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Book of Eights: Chapter 16 (last)

KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest?Europe Veteran

This chapter is subtitled, “Monastic training”, and it is a little different from the other poems. It focuses exclusively on monastic training, and introduces some new concepts.

There is an intro by Sariputta, which may be a later addition. He talks of precepts and religious practices, where before the Buddha de-emphasised those. Further in the previous poems there was a lot of emphasis on what sages don’t do or should abandon doing, here there is explicit talk on what monastics should do.

Receiving food and clothing at the right time,
They know what’s enough for satisfaction.
Guarded in these things and restrained in villages,
Even when offended they say nothing harsh.

Eyes downcast, not agitated, practicing meditation,
They should be ever wakeful.
Composed and equanimous,
They should cut off doubt and worry.

Furthermore, mindfully they should train,
To remove the five stains of the world:
They should conquer passion
For forms, sounds, tastes, smells and touch.

Especially the last I thought was a really clear instruction. Passion can take many forms, and usually denotes desire or clinging. The shape of a woman, beautiful music, delicious food, perfumes and say the feel of a cat, could all be things that arouse feelings.

Snakeskin

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited October 30

    Wot no pussy stroking?

    Pah! Glad we are finished with that book. Might now find a copy and study it ... B)

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    Sensual impressions do trigger feelings in us.
    Personally, I live very much by the senses, so I am happy not to need to cut myself off the pleasures of life, since I don't lead a monastic life.
    I do understand, though, how not being attached to the world does indeed contribute to a sense of inner peace.

    lobsterHozanSnakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    You’re right about feelings @DhammaDragon . It’s interesting but for each of the passions I mentioned there is probably a correspondingly visceral dislike - spiky shapes, screeching noises, disgusting food, foul stenches and the feel of sandpaper perhaps. But the Buddha advocates conquering the “passion” of the senses, which I suppose might lure us into further becoming.

    It does seem a bit backward, to pursue freedom from suffering and happiness by conquering the pleasures of life. But I don’t think that you don’t experience them anymore, merely thatyour reaction to them changes.

    lobsterDhammaDragonHozanSnakeskin
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    I know, @Kerome.
    And I am aware that the Buddha is quite spot on about where the whole dependent origination chain originates.
    I can imagine a stilling of both our attachments and aversions brings about nibbana.
    And how contact with the world of the senses keeps us stuck in a cycle of dukkha.
    I do understand it in my mind.

    But personally, I am still very much in the world.
    And feel deeply.
    I do not get carried away by my likes and dislikes, but I consciously choose to yield to certain pleasures of life.
    I could choose not to, but I do: a good meal, a good wine, fooling around with friends, love...
    I probably don't make sense, but let's say I am in no hurry towards enlightenment.
    I am really enjoying the view.

    Do we all want to lead a sort of monastic discipline?
    I know I am not ready.
    And I feel very much at peace with the choices I make, trying not to create unnecessary dukkha.
    Whenever possible.
    Still with one foot in both worlds.

    KeromelobsterHozanSnakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I think that’s the attitude of a lot of non-monastic Buddhists, to enjoy life while remembering that in every intense joy there is the danger of addiction and of runaway, manic passion. Many people do take care. Even a lot of the wiser non-Buddhists live this way, it’s the middle way in a sense.

    But you never know when you might get carried away, ones strength is not always the same. For example, I never had a problem with cravings for alcohol, for me it was always just a drink once in a while. Then I went without for 18 months, but eventually decided to try some beers in a mindfulness experiment. And suddenly I was getting strong hankerings for my one allowed beer a day, my willpower on days without was sorely tested. It has since slackened off though.

    I tell this just to illustrate that in my experience at least things do not always stay the same, and it is worthwhile to remain watchful of yourself and your own changing needs and desires.

    DhammaDragonSnakeskin
  • Good realistic post from @DhammaDragon

    Vinegarish ascetic dharma is NOT for everyone AND it is not the only Middle Way. I have very much a claw in both worlds. It makes me more balanced, which for a wer-lobster is very important. ;)

    What is true, is our approach or attitude is central. Are we focussed on the Dharma and practice or are we half hearted, wishy washy monks?

    Do we find value in the paths and efforts of our most damaged, frail brothers and sisters or require the company of stern Dharma fundamentalists?

    The 'stilling' that @Kerome describes in the first post, is a worthy practice, turning us inward to the source of our salvation/recovery from samsara. Above all else a sense of

    Still with one foot in both worlds.

    will ensure we are not overwhelmed by Nirvana as something especially 'indulgent' ...

    A bit of awakening and people start religions, declare themselves as undead offspring of god, the lust of the Prophets and so on.

    Be ordinary. In excess.
    Did I go wrong again? Well ... as it is Halloween, the naughty corner is closed and I will be wondering around for eternity if not careful ... :)

    HozanKeromeDhammaDragonSnakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited October 31

    Then again what does it mean to “conquer a passion” exactly? One can prove by withholding from it that ones will is a superior force, but is that path of withholding not essentially asceticism?

    I suppose one could deny a passion at the point of a peak experience, and then say it is conquered, but then one has to go looking for peak experiences of the passions, which the monastics don’t do.

    Or perhaps one conquers by holding steadfastly to the middle way, denying peaks and troughs in the experience of passion. Sounds like a severe exercise in discipline.

    It always strikes me that discipline is a step towards denial of what is, forcing ones will upon things as they are, and a step away from acceptance of things as they are. Which is quite a Tao thought.

    SnakeskinDhammaDragon
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Explorer

    I agree in that the language sounds like "hear no evil, see no evil." So, I understand it as subversion instead of conquest, throwing a monkey wrench into the process leading to passions instead of suppression of them. This way I don't have to pursue a futile, ascetic discipline of denial and can instead apply that discipline to meditative practices that supposedly lead to disenchantment with external gratification and the cultivation of wholesome, internally derived states. I've seen some of that but not near enough to trade my formfitting clothes for robes.

    On sensing a form, sound, scent, taste, feeling or thought one does not grasp at its signs and features. Since, if one left the senses unguarded, unwholesome states of longing and dejection might invade. One practices the way of their restraint, guards the senses, undertakes their restraint. Possessing this noble restraint, one experiences an unsullied bliss.

    That means to me things are still sensed, but restraint is just mindfulness that avoids entanglement in the "signs", content, subverting the ensuing proliferation of mental constructs, thoughts and feelings, passions.

    personDhammaDragon
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