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Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?

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Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Edralis 6/17/19 9:40 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Chris Marti 6/17/19 12:14 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 6/17/19 2:08 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 6/17/19 1:53 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 6/17/19 2:47 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Monsoon Frog 6/28/19 4:17 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 6/20/19 7:36 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Chris Marti 6/28/19 4:35 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Monsoon Frog 7/5/19 4:44 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? J C 7/5/19 5:05 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 7/11/19 8:07 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? J C 7/12/19 5:45 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 7/18/19 3:36 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 7/19/19 12:07 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? james 6/20/19 7:54 PM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? terry 6/28/19 10:16 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? pieva 7/6/19 5:46 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Ernest Michael Olmos 7/12/19 9:44 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? pieva 7/20/19 6:19 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? pieva 7/20/19 9:44 AM
RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 7/20/19 8:04 AM
This will be a long one. Not a technical question about Buddhism in particular, but a more general request for advice about deep, intractable existential problems. 

27/F. Struggling long-term with anxiety, eating disorders (anorexia, binge eating disorder for over ten years now), OCD; general existential/spiritual unease/suffering.  My anxieties and eating problems seem to stem from my deeply internalized desire for perfection, total self-control, purity, and liberation from "low pleasures". But I've been battling with myself for over ten years now, always succumbing to "low" things that this perfection-seeking part of me desires to be freed from (i.e. desire for low things like sweets and "low" entertainment), and feeling guilty and ashamed for it. And when I feel bad about myself, I tend to fill in the pain and emptiness with orgies/spikes of sensual pleasure, guilty and shameful.  And I honestly do not know what to do about that. 

It seems I could either go down the road of total renunciation: simply, to set myself clear boundaries that I will *never* indulge in e.g. any sweet food again, and reject any sensual pleasure. I’ve always been hoping that I can learn to stop after a piece of chocolate, say. But a piece of chocolate only increases my craving, and then I can’t stop – but I think it might be because deep inside, I believe that indulgence in sensual pleasure is wrong, and so after even the smallest piece of chocolate, I’d already made myself impure, and I’d start feeling unworthy and guilty, and so seek comfort, even though only for a short while, in more food.  So if I decide to go down this path, how do I keep myself motivated to stick with my resolutions? Because so far, I've *always* lost the battle, in the end. How do I attain self-control, how do I keep myself strong to resist the temptation to indulge? I have no idea. It works for a while – until it doesn’t. It is a roller coaster of resisting for a while, feeling nice and pure and motivated to work on myself – and then I crash and feel wrong, weak, shameful, guilty, and hopeless. And I *want* to feel that way, because I believe it is only right after I’ve failed so badly, again. I’m in control of my action – and I choose to go against myself, I *choose* to pursue low pleasure –, yet at the same time I feel totally unhinged, unfree, *not* in control, because of the internal conflict (A part of me wants x, another part of me wants ~x.). 

The other road would be to somehow learn to "integrate" the pleasure, to accept the shadowy parts of me, to learn to not see pleasure as disordered and wrong. I do not know how to do that, either, though.  It seems to me that Buddhism (especially Theravada?) ultimately recommends the first path: that ultimately it is better to reject all sensual pleasure. And yes, I do want that, but when I attempt to do that, I find myself mired even more deeply in sensual pleasure (there always comes a moment where I succumb to temptation), and feeling horrible for being weak and not in control of myself (even though, of course, I *am* in control of myself throughout – I choose to go against myself, of my own free will. mind boggles, but I do.). I want to not care about these things, not desire them, not miss them – but I do.  (I think tantra, if I understand it correctly, takes a different approach: that sensual pleasure is not “disordered”, that it should not be rejected, that there is insight to be had through it? I’m not sure.) 

Honestly, I am confused by all of this – all the different spiritual paths, frameworks, narratives, starting points and axioms. And I am confused by myself, by where all this struggle comes from, what it means, and what should I do with it. I want to do what is true and good, very, very much: I want to learn, I want to be a good person; I do not care about not suffering as much as I care about simply doing what is right, about learning what is true; about becoming what I am “supposed” to be – even if it should hurt!  But I do not know what to do. I would like to find a path that works for me – but first and foremost, I do not want to believe anything that isn’t true. But it seems to me all paths can be questioned, all paths are ultimately limited somehow; all paths are blind to some parts of reality. It seems to me there is “truth” to both the ascetic path, and the hedonist one – that there is certain value and insight in both of them, and that they work for different people.

The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha – so to speak – but which part of reality you decide to focus on creates the framework of how you then actually perceive that world, it *constructs* your world.  For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it. (Instead of the truth of dukkha.) When you learn about dukkha, then you start practicing with that understanding in mind, and you create the experience for yourself that validates your belief in dukkha. But what if the starting narrative was “actually, all being, all phenomena, are perfect as they are”? That pain is exquisite, and decaying bodies are beautiful, and grief is ecstasy? It seems to me, from that place, the “truth” you would glean about reality would be much different than from the situation when your starting place is dukkha. So, which approach is true? It seems to me: none – they are the starting axioms that allow you to experience, to be, differently. How do I choose which narrative to be guided by? All paths have arguments and proponents – and all paths can be questioned and do not work for some people. So who do I trust? Which path should I choose to test? 

