How does pleasure arise?

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How does pleasure arise?

Postby reynard80 » Tue May 24, 2011 1:38 pm

Lately, my mind has been full of this question: what is pleasure? How does it arise?

How is it possible that I experience an object as either pleasent or not-pleasant? If all objects are inherently empty, there can be no inherent pleasure or non-pleasure in objects.

Then, is pleasure only a thought of the mind? I.e. I experience an object, then *think* 'this is pleasant', resulting in a 'pleasant' feeling? If so, why do I think some objects as pleasant, and others as non-pleasant?

Of course, these questions are probably ultimately irrelevant, but they have been bothering me for some time now. Maybe someone can shed some light, in terms of buddhist philosophy.

Thank you.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 24, 2011 1:52 pm

All pleasurable, painful and neutral sensations are the ripening of karma.

N


reynard80 wrote:Lately, my mind has been full of this question: what is pleasure? How does it arise?

How is it possible that I experience an object as either pleasent or not-pleasant? If all objects are inherently empty, there can be no inherent pleasure or non-pleasure in objects.

Then, is pleasure only a thought of the mind? I.e. I experience an object, then *think* 'this is pleasant', resulting in a 'pleasant' feeling? If so, why do I think some objects as pleasant, and others as non-pleasant?

Of course, these questions are probably ultimately irrelevant, but they have been bothering me for some time now. Maybe someone can shed some light, in terms of buddhist philosophy.

Thank you.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby LastLegend » Tue May 24, 2011 2:03 pm

A habitual reaction that's almost automatic every time and the same with suffering, anger for example. But sometimes you are able to catch it and let it go.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue May 24, 2011 2:10 pm

What you say is true, that objects themselves are empty of pleasant and unpleasant qualities. My understanding is that a person's subjective experience of something is directly related, meaning in proportion to, the degree that one clings to a notion of 'self'. A good example is the glass of water that is either half full or half empty. And what you like or don't like is basically a projection of the "me" that you imagine. So, the less one clings to "me" or "mine", the less that objective conditions seem to be favorable or unfavorable.

What we experience as pleasure, fear, anger, and so forth are actually molecular changes in the brain's chemistry. You could think of it as getting a little dose of something, or a little injection with everything you experience. If you are suddenly startled, your heart beats faster, your body sweats and your hair stands on end. On the Molecular level, the chemicals we experience as fear are only slightly different from the ones we experience as anger.

Of course, we are consciously unaware of a lot of the chemical interactions going on in the body, such as digestion, unless something is out of order. The question that I think the Dharma raises is "WHO is the one experiencing these chemical reactions?"

I hope more people bring their own thoughts to this discussion.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 24, 2011 2:18 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
I hope more people bring their own thoughts to this discussion.


It is really quite simple, all pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences are "retribution" i.e. the ripening of past karmic acts.

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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Fa Dao » Tue May 24, 2011 3:34 pm

Namdrol is correct. What we think of as an "I" that is separate from "other" (everything around us) is nothing more than a collection of habit patterns. When those habit patterns come into contact with anything, we have, due to our past thoughts, words, and deeds, preprogrammed responses.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby catmoon » Tue May 24, 2011 7:45 pm

Consider the blazing hot food some people enjoy so much.

Consider the rugby player enjoying his rough and frequently painful game.

Or consider that there are people who actually dislike chocolate.

The pleasure and the torment are all in the mind. One way or another we choose it to be as it is.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 24, 2011 7:52 pm

catmoon wrote:Consider the blazing hot food some people enjoy so much.

Consider the rugby player enjoying his rough and frequently painful game.

Or consider that there are people who actually dislike chocolate.

The pleasure and the torment are all in the mind. One way or another we choose it to be as it is.


The sensations of pleasure and pain from all of these activities are solely the ripening of karma and nothing else.

Karma of course begins with intention, but it ripens on both mind and body.

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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed May 25, 2011 1:36 am

To add to the excellent comments versed..

on a technical side.
There exists much of a body of work that states to the effect everything encountered in a life begins with the thought of it.
In that regard as perhaps a final teaching of sorts I would not argue that. IN that context. This however is not referencing consciously thought conventional thoughts as we know them.

Functionally..... if present conscious thought is infered(in the initial statement) my personal observation is firmly no. A present conscious thought is not neessary to provide the sensation of pleasure nor pain. So in that context....a thought is not necessary to incite pleasure.

