MN68 reference by Ajahn Brahm


It seems to me there is a difference between suppression and “letting go” of emotions. It is hard to be precise, but the felt difference is palpable. With suppression, the mental forces driving the bodily strain and mental modifications constituting the emotion are still there, but are prevented from coming to full fruition by a countervailing determination and bodily effort in the opposite direction. The result is a build up of strain. With letting go, the forces driving the emotional reaction are neutralized and abandoned, and stored emotional energy is allowed to dissipate.


Suppression is unlikely to work as a way of clearing defilements, but it can be useful as a means of last resort for squashing some impulse which left alone could lead to the generation of further bad kamma or cause harm to other beings.


If the stored emotions are allowed to dissipate they are still going to keep coming back. If some takes illegal drugs to combat emotional upsets from abuse for example, it’s no different than becoming temporarily blissful!


Actually with the relinquishing of delight, they don’t come back (MN1). If we hold onto the delight, it ripens into continued existence and suffering.


Yes, I agree. The emotional reactions are triggered by habitual thoughts and attitudes, and how the events in one’s life interact with one’s self-conception. So even if they dissipate on any given instance they will arise again. But still one can get better at letting go when they do arise.


Of course! I believe one mindfulness only practitioner said ‘my tigers have now become kittens, but they still persist’; paraphrasing. My question is what part necessitated a teaching into an abstract such as the five aggregates? Why not just dispose of the_panna_ and just teach mindfulness, a onefold path as it would effectively starve the hindrances.


“110. (b) So too abandoning: abandoning is threefold too, like full-understanding,
that is, (i) abandoning by suppressing, (ii) abandoning by substitution of
opposites, and (iii) abandoning by cutting off.”–-Vism. XXII, 110

In the Vism, suppression refers to jhana, and most attention is given to substitution.

Suppression in the suttas :

" [6] And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by destroying? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, does not tolerate an arisen thought of sensuality. He abandons it, dispels it, & wipes it out of existence.

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will…

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate an arisen thought of cruelty…

Reflecting appropriately, he does not tolerate arisen evil, unskillful mental qualities. He abandons them, dispels them, & wipes them out of existence. The effluents, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to dispel these things do not arise for him when he dispels them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by dispelling."—MN 2

“Reflecting appropriately” refers to substitution.


Very good. Thank you for those passages from the suttas and from Visuddhimagga. Our further discussion on this point would perhaps center around the best means to destroy, abandon, dispel, wipe the fermentations out of existence, as the sutta passages advise. I am in total agreement that these are worthy and necessary goals. I would not think of the references you give in the suttas as accomplished by suppression. In my way of looking at suppression (I hope we are in agreement on what it means), it does not accomplish any of the above. Rather, it pushes the fermentation down into the subconscious by willpower and method, usually done by applying the mind ever more forcefully to the object of meditation. This is an effort at control. Further, there is underlying belief in an agent, an ‘I’ who is wanting ‘my mind’ to be free of the fermentation. The fermentation will arise again. It has not been eradicated. Abandoning, dispelling, and wiping out of existence is accomplished by allowing fermentations to arise and then skillfully dealing with them. ‘Not tolerating’ may sound like suppression, but it is not. Rather, we recognize the unwholesome and do not allow it to take over our mind. We do not identify with it, thinking ‘this is my thought’ or ‘this is my feeling’. We letting go of the unwholesome, relaxing and softening the hard places in body and mind that support these conditioned patterns, then we uplift the mind to the wholesome (four right strivings). It seems we are in absolute agreement that the abandoning and destroying of the fermentations needs be done in our practice. Pushing things back down into the subconscious, which is what I mean by suppression, is not an effective way to follow the advice of the Buddha, which aims at eradication, not suppression. When the unwholesome arises in our meditation, bearing down harder may be counterproductive. Reflecting appropriately is always skillful means. with metta