For a more concrete example: I have friends who are polyamorous and indulge in casual sex; and I have friends who are strictly monogamous and “chaste”. Which path is for me? How do I know? I want to do what is “good” and “true”. But how do I know what is true? How do I know what is “good”? I suffer a lot if I indulge in sensual pleasure – but that is because I believe that I should suffer for it, because I believe that indulgence in sensual pleasure is wrong. Whereas people who do not believe this do not suffer for it. They just indulge! So – should I stop believing that sensual pleasure is wrong, or should I stop engaging in sensual pleasure? (And *how* do I do it?)  Is it truly that some things are good for some, and wrong for others, or is it that even though some things might “work” for some, in the end they will turn out to be wrong? Is e.g. my desire to be chaste only a result of a neurotic fear of being judged by others as unworthy, and an unhealthy obsession with”purity” and aversion towards and rejection of “low” things? Is it my quest in life to learn to accept these “low” things, or should I continue on towards purity and perfection? Or is it truly “good” to be chaste, and is my preference actually deeply wise? Do I need to liberate myself from obsolete and neurotic ideas that one should rein in their passions until they find their one true partner, or should I instead battle my neurosis by letting my passions out? Is renunciation just a neurotic suppression? Or is it actually something deeply valuable? I do not know.  It is my deep desire in life to find a partner and be a mother and have a stable domestic life; and to learn and grow, and to be a good person. But are all these desires “true and good”, genuine? Aren’t they the result of a neurotic desire to be perfect? What if I only want these things because I worry that people will judge me and that I will be punished if I am not good, and so I am not ultimately motivated by care for others, but by selfishness? What if it is actually my “quest in life” to learn to accept sensuality and imperfection, and allow myself to be passionate and indulgent? I do not know. I know that I want to do what is “good”, but I don’t even know what that means. 

Different people have different opinions; all offer good arguments; on all sides there are people who swear their lives are better for their choice. And, desiring to figure out how things *truly* are, I cannot just pick one path and go down that road – I need to first make sure that it is truly true, truly right. But so far, it seems to me all paths can be questioned, and I have doubts about everything.  So: I do not know what to do, and I remain in a sort of limbo, stumbling from day to day, up and down. 

Any advice would be very much appreciated. 
Thank you.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/17/19 12:14 PM as a reply to Edralis.
Are you now or have you ever seen a therapist?

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/17/19 1:53 PM as a reply to Edralis.
Edralis:
This will be a long one. Not a technical question about Buddhism in particular, but a more general request for advice about deep, intractable existential problems. 

27/F. Struggling long-term with anxiety, eating disorders (anorexia, binge eating disorder for over ten years now), OCD; general existential/spiritual unease/suffering.  My anxieties and eating problems seem to stem from my deeply internalized desire for perfection, total self-control, purity, and liberation from "low pleasures". But I've been battling with myself for over ten years now, always succumbing to "low" things that this perfection-seeking part of me desires to be freed from (i.e. desire for low things like sweets and "low" entertainment), and feeling guilty and ashamed for it. And when I feel bad about myself, I tend to fill in the pain and emptiness with orgies/spikes of sensual pleasure, guilty and shameful.  And I honestly do not know what to do about that. 

It seems I could either go down the road of total renunciation: simply, to set myself clear boundaries that I will *never* indulge in e.g. any sweet food again, and reject any sensual pleasure. I’ve always been hoping that I can learn to stop after a piece of chocolate, say. But a piece of chocolate only increases my craving, and then I can’t stop – but I think it might be because deep inside, I believe that indulgence in sensual pleasure is wrong, and so after even the smallest piece of chocolate, I’d already made myself impure, and I’d start feeling unworthy and guilty, and so seek comfort, even though only for a short while, in more food.  So if I decide to go down this path, how do I keep myself motivated to stick with my resolutions? Because so far, I've *always* lost the battle, in the end. How do I attain self-control, how do I keep myself strong to resist the temptation to indulge? I have no idea. It works for a while – until it doesn’t. It is a roller coaster of resisting for a while, feeling nice and pure and motivated to work on myself – and then I crash and feel wrong, weak, shameful, guilty, and hopeless. And I *want* to feel that way, because I believe it is only right after I’ve failed so badly, again. I’m in control of my action – and I choose to go against myself, I *choose* to pursue low pleasure –, yet at the same time I feel totally unhinged, unfree, *not* in control, because of the internal conflict (A part of me wants x, another part of me wants ~x.). 

The other road would be to somehow learn to "integrate" the pleasure, to accept the shadowy parts of me, to learn to not see pleasure as disordered and wrong. I do not know how to do that, either, though.  It seems to me that Buddhism (especially Theravada?) ultimately recommends the first path: that ultimately it is better to reject all sensual pleasure. And yes, I do want that, but when I attempt to do that, I find myself mired even more deeply in sensual pleasure (there always comes a moment where I succumb to temptation), and feeling horrible for being weak and not in control of myself (even though, of course, I *am* in control of myself throughout – I choose to go against myself, of my own free will. mind boggles, but I do.). I want to not care about these things, not desire them, not miss them – but I do.  (I think tantra, if I understand it correctly, takes a different approach: that sensual pleasure is not “disordered”, that it should not be rejected, that there is insight to be had through it? I’m not sure.) 

