Dealing With Desire

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Dealing With Desire

Postby Clarence » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:38 am

Based on another thread, in which ven. Indrajala says:
"You'd think, but I've met former monks who lamented how they were never really taught how to deal with desire. It contributed to them leaving." I was wondering about the best way to deal with desire. I put this in the Mahayana forum because I do not want to hear exclusively about Vajrayana ways to deal with desire (though they are most welcome) but also how the venerable sees the monks would be best taught to deal with their desires. Also, even though this is located in the Mahayana subforum, a Theravada approach is also appreciated.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:55 am

well speaking as a lay person who flunks out on this one repeatedly, I would say the Number One problem is: not wanting what you actually want. Even though you know better, even if you have experienced the dissappointment that inevitably follows acting them out, when desire comes up and taps you on the shoulder....how do you say 'go away'?

I suppose there's nothing particularly Mahayana about that.

Sometimes I have employed the Theravada technique of imagining a corpse, and sometimes that works. Even often. But not always.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Clarence » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:03 am

Yeah, I have had most success with Theravada techniques as well. Though, some Vajrayana methods also work very well. I just wonder if there are maybe better ways to dealing with it. Not that I am a monk but just that I do believe that desire can be an obstacle if you don't know how to deal with it properly.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:04 am

Rather than rewriting my ideas that I've posted elsewhere let me just cut and paste the relevant parts. :sage:

This is my personal approach to deciding what is virtuous (and this includes dealing with desire):

    The real enemies are not those who would steal from or harm you, but your own afflictions of the mind (kleśa). Yet you often fail to recognize this, being the simple fool you are, all the while observing the misdeeds of others. Cicero once wrote, "It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own."

    There is of course a remedy for this. That remedy is virtue. What is it to be virtuous? It is to be rational. And what does it mean to be rational? It means the following:

    I. If thoughts arise that are conducive to leading a moral life and attaining liberation from saṃsāra, then embrace them.

    II. If thoughts arise that are detrimental to the moral life and liberation, then you must acknowledge their existence and dismiss them as useless.

    III. If thoughts arise that qualify as neither of these, then consider them indifferents. Consider further what is preferable and what is unpreferable, and make suitable calculations to reasonably pursue the former. However, be mindful of the fact that these are not immediately relevant to leading a moral life and attaining liberation, and hence these should not dwell on the mind. That which is preferable simply better enables the capacities to live a moral life, but is not in itself something to be attached to.

    The faults and misdeeds of others are beyond your will, and hence becoming emotionally compromised by them, or summoning ill-will as a result of seeing their non-virtues, is foolishness on your own part. Becoming angry with others is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.



With respect to desire specifically, the following is my own contemplation on the subject. It is basically looking at the faults of desire and thus through it having good cause to abandon desire:


    Vasubandhu in his Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya states, "Defilement arises from defilement, as attachment arises from desire. Action arises from defilement, as consciousness from attachment, or saṃskāras from ignorance." Elsewhere he also states, "Because of attachment, accumulated action produces a new existence: this is bhava."

    Your mind is constantly filled with defilements (kleśa). If it is not anger that motivates your strong speech, it is the lure of attractive forms that draws your gaze. Despite vowing to overcome your desires, your mental autonomy constantly wavers. Your desires lead to attachment, which in turn adds fuel to your saṃsāra. It is you and you alone who will suffer for this. The result (vipāka) of unwholesome karma (akuśala-karma) is none other than suffering (duḥkha). To engage in any lustful thought or act is to create the causes for future suffering. You are in the flames yet constantly fail to leap out.

    Moreover, there is no lasting satisfaction to be found in mundane pleasures as they all entail suffering of change (vipariṇāma-duḥkhatā). What is this? It is the failure of happy moments to last. It is the failure of physical satisfaction and ease to last. No matter how much you enjoy yourself, you will always later find yourself unsatisfied and seeking the same experience again. Hence what you perceive of as pleasure is just a type of suffering. It is the immediate absence of more evident forms of suffering. By continually engaging such mental states you only amplify the addiction to them.

    Even in this life if you do not feel these effects, so long as sexual desire remains, the doors to the lower realms remain open. As it is said, tomorrow morning or your next life. Death is certain to occur. It is uncertain when it will occur. Therefore be mindful of this and avoid creating causes that drag you deeper into saṃsāra.

    Yet on a more immediate level the consequences of your desires should be evident. It keeps you bound to the desire realm (kāma-dhātu), from whence you cannot free yourself so long as that desire remains present and active. The form (rūpa-dhātu) and formless (ārūpya-dhātu) realms remain distant goals so long as you allow yourself to experience craving. Your aspirations as a yogi are shallow indeed if this is so.

