Awakening - Emotions vs Suffering

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4 years 1 month ago - 4 years 1 month ago #105638 by Chris Marti
I was reading over on DhO this morning in the "Noah's Conceptual Sandbox" thread and it linked me to Culadasa's Yahoo! Group. In the linked-to conversation Culadasa describes, aptly IMHO, the difference between the two commonly understood versions of awakening (arahtaship or budhahood), those being that 1) the awakened are incapable of experiencing common human emotions (anger, jealousy, etc.), or 2) that the awakened are fully functioning human beings with a full range of emotions but whose mental processing has changed such that they can avoid acting on those common human emotions.

Here's what Culadasa posted:

I, too, reject the idea that a Buddha or an Arahant is in the least diminished or limited in any way as compared to the ordinary suffering human being. It is not that a Buddha has a limited emotional capacity, it is that a Buddha is no longer limited by his emotions. When this topic was raised once before on the jhana insight discussion group, I recall suggesting that a Buddha was completely capable of engaging in sexual intercourse if it was definitely of benefit to another being. I received a small deluge of Sutta references intended to show me the error of my thinking. I also said that, everything else being equal, a Buddha would clearly prefer to eat good food rather than spoiled food, and would prefer to sit in a comfortable place rather than an uncomfortable place to eat his meal. A Buddha experiences pleasure and pain in the same way as any other flesh and blood human being. Pain and pleasure continue to serve their purpose of distinguishing between that which is potentially harmful and that which is potentially beneficial, albeit in their own simplistic and not always reliable way. It is suffering that the Buddha does not experience, the suffering that arises in the mind when it attaches to pleasure or resists pain.

A Buddha has the complete repertoire of emotions potentially available, but they do not serve as the engine and rudder of action and experience the way they do for a more ‘mindless’ being, human or otherwise. Absolutely no functional capacity has been lost, but it is a fact that the wholesome mental states of patience, understanding and compassion are far more appropriate and skillful in most situations, and anger is rarely so. It is not that the Buddha is incapable of having the mental state of anger manifest and to color his speech and actions accordlingly. As I recall, he tore a strip off of Sati and a number of others at different times in his ministry, but the important difference is that it was a manifestation of skillful means, based in wisdom, and it was entirely and exclusively for the benefit of those others, not a result of compulsion

...

The Buddha taught a genuine Path to the final cessation of craving and the complete elimination of suffering, and I will agree and confirm that it is nowhere near as difficult to succeed in as is commonly believed. Arahantship is not the impossibly unattainable goal that some fantastic projections make it out to be, and in fact as far as I can tell, it is potentially attainable in this very life for any sane human being who dedicates themselves sufficiently to the Path. But the goal of Arahantship should never be made more attainable by redefining the higher Paths to a lower standard.

.
Last edit: 4 years 1 month ago by Chris Marti.

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4 years 1 month ago #105639 by Chris Marti
I find that comment to be common ground between the limited emotional range model of awakening and the model that is much more popular in among practitioners of pragmatic dharma. That we need to maintain a high standard based on our actions and capabilities, not changes to our very nature, is fascinating.
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4 years 1 month ago #105640 by Noah
Here's more goodies from Culadasa!

But the incalculably precious value of magga-phala as a result of systematic training, as compared to "accidental" or spontaneous Awakenings, shakti-pats, or any other non-systematic training, is that the yogi knows precisely how he or she created the causes and conditions for the experience of Realization, and so can repeat it. If a person who happened to be practicing samatha-vipassana also happened to be visited by a magga-phala event before their practice had fully matured to the point of sankhar-upekkha, I would regard this as one of those accidental Awakenings, I would not be surprised if they had some difficulty adjusting, and I would expect that person to find it very difficult to make any further progress towards the higher Paths until they had mastered the training. I would not attribute their First Path attainment to samatha-vipassana practice, because it is as yet incomplete, and therefore I would also not describe them as having skipped any stages of samatha-vipassana. Rather, the stages they have not yet mastered still await them. I suspect this might also be the view of those in the dry vipassana traditions.