Honestly, I am confused by all of this – all the different spiritual paths, frameworks, narratives, starting points and axioms. And I am confused by myself, by where all this struggle comes from, what it means, and what should I do with it. I want to do what is true and good, very, very much: I want to learn, I want to be a good person; I do not care about not suffering as much as I care about simply doing what is right, about learning what is true; about becoming what I am “supposed” to be – even if it should hurt!  But I do not know what to do. I would like to find a path that works for me – but first and foremost, I do not want to believe anything that isn’t true. But it seems to me all paths can be questioned, all paths are ultimately limited somehow; all paths are blind to some parts of reality. It seems to me there is “truth” to both the ascetic path, and the hedonist one – that there is certain value and insight in both of them, and that they work for different people.

The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha – so to speak – but which part of reality you decide to focus on creates the framework of how you then actually perceive that world, it *constructs* your world.  For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it. (Instead of the truth of dukkha.) When you learn about dukkha, then you start practicing with that understanding in mind, and you create the experience for yourself that validates your belief in dukkha. But what if the starting narrative was “actually, all being, all phenomena, are perfect as they are”? That pain is exquisite, and decaying bodies are beautiful, and grief is ecstasy? It seems to me, from that place, the “truth” you would glean about reality would be much different than from the situation when your starting place is dukkha. So, which approach is true? It seems to me: none – they are the starting axioms that allow you to experience, to be, differently. How do I choose which narrative to be guided by? All paths have arguments and proponents – and all paths can be questioned and do not work for some people. So who do I trust? Which path should I choose to test? 

For a more concrete example: I have friends who are polyamorous and indulge in casual sex; and I have friends who are strictly monogamous and “chaste”. Which path is for me? How do I know? I want to do what is “good” and “true”. But how do I know what is true? How do I know what is “good”? I suffer a lot if I indulge in sensual pleasure – but that is because I believe that I should suffer for it, because I believe that indulgence in sensual pleasure is wrong. Whereas people who do not believe this do not suffer for it. They just indulge! So – should I stop believing that sensual pleasure is wrong, or should I stop engaging in sensual pleasure? (And *how* do I do it?)  Is it truly that some things are good for some, and wrong for others, or is it that even though some things might “work” for some, in the end they will turn out to be wrong? Is e.g. my desire to be chaste only a result of a neurotic fear of being judged by others as unworthy, and an unhealthy obsession with”purity” and aversion towards and rejection of “low” things? Is it my quest in life to learn to accept these “low” things, or should I continue on towards purity and perfection? Or is it truly “good” to be chaste, and is my preference actually deeply wise? Do I need to liberate myself from obsolete and neurotic ideas that one should rein in their passions until they find their one true partner, or should I instead battle my neurosis by letting my passions out? Is renunciation just a neurotic suppression? Or is it actually something deeply valuable? I do not know.  It is my deep desire in life to find a partner and be a mother and have a stable domestic life; and to learn and grow, and to be a good person. But are all these desires “true and good”, genuine? Aren’t they the result of a neurotic desire to be perfect? What if I only want these things because I worry that people will judge me and that I will be punished if I am not good, and so I am not ultimately motivated by care for others, but by selfishness? What if it is actually my “quest in life” to learn to accept sensuality and imperfection, and allow myself to be passionate and indulgent? I do not know. I know that I want to do what is “good”, but I don’t even know what that means. 

Different people have different opinions; all offer good arguments; on all sides there are people who swear their lives are better for their choice. And, desiring to figure out how things *truly* are, I cannot just pick one path and go down that road – I need to first make sure that it is truly true, truly right. But so far, it seems to me all paths can be questioned, and I have doubts about everything.  So: I do not know what to do, and I remain in a sort of limbo, stumbling from day to day, up and down. 

Any advice would be very much appreciated. 
Thank you.


aloha edralis,

   Great letter. Mahalo.

   You ask for both insight and advice. That is, where to go and how to get there.

   You are alienated from yourself. You seek integration, self-acceptance. Love.

   You are obsessed with desire: you want it all. You are bewildered by choices, confused. Which way do I go, and to where? You frame this as an existential problem, and you are right. It is not really about which way or where. We must consider who, and why. 

   Rumi likened the process of becoming a real, integrated person to the making of a coin. First you learn to recognize gold, then where to find it, then how to extract it. You slowly accumulate small amounts of gold until you have enough to receive the impress of the king. He also said that the existence of counterfeit coins proves that real coins must exist. (Gresham's law.)

