enjoying versus non-attachment

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enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby patrick.lemahieu » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:57 pm

Hallo Dharma-friends,
In my introduction I already mentioned my quest along the therarvada-mahayana-theravada path. The main reason for having switched to Mahayana for several years was that, in my opinion, they (clergy & lay) have a more positive approach towards the wordly aspects of life, for instance enjoying a glass of alcohol, enjoying and participating in art, engaging in a career,….
As a husband & father I enjoy all these things. But in my perception the theraravada-tradition stresses more on : giving up, letting go, no attachment.
Is this a crooked view or are some of you (as householders) also struggling with the balance between enjoying and non-attachment.
Metta to you all
Namothassa Bhagavatho Arahatho Samma Sambuddhassa
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:15 pm

Hi Patrick,

I think enjoyment is an interesting concept to explore. Those experiences which have been pleasant have been enjoyed. All we need to do is notice that "this is pleasant" as it occurs. However I think "enjoyment" has two meanings which are very different and often confused. Here is a dictionary definition from my computer...

enjoy |enˈjoi|
verb [ trans. ]
1 take delight or pleasure in (an activity or occasion) : Joe enjoys reading Icelandic family sagas.
• ( enjoy oneself) have a pleasant time : I could never enjoy myself, knowing you were in your room alone.
• [ intrans. ] informal used to urge someone to take pleasure in what is about happen or be done : your love life and love for life get stronger after the 28th—enjoy!
2 possess and benefit from : the security forces enjoy legal immunity from prosecution.


I associate one meaning with grasping at what is pleasant in a way that binds me to it so that I am cultivating a view that there is an object of pleasant experience which intrinsically conveys pleasantness to me. This view will result in suffering and also possibly diminish what just happens to be a currently pleasant experience which is about to vanish.

The other meaning is just a recognition of that which is pleasant. This recognition can, but not necessarily, be conjoined with a delight which does nothing but confuse the situation.

I think delighting is a way of viewing a particular object or situation as having a reliable relationship with happiness which virtually all of time is not the case. I think that from a Buddhist perspective the only time such a reliable relationship is perceived is with the seeing of a reliable truth.

I do not call myself a "Theravadin" but I do take the Pali Suttas as an authoritative source of the Buddhas teaching. Maybe someone else will speak from a more strictly Theravada point of view. If there is such a corresponding thing.


Metta

Gabe
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby IanAnd » Sat Feb 19, 2011 6:59 pm

patrick.lemahieu wrote:
The main reason for having switched to Mahayana for several years was that, in my opinion, they (clergy & lay) have a more positive approach towards the wordly aspects of life, for instance enjoying a glass of alcohol, enjoying and participating in art, engaging in a career,….

As a husband & father I enjoy all these things. But in my perception the theraravada-tradition stresses more on : giving up, letting go, no attachment.

Is this a crooked view or are some of you (as householders) also struggling with the balance between enjoying and non-attachment.

Hello Patrick,

You may have a skewed view about this as it applies to Buddhadhamma. There's a difference between enjoyment of a phenomenon and becoming attached to what is being enjoyed. The first can be experienced without the second getting in the way, if you can understand what I am suggesting. The Buddha "enjoyed" (experienced pleasure in) contemplation on the breath without becoming attached to it. Can you see the difference?

The moment can be enjoyed (for however long the moment exists) and one can enjoy it as such without becoming attached to such phenomena. It is when craving for a specific enjoyment enters the picture (be it a physical or a mental enjoyment) that enjoyment turns into attachment. You just have to learn to separate the two.

Nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional glass of wine. Just don't over do it or become attached to having a glass of wine. Be able to let the wine go and to think nothing more about it.

Does that answer your question?

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:44 am

:goodpost:
:namaste:
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:47 am

This sutta must have been said for you! :

AN 8.54 PTS: A iv 281
Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) Sutta: To Dighajanu
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1995–2011

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the Koliyans. Now the Koliyans have a town named Kakkarapatta. There Dighajanu[1] the Koliyan went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, "We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver. May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life, for our happiness & well-being in lives to come."

