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Beauty and good, pleasant: attachment and the three poisons

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran
edited January 7 in Diet & Habits

It strikes me that we humans are naturally quite attached to what is beautiful and what we experience as good or pleasant. We like beautiful regular faces, we like sugar, we like warm and soft clothing. These things appeal to us through our senses, through what we find aesthetically pleasing. We build up this attachment during our lives, as we encounter more things that we consider ‘good’.

As a counterpoint we also build up an image of unpleasant, bad. Cold, sharp, harsh, insulting or overbearing, controlling. These are things we usually associate with this shadow, things to be avoided. We interpret certain things in this way, a voice may sound harsh, words may seem insulting.

This means that we naturally construct in our minds the Three Poisons: desire (for what is pleasant), avoidance (of what is unpleasant and bad), and at its root ignorance (of the dharma). In a way desire and avoidance rule our lives, they drive us as we move towards and away from things. The dharma therefore is a path to freedom, and once you start seeing how this works you find yourself automatically letting go of many impulses.

Recognising what is pleasant and unpleasant is unavoidable, our eye appreciates good design or a fine painting, or our tastebuds the taste of chocolate. Yet to some extent this is conditioned by experience, often coffee or wine does not taste good at first encounter when we are children, but we may grow to like them. This stays with us.

So, when we let go of pleasant and unpleasant, we remain aware of the natural distinctions. We may choose to return to a more natural taste, foresaking coffee for tea. But the essence of this aspect of the dharma is that we learn to consciously partake of that which is wholesome and beneficial, rather than merely following what is pleasant and avoiding what is unpleasant.

That we learn to eat potatoes and sauerkraut instead of only chocolate biscuits.

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