   The desire to be perfect is neurotic, but understandable. The soul is perfect, and knows it. The ego, the result of social conditioning, is always deficient. Guilt is pathological, and leads to self hate, which leads to repression, denial, and confusion. The root here is the scattered self; as the yi jing says, "sincerity towards disintegrating influences is dangerous." You tend to think it is the good and evil in your self that are the problem, but this is incorrect. The problem is splitting yourself into multiple selves, starting with the one who observes and judges and condemns as opposed to the self you are judging. Then there is the self who wants to be a renunciate as opposed to the self who wants to be a swinger as opposed to the self who wants to be a chaste mother and so on. Confusion leads to bad choices which lead to more bad choices.

   Fundamental sincerity is required if you want to settle down and be yourself. Begin by dropping things you really don't care about, things you know are bad for you and you aren't all that attached to. Tobacco, meat, alcohol, televison, friends who lead you astray, goals you have no real desire to actually achieve. Get used to giving things up, gradually. Save sex and chocolate for last. It is not objects you are giving up but attachments; the goal is non-attachment, freedom, peace. 

   It is a long slow road, and any success arouses envy, jealousy and hatred. You will be lonely and misunderstood. Find peace in perseverance. There are no shortcuts. Insight is easy, it is living that is hard. 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.

   No one can tell you how to live, no more than tell a flower how to grow, a bird to fly, a fish to swim. Exit the funhouse hall of mirrors and see the whole world as your mind. Forget good and evil; be kind to the cruel, caring of the foresaken, impassioned with the apathetic, joyful with the sad. Don't try to make yourself happy, that only increases your obsession. Try to make others happy, and accept what happiness and love comes your way with humility and gratitude. Look for beauty and beauty will look for you. And the truth: the truth is rumi's gold. The ready cash of the spiritual world. Get into a positive flow and that flow will carry you.

   They won't tell you this in the scriptures, but the 8fold path is essentially for old men. Zen is for boys. Muhammed, peace be upon him, said there are no old women in paradise; they have to become young and beautiful first. Don't seek to be other than the beautiful young woman you are. Don't ask the old men how to be. Inspire us! Light our fires! Shake off your conditioning, find the gold among the dross, and shine!

   You are the world. God bless you.


terry



from the rubaiyat of omar khayyam, trans fitzgerald


VII 
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring 
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling: 
The Bird of Time has but a little way 
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing. 


VIII 
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, 
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, 
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, 
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one. 


XI 
With me along the strip of Herbage strown 
That just divides the desert from the sown, 
Where name of Slave and Sultan is forgot-- 
And Peace to Mahmud on his golden Throne! 


XII 
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- 
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! 


XIII 
Some for the Glories of This World; and some 
Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come; 
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, 
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum! 


XIV 
Look to the blowing Rose about us--"Lo, 
Laughing," she says, "into the world I blow, 
At once the silken tassel of my Purse 
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw." 


XV 
And those who husbanded the Golden grain, 
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain, 
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd 
As, buried once, Men want dug up again. 


XVI 
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon 
Turns Ashes--or it prospers; and anon, 
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face, 
Lighting a little hour or two--is gone. 


XVII 
Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai 
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day, 
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp 
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way. 


XXI 
Ah, my Belov'ed fill the Cup that clears 
To-day Past Regrets and Future Fears: 
To-morrow!--Why, To-morrow I may be 
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years. 



XXIV 
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
Before we too into the Dust descend; 
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! 

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/17/19 2:08 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Are you now or have you ever seen a therapist?


    I refuse to answer on the grounds that my answer might tend to incriminate me.

   ("Mr mccarthy, have you no shame?")

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/17/19 2:47 PM as a reply to terry.
You're Beautiful As You Feel
(carole king)

You've got to get up every morning
With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful, as you feel
Waiting at the station with a workday wind a-blowing
I've got nothing to do but watch the passers-by
Mirrored in their faces I see frustration growing
And they don't see it showing, why do I?
You've got to get up every morning
With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful as you feel
I have often asked myself the reason for sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there's any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try
You've got to get up every morning
With a smile in your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes you will
That you're beautiful
You're beautiful
You're beautiful as you feel

Songwriters: Carole King

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/28/19 4:17 PM as a reply to Edralis.
Edralis:

The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha – so to speak – but which part of reality you decide to focus on creates the framework of how you then actually perceive that world, it *constructs* your world.  For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it. (Instead of the truth of dukkha.) When you learn about dukkha, then you start practicing with that understanding in mind, and you create the experience for yourself that validates your belief in dukkha. But what if the starting narrative was “actually, all being, all phenomena, are perfect as they are”? That pain is exquisite, and decaying bodies are beautiful, and grief is ecstasy? It seems to me, from that place, the “truth” you would glean about reality would be much different than from the situation when your starting place is dukkha. So, which approach is true? It seems to me: none – they are the starting axioms that allow you to experience, to be, differently. How do I choose which narrative to be guided by? All paths have arguments and proponents – and all paths can be questioned and do not work for some people. So who do I trust? Which path should I choose to test? 


I don't have answers your questions, but regarding your proposition: "The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha....For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it"...

The Buddha was someone who subscribed to "the glass is half empty" view of the world?