The difficulty I had in letting go of the idea that a recognizable magga-phala event was necessary was not just because of what I had previously learned. Most of all it was because I struggled to understand how the restructuring of the cognitive processes that magga-phala brings about could happen in the absence of a direct and fully conscious experience of the non-dual, the unconditioned and the unfabricated. But I have been forced to re-examine this issue carefully, because I keep encountering individuals who seem in every way to be genuinely Awakened, to at least the level of Stream Entry if not beyond, but who claim not to be aware of ever having had anything resembling a magga-phala experience. And then, too, there is the magga-phala of the Mahasi tradition which has been described as a ‘gap’ in consciousness or a moment of ‘forgetting’

Even with second Path attainment, the stage of the Once-Returner, it is with great wonder, awe and amazement that one realizes the remarkable degree to which ordinary desires and aversions have mysteriously disappeared and simply don’t arise in the same way they once did.



beta.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/jhana_i...rsations/topics/2395
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4 years 1 month ago #105642 by Chris Marti

... one realizes the remarkable degree to which ordinary desires and aversions have mysteriously disappeared and simply don’t arise...


I guess Culadasa is not immune to self-contradiction :)

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4 years 1 month ago #105643 by Noah

Chris Marti wrote:

... one realizes the remarkable degree to which ordinary desires and aversions have mysteriously disappeared and simply don’t arise...


I guess Culadasa is not immune to self-contradiction :)


He's actually made this point quite a bit, in his talks and elsewhere. He claims to not experience significant or noticeable waves of negative emotion anymore. The idea being that it is possible for them to arise but they are untethered or there is no grativational pull sustaining them or whatever. I can find some quotes if that is deemed helpful.
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4 years 1 month ago - 4 years 1 month ago #105645 by Chris Marti
Nope, no need, but thanks for offering. I just find the contradictions interesting:

1. A Buddha has the complete repertoire of emotions potentially available, but they do not serve as the engine and rudder of action and experience the way they do for a more ‘mindless’ being, human or otherwise. Absolutely no functional capacity has been lost, but it is a fact that the wholesome mental states of patience, understanding and compassion are far more appropriate and skillful in most situations, and anger is rarely so. It is not that the Buddha is incapable of having the mental state of anger manifest and to color his speech and actions accordlingly. As I recall, he tore a strip off of Sati and a number of others at different times in his ministry, but the important difference is that it was a manifestation of skillful means, based in wisdom, and it was entirely and exclusively for the benefit of those others, not a result of compulsion.


2. ... one realizes the remarkable degree to which ordinary desires and aversions have mysteriously disappeared and simply don’t arise...


While these two things are not strictly contradictory, they can certainly be read that way and thus people are left to believe one, believe the other, or choose between the two, adding to the potential confusion.
Last edit: 4 years 1 month ago by Chris Marti.

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4 years 1 month ago #105646 by Chris Marti
Thus a compromise is also a potential confusion :P

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4 years 1 month ago #105659 by shargrol
The tricky thing about the spiritual world is you can always find something to confirm your false prejudice or undercut your true confidence (frankly same thing in the samsaric world, too :) ) So it really goes back to "owning" your practice and making it work for yourself.

Even if you have had a path moment, clear loss of attraction to rights and rituals, less reactivity, but you still pick your nose at the dinner table... then, guess what?, the next phase of your spiritual practice is learning to stop picking your nose at the dinner table, stream enterer or not. :D
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4 years 1 month ago #105662 by Ona Kiser
Is part of the interestingness the tension around (to put it simplistically):

"I want to be enlightened, and this description inspires me."
versus
"I want to be enlightened, but this description discourages me."

So then we either try to redefine enlightenment so as to be less discouraged, or try to work on ourselves to aim closer to the proposed ideal?
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4 years 1 month ago #105663 by Noah

Ona Kiser wrote: Is part of the interestingness the tension around (to put it simplistically):

"I want to be enlightened, and this description inspires me."
versus
"I want to be enlightened, but this description discourages me."


There's a word for this: upaya.
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4 years 1 month ago #105664 by shargrol
Yeah, the entire dimension of how we relate to an ideal... good and bad, helpful or unhelpful. And meanwhile, here we are -- which often gets overlooked.
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4 years 1 month ago - 4 years 1 month ago #105667 by Chris Marti
Are you asking me why I started this topic? If so, it was because the subject matter has been of interest on the part of many people for many years. Just what does it mean to be awake? What are awakened people like? Should that even matter to us? Why or why not?

Here's the crux of my intent:

That we need to maintain a high standard based on our actions and capabilities, not changes to our very nature, is fascinating.


