Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

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Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:47 am

I was having a conversation with a very well educated man ( not a Buddhist ). I was expressing to him my dismay at the way the world is. That apathetic governments mismanage nations and exploit citizens, drugs like heroin affecting more and more people, alcoholism on the rise, selfishness among the rich to not help the poor and so on ( basically it was that I had expected the human race to evolve more by now ).

He said that I was not a Buddhist in spirit. That a Buddhist would control his agitation. He advised me ( not as a Buddhist but as a very learned man ) to build a cocoon and live in it and let the world go to hell in a handbasket if it so wanted. His reasoning is, it is beyond the capacity of any man to stop the madness of governments or the selfishness of people or cure the general population of it's imbecility ( of any country and mankind as a whole ). Therefore, if one hears that there has been a terrible terrorist attack one should simple go back to work or meditation or study. If one can then one should send financial help to victims, if not possible then shrug and move on after condemning it silently and praying for the victims. In any case one should not think about it for more than a few minutes since tragedies have occurred, are occurring and will occur.

For example during World War I, mustard gas caused hundreds of thousands of young men to suffer terrible chemical burns. They usually ended up as beggars being unfit physically for any work. But since electronic media was not there, no one knew or cared. The world went on.

Though he is not a Buddhist, is he correct ? Does following the Dhamma mean that I should ignore / tune out some parts of the news so as not to get agitated. I have strong empathy and get upset at stories of injustice, callousness and so on.

To be a successful Buddhist free from mental agitation should I live in a cocoon ( if yes, I have no problem with it; I am here to follow the true path of Dhamma not dissect it ). Am I harming my progress by distracting myself with other people's pain ? After all Buddhist monks live in a cocoon.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:10 pm

That sounds like good advice to me. If any improvement is to be brought about in the world it must be done by changing individuals.

Look what you can do to improve your own behaviour. If you can become enlightened, then you can have far more influence to help others. Even if you cannot, at least you will improve your own life a great deal.

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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Derek » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:16 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Though he is not a Buddhist, is he correct ?


The short answer is no.

The long answer is for your friend to read a credible introduction to real Buddism. Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught is one such introduction.

It's interesting that your friend used the metaphor of a cocoon. Although it's a long way from standard Buddhism, Chogyam Trungpa's Shambhala contains an entire chapter on stepping out of the cocoon.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:21 pm

Derek wrote:
arijitmitter wrote:Though he is not a Buddhist, is he correct ?


The short answer is no.

The long answer is for your friend to read a credible introduction to real Buddism. Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught is one such introduction.

It's interesting that your friend used the metaphor of a cocoon. Although it's a long way from standard Buddhism, Chogyam Trungpa's Shambhala contains an entire chapter on stepping out of the cocoon.


I think it best to keep Chogyam Trungpa out of any serious discussion because he is a polarising figure. I personally dislike him and do not believe he is a man to be followed ( though I have never read his books ). Holy men should be holy. Then write books.

Yes he obviously stepped out of the cocoon that is very apparent.

My friend's point is ( though he is 77 and thus 30 plus years older to me ) if I am agitated how can I proceed on what I call path of Dhamma ( he is least interested in Buddhism or any religion; he was seeking to calm my indignation at state of human race ). And if news makes me agitated, angry, desparate, indignant then I should enter a cocoon and continue my progress from inside it.

As far as I see most Buddhist monks live in a cocoon. So is it actually true ? Empathy is a barrier to Dhamma ?
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby seeker242 » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:35 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
Though he is not a Buddhist, is he correct ? Does following the Dhamma mean that I should ignore / tune out some parts of the news so as not to get agitated. I have strong empathy and get upset at stories of injustice, callousness and so on.
:namaste: Arijit


Dhammapada 3-4 speak about this.

3. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

4. "He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.


Of course you could replace the word "me" with "them" and it would have the same effect.

Buddha's teaching on "appropriate attention" and "inappropriate attention" are about what is skillful to pay attention to and what is not. Does paying attention to bad things that happen cause you to have any amount of ill will towards anyone? If so, it would be better to not put your attention on them. To put too much attention on things that cause you to be become angry, is never really skillful. Attention of this kind is "inappropriate".

