Author Topic: Regarding cleaning the river by not polluting it in the first place  (Read 1182 times)

Dylan

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Hi all! :)
This is my first post so I gotta say first off it is good to be here amongst like-minded individuals. I have made much progress with my practice and I greatly look forward to where your insight will lead me. But I digress!

I am currently putting most of my focus into shamatha meditation. I suffer from pretty brutal ADHD and am looking to cultivate a greater sense of concentration so I can pursue my interests in literature and writing to a fuller effect. Though my spiritual interests have stretched beyond this I think it is a necessary remedy for the information laden culture and predisposition which I am subject to (ADHD). In addition to my time with shamatha, my practice of other tantric traditions has greatly improved my creative powers. I truly know this is something which is working.

I am currently using a book titled The Attention Revolution by B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D who spent a lot of time practicing shamatha and successively progressing through its many stages. What brings me to make this post is a question i have about a Buddist proverb he cites: "The best way to clean the river is to stop polluting it." Wallace writes, "When a stream is piolluted, one may try to add antidotes to the toxins in the water, hoping such additives will neutralize the damage. But the more straightforward and sensible approach is simply to stop the flow of contamination into the stream. Once this is done, over time the flow of the water through soil, stones, and vegetation can purify the stream completely." He goes on to discuss 'craving' in Buddhist doctrine ("an attraction for something whose desirable qualities we exaggerate while ignoring any undesirable qualities"). But, I'm curious, how can I know that something is positively a craving and not just a harmless pleasure?

For instance, I enjoy playing video games as an escape from my studies but how can I know that this isn't harmful to me? I feel the same way about things like the internet and smartphones. I stay away from social media but how can I be sure that the things I use these things for aren't hampering my development? What I have come to realize is worrying about these things definitely makes them harmful, so at the moment I have tried my best to continue to live the same way without thinking too much about it (given, of course, that i don't overindulge in said things). Yet, not worrying about something does not do all the work! I know that some things are bottom line just harmful to the work that meditation achieves. My only bearing on this is that, despite playing video games and using the internet and drinking coffee my practice is without a doubt continuing to progress uninteruptted. So maybe I have my answer right there, but I would still love to hear from all of you!

What do you guys think? Can we classify video games and the internet as cravings? Coffee? (I love coffee)   

 

 


stillpointdancer

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Re: Regarding cleaning the river by not polluting it in the first place
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2020, 12:18:59 PM »
The ideas around craving in Buddhism are tricky. The pollution quote is fine for people who can stop doing stuff, but what about the rest of us? For us the idea is to have a different relationship with our cravings. It's the same with feelings. Are we supposed to be robots and not have them? Of course the answer is no; we gain a different relationship with our feelings, not suppress them or seek to have none.

To gain such a different relationship we question what such things are, how they arise, what their purpose is and how we deal with them. This journey is continuous, but has an effect over time so that we gain a breathing space between the arising of the craving or feeling and our response to them. When we have such a space we can work on being mindful of our subsequent behaviour. In terms of coffee I used to have a nice big mug beside me when I was undertaking one type of meditation, studying part of a sutra, taking a sip of coffee and relaxing into meditation again.

I guess video games are the same. My wife is playing New Horizons during lockdown, but it's not my thing (I'm one of those sad people who stick to solitaire on my phone). I'm trying to learn a couple of languages and improve my sight reading skills on the keyboard. Both are enjoyable and perhaps distracting, but I still do them after 30 odd years of meditation and I don't feel bad about it.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

dharma bum

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Re: Regarding cleaning the river by not polluting it in the first place
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2020, 01:52:06 PM »
http://hardcorezen.info/i-want-a-milkshake/6558

I like the above blogger's ideas of dealing with craving. I have no association with the blogger.

I discovered something odd in the past few weeks when I've been holed up at home like everybody else. I drink a lot of tea usually with a bit of sugar. I find that when I put sugar in my tea, my craving for sweet and salty food is more than when I don't. So there is a physiological aspect to craving, so in some small way, sugar in my tea appears to activate some kind of minor addiction. I've noticed in other ways when I give in to some addiction in X, it makes me lose self-control in Y.

So I have now some self-control over sugar in my tea. So far I regard my addiction to tea as a relatively harmless pleasure, but who knows? I might change my mind some day about it.
Mostly ignorant

Dylan

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Re: Regarding cleaning the river by not polluting it in the first place
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2020, 12:37:58 AM »


The ideas around craving in Buddhism are tricky. The pollution quote is fine for people who can stop doing stuff, but what about the rest of us? For us the idea is to have a different relationship with our cravings. It's the same with feelings. Are we supposed to be robots and not have them? Of course the answer is no; we gain a different relationship with our feelings, not suppress them or seek to have none.

This is the bit I am shaky on. I find that, namely in the case of working on improving concentration, there are many modern evils that might be better left untouched. I take for example social media, whose entire brand and design is meant to soften your attention so that you spend more time scrolling. I participate in some of these places a little (facebook to keep in touch with old friends), but I can't shake the worry of my attention being subconsciously affected while I am "using." I am a bit of a snob about these things, to be fair, but I worry that placing myself in an atmosphere which is definitely designed to hamper my ability to pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds is deleterious.
But, I am with you on your sentiment of "this is the world we live in." I want to participate socially so I have to use these things a bit. It is my understanding that modern things are surely out of line with a meditative mindset, and my total integration and reliance on these things which are the rock and the hard place I am stuck between.
And yes I too have been enjoying New Horizons!


To gain such a different relationship we question what such things are, how they arise, what their purpose is and how we deal with them. This journey is continuous, but has an effect over time so that we gain a breathing space between the arising of the craving or feeling and our response to them. When we have such a space we can work on being mindful of our subsequent behaviour.

So I have now some self-control over sugar in my tea. So far I regard my addiction to tea as a relatively harmless pleasure, but who knows? I might change my mind some day about it.

You both seem to be saying the same thing here. I like this approach. Mediation helps us hears parts of ourselves that previously have gone unheard. Being attentive to how these things affect us short/long-term is probably the most in my power i can do.


Guillaume

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Re: Regarding cleaning the river by not polluting it in the first place
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2020, 05:46:25 AM »
What do you guys think? Can we classify video games and the internet as cravings? Coffee? (I love coffee)   
Yes, and actually almost every product or activity. What makes something poisonous is the dose, a little dose of something can be benefitial while a higher dose of the same thing can be deadly. And the problem is, as dharma bum pointed out, that if you take a bit of something, it can act as a trigger and your body can ask for more 'excitement', it's then very hard to stop. For more scientific details, this is the reward / dopamine system of our body, this is the base of many addictions and deviant behaviors.

Being attentive to how these things affect us short/long-term is probably the most in my power i can do.
Absolutely :)

 

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