But in the first context it certainly is.

Like perhaps is mentioned intention. Conscious thought intention is not the only mover of action, it seems.
If so no unconscious, unintended, thought or deed, could ever have karmic effect, to my opinion. Nothing we perceive as random could ever have karmic effect. As in a piece of a plane may drop from the sky perceived as a random act but falling upon my head and leaving me quite brain damaged could not normally be considered a consciously intended act by me the perceiver. Yet as things are my being in that space at that time to receive that result would imply a karmic effect of sorts being undergone. Few would deny a action has occured and it is in some relationship to me the perceiver and has had result upon me the perceiver. I spend as result the rest of my life brain damaged and unable to perhaps think anything consciously.
Some take only consciously intended acts to be the creator of karma. If so we would have one catagory of actions occuring and would have another catagory of actions occuring which are quite random and have no relationship to us other than us as effect. Logically that seems impossible.
So we may have intention not consciously intended(intended nevertheless), and we have pleasure and pain not precipitated by conscious thought in a simiiar fashion.

Just in case the original poster was intending :smile: the question in this fashion as a practical question not a philosophical one. As this is the exploring buddhism section I don't know the extent to which the initial poster has studied these things,pain/pleasure.
This is my personal opinion.

I am not intending to get into a lengthy discussion on intention karma nor unconscious thought but merely am mentioning these items to clarify the opposeing positions of conscious and unconscious action and result. Pleasure observed does not require conscious thought precipitation.
It can help that along sometimes, sometimes not. Some think it does always. I disagree in this conventional context.

In a final consideration I may agree. To incite pleasure or pain the conception of pleasure or pain must firstly be present or some would say thought.
As I would feel safe in saying for any result to occur a action upon one to occur a intending for a result, the conception of such, must firstly be present, or some would say thought. We must conceptualize or put into a framework of action the notion at some level a subject is present and a object is present,which may be acted upon. From that differentiation arises self other discrimination, aversion and attachment, which are the basis of pleasure and pain, the mileau in which they thrive.
But all that is seperate I just intend to answer the question from a conventional standpoint.

Neither implies necessarily conscious thought though consciously thought thoughts certainly have real effects of pain pleaure and may be intended. :smile:

Again my personal opinion. If your answer has already been answered feel free to disregard. Excellent answers have been provided. Mine is perhaps not so excellent.

I then state in a final consideration...pleasure is only a thought of the mind.
I could look up somewhere the actual mechanism of awareness on how this actually occurs in a step by step basis, which to my dim recollection is present somwhere from source materials, if one considers that important. It is far to much work to do if one is not interested in that. I think i may have reference for that somewhere, and could find it given time and effort. Maybe, it is a dim recollection,something to do with keleshas I think. Or perhaps it is me that is dim not the recollection so I say maybe :smile: .
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby mudra » Wed May 25, 2011 1:58 am

Pleasantness is one of three possibilities of "feeling" (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), which is the immediate reaction to 'contact' (meeting of object, sense power, consciousness). This feeling is something which is of course habitual, but as Namdrol says, it is ripening of karma.

Feelings are pretty much uncontrollable results once contact happens. What you can control is your subsequent reaction to them (attachment etc). If that can be controlled, and the mind reconditioned, you can change the pattern of what you feel. For example when you really see that a certain type of thing you like is detrimental to your well being and are deeply convinced, you begin to stop feeling that it is pleasant.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 25, 2011 2:00 am

Namdrol wrote:
It is really quite simple, all pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences are "retribution" i.e. the ripening of past karmic acts.

N


I think that karma as interpreted as something one has earned or deserves ("retribution") would suggest that the thing which is experienced has an innate quality (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral) . In other words, it sounds like what you are saying is that you get good or bad things coming your way because of your past deeds, but this means that the things themselves are good or bad.

However, if two people are served some fish to eat, one person may like fish, thus have a good experience, and the other person doesn't, and has a bad experience. But the fish itself is just a fish.

So, are you saying that the things we experience are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral , or that in our mind the experience is pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral (because of our own karma)?
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Wed May 25, 2011 3:07 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
So, are you saying that the things we experience are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral , or that in our mind the experience is pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral (because of our own karma)?