I'm all for focusing my practice time on what matters. What matters is how I treat others - how I act. The arguments over who is capable of what and who is not are not worth my time. But I brought this up so interested people can talk about it. I'm sure there are dissenting opinions :)

So... yeah,
Last edit: 4 years 1 month ago by Chris Marti.
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4 years 1 month ago #105669 by matthew sexton

Noah wrote:
There's a word for this: upaya.


Cool word, thank you. Looking that up made me appreciate the rope we give each other in talking about our practice, pursuing our practice.

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4 years 1 month ago #105687 by matthew sexton

Chris Marti wrote: I find that comment to be common ground between the limited emotional range model of awakening and the model that is much more popular in among practitioners of pragmatic dharma. That we need to maintain a high standard based on our actions and capabilities, not changes to our very nature, is fascinating.


Chris, if this topic is not played out, this comment seems to encapsulate your intent for posting, but I don't actually understand it, what actions/capabilities are you wanting to put a high standard on, and how the clause 'is fascinating' applies to this sentence?

Re-reading, is it the aspect of defining standards for arhatship that you want to keep high standards on? If so, could you lay out your standards for defining paths? I'm guessing you've done that before, so just a link would be fine, if that's not too much trouble.

Thanks,

Matt

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4 years 1 month ago #105694 by Chris Marti
Matthew, I can't reply in great detail because I'm taxed for time at the office this morning, but. let me just say that at various times in the past there have been debates in some online dharma communities over the what a truly awakened person is or would be like. The bulk of the arguments were over emotions. Some folks, especially those who went into Actual Freedom practices, claimed that a truly awakened human being feels no emotions, or at least no "negative" emotions. At other times there have been those who argued that awakened people have shed all of the "fetters" of humanity and live completely free of them. Maybe others can chime in on this, too, but when I read Culadasa's take on this it seemed to contradict, at least in some ways, the claims that a buddha or awakened human being is incapable of feeling anger, fear, jealousy, and other "negative" feeling.

So, bottom line, I posted here what Culadasa posted on his own forum so that folks could discuss this issue. If no one cares that's certainly okay, too.

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4 years 1 month ago #105695 by Ona Kiser

Chris Marti wrote: Matthew, I can't reply in great detail because I'm taxed for time at the office this morning, but. let me just say that at various times in the past there have been debates in some online dharma communities over the what a truly awakened person is or would be like. The bulk of the arguments were over emotions. Some folks, especially those who went into Actual Freedom practices, claimed that a truly awakened human being feels no emotions, or at least no "negative" emotions. At other times there have been those who argued that awakened people have shed all of the "fetters" of humanity and live completely free of them. Maybe others can chime in on this, too, but when I read Culadasa's take on this it seemed to contradict, at least in some ways, the claims that a buddha or awakened human being is incapable of feeling anger, fear, jealousy, and other "negative" feeling.

So, bottom line, I posted here what Culadasa posted on his own forum so that folks could discuss this issue. If no one cares that's certainly okay, too.


I think a few things:

1) Useful to distinguish the practice models or goals of some people with (perhaps) unhealthy emotional lives who are desperately seeking to alleviate their misery by eliminating anger (or thoughts, for that matter) from the organic development of realization in human beings, which can, in my experience, go quite deep in terms of freeing a person from reactivity to the sorts of things that in the past set off anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, etc etc. So just because a segment of practitioners seem to have an unhealthy practice method or aim doesn't necessarily mean there isn't some truth to the level of tranquility and peace one can be graced with.

2) The definitions of all this 'negative emotions' stuff are quite fluid, in the context of discussions I've seen online over the years, or in pragmatic-spinoff sanghas. That is, 'negative emotions' are basically 'I don't feel good right now' - and what for one person is not unsettling for another induces panic attacks. Some peacefulness arises simply because one stops being afraid to feel normal human emotions in their appropriate contexts, so you don't get the 'second arrow' kind of panic and such that otherwise makes an emotional reaction terrifying.

3) I have yet to discover any reactivity in me that isn't directly related to an attachment to something or identity thingy (so and so gets on my nerves because I have exactly the same behavior and hate it in myself, etc.) When one is not conscious of this connection, the reactivity seems uncontrollable, stress-inducing, frustrating, anxiety-producing, etc. and the attachment is maintained and defended by excuses (it's her fault!). When the attachment comes into perception, the reactivity gradually drops. So one might no longer, for instance, be annoyed by that super irritating guy at work, but instead find him sympathetic, amusing, friendly, or simply another human being floundering around not doing a very good job of things just like me, etc. So a whole load of 'negative emotions' can drop away in that context.

