Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

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Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

:reading:

I enjoy suttas that serve as a reminder of harsh truths. A comfortable lay life has always been a red flag for me, and the intoxication spoken about here in AN 3.39 is certainly a good contemplation for anyone suspicious of too much comfort. There is always that other side no matter how good it seems.

Enjoy. :smile:
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📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

:reading:


Aṅguttara Nikāya
Sukhumālasutta (Delicate Lifestyle) AN 3.39 (AN i 145)
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


  • Bhikkhus, I was delicately nurtured, most delicately nurtured, extremely delicately nurtured. At my father’s residence lotus ponds were made just for my enjoyment: in one of them blue lotuses bloomed, in another red lotuses, and in a third white lotuses. I used no sandalwood unless it came from Kāsi and my headdress, jacket, lower garment, and upper garment were made of cloth from Kāsi. By day and by night a white canopy was held over me so that cold and heat, dust, grass, and dew would not settle on me.

    “I had three mansions: one for the winter, one for the summer, and one for the rainy season. I spent the four months of the rains in the rainy-season mansion, being entertained by musicians, none of whom were male, and I did not leave the mansion. While in other people’s homes slaves, workers, and servants are given broken rice together with sour gruel for their meals, in my father’s residence they were given choice hill rice, meat, and boiled rice.

    (1) “Amid such splendor and a delicate life, it occurred to me: ‘An uninstructed worldling, though himself subject to old age, not exempt from old age, feels repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when he sees another who is old, overlooking his own situation. Now I too am subject to old age and am not exempt from old age. Such being the case, if I were to feel repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when seeing another who is old, that would not be proper for me.’ When I reflected thus, my intoxication with youth was completely abandoned.

    (2) “Again, it occurred to me: ‘An uninstructed worldling, though himself subject to illness, not exempt from illness, feels repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when he sees another who is ill, overlooking his own situation. Now I too am subject to illness and am not exempt from illness. Such being the case, if I were to feel repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when seeing another who is ill, that would not be proper for me.’ When I reflected thus, my intoxication with health was completely abandoned.

    (3) “Again, it occurred to me: ‘An uninstructed worldling, though himself subject to death, not exempt from death, feels repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when he sees another who has died, overlooking his own situation. Now I too am subject to death and am not exempt from death. Such being the case, if I were to feel repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when seeing another who has died, that would not be proper for me.’ When I reflected thus, my intoxication with life was completely abandoned.

    “There are, bhikkhus, these three kinds of intoxication. What three? Intoxication with youth, intoxication with health, and intoxication with life. (1) An uninstructed worldling, intoxicated with youth, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. With the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell. (2) An uninstructed worldling, intoxicated with health, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. With the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell. (3) An uninstructed worldling, intoxicated with life, engages in misconduct by body, speech, and mind. With the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell.

    “Intoxicated with youth, a bhikkhu gives up the training and reverts to the lower life; or intoxicated with health, he gives up the training and reverts to the lower life; or intoxicated with life, he gives up the training and reverts to the lower life.

    “Worldlings subject to illness,
    old age, and death, are disgusted
    by other people who exist
    in accordance with their nature.

    “If I were to become disgusted
    with beings who have such a nature,
    that would not be proper for me
    since I too have the same nature.

    “While I was dwelling thus,
    having known the state without acquisitions,
    I overcame all intoxications—
    intoxication with health,
    with youth, and with life—
    having seen security in renunciation.

