Re-evaluating Morality

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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago at 10/6/14 2:48 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/6/14 2:48 PM

Re-evaluating Morality

Posts: 239 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I've been thinking about morality a lot lately. In particular, I've been trying to integrate insight practice and the implications of insight with morality. So here at the DHO, generally speaking, there is a particular tendency towards hardcore practice (obviously). Many post-path practitioners describe attaining path through merciless, hardcore noting of literally everything that enters into the field of perception. While I agree that this approach can bring on insights and path moments rapidly and effectively, there is a potential shadow side. That is, there seems to be a tendency for these types of meditators (or at least myself) to deal with problems by noting them away, reminding ones self that the sensations that make up any issue are subject to the 3 C's, and that one ought to regard the situation with equanimity. This leads to an interesting question: is it always best to approach all situations as though one were practicing insight? During periods of intensive practice, it makes perfect sense to just keep noting and striving towards equanimity no matter what comes up, for sake of continuity of practice. But how hard should we bank on this approach? 

In practicing this way, obviously one shouldn't block out or exclude negative (or positive) sensations. One should alway be aware of potential shadow-sides, such as relaxing mindfulness when times are good but then trying to note one's way out of negative experiencing, creating a complex where one simply regards mindfulness as a way to escape from negative experiences. But assuming one is practicing without preference or to the exclusion of sensations, and equanimity towards all possible scenarios, externally and internally, what is left for morality and conventional solutions to deal with?

For example, if you have relationships that are not perfect (so basically all of them), is one to express frustration, anger, dislike, and disagreement in a healthy way to try to make the scenario better, or is one to simply be as compassionate as possible while acknowledging all the feelings and thoughts that exist with equanimity and mindfulness? If one is able to exist compassionately and mindfully amidst contention and imperfections, barring functional impediments, what need is there to try to change the scenario? Is there a level of mindfulness and equanimity that makes the need to address minor situational frustrations and insignificant imperfections less? Obviously, there are things that just need to be addressed and dealt with, but at what point is it safe to just accept the things in life that give us minor inconvenience? At what point does attempting to modify your surroundings and relationships become something that demonstrates lack of equanimity and acceptance? At what point does practicing equanimity and acceptance in place of modifying your relationships and surroundings demonstrate overcompensation in the wisdom department and lack in the intrapersonal skills department?

I find myself practicing compassion towards others amidst contention, and a tendency to view things from an insight point of view. "This suffering is not occuring to any agent, so why should I attempt to modify the situation to get rid of non-personal, impermanent sensations?", "Attempting to change this scenario is just a way in which I am reinforcing the notion of someone who is trapped within or receiving this " etc...

I'm curious to learn how others practice morality in the context of things they feel are unjust, ways they feel wronged, etc..., especially in context of how insight into impermanence and agencylessness have changed their practice of morality.
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 10/19/14 10:34 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/19/14 10:32 AM

RE: Re-evaluating Morality

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
This is a great post, I'm suprised no one responded. 

I think this, specifically, might be why I feel more drawn to AF stuff than pragmatic dharma practices.  It specifically points to the negative feeling itself as the problem, rather than the fact that you own the negativity or see it as part of a self.  I'll be the first to admit that the actual freedom website isn't a paragon of kindness or understanding, but the practices themselves certainly seem to lead in that direction.

In the example you gave, I no longer go with those emotions, but intentionally stop them.  It really is possible to change those habits, and it can happen rather quickly.  There isn't much point in examining them, I think.  You can just stop them, and they don't go anywhere.  Eventually they stop arising altogether.  I think this is the main point the buddha was trying to make with dependant origination.  If our reactions are cause and effect, we can get rid of the cause so there is no effect.  Trying to accept the feelings or "vipassanize" them is just feeding into them by giving them attention they don't deserve.
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Psi, modified 7 Years ago at 10/20/14 12:26 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/20/14 12:24 AM

RE: Re-evaluating Morality

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 11/22/13 Recent Posts
Well, the late Ayya Khema says that Equanimity has within it, metta, karuna and mudita. This is the daily living mode of Equanimity, not the jhana mode of Equanimity, though that is very, very similar.  And, further she has stated that with out those three other factors, it is not true equanimity. Probably Equanimty with an admixture of indifference to some degree. Equanimity being defined as a balanced mind.  Metta defined as unconditional loving-kindness (expecting nothing in return), a quality of the heart, Karuna defined as compassion without pity, to have karuna one has to first have overcome what they would feel compassionate towards others for through wisdom(insight).  For example, if one sees anger arise in another one would have compassion knowing that that person is very unhappy, from wisdom knowing how much an angry mind sucks.  And Mudita, sympathetic joy, joy from wisdom knowing that any joy experienced by self or others is good for all, at least some suffering has been transcended in the universe, and no greed to want the others joy, just happy for other's joy.

