Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:42 am

christopher::: wrote:Yeah, its the nitty gritty specifics I was wondering about. Like you said you lost 20kg while on retreat. I assume that you enjoyed (or overenjoyed) food prior to this. :tongue: Do you have greater insight into why you ate more before, able to see the process of craving there, and do what is needed to interrupt it more successfully now?

In my case I overeat, frequently, and could stand to lose at least 10 kg... I also smoke cigarettes on ocassion, not in large amounts but one or two cigarettes a day, sometimes. Then going months without it. It seems like these specific cravings such as Individual has described can provide a good opportunity to understand better how to liberate our minds.


I wasn't specifically trying to work out my defilements relating to idulging in food/not doing enough exercise during my retreat. My usual lifestyle is that at home I cook and I probably don't get as much exercise as I should.

Part of the instructions for the long-course is to 'know your measure' with regards to food and only take what you need. Having (at least) a partially empty stomach is ideal for meditation as a full stomach can induce sloth and torpor. I know from my own experience that reducing the amount of food during a retreat has a very beneficial effect on my meditation and course experience, and so that's why I drastically reduced (but not stopped) the amount I eat.

I also remember the contemplation on the foulness of nutriment from the Vissudhimagga (search for it and you might uncover the transcript I posted months ago), and so it was pretty easy. As I mentioned elsewhere, what I consumed (inc breakfast and lunch) was the equivalent of less than one meal a day at home. But because on a course one is burning fewer calories than normal, I could really reduce my food intake and I only noticed hunger twice. The other thing, I wasn't consuming energy dense foods like animal protein. diary and chocolate. Fasting is strictly forbidden during a retreat within our tradition and so the amount of food I was taking was noted by kitchen staff and I was asked by the teacher only once whether I could 'eat Myanmar food?'

No specific insight that relates to over-indulging in consumption of food. But certainly, there is greater clarity of seeing vedanas as vedanas and sankharas as sankharas. When one merely observes vedanas for eighteen days following ten days of samatha, one gets a little better at interupting the process of vedanas conditioning craving. In the words of my teacher, vedanas are just impersonal phenomena, arising and passing away. When you have constant clear comprehension of vedanas arising and passing away, you are less beholden to the old habit pattern of reacting with craving and aversion.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:48 am

The only true skilfulness is pure awareness, giving rise to the hear and now. Understanding Feelings and so stopping them from giving birth to craving. Then nibbana manifests and samsara stops




In the case of pleasant feelings, O monks, the underlying tendency[1] to lust should be given up; in the case of painful feelings, the underlying tendency to resistance (aversion) should be given up; in the case of neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, the underlying tendency to ignorance should be given up.

"If a monk has given up the tendency to lust in regard to pleasant feeling, the tendency to resistance in regard to painful feelings, and the tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feelings, then he is called one who is free of (unwholesome) tendencies, one who has the right outlook. He has cut off craving, severed the fetters (to future existence), and through the full penetration of conceit,[2] he has made an end of suffering."


If one feels joy, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent towards greed, he will not find deliverance.

If one feels pain, but knows not feeling's nature,
bent toward hate, he will not find deliverance.

And even neutral feeling which as peaceful
the Lord of Wisdom has proclaimed,
if, in attachment, he should cling to it,
he will not be free from the round of ill.

And having done so, in this very life
will be free from cankers, free from taints.

Mature in knowledge, firm in Dhamma's ways,
when once his life-span ends, his body breaks,
all measure and concept he has transcended.



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:50 am

clw_uk wrote:The only true skilfulness is pure awareness, giving rise to the hear and now. Understanding Feelings and so stopping them from giving birth to craving. Then nibbana manifests and samsara stops


And you know this how exactly, your own experience??
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby clw_uk » Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:56 am

Ben wrote:
clw_uk wrote:The only true skilfulness is pure awareness, giving rise to the hear and now. Understanding Feelings and so stopping them from giving birth to craving. Then nibbana manifests and samsara stops


And you know this how exactly, your own experience??



Its not really appropriate to declare what we have or have not "attained" (there is no real attainment) friend
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:04 am

clw_uk wrote:
Ben wrote:
clw_uk wrote:The only true skilfulness is pure awareness, giving rise to the hear and now. Understanding Feelings and so stopping them from giving birth to craving. Then nibbana manifests and samsara stops


And you know this how exactly, your own experience??



Its not really appropriate to declare what we have or have not "attained" (there is no real attainment) friend


You have not answered my question. My question is not whether you have 'attained' but rather the basis of your knowldge of this subject.
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:06 am

I think 'attainments' are a delicate subject. If someone speaks in line with the dhamma, should we respect that person's privacy on the matter?

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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Marcus Epicurus » Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:13 am

Viscid wrote:Image


:popcorn:
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jan 25, 2011 3:34 pm

Ben wrote:
I wasn't specifically trying to work out my defilements relating to idulging in food/not doing enough exercise during my retreat. My usual lifestyle is that at home I cook and I probably don't get as much exercise as I should.

