Valueing Life and Longings

Suppose for example that someone (like probably the Buddha or maybe you) has a great impression on the heart that the world is unreliable, not trustworthy, it is unsafe with it’s impermanence, sickness, decay, death, sudden changes, instability, unpredictability. In some sense it is a fearful place to live in.

Not every person seems to be affected in the same way, but I think many people become anxious when they are in an intense emotional and personal way confronted with decay, illness, death.
Experiences which have made a great impression on the heart. Maybe a parent who died, maybe a loved one, maybe because you yourself became very ill. The perspective on life can change so dramatically. One becomes even more attached and protective while confronted with suffering.

I belief the Buddha was very aware of an unsafe world and being without a real refuge, being helpless, without real protection. I know the texts also refer to an endless rebirth but I cannot really relate to that perspective because I do not have this. It is not my knowledge (yet). So, for me, the Dhamma is especially about finding a refuge, protection.

I can understand that refuge, protection can never ever come from grasping and attachment. At the same time it’s hard to let go. It is like a person who practices the Dhamma for many years and gets the message he has cancer and will soon die. His mind still becomes full of hope and fear and they grasp at any means to live longer. The longings in the heart are so strong. The longing to continue living for example. The longing not to become ill in a way one can hardly bear. The logings that others not suffer. The longing that anything goes well.

I have contemplated on anicca, dukkha, anatta, death, decay, illness, but I cannot confirm it really uproots those longings. Maybe a little bit. There seems to be something else needed .

What do you think misses? What do you belief is crucial? Is it that one does to stop valueing life that much? Is that the key? Do you think it is possible to value life greatly and to uproot the longings in the heart? Or is this an impossibe combination?


If the practitioner doesn’t understand the discrimination between feelings of the flesh/not of the flesh then there will be deprivation of life experience, resulting in mental starvation. This results from carrying a Christian idea of morality into Buddhism. The range of feelings not of the flesh cannot be known until revealed through actual practice.

" I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities"—MN 36

AN 11.13 lists six sources of pleasant pre-jhana feelings not of the flesh:

“At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Dhamma, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Dhamma. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.”

The Buddha lived close to nature and sensory experience.


IMO what misses is the fact that you have not meditated on anicca, dukkha, anatta, death, decay and illness enough. If you contemplate on them longer I am sure you will see results. As you know there is a difference between one hour meditation and 10 hour meditation.
With Metta

There are also many practical things one can do. My favorite is Kindness :slight_smile: Just notice what doing kind things is like, what effect it has on your mind and on your relationships. The Buddha says being kind (the whole practice of sila) is being a friend to oneself as well as others. It gives rise to, and maintains, good and beneficial states of mind.

A little personal anecdote of just how far this can go. My best friend was dying of cancer and I stayed with her in the palliative care unit for the last week of her life. It was an extraordinary thing to witness. She was kind to every one. Every nurse, cleaner, doctor, co-patient, visitor - everyone. Her focus was on others and never on herself… even as she was dying… with a limited number of breaths left in her body :slight_smile:

The result was an environment that seemed to pulsate with love and good will (even while horrific things were occurring to her body). What a beautiful refuge at that most difficult time :slight_smile: She died in a cradle of love. Even the ‘strangers’ loved her.

She wasn’t a Buddhist - yet understood the benefits, to self and others, of kindness. I saw these hardened oncology staff shed tears when she died, even though they only knew her for a week… we were all lucky to have known her and witnessed her example.

I think that we are conditioned to focus on the ‘hard end’ of the dhamma - but it is a balance and not the only approach. Different people find different approaches that suit them best at different times. I’d suggest perhaps try some more attention on the Sila elements, and see how it goes :slight_smile: It brings rewards both in the here and now as well as into the future. Worth a try :slight_smile: Also in meditation you could try to cultivate the Brahmaviharas as a change. Metta/loving kindness, Karuna/compassion, Mudita/sympathetic joy and Upekha/equanimity… What wonderful places of refuge :relieved:

Just do a search for brahmaviharas on this site, there are many resources listed.

Best wishes for your journey :slight_smile: :pray:


How very beautiful @Viveka . Working that way, we can both “value life greatly” (in a less grasping, more letting-go kind of way) and “uproot the longings in the heart” at the same time.

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It’s a gradual path. Things mostly happen slowly; in the order you are ready for.
Have you tried to “tackle” on thing at a time? The longing that bothers you most?
For example you see a being suffering but you can’t do anything about it and you then take Buddha’s advice to let go of your own suffering at this point of time (because you can’t help) and share merits, wish for a better rebirth for that being and send metta.
Sharing love and loving kindness during the process of dying (from diagnose to death) is a very powerful tool!
Watching and accepting that death is all around us but at the same time enjoying the wonder of mother nature.

I hope you see a little bit what I mean. Trying to keep the scale even. That helps to walk the gradual path to open our hearts to the truth.

Don’t be hard on yourself, be gentle and practice the way it helps you best. Try different ways.

All the best on your path - we all struggle to find our way - that’s why it’s important to have good Dhamma friends :pray::tulip::sun_with_face:

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I wouldn’t use the word “misses.” I do wonder if thinking about Right Effort might help.

“And what, bhikkhus, is right effort? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu generates desire for the nonarising of unarisen evil unwholesome states; he makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives. He generates desire for the abandoning of arisen evil unwholesome states…. He generates desire for the arising of unarisen wholesome states…. He generates desire for the maintenance of arisen wholesome states, for their nondecay, increase, expansion, and fulfilment by development; he makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives. This is called right effort. (Sn 45.8)

There were wonderful descriptions above in @Viveka 's comment about generating positive states.
The other side is to make an effort not to let unwholesome states arise, and to let go of them when they arise.
Why would these unwholesome states arise?

