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I don’t get the idea that not craving will improve your life

 
kuzon
 
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kuzon
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26 February 2018 02:08
 

I understand that wanting is the state of not accepting the present moment.

First of all, how can you get anything done if you don’t crave?

Second of all, the idea that ALL craving is inherently bad is just plain wrong. Working towards your goals is a source of huge meaning and fulfilment in human life. Why don’t the Buddhists say that it’s just SOME craving that is bad? I.e. where the probability and magnitude of misery if the goal doesn’t come true outweighs the probability and magnitude of happiness if the goal does come true, maybe that craving is bad.

 
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26 February 2018 22:45
 

Desire leads to disappointment. Desire is not “bad”, it is making a point that the source of disappointment is within.  If you know that failing to achieve a desire, then you are less likely to blame the disappointment on external influences and look to yourself.  It does not mean do not try, it means be prepared in case it doesn’t.

 
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27 February 2018 07:38
 
kuzon - 26 February 2018 02:08 AM

I understand that wanting is the state of not accepting the present moment.

First of all, how can you get anything done if you don’t crave?

Second of all, the idea that ALL craving is inherently bad is just plain wrong. Working towards your goals is a source of huge meaning and fulfilment in human life. Why don’t the Buddhists say that it’s just SOME craving that is bad? I.e. where the probability and magnitude of misery if the goal doesn’t come true outweighs the probability and magnitude of happiness if the goal does come true, maybe that craving is bad.


I think you could look at it in two ways - one more literal, the other that the word ‘desire’ is a bit of a mistranslation through time and space.


In the literal translation, having absolutely no desire is not compatible with life, to my mind. You have to have at least some desire to eat, drink, and breathe to continue to exist. And I do think it’s only fair to note that Buddhism does - at least in many cases - end with metaphysical propositions. It’s been largely secularized in many parts of our society but in its original form, the point is to stop reincarnating - in other words, to stop living, in the traditional sense. (What exactly happens when one stops reincarnating is left fairly open.) Of course even in that translation, desires have to be somewhat ‘tiered’ into ‘wholesome’ and ‘unwholesome’ desires, because if you have no desire to learn about Buddhism in the first place then you won’t learn anything about it.


Viewed from another angle, you could say that it is not desire as we commonly understand the term that is the problem, but attachment. In that reading it is possible to continue to feel some kind of desire at a more superficial level, but not to become attached to it, to see it as a rising impression of sensations that comes and goes. I think even to choose to ‘listen’ to some desires - the desire to be healthy, to help others, etc. - but also, at a deeper level, to simply observe that as well. The desire, the movement of following the desire, etc. That gets into something that is more of a semantic issue as we don’t have good vocabulary for that in our culture, to my mind.


I also think it’s worth noting that trying to overcome the desires of the corporeal body is found in all manner of mystic traditions and religions. Why exactly that is, is open to interpretation, but it’s an incredibly common theme.

 

 
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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27 February 2018 08:31
 

Zen Master: “What would you rather have, true happiness or a beer?”

Homer Simpson: “What kind of beer?”

 
 
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27 February 2018 12:05
 

It’s all about managing expectations.

 
 
no_profundia
 
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27 February 2018 12:28
 

@NL

In the literal translation, having absolutely no desire is not compatible with life, to my mind. You have to have at least some desire to eat, drink, and breathe to continue to exist. And I do think it’s only fair to note that Buddhism does - at least in many cases - end with metaphysical propositions. It’s been largely secularized in many parts of our society but in its original form, the point is to stop reincarnating - in other words, to stop living, in the traditional sense. (What exactly happens when one stops reincarnating is left fairly open.) Of course even in that translation, desires have to be somewhat ‘tiered’ into ‘wholesome’ and ‘unwholesome’ desires, because if you have no desire to learn about Buddhism in the first place then you won’t learn anything about it.

