Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Luis Fer, modified 2 Months ago.

Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 8/31/21 Recent Posts
Hey!

I'm currently reflecting about my morality (all types, including buddhist-sila) to create my own understanding and hence act upon it.
I have come upon some obstacles which are beyond my current comprehension and would appreciate any kind of help. Some of this may sound ridiculous, but I am seriously curious!


It basically comes down to this: What exactly is Suffering?

From a utilitarian (hedonism) PoV it is the 'unpleasant' feeling-tone (AFAIK)
From a Buddhist PoV it is craving which in the end is caused by conditioned things i.e., everything apart from Nibbana. (AFAIK)

From my current PoV it is unpleasantness (feeling-tone) because it is part of aversion/craving, mental states (sadness,anger, discontent).
Theoratically, If there wouldn't exist any unpleasantness (feeling-tone) then there would be no suffering even if negative mental states (anger, sadness, jealousy) or craving/aversion would be experienced.

I am also confused about this:
If an Arahant experiences unpleasantness (feeling-tone) - The arahant does not suffer? Hence, unpleasantness is not suffering?
-> Why would an Arahant prefer e.g., a pizza over a hamburger (if that's his preference) if not for maximizing pleasantness or avoiding minor unpleasantness (suffering) ?
Is Craving/Aversion/Non-EQ what causes suffering?
Is suffering not simply the feeling-tone of unpleasantness?

I leave it like that for now.


Luis
Ben Sulsky, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 131 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
I think this is a great question but it's probably overly optimistic to expect a satisfying answer.

The chalk answer is that suffering translates as dukkha which is the clinging to sensations and can be changed for the better.  The actual sensations aren't gonna change.  
Luis Fer, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 8/31/21 Recent Posts
Thanks Ben Sulsky.

Yes, I only do expect to get some clarity, not full clarity.

I do understand that sensations will remain (except for 'tanha'), only our relationship 'towards' them will change.

I also do understand that from Buddhist-PoV dukkha is the clinging.
What I do not comprehend, and this may depend on the definition of 'dukkha'/suffering is:<br />with the continuum of 'valence' (pleasant, neutral, unpleasant) and with suffering defined (by me) as 'any experience one would not 'like' to have or perceive as 'bad' ' - how can suffering be minimized/eliminated completely?
Adi Vader, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Consider 'vedana' or valence or feeling tone to be like a sorting tag that is stuck on top of everything the mind encounters. Be it a simple object like the itch on your elbow or a compound object like giving an extempore public speech. It is all sorted into positive, negative, neutral.

For most people the vedana of simple objects is uniformly common. Almost everybody will experience a slap in the face as negative vedana.

Any and every object triggers mental reactions that in turn are also objects and also carry vedana.

Tanha, trishna, thirst (mistranslated as craving) does not carry negative vedana, it carries positive vedana thats why the mind keeps doing it. But once the mind does it, it immediately leads to a series of cognitive events - the final stage in the series is birth.

I think it would be nice to have a smoke - 'contact' carries neutral vedana
The mind takes a decision that this is a good idea - 'thirst' carries positive vedana thus reinforces the mind to keep doing it again and again
Then a sequence  of events that leads to 'Me' taking birth as the guy who has now decided to smoke - 'birth' - but  can't because of cancer - 'dukkha'

That sequence of events of the birth of a smoker looking for a cigarette from the stage of embryo to fully formed human runs contrary to my intellectual understanding of cancer. Thus that entire sequence of events carries negative vedana due to friction. And this is the important part - this friction would have been absent if I did not know anything about cancer. This friction is dukkha and it carries negative vedana. It has to be resolved, I need to substitute the dominant experience of this particular birth with some other birth continuously going from birth to birth experiencing this friction from time to time.

An Arhat stops this chain at trishna/tanha/ thirst by training the mind not to do it against any and every sense contact. Thus no more birth, no more friction, no more negative valence associated with that friction.

But contact itself has valence. Eating an ice cream is pleasant, thinking about the global pandemic is unpleasant. Thus life continues as before. Except there is a huge chunk of negative valence simply missing from lived experience.Q. If an Arahant experiences unpleasantness (feeling-tone) - The arahant does not suffer?
A.  No

Q. Hence, unpleasantness is not suffering?
A. Yes. But suffering is very unpleasant

Q. maximizing pleasantness or avoiding minor unpleasantness
A. Yes maximize as much as possible

Q. Craving/Aversion/Non-EQ what causes suffering?
A. Not stopping the chain at vedana and permitting Trishna/Tanha leads to suffering

Q. Is suffering not simply the feeling-tone of unpleasantness?
A. Suffering has an unpleasant feeling tone. Feeling tone is like a sorting tag on top of all consious experience including sense contact. Feeling tone can also be eliminated as a yogic practice attainment but that is a concentration attainment possible to Arhats and perhaps to others as well. It is zombie like and it is difficult to live in the market place like that - one would stick out like a sore thumb.

I have answered your questions. In turn could you please answer one of mine. I dont see the connection between these questions and morality / sila. Could you please explain. Thanks.
Luis Fer, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 8/31/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for the thorough reply Adi Vader. Also for the reshuffling of my questions emoticon.

