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Examining the positive qualities of life

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited July 12 in Buddhism Basics

Dear all,

I have been thinking some about the positive qualities of life: love, laughter, dance, joy, happiness. Ajahn Chah says that when he examines positive things, he invariably finds that they lead him into some deeper dhukkha, and that that is why one should see life as unsatisfactory. Now I haven’t been able to find this.

Think of an evenings African dancing. There would be drums, bare feet, bodies moving freely to the rhythm, you would enjoy it. After a while you would get tired. You might have a fruit juice. You might dance with a strong lady friend. Then the evening would draw to a close, there would be applause for the drummers, clapping and hugging. You would go home, feeling satisfied.

Where in a joyful happening like that is the hidden dhukkha? You take everything lightly, you just let go of things when they are no longer going on. It’s the same with a good beach walk, or a cycle ride through nature. Yes I agree letting go of things is a key life skill, but it is something you can learn and incorporate into the patterns of one’s life.

Joy and happiness are to be found in many things great and small. Stepping into ones living room in the early morning, enjoying the sunshine on your back, a glass of orange juice — these things together can bring a happy morning. You can look forward for weeks to the release of a new computer architecture, that can bring joy. You can work together with a team of trusted colleagues on a large project, that can bring happiness.

I have great respect for Ajahn Chah and the Thai Forest tradition, I think there is a lot of wisdom there, but I think in this area they have let themselves be led by the renunciate nature of their monkhood, and they have arrived at a conclusion which is not correct. Monks are not allowed by the vinaya to do many things which we lay people would feel are small pleasures. Ultimately I feel that life is a mixture of positive, negative and neutral happenings, and the practice of letting go is key to equanimity and overall peace.

What is the experience of happiness in your life?

With warm regards,
Kerome

howJeffrey

Comments

  • WalkerWalker Veteran Veteran

    I think we're pretty much on the same page. Happiness is great. Enjoy it while you can.
    I see happiness as fleeting, just as sorrow is. It seems to me that in all this, impermanence is the only permanent thing.

    'He knows changes aren't permanent, but change is.' - Neil Peart

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Walker said:
    I see happiness as fleeting, just as sorrow is.

    I think that is exactly right. The real problem is the things you do with your mind, where you give yourself unpleasant feelings through focussing too much on things which you should be letting go of. Worrying is a key example.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I think I'm more in agreement with Ajahn Chah. We can let go of each event but I'd say the suffering involved has more to do with where we look for our ultimate sources of happiness. These "worldly" things bring temporary happiness but looking for happiness in them turns our attention outwards and tends to drive our pursuits into acquiring more of them rather than seeking to undo our internal obstacles to happiness.

    You spend time in spiritual practice and maybe you have some kind of balance between the two. I also enjoy worldly happinesses but I don't orient my life and pursuits to acquire more of them in order to be happy.

    The second Noble Truth says the source of suffering lies in our minds. The basic point of the Buddhist path is about working on those because that is what we can control, often the external world is out of our control and unreliable. Say you looked forward to something and at the last moment it fell through or working with your colleagues turned antagonistic? Also, isn't getting joy from the small things in life dependent on a certain state of mind?

    Kerome
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome
    I think your questions here are great!

    The problem with cherry picking when looking at any Dharmic tradition is that you miss out on all of the checks and balances that have also evolved over many century's to bring those practitioners of a particular tradition safely along the road towards suffering's cessation.

    Cherry picking is usually just us trying to find a way to salvage those aspects of the human condition that we still cherish over any practices efforts at transcending them.
    We simply want to get what they're offering without being willing to pay the full cost for the product.

    Is this about wanting some cessation to your un satisfactoriness in life (otherwise I doubt that you'd be here) but not if the cure calls for the letting go of attachments to ones emotional identifications which are the core of sufferings cause.

    Just what would you describe a spiritual Pollyanna syndrome to be and what would it look like?

    Keromeperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @how said:
    The problem with cherry picking when looking at any Dharmic tradition is that you miss out on all of the checks and balances that have also evolved over many century's to bring those practitioners of a particular tradition safely along the road towards suffering's cessation.

    The reason why I’ve gotten a little hung up on this teaching is because Ajahn Chah emphasised it as very important, and at first glance it seemed unduly depressive. The world is rarely so extreme that we can say it is all one, it smacks of a generalisation. So I thought it worthy of examination.

    It was also not the first time I had seen this teaching. It also comes up in the second of the Three Marks of Existence, where it says ‘all conditioned things are dhukkha, unsatisfactory’. It’s around in a few different places.

    Is this about wanting some cessation to your un satisfactoriness in life (otherwise I doubt that you'd be here) but not if the cure calls for the letting go of attachments to ones emotional identifications which are the core of sufferings cause.

    I am largely at peace with my life, the good and the bad aspects, which is why this conclusion that all experiences are unsatisfactory rather jars. I’ve found Buddhism to be an overall good influence, and I’m still interested in enlightenment, which is why I’m happily pottering around with paper teachers like Ajahn Chah.

    Just what would you describe a spiritual Pollyanna syndrome to be and what would it look like?

    I’d say it would be someone who would see all happiness in the spiritual life, only good things. But I don’t do that — I fully acknowledge there are kilesa’s and defilements which keep us from a certain purity. But I don’t think it is possible for there to be such a place as hell, it does not seem in keeping with the natural world, and I don’t see how ‘everything is unsatisfactory.’