    Moreover, without experiencing the higher realms you will lack the empirical knowledge of the subtle sufferings they entail and without that point of reference your supposed compassion for all beings, including those in said states, will remain nothing more than intellectual speculation. Your talk of liberation will be mere wordplay. Your perspective will be confined to what you know in the desire realm. Your compassion amounts to crow's teeth and second heads -- such things can be conceived, but are not to be seen anywhere. You are like a frog in a well thinking how vast the sky is from such a limited perspective.

    This is why the bodhisattva abandons desire. You cannot liberate others unless you yourself are liberated. You cannot have true compassion unless you truly understand the suffering all beings experience including the lowly pretas and Brahma himself. Brahma may not crave sex and food as you do, but he does crave nourishment gained through cognition (vijñāna-āhāra). This too is desire, albeit subtle and elusive.

    So long as you thirst and grasp unto all aspects of bhava, you will be bound to saṃsāra. The migrations of beings through the six realms is just as applicable to you, hence the hell realms are always a possibility. Desire will ensure you have another mundane rebirth. Do not make excuses. Yes, desire for food and sensual pleasures is natural, but the natural order of things is saṃsāra. To free yourself you must go against the flow lest you will be swept away by it. You must defy the common way of existing. If you have any ordinary thoughts you must think, "If I have ordinary aspirations, may they never succeed!"

    There ultimately is no happiness in saṃsāra. There is only suffering which is either apparent or unapparent. Therefore the holy and noble all teach abandoning desire; the cause for continued existence in this nightmare.



With respect to the technicalities behind the genesis of kleśa-s, see the following:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.in/2013/04/t ... tions.html

The genesis of afflictions is actually quite a mechanical process.

Once you develop a degree of mental ability via solid samadhi, you can effectively see how coarse afflictions arise, and then halt them through ceasing the "mental application" towards an object of desire or aversion. Of course some things are hard wired into one's physiology, but mental afflictions specifically arise as a result of a mental orientation towards a sense or mental object.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:21 am

jeeprs wrote:Even though you know better, even if you have experienced the dissappointment that inevitably follows acting them out, when desire comes up and taps you on the shoulder....how do you say 'go away'?/


I think it requires a strong association with desire = future suffering.

Therefore if you're rational and sane you don't pursue activities you know will senselessly result in your own suffering.

From a greater perspective there's also the matter of future lives. For a lot of Buddhists coming from materialist backgrounds this isn't really a pressing concern (probably because they don't really think of rebirth as realistic, hence no need to plan for it).

However, the classical literature does present it as a serious concern. There are two types of karma in this respect: projecting karma and completion karma. Asanga defines these two types as follows in the Abhidharmasammucaya as follows:

    “The results of favorable and unfavorable actions are produced in the good and bad destinies (sugati, durgati). This also, through the projecting action (ākṣepaka-karma) and the completing action (paripūraka-karma). What is projecting action? It is the action by means of which the result of fruition is produced. What is completing action? It is the action by means of which, after having been born, one experiences good and bad results.”


Any action guided by lust is unwholesome, so the long-term result is suffering. In respect to the karmic theory above, it contributes to rebirth in the desire realm, which includes everything from Indra's state of existence down to Avici Hell, including human states.

As someone with a strong conviction in rebirth, I seriously do not want to be reborn in the lower realms. Moreover, I sense in my mind a deep weariness of saṃsāra. In just this lifetime I've been reasonably fortunate, but there have been times when I could have easily went down a dark path and set myself up for some very awful future rebirths (like when I was younger wanting to join the army to go to Afghanistan as a way of expressing my anger and hatred). Even if I'm human next life, who is to say similar paths to the dark side, so to speak, will not open up?

I basically don't want to undergo involuntary rebirth any longer. The bodhisattva path is long and hard, sure, but I don't want to be an ordinary being tumbling around in saṃsāra. There is nothing romantic about the migrations of sentient beings. The remedy for this is eliminating desire, and this has to be done now rather than later. Death doesn't wait for you.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby kirtu » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:18 pm

Indrajala wrote:
[list]The real enemies are not those who would steal from or harm you, but your own afflictions of the mind (kleśa)....

There is of course a remedy for this. That remedy is virtue. What is it to be virtuous? It is to be rational. And what does it mean to be rational? It means the following:

I. If thoughts arise that are conducive to leading a moral life and attaining liberation from saṃsāra, then embrace them.

II. If thoughts arise that are detrimental to the moral life and liberation, then you must acknowledge their existence and dismiss them as useless.


This is quite similar to the Kadampa methods derived from Atisha. Also there is a Sakya (Tibetan Buddhism) teaching that I can't quite remember in full (the actual statement) but it comes down to mindfulness of wholesome and unwholesome states of mind which will naturally result in wholesome and unwholesome actions (where the terms wholesome and unwholesome seem to have been taken wholesale from translations of the Mahayana Abhidharma texts). There is a young Sakya lineage holder who has remarked that the best time to end involvement in negativity is before it starts. As Ven. Indrajala note, this presupposes the view that this negativity (lust or desire in this case) will in fact lead to a negative outcome.