    “Zeal then arose in me
    as I clearly saw nibbāna.
    Now I am incapable
    of indulging in sensual pleasures.
    Relying on the spiritual life,
    never will I turn back.”
    • End of AN 3.39
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📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

Thoughts?
  • Do life, health and youth as “intoxication” obscure the counterparts of death, illness and old age?
  • The second verse where there is mention of being disgusted by other living beings (pāṇa) who are in accordance with the nature of being either old, sick or dead: what’s interesting is that there are instructions elsewhere in the suttas to contemplate this nature to become dispassionate, but I guess it is critical that it is not misapplied, i.e. one must not overlook it as their “own situation”; instead of being repelled or disgusted by having to see this nature in another, discern the body as factually unattractive/not worth cherishing?
  • The common view is that health and youth are safe, but in the verse portion above it is renunciation that is described as security (khematā). Very potent distinction.
  • In the final verse it is described that the knowledge made him incapable of indulging in sensuality. Perhaps this is a good reminder that the capacity to indulge is a sign of being intoxicated?
Looking forward to hearing from everyone. :smile:
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by sunnat »

' life, health and youth as “intoxication” ' - incorrect. - it is intoxication 'with' ... Not 'as'.

That which is abandoned or renounced is the underlying tendency to crave or be ignorant (tendency to be intoxicated, be heedless) in relation to feelings, sensations, with regards to such states as youth, health and life. In this way, by craving and ignoring, the realities of old age, illness and death could be said to be obscured.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

For the moment, I'm struck by the apparent importance of "would not be proper for me" as an element in his losing the intoxications (it is stated in each case of being repelled and again in the closing verses). It is not said, for example, that it would not be logical, or that merely seeing one's own inescapable aging, sickness and death results in losing the intoxication. Rather than abstraction, it is presented in a social context of propriety and reaction to another. Interesting. Seems related to hiri and ottappa as elements of the path.

Edit to add: This theme of propriety seems to be related to the earlier mention of treating the servants well. It seems likely that Gotama was raised in a household where propriety was a value, so this value becomes a helpful influence/condition on his path a way from intoxication.
Last edited by JohnK on Sun May 30, 2021 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by Bundokji »

The nature of intoxication is that it provides a short lived pleasurable abode which is usually followed by a bad hang over. Sensual experience is not separate from the idea of merit/credit. This seems to be inline with how kamma operates. Experiencing life, youth and good health can be considered a good kamma, but they are subject to impermanence nonetheless. Practicing restrain at a young age can be considered as maintaining the credit to when its mostly needed. On the other hand, impermanence is a double edged sword. If we are completely future oriented, then we risk losing the whole credit without using it (opportunity cost) such as in the case of premature death. Nature seems to continue with its usual economy, and humans try to find ways of maximizing the value of their existence in the world.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

This thread has been a bit quiet.
This sutta takes the 5th precept to a more subtle level. Intoxication (and its associated heedlessness) is not just brought about by intoxicating substances, but also by, let's call it, "careless attention" to old age, sickness, and death -- there is something very beautiful in that extension of our rather crude notions of intoxication.

Regarding, intoxication with life: I recall an old statement "I don't need drugs, I'm high on life." Hmm. Wholesome or Unwholesome? I don't think "high on life" was meant to involve heedlessness or denial of the reality of one's own death. I think it was more of a statement of joy and appreciation (dare I use the loaded word "delight?") with life. So I think it is different from what the sutta is talking about.
Ah, but where might there nevertheless be an unwholesome too much joy and delight, a grasping joy and delight? That joy and delight is often in relation to the world perceived by the senses -- danger! Is there an appreciation of life that is free of grasping?
Just some thoughts triggered by the sutta and recollection of an old statement.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by asahi »

Intoxication (drinks) in my first experience numbs the senses hence the lost of sense of self or out of the world to forget about the suffering world . Other than that it gives you false confidence or a fallacious sense of goodness .
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

Another expression related to intoxication with life is the French "joie de vivre." It is used (even in English) to describe someone who enjoys life. Someone with "joie de vivre" could be intoxicated with sense pleasure (and heedless), but is this necessarily so? Is there a a "joie de vivre" that is not intoxicated and heedless -- a wholesome joie de vivre? Just for example, how about a monk who has great energy and enjoys sweeping a path (and other such activities) -- does he have "joie de vivre?" Joy is sometimes used to translate the awakening factor of piti -- but is that a very limited and specific joy?
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