So, yes a return to Equanimity as the object of mindfulness in daily living and formal meditation is key.

Guess I am a proponent of the full Eightfold Path, and practice of the entire 37 factors of Enlightenment, Four Noble Truths.

And also, a proponent that practicing morality is just as important as practicing noting methods, and indeed practicing morality can on the one hand be a VERY hardcore practice, ( I've probably corrected myself from saying the F-bomb 50 million times both outloud and in my mind, before it has pretty much not arisen again, not to say it wouldn't slip out of my mouth if I accidently fell out of an airplane or something, just saying....

Anyway, practice stuff, morality, cessation of greed and anger, pretty tough, lots of imbedded instincts here to re-wire, but seems very possible, what can be worked on and reduced can surely be eliminated, at least that's the way it seems to me, and greed and anger are the hardcore of morality.  Then there is delusion and ignorance (ignoring the Four Noble Truths)

Anyway, better stop, lest I Ramble On....

But , mostly I AGREE with you, you are on the Right Track!  It is the mind that like to wriggle out and rationalize why morality practice is unnecessary, because it is HARD, and morality training takes constant mindfulness AND constant re-direction.  

Fall down 50 million times, get up 50 million and one.

May we all find Peace

Psi Phi
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 7 Years ago at 10/21/14 8:40 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/21/14 8:17 PM

Q

Posts: 1740 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi MOE,

It is good to read you again. I hope your year has had some comforting developments despite difficult experiences.

And thanks to Not Tao for bumping your thread.

I agree completely with the point Psi Phi raised that equanimity has in it compassion (karuna), altruistic or empathetic joy (mudita) and friendliness (metta). For me, I feel equanimity without those mental flexibilities, in addition to apparent equanimity, may be a dissociative "low quanimity"-- an initial form of emotional remove that culminates in dissatisfaction. While high equanimity has within it nearly simulaneous insight: aka: understanding. And clear understanding has in it compassion, friendly conduct, and shared joy. 

Practically speaking, this means a person with high equanimity of mind can see cause and effect in actions and have an ability to apply an action or non-action (a cause) with a sense of the consequent effects.

Noting is excellent for increasing "hunting" the mind towards understanding it: a generator of millions of thoughts, some interesting bubbles, some anxious bubbles, some pleasure seeking urges, some depressive movements.. thoughts galore resulting from and also triggering chemicals... until the mind sees its nature is to do all of this. In this game, the mind can be impossible "to pin down" or "track" or "hunt"; whereas in time the mind will see its nature and directly knowing that is like a big experiential cannon that sort of blows the compelling substance out of all these arising thoughts. Now they may arise, but they become more like clouds passing in the sky: yes, I can look at the shapes but they're also just clouds. Sometimes they're useful clouds (yay, rain!), sometimes overwhelming clouds (boo, more rain), sometimes they're shapes galore, sometime just rows of long Nikes in the sky, etc...

Moral conduct (the restraint of problem-causing actions like inebriation and adultery) and the development of skillful outgoing conduct (friendliness, compassion and altrusitic joy)-- those can either be a) resultant mental conduct of a person who sees what it is to be human/sentient and who has conviction that reducing own-suffering is smart, or b) it can be a faithful conduct of one who suffers, has no direct insight (understanding) but of who trusts that the development of morally-based restraints and the development outgoing of skillful conduct is probably a good idea.

So to re-cap: noting is going to kind of reveal the nature of mind. It's one tool for showing that. Like anything understanding and direct understanding are two different things. So noting can take a while till the mind sees itself-- "Ah-ha!" A hazard to noting is lots of mental tension, not much emotional releif. Anapanasati is another tool for seeing the nature of mind and a hazard is that people get kind of goofy in lala land or "jhanarrogant" and distracted; mind becomes a toy and, without further understanding, this too becomes dissatisfying or unreliable towards peace of mind. [EDIT:]And moral conduct (restraining/reducing/ ending conflict-causing conduct) and having skilful conduct (friendly, compassionate, shared joy/happiness) can be the resultant intelligence of seeing what one is or can be the faith of one who trusts those are good practices.

