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TOPIC: The truth of dukkha

The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 04:43 #110528

Not to cut off the howling fantods ... but .. :) I really really enjoyed reading this thread over that last couple of days. There were just a couple things that came to mind that I thought I would share.

One is this snippet from the Culavedalla Sutta "Neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling is pleasant in occurring together with knowledge, and painful in occurring without knowledge." I think this is huge. It implies something like the Catholic's original sin - an Original Stress. Due to ignorance, even neutral feelings are painful. So our baseline state is painful. But after non-dual awakening from ignorance the baseline state can be pleasant. Of course, there is still the first arrow to create pain, and painful emotions will arise, and if we are not mindful we may grab at them instead of appreciating them. But it is possible for the basic stress of neutral feelings to cease.

The other thing was the discussion about nibbana, and cessation. I think the word 'experience' has two meanings here. One is the experience of sensation, and the other is the fabrication of that sensation into concepts. During a cessation both cease. But as others I think have said, nibbana need not be seen as the absence of sensation, only the absence of fabrication. Well, almost, anyway. Obviously our subconscious has to do some kind of fabrication so we can operate in the world, and recognise a chair as suitable for sitting in, or whiskey as suitable for drinking, to take two random examples. But I guess the key bit of fabrication that has to cease is the sense of subject and object, which is the grammar of the self and other, the narrative of existence. I mean that literally, as I think subject and object are inextricably tied up with the evolutionary psychology of self-identity, biographical recollection, autonesis, and maybe even with the foundations of mathematics and science.

So cessation, and the coming out of it might be: When this ceases, that ceases. When this arises, that arises.
And nibbana might be: When this no longer arises, that no longer arises. And this alone is the end of stress.
Although you could also put it the other way around ... when that no longer arises, this no longer arises.

Back to my whiskey now (sun's over the yardarm in my time zone). :)
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2019 04:51 by Curious Malcolm.
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The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 08:54 #110534

But as others I think have said, nibbana need not be seen as the absence of sensation, only the absence of fabrication.

To play devil's advocate based on the original post by Kenneth Folk: this (quoted above) is impossible to achieve. We may think we can have experiences without completing the cycle of dependent origination but what we're really doing is replacing one conceptual formulation of how perception works with another. The absence of fabrication is mythical and simply not available to us while we're conscious. Kenneth Folk was being true to the Theravada interpretation and to experience as he sees it. Nibbana is the total absence of experience, nothing more, nothing less. Because all experiences are stressful in some way, however small and no matter what, as long as we maintain consciousness and the ability to perceive them. Breaking the chain of dependent origination is the definition of cessation - total freedom means freedom from experience.

EDIT: This is where I believe Actual Freedom goes astray - it is impossible to eliminate suffering in the way AF supposes we can. What this mistaken belief leads to is suppression. Unhealthy suppression and, ultimately, howling fantods. It's a dead end. A box canyon. Beware all ye who enter there.

Thoughts?
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2019 09:34 by Chris Marti.
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The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 16:50 #110554

Chris Marti wrote:
But as others I think have said, nibbana need not be seen as the absence of sensation, only the absence of fabrication.
[...]
The absence of fabrication is mythical and simply not available to us while we're conscious. Kenneth Folk was being true to the Theravada interpretation and to experience as he sees it. Nibbana is the total absence of experience, nothing more, nothing less. Because all experiences are stressful in some way, however small and no matter what, as long as we maintain consciousness and the ability to perceive them.
[...]
Thoughts?

:(
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The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 17:44 #110557

I have an oar. Here it is. Generally my awareness of experience is obvious and easily categorized. Then on rare occasions (like what one might think is cessation) in sitting when practice is regular and fairly intense, there are transitions in experience from one character to another. In those cases (like when one might make the argument that it was cessation at the transition) 'experience' is certainly very very muted. Compared to the before and after, it would be easy to say that experience/dukklha is at zero in the boundary. But honestly, I don't know how it easy is to tell the difference between a 99% reduction in experience and 100% reduction experience.

Opining, if a moment of 'experience' is so infrequent and different than everything else (in character and magnitude), there is no bin for awareness to assign to that experience to and it's pretty easy to just not know what was happening there, and to say that nothing was happening. Sorry for sort of saying the same thing twice.

