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A problem with inner strife

KeromeKerome Lovingness is the wayThe Continent Veteran

I wanted to just talk about how certain things are worded in older teachings. For example when considering the Three Poisons it is often said that desire, hate and delusion are bad, and that one should strive to eliminate them. People should guard against them, arm themselves and so on.

This kind of wording around battle and strife actually goes counter to preserving an internal unity. By saying “I am going to fight these impulses” you are dividing yourself up into good and bad, and conducting an inner battle in which everybody loses, including you. Taken to extremes you might end up transforming your inner world into a wasteland.

It is better to think in terms of redemption and inner transformation, a refinement of energies. One should embrace these negative energies and learn to transform them, by seeing what is at their roots, what they are really made of. That’s what insight and mindfulness are for.

Thich Nhat Hanh seems to understand this really well, and certain other modern teachers also. Changing the language around this kind of effort has been something that many teachers have contributed to, but it’s something to be aware of in older teachings.

Comments

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

    Its a good point. I've heard a Tibetan teacher address the point directly saying that when the teachings were established they were aimed at a much older culture where strife and violent conflict were more common. A kind of skillful means that maybe isn't so skillful anymore.

    lobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 22

    I agree with @how. Also, the context of the teachings themselves is important to take into consideration (e.g., who's the audience;
    what's the situation or problem; etc.). One can find numerous strategies and approaches, such as those found in MN 20—using a skilful thought or object to replace an unskillful thought or desire, analyzing unskillful thoughts and desires and their roots and/or drawbacks, paying unskillful thoughts and desires no mind, or crushing them with awareness. Language in the Pali Canon, for example, includes battling as well as training, watching, conditioning, replacing, realizing, transforming, letting go, etc. And rarely is one technique or approach universally efficacious in all circumstances.

    lobsterfedericaKerome
  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    @person said:
    Its a good point. I've heard a Tibetan teacher address the point directly saying that when the teachings were established they were aimed at a much older culture where strife and violent conflict were more common. A kind of skillful means that maybe isn't so skillful anymore.

    That would've been my initial point as well. We must remember the Buddha’s own background as being from the Kshatriya caste of warriors and rulers, and that many of his benefactors were as well (who else has groves and deer parks?)

    But a second point I would bring up is when is it up to us as practicing Buddhists to assign any act the labels of 'good' or 'evil'? Things just are. People just are. Is there no 'good' in say, a murderer? Have any of us not entertained 'evil' thoughts? Is battle always evil or unjust? Who are we to say?

    Just a thought...

    lobsterKeromeperson
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    @how said:
    While it's completely understandable for a traveler to give reasons why he prefers one route over another, going from there to the suggestion that the route that you prefer is the route that is best for others to take sounds myopically evangelical.

    @Jason said:
    Language in the Pali Canon, for example, includes battling as well as training, watching, conditioning, replacing, realizing, transforming, letting go, etc. And rarely is one technique or approach universally efficacious in all circumstances.

    Undoubtedly you are right and sometimes for certain audiences this language has a beneficial effect, I merely wanted to point out that when it’s written down and repeated for some people it becomes a trap.

    Its not only my experience but I have encountered a few other buddhists for whom this has proven true as well, mostly people with a combative streak in their psychology. This tendency towards inner and outer combat becomes a hindrance to be deconstructed and overcome. When you then come across admonition to engage in combat it can fire up the old urge, which is unhelpful.

    Its all part of a learning process, external in how to deal with teachings, and internal in how to deal with your own urges.

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

    @Rob_V said:

    @person said:
    Its a good point. I've heard a Tibetan teacher address the point directly saying that when the teachings were established they were aimed at a much older culture where strife and violent conflict were more common. A kind of skillful means that maybe isn't so skillful anymore.

    That would've been my initial point as well. We must remember the Buddha’s own background as being from the Kshatriya caste of warriors and rulers, and that many of his benefactors were as well (who else has groves and deer parks?)

    But a second point I would bring up is when is it up to us as practicing Buddhists to assign any act the labels of 'good' or 'evil'? Things just are. People just are. Is there no 'good' in say, a murderer? Have any of us not entertained 'evil' thoughts? Is battle always evil or unjust? Who are we to say?

    Just a thought...

    lobster
  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    >
    (https://newbuddhist.com/uploads/editor/ai/lm5pnc5r5vfv.jpg "")

    I think that brings us around to volition/intention/kamma. We can't know, nor should we attempt to discern another's inner dialog which creates their intent. We are never required to agree with the actions of others nor attempt to understand them. The act may be deplorable in our estimation, and many of us are too quick to forget that people who have been hurt often hurt others - it's what they know.

    I know I'm coming off preachy, that's not my intent. Gawd knows there are acts that enrage me. But I think we're all calked upon by whatever path we follow to love our fellow beings from where they are, not from where we want them to be.

    personlobsterKerome
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