Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

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Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:46 pm

I think The Five Daily Recollections is probably one of the most healthy meditations a human being can do. You are preparing for things that will happen, before those things happen.

There is a near universal folk belief that you tend to get what you focus on?

Buddhism, in the suttas and in ethnic folk beliefs claims that focusing on metta will produce all sorts of good things.

So, according to Buddhism/Buddhists, why wouldn't focusing on death, sickness, aging, loss with The Five Daily Recollections and meditations on death bring more experiences of death,sickness and loss into a person's life?

I'm not trying to be incendiary. I've seen that many people are very uncomfortable with meditations on decay and death. I'm guessing that the folk belief that you get more of what you think about, at least on an unconscious level, is partially responsible.

I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby santa100 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:28 pm

Jhana4 wrote:I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?


Since gain/loss happen due to wholesome/unwholsome kamma, it can't be the case that such a wholesome practice like the Five Daily Recollections would bring more loss. If anything, it only brings deeper insight into the impermanent nature of all conditioned phenomena. So that if good things happen to one after some metta practice, one wouldn't become attached to the result but to recognize that gain and loss, good things and bad things,etc. are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and non-self..
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:14 pm

I think that meditation is not for bringing about loss, but rather for generating a sense of urgency -- samvega toward the practice.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:27 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:I think that meditation is not for bringing about loss, but rather for generating a sense of urgency -- samvega toward the practice.



David, thanks for responding. My question isn't about the purpose of Bhavana ( psychological development ), but about the possible side effects.

It seems like Buddhism supports the folk idea that thinking about like things brings like realities. Do metta, you get love, healing, sound sleep. So I am curious that if someone "does the 5 daily recollections" a lot, if they, as a possible side effect, attract more loss to their lives or change the way they see so it seems so( without being so )
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby kc2dpt_deactivated » Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:51 pm

if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?

In our life there can be more or less compassion and more or less enmity. To some degree we can control and cultivate how much of one or the other. If we habitually have thoughts of enmity and do nothing about it then those habits will get stronger. When we practice having thoughts of compassion, thoughts of compassion more naturally arise even when we are not practicing.

But in our life there will be one death; this is absolutely certain. Thinking about death more will not make you die more; thinking about death less will not make you die less. However, thinking about that death can lessen fear and sadness regarding that death, can promote urgency in one's practice, can decrease one's attachment to the body.

Becoming more aware of death might make you notice it more in the world around you. You did not make more death, only changed how much you notice. As above, this can have positive affects on your practice.

I am not aware of any Buddhist teaching which says by thinking of something you will magically bring more of it to your life. I wonder if you are misunderstanding something in the suttas? If you can provide a specific example, then we can discuss it in detail. :)
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Samma » Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:54 pm

I think you are right that thinking about negative can prepare you for them. I forget but it might have been a radiolab podcast that discussed this. Those that don't think negative things can happen were more surprised about them and took them worse. Now that I think about it, it might have been the book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy that recommenced meditating on disfortune.

belief that you tend to get what you focus on?

Doesn't that cheapen the dhammapadas message? Thats like law of attraction junk eh? Right at the beginning of the dhammapada...

If you speak or act with a corrupted heart, then suffering follows you
...
If you speak or act with a calm, bright heart, then happiness follows you.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby SarathW » Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:14 pm

Hi J4
I think Santa and David gave an answer to the way I think as well.
If I need to elaborate I would say:
- Metta , Karuna, Mudita should be balanced by Upekkaha
- Anicca, Dukkha should be balanced by Anatta
:meditate:
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby dagon » Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:59 am

jhana4 said
I think The Five Daily Recollections is probably one of the most healthy meditations a human being can do. You are preparing for things that will happen, before those things happen.


I would agree that it probably is one of the most spiritually healthy (would prefer the helpful) things that most people can do. In my case there are other areas of meditation where I get a lot more benefit at this time.

There is a near universal folk belief that you tend to get what you focus on?


From what I have seen folk beliefs tend to be localised rather than universal so I am not sure that I understand what you are saying. The only thing that I have found that is truly universal are the truths taught by the Buddha.

Buddhism, in the suttas and in ethnic folk beliefs claims that focusing on metta will produce all sorts of good things.