4) It's hardly worth drawing conclusions based on personal experience, as one has no idea where ones own practice will lead. If one still struggles with anger now, it doesn't mean it won't drop away eventually. If one isn't struggling with anger now, perhaps it will re-occur in the future when some deeper level of purification begins. How can I possibly know how things will be tomorrow, let alone in ten years? So saying "awakened people are like this" seems to me painting with a very broad brush and quite speculative.

5) As you so wisely pointed out in another thread, actions are what matters not what's going on inside. It doesn't matter what special states you can achieve in meditation or how nondual your third eye is if you treat your family, friends and neighbors unkindly, etc

Thoughts?
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4 years 1 month ago #105696 by matthew sexton
wow, there is too much awesomeness here to respond to! Seriously.

But I'll add a drop. My experience has been that I practice some (like maybe enough to get stream-entry, or maybe just resolving to sit more for a while), something happens in my brain and for a while I'm so blissed out that I can't imagine having negative experiences. Then there's times when I seem to see everything around me and inside me clearly (including painful stuff) but it just comes and goes in a way that feels pretty f'ing enlightened. Then (recently) I'm not sitting much, and I'm noticing monkey/mind and thinking, what happened to that enlightened guy I thought I was? I can imagine going through this cycle 20 more times and then being so f'ing chill that I don't care what the rest of the world is doing, though I'll certainly help out when opportunity arrises.

If a guy wanders into a sangha and has some subset of these experiences and has people all around him telling him what to label, how to frame these experiences, that's all fine but the guy next door (sangha-wise) hears a different story there's gonna be some friction and name-calling.

I wish all these kinds of experiences were mapped out with language clear enough that we could all just point to spot and say, 'oh yeah, I'm here, that guy is probably over there, whatever!'

I suppose i'm being sophomoric, that all this already exists, but the pertinent thing is that we're all living in Babylon (communication-wise) and that's a basic human fact, so give up on zero-friction dharma interface.

Metta to all!

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4 years 1 month ago #105697 by shargrol
I like Bill Hamilton's expression... it does a good job of describing the paradox of making progress on purification, yet also increasing awareness at the same time : "Suffering less, noticing it more." You could also say "Less reactive, noticing it more", too. :)

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4 years 1 month ago - 4 years 1 month ago #105698 by Ona Kiser

matthew sexton wrote: I wish all these kinds of experiences were mapped out with language clear enough that we could all just point to spot and say, 'oh yeah, I'm here, that guy is probably over there, whatever!'


If really 'whatever' then map not necessary. When map necessary, then no 'whatever' but instead everyone comparing themselves, judging each other. I see almost no upside whatsoever to maps. How about 'here is my brother, just as he is.' How about 'here I am, practicing right now.' Maps only seem to serve to judge, in the negative sense of the word, both oneself and others. "Look what I got" "He's better than me" "She's behind" "He's a failure" "I suck" etc.

perhaps a tangent. sorry. :P
Last edit: 4 years 1 month ago by Ona Kiser.
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4 years 1 month ago #105699 by matthew sexton

Ona Kiser wrote:

matthew sexton wrote: I wish all these kinds of experiences were mapped out with language clear enough that we could all just point to spot and say, 'oh yeah, I'm here, that guy is probably over there, whatever!'


If really 'whatever' then map not necessary. When map necessary, then no 'whatever' but instead everyone comparing themselves, judging each other. I see almost no upside whatsoever to maps. How about 'here is my brother, just as he is.' How about 'here I am, practicing right now.' Maps only seem to serve to judge, in the negative sense of the word, both oneself and others. "Look what I got" "He's better than me" "She's behind" "He's a failure" "I suck" etc.

perhaps a tangent. sorry. :P


If the territory is unfamiliar, then the map helps, no? I think the problems that come from maps are a feature not a bug. Meaning that 'problems' that maps cause are valid points of investigation. Skill is a real thing, is boosted by accumulated knowledge, that's what commentaries and maps are. I suppose I've jumped on an argumentative merry-go-round. It's OK, whatever. :)

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4 years 1 month ago #105700 by Ona Kiser
It's okay.

