Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

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Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby dhamma_newb » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:55 am

Hi Dhamma Wheel,

I am a 31 y/o male born and raised on O'ahu, Hawai'i. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family and through the years studied and experimented with various religious and spiritual traditions, old, new, and "experimental," but always felt something was missing or didn't make sense. I've read some books about Buddhism in the past but never felt drawn to actually become a Buddhist. Years of searching and many periods of intense questioning and suffering prepared me experientially to finally begin to understand what the Buddha's teachings offer. Life wanted to show me the reality of dukkha to make me appreciate the Dhamma.

A friend asked me why I was drawn to the Theravada and I told him that when I read a book or series I start at the beginning, and it seems to me that since Theravada is the oldest surviving school it is the closest to the beginning of Buddhism. Forgive me if I am making any errors in this introduction but I am still brand new to this so please feel free to correct me. In the future I may become interested in Mahayana or Vajrayana but for now I feel that Theravada is where I need to be.

I am a Psychiatric Technician and am currently pursuing my BA in Psychology with the hope of becoming a Psychotherapist someday. One of the things that actually made me see the value of the Buddhist Path was reading books about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a new form of psychotherapy with strong parallels to Buddhism. Reading ACT books were the catalyst that led me to recognize the intelligence behind Buddhist Psychology, which made me even more interested in becoming a Buddhist.

Currently I am taking a Mindfulness Online Course that is being offered by Vipassana Hawai'i and I just started to go to a weekly sitting that they host at a local Buddhist temple. I am also downloading a bunch of stuff off the Internet (e-books, mp3's of Dhamma talks, etc.) and buying a boatload of Kindle books and regular books about Buddhism from Amazon. I feel kind of obsessed right now and have been losing sleep due to all of the really interesting books and talks that keep me up at night. I'm sure I'm not the first person to experience this. Can someone become obsessed with a pure thing?

I have two questions that I haven't found any answers to with the usual Google search and browsing of my growing book collection.

First off, I am reading a few books right now about Samatha and the Jhanas. I have been hearing conflicting information about how one should practice. From what I understand some believe that one should become proficient in Samatha practice first before moving on to Vipassana. Another perspective is that they can be practiced together. If they can be practiced together, what would that practice actually consist of? The whole Samatha and Vipassana debate is starting to confuse me and is starting to become an obstacle for me. It will be great to hear experienced practitioners views on this issue.

Another topic that I haven't yet seen discussed in a practical way is sexual desire. Even with attempts to be mindful and the best of intentions I still find myself giving in to the craving for sex, even when I know that there are more productive things I could be doing with my time (homework, meditating, etc.) Afterwards I feel drained of energy and end up not doing a lot of the things that I value or told myself I was going to do. Maybe I don't value them enough?

I'm still not really sure what the third precept even means, except for not committing adultery, which I don't do anyway. Beyond that I am still not clear on what to do regarding my sexual urges. I haven't seen any books written on this topic, which is surprising to me because I think it's such an important topic, at least in my eyes. Does anyone else have experience regarding this, or know of any good sources that deal with this topic in a practical way?

That's it for now. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say and learning as much as I can from everyone here.

Metta,
Don
:tongue:
The watched mind brings happiness.
Dhp 36

I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:18 am

Welcome, Don :hello:
I think you will find a lot in common with many of us here. I know there are some working in mental health / social work, for instance (I'm not one of them, though).

As for Vipassana/Samatha/jhanas, that is a genuinely unclear area. If you browse the forum, particularly the 'Meditation' section you will find lots of discussion on it. If you're new to the practice, it will probably be a while before your concentration develops to the point that it's an issue - just staying focused on the breath will be enough of a challenge at first.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby cooran » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:23 am

Welcome Don! :group:

Please re-post any questions about the Buddha's teachings in an appropriate sub-forum.

Look forward to seeing threads you create and the subsequent discussions.

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby dhamma_newb » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:29 am

Thanks for the welcome guys :smile: I will be sure to check out the Meditation section re my question and I will repost my questions in the appropriate forums. Take care
The watched mind brings happiness.
Dhp 36

I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby Ben » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:33 am

Hi Don and welcome to Dhamma Wheel!
There are quite a few discussions on samatha and vipassana but if you are just beginning on the path I would recommend some foundation literature. There's a pinned topic in the discovering theravada forum which contains a list of material which you can read.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby dhamma_newb » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:42 am

Thanks Ben,

Ha more books lol! I will check out the list and see what I may already have and what I should get. Just ordered "Wisdom Wide and Deep"by Catherine Shaila and I'm looking forward to reading it. Take care!

