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The desire for power

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Have you ever thought about what it means to chase power? For me the lead-in to this came from video games, where the ability to defeat monsters in battle is a symbol for power. It is part of what makes those games attractive, this idea of progressing along a path and becoming more powerful. Of course these are all a certain kind of dream, the actual power you acquire is limited to a virtual arena.

In real life too guns stand for a particular fantasy which is about power over others’ lives and choices. Which is limited by the consequences that the law imposes. For other people power comes from political office, but this too is usually limited by compromises and working with the desires of others.

But I think deep inside we will encounter the desire for power in some form whatever we do. Many dreams of power are illusions, and many other forms are limited, and power seems to have an unhealthy relationship with desire, usually leading to lying and insincerity and broken promises.

It seems like a Buddhist or even just a spiritual path goes more into letting things go, into virtue which seems to move away from power. But I feel that without a deeper insight into the desire for power, my exploration of Buddhism cannot be complete.

I’d very much like to hear your thoughts on this, dear e-sangha members!

Shoshin

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    As a Moderator of 15 years,you can have no idea of the agonising path I walk, with regard to decisions I have to make every single day.

    Kundo
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Virtue, humility, compassion, wisdom and being most excellent are all spiritual superpowers 🦸‍♀️

    You have to let it all go:

    • progress
    • attainment
    • siddhi

    ay carumba ... back to beginner mind :3 ... don't leave home without it ... <3

    Kerome
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    The urge to have power is a natural response to the fact that life is unpredictable and uncertain. It is not an urge that can eliminate this fear about uncertainty, but just as alcoholics try to self-medicate their inner pain away, so too we seek power are a way to try to control our life. We seek control, and through that we seek freedom. Buddhism suggests a different tactic.

    I am very fond of the words of Gehlek Rimpoche ("Good Life, Good Death") who wrote:
    "In reality, the fact that we cannot do even half of what we want is a sign of our lack of freedom. Not only are we not free to achieve our goals, we are also not free from sickness, old age, and death."

    ShoshinJeffreyKeromeperson
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited March 31

    Power/having control...it's an illusion ( be it a very persistence one at times...)

    However from what I gather...Power can be like a suit of armour for some people ...

    As the old saying goes ...Power Tends To Corrupt,,, Absolute Power...Corrupts Absolutely

    If I obtain some form of so-called power I also have a choice in how I use this power and I also have a choice of relinquishing some or all of this power if it becomes too much...

    However if I happen to get a taste for the sweet nectar of power, well...over my dead body ...Or as Charlton Heston would say..."You will have to pry it from my cold dead hands" ;) ;) :lol: ...fortunately this ain't gonna happen...

    Have authoritative power over others, is not everyone's cup of tea ...

    My sister was made monitor at high school, not because she was a good student, the teachers gave her this position believing that, by giving her some authority would curb her unruliness and also keep her friends in check (kinda like reverse psychology :) )

    But I guess power... as with all things....this too shall pass it won't last for ever...

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    For me video games gave me a small dose of anxiety (exploring something new that was uncertain) that was easily overcome for a victory (in game). I think that's a good thing and it helped me to overcome anxiety and have more confidence. I still play them just as a leisure activity where you explore an imaginative world and make both story choices and tactical choices.

    Kerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Power can be grasped ... or for Real Power let go of as @Kundo mentions ...

    ... though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
    I will fear no ignorance
    for Mindfulness is Present
    the Sitting and Sangha inspire me

    Buddha Nature is present in my hindrances
    and my thoughts are gone, Metta is activated

    Certainty of kindness and generosity shall lead my actions
    and I will dwell in samsara for all beings
    http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/25074/death

    💀👻🥳 🧘‍♀️👣👩🏻‍🦲☠️

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The desire for power

    Power is a Powerful energy...

    I guess the main Power to have that is worthy of ones desire is ...

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @FoibleFull said:
    The urge to have power is a natural response to the fact that life is unpredictable and uncertain. It is not an urge that can eliminate this fear about uncertainty, but just as alcoholics try to self-medicate their inner pain away, so too we seek power are a way to try to control our life. We seek control, and through that we seek freedom. Buddhism suggests a different tactic.

    I think that’s well said and so true for the initial urge to power... you start off wanting it as a unfertilised against the vicissitudes of life. But that urge for control is ultimately in vain, we only have a limited range in which we can exert control over life. Whether power then ultimately corrupts you is another matter.

