How to contemplate dukkha

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How to contemplate dukkha

Postby Stephen K » Fri Dec 18, 2009 10:50 pm

What is the way to contemplate dukkha?

Should one contemplate one's own dukkha, or that of another? Should one contemplate past or present dukkha?

Or all of the above?

Or is there another way to do it?
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby Chula » Sat Dec 19, 2009 3:53 am

I usually contemplate dukkha in terms of anicca, dukkha, anatta perceptions instead of just by itself. Otherwise there's a tendency to personalize it. It's always good to start with the perception of impermanence of the khandhas and try to reflect on how clinging to them begets dukkha...

In terms of the suttas, there is the perception of stress (dukkha saññā) as a practice in the Saññā Sutta (AN 7.46):

"'The perception of stress in what is inconstant, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit. It gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its final end': Thus was it said. In reference to what was it said?

"When a monk's awareness often remains steeped in the perception of stress in what is inconstant, a fierce perception of danger & fear is established in him toward idleness, indolence, laziness, heedlessness, lack of commitment, & lack of reflection, as if toward a murderer with an upraised sword. If, when a monk's awareness often remains steeped in the perception of stress in what is inconstant, a fierce perception of danger & fear is not established in him toward idleness, indolence, laziness, heedlessness, lack of commitment, & lack of reflection, as if toward a murderer with an upraised sword, then he should realize, 'I have not developed the perception of stress in what is inconstant; there is no step-by-step distinction in me; I have not arrived at the fruit of [mental] development.' In that way he is alert there. But if, when a monk's awareness often remains steeped in the perception of stress in what is inconstant, a fierce perception of danger & fear is established in him toward idleness, indolence, laziness, heedlessness, lack of commitment, & lack of reflection, as if toward a murderer with an upraised sword, then he should realize, 'I have developed the perception of stress in what is inconstant; there is a step-by-step distinction in me; I have arrived at the fruit of [mental] development.' In that way he is alert there."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

It's good to remember that perception is not-self when you're doing this. It's just a tool.

Hope this helps.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby SDC » Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:19 am

We suffer (stress) when our expectations, our desires come in conflict with reality. Venerable Madawela Punnaji says it best in that "we look for permanence in an impermanent world." I observe closely when this occurs and watch my emotional reactions.

I contemplate my own and that of others to best understand the process.

I have learned through my own practice that it is best to deal with the in the present moment and not with anything too far in the past. I find it difficult to recreate the exact conditions to be able to re-observe past suffering properly. For me, when I play back the past over and over I tend to lament rather than learn. But when you do that, then you can use that "lamenting about the past" as a current subject of contemplation! So it works out regardless.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:36 am

Stefan wrote:What is the way to contemplate dukkha?


Simply gently pay attention to your breathing. There is nothing to think about here.
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: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby SDC » Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:24 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Simply gently pay attention to your breathing. There is nothing to think about here.


Maybe I am confused, but thought the original poster was asking about contemplation in an effort to fully understand the problem of suffering, and more important how it occurs in his own mind.

With all due respect, I understand suggesting breathing in order to calm down and relieve stress in a given situation, but are you suggesting that introspection is never the way to go?
Last edited by SDC on Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby Laurens » Sat Dec 19, 2009 2:29 pm

I didn't really learn this strategy from anywhere, its just something I started doing naturally.

Whenever I notice mental agitation, I make note that it is suffering. I automaticly try to let go of it.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:51 am

SDC wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Simply gently pay attention to your breathing. There is nothing to think about here.


Maybe I am confused, but thought the original poster was asking about contemplation in an effort to fully understand the problem of suffering, and more important how it occurs in his own mind.

With all due respect, I understand suggesting breathing in order to calm down and relieve stress in a given situation, but are you suggesting that introspection is never the way to go?

Conceptual contemplation has its place, preferably with a skilled teacher when one is doing contemplations on the body and suffering. It is all too easy to get lost in a negative spaces.

Gently paying attention to the breath not only allows one to develop a level of concentration, but it also cultivates mindfulness. When the body becomes uncomfortable in a sitting position and when one mindfully attends to that without "comment," dukkha is laid bare in a way it never could be by conceptual contemplation.
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: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:34 pm

From one of Goenka's Dhamma talks:

(paraphrased)

Student: Mr. Goenka, I have been meditating in this retreat for several days and you tell us to watch our sensations. But I don't have sensations. What should I do to acquire sensations?

Goenka: Do you have pain when you sit?

Student: Oh yes, my knees hurt, the forehead perspires, my legs fall asleep and then become painful . . . .

Goenka: These are all sensations!


Dukkha is all around us. Introspection using any technique will reveal this. Not doing any technique will reveal this. None of us are immune from dukkha, except for the arahants. It is best to focus on the breath, sensations, or other techniques at the suggestion of your teacher.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby SDC » Sun Dec 20, 2009 9:36 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Conceptual contemplation has its place, preferably with a skilled teacher when one is doing contemplations on the body and suffering. It is all too easy to get lost in a negative spaces.