Viewed from another angle, you could say that it is not desire as we commonly understand the term that is the problem, but attachment. In that reading it is possible to continue to feel some kind of desire at a more superficial level, but not to become attached to it, to see it as a rising impression of sensations that comes and goes. I think even to choose to ‘listen’ to some desires - the desire to be healthy, to help others, etc. - but also, at a deeper level, to simply observe that as well. The desire, the movement of following the desire, etc. That gets into something that is more of a semantic issue as we don’t have good vocabulary for that in our culture, to my mind.

I read the OP and started composing a response in my head and then found that NL had already written exactly what I intended to write only much more articulately, and with a fuller understanding of Buddhism, than I would have. I agree with this completely.

Having no desires at all is not compatible with life and I don’t think this is the goal of Buddhism or meditation (at least, in its secular, Western form). Rather, it is our clinging to our desires, and the results of our actions, that we are meant to let go of.

 

 
 
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27 February 2018 20:10
 
no_profundia - 27 February 2018 12:28 PM

I read the OP and started composing a response in my head and then found that NL had already written exactly what I intended to write only much more articulately, and with a fuller understanding of Buddhism, than I would have. I agree with this completely.

Having no desires at all is not compatible with life and I don’t think this is the goal of Buddhism or meditation (at least, in its secular, Western form). Rather, it is our clinging to our desires, and the results of our actions, that we are meant to let go of.


Thanks! smile

 
 
kuzon
 
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05 March 2018 15:48
 
NL. - 27 February 2018 07:38 AM
kuzon - 26 February 2018 02:08 AM

I understand that wanting is the state of not accepting the present moment.

First of all, how can you get anything done if you don’t crave?

Second of all, the idea that ALL craving is inherently bad is just plain wrong. Working towards your goals is a source of huge meaning and fulfilment in human life. Why don’t the Buddhists say that it’s just SOME craving that is bad? I.e. where the probability and magnitude of misery if the goal doesn’t come true outweighs the probability and magnitude of happiness if the goal does come true, maybe that craving is bad.


I think you could look at it in two ways - one more literal, the other that the word ‘desire’ is a bit of a mistranslation through time and space.


In the literal translation, having absolutely no desire is not compatible with life, to my mind. You have to have at least some desire to eat, drink, and breathe to continue to exist. And I do think it’s only fair to note that Buddhism does - at least in many cases - end with metaphysical propositions. It’s been largely secularized in many parts of our society but in its original form, the point is to stop reincarnating - in other words, to stop living, in the traditional sense. (What exactly happens when one stops reincarnating is left fairly open.) Of course even in that translation, desires have to be somewhat ‘tiered’ into ‘wholesome’ and ‘unwholesome’ desires, because if you have no desire to learn about Buddhism in the first place then you won’t learn anything about it.


Viewed from another angle, you could say that it is not desire as we commonly understand the term that is the problem, but attachment. In that reading it is possible to continue to feel some kind of desire at a more superficial level, but not to become attached to it, to see it as a rising impression of sensations that comes and goes. I think even to choose to ‘listen’ to some desires - the desire to be healthy, to help others, etc. - but also, at a deeper level, to simply observe that as well. The desire, the movement of following the desire, etc. That gets into something that is more of a semantic issue as we don’t have good vocabulary for that in our culture, to my mind.


I also think it’s worth noting that trying to overcome the desires of the corporeal body is found in all manner of mystic traditions and religions. Why exactly that is, is open to interpretation, but it’s an incredibly common theme.


Okay, attachment is bad. But isn’t it delusional to not be attached? For example I did a 10 day meditaiton retreat, and the message was that the pain you experience during meditation isn’t ‘your’ pain, because there is no self. Well that’s not true, I call it ‘my’ pain because it’s MY consciousness that will have to experience back pain for the rest of my life if I don’t respond to it now. Why should I not be attached to that?