I don't have a pithy summation here, I'm just choosing to speak rather than only read. :)
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2019 17:45 by matthew sexton.
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The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 20:06 #110559

Speaking of dukkha, I just wrote a long reply and then lost it. ... :) So I'll try again

Yes, I agree suppressing dukkha is not skilful. It must be seen very clearly for what it is before it can be relinquished. And that includes seeing that the self is really nothing more nor less than a knot of angst-ridden clinging, and that everything it craves is dukkha because of that very clinging.

But let's go back to Kenneth's original questions "As long as you draw breath, there is dukkha" and "Do you ever experience anger? <etc>"

Well, to quote Admiral Ackbar "It's a trap!". Yes there is a being. Yes there is anger. But can you be tricked into believing in a you that experiences it? If so, back to the cushion!

So dukkha can be reduced - from following the eightfold path, from seeing no-self, from seeing clearly what resistance obsession and passion obsession really are. And from the steady grinding down the internal knot of angst. But then, surely seeing through ignorance changes the whole game? Chris you are leading me to think that it's not that the fabrications cease, but rather that after seeing through ignorance they are parsed differently. The fabrications are there, but no longer fuel the narrative of self. They are not subject, they are not object, they are not verbs. The sun doesn't shine, the wind doesn't blow, and the being doesn't crave. The being exists, like the plants, or the whirlwind, but the craving self is gone.

Or maybe the craving self is only mostly gone? Is the trick to see through dukkha enough to make the non-dual transformation, and then just clearly see and accept what is left, instead of obsessing about the last bits? Don't know!
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2019 20:09 by Curious Malcolm.
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The truth of dukkha 21 Feb 2019 20:51 #110560

I'd just throw out there that the track record over the years has been something along these lines:

"I now see things differently than I did a few months ago, so I'm going to reframe the teachings to match my current perspective. [repeat regularly]"

I admit to doing the same, and thus no longer count on my current perception, experience or view of things to be worth anything in itself.

Being disappointed to not find what you thought you were looking for is also a good/normal thing.

But it seems to me healthy for people to pursue 'perfection' in certain contexts (it animates their practice, encourages them etc.), and it may also be a good thing to loosen up on at times (if it is entangled in unhealthy practice, excessive striving, etc.). But that really depends on the individual. The playing out of 'effort' vs 'effortlessness' and 'goals' vs 'no goals' and so on is something that comes and goes like the tide. And I really would never presume to know how far or deep the contemplative life can go. Judging by the stories of the saints and by individuals I've known, it varies widely.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 07:50 #110566

It's a curious thing: Theravada practice was very useful to me for about a decade but my interest has died off over the past year or so and even the vocabulary seems to be draining away, like the words of a foreign language do when you stop speaking it. I've found myself coming full circle to where I was about 20 years ago and viewing things from something of a post-modern Tantric perspective (although I wouldn't have used those words then). I just wanted to be big enough on the inside to experience all the messiest, most painful aspects of life without being totally destroyed by it. My perspective is considerably more nuanced than that now, but at the heart of it seems to be a similar instinctual drive to sink more deeply into raw experience and create more space so as not to be overrun by reactivity. And simply to listen closely to my internal compass.

How's that for a swing of the pendulum? Who knows where it will lead next. At any rate, I don't seem to be much good for the more technical Buddhist discussions at this particular moment in time, so I'm just going to post this ramble as an explanation of why.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 08:34 #110567

Chris you are leading me to think that it's not that the fabrications cease, but rather that after seeing through ignorance they are parsed differently. The fabrications are there, but no longer fuel the narrative of self.

Exactly. It's what in Buddhism is called "wisdom."

They are not subject, they are not object, they are not verbs. The sun doesn't shine, the wind doesn't blow, and the being doesn't crave. The being exists, like the plants, or the whirlwind, but the craving self is gone

Caveat: the loss of both subject and object is cessation. Without subject and object, there is no consciousness.