Gently paying attention to the breath not only allows one to develop a level of concentration, but it also cultivates mindfulness. When the body becomes uncomfortable in a sitting position and when one mindfully attends to that without "comment," dukkha is laid bare in a way it never could be by conceptual contemplation.


Right on. I was not in any way suggesting that attending to the breath was not the way to go. It is an extremely beneficial method that I myself practice. Also, I didn't mean to make what I was describing sound like a practice that was purely conceptual. I must have described it poorly.

My comment was more related to stressful situations during your daily life (work, family, driving, etc.) and how best to attend to emotional reactions (anger, fear, lust, etc.). For example, if I see someone not be courteous in a situation where they could have been, like not holding a door, it may make me angry. If I can remain with my attention focused the body, rather then thinking about what I just witnessed, I take notice of the tension in my body, the adrenaline that has been released, that my breath has quickened, then I attended to how my body feels because of it (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral - this case it is unpleasant), and then to the state that my mind is in (mind with anger). This is not necessarily done with any comments.

If I have been able to calmly and successfully attend to this I can more easily see what view has caused my anger. That view, in this example, would be that I was holding the belief (an attachment) that "no matter what, you should be courteous"...an impossible expectation of all people. It is a quality that few look to posses and is even frowned upon by many. Some may say, "why should I be courteous to a stranger? What did they do for me?" So then I ask myself "what is the benefit of this view that all should be courteous?" "Is it causing me pain?" The answer should be yes. The reactions of anger are unwholesome kamma. But anger may still return the next time. But as this practice is successful over and over in situations of people not being courteous I become less and less emotionally sensitive and in turn less and less apt to have a angry reaction. I come to understand that not everyone wants to be courteous. And my anger or angry speech in some cases is not going to change that. Then I suffer less. That is how I have best come to learn about how my mind creates the dukkha.

I'm not looking to hijack this thread, but I have a related question that may help everyone. Where is the difference between satipatthana(mindfulness) and right effort? I know satipatthana is a method and that right effort is intended to be a quality of practice. Both are part of the noble eightfold path, and they have similar descriptions. Because in the process I described...I attended to the body, to the sensation (feeling), to state of mind, and then, if I stay calm enough, I attend to the view (thought/mind object). To clarify specifically what I mean in mind object contemplation; "he knows the mind, knows the mind object (my attachment to the belief) and the fetter that arises dependent on the two. He knows how the un-arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the abandonment of an arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the non-arising of the the abandon fetter comes about" Is that also right effort, in which I would be "striving to overcome evil unwholesome mental states that have arisen" or "preventing the arising of un-arisen evil unwholesome mental states?" Hopefully someone could clear this up. I have read a decent amount on mindfulness and "right effort" seems very straight forward. Just a bit confused. All quotes are from the Mahasatipatthana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, the Maurice Walshe translation.

(***Edit (10 minutes later)- Perhaps my confusion is that the mind object contemplation in sattipatthana has to do with fetters and right effort has to do with states of mind? Mind object contemplations is considered more subtle and state of mind is considered more gross? Wow I'm exhausting myself...haha.***)

Regardless I have had enormous success with the practice. It has helped so much in preventing me from chasing the angry reactions. And even when anger does arise I immediately look to attend to the affect it is having the body rather then thinking about situation that caused it. It is then a bonus if I can see what view I have been holding that has caused the whole reaction to occur in the first place.

I would like to say, for the record, that I have not received any personal instruction. Its a process that pretty much started developing naturally and is being honed through practice and my extensive study of the suttas, commentaries and recorded lectures. I know some may have issue with this. Please know that I am not saying this to promote not seeking a proper teacher. I plan to do so in time. Its just that no one knows me and I wanted it to be known.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby cooran » Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:26 pm

Hello Stefan,

This is the way Ajahn Sumedho teaches us to contemplate Dukkha -
The Four Noble Truths of Suffering via the Three aspects and Twelve stages.

The Four Noble Truths
http://www.watphaitasom.com/nobletruth/nobletruth2.htm

I find it excellent and I hope you do too.

with metta
Chris
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby Chula » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:34 pm

SDC - :goodpost:

About your question, In a simple sense, mind-object contemplation (dhammānupassanā) in the satipatthāna is about being aware of what thoughts are in your mind. Right effort is what's used to abandon the unskillful thought. An example could be to abandon a thought of ill-will (right effort), which you had noticed just before (right mindfulness). So you're using two of the N8P right there.. The fetters themselves manifest as mind-objects - I think trying to distinguish between mind-objects and mind-states is unnecessarily complicating matters - especially since the suttas never tell you to. If you want to dig deeper, I'd recommend getting into Sense Restraint (indriya saṃvara).. The stock passage found everywhere in the canon is:

"On seeing a form with the eye, do not grasp at any theme or details by which — if you were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail you. Practice for its restraint. Guard the faculty of the eye. Secure your restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye.
"On hearing a sound with the ear...
"On smelling an aroma with the nose...
"On tasting a flavor with the tongue...
"On touching a tactile sensation with the body...
"On cognizing an idea with the intellect..."
From SN 35.199: Kumma Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)

Hope this helps.