Disregarding for a moment those who practice 'forced positivity' it's an interesting proposition and I'm curious to read the results and experiences of practitioners who assume an alternative 'Noble Truth' that all life and phenomenon are satisfactory

I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion which would yield anything substantial regarding your bigger existential questions, psychological proclivities, ideological constructs, or practice challenges other than to suggest the generality that with solid and committed practice along with a willingness and courage to investigate one's consciousness that insights will arise which will point the way at any given time. It's a gradual process of dispelling delusions and letting go. I imagine it’s the same for therapeutic undertakings. You may have to travel into numerous cul-de-sacs, become directed to many detours, and get lost many times along the way … but it’s all the emergence of your path. 

Wishing you the best in your practice.


(Edited for grammar)

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/20/19 7:36 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Monsoon Frog:
Edralis:

The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha – so to speak – but which part of reality you decide to focus on creates the framework of how you then actually perceive that world, it *constructs* your world.  For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it. (Instead of the truth of dukkha.) When you learn about dukkha, then you start practicing with that understanding in mind, and you create the experience for yourself that validates your belief in dukkha. But what if the starting narrative was “actually, all being, all phenomena, are perfect as they are”? That pain is exquisite, and decaying bodies are beautiful, and grief is ecstasy? It seems to me, from that place, the “truth” you would glean about reality would be much different than from the situation when your starting place is dukkha. So, which approach is true? It seems to me: none – they are the starting axioms that allow you to experience, to be, differently. How do I choose which narrative to be guided by? All paths have arguments and proponents – and all paths can be questioned and do not work for some people. So who do I trust? Which path should I choose to test? 


I don't have answers your questions, but your proposition: "The truth of dukkha, it seems to me, is as valid as the truth of sukha....For example, it seems as valid to say: actually, beauty and pleasure are inherent in every phenomenon, you just need to learn to see it."

The Buddha was someone who subscribed to "the glass is half empty" view of the world?
Disregarding for a moment those who practice 'forced positivity' it's an interesting proposition and I'm curious to read the results and experiences of practitioners who assume an alternative 'Noble Truth' that all life and phenomenon are satisfactory

I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion which would yield anything substantial regarding your bigger existential questions, psychological proclivities, ideological constructs, or practice challenges, other than to suggest a generality that with solid and committed practice along with a willingness and courage to investigate one's consciousness that insights will arise which will point the way at any given time. It's a gradual process of dispelling delusions and letting go. I imagine it’s the same for  therapeutic undertakings. You may have to travel into numerous cut-de-sacs, become directed to many detours, and get lost many times along the way … but it’s all the emergence of your path. 

Wishing you the best in your practice.


aloha mf,

   The buddha could hardly say the truths: all of life involves sweetness, sweetness results from desire and passion, there is a way to end sweetness, here is the 8fold path to ending sweetness. Though these truths are just as valid, as edralis points out. 

   The buddha knew this perfectly well; indeed his point was that the enjoyment of sweetness involves corresponding dissatisfaction. Desire is something everyone knows and loves: it was his lure. No one wants to be unhappy. Mindfulness, wakefulness, was his aim. Bait and switch. He wanted us to be awake all the time. Ending desire is optional. Your choice.

   I've read the theravadan suttas over and over, and the picture which emerges for me is one of a materialistic society in which lip service was paid to religion and the quest for enlightenment while the reality on the ground was a little different. You had sons who were impatient to take over the family business, and wanted to push grandpa out the door while he was still ambulatory. Get a head start on their rivals. So grandpa's spirituality was flattered and he was sent on his way to be a mendicant monk, and live on handouts. Often the family would supply clothes, bedding and "medical requisites" to their formerly loved ones. The buddha (supposedly) organized, codified and legitimized this practice. No religion survives merely on its truth and spirituality, they all perform some useful social service recognized by government (aka "the law"), or are modified to do so. Exoteric religion is the lead pipe carrying the water of esoteric religion.

terry




from 'the marriage of heaven and hell,' william blake



The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.

For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life; and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/20/19 7:54 PM as a reply to Edralis.
From my experience, and of course this might be different for different minds.

Denying yourself pleasure won`t lead you anywhere. Addictions are way to strong to be fought. Just keep on doing what you are doing, but try to be mindfull about it. Specially the first thoughts that comes on the matter.  But try to watch the thoughts and the cleverness of the thoughts, and how they trick you. Then they will loose their power little by little...But if you are too busy fighting them, you will never see them.

Try to see how many times they reoccur before they win you over. When do you give in? We all do at some point...

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/28/19 10:16 AM as a reply to james.
james:
From my experience, and of course this might be different for different minds.

Denying yourself pleasure won`t lead you anywhere. Addictions are way to strong to be fought. Just keep on doing what you are doing, but try to be mindfull about it. Specially the first thoughts that comes on the matter.  But try to watch the thoughts and the cleverness of the thoughts, and how they trick you. Then they will loose their power little by little...But if you are too busy fighting them, you will never see them.

