Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Four Floods

Seven & Macpherson, Wisdom Quarterly (EXPLANATION), with
The great Tsunami that woke up the world to climate chaos and HAARP activity

ogha (a "flood"). Term denoting negative moral and mental qualities, such as ignorance and craving, that impede a person on the path to enlightenment. Various qualities originally grouped into lists of five and later of four. The "four floods" are identical with the four "outflows" or "inflows" (āśrava; Pali, asava), namely: sense-desires (kāma-āśrava), craving for renewed existence (bhava-āśrava), wrong views (drishta-āśrava), and ignorance (avidya-āśrava).

Living beings -- humans, celestials, this worldly, otherworldly, more fortunate, less fortunate, all such beings -- are overcome by factors that bind them to samsara, the Round of Suffering in cyclical births and deaths. These flows, which are described as both flowing in and flowing out, are difficult to perceive as problems.

1. Craving for sense pleasure? Few would regard sensual desire as a problem. Instead, it seems "natural" or certainly neutral, just a function of having senses. But insight meditation reveals the immediate dukkha (distress, discomfort, unsatisfactoriness) that arises with the arising of a desire. There is good-desire, still painful, regarded as such because it leads to the end of suffering. What kind of desire is good: Motivation (chanda) for enlightenment and liberation (moksha). Not all motivations are beneficial, but sitting in meditation, for example, is a quest that is quite positive.

Global deluge stories predate Jewish "Noah's Arc" lore by many millenia (Ra'ad)

2. Craving for "renewed becoming" (bhava), or rebirth in progressively exalted worlds, also seems natural and good ("good" means resulting in sukha, the opposite of dukkha). But it also results in suffering. No world, no matter how exalted or long lived, is free of dukkha. The end of ALL suffering is nirvana. Rebirth in heaven is a legitimate goal in Buddhism, but it is not the ultimate goal. And there is a reason why it is not. The Buddha does not recommend leaving a better thing for a lesser thing. The opposite is true. When criticized for encouraging rich Shakyan princes to renounce their positions and become ascetic-monastics (samana-bhikkhus), he explained why what they were leaving was far inferior to what they were moving towards. Obviously, ordinary uninstructed "worldlings" think this is madness. We have been striving for riches, pleasure, status for countless lives. Who would abandon these things on purpose? So long as we do not see the value of things in perspective, we will naturally consider the inferior superior. Looking at the big picture, those princes attaining nirvana compared to abandoning their trifling, short-lived comforts... there's no comparison.
  • desire. There is no single Sanskrit or Pāli equivalent. Instead, Buddhist psychology classifies impulses according to their objects. Desire for unwholesome things is generally known as tanhā, "craving." Other forms of desire, which may be skillful, unskillful (producing suffering when their results are met), or neutral, are analyzed into the three forms of chanda. The often-encountered notion that Buddhism teaches that all desire is bad or wrong is a gross oversimplification.

3. Wrong views seem, on the face of it, quite reprehensible. They are. But what so few people know is which wrong views? Not every distortion needs correcting. The Noble Eightfold Path factor "right view" deals with understanding karma and consequences (vipaka, phala), that good follows good, but does not follow right away. It takes time to ripen and results come opportunistically. Sariputra, foremost in wisdom among male disciples (Khema was the foremost female), defined right view. There's no sense in spending life trying to right all our views. That's not right view. Right view is more limited: it is understanding what "suffering" (dukkha) means, what is causing suffering, what is the end of suffering (nirvana), and what the path to its end is (DN 22). Wrong view can be abandoned by eliminating views altogether. There is no reason to hold a view when practicing meditation (the cultivation of serenity-and-insight), but what could possibly replace views? Mindfulness and keen investigation of dharmas (the doctrine Dependent Origination and phenomena in general). When practicing insight meditation on a foundation of "right concentration" (the first four jhanas), it becomes possible to penetrate things directly, without the intermediation (intercession, mediation) of views. (Bhikkhu Bodhi on right view).

The 31 Planes of Existence simplified to six general states of rebirth in Tibetan art

4. Ignorance is universally condemned (except perhaps when it is thought to lead to bliss). But we normally do know what to regard as the sort of ignorance that the Buddha is pointing to as a "flood." We are overwhelmed and inundated by the view of self (what mystic Jews and Christians and even Muslims might call "pride") or sakkaya-ditthi. It's the primary hurdle to reaching enlightenment. One is not freed from it by thinking or reasoning. It can certainly be "understood" through such means, but it cannot be penetrated, experienced, or directly known that way. The real ignorance to be overcome is not ALL ignorance, a view which leads to the expectation that enlightenment means omniscience. What we are ignorant of is the Four Noble Truths. Just as with right view, what can ennoble us is penetrating the profoundity of these four things: Dukkha, Samudaya (cause or origin), Nirvana, and Magga (path, cure, or solution). A superficial understanding just leads to doubt and arguing.

Flooding Today
There is literal flooding today. Los Angeles is being drenched with cliffs giving way. Meanwhile, Australia is having its own Katrina. These are as nothing compared to the problems resulting from climate chaos in the developing world. When all this is happening in different places simultaneously, might it be possible that in the future history will read that we lived through another global flood?

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