Impermanence > Suffering?

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Ryan Thomas, modified 10 Months ago.

Impermanence > Suffering?

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/2/20 Recent Posts
I was talking to a Dharma friend about my practice, and we got into an interesting disagreement that would be useful to get outside perspectives on.

I mentioned how the focus of my practice seems to be a combination of Suffering and No-Self: I tend to notice that something feels bad, notice that my "self" seems conflicted or unsure of how to relate/respond to it, and then meditate until I reach a clear preference.  This seems to bring me to a state that's both beautiful and useful, in that I end up tapping into a very gentle, limitless-feeling kind of motivation and patience.

My friend seems to mostly value practice that engages with Impermanence, and his advice was something like "that sounds like it has a lot of potential as a practice, but ends up fumbling it and missing out on the real point".  His thinking seemed to be that the fundamental aim of insight practice is to see through impermanence specifically, and that any aim/goals/preferences of my sort sound like "a lot of thinking" or "western psychology", rather than insight meditation.  He was very consistent on this: when I asked him about his reasoning for why it was better to focus on impermanence than to work on my current goals, he indicated that asking for reasoning was the very problem he was encouraging me to move past, and that I should just do the impermanence meditation.

As may be clear, I'm not sold on his reasoning; but it may be that I'm just missing something.

Thoughts?
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Jarrett, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Hey Ryan,

When I tune into Impermanence, Suffering and No-Self reveal themselves immediately.

I suffer because I crave/cling to pleasure or am averse/aggressive to pain or I am hoping/fearing and it is based on a belief that something is permanent.

By misbelieving something is permanent (solidifying) I am not able to look into the no-self-ness of the phenomena.

I suggest finding what works best for you!

Maybe try watching your awareness of the sensations and thoughts come and go. And see if you notice the suffering that comes from their impermanence. Nothing "good" will last. Nothing "bad" will last. Because of the fleeting nature of all phenomena, how can any of it posess a self?

Thinking about this stuff is good but it's probably not gonna help us experience it. Maybe that's what your friend was saying with the "western psychology" remark and saying part of the problem was asking for reasoning. It keeps it conceptual.

I love these practices because they invite us to experience it for ourselves. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 654 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
If anything one should investigate all three in all combinations including investigations done without them and all three at once.

And to make things even more interresting and ballanced (as all things should be =) ) please investigate anti-3C so permanence, pleasure and self.
Martin, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I have heard it said that some people find it easier to notice impermanence, others suffering, and others no-self. You've been noticing how you suffer when you are conflicted. You might try looking around for other kinds of suffering that could be there. Do you ever get a sore back, or get bored, or get anxious? It can be interesting to watch how those sort of things come into existence and change over time, just as conflicted feelings and thoughts do. The central, and probably most useful, goal is to notice what is going on. And there is quite a lot going on.
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Jim Smith, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 958 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Ryan Thomas:
I was talking to a Dharma friend about my practice, and we got into an interesting disagreement that would be useful to get outside perspectives on.

I mentioned how the focus of my practice seems to be a combination of Suffering and No-Self: I tend to notice that something feels bad, notice that my "self" seems conflicted or unsure of how to relate/respond to it, and then meditate until I reach a clear preference.  This seems to bring me to a state that's both beautiful and useful, in that I end up tapping into a very gentle, limitless-feeling kind of motivation and patience.

My friend seems to mostly value practice that engages with Impermanence, and his advice was something like "that sounds like it has a lot of potential as a practice, but ends up fumbling it and missing out on the real point".  His thinking seemed to be that the fundamental aim of insight practice is to see through impermanence specifically, and that any aim/goals/preferences of my sort sound like "a lot of thinking" or "western psychology", rather than insight meditation.  He was very consistent on this: when I asked him about his reasoning for why it was better to focus on impermanence than to work on my current goals, he indicated that asking for reasoning was the very problem he was encouraging me to move past, and that I should just do the impermanence meditation.

As may be clear, I'm not sold on his reasoning; but it may be that I'm just missing something.

Thoughts?

It doesn't matter.

You can meditate on almost anything, a bell ringing, a candle flame, your breath, anatta, impermanence, the origin of suffering, the feeling of being.

