Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

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Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:29 am

I know long blocks of text tend to create the initial impression of "OMG this guy is crazy". Fortunately, in this case, the formatting is simple and there's no colors or diagrams. :lol:

This isn't Theravada, but it was inspired by it. Hopefully that doesn't get the skeptical doubt motors running. Be open-minded and have a little faith.

#1. LIBERATION FROM SUFFERING RELATED TO EXTERNAL MATTER

Grab a hammer. You can see that the hammer is not you. Bang the hammer lightly against something. You can see it's empty (that it's not self and it's impermanent, impermanent meaning temporary, easily destroyed). The hammer can be damaged or destroyed and there is no suffering. A clever man might say, "There is no suffering because the hammer has no pain receptors." But we can easily find ourselves suffering from external objects. Imagine your favorite object in your home, like a treasured family photo, family heirloom, jewelry (especially a wedding ring), expensive electronics, musical equipment, memorabilia, clothes, and cars. Now imagine these things being destroyed. You would suffer! Why? These objects have no pain receptors. And you should know they are empty (meaning impermanent and not self), so why is there suffering? There is suffering because you do not really see their impermanence; you do not want to believe it, not all the time. And you don't really understand this until what you crave is ripped away. And then you can see how you regard them as self, as "mine". When they are destroyed, suffering results in the context of impermanence, from attachment: "What is mine is gone!" But it was never yours to begin with, because mine and yours are just ideas which have no bearing on physical reality; reality doesn't care what you think you do or don't deserve.

A foolish person might dispute this, having lost his expensive jewelry, electronics, or even things like family photos that we tend to think are appropriate things to cling to. In his deluded state of mind, he might say, "What you say doesn't change anything! What I have is still gone and there is still this feeling! What you say doesn't make this feeling go away! It's still there!" He blames the world for his own craving. He should observe the emptiness of things, but he does not. It's not that he can't look, but chooses not to. And the funny thing is that this can happen to Buddhists too. They have the view of universal notself and impermanence, but when their car breaks down, their electronic toys break, their wedding ring goes missing, they get angry or upset.

#2. LIBERATION FROM SUFFERING RELATED TO INTERNAL MATTER

Take your hand. Look at it. You can see that the hand is not you, although many people might think of it as "a part of me", because it's a part of the body. If clearly seen, this too is empty (not self and impermanent). The hand can be easily damaged and destroyed. If we bang the hand against a hard surface, unlike the hammer there is pain, and for most of us, also suffering. But if we see clearly, we see the emptiness of the hand and the rest of the body: there really is no such thing as "suffering of the body". Suffering is in the mind. Pain is a bodily sensation which we are opposed to, just as pleasure is something we desire. "Suffering," is the mental state of craving for pleasurable or stimulating sensations and aversion to painful or limiting ones. We can regard the whole body as not self. There is a distinction to be made here, however: We can think of the body as self (merely an idea or opinion), which is different from seeing it that way, which takes concentration or meditation. A person can have the intellectual view, "The body is not self," but if you pour gasoline on him and set him on fire, he would run around flailing because he lies to himself and lacks concentration. For one who is deeply concentrated -- monks (or Indian and Asian sages) who regularly practice meditation and deep mindfulness, the body is just a puppet which houses the mind and pain is merely a sensation of the puppet, which does not afflict the mind. For such a being, the outside world is not a burden, only hindrances of the mind are a burden.

A foolish person might dispute this, though, feeling pain from sickness, old age, or injury, and he might say, "What you say doesn't change anything! I still feel suffering because of the body! There is still this feeling! What you say doesn't make this feeling go away! It's still there!" He blames the body for his own craving. He should observe the emptiness of the body, but he does not. It's not that he can't look, but chooses not to.