Don
The watched mind brings happiness.
Dhp 36

I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby Ytrog » Wed Jan 18, 2012 6:50 pm

Welcome :hello:
Suffering is asking from life what it can never give you.


mindfulness, bliss and beyond (page 8) wrote:Do not linger on the past. Do not keep carrying around coffins full of dead moments


If you see any unskillful speech (or other action) from me let me know, so I can learn from it.
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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby Fede » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:42 pm

dhamma_newb wrote:Hi Dhamma Wheel,

Hi!!


Another topic that I haven't yet seen discussed in a practical way is sexual desire. Even with attempts to be mindful and the best of intentions I still find myself giving in to the craving for sex, even when I know that there are more productive things I could be doing with my time (homework, meditating, etc.) Afterwards I feel drained of energy and end up not doing a lot of the things that I value or told myself I was going to do. Maybe I don't value them enough?

or maybe you just feel like giving in to your desires?
If you have no intention of ordaining, then a healthy sexual desire is not frowned upon.
the secret is to be Mindful and skilful in your discernment concerning your desire.
if - as you point out - you could definitely spend your time doing something useful, then perhaps this is misuse of your time.
But don't beat yourself up with guilt about it.
it all comes down to personal discipline and practice.
sexual desire is quite natural and normal.
but if it impedes your progress, or diverts you from an objective, then the simplest thing is to just not give in to the temptation.
(Note: 'simple' doesn't mean 'easy' - ! It was Oscar Wilde who said he could resist anything, except temptation!
If you go wrong today - you can always make more effort to start right again, tomorrow!

I'm still not really sure what the third precept even means, except for not committing adultery, which I don't do anyway. Beyond that I am still not clear on what to do regarding my sexual urges....

basically, I would venture to suggest that most Buddhist laypeople are agreed that, in essence, the crux of the matter is that you Do no Harm. That's the first Precept, and applies basically to every following precept too... and it includes you, of course. in matters of a carnal nature, do nothing that compromises the well-being, free will, dignity or peace of mind, of any participant.
and as far as Theravada is concerned, it doesn't matter of what sexual persuasion you are - bisexual, hetero- or homosexual - the same factors apply.

see also this body of text.

Sexual Misconduct

Laymen are advised in the Buddha's Teaching to avoid sexual misconduct. That means, if one wants to experience sex, he must do so without creating any violence or by using any kind of force, threat or causing fear. A decent sex life which respects the other partner is not against this religion; it accepts the fact that it is a necessity for those who are not yet ready to renounce the worldly life.

According to Buddhism, those who are involved in extra-marital sex with someone who is already married, who has been betrothed to someone else, and also with those who are under the protection of their parents or guardians are said to be guilty of sexual misconduct, because there is a rupture of social norms, where a third party is being made to suffer as a result of the selfishness of one or the other partner.


from here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... e.html#ch9

this website is invaluable as a most excellent reference source.

:namaste:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Hi Dhamma Wheel - Intro and Questions

Postby dhamma_newb » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:11 am

Thank you Fede. As I bring more mindfulness into my day I am becoming more aware of how much guilt arises in my life. I am starting to notice how much I beat myself up for not living up to the idealized version of myself. Never good enough - I'm sure everyone can relate to that feeling. That gap that exists between who I am and who I think I should be causes me a lot of negative emotion. I try to remind myself that dwelling on it doesn't help, and I think that I am progressing somewhat with catching myself when I start to fuse with those negative thoughts and emotional states and instead giving them space and knowing that they will pass. In the past I would become so absorbed with those mental states that it would spiral down into major depression and anxiety.

I like the way you express the precepts as "Do No Harm." Being able to discern in the moment whether the next action that I take will cause harm to myself or another really simplifies it for me.

Yes accesstoinsight.org is a great resource that I am starting to use. I try not to overwhelm myself with the amount of information that the Buddhist religion contains, even within just one tradition. It is great to have a forum filled with so many knowledgeable and friendly people to help the newbies like me out. Take care and thanks again for your kindness and help!

Metta,
Don
The watched mind brings happiness.
Dhp 36

I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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