SuttaCentral

Spiritual Pleasure vs. Sensual Pleasure


#21

Climbing is immersive. As such, the suffering is in the imagination of others. It is like when I walk meditation immersed and others call the police to relieve the suffering they perceive in my walking barefoot in the street. But there is actually no suffering. There is just immersion.


#22

But the fear falling can ‘break through’, unless it is ‘removed’. A state of focus, of forced sankhara, cannot be sustained long. Samadhi isn’t a permanent, state.


#23

Dear friend @Rocklee,
@UpasakaMichael has given a great answer and i share his perspective.
I would like to add my own experience and understanding of how and when one may feel true happiness in dhammic life.

There are two parts i like to divide my life into.
One is the life i had before i went to my 1st 10 day retreat back in 2016.
Other is obviously, the post retreat life.

I consider myself lucky to have born and been brought up in a practicing dhammic household, although of only 2 generations.

Since childhood, i have been reciting the Ti-sarana, pancasila, daily along with few other popular suttas on occassions with family and in the community respectively. All this recitation is done in pali.

Now, the recitation was less beneficial(only inducing discipline) early on as i did not know the meaning behind all the pali sentences i would recite.

I got curious and started reading and asking for
the translations. This, i believe, brought me (short lived) happiness as i now know what i was reciting was nothing superstitious or ritualistic or blind faithed. It was in fact a pledge ( more like 5 pledges :slight_smile:) that was beneficial for me and for others around me.

But theoretical knowledge (suttamaya panna) has its limitations. This i realised after my first 10 day retreat.
How did i realise it?
I believe i put in a lot of effort in the practice during those 10 days.
I believe that having awareness ( as developed by practicing awareness meditation, anapana in my case) and being equanimous ( as developed by practicing, vipassana in my case) is at the core of spiritual happiness
As of now, through experiences in my life,i can say that a balance of both does wonders! Both need each other to grow.
Have awareness and lack equanimity (as developed by the abovementioned practices), and you’ll find that you can spot a tricky situation but often find it difficult to maneuver through it in the best possible way.

Short term spiritual happiness is e.g. when i, having practiced awareness meditation yesterday for 1 hour, plan on practicing it for 1.5 hrs today and am able to do it. The thought of having achieved the goal does bring short term happiness.

Also, playing guitar is my top sensual pleasure (that I’m aware of).
But, post the retreat, i am able to see that it is only a matter of years before i grow old, plysically weak, may have shaky hands, or worse even psoriasis or any other ailment that may hinder me from the sensual pleasure. If not, eventually i will die as does everyone else. So the clinging i had to it earlier has, at least to some extent, dissolved. (And i plan to keep on dissolving it :slight_smile: )
So, the equanimity i am building helps me not to grow attached to it(the practice) as well. And if i continue to build awareness and equanimity till when the right time comes, i am certain that i will experience much less dukkha than what i would have without the practice. That much i am certain of from my current experiences. This is true spiritual happiness (the absence of suffering)


#24

IMHO thoughts are always there…
Without meditation, there is a much higher chance of these thoughts having a negative effect on the person.
With right meditation, there is a much higher chance of these thoughts having a not-negative effect on the person.


#25

I agree :smile:
Its the best way to help others if they are suitable to listen.


#26

There’s a huge difference between self-torture and strenuous exercise.


#27

I think we must consider the purpose behind strenuous exercise (conceit regarding the physical), or that deep tissue massage that my wife found found a ‘spiritual experience’ and I found a self inflicted torture! It’s not what was going on in the physical but what was behind it at a mental level!


#29

I think one of the benefits of not indulging in sensuality is that it makes you more sensitive to pleasure.

I also think that “not indulging” could be more realistic than “giving up”?

I would also use the distinction between the “sensual” and the “spiritual” with extreme care keeping in mind that the distinction is useful to the extent it contributes to ending suffering and to the rise of true knowledge. Some ideas such as “spiritual”, “sacred”, “holy”, “pure” …etc can be equally a hindrance if misused in my opinion.


#30

An interesting development today with respect to the monk that I featured in a video at the top of this post, Thailand’s Phra Julien. Remarkable for his story, and his devoted work supplying treated mosquito nets, food and medicines to the poorest villages in northern Thailand, this development arose: Canadian man leaves monkhood after sex allegations

So, once again impermanence raises its head to remind us that this practice of the renunciant is a difficult one, and perhaps is better fared in a community of other monastics. I respected the fact that Julien lived a reclusive life, but his internal struggles may have been assisted if he had the benefit of friends and mentors in a Sangha.

In any case, I celebrate the many years of his practice and the good work that he did. i trust that the women involved were not harmed in any way, and that any transgressions of the Discipline were mutually consented.

The article notes:

“I am willing to atone for my wrongdoing and please forgive me,” wrote the former monk, who promised to wear white and continue his Dhamma practice after leaving the monkhood.

He reportedly will study Dhamma at a temple in Roi Et province before returning to the monastery in Sop Moei.

“I will continue to devote myself to helping the poor in remote areas,” he said."

I had supported his work financially a bit this year, and was planning to do so further. I had hoped to meet up with him at his kuti one day, and be of support to his work with the Hill Tribe villagers. It’s likely I still will, assuming he continues as he has promised.

I publish this today only to reflect “anumodanā” to him, and wish him well. I’m mindful of how difficult the life of a monastic can be, and see further how the support and reinforcement of a community of monastics can be so important. I’m mindful of all of the good monastics I’ve met along the way, and the depth of their commitment, and the strength of their character. Further reminded that in these pursuits, we are all very, very human.


