Defilements Given Up by Seeing

I am a bit confused by this:
" This is how they apply the mind irrationally: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? After being what, what did I become in the past? These are existential questions framed from a metaphysical perspective, i.e. they are based on the underlying assumption of a self. They are “irrational” because they avoid the question of cause: they only ask what happens, not why it happens.Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? After being what, what will I become in the future?’ Or they are undecided about the present thus: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being—where did it come from? And where will it go?’

This seems to imply that I should never think about my past…my karma, or my future. What then is a state of mind for the lay practitioner if one is discouraged from past or future speculation.
How do I not think about my lives?
With Mucho Metta, and gratitude for your assitance

post deleted by author.

The point of Buddhism is to be content with the present otherwise you will be forever running toward ever retreating carrots and running from a stick that will follow you where ever you go. When you can be content with this single moment, you can be content with an eternity of moments.


Hi Rosie,
It would be helpful to know some context about where this passage comes from. Is it from a suttā or someone’s book or an essay?

Edit: sorry for the mixup in names.


Hi, and thanks for the reminder as I intended to include a link. It’s MN 2

This quote, IIRC, is contrasted with rationally applying the mind to the four noble truths. IMO, you don’t have to read it as an exhaustive definition, but as a choice between putting your mind towards something useful that can produce a good result (contemplating the four noble truths) and something that cannot produce a good result (speculating about this and that) :slight_smile:

Like, what should you use your mental energy on? Not every “mental object” gives rise to anything useful, no matter how long you spend with it (AFAIK)


You “made my day” with your lovely question. I looked up “A single excellent night”

MN 131 Bhaddekaratta Sutta – A Single Excellent Night

which is the Sutta(s. There are 4!) that address it. I found this…

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

I also STRONGLY recommend Wim Wenders recent film “Perfect Days” which is a sketch of how humility, generosity, and contentment can beautify the holy life. Lay or not.

( I think OP might edit her italics so her comment “existential questions…” stands apart from her quote :smiley:)

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I was a bit confused by this part, “These are existential questions framed from a metaphysical perspective” until I realized this was a note added to the translation by Venerable Sujato. :pray:

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Yes…these mental formations seem to be one of the chief causes of suffering in general, and mine specifically… But the passage I quoted also says not to reflect on past or future lives which has long been a subject of curiosity. But I do realize that spending any time thinking about it is essentially wasted time.

Well…yes but aren’t most of the suttas rather exhaustive? :blush:

Well, thank you so much! That makes me happy that I did dat! I will follow your links, and report back. Maybe! :innocent: :pray:

There are other drawbacks besides wasted time. The general thrust of the passage to me is focused on existential questions about the existence of the self. It is self-focused - feeding the ego’s greatest past time; thinking about, worrying about, pondering it’s existential own importance.

Besides being self-focused it is also based upon delusion - the idea that the self exists in a substantially existent way. That it is more than just a convention. This delusion is the basis for much of our suffering; we believe the self exists in a substantial way and that appropriate attention needs to be focused on the welfare of this substantially existent ego.

That’s my limited understanding of what this sutta is about and how it is trying to guide beneficial practice and warn against harmful practice. I could be mistaken and probably am. Probably much better ways of explaining so take whatever I say with a huge grain of salt. What do I know. :pray:

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Yes, Yes! Thank you, cause I really need to remember this. Our ‘self’ which seems so substantial really does cause so much suffering, yet recognizing my ‘self’ as a formation is a daily challenge. . Interestingly, I find it much easier to recognize the construct of other people’s personality than I do mine. :hugs:

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I do as well! It is like my fragile ego is fine with recognizing the non-substantial nature of other people, but boy does it have a hard time when that understanding is turned on it. :joy: :pray:

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Just watched, and how calm and pleasant was the teacher. And while watching I could not help but reflect on just how fragile are our lives…our consciousness and physical being.
Like Like beautiful drops of rain suspended on a solitary silver thread. Then gone!

It depends on what assumptions you have when you read the suttas I think. We are used to textbooks with definitions in school and stuff, but you can also read the suttas as the Buddha, a flesh and blood person, using natural language to try and tell us something.

When I read the suttas, I try to read them thinking “what is the Buddha trying to tell me here?” – like, I imagine an empathetic, wise and compassionate person trying to tell me something that’s useful for me, rather than telling me “the definition” if that makes sense.

A communication strategy that I often use myself is using an exaggerated example to make my point unambiguous. It’s very useful for real life conversations, not so much for a textbook.

Like when the Buddha describes the drawbacks of sensual pleasures with the example of people “climbing up slippery bastions” and other various things in war. The audience probably isn’t soldiers, my understanding is that it’s a communication strategy to make a point: people really do do crazy things to obtain riches and wealth.

I think contemplating rebirth certainly can be related to right view :slight_smile: the quote in your OP is, IMO, more about showing someone just speculating about stuff.

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Oke…but…If i decide to drink a lot this night, it is not wrong, not delusional, that i also will reap the results. I will have to deal with the hangover. This is just how nature works, also for a Buddha. It does not rely on any doctrine, belief in self, view, theory of mind etc. It is just how nature works, i feel.
It is only natural that the same lifestream will reap the fruits of its choices and actions.

Even a Buddha makes such considerations that he will reap the result of choices. For example…if i Buddha start teaching, no one will understand me, and that will only be burdensome for me.

Concern about welfare.