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Freedom and the desire for control

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I was just reading a passage in Adyashanti’s Emptiness Dancing in which he talks about the desire for control. This seems to start very early in life, at about a year when children start trying to control mommy and daddy through shouting, crying, and gurgling. The early message seems to be that if I can exert control I will survive. Later on this feeds into relationships and managerial structures at work, and eventually the will to power, that I will get what I want if I learn to control.

But the reflexive desire for control creates some well-worn pathways in our mind, places where we look to exert ourselves, where we blindly follow our desire. It’s another area of motivation which constrains our freedom, it carries us away with passion and desire which keeps us from being truly free.

Just imagine, if you were to let go of these desires to control, that would be a profound reshaping of one’s inner landscape.

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

    This is also the seat of Anger. The Fear of loss of control, or the deprivation of control.
    Of course, the word 'Control' covers a very broad raft of examples....

    ShanYin37
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    I think Adyashanti is reading things into a helpless infant's crying. Same with a toddler. They're not trying to "control" their parents. They're simply trying to get their needs met the only way they can. Adyashanti is viewing all aspects of life through the prism of his Buddhist training. While that can have its valuable moments, it sometimes leads to a distorted view. However, I'll grant him that some children at about 2 yrs. old do begin to consciously manipulate mommy, in order to keep the hugs and loving vibes coming. This is not universal, though, IMO.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    I thought this might be a thread about Novax vs the Australian Government 😂

    Dakini
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Yeah maybe the Djokovic drama is just this little internal mechanism playing out on a bigger stage. Personally I’d say he has had covid, he is not an infection risk, so let him play his tennis.

  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    Just imagine, if you were to let go of these desires to control...

    If we are to create anyway, why stop at imagining?

    ...where we blindly follow our desire.

    >

    Could we follow them any other way? Would we?

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @yagr said:

    ...where we blindly follow our desire.

    >

    Could we follow them any other way? Would we?

    We don't always have to follow them at all. We can use mindfulness and discernment when they arise, and decide whether they're constructive desires, or not, and whether they're ego-driven, or not.

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

    It reminds me of an analogy Mattieu Ricard uses, that of a boat in the ocean. He uses the terms differently than you but I think he is basically talking about the same thing.

    To paraphrase because I can't find a passage where he talks about it. The everyday idea of freedom is being like a boat on the ocean and being free is letting the boat go wherever the wind blows. In Buddhism we realize that that sort of freedom isn't real freedom, its being a slave to our desires. For true freedom we need to use a rudder to steer our boat, or use a measure of control. When we are able to master that we are truly free to go where we want.

    Also, its a matter of degree, anything taken to an extreme turns bad. We control the earth and water so we can grow food, we control electricity within wires so we can have heat and light. If your life is disorganized and deficient more of your energy goes to just maintaining it that could go towards positive development instead. Its about the lute strings being tuned properly rather than blanket statements about what is good and what is bad.

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

    @person said:
    For true freedom we need to use a rudder to steer our boat, or use a measure of control. When we are able to master that we are truly free to go where we want.

    I certainly see the point that you are making, but i think Adyashanti is pointing at the last part of that phrase, going where we want. As long as you are going where you want you are still following your desires, your avoidance, your ignorance. He seems to be saying that if you focus on your own integrity and not on wanting control and following a goal or desires, you are closer to the spiritual life.

    It is of course a personal choice, whose advice you choose to follow. Maintaining control feels safer, more solid, more secure. But it is an illusion, you have only a limited measure of security and control over your circumstances. One car accident, one poorly timed swallow of dinner, one meeting with someone with Covid-19 and your life could take a whole different turning.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited January 16

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    For true freedom we need to use a rudder to steer our boat, or use a measure of control. When we are able to master that we are truly free to go where we want.

    I certainly see the point that you are making, but i think Adyashanti is pointing at the last part of that phrase, going where we want. As long as you are going where you want you are still following your desires, your avoidance, your ignorance. He seems to be saying that if you focus on your own integrity and not on wanting control and following a goal or desires, you are closer to the spiritual life.

