There are two types of practice I have been getting confused between and recent conversations from this thread have helped reveal that confusion more clearly which has provided me an opportunity to ask for some help clearing it up. @how wisely mentions in that thread some practices focus on comfort and that the Buddha paid little attention to seeking of comfort or discomfort, calling this path "the middle way". The middle way according to many descriptions I've come across appears rather comfortable hence I have some confusion.
While the Buddha did not seek comfort, was the middle way comfortable?
I don't understand how this works in experience so I'll try explaining a portion of how I see it through experience and maybe someone will be kind enough to help.
I've been spending too much time involved with thoughts and feelings of late but when I take a break and notice I'm in the present moment, I attempt to recall I'm not my thoughts, feelings, perceptions, the situation... so I don't need to be so closely involved in them (Like being lost in a movie or character and suddenly remembering you're at the theatre or just reading a book). This detachment usually accompanied by a really nice deep breath and a solidifying sense of being "here and now" in the present moment.
If I'm allowed more time aware of being here in the moment, I like to sit on my cushion near the wall. I close my eyes (sometimes open) and concentrate and relax myself as fully as possible into the awareness of breathing. It usually starts to feel pretty nice if the earlier recalling was strong. I just stay like that as long as I can until something distracts me. If it didn't work well, I usually get distracted by a thought or feeling and that pulls me into another "movie" or "character". Sometimes it can be revealing if I remain unattached, sometimes it can be sense-indulgent if attached. If I follow the thought or feeling attached, I often forget that "here and now" sensation and become involved with thoughts and feelings again, proliferating them. If I follow the unattached thought, it often leads me to some bit of understanding that usually ends in sutta study on some concept I'm trying to understand better.
The above description of practice appears to be focused on comfort.
Some days thoughts and feelings are a tempest and if there were a being to experience them, they would be tormented and push away. Other days thoughts and feelings are tranquil and if there were a being to experience them, they would be pleased and cling toward. I understand there's past karma involved here in shaping present experience including thoughts and feelings. The tempest and tranquil days are a result of past karma. They happen until past karma is exhausted.
Is the practice to increase the frequency of "tranquil days" or to transcend the beings experience so tempest or tranquil come and go all the same? A marriage, a divorce, a birth, a death, the body responds, the thoughts respond, the feelings respond, but there is no being there? The tears still flow, the smile still forms but there is no being there to push it this way or that which makes new karma? Is this how past karma is worked off and future karma is not made?
As I understand it, in most traditions comfort is seen as not important for the serious practitioner. Look at the emphasis on correct posture in zazen, and the often-repeated instruction to ignore minor discomforts. I’ve known people who have done themselves significant damage (permanent numbness) by pinching nerves in meditation and ignoring the attendant warning signs.
Most meditation centers therefore supply chairs and cushions and don’t insist on posture but instead have taken an accommodating approach. Its much friendlier to beginners, and it means there is less chance of getting sued!
Ultimately there is a middle way to be found here as well. If you focus too much on comfort, you disturb the stillness of the body on which meditation relies, if you do it too little you could do yourself an injury.
I would say it is more along the lines of 'satisfying/fulfilling
I guess the answer to the above is all of the above...To develop a sense of inner peace...
From what I gather, the subtle sense of self remains as a tool ( so one can interact with the conventional world) but the clinging aggregates are now Teflon coated so to speak...where Awareness no longer fuses/adheres to the clinging aggregates experience...In other words the more solid sense of self the "I" AKA the Ego no longer plays a dominant role in the phenomena arising/the drama unfolding ...
"May I clearly perceive all experiences to be as insubstantial as the dream fabric of the night and instantly awaken to perceive the pure wisdom display in the arising of every phenomenon."
~Part of a Tibetan Buddhist dedication prayer~
If you think about our habitual patterns, how we react in certain situations and not so much act.... And it's when we become more 'aware' (from which I gather practicing the middle way develops this awareness) of these patterns the less likely we are to follow through/react....