Try to see how many times they reoccur before they win you over. When do you give in? We all do at some point...

nonsense

addictions have no power, only resistance

we all fight off addictions all the time

no one is tricking you but yourself

most of us are happy with our addictions, which is why we have them

ego tells us we are helpless, so go ahead and indulge

addict yourself to love, to spirit

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
6/28/19 4:35 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
I'm curious to read the results and experiences of practitioners who assume an alternative 'Noble Truth' that all life and phenomenon are satisfactory

One of the foundational teachings of Buddhism and a fundamental characteristic of our perceived reality is that everything experienced carries with it an element of dissatisfaction (this is usually called "suffering"). The other two unavoidable characteristics of reality are impermanence and not-self. So the alternative you propose can't actually be successful and would lead to a very frustrating path. It would be like trying to become a physicist by denying the existence of gravity.

emoticon

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/5/19 4:44 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I'm curious to read the results and experiences of practitioners who assume an alternative 'Noble Truth' that all life and phenomenon are satisfactory

One of the foundational teachings of Buddhism and a fundamental characteristic of our perceived reality is that everything experienced carries with it an element of dissatisfaction (this is usually called "suffering"). The other two unavoidable characteristics of reality are impermanence and not-self. So the alternative you propose can't actually be successful and would lead to a very frustrating path. It would be like trying to become a physicist by denying the existence of gravity.

emoticon

Hi Chris,
Right. Yes of course. No argument. 
However I'd written, "it's an interesting proposition and I'm curious to read the results and experiences of practitioners who assume an alternative 'Noble Truth' that all life and phenomenon are 
satisfactory".
Such assumptions and practices would obviously not be a form of (orthodox) Buddhism, or necessarily even remotely Buddhist. Perhaps Actual Freedom (of which I know very little so this is just throwing practice ideologies against the wall of speculation) approaches such an orientation? Or other forms of liberation practice?

The doctrine that most of my friends appear to subscribe to is some form of Hedonism ... 


RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/5/19 5:05 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Yes AF is essentially this.

There is also an organization called the Option Institute that offers happiness seminars that takes a similar approach. They advocate choosing to be happy at all times.

In both cases the end result often seems to be a sort of denial and repression where people claim to be happy or feeling good but appear to be really fake and dissociated. Spiritual bypassing. Denying reality is never a good idea.

Hedonism, the desire for as much pleasure in your life as you can find, is very different, and a good thing in my view, as long as you accept the fact that there is also suffering and you don't bypass, deny, or repress it.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/6/19 5:46 AM as a reply to Edralis.
I can comment about food only, as I've had a life-long condition and have made some progress. The problem is that you cannot denounce food. Also, you cannot draw a strict line between 'good' and 'bad' foods. So you are a drug addict but you must take a daily dose of drugs. Not easy, I know.

It's not your guilt or unworthiness that tricks you. Blame bad habbits doubled with hormonal imbalances. Good news that you can work on both of them but do not expect a quick fix. It took you long years to develop these habbits, and it will take you quite a few years to change them.

What's most important, work on mindful eating. Your goal is to avoid any eating when you don't even notice that you eat, what you eat, or what it tastes like. Do not eat standing. Do not taste anything from your pan or your plate before you have sat down to eat. Do not check you phone, do not read news on your laptop, do not even watch a telly while eating. Eat slowly, chew properly, think about food texture and taste.

When you crave for a snack, try to resist it. You have an urge to jump up to go to the kitchen cupboard and you stop yourself - and it is a small victory already. You resist another time, it's another small victory. Your brain is not circling the usual habbit loop, and it's not being reinforced. Eventually you cannot overcome the resistance and you get up to get a snack. It's ok. You cannot win all battles immediately but you've on the rigth way.

Choose your battles. Sometimes cravings are so strong you know you cannot resist. Do not figth. Save your will for later. Be kind to yourself. Another day you go past a shop and you wonder whether you should buy your favourite chocolate. Yes. No. Yes. No... If you hesitate, it already means your craving is not so strong - you can win over this bad habbit today and go past the shop.

Try diets, even if you loose eventually. If you try, you work against you habbits. It does not really matter what type of diet, as long as it's not too radical. Diet means conscious action. Be interested in nutrition and make small changes to get 'empty calorie' foods out of your diet. Allow yourself to eat big portions of healthy food - leave less space for junk.

Work to improve hormonal balance. Sport and physical activity is one of the best cures (not to exhaustion though). Spend time outside. Keep yourself busy and engrossed in something. Avoid too much digital distraction. Get a decent sleep.

Meditation retreats give some of the best possibilities to progress quickly. Watch how cravings arise. Be the last in the queue for food. Eat very very slowly and think of nothing but eating.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/11/19 8:07 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:

Hedonism, the desire for as much pleasure in your life as you can find, is very different, and a good thing in my view, as long as you accept the fact that there is also suffering and you don't bypass, deny, or repress it.



aloha jc,

    Hedonism, as devotion to sensual self indulgence, is the antithesis of buddhist philosophy, which emphasizes spiritual values over sensual pleasures.

    The desire for sensual pleasures over spiritual ones is a product of ignorance. I would rather go fishing, say, than attend a lecture by a great saint. Eat ice cream and watch tv instead of sweep the floor and wash the dishes. Sensual pleasure seduces us from duty and health.