[The Blessed One said:] "There are these four qualities, TigerPaw, that lead to a lay person's happiness and well-being in this life. Which four? Being consummate in initiative, being consummate in vigilance, admirable friendship, and maintaining one's livelihood in tune.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in initiative? There is the case where a lay person, by whatever occupation he makes his living — whether by farming or trading or cattle tending or archery or as a king's man or by any other craft — is clever and untiring at it, endowed with discrimination in its techniques, enough to arrange and carry it out. This is called being consummate in initiative.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in vigilance? There is the case when a lay person has righteous wealth — righteously gained, coming from his initiative, his striving, his making an effort, gathered by the strength of his arm, earned by his sweat — he manages to protect it through vigilance [with the thought], 'How shall neither kings nor thieves make off with this property of mine, nor fire burn it, nor water sweep it away, nor hateful heirs make off with it?' This is called being consummate in vigilance.

"And what is meant by admirable friendship? There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders' sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.

"And what does it mean to maintain one's livelihood in tune? There is the case where a lay person, knowing the income and outflow of his wealth, maintains a livelihood in tune, neither a spendthrift nor a penny-pincher, [thinking], 'Thus will my income exceed my outflow, and my outflow will not exceed my income.' Just as when a weigher or his apprentice, when holding the scales, knows, 'It has tipped down so much or has tipped up so much,' in the same way, the lay person, knowing the income and outflow of his wealth, maintains a livelihood in tune, neither a spendthrift nor a penny-pincher, [thinking], 'Thus will my income exceed my outflow, and my outflow will not exceed my income.' If a lay person has a small income but maintains a grand livelihood, it will be rumored of him, 'This clansman devours his wealth like a fruit-tree eater.'[2] If a lay person has a large income but maintains a miserable livelihood, it will be rumored of him, 'This clansman will die of starvation.' But when a lay person, knowing the income and outflow of his wealth, maintains a livelihood in tune, neither a spendthrift nor a penny-pincher, [thinking], 'Thus will my income exceed my outflow, and my outflow will not exceed my income,' this is called maintaining one's livelihood in tune.

"These are the four drains on one's store of wealth: debauchery in sex; debauchery in drink; debauchery in gambling; and evil friendship, evil companionship, evil camaraderie. Just as if there were a great reservoir with four inlets and four drains, and a man were to close the inlets and open the drains, and the sky were not to pour down proper showers, the depletion of that great reservoir could be expected, not its increase. In the same way, these are the four drains on one's store of wealth: debauchery in sex; debauchery in drink; debauchery in gambling; and evil friendship, evil companionship, evil camaraderie.

These are the four inlets to one's store of wealth: no debauchery in sex; no debauchery in drink; no debauchery in gambling; and admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie. Just as if there were a great reservoir with four inlets and four drains, and a man were to open the inlets and close the drains, and the sky were to pour down proper showers, the increase of that great reservoir could be expected, not its depletion. In the same way, these are the four inlets to one's store of wealth: no debauchery in sex; no debauchery in drink; no debauchery in gambling; and admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.

"These, TigerPaw, are the four qualities that lead to a lay person's happiness and well-being in this life.

"There are these four qualities that lead to a lay person's happiness and well-being in lives to come. Which four? Being consummate in conviction, being consummate in virtue, being consummate in generosity, being consummate in discernment.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in conviction? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathagata's Awakening: 'Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge and conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine and human beings, awakened, blessed.' This is called being consummate in conviction.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in virtue? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from illicit sexual conduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness. This is called being consummate in virtue.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in generosity? There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of miserliness, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called being consummate in generosity.

"And what does it mean to be consummate in discernment? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. This is called being consummate in discernment.

"These, TigerPaw, are the four qualities that lead to a lay person's happiness and well-being in lives to come."

with metta

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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby patrick.lemahieu » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Thanks. Didn't know about this sutta. It is somehowe clearer to me now, that enjoying "things" isn't a problem. :anjali:
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:04 pm

Hi Patrick,
patrick.lemahieu wrote:are some of you (as householders) also struggling with the balance between enjoying and non-attachment.