#3. LIBERATION FROM SUFFERING OF THE MIND

In your mind, imagine a hammer slamming against another object. You can see that you are not that fabricated hammer or the fabricated object, although many people might think of it as "part of me," because it's within the mind. Moreover, if you look clearly, you see that not only are the objects of consciousness impermanent and not self, the whole thing -- consciousness -- is a fabrication that is impermanent and not self. Still, though, as with the realization of emptiness with regards to internal matter, there is a difference between thinking of the mind as not self and seeing it that way. It is very easy to go around falsely claiming to have Buddha-nature, Buddhahood, Nirvana, and supreme enlightenment merely because you found an amazing idea about the mind. You could go around, falsely proclaiming enlightenment, being a self-ordained monk (like Jeffrey Brooks aka "jhanananda"), try to start a cult (and with such clever ideas you might succeed!), or at the very least, you might just start really long threads on Buddhist forums which don't need to be made, arguing with people when such arguments are not needed, not helping yourself or others find freedom from suffering. All because you have this "idea"... But you don't really see things that way. So, while you may have a very powerful samadhi, so much so that you have great mental clarity and no longer experience physical pain, you still experience suffering from attachment to the formless, from regarding the mind as "mine." But with the highest concentration, the deepest meditation, you can see to see the self outside the mind, and thus realize the unconditioned, being free from all self-perception and suffering, mental affliction, and pain. Because if you see your self outside the mind (simply another way of saying "seeing mind as empty -- impermanent and void of self"), what hindrances are there? What suffering is there to be relieved? What enlightenment and ignorance is there? This is where the four elements find no footing, where one finds final release. Not "where the four elements cease," not where self is augmented or annihilated; it's a place that has been here all along that you just didn't see, which is defiled and free from defilement, but itself is forever pure and clean. It is consciousness without feature, immovable but capable of adapting to motion; it's metaphorically compared to diamonds and light.

And once again, a foolish person might dispute this, though, feeling mental suffering for all sorts of reasons, and he might say, "What you say doesn't change anything! You are only using the mind in a different way! And I still feel suffering because of the mind! There is still this feeling! What you say doesn't make this feeling go away! It's still there!" He blames the mind for his own craving. He should observe the emptiness of the mind, but he does not. It's not that he can't look, but chooses not to.

This is all very straightforward, as I see it. It's so plainly obvious. It's not elaborate or clever or tricky. It just requires sincerity, thoughtfulness, and the IQ level of Homer Simpson or higher. So, when some people ask, "Why doesn't the Buddha make everyone enlightened?" they ask that question with a wrong understanding. What they should more appropriately ask is, "Why does anyone want to suffer? Why doesn't everyone want to be enlightened?" If they do want to be free from suffering and do want want enlightenment, if they simply turned their minds inward and away from suffering and away from conceptual-proliferation, it is possible.

Did anybody here find this helpful? If not, please let me know. I'm extremely open to criticism, insults, slander, people throwing tomatoes and other various rotten fruits & vegetables, etc..

Also, for the record: I am not "enlightened." I am somewhere between #2 and #3, although sometimes even #1 gives me a problem. At times, I find this form of concentration gives me clarity regarding sensual desire, a great (but not yet infinite) endurance to overcome physical pain, and a great (but again, limited) capacity for overcoming mental suffering. But I am headed in the right direction, which is the important thing. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:38 am

Or one could follow the Buddha's teaching of satipatthana.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:57 am

tiltbillings wrote:Or one could follow the Buddha's teaching of satipatthana.

I agree!

So long as it is "Right Mindfulness," and not just some silly dogma or idea. :)

I just thought this was a useful thought -- not to contradict or dispute Theravada in any way. As I said, it was inspired by it.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:32 am

Hi Individual,

Yes, that's a similar idea to this Sutta:

SN 35.101 Na Tumhaka Sutta: Not Yours
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"Whatever is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit. And what is not yours?

"The eye is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit. Forms are not yours... Eye-consciousness is not yours... Eye-contact is not yours... Whatever arises in dependence on eye-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.

"The ear is not yours: let go of it...

"The nose is not yours: let go of it...

"The tongue is not yours: let go of it...

"The body is not yours: let go of it...

"The intellect is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit. Ideas are not yours... Intellect-consciousness is not yours... Intellect-contact is not yours... Whatever arises in dependence on intellect-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit.

"Suppose a person were to gather or burn or do as he likes with the grass, twigs, branches, & leaves here in Jeta's Grove. Would the thought occur to you, 'It's us that this person is gathering, burning, or doing with as he likes'?"