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby spot dawa » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:57 pm

Renunciation for me has been an ongoing process rather than a single step. Sexual desire is only one small obstacle in the larger path; it is a part of a whole way of looking at one's self, and so conquering individual obstacles is not as simple as conquering the self. Take on the whole problem at once.

You asked about Theravadan perspectives as well, and I have found The Exposition of the Sixfold Base (Majjhima Nikaya 137, Middle Length Discourses) to be very encouraging and helpful:

There are six kinds of joy based on the household life and six kinds of joy based on renunciation. There are six kinds of grief based on the household life and six kinds of grief based on renunciation. There are six kinds of equanimity based on the household life, and six kinds of equanimity based on renunciation.

...

"'Therein, by depending on this, abandon that.' So it was said. And with reference to what was this said?

"Here, bhikkhus, by depending and relying upon the six kinds of joy based on renunciation, abandon and surmount the six kinds of joy based on the household life. It is thus they are abandoned, it is thus they are surmounted. By depending and relying on the six kinds of grief based on renunciation, abandon and surmount the six kinds of grief based on the household life. It is thus they are abandoned; it is thus they are surmounted. By depending and relying on the six kinds of equanimity based on renunciation, abandon and surmount the six kinds of equanimity based on the household life. It is thus they are abandoned; it is thus they are surmounted.

"By depending and relying on the six kinds of joy based on renunciation, abandon and surmount the six kinds of grief based on renunciation. It is thus they are abandoned; it is thus they are surmounted. By depending and relying on the six kinds of equanimity based on renunciation, abandon and surmount the six kinds of joy based on renunciation. It is thus they are abandoned; it is thus they are surmounted."


I have found studying this sutra to be very helpful in cultivating the path of renunciation, as it is a path and not a single swift action to be undertaken.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:40 pm

All of this advice is perfectly sound, and I can't take exception with any of it. The problem for some of us, however, is the gap between what we know and what we do. I think if everyone was able to do what they know they ought to do, then the world would be a different place.

Anyway, the advice above is salutary reading, and all I can do is start again and renew my efforts. I think I have to practice a kind of zero-tolerance attitude towards certain kinds of thoughts. They are very insidious but I have to call them and send them away whenever they appear. It worked with street crime in New York.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:59 pm

From personal experience, mindfulness is required. You have become aware that a desirous thought has arisen. Then once you have, as long as you are aware of it, it has no power.

The metaphor of your mind being the sky, and thoughts being clouds has helped me. I think 'this thought is not real, it isn't mine. It's just the reaction to _____ (or) It's just a creation of the brain."

Some helpful quotes.

“Neu-sur-ba said: Right now, only this internal struggle with the afflictions is important. If you do not struggle with the afflictions, you will not achieve a pure ethical discipline, in which case, you will not attain the concentration and wisdom that, respectively, suppress and uproot the afflictions. Hence, as the Buddha says, you will have to wander continually through cyclic existence. Therefore, as I explained before, once you have identified the afflictions, reflected on their faults and on the benefits of separating from them, and planted the spies of mindfulness and vigilance, you must repeatedly fend off whatever affliction raises its head.

Further, you must see any affliction as an enemy and attack it as soon as it arises in your mind. Otherwise, if you acquiesce when it first appears, and then nurture it with improper thoughts, you will have no way to defeat it, and it will conquer you in the end.”
-Lam Rim Chen Mo eng v01 pg. 347-348 tib pg. 275

“Nyuk-rum-ba (bsNyog-rum-pa) said: When an affliction appears, do not be indolent, but counter it immediately with its remedy. If you cannot overcome it, stop thinking about it, set up a mandala and other offerings, offer these to the guru and the chosen deities, and make supplications to them to overcome it. Focusing on the affliction, recite the mantras of wrathful deities. Doing these things will cause the affliction to disappear.”
-Lam Rim Chen Mo eng v01 pg. 349 tib pg. 276

“Take the example of a poisoned arrow that makes a tiny surface wound. Before long, the poison from this wound will spread throughout the entire body. You must operate on the wound and remove the poison. Similarly, even when wrong behavior does not make anything more than a small wound in the mind, if you ignore it, it will quickly pervade your mind so that it becomes large. Therefore, from the start you must prevent wrongdoing before it takes place and, if it does happen, you must discontinue it immediately.”
- Lam Rim Chen Mo eng v02 pg. 204 tib pg. 444


Also, Shantideva says that if a snake were to fall into your lap, you would instantly jump up and run away. You should do the same with afflictions. I don't have the quote though.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:41 am

Thankyou that is great advice.

I am going to print some of these.

