Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sex and the Noble Eightfold PATH factors

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Crystal Quintero (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly: Wiki edit
This is the Middle Way, the Path the Buddha, Sage of the Shakya Clan, showed.
This is the direct way to the end of all suffering once and for all:
What is the Path?
1. RIGHT VIEW (sammā-diṭṭhi) "right understanding" or "right comprehension," the grasping that our karma (actions) have consequences, that death is not the end, that our beliefs also have consequences after death (in the next and in many future lives), and that the Buddha followed and taught a successful path out of this world and out of the other world (blissful and miserable planes).

The Mahācattārīsaka Sutra (Pāli canon), describes the first seven practices as requisites of right samadhi, starting with right view. But actually all of the limbs are co-factors developed more or less simultaneously; they are mutually-supportive and culminate in the goal. They begin with right view:

"Of those, [mundane] right view is the forerunner...And what is the right view with defilements, meritorious, resulting in gains? 'There is [a result of] what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed [givto pren up]. There are fruits, and results of skillful and unskillful actions. There is this world and the other world[s]. There is mother and father [who are different for an individual in terms of the significance of karma, skillful and unskillful, towards them]. There are spontaneously reborn beings [without mother and father]; there are wandering-ascetics and Brahmins [temple priests] who , faring rightly and practicing rightly, proclaim this world and the other[s] after having directly known and realized them for themselves.' This is the right view with defilements, meritorious, resulting in gains..." 

2. RIGHT INTENTION (sammā sankappa) "right thought" or "right aspiration," the resolve to renounce the worldly life [let go internally though not necessarily externally] and dedicate oneself to a spiritual pursuit. "What is right intention? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness" (MN III.248).
Like right view, this factor has two levels. At the mundane level, the thought or intention includes non-harming (ahimsa) and refraining from ill will (avyabadha) toward any being, as this accrues karma and leads to a miserable rebirth. At the supramundane level, the factor of right intention includes a resolve to see things as they truly are, namely, as ultimately impermanent, suffering (disappointing), and impersonal (without self).... 

Even seen still not believed.
3. RIGHT SPEECH (sammā-vācā) in most Buddhist texts is presented as four things that a wise person would abstain from, such as is stated in the Pali canon thus:
"What is right speech? Abstaining from perjury, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from useless chatter: This is called 'right speech.' "
Instead of the usual "abstaining and refraining from wrong speech" terminology, a few discourses such as the Samaññaphala Sutra and Kevata Sutra in "The Collection of Lengthy Discourses" (Digha Nikaya) explain this virtue in an active sense, after stating it in the form of an abstention. For example, the Fruits of Recluseship Discourse (Samaññaphala Sutra) states that a part of a Buddhist monastic's virtue is that "one abstains from false speech [referring to perjury or bearing false witness].

One speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world." Similarly, the virtue of abstaining from divisive speech is explained as delighting in creating concord. The virtue of abstaining from abusive speech is explained in this sutra as including affectionate and polite speech that is pleasing to most people. The virtue of abstaining from useless chatter is explained as speaking what is connected with the Dharma's goal of liberation.

In the "Fearless Young King Discourse" (Abhayarajakumara Sutra), the Buddha explains the virtue of right speech in different scenarios, based on its truth-value, utility-value, and emotional content. The Buddha or Wayfarer (Tathagata), states in the "Fearless Discourse" (Abhaya Sutra), never speaks anything that is unfactual or factual, untrue or true, disagreeable or agreeable, if it is unbeneficial and unconnected to the goals.miscond

Further, adds this discourse, the Buddha speaks the factual and the true, but -- in the event that it is disagreeable and unendearing -- only if it is beneficial to goals, but with a sense of proper timeliness.

Additionally, adds the Abhaya Sutra, the Buddha only speaks with a sense of proper timeliness even when what he speaks is the factual, the true, the agreeable, the endearing, and what is beneficial to goals.
The Buddha explains right speech in the Pali canon, according to Ganeri, as never speaking something that is not beneficial but only speaking what is true and beneficial, "when the circumstances are right, whether they are welcome or not."