I’m all for trying to reach happiness. I’m not on board with deluding yourself as to the nature of reality in order to achieve it though. This ‘no attachment’ thing seems like it’s doing just that. Why should I not care about my consciousness over others? My body is the one that experiences all these things.

 
sojourner
 
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05 March 2018 20:39
 
kuzon - 05 March 2018 03:48 PM

Okay, attachment is bad. But isn’t it delusional to not be attached? For example I did a 10 day meditaiton retreat, and the message was that the pain you experience during meditation isn’t ‘your’ pain, because there is no self. Well that’s not true, I call it ‘my’ pain because it’s MY consciousness that will have to experience back pain for the rest of my life if I don’t respond to it now. Why should I not be attached to that?

I’m all for trying to reach happiness. I’m not on board with deluding yourself as to the nature of reality in order to achieve it though. This ‘no attachment’ thing seems like it’s doing just that. Why should I not care about my consciousness over others? My body is the one that experiences all these things.


I can’t speak for the specific instruction you received on your retreat, but I’ve never particularly gotten the message that we shouldn’t care about our own conscious experience. Quite the contrary - “Put your own oxygen mask on first” is a saying I hear fairly frequently in meditative circles. If you think about it - no one is asking you to ‘not attach’ to the experience of the person sitting on the zafu next to you. No one says “Now mindfully take a breath in, and experience the sensations of the person three rows over from you as just sensations. Tingling, heat, cold, lightness, heaviness…” Any contemplation is almost entirely central to what is coming through one’s own senses. When people try to see back pain as a series of interesting sensations, that is generally specifically because they, as an individual, aren’t a fan of back pain, and a series of interesting sensations is less painful than “Aaaaa! My back hurts!”. It’s not like you have to sit and continuously pray for the relief of back pain of everyone on cushions around you during meditation retreats.


Like I said, though, I do think the idea of non ‘attachment’ or ‘identification’ is very confusing, and subject to a lot of misinterpretation - honestly, even among advanced meditators, from what I can tell. I don’t think traditional semantics apply to those concepts - I mean of course, if you’re a doctor, then you are a doctor, that aggregate of information and experience coagulates in the general physical space where ‘you’ exist, and it would be horrific to say “Hey, we’re all one, we’re all equally doctors here!” while performing surgery on someone. It’s the same for any specialized role you might play - lawyer, therapist, parent, brother, sister, friend, plumber, pet owner, whatever - being ‘in the moment’ does not mean that your particular ‘moment’ is not uniquely composed of a very individual history of moments that are very important to the function of society and people in it. If you are going to be ‘in the moment’ as a surgeon in the operating room, you darn well better have a history of medical school moments preceding connected to that one!


If you were to go to the other extreme, you would have something like dissociation, which is obviously not the state you are aiming for either (although I do think it’s helpful to reflect on a little bit, as a remedy for total identification - i.e., what would this moment look like from the point of view of a totally detached observer?). Knowing “Yup, I’m doing this, I’m feeling this - ok, now I’m thinking this, I’m having that usual thought about “Why can’t I be attached, what’s wrong with attachment?!”. So there that is. Now my back hurts, it’s like a tingling heat that goes up and down. Now I’m reacting to the back pain. Now I’m thinking about my reaction to the back pain. Now…”


I don’t claim to know a great deal about the middle path between those states, but I do think it exists and, again, is just not easily described with our current lexicon. I think it’s sort of qualia-like in that sense. Kind of like trying to describe the color green to someone who’s never seen it. Is it blue? No… Is it yellow? No… Is it blue and yellow together… I mean yes, but no, it doesn’t actually look like blue and yellow just sitting next to each other… Is it neither blue nor yellow… No, not exactly, I mean it does have blue and yellow… You can describe it a great deal, but to really know what the color green is, I think you just have to see the color green for yourself. Again, I’m not claiming to have any super deep insight into that state, but I have enough confidence in it to keep meditating, even if I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the surface in that realm.