Our sensations of phenomena are pleasant, painful or neutral because of our past actions.

All sensations are a ripening of action.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby LastLegend » Wed May 25, 2011 7:24 am

At some point, the false view of self formed, and from there came the 3 karma of body, speech, and mind (greed, anger, and ignorance). The karma of mind belongs to mental activities. The constant repitition of the 3 karma is what perpetuates the cylce of death and rebirth, and over time it has become a habit. Every time a thought arises, this is karma. For example anger arises when triggered by something, the uncomfortable (burning) feelings or sensations, then comes a chain of thoughts that also bring out more uncomfortable feelings or sensations thus intensify the experience of anger. These thoughts and sensations have been stored in alaya and can easily brought to experience when triggered. This is a habitual thing. The same goes for pleasure...so what we think and do will be stored in alaya, this is crucial in perpetuating rebirth. Cultivation is also crucial to get out of cylce of death and rebirth.

Pleasure versus suffering (for example anger). It is important to recognize that the more we endorse pleasure and attaching to the sensations or feelings of pleasure, the more intense suffering we will experience. It would be a good idea to detach from bodily pleasures.

Thanks for reading
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 26, 2011 10:49 am

A feeling may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, this has nothing to do with value judgements of good and bad and then whether we react with aversion or attachment to the feeling. Masochists, for example, react to unpleasant feelings (pain) with attachment and consider them "positive" or "beneficial".

The feeling (positive, negative, neutral) we have is objective, our reaction to the feeling is more subjective (although it too is a consequence of our past karma and habitual tendencies that have arisen from past karma).

When we say that the feeling experienced is a consequence of the ripening of karma it may be as simple as saying that if you make the effort to go get a massage from an experienced and capable masseur this action will ripen in a pleasant bodily feeling (unless it is thai massage!) which may then lead to the formation of a positive impression towards the object (the massage) an attachment to the feeling and further karma (intentional action) on our behalf to repeat the sensation/feeling.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Thu May 26, 2011 1:48 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
When we say that the feeling experienced is a consequence of the ripening of karma it may be as simple as saying that if you make the effort to go get a massage from an experienced and capable masseur this action will ripen in a pleasant bodily feeling (unless it is thai massage!) which may then lead to the formation of a positive impression towards the object (the massage) an attachment to the feeling and further karma (intentional action) on our behalf to repeat the sensation/feeling.
:namaste:



It is even simpler than that -- since the six sense organs are also a result of ripening, the sensations we experience through them (pleasant, painful, neutral) are a result of ripening.

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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby xabir » Sun Jun 05, 2011 9:48 am

Namdrol wrote:
The sensations of pleasure and pain from all of these activities are solely the ripening of karma and nothing else.

Karma of course begins with intention, but it ripens on both mind and body.

N
Interesting... but how do you explain this:

SN 36.21
PTS: S iv 230
CDB ii 1278
Sivaka Sutta: To Sivaka
translated from the Pali by
Nyanaponika Thera
© 1995–2011
Alternate translation: Thanissaro

Once the Blessed One dwelled at Rajagaha in the Bamboo-Grove Monastery, at the Squirrel's Feeding Place. There a wandering ascetic, Moliya Sivaka by name, called on the Blessed One, and after an exchange of courteous and friendly words, sat down at one side. Thus seated, he said:

"There are, revered Gotama, some ascetics and brahmans who have this doctrine and view: 'Whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action.' Now, what does the revered Gotama say about this?"

"Produced by (disorders of the) bile, there arise, Sivaka, certain kinds of feelings. That this happens, can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true. Produced by (disorders of the) phlegm... of wind... of (the three) combined... by change of climate... by adverse behavior... by injuries... by the results of Kamma — (through all that), Sivaka, there arise certain kinds of feelings. That this happens can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true.

"Now when these ascetics and brahmans have such a doctrine and view that 'whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action,' then they go beyond what they know by themselves and what is accepted as true by the world. Therefore, I say that this is wrong on the part of these ascetics and brahmans."

When this was spoken, Moliya Sivaka, the wandering ascetic, said: "It is excellent, revered Gotama, it is excellent indeed!...May the revered Gotama regard me as a lay follower who, from today, has taken refuge in him as long as life lasts."
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jun 05, 2011 10:34 am

xabir wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
The sensations of pleasure and pain from all of these activities are solely the ripening of karma and nothing else.

