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TOPIC: The truth of dukkha

The truth of dukkha 20 May 2015 01:44 #98892

Hello everyone. To some of you: long time no see ;)
Here's how my experience has unfolded and how it relates to Kenneth's remark:

When I first contemplated the 4 noble truths from the perspective of the self, years later I realized I actually had not contemplated the 4 noble truths directly.

I learned that in order to discern the 4 noble truths as they are, I had to open up to them. I learned to open up with the practice of mindfulness of breath. I realized that in order to be mindful of the breath, I had to open up to the breath. So, every time dukkha arose I opened up directly to it like I did with the breath. That lead me to open up directly to its origin and then to its cessation. This "opening up directly" then revealed itself as the path leading to cessation of dukkha.

So how does this open state relate to the Eightfold path? I have seen that if the eightfold path is practiced well, it leads to the conditions that give rise to selflessness which to me is the same as the open state that discerns the 1st, 2nd and 3rd noble truths.

Hence, my opinion, as seen from experience, is that using any state, jhana or method to avoid dukkha, is ignorance of the 1st noble truth and furthermore, ignorance of the rest of the noble truths.

So, in brief, I believe the Buddhadharma is precisely the opening and full acceptance of inhaling, exhaling, of dukkha, the rest of the noble truths, of the foundations of mindfulness, jhanas, nidanas, skandhas, nanas, and the whole of experience, phenomena and reality.

Opening up to everything and everyone is in fact the entrance to the Mahayana.

Avoiding experience sounds more like nihilism or eternalism (depending on how you look at it).
Last Edit: 21 May 2015 09:18 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 20 May 2015 10:01 #98900

Kenneth Folk wrote:
1. Do you ever experience anger?
2. Do you ever experience irritation?
3. Do you ever experience boredom?
4. Do you ever experience craving?
5. Do you ever experience fear?
6. Do you ever experience despair?
7. Do you ever experience annoyance?
8. Do you ever experience angst?
9. Do you ever experience jealousy?
10. Do you ever experience envy?
11. Do you ever experience loneliness?
12. Do you ever experience hatred?

13. Do you ever express irritation?
14. Do you ever express anger?
15. Do you ever express defensiveness?
16. Do you ever express lust?

Questions 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and 16, yes but frequency has decreased and duration as well. Specifically, from being angry for weeks to being angry for just 1 or 2 hours, sometimes 5 to 10 minutes.
Questions 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12, no and I used to experience each, but they have disappeared gradually. Its been way more than 90 days.

Regarding loneliness, why do you consider it dukkha? I did feel dukkha when I thought loneliness was a bad thing and hence tried to avoid it. But after removing the judgement, I dont feel dukkha when I feel loneliness. I'm ok with or without it.

Which takes me to the next observation: When I feel anger suddenly, I suffer. But then I remember to feel it completely for it to rise and then cease. This can only happen if I dont judge anger. I do not mean anger has to be acted out to let it rise and cease. Quite the contrary: I dont repress it, avoid it, nor act it out. So, can I remove judgement from irritation, fear, defensiveness, etc? Yes, and they do rise and cease freely when I open up to them.

Now, something interesting happens when I open up to defensiveness, irritation and anger, specifically when I'm having an argument. If I don't judge any of those occurrences they keep rising and ceasing but with less and less dukkha. Then they morph into open discussion without anger, irritation or defensiveness. I call this assertiveness. This has been happening every single time since 3 years ago.

So a transformation is still happening and the question I am exploring at the moment is:
- Will opening to experience will take me to the arising and ceasing of experience? If so, is this the same as physical death? According to this sutra, cessation of feeling and perception does happen but this is not physical death (read the Vitality-Fabrications bit). I have yet to experience this.
Last Edit: 20 May 2015 10:08 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 22 May 2015 06:48 #98912

An interesting account of progress on the path, thank you, Alex Serrano! Your account of dealing with anger interests me specifically, since I have had some dealings with my own. For "assertiveness", which to some ears may still hold some aspect of combativeness, might "forthrightness" (forthright: "direct and honest in manner and speech") be a possibility?
Added in edit: did anything particular happen to change things three years ago?
Last Edit: 22 May 2015 06:54 by Bjorn Merker.
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The truth of dukkha 25 May 2015 11:29 #98942

Assertiveness or forthrightness both work I think. Although strictly speaking they are not the same thing, but in terms of Dharma maybe they can be equated. Whether one is forthright or being assertive, one simply is noting what is.