    FoibleFull
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited April 1

    The only power or control we have is the ability of our minds to let go and be free.
    Go find the kill switch.

    Your mind is spinning around
    About carrying out a lot of useless projects:
    It’s a waste! Give it up!
    Thinking about the hundred plans you want to accomplish,
    With never enough time to finish them,
    Just weighs down your mind.
    You’re completely distracted
    By all these projects, which never come to an end,
    But keep spreading out more, like ripples in water.
    Don’t be a fool: for once, just sit tight.

    When you’re without any worldly or religious obligations,
    Don’t keep on longing to acquire some!

    If you let go of everything—
    Everything, everything—
    That’s the real point!

    http://sealevel.ca/patrul/

    lobsterKundo
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Go find the kill switch.

    On it!

    Kundopegembara
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    This was vaguely interesting, in giving an insight into how power corrupts. But also that the people who are initially given power tend to be “good guys”, curiously enough.

    https://www.wired.com/2010/08/the-psychology-of-power/

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

    You know who said that? D'you know who?

    Aung San Suu Kyi.

    That's who.
    (Oh, the irony....)

    Kundoperson
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Buddhists cultivate power. They develop the powers of faith, energy, concentration, mindfulness and wisdom. =)

    lobsterperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @seeker242 said:
    Buddhists cultivate power. They develop the powers of faith, energy, concentration, mindfulness and wisdom. =)

    A very interesting point of view O.o i’m sure some people, especially spiritual materialists, see it in that way, while others see it more as a tricky item along the path which should not be clung to.

  • @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:
    Buddhists cultivate power. They develop the powers of faith, energy, concentration, mindfulness and wisdom. =)

    A very interesting point of view O.o i’m sure some people, especially spiritual materialists, see it in that way, while others see it more as a tricky item along the path which should not be clung to.

    @Kerome, How do so-called spiritual powers, or “siddhis”, fit into this for you? Apparently Dipa Ma, who was one teacher of Sharon Salzburg and Jack Kornfield, was trained in these abilities in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw. She could walk through walls and everything. I ask because I don’t really know what to make of them myself.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:
    Buddhists cultivate power. They develop the powers of faith, energy, concentration, mindfulness and wisdom. =)

    A very interesting point of view O.o i’m sure some people, especially spiritual materialists, see it in that way,

    I would say the Buddha himself saw it that way. =)

    "Powers" don't necessarily just mean siddhis, supranormal powers, etc. It also means the spiritual powers that are needed to transcend all suffering and get enlightenment.

    The five powers (pañca bala) are part of the "37 qualities conducive to Enlightenment" teachings. =)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited April 3

    @adamcrossley, There are two questions there for me, one, do siddhi’s actually exist, and two, should they be clung to? For the first, I don’t rightly know. An extensive education in the sciences tells me they may only have a spiritual reality. For example, I came across a story told by someone in the 1970’s who said they felt like they were levitating after using the (non-Buddhist) Transcendental Meditation technique, but on opening their eyes were assured by others they had been on the ground the entire time.

    On the other hand, there are stories in the sutra’s about arahants who can fly, teleport or walk on water. Now, I have never seen a human being do these things, or heard of them being done in another reputable, non-religious source claiming to be real, so there is a distinct lack of evidence. But for some people the sutra’s are such an important source that they are believed over anything else. Still, the sutra’s are from another less-sceptical time, were transmitted orally for a time and have been translated several times. Perhaps these things have crept in.

    I’d also have to say that some other siddhi’s, such as person-to-person energy transmission, seem to me to be much more likely. Certainly some people claiming to be enlightened have an energy radiating around them which is almost palpable, I have experienced this first hand. So perhaps there are more things in this world than a sceptical view might admit.

    Should they be clung to? Absolutely not. I have heard such abilities, should they exist, are a significant hurdle on the path because they cause pride, greed and attachment. There is even a story in the sutra’s that the Buddha had to make up rules for arahant monks to not show off their powers because one was so overcome that he would go fly in circles around a local stupa.

    adamcrossleylobsterAlexperson
  • @Kerome, yes that sounds about right. I think I’m in the same camp as you, not knowing if these things even exist, and if they do, then presuming they’re just another thing to let go of. Well put, thank you.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Flying around stupas would turn many to dharma. The evidence is not there.

