Friday, July 18, 2008

Lust, Sex; Freedom

Sexy People Sound Better
By Greg Soltis (LiveScience, 7/16/08)

People with voices deemed sexy and attractive tend to have greater body symmetry upon close inspection, suggesting that what we hear in a person can greatly affect what we see in them.

"The sound of a person's voice reveals a considerable amount of biological information," said Susan Hughes, an evolutionary psychologist from Albright College in Reading, Pa. "It can reflect the mate value of a person."

Hughes, whose new study is detailed in the June 2008 edition of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, cautions that an attractive voice does not necessarily indicate that this person has an attractive face.

A symmetric body is genetically sound, scientists say, and in evolutionary terms, in the wild, it can be an important factor when selecting a mate. But sometimes changes during prenatal development can slightly skew this balance. For instance, the length ratio between index and ring fingers, known as the digit ratio, is fixed by the first trimester, a time that corresponds with vocal cord and larynx development. If the hormone surge that affects vocal development also affects finger growth, there should be a connection between an individual's voice and digit ratio.

Hughes could not demonstrate a connection between voice attractiveness and digit ratio in her previous work, possibly due to vocal changes that occur during puberty. So in the new study, about 100 individuals listened to previously recorded voices and independently rated them on nine traits important during mate selection: approachability, dominance, healthiness, honesty, intelligence, likelihood to get dates, maturity, sexiness, and warmth.

Study participants generally agreed on what made a voice attractive. But when Hughes used a spectrogram to analyze these voice ratings according to different acoustic properties such as pitch, intensity, jitter, and shimmer, she could not find a common feature that made these voices seem attractive.

This indicates our perceptual system may be more advanced than expected.

"We can agree on what's an attractive voice yet I can't capture it with a computer," Hughes told LiveScience.

Mara's daugther, Lily Lust, seducing Everyman Stanley Moon (Bedazzled, 1967)

Investigating if a combination of these properties can define an attractive voice may shed light on a connection, she said.

An artist's representation shows the midshipman fish singing to attract a mate. (Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, Nat'l Science Foundation)

Editor, Wisdom Quarterly

Why abandon lust?
Why even try?

"If by forsaking a limited happiness,
One would realize an abundance of happiness;
The wise person should forsake the limited
For the sake of the abundant" -- Dhp.
Sensual objects provide a limited happiness, an inferior form of pleasure. The meditative absorptions (jhanas) provide abundant happiness, an exponentially superior form of ecstasy. Moreover, the utter bliss of liberation is far superior to either of these.
The second of the Four Noble Truths states that, "Suffering has a cause, which is craving" particularly felt as the craving (lust, desire, attachment, greed, thirst) for sensual pleasures. Any earnest attempt to attain Nirvana -- the end of all suffering -- then necessarily involves the abandoning and forsaking of lust. At first this is done by skillful effort; subsequently it is done by insight.
Once the mind/heart (citta) is temporarily freed from the defilements (such as lust), liberating wisdom (prajna) has the opportunity to arise and cut off the roots of suffering (lust, anger, delusion). We see the true nature of things and realize that impermanent, unpleasant, impersonal objects are neither attractive nor worth pursuing. What are the skillful means necessary?

Lust (Mental Hindrance) and its Conquest Compiled and translated by Ven. Nyanaponika

There are five impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight. What five?

Sensual desire is an impediment and hindrance, an overgrowth of the mind that stultifies insight....

Without having overcome these five, it is impossible for a meditator whose insight thus lacks strength and power, to know one's own true good, the good of others, and the good of both; nor will one be capable of realizing that superhuman state of distinctive achievement, the knowledge and vision enabling the attainment of sanctity [arhantship, enlightenment].

But if a meditator has overcome these five impediments and hindrances, these overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight, then it is possible that, with his strong insight, one can know one's own true good, the good of others, and the good of both; and one will be capable of realizing that superhuman state of distinctive achievement, the knowledge and vision enabling the attainment of sanctity. — AN 5:51

One whose heart is overwhelmed by unrestrained covetousness will do what should not be done and neglect what one ought to do. And through that, one's good name and happiness will come to ruin....