   Ego is perfectly capable of assuring us that it is ok to indulge ourselves because we are not repressing, denying or bypassing. We continue being a slave to ego and bad habits.

   Freedom is gained by taking hold of our mass of acknowledged bad habits and indulgences and gradually giving them up one by one until we have no more attachments. I'll be dead before I accomplish this goal, but that's just me. As dogen sayss, "Practice is enlightenment." Samsara is nirvana.

   The hedonists who justify sensual indulgence have yet to experience sufficient spiritual gratification to realize the inherent unsatisfactoriness of sense pleasures. The soul learns at some point in its development to distinguish the brass of carnality from the gold of spirituality.


terry

   
   

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/12/19 5:45 AM as a reply to terry.
I definitely disagree with all of that, Terry, for reasons fully set out in MCTB. In short, awakening is real, and it's not psychological perfection - we never get rid of all our "bad habits." We awaken to the life we're living. There is no distinction between carnality and spirituality - as Daniel puts it in once of his best lines, transcendence from reality is bought at the price of intimacy with reality, and intimacy with reality is bought at the price of transcendence from reality.

Once we're fully enlightened, we no longer experience suffering (aka unsatisfactoriness), but we are still mammals and we still experience pleasure and pain. Even fully enlightened people have preferences and prefer pleasure to pain for themselves and those around them.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/12/19 9:44 AM as a reply to Edralis.
Most of what you are describing are "short term" vs "long term" gains.

For example, if you eat lots of chocolate, you get a "short term" satisfaction, but you may not feel so good after some time.
Also, "casual" sex (short term) vs "relationship" (long term).

Most of this things also involve what I call an "accumulator" like all the pleasures you get somehow are accumulated somewhere or that what you did (and the pleasures you got) somehow exists somewhere.

And then there is doubt about what to do and what you are able to do (what you can and you can't do).

My best advice is to relax, take some time out, do long walks on the open, reflect about your life so far (your family, your history, your decisions, what you have, what you want, what you regret, etc).

Put most of what you are doing on hold (or in autopilot emoticon), and gently try to let the pieces sort together on their own.
And try to be honest but gentle with yourself.

All your ideas about perfection, fears, etc, they are part of you, like your arm or your leg, like everything else.
Like your leg or arm, they are not good or bad in theirselves, they are what they are emoticon.

Also remember that everyone, every human being has doubts and problems. The best you can do is try to solve your own and not worry about what other people are doing so much.

Hope it helps.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/18/19 3:36 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
I definitely disagree with all of that, Terry, for reasons fully set out in MCTB. In short, awakening is real, and it's not psychological perfection - we never get rid of all our "bad habits." We awaken to the life we're living. There is no distinction between carnality and spirituality - as Daniel puts it in once of his best lines, transcendence from reality is bought at the price of intimacy with reality, and intimacy with reality is bought at the price of transcendence from reality.

Once we're fully enlightened, we no longer experience suffering (aka unsatisfactoriness), but we are still mammals and we still experience pleasure and pain. Even fully enlightened people have preferences and prefer pleasure to pain for themselves and those around them.

aloha jc,

   The authority of books and teachers aside...I'm afraid daniel's best line makes no sense to me. Perhaps you could explain what you think he is talking about.

   Getting rid of bad habits is the way, whether we ever succeed or not. It is not a question of "getting rid" of anything, only dropping attachments, through insight. Habits drop away of themselves. As the yi jing says, "Knowing how to become free of blame is the highest good."

   You were defending hedonism, which you don't mention here. My arguments against hedonism, that it is non-buddhist and unsatisfactory, are unanswered.

   You are right, however, that we don't agree. I don't think fully enlightened people have preferences. It would not be unreasonable to me to define "the enlightened person" as one with no preferences. I think the term "enlightened person" is dualistic and hence meaningless in this context anyway. "Preferences" are desires, cravings, from which the enlightened one is liberated, by definition. I assume we are still regarding the buddha's teachings as a framework.

   Pleasure and pain are irrelevant to spirituality. If pleasure is what is, we experience pleasure; if pain is what is, we experience pain. What we prefer, in either case, is god's will, not our own personal experience of pleasure or pain. We are not automatons, ruled by the pleasure principle. We tend to higher goals, transcendent goals, the Good of All, for example. The Beauty of All, the Justness of All. Harmony. Wisdom. Our preferences for these spiritual values are not hedonistic, not based on indulgence in sense pleasures. We may in fact despise sense pleasures, which is another attachment (to "rites and rituals," higher philosophies; spiritual materialism).

   Do "mammals" as such "experience" pleasure and pain in the way you indicate, self-consciously? I don't think so. They could, perhaps, but I think they generally don't. Dumb submission; something we could learn from. The gazelle in the lion's jaws, the mouse in the cat's mouth are at peace, and don't struggle any more. It is god's will.