The important thing is to do enough meditation - so you should pick a form that appeals to you.
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Jim Smith, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 958 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith:

It doesn't matter.

You can meditate on almost anything, a bell ringing, a candle flame, your breath, anatta, impermanence, the origin of suffering, the feeling of being.

The important thing is to do enough meditation - so you should pick a form that appeals to you.


In my opinion the effective part of meditation is that it helps you to relax and to be mindful of when the mind produces dukkha. Mindfulness helps you to observe how suffering arises in the mind and relaxation helps you to let go of cravings and aversions (dukkha).

The story you tell yourself about the cause of dukkha, impermanence, identity view, etc is really secondary because when you observe the origin of suffering, over time the arising of suffering which at first seemed to be something beyond your control and an intrinsic part of reality which was caused by external circumstances changes into something you seem to be doing intentionally to yourself absentmindedly. Then further mindfulness, if you are relaxed, allows you to let go. If you pay attention, you see you don't have to produce suffering absentmindedly, you can refrain from doing it (which is not suppressing it if you do it in a relaxed state of mind/body).  As this happens you realize that it is your idea of how you relate to the world around you that is causing you to produce suffering when reality doesn't match your desires and expectations - this causes your sense of self importance to weaken as you learn to stop causing suffering for yourself by rejecting reality and you begin to free yourself from the fetter of identity view.

The effects of meditation come from the observation of how dukkha arises rather than the understanding (impermanance, identity view, etc). The understanding is just something to help keep your conscious mind involved in the process so it doesn't distract you with thoughts of other things. And a good story about the cause of dukkha will help you believe in the process and give you confidence to practice persistently - so choose whatever story motivates you.

If observing the arising of dukkha is interesting to you, you don't need anything else. But your friend is not wrong to focus on impermanence if that is what works for him.

Any meditation that quiets the mind will help you to become more observant, but you also have to understand what to do with the quiet mind: observe the arising of dukkha. And letting go of cravings and aversions (dukkha) is possible when you are relaxed.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Jarrett:
Thinking about this stuff is good but it's probably not gonna help us experience it. Maybe that's what your friend was saying with the "western psychology" remark and saying part of the problem was asking for reasoning. It keeps it conceptual.



My emphasis.

Jarrett nailed it I think. It's not really impermanence vs suffering but rather content vs characteristic. Thinking about problems might be helpful. Sometimes that small mind comes in handy emoticon but in straight up Vipassana it's all about the 3C's.

For example: If I'm feeling annoyed it may be helpful to ask why, and think "oh yeah, I didn't really treat that person very well and now I feel bad. Maybe I should apologise and try a bit harder to be kind and patient next time". And I might very well feel good about that.

If I wanted to gain insight though I'd explore what "feeling annoyed" consisted of in terms of the 3C's. Here, I'm with your friend, I'd go straight for the impermanence of the thing: sensations of tightness in the chest perhaps, tension in the jaw and agitation in the mind. Pick one and watch it move, pulse, vibrate, intensify, weaken etc.

Pfffff I'm worn out with just that much thinking... lol
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Milo, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 365 Join Date: 11/13/18 Recent Posts
Ryan Thomas:
I was talking to a Dharma friend about my practice, and we got into an interesting disagreement that would be useful to get outside perspectives on.

I mentioned how the focus of my practice seems to be a combination of Suffering and No-Self: I tend to notice that something feels bad, notice that my "self" seems conflicted or unsure of how to relate/respond to it, and then meditate until I reach a clear preference.  This seems to bring me to a state that's both beautiful and useful, in that I end up tapping into a very gentle, limitless-feeling kind of motivation and patience.

My friend seems to mostly value practice that engages with Impermanence, and his advice was something like "that sounds like it has a lot of potential as a practice, but ends up fumbling it and missing out on the real point".  His thinking seemed to be that the fundamental aim of insight practice is to see through impermanence specifically, and that any aim/goals/preferences of my sort sound like "a lot of thinking" or "western psychology", rather than insight meditation.  He was very consistent on this: when I asked him about his reasoning for why it was better to focus on impermanence than to work on my current goals, he indicated that asking for reasoning was the very problem he was encouraging me to move past, and that I should just do the impermanence meditation.