I hope this is useful. Thanks for your post. It's good to read you.

{edits for typos and one omission, denoted "[EDIT:]"}
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Not Tao, modified 7 Years ago at 10/21/14 9:16 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/21/14 9:14 PM

RE: Q

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
Maybe it's good, then, to examine the personalities of people who follow the noting method to the exclusion of anything else.  I was watching a monk, earlier, who was talking about the various Burmese "packaged methods" and he mentioned that the Mahasi practitioners he's worked with seem to have a lot of neurosis and psychosis-type meditation experiences. I remember Daniel wrote something about how his teacher on retreat was yelling at kids and throwing rocks at dogs, and he wondered if this was really the person he wanted to learn from.

So, anyway, maybe noting doesn't really do what you're saying here, katy, and those problems are still there - just dissociated. If those moods really did turn to clouds, why do they still arise on into the future?  Letting go seems to be directly linked to abandoning the "unskillful" habits, IME, not just making them affect "me" less.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 7 Years ago at 10/22/14 2:20 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/22/14 2:03 AM

RE: Q

Posts: 1740 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

Not tao: 
If those moods really did turn to clouds, why do they still arise on into the future?  Letting go seems to be directly linked to abandoning the "unskillful" habits, IME, not just making them affect "me" less.

I think for many people, strong emotions do not arise into the future, be it anapansati training or noting. Or they arise subtly and the practitioner can see them and experience them personally without sharing them externally. Such a reduction in strong and possessive feeling is something I see in friends who study their minds and cultivate restraint during training. Still it can take a long time of practice depending on the person and the conditions in which they live. So I may realize the inanity of hostility, but put in a new situation that triggers strong aversion I am likely to deal with arising hostility again, unless somehow I have realized that even in that new sitation, hostility, though natural is not needed nor a useful idea to perpetuate. These matters are personal. It is hard to judge the monk you reference, even if I saw them doing what you descibe: sometimes a person is doing the best they can and, yes, may not be the best teacher at that moment for "what to do".

____________
[EDIT: added]
Maybe it's good, then, to examine the personalities of people who follow the noting method to the exclusion of anything else.

(...) 

So, anyway, maybe noting doesn't really do what you're saying here, katy, and those problems are still there - just dissociated.

Yes, I think it depends on the person, their intention and some environmental conditions in terms of the results that occur: I am thinking of how the ancient Greeks has some sort of steam-pressure ball but couldn't really get to "steam engine" whereas later civilizations did indeed get the study of steam to be "little engines that could". : )
J C, modified 7 Years ago at 10/23/14 12:42 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/23/14 12:42 AM

RE: Re-evaluating Morality

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
I've been thinking about morality a lot lately. In particular, I've been trying to integrate insight practice and the implications of insight with morality. So here at the DHO, generally speaking, there is a particular tendency towards hardcore practice (obviously). Many post-path practitioners describe attaining path through merciless, hardcore noting of literally everything that enters into the field of perception. While I agree that this approach can bring on insights and path moments rapidly and effectively, there is a potential shadow side. That is, there seems to be a tendency for these types of meditators (or at least myself) to deal with problems by noting them away, reminding ones self that the sensations that make up any issue are subject to the 3 C's, and that one ought to regard the situation with equanimity. This leads to an interesting question: is it always best to approach all situations as though one were practicing insight? During periods of intensive practice, it makes perfect sense to just keep noting and striving towards equanimity no matter what comes up, for sake of continuity of practice. But how hard should we bank on this approach? 


This is where the idea of separation of the Three Trainings comes in handy. Noting and remembering the 3Cs is insight practice, which can be very useful for dealing with emotions and reactivity in daily life, but isn't some kind of substitute for the first training, living the good life. Vipassana can't "deal with problems" and isn't a tool for doing so, so if you're trying to solve problems in life by "noting them away," you're misusing the technique. Noting should be thought of as a way to get to the point where you're not mired in emotions and reactivity so that you can actually take steps to solve the problem


In practicing this way, obviously one shouldn't block out or exclude negative (or positive) sensations. One should alway be aware of potential shadow-sides, such as relaxing mindfulness when times are good but then trying to note one's way out of negative experiencing, creating a complex where one simply regards mindfulness as a way to escape from negative experiences. But assuming one is practicing without preference or to the exclusion of sensations, and equanimity towards all possible scenarios, externally and internally, what is left for morality and conventional solutions to deal with?