   You are perfectly welcome to disagree. Only with dialog, with dialectics, can we approach the truth, as an aroma which rises above our efforts.

   
terry

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/19/19 12:07 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
I definitely disagree with all of that, Terry, for reasons fully set out in MCTB. In short, awakening is real, and it's not psychological perfection - we never get rid of all our "bad habits." We awaken to the life we're living. There is no distinction between carnality and spirituality - as Daniel puts it in once of his best lines, transcendence from reality is bought at the price of intimacy with reality, and intimacy with reality is bought at the price of transcendence from reality.

Once we're fully enlightened, we no longer experience suffering (aka unsatisfactoriness), but we are still mammals and we still experience pleasure and pain. Even fully enlightened people have preferences and prefer pleasure to pain for themselves and those around them.


I would say that hedonism is an extreme position, as is socratic dualism...the body should be cared for as one would care for a favored dog or horse...with an eye to the animal's well being...


this from the phaedo (plato) might help provide some context for "how to deal with pleasure"...athenians of the 4th century bce were discussing what we are discussing now, though as socrates was about to take the hemlock, the discussion was more immediate to them...



There is another question, which will probably throw light on our present inquiry if you and I can agree about it:--Ought the philosopher to care about the pleasures--if they are to be called pleasures--of eating and drinking?

Certainly not, answered Simmias.

And what about the pleasures of love--should he care for them?

By no means.

And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body, for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?

I should say that the true philosopher would despise them.

Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to get away from the body and to turn to the soul.

Quite true.

In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the communion of
the body.

Very true.

Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that to him who has no sense of pleasure and no part in bodily pleasure, life is not worth having; and that he who is indifferent about them is as good as dead.

That is also true.

What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge?--is the body, if invited to share in the enquiry, a hinderer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even
they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?--for you will allow that they are the best of them?

Certainly, he replied.

Then when does the soul attain truth?--for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.

True.

Then must not true existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?

Yes.

And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being?

Certainly.

And in this the philosopher dishonours the body; his soul runs away from his body and desires to be alone and by herself?

That is true.

Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice?

Assuredly there is.

And an absolute beauty and absolute good?

Of course.

But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?

Certainly not.

Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense?--and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength,
and of the essence or true nature of everything. Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of each thing which he considers?

Certainly.

And he attains to the purest knowledge of them who goes to each with the mind alone, not introducing or intruding in the act of thought sight
or any other sense together with reason, but with the very light of the mind in her own clearness searches into the very truth of each; he who has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements which when they infect the soul hinder her from acquiring truth and knowledge--who, if not he, is likely to attain the knowledge of true being?

What you say has a wonderful truth in it, Socrates, replied Simmias.

And when real philosophers consider all these things, will they not be led to make a reflection which they will express in words something like the following? 'Have we not found,' they will say, 'a path of thought which seems to bring us and our argument to the conclusion, that while we are in the body, and while the soul is infected with the evils of the body, our desire will not be satisfied? and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and is liable also to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after true being: it fills us full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies of all kinds, and endless foolery, and in fact, as men say, takes away from us the power of thinking at all. Whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and by reason of all these impediments we have no time to give to philosophy; and, last and worst of all, even if we are at leisure and betake ourselves to some speculation, the body is always breaking in upon us, causing turmoil and confusion in our enquiries, and so amazing us that we are prevented from seeing the truth. It has been proved to us by experience that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body--the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, not while we live, but after death; for if while in company with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things follows--either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be parted from the body and exist in herself alone. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible intercourse or communion with the body, and are not surfeited with the bodily nature, but keep ourselves pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And thus having got rid of the foolishness of the body we shall be pure and hold converse with the pure, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere, which is no other than the light of truth.' For the impure are not permitted to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of knowledge cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You would agree; would you not?

Undoubtedly, Socrates.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/20/19 6:19 AM as a reply to Edralis.
One can only advice to succumb to pleasure if they have never battled a harmful addiction themselves. I have often had people saying to me, 'we all like to eat'. True, but for the majority, it causes few problems. For me my food addiction was ruining my life. Edralis would not be writing to this forum if it had not been causing him a problem for the last 10 years. Glucose in blood changes hormonal balance. It affects mood, ability to concentrate, ability to reason, decisiveness, fear level, self-worth, sleep, you name it. All these impact your performance and your relationships. In the long term it seriously affects your health. Do nothing, and you become a helpless slave of your habbits.

Mindfulness and meditation are some of the best tools to work with the habbits. Sports and engaging activities are great to improve hormonal balance and improve resistance to temptations. It is a good idea to understand and accept your own weaknesses if you have been weak. But it is wrong not to try to do anything about it.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/20/19 8:04 AM as a reply to Edralis.
I just remembered that Stephanie Nash has done work on mindfulness and eating and that she comes from a background of dealing with eating disorders. Maybe that would be something to have a look at.

RE: Asking for advice about life – how to deal with pleasure?
Answer
7/20/19 9:44 AM as a reply to pieva.
Forgot to mention, I have tried the path of succumbing and being happy with that. It did not take long to understand that it does not work.

Also, through meditation, you learn to look deeper into what you want and what you fear. You learn to deconstruct questions into questions behind them, questions that lead to the essence, and observe what emotions these questions raise.

Have you tried CBT?