SuttaCentral

Impact of being flooded by 'catastrophic News' on mind states and meditation

I was very moved by this subject, which came up for me in another Topic, and how many people are affected by this given the conditions in our world at the moment; with the worsening of the global pandemic, the political unrest in America and an increase in social divisiveness as well as the catastrophe of climate change. But rather than engaging in the specifics of these situations, I think it is worthwhile to look at the impact this has on the mind-states and ability to meditate for practitioners, especially Lay practitioners who are not secluded from the news. In essence, while it is not different from the suffering always inherent in Samsara, at the moment it is occurring on a vast and overwhelming scale and vast numbers of people are experiencing these things at the same time, and as such, there is little ability to escape from the constant onslaught of negative news, everywhere one looks.

This topic is following on from this post
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/ajahn-brahmali-podcast/17675/2

Here I made the following statement, which I’d just like to take a bit further

As the factors of the path are developed, defilements are weakened and decrease, right up to the completion of the path and the permanent ending of defilements (Arahat). The less the defilements, the less there is impingement from external conditions, right up to the point where defilements are destroyed and can no longer arise, no matter the conditions.

So up to this time, it is to be expected that external conditions will have an impact on mind states. This is the reason for ‘sense restraint’ - to try to ensure that conditions are more wholesome than unwholesome, and thus that positive and beneficial mind states ensue. We are used to applying this to things that stimulate sensual desire, but less used to thinking about this in regard to things that generate ill will, anger or despair. I’m not sure if the Buddha ever explicitly articulated this aspect, though it is clear from MN2 and how to deal with defilements, especially points 1,2 and 5 suttacentral.net/mn2/en/sujato

So when one is surrounded all the time by the unwholesome, by hate, violence, pain, illness, suffering and stupidity, the resultant agitation is just as predictable, as if one one chose to live in a brothel while training to practice celibacy. Hence the central role of seclusion from the unwholesome in order to facilitate training and progress on the path. When seclusion is not possible (internally or externally), it is natural for there to be an effect on mind states. It is important to see this clearly, and not to add to the difficulties and distress by blaming oneself for not being able to ‘overcome’ the external conditions and their impact.

So what can be done to mitigate against this and to be able to continue to practice well? :slight_smile:

A few things that I do
Keep in mind the points above about the role of conditions in the arising of mind states.
Limit (avoid) both the amount and the type of ‘news’ that one lets in through the sense doors.
Actively practice mindfulness while watching, reading, hearing, experiencing the ‘news’.
Actively create conditions that facilitate the wholesome, and abide in them with awareness.
A little technique for meditation; create a bubble or sealed off ‘island’, the borders of which are impenetrable to the unwholesome :slight_smile: a secure little bubble of sanctuary of peace, serenity, happiness and joy :pray: :relieved: :dharmawheel: :desert_island:

Perhaps a few could be added from Bhante @Sujato 's recent series of talks on ‘life hacks’. https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/online-workshop-with-bhante-sujato-life-hacks-for-the-end-of-the-world/17355

Please add other suttas or resources etc, that might be of benefit for how to maintain positive mind-states, and to maintain practice in the face of increasing external stress.

Please do not focus attention on the specific causes, as these have been covered elsewhere, but on how to maintain positive mind-states, based on the Buddhas teachings.

This topic has some relevant material as well :slight_smile:

May all beings be free of suffering and be liberated from Samsara

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My go to, whenever the world impinges on my meditation, is AN 8.6, on the lokadhamma. Gain and loss, fame and ill-repute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, arise and pass away at the societal level as well as the personal level. They are impermanent.

I also find MN 28, going through the elements interior and exterior manifestations, helps take the “me” out of the equation. There are elements in action, whether interior or exterior.

There comes a time when the exterior air element flares up. It sweeps away villages, towns, cities, countries, and regions.

It’s not personal. It’s elements in motion, in a chain of cause-and-effect.

And then this great passage, which could refer as well to the assault of endless news cycles:

If others abuse, attack, harass, and trouble that mendicant, they understand: ‘This painful feeling born of ear contact has arisen in me. That’s dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on contact. They see that contact, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness are impermanent. Based on that element alone, their mind becomes eager, confident, settled, and decided.

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I think this can be fine tuned a little based on the Avijja Sutta (AN 10.61) wherein the Buddha says;

“I say that ignorance is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for ignorance? You should say: ‘The five hindrances.’ I say that the five hindrances are fueled by something, they’re not unfueled. And what is the fuel for the five hindrances? You should say: ‘The three kinds of misconduct.’ I say that the three kinds of misconduct are fueled by something, they’re not unfueled. And what is the fuel for the three kinds of misconduct? You should say: ‘Lack of sense restraint.’ I say that lack of sense restraint is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for lack of sense restraint? You should say: ‘Lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension.’ I say that lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension? You should say: ‘Improper attention.’ I say that improper attention is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for improper attention? You should say: ‘Lack of faith.’ I say that lack of faith is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for lack of faith? You should say: ‘Not listening to the true teaching.’ I say that not listening to the true teaching is fueled by something, it’s not unfueled. And what is the fuel for not listening to the true teaching? You should say: ‘Not associating with good people.”

As the Buddha says proper attention as the six senses come into contact with their sense stimuli is the key.
With Metta

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Yes, this is also the essence of MN2, point 1.
Because of paying attention to what they should not and not paying attention to what they should, unarisen defilements arise and arisen defilements grow.