Meeting whatever goals you have, improving your relationships, and living the good life. Equanimity is not indifference. It doesn't mean you don't have preferences.


For example, if you have relationships that are not perfect (so basically all of them), is one to express frustration, anger, dislike, and disagreement in a healthy way to try to make the scenario better, or is one to simply be as compassionate as possible while acknowledging all the feelings and thoughts that exist with equanimity and mindfulness?


You should both try to make the situation better by expressing yourself in a healthy way and be as compassionate and mindful as you can. The two are not opposites: in fact, they go together.


If one is able to exist compassionately and mindfully amidst contention and imperfections, barring functional impediments, what need is there to try to change the scenario? Is there a level of mindfulness and equanimity that makes the need to address minor situational frustrations and insignificant imperfections less?


I'm reminded of the difference between craving and goal-setting. Eliminating the "need" or "craving" for things to be other than they are doesn't mean that you can't have preferences and make plans to make things better. So there's no "need" to change the scenario, but it can still be a good idea to do so in order to improve your life and the lives of others.


Obviously, there are things that just need to be addressed and dealt with, but at what point is it safe to just accept the things in life that give us minor inconvenience? At what point does attempting to modify your surroundings and relationships become something that demonstrates lack of equanimity and acceptance? At what point does practicing equanimity and acceptance in place of modifying your relationships and surroundings demonstrate overcompensation in the wisdom department and lack in the intrapersonal skills department?


In order to change something, you must first be aware of and accept how it currently is. Acceptance is not opposed to change: it is in fact the first step towards change. Equanimity and acceptance should never be used "in place of" making changes in your life, nor does making changes ever demonstrate a lack of equinamity or acceptance.


I find myself practicing compassion towards others amidst contention, and a tendency to view things from an insight point of view. "This suffering is not occuring to any agent, so why should I attempt to modify the situation to get rid of non-personal, impermanent sensations?", "Attempting to change this scenario is just a way in which I am reinforcing the notion of someone who is trapped within or receiving this " etc...


Then you, in my opinion, are confused. There's no agent to experience sensations, but they still happen. And I'd prefer the painful ones happen less, even though there's no separate permanent controlling self. People still exist as biological organisms and they still experience things.


I'm curious to learn how others practice morality in the context of things they feel are unjust, ways they feel wronged, etc..., especially in context of how insight into impermanence and agencylessness have changed their practice of morality.


Insight into no-self has influenced my practice of morality in that it's helped me understand that people are always making the best choice they can at the time, given the information and beliefs they have. They wouldn't do any worse, and they can't do any better. Life just happens. People just do the best they can. Understanding that removes a layer of confusion and reactivity and can help you figure out how to react and what to do. For instance, if there's someone toxic who seems incapable of relating in a healthy or compassionate way, rather than trying to change that person or getting mad at them, just cut them out of your life. If someone keeps making poor choices, rather than write them off or yell at them, realize they're doing the best they can and think of ways that would enable them to make better choices.
J C, modified 7 Years ago at 10/23/14 12:53 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/23/14 12:53 AM

RE: Re-evaluating Morality

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Also relevant:


Not Tao:

A good way to think about acceptance:  You aren't accepting things in the world, you're accepting how you feel about the world.  By allowing thoughts and feelings to be expressed, you are attempting to unify the mind and all of its different ways of thinking.  Suppression is the core of suffering.  It's the struggle to keep bad thoughts away that hurts, not the thoughts themselves.

Once the mind has embraced tranquility as the best mode of operation, allowing old suppressed thoughts free will dissolve the negative feelings around them.  It's the desire to be tranquil, itself, that dissolves them.  Allowing the mind to make arguments, proposals, and wild fantasies without trying to stop it enables a kind of "free speech" and "free emotions."  You understand, logically, that contentment is best in all circumstances, so now you can allow your mind to convince itself.  Let the anger, worries, hopes, and regrets have their say - you can have faith that they'll be convinced and change their stance to tranquility.


(from http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5585629#_19_message_5608850 )

(I'd urge you not to pay attention to the "actual freedom" stuff though.)

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