SuttaCentral

Unable to handle external irritants

Living in India. And it is just hell. Despite all the noise and hype about cleaning up India, things are terrible and are getting worse. I wake up and come out and there is always some guy peeing on the house wall. I yell at them and they stare back with a proud defiance that is both puzzling and infuriating. I go outside and garbage is everywhere and every bin is surrounded by pools of urine. I drive on my two-wheeler and guys snort and spit gobs of phlegm and saliva sideways, unmindful of people driving behind them. Belligerence and petty-minded arrogance in the few shops that I visit is getting more and more tiresome. The cacophony of exhaust pipes, endless processions and rallies that raise an infernal din - it feels like blunt needles getting hammered into my skull. Everyday is like this.

The result of all this is that I have lost the capacity to turn inward. I don’t even read the suttas anymore because I simply can’t apply them in my life. I am unable to soothe my frayed nerves after each day and my mind is a seething, tumultuous mess. Covid-19 and the lockdown has exacerbated my irritation and the most distressing thing is that I am slowly developing a deep hatred for this country, and unfortunately, for the people here as well. I don’t know what to do.

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Welcome to the community @saff and I hope you are able to find some refuge and support here :heart:

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Please permit the community here to help you. They are wonderful people - knowledgeable, compassionate and generous. You are welcome here, @saff !

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Welcome saff!

Yes, these are trying times for everyone. Just remember, you are not alone. We all feel frustrated with the world at times, one more reason to keep up the practice. Try not to let the world make you cynical and angry. Take things slowly and if possible, try to find a break away from your current surroundings that may help you gain perspective.

Here is a thread that may be helpful, I invite others to add more as you come across them:

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Hi @saff I completely understand your plight! I have lived through that for the first twenty five years of my life. I did not realize it at that time but it was one of the reasons why I felt so unsettled and out of place all the time and why I left. Now when I go back to India occasionally, it is worse because I have forgotten how to deal with all that chaos and remain sane. I can only sympathize with you and hope that you can get away for a while at some secluded place periodically to recharge and stay centered.

The only time I have read somewhat similar descriptions of city chaos is in dhamma talks and biographies of monastics from Thai Forest tradition, when they describe visits to Bangkok. Maybe that will offer some solace if not solutions.

PS: This is my first post/reply. I joined this forum just a couple of days ago.

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It sounds horrible. Is there somewhere else you can be? Any escape routes?

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This should be “living in urban India.” One of the implications of the Buddha’s life is the practitioner must live in a rural area.

Wherever the practitioner lives there will be a contrast between ultimate and conventional reality, and that is actually a required source of development or raw material for the practice, but it is necessary to balance the input from conventional reality with times of contemplation to be able to process it. So the physical conditions to be able to withdraw and reflect are needed.

“10. Seclusion / Viveka
Viveka as “seclusion” is accorded a high value in early Buddhism. A discourse in the Aguttara-nikāya proclaims that the Buddha’s teaching is for one who is secluded, not for one who delights in company (AN IV 229). According to another discourse in the same collection, whatever leads to seclusion instead of company should be considered categorically as the true teaching of the Buddha (AN IV 280). The emphasis given in such statements to a secluded life style has its poetic counterpart in the Khaggavisāa-sutta of the Sutta-nipāta, which offers a touching eulogy of the beauty of a solitary life (Sn 35- 75).”—Analayo

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I’m with Martin here.
While there won’t be a perfect place there shall be more suitable places.
Maybe a smaller town? A different neighbourhood? Or even a different state or country?
We are free to look for a living place which is more appropriate and suitable to us.
:anjal:

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@saff I’m glad you were able to write here, welcome to you.
You say you have lost the capacity to turn inward…
I most respectfully encourage you to do so, even if this feels difficult at first,
even if it feels impossible, stay with it…and of course find another place to be if you can…but until then…go inward again, stay with it…
and know that you are not alone.
With metta. :green_heart:

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I have a possibly naive question. We have had crazy amounts of construction on my house these last few days. Literally drilling into the concrete foundation. I found noise cancelling headphones to be a huge benefit. Have you tried that at least for your meditations?

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Various constraints make this an impossibility at the moment.

I have, but I found them a bit artificial.

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Thanks for the responses. I was hesitant about posting here, because the subject seems so banal compared with the metaphysical debates that people have. I think I might be able to get away once transportation becomes somewhat normalized, but it’s been inordinately difficult dealing with things. I have never even glanced at the world of politics, but last year, being stuck at home, I looked at Indian politics and news. And the amount of hate-filled lies flying around and the general nastiness of it all was an astonishing revelation. I think this contributed to my mental deterioration.

Perhaps I should interpret AN 6.58 in a more subjective manner…

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This thread reminds me of a story that was told to me by a monk I have studied with. He told me that when he was a novice at a monastery in Thailand there were street dogs nearby that barked incessantly when he was trying to meditate. He eventually realized that the solution to his irritation was to stay focused on his breathing, simply note the barking, not get attached to it, and let it pass.