But if a noble disciple has seen these five as defilements of the mind, one will give them up. And doing so, one is regarded as one of great wisdom, of abundant wisdom, clear-visioned, well endowed with wisdom. This is called "endowment with wisdom." — AN 4:61

There are five impurities of gold impaired by which it is not pliant and wieldy, lacks radiance, is brittle and cannot be wrought well. What are these five impurities? Iron, copper, tin, lead, and silver.

But if the gold has been freed from these five impurities, then it will be plaint and wieldy, radiant and firm, and can be wrought well. Whatever ornaments one wishes to make from it, be it a diadem, earrings, a necklace, or a golden chain, it will serve that purpose.

Similarly, there are five impurities of the mind impaired by which the mind is not pliant and wieldy, lacks radiant lucidity and firmness, and cannot concentrate well upon the eradication of the taints (asava). What are these five impurities? They are: sensual desire...

But if the mind is freed of these five impurities, it will be pliant and wieldy, will have radiant lucidity and firmness, and will concentrate well upon the eradication of the taints. Whatever state realizable by the higher mental faculties one may direct the mind to, one will in each case acquire the capacity of realization, if the (other) conditions are fulfilled. — AN 5:23

How does a meditator practice mind-object contemplation on the mental objects of the five hindrances?

Herein, monastics, when sensual desire is present in one the meditator knows, "There is sensual desire in me," or when sensual desire is absent one knows, "There is no sensual desire in me." One knows how the arising of non-arisen sensual desire comes to be; one knows how the rejection of the arisen sensual desire comes to be; and one knows how the non-arising in the future of the rejected sensual desire comes to be.... — MN 10 (Satipatthana Sutra)

To note mindfully, and immediately, the arising of one of the hindrances, as recommended in the preceding text, is a simple but very effective method of countering these and any other defilements of the mind. By doing so, a brake is applied against the uninhibited continuance of unwholesome thoughts, and the watchfulness of mind against their recurrence is strengthened. This method is based on a simple psychological fact which is expressed by the Commentators as follows: "A good and an evil thought cannot occur in combination. Therefore, at the time of knowing the sense desire (that arose in the preceding moment), that sense desire no longer exists (but only the act of knowing)."

Biblically-inspired symbolic depictions of temptation, the fall of humankind, Naga (serpent) influence, and forbidden fruit

Just as, meditators, this body lives on nourishment, lives dependent on nourishment, does not live without nourishment — in the same way, the Five Hindrances live on nourishment, depend on nourishment, do not live without nourishment. — SN 46:2

First Mental Hindrance: Sensual Desire
A. Nourishment of Sensual Desire
There are beautiful objects; frequently giving unwise attention to them — this is the nourishment for the arising of sensual desire that has not arisen, and the nourishment for the increase and strengthening of sensual desire that has already arisen. — SN 46:51

B. Denourishing of Sensual Desire
There are impure objects (used for meditation); frequently giving wise attention to them — this is the denourishing of the arising of sensual desire that has not yet arisen, and the denourishing of the increase and strengthening of sensual desire that has already arisen. — SN 46:51

Six things are conducive to the abandonment of sensual desire:

Learning how to meditate on impure objects;
Devoting oneself to the meditation on the impure;
Guarding the sense doors;
Moderation in eating;
Noble friendship;
Suitable conversation. — Commentary to the Discourse on Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutra)

1. Learning how to meditate on impure objects
2. Devoting oneself to the meditation on the impure

(a) Impure objects
In one who is devoted to the meditation on impure objects, repulsion towards beautiful objects is firmly established. This is the result. — AN 5:36

"Impure object" refers, in particular, to the cemetery meditations as given in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse and explained in the Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), but it refers also to the repulsive aspects of sense objects in general.

(b) The loathsomeness of the body
Herein, monastics, a meditator reflects on just this body, confined within the skin and full of manifold impurities from the soles upward and from the top of the hair down: "There is in this body: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, lymph, saliva, mucus, fluid of the joints, urine (and the brain in the skull)." — MN 10

By bones and sinews knit,
With flesh and tissue smeared,
And hidden by the skin, the body
Does not appear as it really is...
The fool thinks it beautiful,
His ignorance misguiding him... — Sutta Nipata, v.194,199

Depiction of "counterpart sign" (nimitta) seen during meditation approaching samadhi

(c) Various contemplations
Sense objects give little enjoyment, but much pain and much despair; the danger in them prevails. — MN 14

