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Loneliness: An unknown epidemic?

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#1

Here is a wonderful video from Kürzgesagt about loneliness from a biological standpoint and how to address the problems associated with it.


#2

Did Buddha talk about loneliness?
What is the Pali word for loneliness?


#3

Thanks @Timothy

There’s a whole stack of information squeezed into this rather short clip. I guess it’s not surprising that a lot of the information describes how I view autism, my 14 year old son has a diagnosis of severe autism disorder and while we provide as much social opportunities as possible loneliness and isolation seems to be the most debilitating aspect of the condition.

Thanks again for sharing.


#4

Great video showing the social conditioning of humans so clearly.

It’s interesting to see how the topic is viewed from an evolutionary science perspective, and to note how insidious is the scientific theory conditioning that we have been subjected to and absorbed.

A passing thought… Psychology has developed and functions as a management system of our social conditioning :smiley:


#5

It’s another form of craving… I’m at risk of being unpopular! :broken_heart:


#6

Just to expand this idea… :deciduous_tree:

It’s like the symptoms described are the leaves of a tree. :leaves:
The psychological solutions are like the branches. :herb:
The Noble 8 fold path constitutes the trunk.
The fruit of the Noble 8 fold path are the roots.

In order to eradicate the symptoms (suffering) the best way is to uproot the whole tree, rather than pulling off leaves, just for others to grow, or prunning the branches by psychological interventions or other ‘doing’ stuff resulting from craving/dissatisfaction. Rather we should focus on the trunk and finally uproot all trace of the tree - the end of suffering with no chance of more suffering (leaves) ever arising again.

Ultimately loneliness can be completely eradicated > Non self :eyes:


#7

Agreed, wanting to be with others is what determines the suffering of being alone.
Lose the wanting, and there is just me, alone, without a problem.

Yes, wanting to not be separated from others is what determines the suffering of the possibility of being alone.
(The mere possibility of being alone, is suffering, for one who craves for the pleasure of not being alone and for one who craves for the absence of pain from the mere possibility of being alone.)

Of course, some people are so embedded, entangled or traumatised in craving and confusion that psychological therapies are needed to possibly bring them back to basic normality, and then once that’s established, they could possibly deal with the actual problem of their suffering.
But playing around with every little disturbance or learning techniques and methods to deal with particular issues, will go on forever e.g when there’s anger, you think happy thoughts when there’s lust, you think disgusting thoughts, when there jealousy, you must think appreciative rejoicing thoughts, when life gets too much, watch your breath, chant a mantra, go for a walk, clean the house, call a friend, get a dog etc
When there’s a disturbance, one suffers and then resorts to a coping mechanism, a headache tablet, a meditation technique a distraction from the fact that one is disturbed and suffering. These coping mechanisms work…sometimes, but they never uproot the cause of suffering, and so one usually just tries to do the coping technique even harder, longer, faster, one elaborates on ones proliferations.

AN10.108
"Monks, doctors give a purgative for warding off diseases caused by bile, diseases caused by phlegm, diseases caused by the internal wind property. There is a purging there; I don’t say that there’s not, but it sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails. So I will teach you the noble purgative that always succeeds and never fails, a purgative whereby beings subject to birth are freed from birth; beings subject to ageing are freed from ageing; beings subject to death are freed from death; beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair are freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress & despair. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”

The cause of suffering is never because you are not doing the right technique, its because of craving.
The abandoning of craving will not come about other than by doing the abandoning. You could try watch your breath in the hopes that you will experience a state which you can then conclude is the abandoning of craving or you could try see and understand craving(the root) and abandon it.

Trying to know and understand what craving is, is really the only way to know and understand what craving is.

Getting into a position to have the possibility of understanding craving does, however, require the ‘method’ of sila, and what is sila other than the abandoning of the unwholesome. So again the only cure is the abandoning of the unwholesome craving.

Once craving is uprooted and the right view has become rooted, one can then start dealing with the leftover mess it made…by doing practical exercises such as satipatthana.

…now I might be running the risk of becoming unpopular🤔


#8

Yes, well, on the other hand, there is ample evidence to support the observation that humans are social beings and that solitary confinement in prisons constitutes inhumane treatment. I suppose you could say that true Arahants would not in any way suffer from solitary confinement and that they would find just as much equanimity in a life devoid of human contact as they would in a community of a million people. And yet even the Buddha had the company of his disciples. Perhaps he did not crave that company, but it was there nonetheless.


