Hi Dhamma Wheel,
I am a 31 y/o male born and raised on O'ahu, Hawai'i. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family and through the years studied and experimented with various religious and spiritual traditions, old, new, and "experimental," but always felt something was missing or didn't make sense. I've read some books about Buddhism in the past but never felt drawn to actually become a Buddhist. Years of searching and many periods of intense questioning and suffering prepared me experientially to finally begin to understand what the Buddha's teachings offer. Life wanted to show me the reality of dukkha to make me appreciate the Dhamma.
A friend asked me why I was drawn to the Theravada and I told him that when I read a book or series I start at the beginning, and it seems to me that since Theravada is the oldest surviving school it is the closest to the beginning of Buddhism. Forgive me if I am making any errors in this introduction but I am still brand new to this so please feel free to correct me. In the future I may become interested in Mahayana or Vajrayana but for now I feel that Theravada is where I need to be.
I am a Psychiatric Technician and am currently pursuing my BA in Psychology with the hope of becoming a Psychotherapist someday. One of the things that actually made me see the value of the Buddhist Path was reading books about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a new form of psychotherapy with strong parallels to Buddhism. Reading ACT books were the catalyst that led me to recognize the intelligence behind Buddhist Psychology, which made me even more interested in becoming a Buddhist.
Currently I am taking a Mindfulness Online Course that is being offered by Vipassana Hawai'i and I just started to go to a weekly sitting that they host at a local Buddhist temple. I am also downloading a bunch of stuff off the Internet (e-books, mp3's of Dhamma talks, etc.) and buying a boatload of Kindle books and regular books about Buddhism from Amazon. I feel kind of obsessed right now and have been losing sleep due to all of the really interesting books and talks that keep me up at night. I'm sure I'm not the first person to experience this. Can someone become obsessed with a pure thing?
I have two questions that I haven't found any answers to with the usual Google search and browsing of my growing book collection.
First off, I am reading a few books right now about Samatha and the Jhanas. I have been hearing conflicting information about how one should practice. From what I understand some believe that one should become proficient in Samatha practice first before moving on to Vipassana. Another perspective is that they can be practiced together. If they can be practiced together, what would that practice actually consist of? The whole Samatha and Vipassana debate is starting to confuse me and is starting to become an obstacle for me. It will be great to hear experienced practitioners views on this issue.
Another topic that I haven't yet seen discussed in a practical way is sexual desire. Even with attempts to be mindful and the best of intentions I still find myself giving in to the craving for sex, even when I know that there are more productive things I could be doing with my time (homework, meditating, etc.) Afterwards I feel drained of energy and end up not doing a lot of the things that I value or told myself I was going to do. Maybe I don't value them enough?
I'm still not really sure what the third precept even means, except for not committing adultery, which I don't do anyway. Beyond that I am still not clear on what to do regarding my sexual urges. I haven't seen any books written on this topic, which is surprising to me because I think it's such an important topic, at least in my eyes. Does anyone else have experience regarding this, or know of any good sources that deal with this topic in a practical way?
That's it for now. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say and learning as much as I can from everyone here.
The watched mind brings happiness.
I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.