The unpleasant overwhelms a thoughtless man in the guise of the pleasant, the disagreeable overwhelms him in the guise of the agreeable, the painful in the guise of pleasure. — Udana, 2:8

3. Guarding the sense doors
How does one guard the sense doors? Herein, a meditator, having seen a form, does not seize upon its (delusive) appearance as a whole, nor on its details. If one's sense of sight were uncontrolled, covetousness, grief and other evil, unwholesome states would flow in. Therefore, one practices for the sake of its control, one watches over the sense of sight, one enters upon its control. Having heard a sound... smelled an odor... tasted a taste... felt a touch... cognized a mental object, one does not seize upon its (delusive) appearance as a whole... one enters upon its control. — SN 35:120

There are forms perceptible by the eye, which are desirable, lovely, pleasing, agreeable, associated with desire, arousing lust. If the meditator does not delight in them, is not attached to them, does not welcome them, then in one thus not delighting in them, not being attached to them and not welcoming them, delight (in these forms) ceases; if delight is absent, there is no bondage. There are sounds perceptible by the ear... odors perceptible by the mind... if delight is absent, there is no bondage. — SN 35:63

4. Moderation in eating
How is he moderate in eating? Herein a meditator takes food after wise consideration: not for the purpose of enjoyment, of pride, of beautifying the body, or adorning it (with muscles), but only for the sake of maintaining and sustaining this body, to avoid harm and to support the holy life, thinking: "Thus I shall destroy the old painful feeling and shall not let a new one rise. Long life will be mine, blamelessness, and well-being." — MN 2; MN 39

5. Noble friendship
Reference is here, in particular, to such friends who have experience and can be a model and help in overcoming sensual desire, especially in meditating on impurity. But it applies also to noble friendship in general. The same twofold explanation holds true also for the other hindrances, with due alterations.

The entire holy life, Ananda, is noble friendship, noble companionship, noble association. Of a monastic, Ananda, who has a noble friend, a noble companion, a noble associate, it is to be expected that that meditator will cultivate and practice the Noble Eightfold Path. — SN 45:2

6. Suitable conversation
Reference is here in particular to conversation about the overcoming of sensual desire, especially about meditating on impurity. But it applies also to every conversation which is suitable to advance one's progress on the path. With due alterations this explanation holds true also for the other hindrances.

If the mind of a meditator is bent on speaking, one (should remember this): "Talk which is low, coarse, worldly, not noble, not salutary, not leading to detachment, not to freedom from passion, not to cessation, not to tranquility, not to higher knowledge, not to enlightenment, not to Nirvana — namely, talk about kings, robbers and ministers, talk about armies, dangers and war, about food and drink, clothes, couches, garlands, perfumes, relatives, cars, villages, towns, cities, and provinces, about women and wine, gossip of the street and of the well, talk about the ancestors, about various trifles, tales about the origin of the world and the ocean, talk about what happened and what did not happen — such and similar talk I shall not entertain." Thus one is clearly conscious.

But talk about austere life, talk suitable for the unfolding of the mind, talk which is conducive to complete detachment, to freedom from passion, to cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment and to Nirvana — namely, talk about a life of frugality, about contentedness, solitude, aloofness from society, about rousing one's energy, talk about virtue, concentration, wisdom, deliverance, about the vision and knowledge of deliverance — such talk I shall entertain." Thus one is clearly conscious. — MN 122

These things, too, are helpful in conquering sensual desire:

One-pointedness of mind, of the factors of absorption (jhananga);
Mindfulness, of the spiritual faculties (indriya);
Mindfulness, of the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga).

C. Simile
If there is water in a pot mixed with red, yellow, blue or orange color, a person with a normal faculty of sight, looking into it, could not properly recognize and see the image of one's own face. In the same way, when one's mind is possessed by sensual desire, overpowered by sensual desire, one cannot properly see the escape from sensual desire which has arisen; then one does not properly understand and see one's own welfare, nor that of another, nor that of both; also texts memorized a long time ago do not come into one's mind, not to speak of those not memorized. — SN 46:55

SOURCE: The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries (compiled and translated by Nyanaponika Thera). The Wheel Publication No. 26 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1993). Transcribed from the print edition in 1994 under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the Buddhist Publication Society. Copyright © 1993 Buddhist Publication Society. Access to Insight edition © 1994. For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such. Modified for publication by Wisdom Quarterly editors.

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