#9

"Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.002.than.html


#10

You might be interested in reading Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo’s Quest for Enlightenment

Anyway, plenty of non-arahant yet still skilled meditators have experienced high levels of happiness and peace during long periods of solitude. But yes, for most people, solitude will drive one mad.

My understanding is that solitary confinement in prison is quite loud due to others screaming from their cells. This would make it much harder to find peace.


#11

Is loneliness some form of aversion to the neutral feelings?


#12

Yes apologies, especially to @Timothy as the Initiator of the thread. Posted in the watercooler and of general interest. Apologies for taking it in a serious tangent, that was probably not your purpose. I’ve been practising intently recently, and have started seeing all things in terms of Dhamma.

Of Course the stategies given in the video are excellent for people not far advanced on the path, and for those who aren’t even into Buddhism (most of the world population :slight_smile: )

:pray: :sparkling_heart: :anjal: :dharmawheel:


#13

This sutta is usually used to justify ones social interactions.

By being with your good friends and cultivating good friendship one will develop the Path.
But what is a Good friend a kalyanamitta?
Is it just having ordinary friendships, having a buddy, who is a nice person, who is in the same boat as you?
SN.45.2 does continue to describe what is meant by kalyāṇamittā_

For, by relying on me as a good friend, sentient beings who are liable to birth, old age, and death, to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are freed from all these thingsSN45.2

A person takes the advice of the Buddha or one with right view because without it there is no Holy life.
How could one without right view guide you?

Ānanda, does a bhikkhu who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, develop and cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path? Here, Ānanda, a bhikkhu develops right view, which is based upon seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, maturing in release.”
It’s not based upon socialising with nice people, passionately developing a social network, creating connections, and maturing in having acquired many Buddhist friends.

Through the Buddha and others of right view, there is a holy life, which when lived has got nothing to do with acquiring friends, so to not be lonely.
Indeed, the Buddha was with others, but not because he needed it, and indeed without others, requisites would be hard to come by. There is no avoiding people entirely, and that’s not the point anyway, its about not maintaining friendships which are not conducive for dispassion and cultivating those which are directly responsible for one’s right view.


#14

Most people who find themselves imprisoned in solitary confinement are not there because they were trying to cultivate the Path. They probably have bigger issues than the screams from others i.e their own mind.


#15

Not to negate problems created by the feelings of loneliness, including desperately seeking company


#16

Loneliness is a hard thing to deal with.

Babies that are left alone apart from feeding and cleaning fail to thrive; they need to be held, cuddled, talked to. Children need society in order to grow into healthy adults, they can’t do it alone. Adults need support. Adults require support from carers, family and kalyanamittas according to their stage of life.

When all of these have been available at the right times, a person who choses to be alone doesn’t suffer from loneliness and reaps great benefit. Being alone and being lonely are completely different.


#17

Solitude should not be confused with loneliness.

Yes, the Buddha praised solitude but also recommended the Sangha to meet frequently and in harmony. He encouraged social bonds between preceptors and students, praised good friendship, generosity, cohesion, compassion and care. Although the Sangha is often perceived as being separate from society, the Buddha made the Sangha reliant on the lay community and encouraged certain types of healthy interactions. He praised social harmony and encoouraged the broader community to live with kindness and gentleness to others. Ethics and generosity are two large parts of the path that deal with us being social beings. Even meditations such as the Brahma Viharas are concerned with other beings. As we learn in in the ten frequent recollections; our lives are entirely dependent on others.

Right View is helpfully established and encouraged by our Kalyanamittas, because they are able to dispel our persistent wrong views and our ignorance. It’s easy to listen to a friend who cares about us and our wellbeing. Conversely, wrong view is easily maintained in solitude, because our persistent views are not challenged and we think that our view is correct. It’s for this reason that senior monks and experienced meditators recognise the importance of being ready and suitably prepared for solitude, as people can start to get very strange ideas about Dhamma in isolation and also develop mental health conditions that are usually kept in check by shared interactions .