    It is of course a personal choice, whose advice you choose to follow. Maintaining control feels safer, more solid, more secure. But it is an illusion, you have only a limited measure of security and control over your circumstances. One car accident, one poorly timed swallow of dinner, one meeting with someone with Covid-19 and your life could take a whole different turning.

    I think we're talking past each other a bit.

    The control Mattieu is referring to is control of your impulses and desires, an inner sort of direction. A distinction is sometimes made between healthy and unhealthy desires. We need a sort of desire to follow a spiritual path, a desire for a happier, healthier way of being. Like how can you focus on your integrity without exerting some control over your mind? Isn't having greater integrity a goal? If life circumstances pushes you towards becoming a thief or a soldier should you just go along or should you exert some control over your life and move it in another direction?

    Taking control for me also isn't about certainty, its about probability. A car accident could take our lives at any time, but the probability of that happening is less if we wear a seatbelt and drive defensively. Covid could make us ill or even take our lives, but the probability of that is less if we get vaccinated and social distance. Bad things can happen, but our chances of positive results are greater if we are proactive to some degree or another.

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 16

    Aha, that makes some sense.

    However, if you look at the attitude of most enlightened people, they don’t seem to worry about these things. Sri Ramana Maharshi said of the cancer growing on his arm, doesn’t the cancer also have a right to exist (he declined treatment and the cancer killed him). Nisargadatta Maharaj said it was all maya, illusion, and while he listened to some extent to the advice of his doctors about his throat cancer he didn’t stop giving satsangs, which may have shortened his life.

    If you worry and take all the precautions you can, you will spend your life living far away from inner peace. I think that’s more the point of these kinds of beliefs… if you’ve spiritually advanced to the point where you realise you’re making your reality, your experience of the world just by existing, then perhaps being alive is only a side issue.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    Yeah maybe the Djokovic drama is just this little internal mechanism playing out on a bigger stage. Personally I’d say he has had covid, he is not an infection risk, so let him play his tennis.

    Yeah. You could build a pretty solid argument for both sides.
    But there’s elections coming up and politicians think being tough on borders wins them votes so there you go. It’s worked in the past.

  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    @yagr said:

    ...where we blindly follow our desire.

    >

    Could we follow them any other way? Would we?

    We don't always have to follow them at all. We can use mindfulness and discernment when they arise, and decide whether they're constructive desires, or not, and whether they're ego-driven, or not.

    That was my point. We blindly follow our desire. How could it be any other way? If we remove "blindly" we no longer 'follow', we chose. How do we remove 'blindly'? Through mindfulness.

    DakiniBunks
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited January 17

    @Jeroen said:
    Aha, that makes some sense.

    However, if you look at the attitude of most enlightened people, they don’t seem to worry about these things. Sri Ramana Maharshi said of the cancer growing on his arm, doesn’t the cancer also have a right to exist (he declined treatment and the cancer killed him). Nisargadatta Maharaj said it was all maya, illusion, and while he listened to some extent to the advice of his doctors about his throat cancer he didn’t stop giving satsangs, which may have shortened his life.

    If you worry and take all the precautions you can, you will spend your life living far away from inner peace. I think that’s more the point of these kinds of beliefs… if you’ve spiritually advanced to the point where you realise you’re making your reality, your experience of the world just by existing, then perhaps being alive is only a side issue.

    I decided a while ago that I was going to live a lay life. Those may be good examples for a renunciate who doesn't have to worry about their bills or their loved ones. I think I understand the teachings well enough that I could dedicate more of myself to them and be at peace as I lose my house, my health, my family, etc from neglect. but I'd rather exert some amount of effort to maintain them. I'm looking for a way to do that without becoming a control freak and thinking I can perfectly sculpt the world around me so I get everything exactly the way I want it. So far a bit of balance seems at least a little possible. I think the "good, bad, who knows?" story fits better for the majority of people in how to live with equanimity in their life.

    An old Chinese story of unknown origin tells of a farmer who used an old horse in his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

    A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills, and the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. He replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

    Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone again sympathized with the farmer over his bad luck. But the farmer’s reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

    Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and drafted every able-bodied youth they found. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him stay.

    Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

    You don't have to worry to take precautions, you can take precautions because its the sensible thing to do. Get your brakes fixed because... I'm honestly having a hard time stating a reason because you should just get your f'ing brakes fixed!

    And its not about taking ALL the precautions, its about balance.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited January 17

    Good story, @person!

    Still I think Adyashanti’s approach is not just for monastics. Say your medical insurance bills you 200 USD on your own-risk, do you go and contest that or are you going to be grateful for the 1800 USD bill they already paid? Contesting it is going to cause headaches and worry and hassle, is not conducive to peace.

  • yagryagr Veteran
    edited January 17

    @person said:
    ...your experience of the world just by existing, then perhaps being alive is only a side issue.

    Who is alive - William Shatner or Captain Kirk? If Kirk dies, how does that affect Shatner? Actually, in this particular case, I think Shatner has a stronger attachment to his character Captain Kirk than most actors/actresses have with their characters. Most actors/actresses shed one character for the next without any trauma.

    I think I understand the teachings well enough that I could dedicate more of myself to >them and be at peace as I lose my house, my health, my family, etc from neglect. but >I'd rather exert some amount of effort to maintain them. I'm looking for a way to do >that without becoming a control freak...

    You are consciously choosing - tough to improve on that. I have found that for me, my attempts at control are always fear-based. Surrendering to life frees me from fear but the moment I try to control any part of my experience of life, I'm as far from surrendering as I would be if I tried to control every part of my experience of life.

  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    Still I think Adyashanti’s approach is not just for monastics. Say your medical >insurance bills you 200 USD on your own-risk, do you go and contest that or are you >going to be grateful for the 1800 USD bill they already paid? Contesting it is going to >cause headaches and worry and hassle, is not conducive to peace.

    Is it not possible to contest the bill without being attached to the outcome? What takes me away from peace and/or equanimity isn't addressing the error; it is being invested in the outcome.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited January 17

    For me living in the world its not a choice between letting everything go or letting nothing go. Entropy is a constant force, its less effort to maintain something of value than it is to replace it once its gone. Not taking adequate care of the things that sustain us and help us prosper I think leads to greater misery. I had a medical bill once for $9,000 that I thought should have been covered, there was a bit of stress and effort involved in going through the channels, making the calls, filling out the forms, etc. In the end they had made an error in my insurance information and it was sorted out. I think taking on that short term stress led to a greater long term ease.

    Dakini
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited January 17

    @Jeroen said:
    Good story, @person!

    Still I think Adyashanti’s approach is not just for monastics. Say your medical insurance bills you 200 USD on your own-risk, do you go and contest that or are you going to be grateful for the 1800 USD bill they already paid? Contesting it is going to cause headaches and worry and hassle, is not conducive to peace.

    No, contesting it only causes headaches and worry and hassle if you let it. That's a mental state we choose to approach it with, or not. We can use it as a cause of suffering, or choose not to. That is assuming that there was some error in the insurance bill, and that the bill wasn't the result of a routine percentage the patient owed.

    Re: R Maharshi allowing the cancer on his arm to grow and kill him, he wasn't a Mahayana Buddhist, so perhaps he can be forgiven for the choice he made. In Mahayana Buddhism, the "greater good" principle would apply, if one looked at the situation from Maharishi's perspective of ahimsa, do not kill or do harm.

    What is the greater good to humanity and all living things, not just one batch of cancer cells, in allowing cancer cells to survive and kill their human host, vs. excising the cells, so the human host, who happens to be a (purportedly) Enlightened Being showing the way toward the end of suffering to as many people as he can reach? It's believed prudent to allow oneself to violate a precept, if a greater good is served in doing so, e.g. saving lives, or spreading the Dharma world-wide.

    Kotishka
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    What is the greater good to humanity and all living things, not just one batch of >cancer cells, in allowing cancer cells to survive and kill their human host, vs. excising >the cells, so the human host, who happens to be a (purportedly) Enlightened Being >showing the way toward the end of suffering to as many people as he can reach? It's >believed prudent to allow oneself to violate a precept, if a greater good is served in >doing so, e.g. saving lives, or spreading the Dharma world-wide.

    One might say that the way he 'handled' his cancer showed the way toward the end of suffering in a way that words could not.

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