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Insight and Wisdom

Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?

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Hello everyone,

Currently in my practice, I feel most strongly compelled to investigate dukkha, aversion and grasping. I feel that it is the most pressing characteristic at the moment, since I fall victim most prominently to aversion. For the longest time when doing insight-oriented practice, impermanence has been the most easy and obvious characteristic to investigate, with anatta a bit behind - but not dukkha. I feel as though I am only beginning to get an idea of how to investigate dukkha.

As of now, I observe the sensations in my experience, and watch out for aversion (trying to move away from/ignore the sensations/distract from them by thinking about the path, theory...etc) and grasping (pushing towards pleasant sensations and blocking out the unpleasant ones, creating a sort of angsty split of these pleasant sensations vs those unpleasant sensations). I also try to notice how much more substantial/prominent things and even bare sensations seem when there is more aversion/grasping vs how they almost dissolve and disappear (along with my more gross sense of self and time) when the aversion/grasping is relaxed.

Am I on the right track? Does anyone have any more suggestions or pointers on investigating the characteristic of dukkha in practice?
And most importantly, will this sort of practice develop liberating insight, and drive me along the POI?

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 1:13 AM as a reply to WPCK.
Interesting question. Thanks for brining it up. 

Sometimes I can be really overcome with dukkha during a sit. I watch, for example, physical discomfort, and then see the aversion. The aversion itself is another kind of dukkha (second arrow), so I watch that. And I may get judgey about how stupid I am to fall victim of the second arrow. Judging sucks, so I can watch that. It's like a stone thrown into a pond, with ripples of more and more subtle dukkha. But I don't do that much, in part because it's not much fun, and in part because I have this sense that anatta is where the money's at.

Another, maybe trickier, thing I do is to watch the dukkha around the edges of pleasure. If you have a concentration practice that lets you generate pleasant sensations in the body, it can be interesting to watch the attitude in the mind. If look at the subtle grasping around pleasure, that grasping is quite unpleasant. I once had a pain in my ankle and a warm pleasure in my stomach and I could let my attention flip back and forth between the two. They were like strange mirror images with equal dukkha components.

But I have gotten the most dukkha millage off the cushion. If I just set the intention of watch for it, there is just an overwhelming amount of it to be known in the course of a day. If you drive, or take transit, you have an infinite well of dukkha to notice. I can watch it in myself, and I can watch it in other people. It's so pervasive. Everyone is visibility dealing with some level of dukkha basically all the time. If I encourage a mind-state of compassion that cranks it up several notches. There is so much dukkha out there, it's like the air that we breathe, easy to miss but obvious once you start paying attention to it. 

As to liberation, I can't say. That is certainly the party line. I can say that awareness of dukkha, at very least, reduces delusion. 

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 5:09 AM as a reply to WPCK.
WPCK:
And most importantly, will this sort of practice develop liberating insight, and drive me along the POI?

Yes, like nothing else.

Look for anxiety, look for stress, look for restlessness, look for despair, look for frustration, look for confusion, look for uncertainty.

Look for the feeling that you need to do something, should do something, that your current experience is somehow not it, not enough, not fully satisfying you. Look for any thought about meditation, any mental comment or observation on your meditation.

Look for the question "Am I on the right track?"

Whenever you have a question, distraction, concern, emotion - look at the suffering behind it.

Ask to be shown it. Try a resolution like "Let me see dualistic suffering. Show it to me. Let me see how much life sucks. May I not avoid it, but bravely face it all. Let me see every bit of it clearly. Let me feel it at maximum intensity. Let it increase so I can see it more clearly."

Try turning it up and down. Resolution: "May dualistic suffering increase in 5 seconds for 5 seconds, then decrease again." Watch what happens.

Feel how you tense up when you turn it up and relax when you turn it down.

Look for any kind of resistance to what is.

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 8:22 AM as a reply to WPCK.
For me, Dukkha arises when I am not seeing impermance clearly. It is the stuff of legend, feeling rushed that is. It feels great, but it doubles back on itself and causes the body to cringe, shiver, self-imolate (actually haven't done that), etc. When the body is feeling good, it's easier to investigate impermanence. S
ome people have suggested that there is a particular order to the threee characteristics, but I disagree. And I digress. 