The comments in this thread are by some of our frequent D&D posters. Even those who praise solitude and talk of it as a craving must acknowledge that they also reach out to this online community to feel a part of a social group. We are all friends here 24/7 :grinning:

One thing I’ve noticed in monastic life is that people’s inclinations colour the way they see the Buddhist path. Those who are already introverted or socially disinclined, see Buddhism as a solitary pursuit, and bring that idea to their practice, perhaps even because it suits their preferences, they simply reinforce their own inclinations in the way they think we should practice. But others see Buddhism as a joyous and fruitful interaction with others, sharing with others, caring for others, learning from each other, friends together, walking on the path, inspiring each other to practice. Perhaps both types can learn a little bit from each other?

Another thing I notice in monastic life, within the Sangha, but especially also from interactions with lay people, is just how much people need a sense of community, a feeling that they belong, that they can be part of something bigger than themselves. Feeling safe, accepted and loved means the mind is in a good place to practice kindness, generosity and meditation too.

Solitude is certainly essential for meditation and developing on the path. However I am very happy that the Buddha had compassion for living beings and did not stay a private buddha. He spent so much time and energy investing in nuns, monks, community leaders and ordinary folks; and since then, groups of people have kept the teachings alive, worked together to preserve them and passed them on to others throughout a long history, so that we can read them today on Suttacentral and be able to practice. Sadhu to all those good friends of ours, past and present. We are not alone!

If anyone reading this ever feels lonely, please consider me a friend and reach out. If I can be of any assistance, I will help. I would consider it a great blessing.
:hugs:

PS thanks @Timothy for the posting the video.


#18

Loneliness is the dukkha created by wanting acknowledgement, love, etc. Try letting go and :boom: loneliness dissolves.


#19

For the most part,people fear being alone and its probably in general not a good idea for most people to be alone, because whatever inclinations have been cultivated in one’s mind, that will become apparent when secluded.
If one has cultivated a lustful mind, for example, that will be the predominant feature when alone, one will be assaulted by lust. And likewise with any other defilement.
So the problem is not because one is separated from others, its because when one is alone one suffers due to the mental habits that have been cultivated.

Living secluded is praised many times in the suttas because it helps reveal the sign of the mind (very quickly) and its only by seeing it clearly, that one will make progress.

AN 6.68
" Bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu who delights in company, who enjoys company, who is devoted to the delight in company, who delights in groups, who enjoys groups, who is devoted to the delight in groups, will delight in seclusion when alone—this is not possible. Not delighting in seclusion when alone, that he will pick up the sign of mind—this is not possible. Not picking up the sign of mind, that he will fulfil right view—this is not possible. Not having fulfilled right view, that he will fulfil right composure—this is not possible. Not having fulfilled right composure, that he will abandon the fetters—this is not possible. Not having abandoned the fetters, that he will realise Nibbāna—this is not possible. "

"Bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu who doesn’t delight in company, who doesn’t enjoy company, who isn’t devoted to the delight in company, who doesn’t delight in groups, who doesn’t enjoys groups, who isn’t devoted to the delight in groups, will delight in seclusion when alone—this is possible. Delighting in seclusion when alone, that he will pick up the sign of mind—this is possible. Picking up the sign of mind, that he will fulfil right view—this is possible. Having fulfilled right view,that he will fulfil right composure—this is possible. Having fulfilled right composure, that he will abandon the fetters—this is possible. Having abandoned the fetters, that he will realise Nibbāna—this is possible "

MN 118
gone to a forest, gone to the root of a tree, gone to an empty dwelling…”

Not everyone can handle being alone, and so not everyone can walk this path. You have to have at least some strength of mind to handle the truth.
The only way to handle being alone is to try being alone for some time and see how it goes, it might turn out to be very beneficial very quickly or not,in which case…

SN.6:13
One should resort to remote lodgings… only if one does not attain delight there, one should live in a community"


#20

For those struggling with a deep sense of unworthiness and inadequacy, the advice to let go can be misunderstood to mean “let go of life and let go of pain”. The simple acceptance of a friend can provide a supportive lifeline to recovery. Sometimes medication is required to stop the self-destructive nosedive of ultimate letting go. There is therefore a bit of a paradox in that we sometimes need to say “Hang on!” before we talk about letting go.