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ening.html

"Ill will is fed by inappropriate attention to the theme of irritation and starved by appropriate attention to the mental release through good will, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. In other words, you turn your attention from the irritating features that spark ill will and focus instead on how much more freedom the mind experiences when it can cultivate these sublime attitudes as its inner home."

But of course, that does not mean you abandon compassion, it just means that you stop harboring thoughts "He struck, me (them), He beat me (them)" etc. :namaste:
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:46 pm

The short answer I came up with is: meditate diligently. Eventualy you'll get tired of frequently thinking about politics. It's an aversion generator and, yes, an agitation to the heart/mind. I also think that many rules of conduct, beyond the five precepts, that some buddhists follow, eventualy come naturaly _ by seeing the disadvantage of some behaviours. It is not so much following a rule, but about feeling happy.

Life should be lived to be happy and, if you're able, make others happy. There's an interesting discourse by the Buddha to help us sort this out in our heads. It basicaly says that there are 4 types of person:

4- The ones who neither work for their own benefit nor for others'
3- The ones who work just for others
2- The ones who work just for themselves
1- The ones who work for themselves and others

The Buddha says that type 1 is superior to 2 which is superior to 3 which is superior to 4.

Now the interesting part is that the Buddha considered that type 2 is superior to type 3, something that contradicts our christian upbringing that we take as correct _ even if we're not christians. Granted that the Buddha was talking of the spiritual work, but it's a change in perspective. At least for me it was.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby dagon » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:51 pm

Please read this and reflect

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html

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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Feathers » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:54 pm

This is a really interesting topic to me.

Modus, do you have a link to that discourse as I would love to read more about it?
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Dan74 » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:17 pm

I think disconcerting things and injustices are agitating so long as we do nothing about them.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby chownah » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:32 pm

I think we should start to make a better world by first developing compassion AND equanimity.....then we can act from our compassion and still remain unagitated.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:33 pm

To ignore the "problems" of the world implies that you believe them to be problems. So if you ignore what you believe to be of significance it will not go away.

Having said that, take the time to see that in order to follow this path you need to dedicate energy towards understanding your situation. It is a matter of priorities. If the path is important and there is sufficient reason for you to follow it, than you will not have so much extra time to feel the sorrow of the world. This practice is not to correct all of the circumstances of the world, but to correct how they manifest in your understanding, and how they bind you to delusive thinking. It is about understanding the experience that "you" is a part of. This requires energy and dedication.

Like I said it is a matter of priorities, so make sure you do not spend your life sitting at the crossroads. If the matters of the world are that meaningful to you than I hope you are getting out there and doing your best to make them better, because if you are just sitting there lamenting about it then you are doing no good for anyone. Just "feeling bad about it" does not help. This help can be done all day every day through all of your social interactions. That is "the world" that you can help - the world that you move through every day. This way you are not ignoring anything. You are handling everything in proximity.

If you want to help in Africa or anywhere else, go there and make it your life. Otherwise it is just a fantasy and a waste of useful energy.

I hope this helps. :smile:
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:37 pm

Dan74 wrote:I think disconcerting things and injustices are agitating so long as we do nothing about them.


Agreed but what can an individual do about drug trade, apathy of the wealthy, alcoholism, terrorism.

My question is very specific - if a person is agitated by " negative " news ( terrorism, manipulated stock markets, corrupt politicians, murderers going scot free and like ) should he retreat into a cocoon and practice Dhamma from inside it ?

There is at least prima facie some evidence that yes it has to be so - or else monks why do monks live in a monastery. If I become annoyed that I can do nothing to change the world am I better off ignoring it in order to survive ? If I am agitated how can I be a Dhamma follower ?
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:41 pm

SDC wrote:If you want to help in Africa or anywhere else, go there and make it your life. Otherwise it is just a fantasy and a waste of useful energy.

I hope this helps. :smile:


Yes exactly. If I do not want to go to Africa ( or have scope to ) am I better of shutting off news of Africa and meditating for my enlightenment ? If I cannot help those in Syria but become agitated that I cannot help them am I better of switching off the television and concentrate on reading Suttas ?

Basically you are saying if I am not part of the solution, I am better of in a cocoon and helping myself proceed on my path of Dhamma. Hope I understood you correctly.
Last edited by arijitmitter on Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:47 pm

arijitmitter wrote:
SDC wrote:If you want to help in Africa or anywhere else, go there and make it your life. Otherwise it is just a fantasy and a waste of useful energy.