[ Edited: 05 March 2018 20:41 by sojourner]
 
 
karmasoda
 
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18 April 2018 13:02
 

Any kind of craving, desire, attachment, longing, addiction, etc. takes you further away from truth which is what is happening now.  With craving, you unconsciously choose to be ignorant instead of being conscious and grateful for what is.  Craving could be seen as a negative stimulus that alters your brain chemistry and f’s with your head. What you crave is most likely not what you need but simply want, and wanting is a cause of suffering.

I don’t believe there is any reason not to set goals and achieve, so long as you’re doing either or both for the right reasons.

 
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18 April 2018 18:48
 
karmasoda - 18 April 2018 01:02 PM

Any kind of craving, desire, attachment, longing, addiction, etc. takes you further away from truth which is what is happening now.  With craving, you unconsciously choose to be ignorant instead of being conscious and grateful for what is.  Craving could be seen as a negative stimulus that alters your brain chemistry and f’s with your head. What you crave is most likely not what you need but simply want, and wanting is a cause of suffering.

I don’t believe there is any reason not to set goals and achieve, so long as you’re doing either or both for the right reasons.


What would constitute the ‘right reasons’, if you literally don’t want anything? Even continuing to breath requires that you want to live, or want to avoid pain, and so on. If craving is equivalent to wanting and is an across-the-board ill, then this is not compatible with any kind of goal, to my mind.

 
 
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18 April 2018 21:49
 

The Stoics also taught non-attachment. But they allowed that a person could have “preferences” and act to realize those. For example, good health is preferable to poor health, prosperity is preferable to poverty, and so on. Hegel, on the other hand, claimed that “nothing great is ever accomplished without passion.” Does that compute with non-attachment? Perhaps. And, of course, “...pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of results, is every way perfect.”

I’d go along with NL and other comments here, it’s fine to have goals and work to attain them, but being fixated on that (a better word, I think, that attachment) is the problem.

 
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19 April 2018 04:25
 

It is a question of progress versus contentment.

 
 
karmasoda
 
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19 April 2018 06:33
 

I am referring to doing something with goodwill.  And according to Science, breathing is a autonomic function- meaning, you don’t have to think to breathe.

NL. - 18 April 2018 06:48 PM
karmasoda - 18 April 2018 01:02 PM

Any kind of craving, desire, attachment, longing, addiction, etc. takes you further away from truth which is what is happening now.  With craving, you unconsciously choose to be ignorant instead of being conscious and grateful for what is.  Craving could be seen as a negative stimulus that alters your brain chemistry and f’s with your head. What you crave is most likely not what you need but simply want, and wanting is a cause of suffering.

I don’t believe there is any reason not to set goals and achieve, so long as you’re doing either or both for the right reasons.


What would constitute the ‘right reasons’, if you literally don’t want anything? Even continuing to breath requires that you want to live, or want to avoid pain, and so on. If craving is equivalent to wanting and is an across-the-board ill, then this is not compatible with any kind of goal, to my mind.

 
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19 April 2018 10:46
 
karmasoda - 19 April 2018 06:33 AM

I am referring to doing something with goodwill.  And according to Science, breathing is a autonomic function- meaning, you don’t have to think to breathe.


Well, it’s only partly autonomic, but ok, even if you only stopped breathing when you became conscious of it, then you would still have to want to keep your airways clear. If you had zero desire at all, nothing would keep you from walking into a lake and just staying there. Granted, if you want to take this to the extreme logical conclusion, you probably wouldn’t be walking in the first place, as you’d have no reason to walk. So someone with absolutely zero desire of any sort would more likely just sit wherever they happened to be until they died of dehydration.


Regarding goodwill - that, also, is a form of wanting to do something - to want to help, to want to be kind, etc., etc.


I think what we consider the purest form of goodwill is more about expanding one’s sense of self, getting back to the idea of relatively more ‘selflessness’. I believe the Dalai Lama uses the example of seeing a fish flopping out of water and being moved to help it simply because we are moved to alleviate suffering when we recognize it. (The Christian take, which I also find helpful in a different way, sometimes emphasizes that ‘you’, as an individual ego, can’t really do anything, it’s all by the grace of God anyways, so don’t ever go getting a big head about how little or how much ‘you’ help other people.)