4. RIGHT ACTION or KARMA (sammā-kammanta) is, like right speech, expressed as abstaining but in terms of bodily action. In the Pali canon, this path factor is stated as:
"What is right action? Abstaining from taking the lives of living beings, abstaining from taking what is not given, abstaining from taking sexual liberties. This is called right action."
First human depictions of the Buddha from Mes Aynak, Afghanistan
The injunction to preserve life (not killing) is a precept in Buddhist texts that applies to ALL living beings, explains Christopher Gowans, not just human beings. Bhikkhu Bodhi agrees, clarifying that the more accurate rendering of the Pali canon is an injunction on "taking the life of any sentient being," which includes human beings, animals, birds, insects, but excludes plants because they are not considered sentient beings [even if they are associated with devas that may inhabit them].

Furthermore, adds Ven. Bodhi, this precept refers to intentional deprivation of life, as well as any form of intentional harming or torturing of any sentient being. This moral or virtue in early Buddhist texts, both in the context of harming or killing of animals and human beings, is similar to the nonharming (ahimsa) precept found in texts of other dharmas, particularly Jainism and Hinduism, and it has been a subject of significant debate by various Buddhist traditions.
The injunction against stealing in the Pali canon is an abstention from intentionally taking what is not voluntarily offered by the person to whom that property belongs. This includes, explains Ven.  Bodhi, taking by stealth, by force, by fraud, or by deceit. Both the intention and the act matters, as this precept is grounded on the impact on one's karma.

Sex versus Sexual Misconduct

Wait, are we allowed to talk about sex?
The injunction against taking sexual liberties (sexual misconduct or kamesu micchacara) in the Noble Eightfold Path, explains Tilmann Vetter, refers to "not performing sexual acts [with the ten forbidden persons who are off limits]." This virtue is more generically explained in the Cunda Kammaraputta Sutra, which teaches that one must abstain from all sensual misconduct, including getting sexually involved with anyone who is under the protection of:
  1. mother
  2. father
  3. guardians
  4. siblings
  5. one's community
  6. spouse (a married person)
  7. betrothal or promise (garlanded) to another
  8. fiancee
  9. a convict [determined to be off limits by law]
  10. or by dharma [duty, social obligations, notions of right and wrong in society].
What do you think? - I don't know.
For Buddhist monastics [novices, Eight- and Ten-Precept trainees, and those intensively meditating on retreat], abstaining from sexual misconduct means complete celibacy, explains Christopher Gowans, while for ordinary lay Buddhists this means avoiding adultery [which is phrased as sexual contact with someone who is married as well as infidelity toward one's spouse] as well as other forms of sensual misconduct.
We're lay-Buddhists, right? - Yeah, lay, baby.
Later Buddhist texts, explains Ven. Bodhi, state that the injunction against sexual conduct for lay Buddhists includes any sexual involvement with someone married, a girl or woman protected by her parents or relatives, or someone prohibited by dharma conventions (such as relatives, nuns and others). 

5. RIGHT LIVELIHOOD (sammā-ājīva) is nonharming with regard to supporting oneself, a precept mentioned in many early Buddhist texts, such as the Mahācattārīsaka Sutra in "The Middle-Length Discourses" (Majjhima Nikaya) as follows:
"What is right livelihood? Right livelihood, I say, is of two sorts. There is right livelihood with defilements, meritorious, resulting in gains. There is right livelihood that is noble, free of defilements, transcendent, a factor of the Path.
"What is the right livelihood with defilements, meritorious, resulting in gains? There is the case where a follower of the noble ones [enlightened persons from stream-enterers to arhats] abandons 'wrong' livelihood and maintains life by right livelihood. This is the right livelihood with defilements, meritorious, resulting in gains.
"What is the right livelihood that is noble, free of defilements, transcendent, a factor of the Path? The abstaining, abandoning, abstinence, and avoidance of wrong livelihood in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without defilements, who is fully possessed of the noble Path."...
The early canonical texts state right livelihood as avoiding and abstaining from wrong livelihood, but this shorthand formulation appeared to early English and European translators as tautological (completely obvious and redundant). This virtue is further explained in Buddhist texts, explains Vetter, as "living from [alms gathering], but not accepting everything and not possessing more than is strictly necessary."