Part of the instructions for the long-course is to 'know your measure' with regards to food and only take what you need. Having (at least) a partially empty stomach is ideal for meditation as a full stomach can induce sloth and torpor. I know from my own experience that reducing the amount of food during a retreat has a very beneficial effect on my meditation and course experience, and so that's why I drastically reduced (but not stopped) the amount I eat.

I also remember the contemplation on the foulness of nutriment from the Vissudhimagga (search for it and you might uncover the transcript I posted months ago), and so it was pretty easy. As I mentioned elsewhere, what I consumed (inc breakfast and lunch) was the equivalent of less than one meal a day at home. But because on a course one is burning fewer calories than normal, I could really reduce my food intake and I only noticed hunger twice. The other thing, I wasn't consuming energy dense foods like animal protein. diary and chocolate. Fasting is strictly forbidden during a retreat within our tradition and so the amount of food I was taking was noted by kitchen staff and I was asked by the teacher only once whether I could 'eat Myanmar food?'

No specific insight that relates to over-indulging in consumption of food. But certainly, there is greater clarity of seeing vedanas as vedanas and sankharas as sankharas. When one merely observes vedanas for eighteen days following ten days of samatha, one gets a little better at interupting the process of vedanas conditioning craving. In the words of my teacher, vedanas are just impersonal phenomena, arising and passing away. When you have constant clear comprehension of vedanas arising and passing away, you are less beholden to the old habit pattern of reacting with craving and aversion.
kind regards

Ben


Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and understanding, Ben. Your insights here and elsewhere have been helpful. Unfortunately it sounds like this is easier to do in a retreat situation, initially at least. Do you find it continues to be easier now, to maintain mindfulness of old habit patterns and interupt reactive craving and aversion?

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Ben » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:30 pm

christopher::: wrote:
Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and understanding, Ben. Your insights here and elsewhere have been helpful. Unfortunately it sounds like this is easier to do in a retreat situation, initially at least. Do you find it continues to be easier now, to maintain mindfulness of old habit patterns and interupt reactive craving and aversion?

:anjali:


Yes and no. Certainly, post-retreat there is greater awareness of phenomenology and the responses of craving and aversion, and sometimes its more difficult than being on retreat. My experience has been that the development of awareness preceeds the development of equanimity and so outside of a retreat environment its more difficult to restrain oneself from engaging in craving and aversion. Awareness, in and by itself, will not lead to purification and liberation.
Fortunately, daily practice acts as an anchor and experiential 'reminder'.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby PeterB » Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:26 am

From what I have observed and experienced it is much more difficult to initiate and maintiain a daily practice without experience of retreat.
I know I shouldnt care to even try.
Fortunately for the majority in our modern world, if suffiently motivated they can get to retreats.
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Feb 05, 2011 7:54 am

:focus: Its the law of diminishing returns. I find that the more you indulge in pleasure, the more stimuli it will take to get you the same intensity of pleasure the next time around. That's why i don't go for buffets, snazzy cars, expensive hi-fi, etc. From some people's POV, that's no way to live..but i think it's really beneficial in the long run...cravings are easier to satisfy.
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby piotr » Sat Feb 05, 2011 1:33 pm

Hi all,

In Dhammika-sutta (Snp 2.14) Buddha gives one useful advice:

    A wise man should avoid unchastity (abrahmacariya) as (he would avoid falling into) a pit of glowing charcoal. If unable to lead a celibate life, he should not go to another's wife.
Bhagavaṃmūlakā no, bhante, dhammā...
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby Guy » Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:35 am

Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

According to the Suttas the answer would appear to be "yes":

"Now, there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.


"Latukikopama Sutta: The Quail Simile" (MN 66), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 14, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

Postby legolas » Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:02 am

Guy wrote:Is indulgence in pleasure ever skillful?

According to the Suttas the answer would appear to be "yes":

"Now, there is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. With the fading of rapture, he remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, and senses pleasure with the body. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, that it is not to be feared.


"Latukikopama Sutta: The Quail Simile" (MN 66), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 14, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


:goodpost:

Sensual pleasures = Unwholesome (Not neccesarily bad - just dont incline to Nibbana)

Pleasure born of seclusion & concentration = Wholesome (They incline towards Nibbana)

However since few of us are monks, we generally have a hard time of it juggling an attitude of renunciation and living/enjoying and functioning within a materialistic world. This is why the Buddha praised the monastic life as like being in the open air and free. If in our deepest heart we truly want to reounce then becoming a monk is easy. Unfortunately most of us (myself included) want a bit of renunciation and a bit of the sensual world. We want our cake and somebody elses as well.
I personally think that a layperson who can from time to time experience the joy of seclusion (jhana) will find the attraction of sensual desires diminsh and the attraction to Nibbana increase.
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