Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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retrofuturist
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Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Mar 19, 2009 3:44 am

Greetings,

weltschmerz

defintion: mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state

etymology: German, from Welt world + Schmerz pain

(source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weltschmerz)

A three-part question...

1. To what extent do you, or have you, experienced weltschmerz in the past?
2. To what extent has your Dhamma practice alleviated weltschmerz?
3. To what extent has your Dhamma practice contributed towards weltschmerz?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby Rui Sousa » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:53 am

That reminds of a character in a Woody Allen film that got depressed because the universe was contracting :jumping:

1 - Very much when I was a teenager
2 - Realized that my view of the world as it is, and my view of world as it should be, are not important.
3 - .
With Metta

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby Ben » Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:12 pm

What is the world?
The khandas or the realm?
Thanks retro

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby genkaku » Thu Mar 19, 2009 1:36 pm

Hi retro -- I think practice contributes to a sense of Weltschmerz to the extent that it is idealized ... that anyone might imagine things could be different. I think it alleviates that sense when the imagination takes a break ... as through practice.

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby Fede » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:43 pm

Isn't a quasi-idential sentiment (in English) possibly, Nostalgia?

We hark back to a time when the world seemed a rosier and better place to be in....granted, much has changed over the years, but is that not the Law of Impermanence?
And many may say that things have gone 'downhill', but there is much to see that has gone 'uphill' too..... (not without a struggle, mind, at times...) :thinking: :smile:
"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: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby thecap » Thu Mar 19, 2009 5:00 pm

Fede wrote:Isn't a quasi-idential sentiment (in English) possibly, Nostalgia?


Indeed, it's similar but not the same. Nostalgia is attachment to an idealized past, while weltschmerz (or world-pain) is attachment to an idealized future.

And yes, I've had it plenty. But it doesn't necessarily have to include a depression.

It can also be a momentary disillusionment with how the world, although constantly revolving, "will never change".

For example, it's more probable that humanity will destroy itself before all beings are liberated.

This is the point where you realize that when you can't change the world, change yourself. For example, through meditative practise.

Regards,
thecap

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby gavesako » Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:02 pm

They have a similar expression in Thai which is used often in dhamma context: salot samvekh (Ajahn Jayasaro translates it as "sober sadness"). It is derived from the Pali word samvega which is a quality that makes us want to practise Dhamma.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:01 pm

Greetings,

OK... time to answer my own questions!

retrofuturist wrote:1. To what extent do you, or have you, experienced weltschmerz in the past?

Plenty. I have a (thankfully diminishing) tendency to be critical of the way things are, and how far they are from being optimal, and how they are corrupted by the ignorance, greed and/or delusion of others. The closest I've ever come to having a mental breakdown was because of weltschmerz in the workplace. This is also why I used to be a committed socialist. I still have lefty leanings, I'm just not so attached to them now such that they would cause me suffering, if not realised. I've also experienced plenty of weltschmerz with respect to music-related things too... mainly relating to the popularity of rubbish music, and the lack of recognition for quality music. The potential objects for weltschmerz, as with craving, are limitless.

Even my username, retrofuturist, reflects weltschmerz to some degree... the wish for things to be now (in the future), as per the advanced scientific utopia predicted in the early/mid 20th century. You know, flying bubble cars, space travel, travelators instead of sidewalks, electronic music etc.

retrofuturist wrote:2. To what extent has your Dhamma practice alleviated weltschmerz?

Weltschmerz is caused by craving, and realising this I've been able to let some things go, for my benefit. Things which caused weltschmerz have been useful Dhamma experiences for me, which made my understanding of the Four Noble Truths a very immediate and potent "a-ha" moment :idea:

retrofuturist wrote:3. To what extent has your Dhamma practice contributed towards weltschmerz?

Buddhism can create new unfulfilled ideals for us, as Genkaku pointed about, and if we lament over the reality of not yet meeting those ideals, we are bound to suffer. It is a delicate balance working out when one should strive and commit effort to something, versus letting it go. Mindfulness in that process is invaluable.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:04 pm

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:What is the world?
The khandas or the realm?
Thanks retro


Weltschmerz is defined in the conventional sense of the world, but realising that our world (loka) consists of only that which can be experienced via the five aggregates, the six senses etc.(or whatever classification system you use to border the limit of phenomological experience) then the temptation to crave for things in the conventional world, or to crave for the conventional world to be a certain way, is diminshed. I have found quite a bit of relief in this perspective.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Weltschmerz and Buddhism

Postby zavk » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:29 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I still have lefty leanings, I'm just not so attached to them now such that they would cause me suffering, if not realised. I've also experienced plenty of weltschmerz with respect to music-related things too... mainly relating to the popularity of rubbish music, and the lack of recognition for quality music. The potential objects for weltschmerz, as with craving, are limitless.


:toast:

I've experienced the same too!

My answers to your question are pretty much covered by all the responses so far. But I am very glad that Bhikkhu Gavesako pointed out the Thai expression for 'sober sadness' because I must say that 'sober sadness' best describes my experience of deep dhamma practice. The effect of the dhamma on me has been most sobering.

Metta,
zavk
With metta,
zavk


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