Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ask a Ninja: How to Meditate: 2. Desire

Seth Auberon, Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts from Pali Canon and Commentaries

This year, rise above it (AB).
This is Part II of a seven-part series (See Part I) on overcoming of the Five Hindrances, culminating with what to do as an enlightened Meditation Ninja. Reaching enlightenment could take from seven days to seven years of striving depending on one's dedication and consistency. Overdoing the effort is inferior to consistent-effort. There is much more to be gained by practicing 10 minutes a day instead of 70 minutes on Sunday: Consistency was the turtle's secret as the hare imagined there would always be time to catch up.

1. Sensual Desire (lust, craving, distraction)
A. Nourishing Sensual Desire
There are beautiful (attractive, pleasant, comely) objects. Frequently giving unwise attention to them -- this is the nourishing of the arising of sensual desire that has not yet arisen, and it is the nourishment for the increase and strengthening of sensual desire that has already arisen (SN 46:51).

B. Denourishing Sensual Desire
There are repugnant objects (repulsive, unlovely, 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 it is the non-nourishment for the increase and strengthening of sensual desire that has already arisen (SN 46:51).

Six things are conducive to the abandoning of sensual desire:
  1. learning how to meditate on repugnant objects,
  2. devoting oneself to the meditation on the repugnant,
  3. guarding the sense doors,
  4. moderation in eating,
  5. noble friendship,
  6. suitable conversation (Commentary to the Satipatthana Sutra).
1. Learning how to meditate on repugnant objects
2. Devoting oneself to the meditation on the repugnant
(a) Repugnant objects
What? Don't judge me! I'm a big boned BBW.
In one who is devoted to the meditation on repugnant objects, revulsion toward beautiful objects is firmly established. This is the result (AN 5:36).
"Repugnant object" refers, in particular, to the cemetery meditations as given in the discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutra, MN 10) 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
Beauty is skin deep. What's inside?
Herein, meditators, 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 downward:

"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,
With ignorance misguiding the fool...
(Sutta Nipata, vv.194,199)

(c) Various contemplations
Sense objects give little enjoyment, but much pain and much despair; the [hidden] danger in them prevails (MN 14).
The unpleasant overwhelms a thoughtless person in the guise of the pleasant, whereas the disagreeable overwhelms one in the guise of the agreeable, the painful in the guise of pleasure (Inspired Utterances, Udana, 2:8).

3. Guarding the sense doors
Hey, look over at me. I want you to see me.
How does one guard the sense doors? Herein, a meditator, having seen a form, does not seize upon its (delusive) general appearance as a whole nor on its details.

If one's sense of sight were left uncontrolled [unguarded], covetousness, grief, and other harmful, 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 a scent... tasted a savor... felt a touch... cognized a mental object, one does not seize upon its (delusive) general 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 the person 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 (fetter). There are sounds perceptible by the ear... objects perceptible by the mind... if delight is absent, there is no bondage (SN 35:63).

4. Moderation in eating
I eat dead bodies.
How is one moderate in eating? Herein [within this Dharma and Discipline], a meditator takes food after wise consideration: not for the purpose of enjoyment, pride, 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 supreme life, thinking: "In this way I shall destroy the old painful feeling [of hunger] and shall not let a new one [of excess consumption] arise. Long life will be mine, blamelessness and well-being" (MN 2; MN 39).

5. Noble friendship
Were you thinking of eating me?
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 supreme life [of monastic renunciation], 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 person will cultivate and practice the Noble Eightfold Path (SN 45:2).

6. Suitable conversation
You mean, what I talk about has something to do with my success in meditation?
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 that is suitable to advance one's progress on the path to enlightenment.

With due alterations this explanation holds true also for the other Five Hindrances (sensual craving, ill will, restlessness-remorse, sloth-torpor, skeptical doubt).
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 leading to freedom from passion, not to cessation, not to tranquillity, not to higher-knowledge, not to enlightenment, not to nirvana, namely, talk about rulers, 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 [mindful and] clearly conscious about it.
Bhutan: Let's change the subject. What if we talk about meditation? (Donnatella Venturi)
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 (sila), concentration, wisdom (panna), deliverance, about knowledge and vision of deliverance -- such talk I shall entertain." Thus, one is clearly conscious about it (MN 122).
These things, too, are helpful in conquering sensual desire:
  • One-pointedness of mind, of the Factors of Absorption (jhana-anga);
  • Mindfulness, of the Five Spiritual Faculties (indriya);
  • Mindfulness, of the Seven 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. And also Dharma heard (texts memorized) a long time ago do not come into one's mind, not to speak of those not memorized (SN 46:55).

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