Now, if we look at the sutras related to right speech (can't remember which), the right time to be honest is important. If we're not pertinent, then the honesty and assertiveness turn harmful.

Three years ago I realized that actual bodhicitta (and not just conceptual) can be verified, and by actual bodhicitta I mean the emptiness that behaves wholesomely and beneficial, and is beyond human will. This verification did not came about in one day, but perhaps during a whole month. I have not found "a bottom" of the extent of the emptiness of things and I still manifest defensiveness, but it sure has been reduced.
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The truth of dukkha 25 May 2015 16:07 #98945

Many thanks for the additional information, much appreciated!
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 02:51 #98947

Alex Serrano wrote:
Assertiveness or forthrightness both work I think. Although strictly speaking they are not the same thing, but in terms of Dharma maybe they can be equated. Whether one is forthright or being assertive, one simply is noting what is.

Now, if we look at the sutras related to right speech (can't remember which), the right time to be honest is important. If we're not pertinent, then the honesty and assertiveness turn harmful.

Three years ago I realized that actual bodhicitta (and not just conceptual) can be verified, and by actual bodhicitta I mean the emptiness that behaves wholesomely and beneficial, and is beyond human will. This verification did not came about in one day, but perhaps during a whole month. I have not found "a bottom" of the extent of the emptiness of things and I still manifest defensiveness, but it sure has been reduced.

Hi Alex, I have enjoyed reading your ideas on your website and am particularly intrigued by this point on bodhicitta. Do you mean that there is something to be discovered (in a real, pragmatic dharma sense) which has a direct effect on morality? Not just implying perceptual shifts in the way one relates to objects but an actual baseline shift in cognition, motivation, behavior? I would be surprised to discover this because it would imply an aspect of sila training that isn't relative/subjective (with nanas, jhanas and paths being fundamental/objective).

I realize my question might be a bit coarse and naive but I couldn't find a better phrasing.
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 14:01 #98955

Noah wrote:
Hi Alex, I have enjoyed reading your ideas on your website and am particularly intrigued by this point on bodhicitta. Do you mean that there is something to be discovered (in a real, pragmatic dharma sense) which has a direct effect on morality? Not just implying perceptual shifts in the way one relates to objects but an actual baseline shift in cognition, motivation, behavior? I would be surprised to discover this because it would imply an aspect of sila training that isn't relative/subjective (with nanas, jhanas and paths being fundamental/objective).

I realize my question might be a bit coarse and naive but I couldn't find a better phrasing.

That is exactly what I mean: a direct effect on morality. One can cultivate willed dharma, or one can cultivate unwilled dharma. The first type of Dharma, to me, is always tainted with wrong view. Hence, in the first type, one can find willed jhanas, willed brahmaviharas, willed paramitas, willed contemplation of the 4 noble truths, willed shamatha, willed vipassana, willed anapanasati and willed satipatthana. The 2nd type begins to remove the taints of wrong view. For me, the moment I started cultivating unwilled, or effortless, mindfulness of breath, shamatha and vipassana arose simultaneously and as ONE practice. This has made the whole difference in the world. Now I am focusing on traversing the jhanas, nanas, cycling, emotions, contemplation of the 4 noble truths, of the skandhas, anapanasati and satipatthana, without using will.

To me, an unwilled practice like the one I describe is actual bodhicitta because it seems empty, it feels wholesome, it is respectful, patient, generous (impossible to make it a possession), etc.
Last Edit: 26 May 2015 14:07 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 14:12 #98956

Hmm, that's an interesting distinction--- I am a little unclear on what experientially you mean by will. There is a shift that can happen in practice in which the experience of 'practicing' and of being 'a practitioner' shifts into something more like being practiced, or like practice just happening, instead of practice being driven by a supposed solid separate self.

Is this similar or different?
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 16:20 #98958

Jake St. Onge wrote:
Hmm, that's an interesting distinction--- I am a little unclear on what experientially you mean by will. There is a shift that can happen in practice in which the experience of 'practicing' and of being 'a practitioner' shifts into something more like being practiced, or like practice just happening, instead of practice being driven by a supposed solid separate self.

Is this similar or different?