#31

It may be beneficia to look at the following quotes from the five Sutta below that could be beneficial for this discussion. Here they are:

Nivapa Sutta (Fodder) MN 25

……. “Then we can intrude on where Māra has cast the bait and those material delights of the world and enjoy eating without being reckless. We won’t become indulgent, then we won’t become negligent, and then we won’t be vulnerable to Māra on account of that bait and those material delights of the world.’

And that’s just what they did. And that’s how the fourth group of ascetics and brahmins got free from Māra’s power.

This fourth group of ascetics and brahmins is just like the fourth herd of deer, I say.

And where is it that Māra and his assembly can’t go? It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskilful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected.

…… This is called a mendicant who has blinded Māra, put out his eyes without a trace, and gone where the Wicked One cannot see. And they’ve crossed over clinging to the world.” ….

May I please add here a contemporary example to bring the point home? It is possible that the supporters of a very senior monk who is now getting on in age, who has put down His burden & who has gone where Māra and his assembly can’t go may offer Him a stay at a 5-star hotel, travel in the business class of a top airline so as to make it a bit more comfortable for Him & thereby prolong His teaching days. Why? Because such teachers are rare in this world. The teachings that they offer in explaining the Dhamma are absolute nuggets from pure Gold Mines! Such an elderly, senior monk who has gone where Māra and his assembly can’t go could utilise/consume such facilities without getting indulgent, without getting attached to such sensual pleasures. Why? Because He has gone beyond the Mara, secluded from unskilful qualities, he has eliminated wrong views, he abides in Jhana & he has entered the realm of unconditioned, the Deathless.

On the other hand, an untrained, ordinary person who has the wrong views, who has no regard for Noble Ones, who is not trained in the Dhamma, who has no idea of the true freedom of mind,( the Jhanas) would be longing for such sensual pleasures & would indulge in them & would be eating the Mara’s bait!

So, what is a luxurious sensual pleasure to an ordinary, untaught person could easily be enjoyed as an ordinary needy ‘pleasure’ by an Arian! That is the difference!

Pāsarāsi Sutta (Ariyapariyesanā sutta) Noble Search MN 26

…. “In the same way, there are ascetics and brahmins who enjoy these five kinds of sensual stimulation without being tied, infatuated, or attached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. You should understand that haven’t met with calamity and disaster and are not vulnerable to the Wicked One.

Suppose a deer in the wilderness was lying on a pile of snares without being caught. You’d know that it hasn’t met with calamity and disaster and isn’t vulnerable to the hunter and when the hunter comes, it can flee where it wants.

In the same way, there are ascetics and brahmins who enjoy these five kinds of sensual stimulation without being tied, infatuated, or attached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. You should understand that they haven’t met with calamity and disaster and are not vulnerable to the Wicked One.

Suppose there was a wild deer wandering in the forest that walked, stood, sat, and laid down in confidence. Why is that? Because it’s out of the hunter’s range…

In the same way, a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskilful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. This is called a mendicant who has blinded Māra, put out his eyes without a trace, and gone where the Wicked One cannot see.” ….

Pathama Sanditthika Sutta {Visible in This Very Life (1st)} AN 6:47

…. “And then the wanderer Moliyasīvaka went up to the Buddha and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to the Buddha:

“Sir, they speak of ‘a teaching visible in this very life’. In what way is the teaching visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves?”

“Well then, Sīvaka, I’ll ask you about this in return, and you can answer as you like. What do you think, Sīvaka? When there’s greed in you, do you understand ‘I have greed in me’? And when there’s no greed in you, do you understand ‘I have no greed in me’? “Yes, sir.

“Since you know this, this is how the teaching is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.” ….

That is how one would know whether one is getting attached to it or being indulgent in it or otherwise! It is for oneself to know & see!

Gaṇakamoggallāna Sutta (With Moggallāna the Accountant) MN 107

…. “Then the brahmin Moggallāna the Accountant went up to the Buddha and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to the Buddha:

“Master Gotama, in this stilt longhouse we can see gradual progress down to the last step of the staircase. Among the brahmins we can see gradual progress in learning the chants. Among archers we can see gradual progress in archery. Among us accountants, who earn a living by accounting, we can see gradual progress in mathematics. ………

Is it possible to similarly describe a gradual training, gradual progress, and gradual practice in this teaching and training?”

“It is possible, brahmin. Suppose a deft horse trainer were to obtain a fine thoroughbred. First of all, he’d make it get used to wearing the bit. In the same way, when the Realized One gets a person for training they first guide them like this: ‘Come, mendicant, be ethical and restrained in the monastic code, conducting yourself well and seeking alms in suitable places. Seeing danger in the slightest fault, keep the rules you’ve undertaken.

When they have ethical conduct, the Realized One guides them further: Come, mendicant, guard your sense doors. When you see a sight with your eyes, don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskilful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, practice restraint, protect the faculty of sight, and achieve restraint over it.” ….

So, as the Lord Buddha discoursed to Brahmin Moggallāna the Accountant, it must be through gradual training, gradual progress, and gradual practice that the goal of the Lord Buddha’s teaching and training could be achieved. So, if one starts by enjoying sensual pleasures as, the first step it won’t work! It must start with the Ethics! The purification of one’s Ethical Practice!

Here it is from the Jaṭā Sutta (With Bhāradvāja of the Matted Hair) SN 7.6

“Matted hair within, matted hair without:

these people are tangled up in matted hair.

I ask you this, Gotama:

who can untangle this tangled mass?”

“A wise man grounded in ethics,

developing the mind and wisdom,

a keen and alert mendicant,

can untangle this tangled mass.

………

May all beings be well, happy & peaceful!

With Metta,

Upasako