't want. We want the pleasant feelings to continue and experience suffering when we don't get what we want, and then feel aversion, bitterness, resentment, and take it personally. But everything is changing and uncertain, the world is outside our control. We cling to phantoms of moments. Chasing after the delights of the six senses like a dog chasing after its tail. Sense gratification is much like an itch, there is only gratification as long as one keeps scratching. 

One cannot do much about sense impressions. They happen because we have a body. One also cannot do much about feelings (pleasant, neutral or unpleasant,) they arise because of sense-impressions. Desire may also be something we can't do much about, as it happens automatically because of feelings. But there may be a way to deal with it by slowly and gradually starving it of fuel till it goes out altogether. 

One can expand awareness and make it like infinite space, so it shares the same quality. Space can contain many objects, but is not the objects it contains, and is not conditioned by them. One can make awareness like this, and then allow desire (in its three forms) to arise and cease at the sensory level of awareness, before it becomes a story. One can let it be there without judging it. But also not going along with it, not following it, not getting involved. Letting it arise and cease in an expansive space-like awareness without getting tangled up in it.This gets easier to do as one wises up and becomes less ignorant of where desire leads, becomes less ignorant of the link between desire and suffering, usually after bitter experience, where one remembers and decides not to follow it anymore.

3. Knowledge of the end of suffering. (Which is to be realised).

How does the mind feel when it isn't suffering?

Notice when the desire ceases and is no longer present, the relief this brings to the mind. To no longer have that nagging feeling of lack when one doesn't get what they want.

It feels good when the mind is free from greed, aversion, and delusion. It is helpful to spend some time noticing this.To appreciate it and pay special attention to how it feels when there is no anger, no irritation, no resentment, no taking things personally, no lust, no grasping, no chasing, or acquiring. How does that feel to be free of that? 

There is a sense of freedom when one realises they no longer have to go along with their desires, their  impulses, the urges. No longer have to be a slave to passion, pulled in different directions by the six senses. The relief of no longer being driven around by them. When the mind  no longer feels harrassed by greed, hate and delusion,  joy and serenity naturally rises. An unharrassed mind is a happy mind. 

4. Knowledge of the path that leads to the end of suffering (Which is to be developed).

Knowing that the practise and development of the noble eightfold path is what trains the mind to become an instrument capable of understanding, seeing and realising the wisdom contained in the four noble truths.The noble eightfold path is the skillset needed to extinguish craving. 

One can apply the four noble truths like a template to one's own direct experience of life as it is. One can practise it with the mild irritations, the mild forms of greed in daily life, and this works like a vaccine, like homeopathic medicine, through that experience we find that when the more unsettling things happen in life, the deep upsets, that we can manage those better because of practising with the lesser upsets. 

We grow and awaken through the understanding of our own suffering, what causes it, how it ceases, and how the wisdom to do this develops. Then as one's suffering decreases, it can become easier to include others, to expand awareness to include the whole world, the whole galaxy if you like, to show boundless compassion to all beings. As one understands that others suffer the same way we do, that suffering is an experience shared across all the myriad species of life on this Earth. Empathy develops. 

The four noble truths is an ingenious memory device, an easy to remember template for decreasing suffering in our lives. Like fractals, the four noble truths contain the noble eightfold path, and the noble eightfold path contains the four noble truths.

Most of us will have to keep reminding ourselves of this a thousand times a day for perhaps a thousand days or more. The length of time decreases as minfulness grows stronger. And it is normal to forget, to get caught up in the world again and tangled up in desire. Sometimes this forgetting happens for short periods of time, and sometimes for lengthy periods of time, and for some it can be as long as lifetimes. But then remembering happens again and one resumes the practise, puts in a more sincere effort than before, usually after a painful experience caused from being tangled up in desire. And each time one remembers and practises it weakens that link in the chain of dependent origination between craving and clinging. Keeps weakening it till eventually it breaks altogether and suffering comes to a complete stop and then there are no more states of becoming, no more states of woe.



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