Not at all. I don't break my precepts because I know from experience that it affects me negatively. In the words of my teacher, I have seen that when I break a precept, the first thing that happens is that I hurt myself. I don't drink or take any form of intoxicant as it is incompatible with my meditative practice and my goals. And I don't miss it.
I disagree with your inference that Theravada is anti-career or anti-art. One can engage in a career but one should not have attachment to it (or anything for that matter). And the reason for that is that when we form an attachment to anything, it becomes a source of dukkha - (dissatisfaction/suffering). But being human and unawakened the reality is that we are still going to form attachments. That's where daily practice comes in handy as it helps us to slowly but surely eradicate the mental defilements and create less and less attachments over time.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby redlotus » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:06 am

What is the exact definition of attachment? Does attachment include physical, mental attachment? Or is it just any form? For example, family and friends and attachment. Food, water- are those considered attachments?
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:04 am

Hi redlotus,
redlotus wrote:What is the exact definition of attachment? Does attachment include physical, mental attachment? Or is it just any form? For example, family and friends and attachment. Food, water- are those considered attachments?

Virtually anything can be an attachment. Attachment describes the relationship the mind has towards an object where craving or clinging is involved. When we are separated from those things (or people) we have an attachment to, suffering ensues. As unawakened people, what characterises the relationships we have with those close to us is attachment. You could say that our relationships are marbled with attachment. When we become awakened, we don't stop loving, but we no longer have attachment.
Thirst and hunger are a little different as they are a physical response to dehydration or an empty stomach. However, if our mental response to thirst and hunger is with aversion and fear, then one is reinforcing the habitual response of generating fear and aversion to that form of tactile stimuli. We can eradicate our habitual responses to pleasant and unpleasant tactile stimuli, as well as pleasant and unpleasant sensory stimuli, through developing morality and practicing samatha and vipassana meditation.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Adrien » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:32 am

From "The word of the Buddha" by Nyanatiloka (didn't find this sutta on ATI) :

S. XXII. 95

Suppose a man who was not blind beheld the many bubbles on the Ganges as they drove along, and he watched them and carefully examined them; then after he had carefully examined them they would appear to him empty, unreal and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way does the monk behold all the corporeal phenomena, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and states of consciousness-whether they be of the past, or the present, or the future, far or near. And he watches them, and examines them carefully; and, after carefully examining them, they appear to him empty, void and without a Self.


How should we take this ? How should we behave when a pleasant feeling arises ? Just let it be, without diving into it ?
Please don't hesitate to correct my english if you feel to
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby daverupa » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:03 pm

Adrien wrote:How should we take this ? How should we behave when a pleasant feeling arises ? Just let it be, without diving into it ?


"As a monk is dwelling thus mindful & alert — heedful, ardent, & resolute — a feeling of pleasure arises in him. He discerns that 'A feeling of pleasure has arisen in me. It is dependent on a requisite condition, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on this body. Now, this body is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. Being dependent on a body that is inconstant, fabricated, & dependently co-arisen, how can this feeling of pleasure that has arisen be constant?' He remains focused on inconstancy with regard to the body & to the feeling of pleasure. He remains focused on dissolution... dispassion... cessation... relinquishment with regard to the body & to the feeling of pleasure. As he remains focused on inconstancy... dissolution... dispassion... cessation... relinquishment with regard to the body & to the feeling of pleasure, he abandons any passion-obsession with regard to the body & the feeling of pleasure."

Gelañña Sutta
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby phil » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:25 am

Hi Patrick

Very important question. We know about the lute simile that is used about the middle way, not tightening the lute strings so tight that they snap, but also not letting them go so slack that the lute can't be played. Almost all the conditioning forces we encounter in society, in social life, are pushing us to slacken the strings, our accumulated defilements are pushing a slackening of the strings,even Buddhist friends encourage a slackening, through the "just have the drink but don't be attached to it, let it go" advice, for example. So where does the tightening come in? That's for us to find out. But if there is no tightening, if there is no moving within reason to renouncing some degree or other of sensual attachment, the loosening and slackening will go on and on....