So I guess one could say the middle way leads to a tranquil way of life... Gradually changing those Dukkha moments into Sukha moments ( Sukha as in, where Dukkha no longer causes disturbances)
We are just vibrating bundles of energy flux held together by karmic glue, automatically reacting to situations, until the Dharma starts to flow on through...
I guess in the long run @FleaMarket we have to see for ourselves "Ehipassiko" AKA "Experiential Understanding"...Words can help to describe an experience but they are not the actual experience....
It pays not to let the mind become charmed by its own thoughts...
Call me crazy but the title itself reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
This calls to question what is meant by comfort. If comfort is the lack of suffering then I'd say that's precisely what Buddha wants for us.
I think the Middle Way is comfortable but not too comfortable. We have to adapt to change.
When I think of self and the Middle Way, I always also think of the Two Truths. When we talk of these separate selves as an illusion, it isn't that they don't exist but that they are misrepresented by the senses. Like the rope we thought was a snake for a second there doesn't disappear with the snake. The illusion is dispelled but reality keeps on.
I think these separate selves are illusory tools. When we see through the illusion, we don't throw away the self, we keep on using them. Buddha kept using his as a tool to teach others. He almost didn't though. If it wasn't for Sujata showing him compassion and feeding him rice, he wouldn't have.
I wouldn't say there is no being there but that we are calm. Being fully here now is the idea, not being carried away.
Karma is the causation of action.
Some great insight @jeroen. It helps me notice when I meditate the way I do for too long some numbness comes about due to pinching off nerves and ignoring the source. I'll pay more attention to it and see if I can learn something new.
As for Teflon coated and the Two Truths doctrine, @Shoshin1 and @David you both provide some key points for examination. If I understand, an awareness that no longer fuses to the aggregate experience by default isn't necessarily an awareness which then knows what to do.
Getting shot by an arrow for example. Physical pain is one arrow, mental pain the second illusionary arrow. The mental pain comes from the thoughts "Who shot this arrow?" "Why me?" "That really smarts!", the feeling of self-pity or anger or heightened awareness of the nerves around the wound and things like that. Dropping all the mental pain, one still has an arrow in the leg and something needs to be done about that. Maybe they are on the wrong end of the archery range and one hopes they pay attention to that with good discernment and move. May we all have the opportunity to become aware of the indicated actions.
When I look at it this way, I agree with you both that the answer is all of the above and linked to Two Truths. It's not enough to be unperturbed by the second arrow. Discernment of what to do about it needs to take place.
How is discernment practiced?
By putting into practice the contents of the Eight Fold Path, that is, understanding the working of this psycho-physical phenomenon called sense of self, warts and all... its likes dislikes, desires, aversions ...triggers and so forth...And if you think about it... by meditation and Dharma practice...you're already doing this "Ehipassiko" seeing for yourself ...where things are gradually unfolding/opening up...
I guess patience will show us all in its own good time...
Dhammapada verses 153 & 154
Through many births
I have wandered on and on,
Searching for, but never finding,
The builder of [this] house.
To be born again and again is suffering. (verse 153)
House-builder [craving], you are seen!
You will not build a house again!
All the rafters [defilements] are broken,
The ridgepole [ignorance] destroyed;
The mind, gone to the Unconstructed [Nibbana],
Has reached the end of craving!
Taṇhā AKA "Craving"
Ah, I know this.. Still wandering...but maybe more slowly. Can one have too much patience?
I dunno, but there can be wrong patience. In fact I titled a school project on it. Procrastination.
So the living is in the procrastinating?
procrastinating is waiting in ignorance/dukkha.
Oatience … Eh … patience with a virtual keyboard is a type of gentleness with:
It is why humour is so effective in laughing at:
Oh I is so wikid I will be barbecuing myself in the naughty corner until comfortable … 🤣😈❤️🔥
time to meditate on my un buddha nature! …
Trial and error, learning from others experiences and stories. Personal judgement.