For lay Buddhists, explains Harvey, this precept means that one 's livelihood avoid causing suffering to any sentient beings by cheating them or harming or killing them in any way.
The "Numerical Discourses" (Anguttara Nikaya III.208), explains Harvey, asserts that right livelihood means not trading in weapons, living beings [slavery, prostitution, human trafficking], meat [slaughtering or raising for slaughter], alcoholic drinks, or poisons.

The same text (AN V.177) asserts that this applies to lay Buddhists. This has meant, explains Harvey, that raising and trading cattle livestock for slaughter is a breach of the "right livelihood" precept in the Buddhist tradition, and Buddhist countries steer clear of the mass slaughter houses [abattoirs] found in Western countries.

We can all meditate like monastics -- with knowledge, practice, and persistence.
6. RIGHT EFFORT (sammā-vāyāma) is presented as consisting of four parts in the Pali canon, such as the "Exposition on Truth Discourse" (Sacca-vibhanga Sutra) as follows:
"What is right effort? Here the monastic [meditator] arouses will, puts forth effort, generates energy, exerts mind, and strives to prevent the arising of unskillful and unwholesome mental states that have not yet arisen.
"One arouses will...and strives to eliminate unskillful and unwholesome mental states that have already arisen. One arouses will...and strives to generate wholesome mental states that have not yet arisen.
"One arouses will, puts forth effort, generates energy, exerts mind, and strives to maintain wholesome mental states that have arisen, to keep them free of delusion, to develop, increase, cultivate, and perfect them. This is called 'right' effort."
Unwholesome (akusala) states are described in Buddhist texts as relating to thoughts, emotions, intentions, particularly the Five Hindrances (panca nivarana)
  1. sensual craving
  2. ill will of any kind
  3. restlessness
  4. drowsiness-sluggishness
  5. skeptical doubts about the path.
Only persistence pays off on the Path.
Of these, Buddhist tradition considers thoughts of sensual craving and ill will (attraction and aversion, greed and hatred) as needing more right effort.

Sensual craving to be eliminated by right effort includes anything related to pleasing and attractive sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. Ill will (hate) to be eliminated by right effort includes all forms of aversion including hatred, anger, resentment towards anything or anyone. 

7. RIGHT MINDFULNESS (sammā-sati) in the "Exposition of Truth" (Sacca-vibhanga Sutra) is explained as follows:
"What is right mindfulness? Here the meditator remains contemplating [being mindful of rather than thinking about] the body in the body, resolute, aware, and mindful, having set aside worldly desire and dejection; one remains contemplating feelings in feelings; one remains contemplating mental states in mental states (dhammas, dharmas, phenomena related to the Five Aggregates of Clinging]; one remains contemplating mental objects [enumerated in the sutra] in mental objects, resolute, aware, and mindful, having set aside worldly desire and dejection. This is called 'right' mindfulness."
This factor in the Noble Eightfold Path helps the meditator/monastic to guard the mind/heart rather than (as was common before meditation) endlessly craving and clinging to any transitory state or thing, by complete and constant awareness of phenomena (dhammas, khandha, skandhas) as ultimately
  1. impermanent,
  2. disappointing, and
  3. impersonal (not-self).
The most detailed discussion of the right mindfulness in the Pali canon is in the "Setting Up of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse" (Satipatthana Sutra), where the emphasis is to consider the four subjects of contemplation -- body, feelings (pleasant, painful, and neutral sensations), mind, and phenomena -- as just that and nothing more rather than reflexively ascribing to them any substantiality or "eternal self."