I think both of these concepts are useful. The second because I see how goodwill is very frequently intermingled with other emotions and motivations. If I plan a party for someone, there is a genuine desire for them to be happy in there; and there is also a love of shopping and planning on my part. If I donate money to the Tibet Fund (random message board plug for the Tibet Fund,) I can feel the same pointless craving I feel when adding dollar bin items at Target to my shopping card (“It felt good to donate something… it would be better to donate more… and then more… and then…” there’s no satiating endpoint there, it becomes just another dopamine buzz, albeit an altruistic one.) And even if I’m doing what the Dalai Lama describes and truly just trying to alleviate suffering, that can quickly turn into vicarious pleasure seeking. Sort of the feeling you get when you buy someone a great gift and enjoy thinking about how much they’ll enjoy it. So I think remembering that any good an ego (sorry - spiritual buzzword overuse of ‘ego’ ahead,) thinks it is accomplishing tends to be the ego doing its ego thing. Even if egoic activity is indeed a very important part of the world and how it functions. We do still need gifts to be given, donations made, and so on, for practical reasons, but if one finds themselves thinking “Look at what I did here,” they’ve already lost the plot to an extent. It’s precisely when the ‘I’ isn’t involved that true compassion happens, I think. (Although again, I think there are often a mix of motivations in altruistic behavior, and the portion of them that is truly compassionate and outward-looking should be regarded as a very good thing.)


The Dalai Lama’s viewpoint reminds me that the general point of altruism, at least I think, is not about altruism in and of itself but altruism as a means of self-transcendence. Expanding our circle of compassion ever outward and taking more of the subjective focus off of ourselves. I do think the idea of expanding our circle of compassion and improving our general character are probably related but somewhat distinct, however, as, again, expanding one’s circle of compassion can simply mean taking one’s own cravings and vicariously enjoying them through providing them for someone else - I think one has to have a calm inner state to begin with and then move this state outward to others - or at least work on both things in tandem. I assume these things work together in a way, in that quieting the cravings of the ‘self’ takes attention away from self-focused needs and presumably results in noticing the needs of others more; and altruism involves purposely focusing on the needs of others which would leave less attention available to focus on oneself. I don’t think this means we are meant to have absolutely no self-concern, of course, as this would be a self-nullifying system (if everyone had no preferences except everyone else’s preferences, then no one would want anything at all and we’d be back to sitting around dehydrating to death,) but it’s possible there is some kind of optimal communal balance to strive for.

[ Edited: 19 April 2018 10:51 by sojourner]
 
 
burt
 
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19 April 2018 19:28
 
karmasoda - 19 April 2018 06:33 AM

I am referring to doing something with goodwill.  And according to Science, breathing is a autonomic function- meaning, you don’t have to think to breathe.

NL. - 18 April 2018 06:48 PM
karmasoda - 18 April 2018 01:02 PM

Any kind of craving, desire, attachment, longing, addiction, etc. takes you further away from truth which is what is happening now.  With craving, you unconsciously choose to be ignorant instead of being conscious and grateful for what is.  Craving could be seen as a negative stimulus that alters your brain chemistry and f’s with your head. What you crave is most likely not what you need but simply want, and wanting is a cause of suffering.

I don’t believe there is any reason not to set goals and achieve, so long as you’re doing either or both for the right reasons.


What would constitute the ‘right reasons’, if you literally don’t want anything? Even continuing to breath requires that you want to live, or want to avoid pain, and so on. If craving is equivalent to wanting and is an across-the-board ill, then this is not compatible with any kind of goal, to my mind.

It isn’t a matter of not wanting to do anything, rather not be attached to the wanting. Stepping back and perceiving yourself “wanting” without becoming caught up in it so that one loses presence (which is likely to work against achieving what one wants in any case).

 
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