    ... meanwhile the arising of faculties, attributes but above all ordinariness continues to empower those weakened (empowerment comes first) by Dharma practice/cultivation ...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Exactly so.
    The initial stages are about cultivation, stillness, focus, improvement. Power if you will.

    However the Perfect Being, The Buddha is just Nothing. Empty of imperfection, perfection, power and distinctive qualities. Basically a walking corpse. Only human. Or are you searching for Captain Marvel?

    Bonus track

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:

    Exactly so.
    The initial stages are about cultivation, stillness, focus, improvement. Power if you will.

    However the Perfect Being, The Buddha is just Nothing. Empty of imperfection, perfection, power and distinctive qualities. Basically a walking corpse. Only human. Or are you searching for Captain Marvel?

    No, not Captain Marvel... but when considering power or strength it always occurs to me it has its uses. And then I consider there are greater bounties, because all power and strength are things of this one life, and I come back to the Tibetan nine points on death.

  • herbieherbie Veteran

    I have no desire for power and video games are alien to me. I do not have a gun since these are prohibited in my homeland and so desire for guns is alien to me.
    In terms of the path I do not rely on own power because achievements depend on other power.
    However if people would give me the power as a ruler I would accept it and many people would regret it.

    Kundo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @herbie said: However if people would give me the power as a ruler I would accept it and many people would regret it.

    Reminds me of another notorious, infamous and regrettable ruler of the 20th Century....

  • herbieherbie Veteran
    edited April 8

    @federica said:

    @herbie said: However if people would give me the power as a ruler I would accept it and many people would regret it.

    Reminds me of another notorious, infamous and regrettable ruler of the 20th Century....

    you say it. Be warned! never give power to anybody! And be ready to take it back from government at any time!

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yeah. That idea has gone down the drain in the UK, currently. What a total and utter shitstorm-clusterfuck.

    Pardon me....

    KeromelobsterKundo
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Brexit is actually a pretty interesting case of a national governments desire for complete autonomy... I suspect quite a few Tory Leave-hardliners of being a bit power mad and borderline xenophobic.

    lobster
  • techietechie India Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @lobster said:

    Exactly so.
    The initial stages are about cultivation, stillness, focus, improvement. Power if you will.

    However the Perfect Being, The Buddha is just Nothing. Empty of imperfection, perfection, power and distinctive qualities. Basically a walking corpse. Only human. Or are you searching for Captain Marvel?

    No, not Captain Marvel... but when considering power or strength it always occurs to me it has its uses. And then I consider there are greater bounties, because all power and strength are things of this one life, and I come back to the Tibetan nine points on death.

    Power of man over nature versus power of man over man. Trotsky speaks about this somewhere. It's quite interesting.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Have you ever thought about what it means to chase power? For me the lead-in to this came from video games, where the ability to defeat monsters in battle is a symbol for power. It is part of what makes those games attractive, this idea of progressing along a path and becoming more powerful. Of course these are all a certain kind of dream, the actual power you acquire is limited to a virtual arena.

    In real life too guns stand for a particular fantasy which is about power over others’ lives and choices. Which is limited by the consequences that the law imposes. For other people power comes from political office, but this too is usually limited by compromises and working with the desires of others.

    But I think deep inside we will encounter the desire for power in some form whatever we do. Many dreams of power are illusions, and many other forms are limited, and power seems to have an unhealthy relationship with desire, usually leading to lying and insincerity and broken promises.

    It seems like a Buddhist or even just a spiritual path goes more into letting things go, into virtue which seems to move away from power. But I feel that without a deeper insight into the desire for power, my exploration of Buddhism cannot be complete.

    I’d very much like to hear your thoughts on this, dear e-sangha members!

    The power you describe in the first paragraph to my mind sounds like mastery. I'm good at my profession, I have a certain level of mastery and it gives me power to earn a living and be of value to others in a part of my life, power to manipulate the world and make it better in a small way. I'm grateful for that power and I do suppose fearful of losing it, maybe through accident or illness... or robots?

    Through my Buddhist practice I have some level of power over my negative emotions. I am not so under their sway and have the power to shift my attitude in a more positive direction. I have a level of desire for more of that power.

    On the other hand there is control. I feel like I have a pretty hands off relation in my attitude towards others, just as I want to live in a way that is true and meaningful to myself without being judged or controlled by others I think other people probably feel much the same. So I give up that kind of power. I can try to shed light or give a perspective, but attempting to directly affect or criticize another's life isn't a type of power I desire.

    JeffreyKerome
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