As may be clear, I'm not sold on his reasoning; but it may be that I'm just missing something.

Thoughts?

This is like arguing over whether to focus on the peanut butter, the jelly, or the bread when making a pb&j sandwich : )

Don't forget to include emptiness ; )

Welcome to the dHo!
Tim Farrington, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 2454 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Ryan Thomas:
I was talking to a Dharma friend about my practice, and we got into an interesting disagreement that would be useful to get outside perspectives on.

I mentioned how the focus of my practice seems to be a combination of Suffering and No-Self: I tend to notice that something feels bad, notice that my "self" seems conflicted or unsure of how to relate/respond to it, and then meditate until I reach a clear preference.  This seems to bring me to a state that's both beautiful and useful, in that I end up tapping into a very gentle, limitless-feeling kind of motivation and patience.

My friend seems to mostly value practice that engages with Impermanence, and his advice was something like "that sounds like it has a lot of potential as a practice, but ends up fumbling it and missing out on the real point".  His thinking seemed to be that the fundamental aim of insight practice is to see through impermanence specifically, and that any aim/goals/preferences of my sort sound like "a lot of thinking" or "western psychology", rather than insight meditation.  He was very consistent on this: when I asked him about his reasoning for why it was better to focus on impermanence than to work on my current goals, he indicated that asking for reasoning was the very problem he was encouraging me to move past, and that I should just do the impermanence meditation.

As may be clear, I'm not sold on his reasoning; but it may be that I'm just missing something.

Thoughts?
hi ryan, and welcome to DhO!

This conversation with your friend seems a deep one to me. My first part of my two cents' worth here (a ha'penny, say, or tuppence to feed the birds, depending on excgange rates) is that Daniel Ingram's section on "The Three Doors" in Mastering the Core Teachingas of the Buddha, second edition, speaks very directly to this discussion. In a way, you and you friend are both right: any combination of the Three Characteristics, according to MCBT2, will get you out into the stream just fine. So in a way, it comes down to something beyond reasoning, what combination of characteristics works for you. I don't personally trust anything that doesn't deal with dukha, but there are plenty of people who having clearly gotten by just fine so far on impermanence and no-self, as you can tell by their demeanor and speech, as if they live in a world where no one's loved ones ever died, or maybe just none of their own. If you can't deal with grief and acceptance of grief, to me, any realization is worthless. But I'm a fucking Catholic, lol.

Second, and i hope i don't seem intrusive here, you are to my sense in a clear honeymoon, or second honeymoon, or n+1 honeymoon phase of your life on the path, arriving re;iably and consistently at "a state that's both beautiful and useful, in that I end up tapping into a very gentle, limitless-feeling kind of motivation and patience." Enjoy that, but your friend's cross current of emphasizing impermanence, while possibly non-urgent seemng now, in a phase when nothing seems broke and there is thus no need to fix it, will, i would venture, seem very relevant soon enough, given the impermanence even of honeymoon phases.

again, welcome to the monkey house, where self-aware primates make complex vocalizations!

love, tim
Ernest Michael Olmos, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Impermanence > Suffering?

Posts: 217 Join Date: 5/30/14 Recent Posts
My experience at least is this.

Before SE, the easiest of the 3Cs (and dominating one) is impermanence.
After SE, suffering.
After 2rd or 3rd it begins to shift to "not self" (anatta) and emptiness.

My guess is that at AP you get "complete understanding" of 1 of the 3Cs, and at path 2 of the 3Cs.

Major speculation here emoticon and opinion.

The 3Cs are important and must be understood, but there is always one that predominates.
You can read about this in MCTB the three doors:

https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/31-the-three-doors/

While the 3 doors happen when entering fruition, my guess is that this "predominance" of a characteristic over the other 2 also happens in day to day practice and in AP.

My opinion about all this, before SE:

To get to first AP, full practice on impermanence. After AP, focusing on impermanence should be easy (and maybe a hindrance.....), so work full on the other 2 (one will predominate). If forced to take a pick, most of the work on suffering and then a little on anatta.

Again, all speculation and opinion.

Hope it helps.