I am glad to see that you recognise that the level of synchronicity between what the suttas say and what “ethnic folk” believe. I am particularly happy about this as I have an ethnicity as do we all – or were you using the word ethnic with a different connotation? (That they claim) that focusing on metta will produce all sorts of good things could have a lot of different meanings. I only know what I think and what I have experienced, so I would have to say that it has proved to be a very wholesome part of my practice that has assisted my ethical standards; helped to open my mind to the Dhamma and reduced my suffering.

So, according to Buddhism/Buddhists, why wouldn't focusing on death, sickness, aging, loss with The Five Daily Recollections and meditations on death bring more experiences of death,sickness and loss into a person's life?


The suffering that i experience is a direct result of the karma that i brought with me and the poor choices that i have made, not as result of any sitting or other type of meditation.

I'm not trying to be incendiary.


But you recognise that it could be seen that way.

I've seen that many people are very uncomfortable with meditations on decay and death. I'm guessing that the folk belief that you get more of what you think about, at least on an unconscious level, is partially responsible.


I cannot answer for other people but I am not uncomfortable with sickness, ageing and death. It just brings home the truth that is within the 4 Nobel Truths and the rest of the teachings. As it increases my direct testing, it increases my faith in the path that I have chosen to follow and make the Dhamma the dominant factor in my daily life.

I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?


To me that would suggest that you believe that good and loss are opposites. I guess that it in part depends on what you believe to be “good”, my view of what is good is wholesome conditions for my development and eventual liberation. The contemplation of loss of youth, health, and this life serve to ground my thoughts in reality – reality is what the Buddha taught and that is “good” for what I want. As giving metta and compassion starts with giving those things to me they help to balance the suffering I see, thus helping me to have equanimity to my situation and the situations that are likely to occur in the future. Through seeing and contemplating loss (a form of suffering) I have seen the effects of attachment and aversion and the suffering that it brings – so I have lost some of the things that hinder my development. But I have a lot more to lose and an ever reducing amount of time to achieve that loss in this lifetime.

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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby seeker242 » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:03 pm

Jhana4 wrote:I think The Five Daily Recollections is probably one of the most healthy meditations a human being can do. You are preparing for things that will happen, before those things happen.

There is a near universal folk belief that you tend to get what you focus on?

Buddhism, in the suttas and in ethnic folk beliefs claims that focusing on metta will produce all sorts of good things.

So, according to Buddhism/Buddhists, why wouldn't focusing on death, sickness, aging, loss with The Five Daily Recollections and meditations on death bring more experiences of death,sickness and loss into a person's life?

I'm not trying to be incendiary. I've seen that many people are very uncomfortable with meditations on decay and death. I'm guessing that the folk belief that you get more of what you think about, at least on an unconscious level, is partially responsible.

I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?


Perhaps because meditation, if done properly in the Buddhist sense, will cause you to realize that there is really nothing to lose to begin with. If you regard all these things as "not me, not mine" then how can you lose them? You can't lose what isn't even yours to begin with!

If you let go of all these things, then you don't experience any loss when they go away because it is not the thing going away that causes the "loss". It is just the holding onto the thing that is going away, that is what cause the "loss". If there is no holding on, then experiencing a loss is not even possible since the thing that causes the loss, the holding on, is no longer there. Buddhist meditation, if done properly, causes you to let go more and more, thereby decreasing loss, not increasing it.

:namaste:
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:40 pm

Greetings,

Jhana4 wrote:I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?

The reason metta brings good things is because non-aversion and non-greed (or positively framed as lovingkindness and generosity) are wholesome mental factors, meaning that thoughts/speech/deeds rooted in those factors are good kamma.

That doesn't hold in reverse about "contemplating loss", because this contemplation doesn't particularly necessitate any given mindstate. So the difference therefore lies in whether it is done with wisdom/non-greed/non-aversion, or ignorance/greed/aversion. If such contemplations are done incorrectly, they may fall into the latter category and yield the negative side-effects you mused over.

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: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:18 am

The purpose of recollecting aging, illness, death, and loss is to learn how to deal with these situations in a healthy way right there and now, so that when they happen you will be mentally prepared. If one is simply fixated on them, looking for loss and sorrow in the world, being pessimistic, then that could indeed be an unwholesome practice. When a person notices this in practice, that is the time to shift the mindset toward a healthy one, to a realistic yet positive attitude that says, "OK, this is how it is. How will I act in this situation?" That is a much healthier response.