I think eventually it goes from there to second nature. Then from there to first nature. When we know what to do without having to think about it.
It really isn't.
The subtitle to Thich Nhat Hanhs The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching is "Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Liberation".
Discerning action is to be actively engaged, not complacent.
Words are so tricky. If we aren't careful, they eventually contradict their own meaning.
Seek but do not pursue.
When you chase, you do not catch
When you seek, you find.
I would say that, for many people, no it's not particularly comfortable as one often has to fight against the flow of worldly desires and expectations and do a fair amount of letting go of things that are seemingly pleasurable or personally beneficial in the short-term, but potentially harmful or not necessarily good in the long-term upon further reflection. Others, however, have a less difficult time with this, and find it easier to develop states of meditative joy and tranquility, so for them it may be in some sense comfortable. I suppose it all depends on where you are in life and your practice. It's a lot like the story of Jesus and the rich man, where the man who observes the basics as far as precepts go (refraining from killing, committing adultery, etc.) asks Jesus how to be perfect and Jesus tells him, "Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” And as the story goes, "At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions." For the rich man, the path is not comfortable because he is unable to let go of worldly things for the sake of something more profound. But for others, giving up such things is quite easy and they suffer much less. In essence, it's all relative. The middle way is neither inherently pleasant nor painful, comfortable or difficult. It really all depends on your frame of reference.
Wise words indeed. Thanks for sharing.
From the sutta linked
This story reminds me a lot of how people who became Osho’s sannyasins in the 1970’s would follow him. They would literally sell their homes in the west, book a one-way ticket to India and go live near the ashram in Pune, using up their money on therapy groups and working at the ashram. People had very little, but they were content and they didn’t worry about tomorrow.
That said, intentional poverty doesn’t make a lot of sense these days. It’s just a question of living a simple life and just using what you need.
Good post, Jason!
It's very common since renunciation is such a useful tool for spiritual pursuits. The Buddha created his version, the Sangha, which is still going strong. I think there's definitely a place for intentional poverty in this world. We just don't make it easy in the West as go against the worldly winds of capitalism.
The default view of the majority is that everything that happens is reality. That is being stuck in the mud pool of suffering or happiness. The thing is everything is changing and insecure. Happy one moment, grieve the next. In the greatest of health then comes sickness.
The other extreme is the belief that everything is a dream, that nothing happened, and that suffering is not real. Too much emptiness and hardening of the heart. This is to ignore one's experiences or selectively filtering out the bad. Without being forged in the crucible of suffering, one becomes a starry eyed proponent that life is all good!
The middle way is the teaching of dependent origination. All there is, is the arising and the cessation of dukkha. Freedom is not real as long as one has not uprooted craving from the heart.
The middle way is NOT the happy medium between extremes of hard and easy way! Both are still under the influence of delusion.
To quote Ajahn Dtun, "the mind sent out is the origin of the world or suffering, and the mind knowing the mind is the cessation of the world or suffering. This is to be realized.
The Middle Way is most comfortable, easiest and most difficult.
it is the balance.
simple - easy - difficult
Peace to all
I think the closest answer I can share is one of an astronaut being propelled up into space. And the song "Momentum" by Origin.
At moments at peace,
others at awe, with thw sweaty chance of sudden death dribbling through your mind....
And then hungry.
I sit. And it is hard. I have so many things to do. But I sit, because when you sit for sometime, then you really begin to finally slow down l.
I couldn't find Momentum but I listened to Chaosmos and have to say that was about my experience today installing a ceiling fan. Mindfulness out the window. I said some bad words. It was a total defeat even if the fan's up and running.
There's a scene in Metalocolypse, I think season 1 episode 2 at the end which comes to mind as how I envision your description. A lot like my afternoon today. I hope your day affords you the relief your comment brought mine.