According to Theravada Buddhism, these "four contemplations" through the systematic setting up and practice of right mindfulness lead to liberating insight into the Three Marks or Characteristics of Existence: (1) impermanence (anicca), (2) unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and (3) not-self (anatta). And they cover the Five Aggregates clung to (the skandhas, groups, or heaps we commonly cling to as "self" and a separate "ego," "identity," "soul," "personality," "I," "me"). 

Ah, I finally see! The Buddha was right!
8. RIGHT CONCENTRATION (sammā-samādhi) or "right coherence of mind" or "right meditative absorption" (attention, consciousness, heart, awareness). Samadhi is a practice in Dharmic religions of India [and the preceding Ancient Indus Valley Civilization]. Although often translated as "concentration," as in the limiting of mental attention to one object, it reall refers to the clearness, coherence, and heightened awareness of mind that appears through prersistent and prolonged practice of dhyana (Pali jhana, "absorption").

The term samadhi derives from the root sam-a-dha, which means "to collect all together" or "bring into coherent functioning," so it is often translated as "collectedness" or "unification of mind."

In early Buddhist texts, samadhi is also associated with the term samatha (serenity, tranquility, calm abiding). In the sutras, samadhi is defined as "one-pointedness of mind" (cittass'ekaggatā).

The famous commentator and scholar-monk Buddhagosa defines samadhi as "the centering of consciousness [cittas] and consciousness-concomitants [cetasikas] evenly and rightly on a single object...the state in virtue of which consciousness and its concomitants remain evenly and rightly on a single object, undistracted and unscattered."

Neither the Four Noble Truths nor the Noble Eightfold Path discourse, explains Johannes Bronkhorst, provide details of right samadhi. The explanation is to be found in the canonical texts of Buddhism, [in the many commentaries, the tika, and subcommentaries, particularly the "Higher Teachings"/Abhidharma, in several sutras, such as the following from the "Exposition on Truth Discourse" Saccavibhanga Sutra:
"What is right concentration? [i] Here, the monastic, detached from sensual craving, detached from unwholesome states, enters and remains in the first absorption (jhana, level of coherence/concentration, Sanskrit dhyāna), in which there is applied and sustained attention, together with joy and pleasure born of detachment;
[ii] And through the subsiding of applied and sustained attention, with the gaining of inner stillness and one-pointedness of mind, one enters and remains in the second absorption, which is free of applied and sustained attention, but in which there are [still] joy and pleasure born of concentration;
[iii] And through the subsiding of joy, one remains equanimous, mindful and aware, and one experiences in the body the pleasure of which the noble ones [enlightened persons] say: "equanimous, mindful, and dwelling in pleasure [is the person who attains the state" and thus one enters and remains in the third absorption;
[iv] And through the transcending of pleasure and pain, and through the previous disappearance of gladness and sadness [elation and dejection], one enters and remains in the fourth absorption, which is beyond pleasure and pain, and in which there is pure equanimity and mindfulness. This is called right concentration."
Shakya Land, the Buddha's home, the Middle Country, was present-day Afghanistan.
According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Noble Eightfold Path factor of right concentration is reaching a one-pointedness of mind and unifying all mental factors [so it it called better translated as "coherence" than the commonly misunderstood and misleading term "concentration"], but it is not the same as "a gourmet sitting down to a meal or a soldier on the battlefield" who also experience one-pointed ["wrong"] concentration.

The difference is that the latter have a one-pointed object in focus with complete awareness directed to that object -- the meal or the target, respectively.

Thank you, Buddha.
In contrast, "right" concentration -- according to Wisdom Quarterly -- refers to the meditative factor on the Buddhist Path, a state of heightened awareness [mental expansion] with a good (wholesome, beneficial) object or subject (such as the breath, a person toward whom one is cultivating loving-kindness/metta, or any of the 40 commonly assigned meditation subjects, and ultimately onto the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana) that lead to insight (vipassana), direct realization/knowing, enlightenment (bodhi), and glimpsing/experiencing nirvana (nirodha). More

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