To clarify somethings.
I think it would help me to clarify the definition of suffering i am using.

Suffering for me would be: 'whatever is experienced as 'bad' (aversive, unpleasant, disliked).
Why do I define suffering like that? When I observe my experience, I observe e.g., a body sensation, the unpleasant valence, the aversion.
The aversion, the unpleasant valence is perceived as 'bad', the body sensation by itself is not perceived as 'bad'.

Q: Do I understand correctly, that an Arahant removes a huge chunk of negative valence (due to no tanha which leads to dukkha), still experiences negative valence (due to contact). This remaining negative valence, if an Arahant could, would 'prefer' (rationally, not due to aversion) not to have?


Regarding your question. Connection between morality/sila and my requirement to understand what suffering is.

I think it depends on my definition of morality&suffering:
Morality: To minimize suffering/'negative' and maximize the 'positive' for the totality of existence from now till infinity/the end.
Suffering: Being uncertain whether Suffering is 'dukkha' (clinging, rebirth, conditioned) or something else e.g., unpleasantness, etc. .

Connection: If I do not know what suffering is, my actions most likely invested into something less moral, or even immoral.
Imagine I believe like the hedonist do that unpleasant vedana is suffering. Now, I will invest my time in maximizing pleasantness, and minimizing unpleasantness with material goods, DNA-engineering, Virtual Reality, etc. . However, in reality, valence is not the cause of suffering but clinging&rebirth is. Now I will have invested energy/time in something inefficient in comparison, hence acted 'less moral' in comparison.

In order to be moral, I would like to know what suffering truly, ultimately is.

I am very open for discussion as this is currently the most important topic for me.
Adi Vader, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
My answer to your Q: Yes

The reason I attempted to give an answer to your question was now you have a hypothesis to test in practice. Try and identify 'dukkha' and realise that it is not negative valence. It has negative valence.

Here's a way of getting to the training on morality. In practice cultivate samadhi and tranquility. Experience this tranquility many times and remember the experience of being tranquil. As you go about  your day/week/life across all circumstances watch your own thoughts, attitudes, speech, and behaviour.
1. Notice that some behaviours promote tranquility in the here and now only - Avoidance
2. Some behaviours promote tranquility in the here and now and dont have repercussions on it later on - commonsensical behaviour in line with generally accepted social principles - no guilt (why did I drink so much ... woe is me!) (why did I not help my sibling in his time of need!)
3. Some behaviour mess up tranquility in the here and now - eg road rage

When you practice morailty in this way then naturally you start to gravitate towards #2. You dont need any 'rules'. But if you need a rule, then here are 2:

Rule#1 Try and help people, try not to hurt people, and if you fail at this - fully acknowledge it, forgive yourself, resolve to try harder and simply move on
Rule#2 There is no rule #2

​​​​​​​Keep the theory simple and the practice very very rigourous. Over time you yourself will start seeing changes.
Luis Fer, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 8/31/21 Recent Posts
I do understand 'Sila' from a Buddhist/developing in wisdom - perspective like this: That is good-intent or anything that reduces/prevents 5 hindrances/disturbances of tranquility, hence improving samadhi/wisdom progress.

Your answers have been helpful.


All the best & appreciated.

Luis
Adi Vader, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Hi. I just wanted to respond to your writing since it brings some clarity to what I said. And I am perhaps being slightly repetitive - bear with me. My view regarding sila is that that sila is not 'rules', the practice of sila is as experiential as the practice of Shamatha Bhavana or of Vipashyana Bhavana. And if one approaches it as a rigourous practice of learning about the mind then it becomes an insight practice as well as a Sila Bhavana practice. towards that objective in my own practice I have approached it in the following way and often reccomend it to people while knowing that such an approach may not appeal to everyone.

1. Build some samadhi using meditation techniques and the objective is not just to build samadhi but to fully experience it and remember what it means to have samadhi. This doesn't have to be a very high grade of samadhi, but needs to have enough of a difference so that the mind remembers what it means to be calm, collected, tranquil, centred, clear, energetic. Induce this using concentration practice.

2. As you go about your day, your week, your month .... just simply use that samadhi as a canary in a coal mine, or as a barometer ... to see the value of your own views, attitudes, thoughts, speech and actions.

Once you frame the practice of sila like this then vichikitsa (or perverted problem solving) does not arise. One doesnt spend too much time hassling one's self abbout eating meat or drinking alcohol or killing mosquitos. Do what you have always done and let the practice make the adjustments to behaviour (internal and external)

So Sila helps to develop Samadhi ... yes
But samadhi, and an attitude of guarding samadhi helps to experientially understand what sila really is (as opposed to a set of artificially constructed rules).

Thanks
Adi
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 6060 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
You explain things very well. I think I'll keep an eye out for your posts to see what I can learn. 
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Dream Walker, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Is suffering the feeling-tone unpleasantness?

Posts: 1396 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Dukkha doesn't translate so well. From my direct experience it is close to 'stress'.
Each 'selfing process' is guarded by your fight, flight, freeze subconcious processes.
When you delete a selfing process at path then you really get to feel the difference of dropping stress that was going on in the background.
It begs the question of how much stress are we generating.
Here is my take on it-

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5800908

Good luck
~D

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