I seem to be getting the message that life is pointless beyond leveraging it to realize the four noble truths so that you can go on to nibbana. However, I am also getting the message that there is no persisting identity. So there would be no “me” that would get that reward.
There is the possibility in developing enough detachment through the aforementioned mission such that I would be happy “just because” as one would be immersed in the present moment – without the larger vicissitudes being able to shake that.
That is a positive idea.
Looking at my own life, it seems like it is going to be one psychological/emotional challenge after another so it seems doubtful that I personally would achieve much detachment.
Did you mean “and so on” ? If so, I am interested to hear more.
I can see reflecting on one’s good qualities being helpful.
I can also see doing a gratitude reflection on what one has gotten from one’s teachers being helpful.
That is what I am trying to do by asking the question in this thread. Improve my interpretation of Buddhism. I’ve only got my own interpretation. So I am asking others for their interpretations, which are hopefully more sunny than my own.
The Buddha didn’t embrace all good spiritual practices all the time, but advised paying attention to their helpful or harmful effects. (Wish I could recall where to find that sutta; any sutta hunters available to add the link? Seems like maybe Ananda explained this to someone.)
So any aspect of Buddhist practice that brings despair to a person clearly is not the right practice for that person at that time - despite it being a legit practice undertaken according to instructions. We have to pay attention and gauge the effects. A legit correctly-taken pharmaceutical that cures one person of illness still can harm or kill another.
The Dhamma medicines of pondering downsides of life, or doing asubha practices, cultivating “spiritual grief” (aka “renunciate sadness”), and other potentially disheartening approaches, may have particular effects bringing great benefit but only to certain practitioners at certain points in their development.
For examples, these downer practices can bring urgency (samvega - see note below) to undertake and maintain efforts for spiritual development, for if there’s no problem then there’s no incentive to work towards the solution. These practices also can help overcome pernicious lust, help to discard conceit, and give incentive to drop habitual frivolous activities. They certainly can, at the right time, bring deep & powerful insights.
But they’re the chemotherapy of Buddhist medicines - not something to be taken lightly and casually! These practices can heal you or kill you, literally.
We have to be discerning about own own practice not try to fit into anyone else’s cookie cutter approach.
Note: Ven Thanissaro offered a brilliant analysis of samvega (and passada) that I highly recommend, but stick to this version, his updated version cut the best stuff.
Edits - just typos and added the word “cultivating”
In my gut I see death as the end and the time before that as likely to be less than pleasant.
The things I listed in my original post & the 8 fold path overall can help the life I have left be more pleasant. What is missing for me is something in the teachings to look forward to and if there isn’t anything to look forward to in this life, then a way to look at things to accept that better.
Developing right view by categorizing experiences by the four noble truths seems like it can be unpleasant. It involves labeling most things as dukha or desire. I can see it being possible to see the ending of some dukha and to see how some dukha ends. I guess it just doesn’t seem realistic to me to expect to see the ending of dukha in regards to loss of loved ones or my own sickness, old age, and death.
This sounds very much like the Buddha’s advice to the Kalama people.
Yadā tumhe, kālāmā, attanāva jāneyyātha: ‘ime dhammā kusalā, ime dhammā anavajjā, ime dhammā viññuppasatthā, ime dhammā samattā samādinnā hitāya sukhāya saṃvattantī’ti, atha tumhe, kālāmā, upasampajja vihareyyātha.
When, Kalamas, all of you know this personally, ‘these things are wholesome, these things are without blame, praised by the wise, if accepted and undertaken lead to your welfare and happiness’, then having taken them up, live with them.
While holding tightly to a burning furnace and expect that we will experience no heat from it. This is impossible.
If we want something that we are not ready for it, we will suffer. The four noble truth is the teaching for monks and nuns, not for lay people even if lay people can also apply it to loosen their clinging to life. However, if we want to do everything at once or want to get the best while we are not ready for it, we will suffer.
The path is a gradual path, we will try to remove what we can first, if we try to do what we are not ready for, we will suffer.
The path for lay people is not the same with the path for monks and nuns since lay people are the one who are not ready to let go their families and their sensualities. This path focuses on virtue and charities and eventually develops more concentration and wisdom. When the time is ready, the lay person will naturally move to the next step.
The path is a pleasant path. If we suffer with it then we are following a wrong path or we are not ready for that path.
The good thing is we will have unlimited time to walk the path. That is what rebirth offers. The trick is how can we have the least suffering with each rebirth? That is what virtue and charities offer. Developing more and more wisdom in each rebirth, we will lessen our clinging to life which will also help us to lessen our sufferings in each life and move closer to Nibbana.
If we live a virtue life with charities, our death will not be a bad one since it is the time for us to receive our rewards. If our life is not so, why don’t we do that now while we are still alive?
Sorry about the typo. Yes, “so on”. I think others have given some other helpful suggestions, and reiterated that some practices are not useful at certain points in one’s practice.
For me, this is why developing faith, generosity, gratitude, and so on are so important. I don’t know how this is going to work out in detail, but people further along the path seem to be happy, and I seem to be happier than I used to be. Faith, gratitude, community, etc, is very important motivation to keep going.
As for a “reward”, on a recent retreat one of the teachers read a poem about whirlpools in a river vanishing and reappearing, which I interpreted for myself by reference to passages like this:
“From where do streams turn back?
Where does the cycle spin no more?