Karma of course begins with intention, but it ripens on both mind and body.

N
Interesting... but how do you explain this:

SN 36.21
PTS: S iv 230
CDB ii 1278
Sivaka Sutta: To Sivaka
translated from the Pali by
Nyanaponika Thera
© 1995–2011
Alternate translation: Thanissaro

Once the Blessed One dwelled at Rajagaha in the Bamboo-Grove Monastery, at the Squirrel's Feeding Place. There a wandering ascetic, Moliya Sivaka by name, called on the Blessed One, and after an exchange of courteous and friendly words, sat down at one side. Thus seated, he said:

"There are, revered Gotama, some ascetics and brahmans who have this doctrine and view: 'Whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action.' Now, what does the revered Gotama say about this?"

"Produced by (disorders of the) bile, there arise, Sivaka, certain kinds of feelings. That this happens, can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true. Produced by (disorders of the) phlegm... of wind... of (the three) combined... by change of climate... by adverse behavior... by injuries... by the results of Kamma — (through all that), Sivaka, there arise certain kinds of feelings. That this happens can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true.

"Now when these ascetics and brahmans have such a doctrine and view that 'whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action,' then they go beyond what they know by themselves and what is accepted as true by the world. Therefore, I say that this is wrong on the part of these ascetics and brahmans."

When this was spoken, Moliya Sivaka, the wandering ascetic, said: "It is excellent, revered Gotama, it is excellent indeed!...May the revered Gotama regard me as a lay follower who, from today, has taken refuge in him as long as life lasts."




I don't answer for Namdrol, but we should take into consideration the following definitions of 'new kamma' and 'old kamma' by the Buddha:



Kamma Sutta: Action

"Monks, I will teach you new & old kamma, the cessation of kamma, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of kamma. Listen and pay close attention. I will speak.

"Now what, monks, is old kamma? The eye is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. This is called old kamma.

"And what is new kamma? Whatever kamma one does now with the body, with speech, or with the intellect: This is called new kamma.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Also take note of what Thanissaro Bhikkhu points out:

Some people have interpreted this sutta as stating that there are many experiences that cannot be explained by the principle of kamma. A casual glance of the alternative factors here — drawn from the various causes for pain that were recognized in the medical treatises of his time — would seem to support this conclusion. However, if we compare this list with his definition of old kamma in SN 35.145, we see that many of the alternative causes are actually the result of past actions. Those that aren't are the result of new kamma. For instance, MN 101 counts asceticism — which produces pain in the immediate present — under the factor harsh treatment. The point here is that old and new kamma do not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead find their expression within those factors. A second point is that some of the influences of past kamma can be mitigated in the present — a disease caused by bile, for instance, can be cured by medicine that brings the bile back to normal. Similarly with the mind: suffering caused by physical pain can be ended by understanding and abandoning the attachment that led to that suffering. In this way, the Buddha's teaching on kamma avoids determinism and opens the way for a path of practice focused on eliminating the causes of suffering in the here and now.



This is really important:

The point here is that old and new kamma do not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead find their expression within those factors.



If our physical apparatus is old kamma, then by virtue of that old kamma we are able to experience vedanā / sensation (sukha/pleasure, duḥkha/suffering and aduḥkha-asukha/neutral sensation). It was our past karma that resulted in the bodily form able to suffer or experience pleasure or neutral sensation.

Again...

"Now what, monks, is old kamma? The eye is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. The ear... The nose... The tongue... The body... The intellect is to be seen as old kamma, fabricated & willed, capable of being felt. This is called old kamma.


Strictly speaking if you trace the causal process of sensation it comes back to karma, so Namdrol's statement here:

Namdrol wrote:
The sensations of pleasure and pain from all of these activities are solely the ripening of karma and nothing else.


... is not really contradicting the scripture you're citing.


"Now when these ascetics and brahmans have such a doctrine and view that 'whatever a person experiences, be it pleasure, pain or neither-pain-nor-pleasure, all that is caused by previous action,' then they go beyond what they know by themselves and what is accepted as true by the world. Therefore, I say that this is wrong on the part of these ascetics and brahmans."


It might be that what the ascetics and brahmans define as action is different from the Buddha's definition of old and new karmas/kammas.