SDC wrote:Where is the difference between satipatthana(mindfulness) and right effort? I know satipatthana is a method and that right effort is intended to be a quality of practice. Both are part of the noble eightfold path, and they have similar descriptions. Because in the process I described...I attended to the body, to the sensation (feeling), to state of mind, and then, if I stay calm enough, I attend to the view (thought/mind object). To clarify specifically what I mean in mind object contemplation; "he knows the mind, knows the mind object (my attachment to the belief) and the fetter that arises dependent on the two. He knows how the un-arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the abandonment of an arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the non-arising of the the abandon fetter comes about" Is that also right effort, in which I would be "striving to overcome evil unwholesome mental states that have arisen" or "preventing the arising of un-arisen evil unwholesome mental states?" Hopefully someone could clear this up. I have read a decent amount on mindfulness and "right effort" seems very straight forward. Just a bit confused. All quotes are from the Mahasatipatthana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, the Maurice Walshe translation.

(***Edit (10 minutes later)- Perhaps my confusion is that the mind object contemplation in sattipatthana has to do with fetters and right effort has to do with states of mind? Mind object contemplations is considered more subtle and state of mind is considered more gross? Wow I'm exhausting myself...haha.***)
Last edited by Chula on Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby SDC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 12:09 am

Chula wrote:SDC - :goodpost:

About your question, In a simple sense, mind-object contemplation (dhammānupassanā) in the satipatthāna is about being aware of what thoughts are in your mind. Right effort is what's used to abandon the unskillful thought. An example could be to abandon a thought of ill-will (right effort), which you had noticed just before (right mindfulness). So you're using two of the N8P right there.. The fetters themselves manifest as mind-objects - I think trying to distinguish between mind-objects and mind-states is unnecessarily complicating matters - especially since the suttas never tell you to. If you want to dig deeper, I'd recommend getting into Sense Restraint (indriya saṃvara).. The stock passage found everywhere in the canon is:

"On seeing a form with the eye, do not grasp at any theme or details by which — if you were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail you. Practice for its restraint. Guard the faculty of the eye. Secure your restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye.
"On hearing a sound with the ear...
"On smelling an aroma with the nose...
"On tasting a flavor with the tongue...
"On touching a tactile sensation with the body...
"On cognizing an idea with the intellect..."
From SN 35.199: Kumma Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)

Hope this helps.

SDC wrote:Where is the difference between satipatthana(mindfulness) and right effort? I know satipatthana is a method and that right effort is intended to be a quality of practice. Both are part of the noble eightfold path, and they have similar descriptions. Because in the process I described...I attended to the body, to the sensation (feeling), to state of mind, and then, if I stay calm enough, I attend to the view (thought/mind object). To clarify specifically what I mean in mind object contemplation; "he knows the mind, knows the mind object (my attachment to the belief) and the fetter that arises dependent on the two. He knows how the un-arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the abandonment of an arisen fetter comes about, and he knows how the non-arising of the the abandon fetter comes about" Is that also right effort, in which I would be "striving to overcome evil unwholesome mental states that have arisen" or "preventing the arising of un-arisen evil unwholesome mental states?" Hopefully someone could clear this up. I have read a decent amount on mindfulness and "right effort" seems very straight forward. Just a bit confused. All quotes are from the Mahasatipatthana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, the Maurice Walshe translation.

(***Edit (10 minutes later)- Perhaps my confusion is that the mind object contemplation in sattipatthana has to do with fetters and right effort has to do with states of mind? Mind object contemplations is considered more subtle and state of mind is considered more gross? Wow I'm exhausting myself...haha.***)


Thanks for the kind words, Chula. And thanks you for your response. That distinguishes the meaning. The two are interwoven and nicely compliment each other. I just never had the chance to ask what others thought.

What I meant by state of mind was "contemplation of mind". Which in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta specifically states is to be practiced separate from "contemplation of mind objects." State of mind or mood is usually not a common translation so my apologies if that was confusing.
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby xinuflux » Thu Dec 24, 2009 1:46 pm

I've found noting the dukkha that forces posture changes very useful. Ajahn Naeb describes it in
Jack Kornfield's book http://books.google.com/books?id=8InEkEp5FtEC&lpg=PP1&pg=PT153#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Metta
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Re: How to contemplate dukkha

Postby Grindle's Grindis » Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:51 pm

Besides looking at it in terms of breaking it up into the khandas, one thing you can do is to experience the suffering fully. Don't fight it or try and get rid of it, but instead open your heart/citta to it completely. Where the khanda investigation is active, this is a passive form, and both can be useful. If you keep listening and feeling, instead of resisting and trying to "solve" suffering, you can really let go in a natural way. The suffering has nothing resisting it, so it starts to release itself. You just keep opening and letting go in a very subtle way. Good luck!
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