Unfortunately, aging, illness, death, loss, and the workings of kamma can be too much to handle if you do not prepare yourself. Running fire drills and CPR do not increase the likelihood of fires and heart attacks. They only increase your ability to deal with them when they actually cross your path.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:25 am

Jhana4 wrote:I'm interested to see what Buddhists/Buddhism would have to say about if metta thoughts can bring good things, why wouldn't contemplating loss bring more loss?


I do not see any arguments in the Buddhist Canon for "law of attraction" type thinking. Metta meditation does not make good things happen, but it does make the mediators mind more capable of maintaining love and kindness in the face of anger and hypocrisy. Don't expect the world to get better, just train your response to the world to be a healthy, productive one.

The first time I took metta meditation seriously, I was commuting a lot. There were so many bad drivers out there and I was so frustrated I kept losing my temper which would lead to me becoming "the bad driver". So in meditation I focused on forgiving other vehicles for their terrible driving. The benefit of the meditation was NOT for me to come across fewer bad drivers. The benefit was that I did not get angry, I got out of their way, and I was able to remain alert for the next bad driver instead of getting so caught up in anger that I ended up becoming a bad driver.

One does not need to invoke a magical "law of attraction" to benefit from metta meditation.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Still Searching » Tue Oct 01, 2013 12:49 pm

Interesting post.

Well, 1 of the reasons I turned to Buddhism is because of my anxiety & paranoia.

Constantly thinking about "When we're going to die?" will distrupt the meditation practice because we'd be thinking too much about suffering.

Worrying about death, brings death.

Stress causes high blood pressure, strokes & many other things. And all of these are life threatening.

Meditation is a relaxation exercise which puts us in a calm sense of mind.

Yes, Buddhism teaches us the truth and we should never ignore danger but the Buddha himself suggested we only focus on the present.
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." ~ Siddhārtha, Gautama Buddha
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:58 pm

Different meditation topics suite different people. If you suffer from anxiety and paranoia, maybe meditation on death is not appropriate for you. I think it is often prescribed for those who are either over-indulgent or lazy. For anxiety, you may want to focus on calming meditations and metta.

If, in the future, you find yourself at peace, then the contemplation of death would be done in a way that is not stressful, not leading to strokes and hypertension. It would be done in a way that would help you understand suffering and therefore let go of suffering. That would be less stressful and lead to a longer life. Some monks live for a very, very long time.

Any advice the Buddha gave to focus only on the present should probably be kept in context. He also advised us to act in a way that would lead to either a pleasant rebirth or total liberation.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Buckwheat » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:04 pm

If the "law of attraction" is something that you, at this time, must cling to... then how about this approach: Don't focus on adversity. Focus on how you will handle hardship in a calm in responsible manner. Focus on yourself maintaining equanimity, compassion, and goodwill in the face of any adversity. Now the thing you will "attract" will not be the hardship, but the responsible handling of the hardship when it comes your way... as it inevitably will in this human lifetime.
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Re: Why will meditation not bring more loss and death?

Postby Namkha » Fri Oct 04, 2013 4:06 pm

Thank you for asking this question, I've wondered about this, too.

I wonder if the difference is use. We visit the five daily recollections not to wish them for ourselves or anyone, but rather to acknowledge the limitations of our physical form, of samsara. Recognizing them as truth is not the same as giving them power, they are what they are whether we "support" them or not. Realizing the truth of them we develop appreciation for current positive conditions in our lives and a desire grows to take refuge where refuge may be found: in the dhamma.

We are reminded that we can't find refuge in youth, health, wealth, being alive. The Buddha then points out that we can count on kamma and the fruits of our actions. So you could look at the Five as 'givens' that the Buddha believes we need to keep in mind. Nothing devotional there, no intent to bring these things into our lives--just to not be surprised by them or caught up in them.

The Brahmaviharas and the practices connected with them are instead wishes, conditions that we wish for ourselves and for those around us. In my opinion, their function is to calm our minds and open our hearts so that we lessen the hindrances to mindfulness and concentration. I don't think the Buddha ever said make these wishes and you can ignore the Five Daily Recollections!

Whether metta practice results in any changes to the world, I don't know. But it will transform our hearts and that is something worth going for!

--Namkha
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