This raises the question of the purpose of practice. Isn’t part of practice simply noting that which is impermanent and not attaching to it? If we see something objectionable one option would be to gouge our eyes out. Another option would be to note the objectionable thing, recognize its impermanence, and then not attach to it.

Granted, this can be difficult. To whit:

In a few months the public works department is going to be doing some work right outside my house which is going to be extremely noisy and disruptive. I am absolutely dreading it. No doubt it will be a huge challenge for how I use my practice to cope with it. The easy thing would and probably will be to try and be someplace else when the work is being done. If I were proficient in my practice that would not be necessary. I would simply note the noise and not attach to it. But I am far from being that accomplished in my practice, so I likely will take the easier route which is to go somewhere else when the work is being done.

And yet, if one were truly perfected in one’s practice, that person would not try to escape from external irritants. The practitioner would simply note their impermanence and not be bothered by them.

Or am I missing something?

Edit:

I own a condo at the beach (where I hope to escape to when the work is being done outside my primary residence). My nextdoor neighbor at the beach plays the television loudly and I can hear it in my condo. I often wear noise cancelling headphones to block out the noise; which is to say I am far from perfected in my practice and resort to ways of escaping irritants rather than simply noting and not attaching to them which I suppose is what I am striving for in my practice.

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It seems that things are really bad and hard to endure. But think for a moment. What you see all around you is suffering dukkha, the first noble truth. My advice, although it may be easier said than done, is to take your current predicament as a blessing in disguise and start spreading loving kindness to all in every direction. At the same time try to understand the cause of suffering and you are on your way to liberation.
With Metta

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Yet here you are… doing.

What I mean is, something gets you out of bed each morning; what gets you through the day? I can barely cope in an easy country; the constant ads from all angles alone drive me almost insane, like someone peeing in my mind. There’s no way I could cope with your daily hell; you’re stronger than I, and have found better ways of holding your mind.

I’d like to make my post more EBTish, but I know few and besides you’ve said that’s not helping you at this time.

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Welcome to the Forum @trusolo! Please enjoy posting here. Just ask if you have any questions.

@saff , India evokes understandably strong - but surprisingly opposite responses - from those who visit her from other countries. If you have mentioned why you are there I’m afraid I missed it. Is it possible to relocate to a different state or part of the country?

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At this point, it’s just routine.

I am from India. As I grow older, the insensitive and gross acts that people here do all the time is becoming increasingly exhausting to witness (and navigate). I think the only option that makes sense to me is to never be attached to any place, calling it as one’s home - described in the Dhammapada:

The mindful ones exert themselves. They are not attached to any home;
like swans that abandon the lake, they leave home after home behind.

But, how far I am from the serenity of such ascetics !

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If it helps saff, one of my pet peeves is littering. I cannot fathom why people throw their garbage haphazardly on streets, parks, natural places etc… not just India, even in western countries it is a problem.
At one point, I was getting so irritated, I was just so angry and not in a good place. Was the garbage then disappearing like magic ? Was my anger and irritation helping? No, people will always litter no matter what. So now I just try to do my part and pick cups etc… and clean up whenever I can.
I can’t change them, but I can make things better by doing my part. So try not to let it trouble your sensitive mind. We all have this suffering, in one form or the other.
Sometimes the grass is always greener on the other side and we think “it would be better if…” etc… only to find a different type of suffering !
I try to remind myself of this fact when faced with these irritations.

Hope this helps :pray:t3:

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This indicates a view without a division between conventional and ultimate reality and without a choice towards the latter.

“Citta, these are the world’s designations, the world’s expressions, the world’s ways of speaking, the world’s descriptions, with which the Tathagata expresses himself but without grasping to them.”—DN 9

paramattha (-sacca, -vacana, -desanā): ‘truth (or term, exposition) that is true in the highest (or ultimate) sense’, as contrasted with the ‘conventional truth’ (vohāra-sacca), which is also called ‘commonly accepted truth’ (sammuti-sacca; in Skr: samvrti-satya). The Buddha, in explaining his doctrine, sometimes used conventional language and sometimes the philosophical mode of expression which is in accordance whith undeluded insight into reality. In that ultimate sense, existence is a mere process of physical and mental phenomena within which, or beyond which, no real ego-entity nor any abiding substance can ever be found. Thus, whenever the Suttas speak of man, woman or person, or of the rebirth of a being, this must not be taken as being valid in the ultimate sense, but as a mere conventional mode of speech (vohāra-vacana).”—Nyanatiloka

This applies to action as well as speech. Conventional and ultimate reality exist concurrently, but the practitioner chooses to pursue detachment from conventional reality, which has its own lesser truth of maintenance of the body. The first noble truth of dukkha means that conventional reality can never be perfect.

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Well many anumodanas for your generosity in providing the good people of India with a place where they can find some relief from their suffering! :laughing:

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