I like this sutta about a householder who keeps trying to find "something extra", some new way to tighten his moral discipline, within reason. The choices he makes are not practical for most of us, but we can keep finding some way of doing the tightening of the strings that is necessary for the middle way. Compensating for sensual slackness by increasing one's meditation time is probably the usual way for most people, renouncing sense pleasures is not approved of, even amoung Buddhsits sometimes, it feels too severe, or too much driven by self wanting to be a moral person, etc. So we go on and on, living life as usual, now coloured nicely by having a knowledge of Buddhist teachings and a meditation practice that seems to be aiming us towards liberation even as we continue accumulating sense pleasures in ways that the Buddha says lead to suffering but that could easily be challenged without going too far, without snapping the strings.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:10 am

phil wrote:But if there is no tightening, if there is no moving within reason to renouncing some degree or other of sensual attachment, the loosening and slackening will go on and on....


Thanks for that Phil,

I appreciate the entire post. It is very balanced yet uncompromising. I think we usually have some unhelpful activity we are on the cusp of renouncing but we tend to distract ourselves with ideas about renunciations which are currently out of reach.


Metta

Gabe
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby phil » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:12 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:I appreciate the entire post. It is very balanced yet uncompromising. I think we usually have some unhelpful activity we are on the cusp of renouncing but we tend to distract ourselves with ideas about renunciations which are currently out of reach.


Hi Gabe, thanks for the kind words.

Yes, always on the cusp. "Every moment is a moment of crisis in the life of a saint", some ancient Christian said that. We're not saints, but we will have to become saints at some point if we are to gain liberation. Nothing wrong with celebrating our saintly potential in an energetic, but good-humoured way. If it leads to being called prudish or uptight, so be it, that's the way I see it. I won't let anyone make me deviate from the path I see so clearly now, and that is the path of morality accompanied by a certain degree of wisdom, but nowhere near the wisdom that sees into the rising and falling of dhammas, etc. But there is the faith that that deeper kind of wisdom will be promoted and fostered by a diligent development of a degree of conventional morality that can be applied to any moment in the day and could only be called "conventional" (as in not paramattha) by a devout follower of the Buddha. :smile:
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(The fool is characterized by his/her actions/the wise one is characterized by his/her actions/Wisdom shines forth in behaviour.)
(AN 3.2 Lakkhana Sutta)
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby ground » Sun Feb 27, 2011 3:51 pm

Hmh ... enjoyment without attachment ... that of course is the summit of all worldly strivings ... enjoyment without negative consequences ... wonderful.

Kind regards
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby nobody12345 » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:18 pm

Surely, Mahayana is much easier to swallow than Theravada.
But one should remember that the good medicine is bitter to taste.
Human mind always makes an excuse to follow an easy road or a short cut.
For an example, having entities that will guide you to the pure land of the West that will bring you the enlightenment without pain and exertion are sweet to the ears for sure.
However, if you are really serious about liberation, stick to the way of the elders (Theravada).
Theravada does not candy coat anything.
It's like a plain and bland meal that you are supposed to eat when you are preparing for physical competition.
You know it tastes like crap but it brings you the extra edge to win and conquer.
We are fighting the war with Mara and his minions to gain the ultimate liberation.
Mara is the enemy that each practitioner must conquer.
Theravada is like a meal that is precisely formulated to give you the edge.
It is formulated to deliever the result, not to give you great taste and flavor.
Metta.
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Feb 28, 2011 10:41 pm

Surely, Mahayana is much easier to swallow than Theravada


Hi there Imaginos
I, for one, am not so sure of this.

Metta

Gabe
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby nobody12345 » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:44 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Surely, Mahayana is much easier to swallow than Theravada


Hi there Imaginos
I, for one, am not so sure of this.