That is precisely what I mean Jake.
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 16:46 #98959

Relating to morality and/or ethics and speaking from my personal experience, there is a realization that arises causing the "old" habits of classifying objects as "good" or "bad" to have far less, if any, meaning. There is a similar realization that arises that makes apparent the inherent, effortless flow of experience (karma?) and that if fought, crossed up or denied can have, maybe even cause, untoward consequences. In a way these realizations point to the absence of morality in the sense of "Thou shalt not....." or "Thou should...." and to a very different view of things as being wise/unwise or skillful/unskillful as dictated by the flow of experience and the processes that make experience appear to us as human beings.

I can elaborate if needed.
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The truth of dukkha 26 May 2015 17:02 #98960

That is also my experience Chris.
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The truth of dukkha 27 May 2015 09:02 #98970

Chris Marti wrote:
Relating to morality and/or ethics and speaking from my personal experience, there is a realization that arises causing the "old" habits of classifying objects as "good" or "bad" to have far less, if any, meaning. There is a similar realization that arises that makes apparent the inherent, effortless flow of experience (karma?) and that if fought, crossed up or denied can have, maybe even cause, untoward consequences. In a way these realizations point to the absence of morality in the sense of "Thou shalt not....." or "Thou should...." and to a very different view of things as being wise/unwise or skillful/unskillful as dictated by the flow of experience and the processes that make experience appear to us as human beings.

I can elaborate if needed.

Chris, I would like for you to elaborate. I don't necessarily have any specific questions about what you said, just a general curiosity.
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The truth of dukkha 27 May 2015 09:04 #98971

Alex Serrano wrote:
That is exactly what I mean: a direct effect on morality. One can cultivate willed dharma, or one can cultivate unwilled dharma. The first type of Dharma, to me, is always tainted with wrong view. Hence, in the first type, one can find willed jhanas, willed brahmaviharas, willed paramitas, willed contemplation of the 4 noble truths, willed shamatha, willed vipassana, willed anapanasati and willed satipatthana. The 2nd type begins to remove the taints of wrong view. For me, the moment I started cultivating unwilled, or effortless, mindfulness of breath, shamatha and vipassana arose simultaneously and as ONE practice. This has made the whole difference in the world. Now I am focusing on traversing the jhanas, nanas, cycling, emotions, contemplation of the 4 noble truths, of the skandhas, anapanasati and satipatthana, without using will.

To me, an unwilled practice like the one I describe is actual bodhicitta because it seems empty, it feels wholesome, it is respectful, patient, generous (impossible to make it a possession), etc.

Alex, had you attained to 'technical paths' already before you discovered the unwilled practice? How far along the 4 path model where you? Furthermore, do you think the level of insight you already had is what allowed you to discover this, or would it be applicable for a beginner?
Thanks,
Noah
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The truth of dukkha 27 May 2015 09:55 #98973

Chris, I would like for you to elaborate. I don't necessarily have any specific questions about what you said, just a general curiosity.

Hi, Noah.

The realizations I was referring to about morality and ethics showed up at some point after third path. It became clear to my perception that observing the natural, unobstructed and un-reacted-to flow of experience could reveal the underlying "perfectness" or "appropriateness" of the flow of things. I now call this sense "flow" and trust its revealing of the skillfulness or wisdom of my actions or reactions to phenomena in comparison. At the same time I can also suggest the word "authentic" in a similar vein - authentic meaning unforced according to the natural flow. Think of music playing - you just know, deep inside, if a musician makes a mistake during a piece. It's just obvious without having to think about the thing. The same thing (but more subtle) applies to existence.
Last Edit: 27 May 2015 09:57 by Chris Marti.
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The truth of dukkha 27 May 2015 15:42 #98974

Noah wrote:
Alex, had you attained to 'technical paths' already before you discovered the unwilled practice? How far along the 4 path model where you? Furthermore, do you think the level of insight you already had is what allowed you to discover this, or would it be applicable for a beginner?
Thanks,
Noah

Hello Noah. Its hard to say but, in my experience, the 1st glimpse occurred right after A&P, but it only gained momentum (and made a lot more sense) after 3rd path. Also, I was far more interested in the Mahayana than in theravada at the time, so maybe the conceptual knowledge helped.

I think it will be hard for beginners to see this right away but I'm pretty sure some will see it if someone else points this out several times. Of course, if some sort of trauma has occurred or is occurring, this will definitely prevent such glimpses.
Last Edit: 27 May 2015 15:49 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 11:56 #98996

Hi Alex,

I would be very interested if you were willing to elaborate on this "Of course, if some sort of trauma has occurred or is occurring, this will definitely prevent such glimpses."

