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Shiny, bright things

Mara777Mara777 South of the equator New

Hello all,
New to the forum. Lurked a bit and decided to join after seeing the positive vibe here. I have been 'dabbling' at this Buddhism thing for over 6 years now.
Brief history...I came across the teaching as a curious, spiritual seeking late teen, early 20 something...saw much wisdom in it but put it aside as it was too much of a downer for me and back then I liked the fantastic, kind of "you can have unlimited happiness, success, superpower kundalini, out of this world fantastical" blabla stuff and then moved on to magical type practices.
Well, very many years later...after exploring all those paths and through life experience....I started seeing that those paths have some useful things and truth to them but that for me, the 'spiritual' path had become an ego trip, quest for power (unconsciously) and permabliss, delusions and not actually spiritually nourishing but rather catered more to a kind of spiritual greed. All this came crashing during my first Vipassana sit in 2010 and after, I started studying the dharma more seriously. Unfortunately, even though I have been on several retreats, my daily practice is quite spotty and every time I think I am finally ready to embrace the dharma, my old mind set starts kicking in...
Reading the posts on this sangha, I felt I could ask these questions here...
Why is it so hard to beat the delusion that external things can bring happiness? Like if I met my soulmate, finally got my dream career, lots of success and recognition, great health and beauty, would be so endlessly fun and exciting..there is always more to get...and like the dharma is saying to renounce this seeking. Life seems so drab without goals and desires.
I was on a magical path for a long time that taught cultivation and manifestation of desire as the path to growth and self refinement...but this path of releasing craving and purifying the grasping mind, cultivating compassion and kindness...seems well, spiritually nourishing, sane and real. So, I keep circling back. But then I feel like I am giving up on life, when I see all my role models in the dharma, they are monks, nuns and some therapists. I am just not this Pollyanna type. I guess I have this ego that really defends its right to exist and says life is short, take a gamble and seek everything you can imagine from this lifetime and then those guys that say "Chill and do nothing". I mean, what's the point? Is the 'suffering' really all that bad? And isn't it all those ecstatic moments between birth and death that really matter? Climbing up a mountain, love affairs, having children, launching a successful business, divorce, heartbreak, illness etc. Isn't the whole point just to feel everything and be a human being? Isn't it this grasping for what we think will fulfill that allows human civilization to progress? Aren't we biologically built to go chasing? We even have mechanisms in our brain that reward us when we do. Is it worthwhile to fight your own nature this much? I mean, who cares, we are all going to die anyway?
But yes, I do all those things...sometimes (often) I fail, so I am disappointed. Sometimes, I succeed and feel fulfilled for a while...then the hungry heart returns. The 1st Noble truth becomes so self evident with time, growing up, experience and observation. But this hunger is so..addictive. It makes me feel very alive. I also like the 'high' when things are going well, when on the cusp of achieving a dream and goal...also really addictive. I fear that fully embracing the dharma will make me flat...dead. But I also somehow feel its truth in the core of my being. I also struggle with this teaching because life has brought me so much joy and so much the real kind not just the pleasure thing. I want to be 'attached' to my children, to my father, to those I have loved. That is real to me. And it seems so 'anti-life' and even a bit mean to say that existence is problematic when it is the Source of all things including joy, love etc. Why cant we honor everything including our human nature and desire?
Am I gravely misunderstanding these teachings?
Do we get to be happy in this Buddhist deal? Do we get to live worthwhile lives and have some adventure? Or is it all just about not suffering?
Any help?

Thanks so much for reading this.



  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    There is a difference between doing something, and clinging to it. We can have relationships that we don't cling to. We can have jobs we don't cling to. It is the clinging and expectation of particular outcomes that produces suffering. We can minimize it quite a lot, and it is to our advantage to do so. There is always some level of "suffering" but I prefer the word "dissatisfaction" in life, which is the nature of the human condition. But we don't have to live a life full of avoiding it all costs. Acceptance is the name of the game, no matter what is going on. We can be ok, and content, and calm in our minds, no matter what is going on around us.

    There is nothing wrong with setting goals and reaching them. It's pretty hard to live without doing so. But clinging to the expectation of achieving that goal is what brings us the suffering. If we can learn how to be open to whatever comes, then we find we are content much more often. Which for me is a much better middle way than the nonstop rollercoaster of happiness and disappointment. For me, I find joy in contentment. Sometimes I am happy. Sometimes I am sad. But I can learn to be content in either without an expectation that I should fight sadness and strive for happiness. I can find joy in any state of emotion. Not always, for sure, :lol: It is a work in progress, as it should be. I still deal with fears and disappointments and stress. But the simple understanding that it won't last forever has been quite helpful to me. You just have to remember that our happiest moments also won't last forever. And that is ok, too.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited July 2017

    You have captured some of my thoughts as well around the nature of Buddhism, I've also struggled with this exact same question.

    I gradually learnt more about Buddhism, and came across answers to some of those questions. It's often about not clinging, about knowing when and how to let go, rather than not attaching. And you don't know how that might make you feel, you might prefer the spaciousness to the intensity of the life you had been living. I read Thich Nhat Hanh, his mindfulness based approach really resonated with me.

