Noting and dukkha

Paul Anthony, modified 12 Years ago at 2/3/11 11:46 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/3/11 11:46 AM

Noting and dukkha

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Hi all,

I wanted to share my experience of noting. I've been noting for about a year. It was difficult at first (because very different from my previous concentration-based practice) but I feel like I'm getting a handle on it now.

My observation is about noting and dukkha, and perhaps it's a comment about insight practice generally. I find that with the noting I'm seeing a lot of quite vivid manifestations of impermanence, on the cushion and in daily life. The impersonality of these manifestations is also pretty clear. The thing is that compared to most of my daily experience, it's pleasant rather then unpleasant and this seems to go against the grain of a lot of the commentary.

For example, when I note 'thinking, thinking', after a short time my thoughts might manifest as a shoal of tiny fish. This is quite a lovely feeling! When I stop practicing and go back to so-called daily life, thoughts might manifest as worry, anxiety and the like. Not so pleasant, in fact, more like the cartoon ten-ton weight on the cranium. So I'm curious about this emphasis on the unpleasantness of insight. Maybe individual experience varies, or it's stage-dependent?

As ever, very grateful for the support of this wonderful community,

Tommy M, modified 12 Years ago at 2/3/11 5:19 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/3/11 5:19 PM

RE: Noting and dukkha

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hi Paul,

It sounds like you've been sticking to good practice and integrating these insights into daily life, something which I don't really see a lot of other people discussing on here. The fact that you're also seeing impermanence and no-self in real-time says a lot about your current practice and demonstrates how effective these techniques are so it's great to see you're getting on well.

You mention experiencing no-self and impermanence as pleasant, which commentaries suggest that these should be experienced in a negative way? My own experience agrees with yours on this one, I've always experienced these insights as nothing less than equanimous although other's experience may differ.

Yes, pretty much everything you'll come across in vipassana is stage-dependant in the sense that it depends which stage of the progress of insight you're in. If you're pre-stream entry, which I suspect you're not given your experience in vipassana and apparent insights that you speak of, then you're going to go through each stage one after the other, in a totally predictable fashion as demonstrated by every practitioner on here, until you attain 1st path. After that, the real fun begins!

If you want some advice, just keep doing what you're doing and examining any sensations which imply a seperate and permanent self. Balance that out with concentration practice to save burning yourself out and you're on your way.

Good luck with everything and welcome to the DhO!

Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 2/22/11 9:01 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/22/11 9:01 PM

RE: Noting and dukkha

Posts: 3265 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Sorry for the late reply, I have been working a lot.

Why the emphasis on suffering?

I can think of a few reasons:

1) Suffering is motivating for practice: if people don't recognize or experience suffering, then they are unlikely to be into this stuff.
2) Suffering is a characteristic whose perception and investigation yields good things, if done well and properly.
3) Suffering shows us things about causality that are very useful.
4) Suffering can show up from practice and it is worth knowing this, as otherwise people get thrown, confused, sidetracked, blindsided, etc. Thus, knowing that certain stages can be markedly unpleasant (3rd ñana, 6th-10th ñanas particularly) can really help people stay on track and realize that this is expected and normal.
5) Pleasant stages can throw people, but not nearly as much or as badly, so that is why most focus on the hard stuff, as the easy, pleasant stuff is easy and pleasant, so is hardly worth mentioning a lot of the time, as it causes no difficulties or external motion for answers in the way suffering does.


Jackson Wilshire, modified 12 Years ago at 2/23/11 2:09 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/23/11 1:28 PM

RE: Noting and dukkha

Posts: 443 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
This is a good question, Paul. And, it's a tricky one to address.

According to Theravada Buddhist theory, all phenomenal impressions arise with a particular feeling tone (Pali: vedanā). There are three varieties of vedanā: pleasant (Pali: sukhā), unpleasant (Pali: dukkha), and neutral (Pali: adukkham-asukhā; i.e. not unpleasant and not pleasant). This rendering of dukkha as "unpleasant" is just one understanding of this multifaceted Pali term. For, I don't think the First Noble Truth is the truth of Unpleasantness. Therefore, I think the kind of dukkha we recognize as one of the Three Characteristics is the more pervasive unsatisfactoriness inherent in all experience whenever greed, aversion, or delusion are conditioning factors.

In practice, as you continue to make progress, you will come to find that a pleasant feeling tone is just as unsatisfactory as an unpleasant feeling tone, or even a neutral feeling tone. No amount of clinging, aversion, or delusion to any sensation or phenomenal appearance will result in lasting happiness. And when you understand this, you can begin to settle into the sort of equanimity that comes through good practice. This combination of equanimity and wisdom is what leads to the various landmarks of awakening.


P.S. My bad for replying to Tommy instead of Paul. I have to learn to click the right 'reply' button.
Paul Anthony, modified 12 Years ago at 2/26/11 2:59 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/26/11 2:59 PM

RE: Noting and dukkha

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Thank you all, very helpful and inspiring as always. I'm getting from Daniel that there are pragmatic reasons to look at the suffering side pretty closely. But this doesn't necessarily imply that a given session of noting practice will be 'a drag'.

From Jackson's comments, I'm understanding that at a 'meta-awareness' level, the whole question of suffering plays out rather differently. I don't think I'm really there yet but it's a very motivating thought.