Edit. I would like to say you are on the right track, but investigating dukkha is not where I would start. As Sayadaw U Pandita says, "pick the low hanging fruit first"

CIte, On the Path to Freedom, by Sayadaw U Pandita

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 2:43 PM as a reply to A. Dietrich Ringle.
Dukkha is the lowest hanging fruit there is. It's also the juiciest and most delicious.

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 6:42 PM as a reply to J C.
I got stream entry through the no-self door. It was one of the most profound fruitions due to its nature as a no-self minor-impermanence type fruition. I have retdacted my claims to higher paths due to their nature of also being through the no-self door. It's a complicated conundrum. The first time I experienced impermanence was when I was learning to spell. I thought, if my rate of spelling doesn't increase with my spoken vocabulary, I will not be able to communicate with the written word as compared to my vocal abilities. Now it's spilling back over. I am writing on a keyboard with no spell-check and I will have multi-tier noting going on at the same time.

Back to the main topic.

I have no mastery over dukkha!

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/30/20 10:04 PM as a reply to WPCK.
WPCK:


...

Am I on the right track? Does anyone have any more suggestions or pointers on investigating the characteristic of dukkha in practice?
And most importantly, will this sort of practice develop liberating insight, and drive me along the POI?

I notice the sensations in my body that accompany emotions - during meditation and in daily life. That made me more aware of my emotions. That led me to  being more aware of when emotions are produced by thoughts. (Not all emotions are produced by thoughts, some emotions are just due to biochemistry.) When I see how an emotion arises in response to a thought I examine how any of the three characteristics may be involved.

This works for all three characteristics. I don't focus on a particular characteristic, I study each emotion as it arises and investigate which characteristics are involved. The three characteristics are all interrelated anyway. Dukkha, attachment and aversion, is involved in the other two: attachment to self and attachment to impermanent things.

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/31/20 11:21 AM as a reply to WPCK.
My theory about dukkha is that when there is a pleasant experience and it is not experiences it creates suffering. Simple, right?
This is also true in the other direction and any suffering can be thought of caused by not experiencing something pleasant that is already there. By looking at any suffering it is possible to locate this pleasant experience and when consciously experienced then not only no more suffering is experienced but it is like it never really existed. I call it "reference experience". It can be far away from where suffering experienced.

This is tricky because it is not the same as merely tendency of mind toward pleasant sensations. The specific experience must be exactly the
one which lack of cause this specific suffering. When mind experiences dukkha and follow some arising pleasant sensation it is usually not the experience that not experienced caused this dukkha but one which not experienced would cause different dukkha.

Another tricky thing is that there will usually be experience of relief, or maybe better described as idea of relief. It will be pleasant and mind will usually be ocupied with it, especially since it is very close to where suffering is experienced. It will also bring focus to suffering itself... but since reference experience is usually faw away it will move attentiona way from it. Many things can make this relief thing to be experienced but actually experiencing reference experience won't. It won't be even possible because suffering will be erased even from memories and it will be like it was never experienced.

Thing to note is that this "far away" might really be very far away...

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/31/20 11:21 AM as a reply to WPCK.
WPCK:
Hello everyone,

Currently in my practice, I feel most strongly compelled to investigate dukkha, aversion and grasping. I feel that it is the most pressing characteristic at the moment, since I fall victim most prominently to aversion. For the longest time when doing insight-oriented practice, impermanence has been the most easy and obvious characteristic to investigate, with anatta a bit behind - but not dukkha. I feel as though I am only beginning to get an idea of how to investigate dukkha.

As of now, I observe the sensations in my experience, and watch out for aversion (trying to move away from/ignore the sensations/distract from them by thinking about the path, theory...etc) and grasping (pushing towards pleasant sensations and blocking out the unpleasant ones, creating a sort of angsty split of these pleasant sensations vs those unpleasant sensations). I also try to notice how much more substantial/prominent things and even bare sensations seem when there is more aversion/grasping vs how they almost dissolve and disappear (along with my more gross sense of self and time) when the aversion/grasping is relaxed.