JohnK wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 4:56 pm Another expression related to intoxication with life is the French "joie de vivre." It is used (even in English) to describe someone who enjoys life. Someone with "joie de vivre" could be intoxicated with sense pleasure (and heedless), but is this necessarily so? Is there a a "joie de vivre" that is not intoxicated and heedless -- a wholesome joie de vivre? Just for example, how about a monk who has great energy and enjoys sweeping a path (and other such activities) -- does he have "joie de vivre?" Joy is sometimes used to translate the awakening factor of piti -- but is that a very limited and specific joy?
This is an interesting sutta: SN 36.31

I think I’ve said this before: it seems there is bliss on both ends of ignorance.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

Bundokji wrote: Sun May 30, 2021 7:02 pm Experiencing life, youth and good health can be considered a good kamma, but they are subject to impermanence nonetheless. Practicing restrain at a young age can be considered as maintaining the credit to when its mostly needed.
Interesting post, B!

It is only a certain relatively short period where one can cash in on sensual pleasures, but that same period - where the faculties are strong - is ironically when one is most likely to make strides towards developing in Dhamma. Access to sensuality is lost when the body begins to deteriorate, but that loss is not the same as abandoning it when it is still very much available. So while you can cash in on a comfortable life and enjoy it, you may find your investment has run out along with the body and now there you are old and sick and nothing works right anymore. And instead of having done the work of restraint and discernment, you’re without the capability to understand what it would have meant to say no to the senses when they were sharp and clear.

That ship has sailed at that point, and instead of having gotten on, you stayed at the beautiful dockside resort and enjoyed yourself. The next wandering may land you not only where there is no ship, but there also may be no resort. Scary thought.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

SDC wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:07 pm This is an interesting sutta: SN 36.31
Thanks for pointing to that sutta.
Interesting that joy and happiness based on sense contact, while presumably lesser, is not described there as unwholesome.
It also does not say that one who is liberated no longer experiences joy and happiness based on sense contact. So this type of joy/happiness may not necessarily entail intoxication and heedlessness.
Interesting to consider how the joy and happiness based on sense contact might differ for one who is liberated vs. one who is not, for example, enjoying a pleasant sight w/o any clinging/identification/appropriation.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by JohnK »

SDC wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:19 pm ...That ship has sailed at that point, and instead of having gotten on, you stayed at the beautiful dockside resort and enjoyed yourself. The next wandering may land you not only where there is no ship, but there also may be no resort. Scary thought.
Good metaphor and powerful.
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by SDC »

JohnK wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 6:41 pm
SDC wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:19 pm ...That ship has sailed at that point, and instead of having gotten on, you stayed at the beautiful dockside resort and enjoyed yourself. The next wandering may land you not only where there is no ship, but there also may be no resort. Scary thought.
Good metaphor and powerful.
:anjali:
I made it up on the spot and terrified myself!
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Re: 📍Delicate and Intoxicated, Sukhumālasutta AN 3.39 (Week of May 30, 2021)

Post by Pulsar »

JohnK wrote
SDC wrote: ↑Wed Jun 02, 2021 12:07 pm
This is an interesting sutta: SN 36.31
Thanks for pointing to that sutta.
Interesting that joy and happiness based on sense contact, while presumably lesser, is not described there as unwholesome.
Where in the sutta is it described "as not unwholesome?"
I find your comment thought provoking, and interesting. How exactly would you define the word wholesome. I am merely trying to understand "wholesome" better, MN 137 writes (If I can drag it into the conversation with OP's permission). Equanimity based on Household life means connected with cords of sensual pleasure
That sutta also writes
"Based on renunciation" means connected with insight.
Based on this excerpt, my understanding was that anything based on household life (meaning cords of sensual pleasure, or sensory world)is unwholesome. Am I wrong?
To be wholesome it needs to be connected with insight, I thought.
Pl. correct me if I am wrong.
You also wrote
It also does not say that one who is liberated no longer experiences joy and happiness based on sense contact.
Where in the sutta does it say that? Pl clarify.

Dearest SDC, I find this sutta study, very useful, in expanding my understanding, so thank you, but if you think it is inappropriate to drag in another sutta, pl. ignore my comment.
With love :candle:
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