Metta

Gabe

Hi friend.
Mahayaha introduced savior like figures (such as Guanyin, Amitabha, and etc.) who are supposed to do heavy liftings for the followers.
When it comes to human psychology on religion, the biggest selling point is its savor figure.
All the major religions (except true Buddhism) have at least one.
The rapid rise of Mahayana over Theravada in the history had a proximate cause.
And the cause is it provided people what they mostly likely to hear (i.e. savior like figures who do heavy liftings for them).
Human minds love free rides, package deals, group salvations, and etc.
In other words, humans love to receive something for free without discipline and hard work.
But that's not what our teacher, the one and only fully awakened one, taught.
Our teacher taught that he teaches Dhamma but its practice is up to us.
Dhamma is the most precisely formulated map to carry one to the other shore.
However, it will do nothing unless someone is actually putting down hard work according to the map.
One's practice determines one's destiny.
There's no one can save you but yourself.
Metta.
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:48 pm

imaginos wrote:
Hi friend.
Mahayaha introduced savior like figures (such as Guanyin, Amitabha, and etc.) who are supposed to do heavy liftings for the followers.
When it comes to human psychology on religion, the biggest selling point is its savor figure.
All the major religions (except true Buddhism) have at least one.
The rapid rise of Mahayana over Theravada in the history had a proximate cause.
And the cause is it provided people what they mostly likely to hear (i.e. savior like figures who do heavy liftings for them).
Human minds love free rides, package deals, group salvations, and etc.
In other words, humans love to receive something for free without discipline and hard work.
But that's not what our teacher, the one and only fully awakened one, taught.
Our teacher taught that he teaches Dhamma but its practice is up to us.
Dhamma is the most precisely formulated map to carry one to the other shore.
However, it will do nothing unless someone is actually putting down hard work according to the map.
One's practice determines one's destiny.
There's no one can save you but yourself.
Metta.


I have no objection to what you say other than your characterization of Mahayana.

Take Care

Gabe
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Re: enjoying versus non-attachment

Postby Nibbida » Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:59 pm

IanAnd wrote:There's a difference between enjoyment of a phenomenon and becoming attached to what is being enjoyed. The first can be experienced without the second getting in the way, if you can understand what I am suggesting. The Buddha "enjoyed" (experienced pleasure in) contemplation on the breath without becoming attached to it. Can you see the difference?

The moment can be enjoyed (for however long the moment exists) and one can enjoy it as such without becoming attached to such phenomena. It is when craving for a specific enjoyment enters the picture (be it a physical or a mental enjoyment) that enjoyment turns into attachment. You just have to learn to separate the two.


Ian and others make a lot of good points here, which I'll add to. A difference between experiencing a pleasure and grasping at it (or clinging to it) is whether or not we try to control the subjective experience. A pleasure is impermanent, like all things. So when we experience it with equanimity, we allow it to arise and pass without trying to interfere with the subjective experience of it. Westerners would call this savoring and/or gratitude. When we develop concentration and mindfulness, even the simplest experiences can become very enjoyable and fulfilling. When I eat a piece of fruit on a retreat, it tastes (smells, feels) amazing. When I shove food down my hole mindlessly, I'm getting less from it.

As said above, done with mindfulness and concentration, the simple act of breathing can be very enjoyable (and it's legal and portable). So I understand, at least partly, why Buddhist precepts recommend against intoxicants or overindulgence. Compared to the serene fulfillment that comes from training the mind, they're all just cheap thrills and can't deliver the satisfaction that we think they can.

A problem Westerners run into is that, on the surface, this seems like a puritanical opposition to pleasure. "Live miserably, pray to God, and keep trudging on and maybe you'll get to heaven when you die." Buddhism, as we know, is very different in its orientation. The results begin now, in the moment we make a choice.

As Ben said, when we watch the consequences closely, there's no need to grit our teeth and forbid ourselves anything. The consequences of unskillful overindulging of any kind become apparent.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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