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Whenever I find myself thinking of looking up the news, I remind myself of the Buddha’s advice…

SN56.10
Bhikkhus, do not engage in the various kinds of pointless talk, that is, talk about kings, thieves, and ministers of state; talk about armies, dangers, and wars; talk about food, drink, garments, and beds; talk about garlands and scents; talk about relations, vehicles, villages, towns, cities, and countries; talk about women and talk about heroes; street talk and talk by the well; talk about those departed in days gone by; rambling chitchat; speculation about the world and about the sea; talk about becoming this or that. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, this talk is unbeneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and does not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

How much more pointless can it get than thinking and worrying about things which are conditioned by multiple factors completely outside my control?
:smiley:

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My add: practice the Brahmaviharas. :heart:

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The process of breath meditation includes “subduing greed and distress with reference to the world,” and this is stressed even more in the Satipatthana sutta. Breath meditation involves putting the focus on the breath, then expanding that into the body, and in time pleasant feelings arise. If distress with reference to the world persists and cannot be subdued, then there are themes to counteract that through “gladdening and steadying” the mind. In MN 62 these include impermanence and non-self, the brahmaviharas, the thirty two parts of the body, and the elements, and once the mind has been gladdened or steadied, then breath meditation can resume. This sutta shows how beginners in the Buddha’s time were also subject to distractions:

"Rahula, develop the meditation in tune with earth. For when you are developing the meditation in tune with earth, agreeable & disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when people throw what is clean or unclean on the earth — feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood — the earth is not horrified, humiliated, or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing the meditation in tune with earth, agreeable & disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.”

There is a point however, when the earth does get disgusted with how people treat it, and it responds through global warming and coronavirus. This natural lesson illustrates how equanimity is not sufficient to restore balance in all cases and sometimes subsidiary themes such as impermanence or one of the other four measures must be actively employed.

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Thank you for your thoughts and the quotes Paul :slight_smile:

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Thank you Viveka for this amazing and very wholesome and inspiring topic :heart: , and to all who responded, Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu, Anumodana! :anjal: :anjal: :anjal:

I would add that recollection of the triple gem is one of most importaint things to keep our minds in our lovely “buddhist home” of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. They are the true jewels among the rest of reality full of anicca & dukkha. Like in the time of a very dark night, carrying a light that dispells the darkness and allows us to get to safety. As long as we keep our attention on the light of the triple gem and on the path, this will get our minds to safety of Liberation :pray:

  1. Whatever beings are assembled here, whether on the earth or in the sky, may all these beings have happy minds. Listen closely to my words.

  2. Pay attention all you beings. Show kindness to those humans who, by day and by night, offer much merit to you. Therefore, guard them diligently.

  3. Whatever treasure in this world or in other worlds; or whatever precious jewel is in the heavens, none is equal to the Buddha. In the Buddha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  4. The calm Sakyan sage found the undefiled dispassionate, deathless, Nibbāna; there is nothing equal to that state. In the Dhamma is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  5. That purity praised by the Buddha called concentration with immediate result; that concentration has no equal. In the Dhamma is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  6. The Eight Persons praised by the wise, these Four Pairs are the gift-worthy disciples of the Well-Gone-One. Gifts given to them yield abundant fruit. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  7. Those who are well trained, freed from all defilements, and with minds firm in Gotama Buddha’straining, upon attaining Nibbāna, they plunge into the Deathless, freely enjoying the liberation they have gained. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  8. As a stone post firmly grounded in the earth, cannot be shaken by the four winds, so is the superior person, I say, who clearly sees the Noble Truths. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  9. Those who comprehend the Noble Truths, well taught by the Buddha of deep wisdom, no matter how negligent, would not take an eighth existence. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  10. For one who has attained to right view, three fetters are at once abandoned: self-centred view, doubt and clinging to wrong practices. Freed from the four planes of misery, he is incapable of committing the six major wrong-doings that lead to hell. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  11. Though he might do some evil deed by body, speech or mind, he cannot hide it; such is impossible for one who has seen the Dhamma. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  12. Like woodland groves in blossom in the first heat of summer, is the sublime Dhamma taught by the Buddha leading to Nibbāna, and giving the highest happiness. In the Buddha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  13. The excellent Supreme Buddha, the knower of Supreme Nibbāna, the giver of Supreme Nibbāna, the bringer of Supreme Nibbāna, taught the excellent Dhamma. In the Buddha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  14. The liberated ones’ old kamma is destroyed with no new arising, their minds not drawn to future birth. Their old seeds destroyed with no more growing. The Arahants fade out just as this lamp has done. In the Saṅgha is this precious jewel. By this truth may there be well-being!

  15. Whatever beings are assembled here, whether on the earth or in the sky, we respectfully worship the Buddha, honored by gods and humans. May there be well-being!

  16. Whatever beings are assembled here, whether on the earth or in the sky, we respectfully worship the Dhamma, honored by gods and humans. May there be well-being!

  17. Whatever beings are assembled here, whether on the earth or in the sky, we respectfully worship the Saṅgha, honored by gods and humans. May there be well-being!

:gem: :gem: :gem:
:thaibuddha: :dharmawheel: :monastic:

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:smiley: that’s so beautiful, thank you.

I’ve been reading Bikkhu Nanamolis book ‘The life of the Buddha’, which has a lot of material from the Vinaya that I had never seen before, and this beautiful little excerpt also caught my eye

A hundred elephants, a hundred horses, A hundred chariots drawn by she-mules, A hundred thousand maidens decked with gems And earrings—all these are not even worth A sixteenth part of one step forward now.

“Go forward, householder, go forward. Better go forward than turn back.”

Vin. Cv. 6:4; S. 10:8

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