    Everything I have seen from teachers who might be said to be ‘awakened’ leads me to suspect that we are all individual in how our spiritual paths turn out, and that accepting another man’s path largely just leads to you becoming an inferior copy. At most we can say that all these teachers give glimpses, fingers pointing to the moon. But you serve your path best by staying aware and questioning.

    how
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 12

    @Kerome said:
    Dear all,

    I have been thinking some about the positive qualities of life: love, laughter, dance, joy, happiness. Ajahn Chah says that when he examines positive things, he invariably finds that they lead him into some deeper dhukkha, and that that is why one should see life as unsatisfactory. Now I haven’t been able to find this.

    I can understand this view and I also don't see it that way. The idea is that since the pleasant experience can't last forever and leaves us craving the next time, it leads to suffering so should be avoided. For me, this simply doesn't follow. I would advocate mindfulness to lessen suffering and not aversion. The view can even seem to be an attachment itself and some people lament life's lack while still living.

    Can we at least allow the event to unfold before attaching to its next unfolding?

    We need to work on attachment itself, not the individual objects of attachment. That addresses the symptoms but not the cause.

    Think of an evenings African dancing. There would be drums, bare feet, bodies moving freely to the rhythm, you would enjoy it. After a while you would get tired. You might have a fruit juice. You might dance with a strong lady friend. Then the evening would draw to a close, there would be applause for the drummers, clapping and hugging. You would go home, feeling satisfied.

    That seems to be the difference in views right there. Some of us find the events end as Integral to our satisfaction and others believe they would find more satisfaction if the event would not end. The latter seems more conducive to dukkha and if experiences didn't end, they couldn't make way for the next.

    Where in a joyful happening like that is the hidden dhukkha? You take everything lightly, you just let go of things when they are no longer going on. It’s the same with a good beach walk, or a cycle ride through nature. Yes I agree letting go of things is a key life skill, but it is something you can learn and incorporate into the patterns of one’s life.

    In my opinion when we get to the point where dukkha hides behind ever good feeling, it serves us to let go of letting go. It is not healthy to constantly suck the joy out of life for fear of attachment.

    Being mindful, we can enjoy something even once it is over and look back on it with a fond memory or two. We can catch ourselves getting hooked and work with that. Back to the breath-so to speak.

    When we're talking about an attachment to loved ones, I find the positivity of having loved them outweighed the negativity of loss.

    Joy and happiness are to be found in many things great and small. Stepping into ones living room in the early morning, enjoying the sunshine on your back, a glass of orange juice — these things together can bring a happy morning. You can look forward for weeks to te release of a new computer architecture, that can bring joy. You can work together with a team of trusted colleagues on a large project, that can bring happiness.

    I have great respect for Ajahn Chah and the Thai Forest tradition, I think there is a lot of wisdom there, but I think in this area they have let themselves be led by the renunciate nature of their monkhood, and they have arrived at a conclusion which is not correct. I feel that life is a mixture of positive and negative happenings, and the practice of letting go is key to equanimity and overall peace.

    I still think it is good to be mindful of the suffering in the world while enjoying some aspect of it but not at the expense of said enjoyment. It is good to be mindful of the suffering that goes into our meals and that others are not as lucky to have a bowl full right now but we still need to eat.

    What is the experience of happiness in your life?

    "If it isn't good, let it die, if it doesn't die, make it good."

    • Ajahn Chah.

    Sometimes, great teachers seem to contradict themselves.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 12

    @how said:
    I think most Buddhist teachers end up having to deal with practitioners who suffer with a general dis satisfaction in life but who are unwilling to go far enough to break through the core causes that brought them to that teachers door.
    Teachers seeing and hearing the same woes from the same students, year after year, know that this is because the student doesn't yet truly know that any attachments to anything (good or bad) is a cause of that suffering.

    Here I think that teachers job is to point out the folly of that students hope for still being able to hang on to some favored attachments and not feel their resulting suffering.

    Hence, the teachings that anything you attach to causes suffering. Not that everything is suffering. Teachers generally define the term " of the world" as that which people commonly have attachments to and not that everything in the world is suffering.

    Yes. That's why I think it works better to work on attachment t itself rather than the objects of attachment. It isn't the chocolate that leads to suffering but our reaction to the chocolate.

    The defilements is the suffering.

    howWalkerShoshinlobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I wonder if the idea of god realms is instructive here. Not necessarily in a supernatural sense, but in the sense of having a good life with lots of pleasant things around you. It all goes away in the end and we haven't had the needed motivation to practice.

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Also remember that Buddhism defines suffering in several levels of increasing subtlety. So dukkha doesn't just refer to gross types of suffering.

    1.The suffering of suffering. This is the one we’re all familiar with: the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death, as the Buddha described it.
    2.The suffering of change. When you do get what you want, you can’t hold onto it. Even if things are going great now, it’s just a matter of time. The richest, most successful person in the world will eventually lose it all (see 1).
    3.All-pervasive suffering. This is the type of suffering we are most likely not to recognize, yet the most instructive when we do. It’s the general background of anxiety and insecurity that colors even our happiest moments. Deep down, we fear that life doesn’t offer us solid ground and that our very existence is questionable. From a Buddhist point of view, these doubts are well-founded, and exploring them offers us glimpses of wisdom.
    https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhism-by-the-numbers-the-three-kinds-of-suffering/

    ShoshinWalkerlobster
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited July 13

    edited out because it had already been said elsewhere on this thread.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    What is the experience of happiness in your life?

    A fish uneaten, swimming free.

    Also Saraswati knowledge. People I like but in small doses. Prefer bees. I do not like obvious dukkha, makes me unhappy. For example unkind aliens from other dimensions and politicians.

    So happiness is based on peace and love or in dharma talk, inner reflecting to outer compassion ...

    Long live the three jewels, the Noble Buddhas from other realms and even dozy poetry:

    The Cloths of Heaven

    Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light;
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    W. B. Yeats

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