Thanks, Mark
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 15:31 #98998

Kacchapa wrote:
I would be very interested if you were willing to elaborate on this "Of course, if some sort of trauma has occurred or is occurring, this will definitely prevent such glimpses."

Certainly Mark,

By trauma I mean what the Merriam Webster Dictionary means: a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time. b) a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.

In my life, the traumas that have prevented a perception of a skillful/wise way of behaving, or being are:
- Psychological/emotional pain inflicted by authority figures (school teachers, parents, bosses), verbal or non-verbal.
- End of intimate relationships.
- Addiction to substances.

In the first trauma, a result is the fear of feeling pain inflicted by authority. This fear lead me to develop a strong codependent/submissive behavior that I consider a trauma in itself when it happens.
In the 2nd, the result is the fear to lose the GF at the moment. This developed into jealousy, possessiveness, controlling behaviours and codependence which I also consider traumas.
The third trauma can be divided into:
- Trauma of a strong craving or urge to consume substances.
- The trauma of binging.
- The trauma of guilt that results from the inherited conventional morality towards addictions.

We could explore this a lot more but I think this explains what I mean by a trauma that prevents the perception of wisdom/sila/bodhicitta.

So, after many sessions with psychologists, meetings, cultivation of discipline, etc. I was able to free myself (to a certain extent) from the momentum of the traumas and the derivative fears and behaviours.

This brought about some peace to my days that laid the foundation for meditation practice. Without this foundation, I would not have discerned the different layers of the mind, not to mention, as Chris said, a reality beyond "Thou shall not-Thou shall", "Good-bad". The forces of this experiences are utterly overwhelming, even after many years have passed since they first occurred.

Now, if we look for something similar to this in the teachings of Buddhism, the one that best describes this (somewhat) is the six realms of samsara. I believe a "precious human rebirth", as Tibetans call it, is a metaphor that corresponds with that peaceful time in my life were I could learn and practice meditation for the first time. The hells, hungry ghosts' and animals' realms are metaphors that correspond to those periods where I was at the mercy of traumas and their momentums.

Makes sense?
Last Edit: 30 May 2015 15:43 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 17:44 #98999

Very interesting. Thanks very much, Alex. I'd like to reply more later.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 18:18 #99000

Alex, do you mean that you wouldn't have been able to start meditating before laying that foundation, or that if even if you had been meditating you wouldn't have been able to discern layers of the mind without first resolving the trauma. Thanks, M.

Edit: I think that trauma produces a lot of beliefs, definitely implicit, but also a lot of overt thought loops to try to ameliorate the fear and uncertainty. And from what I've read, trauma-response inhibits parts of the brain that function to put things in perspective and come up with a bigger picture perspective. I guess you don't want the brain to be occupied with that during fight or flight. But chronic trauma response persistently disables those capacities and can even cause those parts of the brain to shrink, or so I'm reading.
Last Edit: 30 May 2015 18:36 by Kacchapa.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 20:25 #99002

I've no idea how my brain has changed through all this but I can share this: Before the peaceful circumstances/foundations, I believe it would not have been possible to meditate. I never tried it, nor it was suggested. But, from what I remember, the only thing that mattered to me before treating my traumas and addictions, was my drama, satisfying my cravings and avoiding all authority. I am certain that if someone would've suggested to try meditation I would've said no. Had I said yes, I probably would have tried it for 1 or 2 minutes at the most, and then I would forget about it to continue feeding my harmful patterns.

Meditation became relevant only when ordinariness arose. What I mean by ordinariness is a life more or less calm, with few trauma-responses, peaceful and plain. After the therapy sessions, meetings and doing most of what my sponsor said, I discovered most of the neurotic narratives and harmful patterns that kept repeating in my mind over and over. The mere contemplation of how obsessed my mind was with, for instance, being in a relationship, helped me be free from it. It felt like being able to breathe again after being without oxygen for years. That was life changing and it sure set the stage for meditation. After discovering more obsessions, neurotic narratives and harmful mental patterns, the option to not act them out arose and I was able to reduce the conditions for drama and further traumatic suffering.