Where do name and form
cease with nothing left over?” SuttaCentral
The whirlpools in a stream come and go. As long as the angular momentum is not dissipated they will reappear. As the angular momentum is dissipated there is more peace, and with complete stilling the whirlpool will not reappear. Rather than worrying about what that last step means, I prefer to focus on dissipating the whirlpool, which so far has given me more peace than previously.
There where plenty of very good responses to this thread @Jhana4, perhaps you’re looking too far ahead and ignoring the present opportunities that the practice can bring wholesomeness into your life. For example, regarding the noble truths, dukkha and desire; can you observe in your life right now where some desire is causing you to suffer needlessly? We easily desire things which we wouldn’t even enjoy having. Can you find desires such as these and let them go? That will bring greater peace into your life. Can you watch your desires and understand how and why they can bring suffering, and can you develop skilful means to bring yourself into greater happiness?
Those are some of the benefits of the path. Its great concern with suffering is about understanding it so that we can cure its causes. But do go lightly, you don’t need to go sticking your finger inside rotten wounds. Go at it with care. This is a path about self-care, not self-inflicted agony.
Another thing; the path is very much yours to walk. Don’t come onto Buddhism expecting that you’ll be given the unequivocal road to freedom. What you’ll be given are the tools to find such a road for yourself
I don’t know where you are on your path (towards finding the path) @Jhana4, so I don’t know what is yet to come for you. But one lovely, beautiful, wonderful aspect of the teachings on impermanence, suffering and not self is the shear relief in the realisation that there is no happiness to be found in the world. After such a long time chasing happiness in existence we can finally give up the pointless chase because we now know that we have been “looking in the wrong place” — what a relief, like the greatest burden that’s we’ve been carrying around for such a long time is lifted from our shoulders. Here’s a talk from Ajahn Brahm on the subject. I know that you’re a fan, so I suspect you’ve heard it before, but it always bears hearing again.
I think this is not the implication and a bit negative take.
The implication of the tilakkhana it not that there is no happiness to be found in the world, but any mind-state, also a happy one, cannot be maintained. Anything subject to arise, will also cease again.
What is build-up will break down once. It will end. The states we like as humans, and feel happy for us, arise and will also cease.
But for many people and beings there is very much happiness in life, such as the deva’s, and also many humans. People find happiness in friendship, in love, in doing good things for others and the world. In caring. In seclusion or in company. In work or not-work. Maybe in studying Dhamma texts and discussing them with others.
Suffering and happiness also do not exclude eachother. There are people who are seriously ill, have a lot of trouble, but still have a loving happy mind.
I feel Buddha first of all inspires us to be happy. To maintain a wholesome mindstate, and not to sink in dark states of mind.
Yes, that’s what I meant - there is no true happiness to be found in the world. Or there is no lasting happiness to be found in the world. There’s plenty of ephemeral happiness that yields ultimate disappointment that we can grasp at, of course.
That’s a lovely verse that’s saying the same from another angle. It made me very happy Very deep, with lots of layers. Very profound. Thank you. I love that last lines implication that “I am happy” is ultimately an oxymoron.
Instead of sharing my pov I’ll just try to add points which I feel are positive in the list. Also since you said Buddhism and not specifically EBT or any other tradition of Buddhism, I think I can take liberty in adding positive points from any buddhist source possible for me. I am not representing EBT or any part of it as I lack study and experience and I am unable…so all of this is from my own very limited study of various sources buddhism from various traditions.
Those who are stream-enterers, those who have developed metta of four brahmaviharas and those on Bodhisattva bhoomi are destined to experience the highest kinds of happinesses of samsara(sensual happinesses and higher happinesses arising from concentrations such as jhanas), finally including the ultimate happiness, all of it in a way they prefer personally.
It is very important to be stream-enterer in order to not fall in realms of ultimate suffering, because it’s the ultimate liberation from hell realm, animal realm and Hungry ghost realm as innate subconscious tendencies which give rise to causes of such rebirth are completely destroyed.
The attributes of Nibbana are eightfold. What are these eight? Cessation [nirodha], loveliness/ wholesomeness [subha], Truth [satya], Reality [tattva], eternity [nitya], bliss [sukha], the Self [atman], and complete purity [parisuddhi]: that is Nirvana.
A bit of context here from my pov since this does not seem to be coming from EBT,…
cessation [nirodha] means ‘ultimate awareness’ which is different from consciousness.
The Self [atman] means that, in reality there is no ‘self’ but when one realises this ‘anatta’ or ‘no-self’, it is (in this context) metaphorically expressed as experiencing the glimpse of ‘supreme self’ which is ‘no-self’…in other words, ‘self’ is characterized by impermanence/suffering and ‘no-self’ or ‘anatta’ is characterized by Permanence/ultimate happiness…hence this ‘no-self’ can be called as ‘supreme self’.
I don’t remember the source but here it is…
"Any being who has reached nirvana is not blotted out or extinguished: There is the extinction of the impermanent and suffering-prone “worldly self” or ego (comprised of the five changeful skandhas), but not of the immortal “supramundane” Self of the indwelling Dhamma Principle (Dhamma-dhatu). Spiritual death for such a being becomes an utter impossibility. The Buddha states that: “Nirvāna is deathless… Those who have passed into Nirvāna are deathless. I say that anybody who is endowed with careful assiduity is not compounded and, even though they involve themselves in compounded things, they do not age, they do not die, they do not perish.”
Dhamma is actually positive and if we are getting negative vibes then we are mistaking something or not understanding something properly…because ultimate reality is ultimate happiness…higher than all the happinesses of samsara, if it weren’t positive, it wouldn’t be called as ultimate happiness.