"No, lord. Why is that? Because those things are not our self nor do they pertain to our self."

"In the same way, monks, the eye is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit... Whatever arises in dependence on intellect-contact, experienced either as pleasure, as pain, or as neither-pleasure-nor-pain, that too is not yours: let go of it. Your letting go of it will be for your long-term happiness & benefit."


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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:42 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Yes, that's a similar idea to this Sutta:

I know. I wasn't trying to present anything unique, different, or original. It's just that a clear way of understanding the Buddha's teaching just occurred to me earlier today and perhaps my mouth just went off on its own. (Guess I shouldn't smile about that! :|)

As I said:

Individual wrote:...there is a difference between thinking of the mind as not self and seeing it that way. You could go around, falsely proclaiming enlightenment, being a self-ordained monk (like Jeffrey Brooks aka "jhanananda"), try to start a cult (and with such clever ideas you might succeed!), or at the very least, you might just start really long threads on Buddhist forums which don't need to be made

;)
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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:55 am

Hi Indvidual,
Individual wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Yes, that's a similar idea to this Sutta:

I know. I wasn't trying to present anything unique, different, or original. It's just that a clear way of understanding the Buddha's teaching just occurred to me earlier today and perhaps my mouth just went off on its own. (Guess I shouldn't smile about that! :|)

No problem. I was maybe a little cursory in my message. What I meant was that your post was very clear and is consistent with various teachings of the Buddha. As Tilt implies, though, actually realising it deeply is a bit more work (which most of us have yet to complete!).

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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:58 am

Also, one more thing... We have to be compassionate and intelligent about how we talk about this.

I've told my mom before with Parkinson's disease that to relieve her pain and be slightly more functional, she needs to meditate. It doesn't work for her, but she also chooses not to do it.

One day, after a long day of physical activity, my body was aching all over and I staggered across the kitchen, groaning because of the soreness in my back, arms, and legs.

Then I said to my mom, jokingly, "I guess I just need to meditate!"

She laughed and said teasingly, "Just meditate! Just meditate! All you need to do is meditate! It's all in your head! It's all in your head!"

When ignorance is a reality, suffering remains somewhat of a reality too. We can take the medicine, but even then, it takes time to work.

It wouldn't be right to go to people who are old and dying and tell them that they're only in pain because they have a deluded state of mind. :|
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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:03 am

Hi Individual,

Yes, it's tough. My Mother has various excruciating aches and pains from a car accident a few years ago, and from just generally getting old. It certainly wouldn't help to tell her to: "Jusst snap out of it, it's all in your mind."

Figuring out how to deal with the suffering of others is extraordinarily difficult, in my experience.

Metta
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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:16 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Yes, it's tough. My Mother has various excruciating aches and pains from a car accident a few years ago, and from just generally getting old. It certainly wouldn't help to tell her to: "Jusst snap out of it, it's all in your mind."

Figuring out how to deal with the suffering of others is extraordinarily difficult, in my experience.

Metta
:anjali:
Mike

From what I've seen, it is not possible to relieve the suffering of others because you can only give people what they ask for, what they want. If they want a more skillful way of craving, you can show them that. But if they have no intention of being mindful, you cannot force them to be.
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby pinatapai » Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:05 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,

Yes, it's tough. My Mother has various excruciating aches and pains from a car accident a few years ago, and from just generally getting old. It certainly wouldn't help to tell her to: "Jusst snap out of it, it's all in your mind."

Figuring out how to deal with the suffering of others is extraordinarily difficult, in my experience.

Metta
:anjali:
Mike

There is some Buddhist teachings that has helped me during tough times, but I am not sure if they helps a non-Buddhist when he/she is suffering... Finally best way to deal with suffering of others (as a Buddhist) is just to be present, guess...
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Re: Three simple thought experiments to eliminate all suffering

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Figuring out how to deal with the suffering of others is extraordinarily difficult, in my experience.


Yes, you're right, it requires a great deal of clarity. Sometimes though responding intuitively to immediate suffering seems to be the right thing.

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