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4 years 1 month ago #105701 by every3rdthought
There is no territory :)

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4 years 1 month ago #105703 by shargrol

matthew sexton wrote: ...If a guy wanders into a sangha and has some subset of these experiences and has people all around him telling him what to label, how to frame these experiences, that's all fine but the guy next door (sangha-wise) hears a different story there's gonna be some friction and name-calling.

I wish all these kinds of experiences were mapped out with language clear enough that we could all just point to spot and say, 'oh yeah, I'm here, that guy is probably over there, whatever!'

I suppose i'm being sophomoric, that all this already exists, but the pertinent thing is that we're all living in Babylon (communication-wise) and that's a basic human fact, so give up on zero-friction dharma interface.

Metta to all!


I have to admit that I don't get the Babylon reference or the focus on zero-friction (I'm curious what you meant?), but I do think an important point has to be made about experiences and mapping.

Hmm, how am I going to say it? ...

I guess I'll say that I can understand why the buddha said something like "all I teach is suffering and the end of suffering" because that's the whole point of mapping -- finding ways to better understand suffering and end suffering . So the maps really aren't oriented around"what are you experiencing in terms of sensory experience, but rather what is the reactivity (suffering) in regards to those experiences.

So it is entirely possible that person X will get one story about an experience and person Y will get a totally different story about those experience. The reason is, behond those experiences, the two people might have totally different orientations, causing totally different problems of suffering.

I feel like I should mention that, because it is an important aspect of giving and recieving guidance. The guidance is always pointed toward the person's suffering, not necessarily what they are experiencing.

I don't know if that is helpful or so obvious that I should have kept my "mouth" shut???
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4 years 1 month ago #105704 by shargrol
And I should add, this nuance becomes especially important during 2nd and 3rd path (post stream entry, pre-awakening), because the experiential "progress of insight" maps aren't as instructive as other maps that talk about the context in which self and suffering is held.
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4 years 1 month ago #105705 by matthew sexton

shargrol wrote:

matthew sexton wrote: ...If a guy wanders into a sangha and has some subset of these experiences and has people all around him telling him what to label, how to frame these experiences, that's all fine but the guy next door (sangha-wise) hears a different story there's gonna be some friction and name-calling.

I wish all these kinds of experiences were mapped out with language clear enough that we could all just point to spot and say, 'oh yeah, I'm here, that guy is probably over there, whatever!'

I suppose i'm being sophomoric, that all this already exists, but the pertinent thing is that we're all living in Babylon (communication-wise) and that's a basic human fact, so give up on zero-friction dharma interface.

Metta to all!


I have to admit that I don't get the Babylon reference or the focus on zero-friction (I'm curious what you meant?), but I do think an important point has to be made about experiences and mapping.

Hmm, how am I going to say it? ...

I guess I'll say that I can understand why the buddha said something like "all I teach is suffering and the end of suffering" because that's the whole point of mapping -- finding ways to better understand suffering and end suffering . So the maps really aren't oriented around"what are you experiencing in terms of sensory experience, but rather what is the reactivity (suffering) in regards to those experiences.

So it is entirely possible that person X will get one story about an experience and person Y will get a totally different story about those experience. The reason is, behond those experiences, the two people might have totally different orientations, causing totally different problems of suffering.

I feel like I should mention that, because it is an important aspect of giving and recieving guidance. The guidance is always pointed toward the person's suffering, not necessarily what they are experiencing.

I don't know if that is helpful or so obvious that I should have kept my "mouth" shut???


I should have said 'tower of babel' as in a place where it's just impossible for people to meaningfully communicate... that was a pretty big communication error on my part. :)

My friction comment was about how it seems like, in this case of conversation in particular, people are arguing about different reputed experiences of awakened people. That discussion about what awakened means is the friction.
My point was that these two guys reporting different experiences of being awakened (problematic emotions are gone vs emotions are there but are not a problem), to me, sound like perhaps two guys in different places on the same map. If that was obvious and true to everybody, maybe half the churn on meditation boards would evaporate, doubling the signal to noise. Well, I don't know what the actual number is, but it would be good.

Now, as to the additional comments you made.... it seems like you're putting 'suffering' in a category different from experience..... I guess that makes sense from the perspective of: suffering can end, but experience... is not important Ok, yes, you're saying reactivity can end. Yes, I believe it. :)

Keep your mouth open. )
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