Suddenly I realised my life was like a blank page. It was peaceful, flat, ordinary, plain and to be honest, it was boring. It felt empty as hell and boy did I hate the feeling of emptiness. Being free of drama was disconcerting because it felt ordinary/empty and I couldn't get rid of that feeling. I did what I learned to do in recovery, whenever I couldn't change something: I gave up and accepted it. Then I thought "hmmm, if I don't fight this emptiness and I'm ok with it, then I won't have to look for substances to ease the thirst for feeling nice things". Next thing I know I was reading all I could find about accepting emptiness. A friend of mine told me that Jiddu Krishnamurti had spoken about emptiness so I bought all the books I could from this guy. It was confusing for me so I kept searching. Then I read some meditation instructions from a non-buddhist website related to Krishnamurti. I practiced for a week or less, then A&P happened. At the time I did not know it was A&P but later I learned all the nuts and bolts.

This tells me that perhaps for me, in order to advance quickly and get to A&P in a few days, these 4 conditions had to be met:
1) Sobreity
2) Discovering the neurotic narratives that ruled my life daily (through psychoanalitic sessions, meetings and feedback from my sponsor).
3) Not acting out my neurotic narratives and harmful patterns.
4) Accepting the resultant ordinariness.

It sure sounds like my brain was not ready to meditate, let alone discover the jhanas and wisdom.
Last Edit: 30 May 2015 20:28 by Alex Serrano.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 20:45 #99003

Thanks very much. Your experience is not entirely the same as mine but certainly speaks to it.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 20:56 #99004

The more I learn about trauma, theoretically and from experience (mine and others close to me), it's scope and impact seem so pervasive that I wonder if trauma models are actually more of a lens on something more ubiquitous and fundamental, like dukkha. Even though current models present it as an aberration from a healthy norm. But maybe I'm just not personally familiar with that kind of normal experience.

Edit: my ad hoc idea of some of the landscape of trauma, from what I've read and ongoing personal investigation, is that circumstances experienced as traumatic leave physical and mental impressions that are to some extent interpretations. A major feature of truama is dissociation, cordoning and suppressing indigestible repercussions. It's been found that people can avoid a lasting trauma disorder to the extent that they feel embedded in a supportive social context which took effective action to deal openly with the circumstances and came up with an empowering and affirming interpretation. If you're socially alienated and/or experience trauma repeatedly with no ability to escape or get backup and protection, then you'll have extensive trauma and dissociation.

From reading, observing others and my own experience the need to find safety in a rigidly definite explanation that becomes a map for navigating the world contributes to a endless loop of trauma-laden and dissociative interpretation and projection that is regarded as some of the most impervious to therapeutic intervention. But on a continuum this sounds similar to a Buddhist sort of critique of some general features of samsaric experience.

Right after my last retreat it hit me that if you just somehow could know that habitual ideas are imaginary and can be let go, you'd get a taste of freedom from the whole complex and some helpful pointers for how to walk through it without getting completely stuck.

Yet more edit: in my experience coming out of dissociation feels literally like a kind of waking up (interesting I originally typed that "a kind of waking home"), the ability to stop ignoring what was there all along. For me, meditation over many years played a big part in that, especially since most of the time I couldn't afford therapy. Now I'm wondering, what can come into the light now from all that I'm still dissociating.
Last Edit: 30 May 2015 21:55 by Kacchapa.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 22:05 #99005

I somewhat get your point though, Alex, because when I found out about the Progress of Insight and the Nanas, it occurred to me that I had spent years meditating up the sub-basements of healing some dissociation etc before I could reach the ground floor of the progress of insight.
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The truth of dukkha 30 May 2015 22:43 #99006

Kacchapa wrote:
I somewhat get your point though, Alex, because when I found out about the Progress of Insight and the Nanas, it occurred to me that I had spent years meditating up the sub-basements of healing some dissociation etc before I could reach the ground floor of the progress of insight.

...and in that way were also healing things that will NOT be healed by the 'progress of insight' :P
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The truth of dukkha 01 Jun 2015 04:28 #99019

@Chris: Thanks for your elaboration, that image is very interesting. I hope I start to feel something like that soon, but I also think the path is always manifesting different effects for different yogis.

@Alex: I definitely also associate the insight process as one that heals trauma. For me it has been tremendously beneficial beyond the positive effects of therapy and psychiatry. I actually see it as an additional layer of healing, after those things have filled their proper role.

You both provided third path as a reference point for this type of life improvement. That happened for me in mid April. I'm very happy to report that certain tensions and anxieties have lost their hold for the first time in my life. I don't necessarily feel more flow, harmony, or instinctual/will-less action, but rather the freedom that comes from not being under a blanket of negative emotion all the time.
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