When one attends unwisely, unarisen taints arise and arisen taints increase. When one attends wisely, unarisen taints do not arise and arisen taints are abandoned. (MN 2)

So it isn’t simply a matter of what one attends to, but how one attends to it.
And if one can’t attend wisely to something? Well, it might be as simple as “don’t think about that thing.” :slightly_smiling_face:

Now, suppose that mendicant is examining the drawbacks of those thoughts, but bad, unskillful thoughts connected with desire, hate, and delusion keep coming up. They should try to ignore and forget about them. (MN 20)

Yeah, sometimes we need a little more than “ignore it.” MN 20 does give a list of 5 approaches to not thinking about something. (That said, if the unhelpful thoughts are arising due to trauma, there are Western approaches to dealing with trauma that will probably help more than the EBTs.)

So, Right Mindfulness acts as a sentry. It lets in those helpful positive states like kindness, but it makes an effort to keep out those unhelpful negative states. Of course, the sentry makes mistakes. It believes that some things one can let in without causing negative states. But over time it learns that those things - right now at least - we can’t think about without giving them unwise attention, which in turn leads us to unhelpful negative states. So when we see those things first arise in our thoughts, the sentry says, “No, I’m not going to put my attention on you.” E.g., I’m not going to ruminate on the guy who embarrassed me at the work meeting, or the driver that cut me off, or - if we can’t attend to it wisely at this point - meditations on death.
Over time, applying right effort, one can move forward on the path AND experience more joy, kindness, compassion, and peace in their life.
Much Metta! :pray:

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I think it is crucial. In fact, I find anicca contemplation very intensive. Usually, one tries to reach out through the six senses to gain pleasure or satisfaction. If everything that one reaches out is anicca, one feels dispassion, one feels boxed in and suffocated.

Thanks for all your replies. I just go on practicing. Yes, i also keep contemplating anicca, dukkha and anatta and metta.

At this moment Pauls reference to MN36 resonates the most. Especially the part Buddha uses the 3 similes of making fire. The main message seems to be that one has to really …“give up and still the desire, affection, infatuation, thirst, and passion for sensual pleasures”… otherwise one will not taste the peaceful Dhamma.

I cannot admit I have given up this desire. But, at least I now are not naïve anymore about sensual pleasures. I see the dangers, the fettering effect, the trouble once the mind becomes fettered and longings only grow.

Addiction maybe is a strong word, because I am not addicted to drug or alcohol, but I am still addicted to sensual pleasures in general. I also understand it is the wordly way of dealing with mental suffering. Not the best way but one tries to have a good feeling for a moment. I have seen teachers instruct not to be to forceful. Because then, indeed, one will mentally starve.

It is strange, how the mind can look forward to sensual pleasures as a reward while one does not really reward oneself. It is like the Buddha says, these hindrances really weaken wisdom, and one becomes blind. The brain seems to have a rewarding system, and for our own wellbeing it’s the best it does not become to strong and demanding.

I also find that it can change suddenly. One can feel, suddenly, without any clear cause, not hungry at all. Very strange. It is like all longings are gone and everything is oke. And you are at peace. And there are also days one does not a moment feel peaceful.


This is still on my mind

I very much like this story about Buddha’s motivation. I think venerable Sujato wrote about this sutta and i like it. I can relate to it more then the idea of ending rebirth as Buddha’s main drive.

"Peril stems from those who take up arms—
just look at people in conflict!
I shall extol how I came to be
stirred with a sense of urgency.

I saw this population flounder,
like a fish in a little puddle.
Seeing them fight each other,
fear came upon me.
The world around was hollow,
all directions were in turmoil.
Wanting a home for myself,
*I saw nowhere unsettled. *

But even in their settlement they fight—
seeing that, I grew uneasy. (part of Snp4.15)

Buddha sought after a home for himself. At ease. He saw the conflict and understood how it all arose out of inner conflict. He wanted to stop this. End it. Find a cure.

I feel the same. In the end we cannot find a home in ourselves. I cannot. I admit.
There is a dart in the heart. Heartache. And this heartache makes it impossible to be at home in yourselves. It might be the heartache of sensual longing, a heartache of depression, a heartache of loneliness, a heartache of feeling not seen, not heard or something like that. But always there is that heartache. And then, like the sutta says;

When struck by that dart,
you run about in all directions.

Yes, that’s true. The search starts to end that pain. One grasps at this or that, seeking a solution for this inner pain.

The pain, the heartache is deep.

Buddha shows this pattern of running after this and that, seeking a cure, never makes an end to that heartache. The inner conflict stays. I can see that is true.

I know, this is not about ending rebirth as motivation or drive, but i can very well relate to it. What a great sutta.

Snp 4.15: Attadaṇḍasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (

There is so much in it.

It does not deal with ‘khandha’s are misery’ and all that kind of words that make me sad and contribute to heartache.

I like to see Dhamma as a cure for our deepest heartaches. Buddha as a doctor and once also as a patient like me. Curing what? Curing fear of living, fear of suffering and fear of dying. Curing heartache. Curing inner darkness. Curing distrutst, distress, especially FEAR, i belief. Living whole-heartely. Appreciating life. Nibbana, where there is no place for fears.

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