Yeah, I know this sounds like crazy technical stuff but it explains the human ability to perceive and to experience, and to suffer and reduce suffering. It also explains why suppression is a dead end. If we can see these things through a dedicated meditation practice then maybe we won't get sucked into the silly stuff, like Actual Freedom. I've seen quite a few folks with a pragmatic dharma/Theravada practice aim for the "perfection" of eliminating emotions and it makes me sad. LIke Kenneth Folk, most seem to realize, ultimately, that they're pursuing a chimera.
Last Edit: 22 Feb 2019 08:42 by Chris Marti.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 09:02 #110568

I'm going to hazard that some people need to struggle with that and work it out, and if they don't work it out in one spiritual tradition they'll work it out in another, even if that means misinterpreting the teachings. I would offer the possibility that doing it all wrong is a necessary part of life, including spiritual practice, and based on my own experience if I'm in the middle of a mess I don't hear the good advice of others... until the working out of the issue has arisen, at which point the advice becomes genius, and why didn't you tell me before???? lol
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 09:22 #110569

You're right, Ona. We all have to learn, and that means meandering our way through things, trying this, trying that, making a mess, cleaning it up, making another mess, and so on

I'd love to have a dollar for every dead end I've ever followed. This particular issue is important to me because it was so prevalent at one time, mainly in the 2010 - 2012 time frame. I had to walk away from my teacher over it, so I'd like to think putting it out there is providing at least a little bit of balance and a head's up.
Last Edit: 22 Feb 2019 09:23 by Chris Marti.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 11:28 #110573

Chris Marti wrote:
This particular issue is important to me because it was so prevalent at one time, mainly in the 2010 - 2012 time frame. I had to walk away from my teacher over it, so I'd like to think putting it out there is providing at least a little bit of balance and a head's up.

For me, the emotional repression of Actual Freedom was just one of many items on a list of disturbing things. I can feel a rant coming on, so I'll stop there...

I take issue with any ideal that excludes anger, lust, fear, and sorrow. There are good reasons for humans to experience them and they are to me like primary colors on the palette of life. I find it rather inexplicable why so many people are striving for what seems to me an emotionally neutered, bland, and ultimately fragile state. What we repress or deny tends to come back and bite us in the rear--I'd much prefer to be mindful of these things and maintain an intimate relationship with my shadow so as to be less likely to be overwhelmed by it.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 16:36 #110581

Loving all the comments - and particularly the sense of openness to being fully human, and the tides of practice that go with that.

So, let me push the boat out a little further ... are the paramitas a hindrance? Seems to me setting up ideals of perfection in various behaviors is just a giant invitation to suppression and clinging.

And for those who want canoncial justification, which might only be me :), the Culavedalla sutta is really clear that perfection is unnecessary. The ex-husband asks his abandoned wife "Is passion-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all pleasant feeling? Is resistance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all painful feeling? Is ignorance-obsession to be abandoned with regard to all neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling?" And the ex-wife, who responded to abandonment by going and getting more enlightened than her ex-husband, replies very clearly .."No... There is the case where a monk ..." and she describes abandoning passion-obsession through the first jhana, overcoming resistance-obsession through yearning for awakening, and abandoning ignorance through the fourth jhana. And that is enough. No perfections there, Oh dear!

What do you think? Are the paramitas the work of the legions of Mara :evil: ? Do they result in people getting stuck? Again, maybe the Catholics have a point about being a church of sinners. :unsure:
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 17:00 #110582

I think there's a real freedom in letting go of having to make sure you come across as awake enough. Like 'well, some anger arose, but within only in the permanent bliss of perfection'.

If you give up that game you can just admit to being an idiot who is sometimes angry, sad, joyful, depressed, stupid or whatever. Much less effort.
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The truth of dukkha 22 Feb 2019 18:06 #110583

Ona Kiser wrote:
I think there's a real freedom in letting go of having to make sure you come across as awake enough. Like 'well, some anger arose, but within only in the permanent bliss of perfection'.

If you give up that game you can just admit to being an idiot who is sometimes angry, sad, joyful, depressed, stupid or whatever. Much less effort.

Love this.

Step 1: “Hi. My name is Andy and I’m an idiot.”
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The truth of dukkha 23 Feb 2019 03:31 #110586

Ona Kiser wrote:
I think there's a real freedom in letting go of having to make sure you come across as awake enough. Like 'well, some anger arose, but within only in the permanent bliss of perfection'.

If you give up that game you can just admit to being an idiot who is sometimes angry, sad, joyful, depressed, stupid or whatever. Much less effort.

Heh. Outstanding!
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The truth of dukkha 26 Feb 2019 08:04 #110635

I think there's a real freedom in letting go of having to make sure you come across as awake enough.

See, now that's what they should call "Actual Freedom!"
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The truth of dukkha 26 Feb 2019 08:14 #110636

:) :) :)
Last Edit: 26 Feb 2019 08:15 by shargrol.
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