In any case, the Buddha said the bodily apparatus is old karma. It is by virtue of that old karma that sensation is possible. Even when we encounter other causal processes at work in the universe, it is only by virtue of our old karma that we are able to experience them as either pain, pleasure or neutral sensation.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:43 pm

xabir wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
The sensations of pleasure and pain from all of these activities are solely the ripening of karma and nothing else.

Karma of course begins with intention, but it ripens on both mind and body.

N
Interesting... but how do you explain this:


"Produced by (disorders of the) bile, there arise, Sivaka, certain kinds of feelings. That this happens, can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true. Produced by (disorders of the) phlegm... of wind... of (the three) combined... by change of climate... by adverse behavior... by injuries... by the results of Kamma — (through all that), Sivaka, there arise certain kinds of feelings. That this happens can be known by oneself; also in the world it is accepted as true.


Quite simple really -- the body you appropriate at birth has the three humors, it is born in certain climate that has changes, one's conduct is definitely karma, injuries, etc., all of these things are ulimately produced by and a result of karma.

So no contradiction.
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby starfish » Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:09 pm

Namdrol wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
What we experience as pleasure, fear, anger, and so forth are actually molecular changes in the brain's chemistry. You could think of it as getting a little dose of something, or a little injection with everything you experience. If you are suddenly startled, your heart beats faster, your body sweats and your hair stands on end. On the Molecular level, the chemicals we experience as fear are only slightly different from the ones we experience as anger.

N


This is very helpful to me. One struggle i have is with controlling anger and emotional upset, when it happens (and i feel sad or upset or angry only when my husband behaves in a way i feel is 'unfair' or 'rude' or '[insert offense here that may or may not even be legitamate]). My husband responds by walking away or ignoring me like a child having a tantrum, which sometimes enrages me even more, but sometimes its good and i'm left to recognize my ridicilous display of meaningless anger or sadness and that calms me down.
at the time i know i dont want to feel that way, and i know it will pass like a sickness if i only let it pass instead of feeding it... sometimes its hard to get out of that trap. what helps you when you feel upset?

I have thought before of writing down on a piece of paper words of advice to myself when i find myself upset, something like "you dont want to feel this way" or "just let it pass, you cant think right now" or "why are you choosing to be angry?"
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Re: How does pleasure arise?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:47 pm

starfish wrote:
This is very helpful to me. One struggle i have is with controlling anger and emotional upset, when it happens (and i feel sad or upset or angry only when my husband behaves in a way i feel is 'unfair' or 'rude' or '[insert offense here that may or may not even be legitamate]). My husband responds by walking away or ignoring me like a child having a tantrum, which sometimes enrages me even more, but sometimes its good and i'm left to recognize my ridicilous display of meaningless anger or sadness and that calms me down.
at the time i know i dont want to feel that way, and i know it will pass like a sickness if i only let it pass instead of feeding it... sometimes its hard to get out of that trap. what helps you when you feel upset?

I have thought before of writing down on a piece of paper words of advice to myself when i find myself upset, something like "you dont want to feel this way" or "just let it pass, you cant think right now" or "why are you choosing to be angry?"



I think you can learn how to process your thinking. If a situation happened, but you cannot processed thoroughly it will be stored in your alaya and will be brought to experience again when triggered. It is not so much to rationalize what's going on but to actually recognize the way you think actually brings you anger. Too often, we look at others for blame that they cause us to feel this way and this really enrages us. But we never look at our angry mind and the way we think. It is all attachment in disguised. When anger comes do not engage in it through thinking, look at it, and endure the suffering. So that in future we will correct the way we think that leads us to anger. Constantly pay attention to the mind at all time. Don't give up even if you feel very painful. Learn to endure the suffering.

What your husband did was not right. But we are not looking at his faults. That's his faults. Why should we feel angry for his faults? So right now we only look at our mind and figure out how the way we think and look at the world make us angry, and correct this fault in thinking. Then there is also fault in our behavior that needs to be corrected also.

Also recognize that the mind is very unstable. Words someone says can easy make you angry or happy. Like if someone is called overweight, she/he can get upset. You are very beautiful, you would feel excited. As you can see the mind is very unstable like a lake that is never tranquil, always disturbed by the external stimuli or triggers.

Don't give up. Continue to find ways to deal with anger. And over time your mind will grow stronger and more stable. It is a habit to react with anger.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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