    Very much later I came across this quote:

    "Therefore, in training ourselves as those who have left the world, we must learn to give up all forms of evil, giving up all those things which are the cause for enmity. We conquer ourselves, we don’t try to conquer others. We fight, but we fight only the defilements; if there is greed, we fight that; if there is aversion, we fight that; if there is delusion, we strive to give it up. This is called “Dhamma fighting.” This warfare of the heart is really difficult, in fact it’s the most difficult thing of all."
    — Ajahn Chah, The Complete Talks

    Buddhism is in some ways a tradeoff. Perhaps you won't drink alcohol anymore. You might give up some other things you used to enjoy. Some of what we feel internally, those excitements and highs, also cause a lot of turbulence and perhaps on some level damage. In return you get peace, concentration, mindfulness.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Hi @Mara777 and welcome to NB.

    That was an excellent 'essay' you wrote. I enjoyed it very much.
    It really does stand alone - a magnificent statement/rhetorical thingy. B)

  • Mara777Mara777 South of the equator New

    Thanks for the replies..and yeah...sorry...long essay. Have spent a week wading through dharma talks and it just wasn't sinking in.
    I appreciate the advise I am getting which seems to be - focus on easing on the clinging to outcomes rather than disengaging from life. And also that most of this will get resolved or get clearer in the practice.
    Yeah, I need to hit the cushion. I'm good at talking myself out of that.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Ah-ah-ahhh! (@silver wags finger): No apologizing for nothin' (cool synchronicity) - I really meant it when I said your 'essay' - post - was really well-written.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited July 2017

    Reading the posts on this sangha, I felt I could ask these questions here...

    Hello B)

    Magickal adventuresome dharma with cushion time, retreats, treats and talks that resonate and inspire?

    mmm ... shade of Tantra might do it?

    Maybe you would like to be a vampire? (I am a wer-lobster myself)

    What exactly was the question again? o:)

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran

    Hello there. Nice to meet you =)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited July 2017

    @Mara777 said:
    Do we get to be happy in this Buddhist deal?

    Or is it all just about not suffering?

    Kia Ora @Mara777 (Kia Ora means welcome-May you be well)

    Happiness is Dukkha ...Sadness is Dukkha ..
    Both don't last, like everything else, they are subject to change...But this is not to say one can not 'enjoy' the happy moments...It's when one wants this happiness to continue on, this is when one suffers... If one clings one suffers... ( I guess this is where experiential understanding of "The Three Marks of Existence" comes into play )

    And yes in a sense it is all about Dukkha and the cessation of Dukkha ...Dukkha simply means "unsatifactoriness" ...

    From the Buddhist perspective there are three kinds of "Dukkha"...

    "Dukkha-dukkha, the dukkha of painful experiences. This includes the physical and mental sufferings of birth, aging, illness, dying; distress from what is not desirable.

    Viparinama-dukkha, the dukkha of the changing nature of all things. This includes frustration of not getting what you want.

    Sankhara-dukkha, the dukkha of conditioned experience. This includes "a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, all forms of life, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance."[web 1] On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards

    I have been 'dabbling' at this Buddhism thing for over 6 years now.

    @Mara777 the deeper one diligently delves into the Dharma, the more one will come to appreciate its significance ...

    I'm reminded of what a Dharma teacher once said to my friend's Sangha group ( I'm guessing it was a question relating to Dharma practice and 'happiness' )

    "Beware of the unhappy Buddhist...They are not really practising...just being intellectual"

    (I expect ...a mind-trap that many a budding Buddhist has fallen into )

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    Why is it so hard to "beat the delusion" that external things will bring happiness?
    Because external things distract us from our inner unhappiness. Because it is a lot easier to look for distraction than to face and tackle the underlying issues. Some teachers (thinking of Pema Chodron here) discuss our need to find a sense of security, to "find ground", through pursuing external things. Others talk about habits of infinite lifetimes .. that these habits of seeking solutions from externals are deeply-ingrained habits that take effort and time to change.

    Perhaps the biggest "ground" that we seek is the belief that we are in control of ourselves and life, and that we know how it all works.
    Buddhism is a process of letting go of all of this, of opening to and resting in this moment.
    “Everything is always changing. If you relax into this truth, that is Enlightenment. If you resist, this is samsara (suffering).”
    Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, “What Makes You (Not) a Buddhist”

  • Good answer @FoibleFull

    We of a lay Buddhist orientation are not adverse to polishing the heads of monks, visiting exotic adventures, experiences, people and parrots.
    Some of us have goals, careers, partners, families and temple dwellers to support. Some of us are even sane, enlightened and have super powers, though mentioning such things is not always required ... B)

    Most of all we are monkey inspectors. We have seen the sangha monk-key, we have empowered the dharma-armour and bowed to Buddhas of past, present and beyond boundaries.

    'Nothing' awaits ... ?????

  • @lobster. How the Dharma Given to the Birds is thus. Avalokiteshvara out of compassion for the feathered folk turned himself into the great Cuckoo to teach them Dharma. But it took Master Parrot to request the teachings be given. So Golden Goose, Raven and Cock played their parts as well. The feathered folk found happiness in the Dharma. Charming.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2017


    You might be interested in the valleys the birds have to go through in the quest to find the legendary Sufi Simorgh ... It is many feathered, shine similar to a Garuda or Phoenix ...

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