I hope this helps. :smile:


Yes exactly. If I do not want to go to Africa ( or have scope to ) am I better of shutting off news of Africa and meditating for my enlightenment ? If I cannot help those in Syria but become agitated that I cannot help them am I better off switching of the television and concentrate on reading Suttas ?

Basically you are saying if I am not part of the solution, I am better of in a cocoon and helping myself proceed on my path of Dhamma. Hope I understood you correctly.


Did you read the whole thing?

SDC wrote:This help can be done all day every day through all of your social interactions. That is "the world" that you can help - the world that you move through every day. This way you are not ignoring anything. You are handling everything in proximity.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:49 pm

Why this grand scale caring yet in our immediate lives it isn't good enough?

This question is for all.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:52 pm

Feathers wrote:This is a really interesting topic to me.

Modus, do you have a link to that discourse as I would love to read more about it?


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.095.than.html
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby arijitmitter » Sun Sep 29, 2013 2:55 pm

SDC wrote:Did you read the whole thing?

SDC wrote:This help can be done all day every day through all of your social interactions. That is "the world" that you can help - the world that you move through every day. This way you are not ignoring anything. You are handling everything in proximity.


Yes I read. But my dilemma is there are so many I cannot help. Those whom I can help I do. But injustice anywhere agitates me ( as I said I empathize a lot ).

To ask question of a specific instance - If I cannot help a child in Syria then should I just distance myself from the Syrian conflict. If watching old women trundle from Syria to Lebanon is causing me agitation will you suggest I turn off the news and concentrate on my meditation ?

To ask the specific question in the largest imaginable scale - since there are so many I cannot help should I therefore turn off news and live in a self sufficient cocoon and follow the path of Dhamma ?
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby SDC » Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:06 pm

arijitmitter wrote:To ask the specific question in the largest imaginable scale - since there are so many I cannot help should I therefore turn off news and live in a self sufficient cocoon and follow the path of Dhamma ?


Spend less energy on what is beyond your control and be a good person in your everyday life. There are plenty of people you interact with on a daily basis that you can spread goodness to and help. Plenty. Doesn't sound like a self-sufficient cocoon to me. And you can give to organizations that help the people you are concerned about. But like I said it is a waste of energy if you are sitting there getting emotionally involved - energy you could be using to help someone you encounter directly in your experience.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:07 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Does following the Dhamma mean that I should ignore / tune out some parts of the news so as not to get agitated.

I think so, yes. What is meditation if not tuning out some parts of the world? We sit in silence so we can notice the noise we make in our own heads. Then we silence that noise as well. This is the way to insight and peace. However, if you tune out the world merely so it doesn't upset you, so you can go on with your own pursuit of pleasures unbothered by other people's problems, this is not helpful to you nor anyone else.

In other words, if I switch off the distressing news channel and instead switch to the funny entertainment channel then this is not practicing the Buddha's teachings. It is simply substituting what is undesirable for what is desirable. If I switch off bot the distressing news channel AND the funny entertaining channel and instead focus on stilling the mind then this is practicing the Buddha's teachings.

That said, it is sometimes useful to "step back into the world" to see how you are doing. If you encounter desirable or undesirable things and still feel agitation then you know you still have more work to do.

Am I harming my progress by distracting myself with other people's pain ? After all Buddhist monks live in a cocoon.

If seeing other people's pain is distracting you then yes you are harming your progress. If seeing other people's pain inspires you to practice harder then you are helping your progress. Conversely, if you are hiding from other people's pain to avoid feeling like you need to practice then you are harming your progress.

To put it another way, I think seeing other people's pain should motivate us to want to help. The Buddha teaches us the best way to help others is to first still one's own mind. A popular analogy is to first get yourself out of the quicksand before you then try to help others get out of that quicksand. Or as they say on airplanes, "Please secure your own oxygen mask before helping those next to you."

I hope this is helpful. :)
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: Does Buddhism mean living in a cocoon

Postby Feathers » Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:45 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Feathers wrote:This is a really interesting topic to me.

Modus, do you have a link to that discourse as I would love to read more about it?


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.095.than.html


Thank you :smile:

And wow is it ever different to the mindset in which I was raised . . . I think I badly needed to read that . . .
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