Am I on the right track? Does anyone have any more suggestions or pointers on investigating the characteristic of dukkha in practice?
And most importantly, will this sort of practice develop liberating insight, and drive me along the POI?


aloha w,

   "Investigating" dukkha is not a matter of seeing how each moment is grasping and averting. Everything you see is dukkha, all the time. Like anatta and anicca. An ocean of dukkha surrounds you in all the ten directions.

   All of phenomena are made distinct in respect to some desire or another, usually for food and sex. "Food" covers all that is involved in making a living, anyone's living; "sex" covers all that is involved in family life, anyone's family life. Between making a living and family life, most people are lost in dukkha all the time. Artists, craftsmen and meditators may escape from time to time the squirrel wheel.

  The whole whirlpool of life, samsara, is dukkha. Pleasure is as much dukkha as pain. We describe what we do as attachment and aversion as though it were under our egoic control, but in fact we react mindlessly and automatically to stimuli in positive and negative ways. Thus dukkha is inherent in the fabric of life. Existence is dukkha.

   Enjoy!

terry

   

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
5/31/20 3:44 PM as a reply to terry.
Hello Terry,

I must disagree with your implication that dukkha is an inherent quality woven into the very fabric of a real existence. I feel that that is a pessimistic, almost Schopenhauerian interpretation of the Buddhadharma. "Everything you see is dukkha, all the time" seems to imply that things are in and of themselves dukkha regardless of whether there is any grasping/craving or not. I am not aware of where the Buddha said "Life is suffering."

By my understanding, suffering (dukkha) is taught by the Buddha to be dependently arisen (dukkha, the cause of dukkha...etc). It is dependent upon grasping/craving. Where there is no grasping, there is no suffering. The Buddha did not suffer while he went about his life after his awakening, because he was free from grasping/craving, so he was free from dukkha. This would suggest that there is indeed a strong relationship between investigating grasping/tanha/upadana/craving/aversion, and investigating dukkha, since they are dependently co-arisen, and where you find one, you will find the other.

As Nagarjuna aptly points out, if suffering was ultimately existent, there could be no freedom from it:

"If suffering exists by nature,
There can be no cessation [of suffering].
As it would remain completely,
Cessation would be invalidated."

Your post seems to posit Samsara and suffering as some sort of ultimate reality that we are bound to, but the world of Samsara (the wheel of suffering) is spoken of by the Buddha as false, deceptive, illusory, dependent on ignorance.

Nagarjuna also correctly says:
"Since the Buddhas have stated
That the world is conditioned by ignorance,
So why is it not reasonable [to assert]
That this world is [a result of] conceptualization?

Since it comes to an end
When ignorance ceases;
Why does it not become clear then
That it was conjured by ignorance?"

Gautama himself points at this directly not only with the teachings on dependent origination ('dependent on ignorance, dependent on grasping... dukkha'), but with the line from the Dhatu-Vibhanga Sutta:

""His release, being founded on truth, does not fluctuate, for whatever is deceptive is false; Nirvana — the undeceptive — is true. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for truth, for this — Nirvana, the undeceptive — is the highest noble truth"

This teaches that all other 'truths' (Samsara) are perversions, untrue, while Nirvana is undeceptive, and that one who has achieved Nirvana (exinction of greed, hatred, delusion, avidya) is not deceived by the world of appearances that ordinary people are deceived by.
Nagarjuna comments on this passage too:

"Inasmuch as the Conquerors have stated
Nirvana as the sole truth,
What learned person would imagine
That the rest is not false?"

And of course there is the famous Bahiya Sutta, where the Buddha says 
"When Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
This again points to the fact that in the absence of all traces of self-clinging, there is no dukkha, no suffering.