:namaste:
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby spot dawa » Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:34 am

Another succinct simile from Buddha in the Pali Canon (Theraveda) is the Simile of the Snake. In short, if you pick up a snake by the tail or the coil, you will get bit by the head. If you trap the head behind the neck with a forked or crooked stick, then you can pick up the snake from behind the head and not get bit.

There is a lot there. I think MN 22 is the sutra. So one thing I get from it, is to deal with desire, with lust, not by grabbing at its effects on the body, by trying to suppress your desire on that level. The proper way to control lust is just at the head...in the mind. A monk knows when he has a lustful thought, "I am having a lustful thought." And he knows when those thoughts are no longer present in him. That is the gist!
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:53 am

Strange, that was never how I had interpreted the Simile of the Water Snake. I thought it applied to the teaching itself, coming, as it does, directly before the simile of the raft. The idea that 'the snake has to be grasped correctly' is a warning against misinterpreting the intent of the whole Buddhist teaching.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:10 am

Possibly this is because of 'the serpent' symbology in Western culture which is generally associated with carnality.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby oushi » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:32 am

Clarence wrote:I was wondering about the best way to deal with desire.

Seeing the emptiness of desire, which is nothing else then not seeing desires.
Has anyone seen desire? Or maybe, only appearances of it are known?
There is nothing to deal with.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby spot dawa » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:03 am

jeeprs wrote:Strange, that was never how I had interpreted the Simile of the Water Snake. I thought it applied to the teaching itself, coming, as it does, directly before the simile of the raft. The idea that 'the snake has to be grasped correctly' is a warning against misinterpreting the intent of the whole Buddhist teaching.


The sutra begins as a reproach to some bhikkhu who had been teaching that sense pleasures were not, in fact, an obstacle to practice. Buddha responds rather harshly to him, and emphasizes that he has taught them in many different examples how sensual desires lead to suffering. So that is why I make that association. I have read Thich Nat Han's commentary on in "The Better Way to Pick Up a Snake" he calls it, maybe I got the idea from him...?

In any case, I have actually learned from Buddha how to pick up a snake safely, and have done so. :meditate:
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:24 am

I was referring to the Alagaddupama Sutta, although the simile of 'grasping the snake wrongly' is also a common reference in Mahayana. But I haven't heard of it as an allegory for ''sense desires' previously.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby mandala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:17 pm

Yea, it's an interesting topic.
I recall Ven. Robina Courtin talking about how strong the attachment of sexual desire can be, and saying something along the lines of - well, you never hear about a monk giving back his vows because he decided he wanted to kill someone!

It's funny, but it's true... it seems of all the (monastic) vows, celibacy can be the deal-breaker for some.
How to deal with desire... i don't know, but I'd guess that thinking about the truth of relationships after the 'gloss' wears off might help - ie: the fights, the impermanence of the 'perfect' person, the snoring, bad habits, jealousy, clinging, break ups, pregnancy, having little monsters running around screaming...

ahhh, suddenly feels good to be single!

:P
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:31 pm

mandala wrote:ahhh, suddenly feels good to be single!

:P


If you can conclude that relationships don't bring contentment, and that contemplation, reading and meditation are the only solid ways to ensure long-term contentment, then being single for life is appealing. You can devote your life to activities that you otherwise might not have the leisure for, especially if you're working full-time alongside maintaining a relationship with your spouse and children.

I personally find meditation, contemplation and extensive reading to be most satisfying, but to add to that travel also. I'm a wanderer at heart. I've experienced euphoria walking along some dusty road at dawn in rural India on way to a pilgrimage site. I slept on a filthy bed in a cement hovel, suffered terrible diarrhoea and ate dirty samosas for dinner, but it was one of the best experiences in my life. Some time later I spent three and a half months up on a mountain in Ladakh, effectively with no permanent address or future plans.

"I'll decide what to do when I'm done here."

So, living a single life with few possessions (aside from my books, everything I own fits into a backpack) and minimal financial expenditures gives me a lot of free time and freedom. I know several monks who are constantly travelling. I know one who has basically been on the go for over 45 years. Another who has travelled widely as a monk of close to forty years. They have spent their lives studying Dharma, practising meditation and helping people where they can. If you have few desires a lot of doors open up you otherwise wouldn't have.

Desire leads to mundane bondage as much as spiritual bondage. This is a fault to consider and good cause for abandoning desire.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby oushi » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:02 pm

When you are done with desire for relationship, try removing thirst and hunger...
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:38 pm

oushi wrote:When you are done with desire for relationship, try removing thirst and hunger...


I think there's a difference between a physiological desire and mental desire. Desire in the context of achieving liberation is understood more as the latter. Physical processes in the body for example can prompt sexual desire when one is exposed to pheromones perhaps, but that's different from reacting to a sense object either in a sensory field or constructed in the mind.
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