So while I would wholeheartedly agree that as long as one cognizes and grasps at real discrete entities of "Self, world, other beings, me, mine" being created and annihilated in time, then yes, all these things are characterized by dukkha, precisely because they are grasped as real, substantial, truly existent, me, mine, allowing for aversion, grasping and suffering. But for one who thoroughly knows the emptiness of all appearances, there is no suffering.

"Those who do not see ultimate truth
Grasp at samsara and nirvana;
But those who see ultimate truth possess
No pretensions of world and it's transcendence."
- Nagarjuna

Apologies if you did not at any point mean to say what I think you're saying, and if this whole post is based on a misreading of your words.

All the best

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
6/2/20 1:22 AM as a reply to WPCK.
WPCK:
Hello Terry,

I must disagree with your implication that dukkha is an inherent quality woven into the very fabric of a real existence. I feel that that is a pessimistic, almost Schopenhauerian interpretation of the Buddhadharma. "Everything you see is dukkha, all the time" seems to imply that things are in and of themselves dukkha regardless of whether there is any grasping/craving or not. I am not aware of where the Buddha said "Life is suffering."

By my understanding, suffering (dukkha) is taught by the Buddha to be dependently arisen (dukkha, the cause of dukkha...etc). It is dependent upon grasping/craving. Where there is no grasping, there is no suffering. The Buddha did not suffer while he went about his life after his awakening, because he was free from grasping/craving, so he was free from dukkha. This would suggest that there is indeed a strong relationship between investigating grasping/tanha/upadana/craving/aversion, and investigating dukkha, since they are dependently co-arisen, and where you find one, you will find the other.

As Nagarjuna aptly points out, if suffering was ultimately existent, there could be no freedom from it:

"If suffering exists by nature,
There can be no cessation [of suffering].
As it would remain completely,
Cessation would be invalidated."

Your post seems to posit Samsara and suffering as some sort of ultimate reality that we are bound to, but the world of Samsara (the wheel of suffering) is spoken of by the Buddha as false, deceptive, illusory, dependent on ignorance.

Nagarjuna also correctly says:
"Since the Buddhas have stated
That the world is conditioned by ignorance,
So why is it not reasonable [to assert]
That this world is [a result of] conceptualization?

Since it comes to an end
When ignorance ceases;
Why does it not become clear then
That it was conjured by ignorance?"

Gautama himself points at this directly not only with the teachings on dependent origination ('dependent on ignorance, dependent on grasping... dukkha'), but with the line from the Dhatu-Vibhanga Sutta:

""His release, being founded on truth, does not fluctuate, for whatever is deceptive is false; Nirvana — the undeceptive — is true. Thus a monk so endowed is endowed with the highest determination for truth, for this — Nirvana, the undeceptive — is the highest noble truth"

This teaches that all other 'truths' (Samsara) are perversions, untrue, while Nirvana is undeceptive, and that one who has achieved Nirvana (exinction of greed, hatred, delusion, avidya) is not deceived by the world of appearances that ordinary people are deceived by.
Nagarjuna comments on this passage too:

"Inasmuch as the Conquerors have stated
Nirvana as the sole truth,
What learned person would imagine
That the rest is not false?"

And of course there is the famous Bahiya Sutta, where the Buddha says 
"When Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."
This again points to the fact that in the absence of all traces of self-clinging, there is no dukkha, no suffering.

So while I would wholeheartedly agree that as long as one cognizes and grasps at real discrete entities of "Self, world, other beings, me, mine" being created and annihilated in time, then yes, all these things are characterized by dukkha, precisely because they are grasped as real, substantial, truly existent, me, mine, allowing for aversion, grasping and suffering. But for one who thoroughly knows the emptiness of all appearances, there is no suffering.

"Those who do not see ultimate truth
Grasp at samsara and nirvana;
But those who see ultimate truth possess
No pretensions of world and it's transcendence."
- Nagarjuna

Apologies if you did not at any point mean to say what I think you're saying, and if this whole post is based on a misreading of your words.

All the best

   Well, yes, bra, you did not understand what I was saying. I wish you had quoted me and dealt directy with what I said.

   And by the way, the buddha did indeed indicate that "life is suffering," the way I read the first NT. 

   It is "existence" ("life") that involves suffering, in which dukkha is inherent. As are the other two of the three marks. Samsara is not "ultimate reality" and "ultimate reality" is not some existent thing or dharma that can be posited over and against "dukkha." In other words, dukkha does not vanish from the earth when the arhat enters nirvana, any more than non-self or impermanence does. Nirvana partakes of emptiness, of non-existence. Non-existence is the absolute. Being one with non-existence is nirvana. Non-existence (the void) includes existence (phenomena) the way consciousness includes dreams. Dukkha is inherent in the dream we call reality.

   I'd like to know where you got the nagarjuna quotes, as he is not usually that sloppy in his thinking.

   To say that anything is "true" implies dualism, and nagarjuna was very careful about that sort of thing, explaining the two views so as to avoid dualistic thinking. 

   There was one good quote:


"Those who do not see ultimate truth
Grasp at samsara and nirvana;
But those who see ultimate truth possess
No pretensions of world and it's transcendence."

- Nagarjuna

   He is sayihg there is no nirvana to be grasped at as well as no samsara, that is: no duality. No transendence. When samsara disappears, dukkha is not distinguished from sukkha. Nirvana is this absence of distinctions. As long as you make such distinctions as "ultimate reality" as opposed to dukkha-bound existence you are affected by the three marks. Once you leave them behind there is nothing at all, no existence as such.

   I'd have let you slide with your dualism if you hadn't "quoted" nagarjuna, a nondualist.

terry

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
6/2/20 1:57 AM as a reply to terry.
My bad terry, I see I was misreading you. Feel free to disregard my post.

However I do stick at least to my understanding that Arahants canonically do not suffer even while they are living, awaiting their death, while their bodies are sick and decaying, since there is no tanha in their mind, which is the necessary condition for dukkha to arise in a mindstream.
But all of this is just theory anyways.

Also, since you asked, the quotes are all from the Yuktisastika and the Mulamadhyamakakarika.

All the best

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
6/7/20 12:19 PM as a reply to WPCK.
WPCK:
My bad terry, I see I was misreading you. Feel free to disregard my post.

However I do stick at least to my understanding that Arahants canonically do not suffer even while they are living, awaiting their death, while their bodies are sick and decaying, since there is no tanha in their mind, which is the necessary condition for dukkha to arise in a mindstream.
But all of this is just theory anyways.

Also, since you asked, the quotes are all from the Yuktisastika and the Mulamadhyamakakarika.

All the best



   Arahants "do not suffer" because they do not exist, they are non-self. Suffering is non-existent in nirvana, if nirvana is defined as ultimate truth and not a stage or condition. I guess I was asking who rather than where, since obviously the quotes must be from his extant works. But it doesn't matter, especially if it is all theory anyway.

   Tanha is just another link in a chain, not causative.

   Without discrimination, there is no suffering. Suffering not conceived of is not experienced. Babies generally are not given anesthetic because pain unremembered is non-existent. Drugs which cause you to not remember pain are just as effective as drugs which actually supress it. Suffering is a mental condition, not a physical one.

   Not theoretical. Real suffering is alleviated through training in meditation.

terry

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
6/10/20 2:09 AM as a reply to terry.
Not true at all. Pain unremembered can still cause trauma. Medications that block the memory of pain lead to far worse outcomes than anasthetic. Would you like to have surgery without anasthetic if you were then given a memory loss drug so you wouldn't remember it?

RE: Pointers on investigating the Dukkha characteristic?
Answer
6/14/20 1:52 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Not true at all. Pain unremembered can still cause trauma. Medications that block the memory of pain lead to far worse outcomes than anasthetic. Would you like to have surgery without anasthetic if you were then given a memory loss drug so you wouldn't remember it?

aloha jc,

   I have had such procedures. The techs are still wincing when I wake up. I don't care at all, not remembering a thing. It's routine for many procedures, bra. Memory-loss drugs are considered anesthetics. No memory, no ego, no suffering.

   Repressed memories of trauma are another thing entirely.

terry