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Thread: Benefits of being Bad?

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Benefits of being Bad?

    In another thread, Chet recommended that I express my bad, selfish, and inconsiderate self a little more, saying
    Having better balance between these traits can be beneficial for both individuals and group-tenders,
    I think this is a very fair and interesting issue, so I throw it out to the group. Can sharing your bad, selfish, and inconsiderate self have its benefits? Chet, feel free to elaborate on this.

    Here are my thoughts. I certainly see the appeal here, and that there might be some benefits to being more honest about negative feelings and not holding them back. Getting the negative off your chest can definitely be cathartic. I've slept on this and been thinking about it all morning. Being bad, selfish, and inconsiderate has never worked very well for me, nor does it ever really feel good for me. All I associate with those negativities is suffering, and learning to let go of them has led to a lessening of my suffering. Do I sometimes feel like acting those ways? Sure, and when I become aware of it I usually let it drop because I see no benefits to me or others in continuing on with those feelings. I try to accept those feelings, not deny them, because they are real in me sometimes. But acting on them would be in violation of the precepts the way I understand them. Also, Bassui has a real hold on me lately, and he wrote that our True Nature is Kannon, which is just the opposite of being bad, selfish, or inconsiderate, and the farther I go on the Path the more I find this to be true. So I think I'll just keep going the way I have been as honestly as I can. But that's just me.

    What about you folks?

  2. #2
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    In another thread, Chet recommended that I express my bad, selfish, and inconsiderate self a little more, saying
    Having better balance between these traits can be beneficial for both individuals and group-tenders,
    I think this is a very fair and interesting issue, so I throw it out to the group. Can sharing your bad, selfish, and inconsiderate self have its benefits? Chet, feel free to elaborate on this.

    Here are my thoughts. I certainly see the appeal here, and that there might be some benefits to being more honest about negative feelings and not holding them back. Getting the negative off your chest can definitely be cathartic. I've slept on this and been thinking about it all morning. Being bad, selfish, and inconsiderate has never worked very well for me, nor does it ever really feel good for me. All I associate with those negativities is suffering, and learning to let go of them has led to a lessening of my suffering. Do I sometimes feel like acting those ways? Sure, and when I become aware of it I usually let it drop because I see no benefits to me or others in continuing on with those feelings. I try to accept those feelings, not deny them, because they are real in me sometimes. But acting on them would be in violation of the precepts the way I understand them. Also, Bassui has a real hold on me lately, and he wrote that our True Nature is Kannon, which is just the opposite of being bad, selfish, or inconsiderate, and the farther I go on the Path the more I find this to be true. So I think I'll just keep going the way I have been as honestly as I can. But that's just me.

    What about you folks?
    It's not so much about being bad - it's about making a space for it - being forgiving in yourself of it. If we try to banish our 'bad' thoughts and whatnot - it turns into a shadow that can itself be rather problematic, IMHO.

    In my experience, trying to 'be a good Buddhist' doesn't work from sheer effort. I do believe I am becoming better at keeping the precepts, recent outbursts/breakdowns excepted, but not due to self-censorship - not even for the 'good of the group' or 'to benefit sentient beings'. Behavior that truly breaks the precepts comes from misconception and bad patterns. It may take some effort to break the patterns, but we shouldn't disown our 'demons'. When we do that, they just go nuts behind the scenes, IMHE (in my humble experience).

    So, how do we tackle 'bad' urges without banishing them or disowning them? This isn't a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. My old shrink actually had a book about it called Romancing Your Shadow.

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    "This kind of teaching does not mean to have control over your desires. If you want to control your desires, you will struggle with how much to limit your desires or your food, and in that way you will make more problems, one after another. You may even find some good excuse to have more food." Not Always So p 22-23

    I like that idea of giving space and changing patterns. My wife and I were discussing fad dieys as we recently started exercising and eating better. These fad diets have you eating unrealistically to "show" some result to sate your ego. Just like The mistaken idea of being a buddhist means you have to all of a sudden be perfect. But the key I think is what Chet said.

    Let it be and dont try to be perfect. Change your patterns naturally and come into balance. Taking the food example, enjoying food is part of being human but enjoyimg pizza and being attached to it are very different as the latter will cause weight gain. Just like subtly changing our patterns of anger etc is probably better than sticking to a right wrong attitude where we inevitably sabotage ourselves when we do not live up to this false belief we've created for ourselves

  4. #4
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of expressing Bad?

    I completely and totally agree that it is not about banishing or disowning our demons. Better is to accept and maybe tame them (this reminds me of that Chod thread). But do we need to express those demons to others as a means of accepting and taming them? Can there be benefits to that for people, both those on the giving and receiving end of those bad, selfish, inconsiderate expressions? How might this balance us/others?

    It tends to throw me off balance to do that, but there are times when if something bugs me enough it gets me off balance and I need to get it out in order to regain my balance, but this is rare, more rare all the time as I grow older and make my way further down the Path.

    I changed the title of the thread to focus on that expression aspect, not the being aspect.

  5. #5
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of expressing Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I completely and totally agree that it is not about banishing or disowning our demons. Better is to accept and maybe tame them (this reminds me of that Chod thread). But do we need to express those demons to others as a means of accepting and taming them? Can there be benefits to that for people, both those on the giving and receiving end of those bad, selfish, inconsiderate expressions? How might this balance us/others?

    It tends to throw me off balance to do that, but there are times when if something bugs me enough it gets me off balance and I need to get it out in order to regain my balance, but this is rare, more rare all the time as I grow older and make my way further down the Path.

    I changed the title of the thread to focus on that expression aspect, not the being aspect.
    It's a matter of authenticity.

    Chet

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    I agree with authenticity. Good word, good thing. I used the word honest in my original post to mean the same thing. Rewriting it would say "I think I'll just keep going the way I have been as authentically as I can."

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Hi all,

    I'm glad Alan started this thread as I was thinking about similar issues after Chet's original one. I often think about what "being bad" means as I do a lot of self editing with other people, both in written form and in person. I hold much of myself back and think, "Man, I don't want to come off as an asshole." So, does that mean I should be more of an asshole? Honestly I don't think so, although there is something to be said for just letting it all hang out. But just because you have impulses that you find hard to control, that doesn't mean it's ok to refer to someone's speech as "bullshit". That's just disrespectful, IMHO.

    BTW, I didn't edit any of that...how'd I do?

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  8. #8
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    It doesn't mean it's not okay either.

    Say what you want about me - I suck at self-editing. To a lot of people, it looks like I'm not trying - but I actually AM trying most of the time.

    One of the things I'm most worried about is being ejected from this Sangha. I'm constantly afraid the boot is coming. Except for a few very strong personal relationships, I've been booted from most close relationships I've been in. In my late twenties, I learned why emotional self-regulation is so hard for me. At that point, I had to start taking responsibility for my problem, because it IS my problem. It isn't everybody else.

    I just ask this: Please don't judge my effort or desire to be better merely on my admittedly poor results. Every year, I am getting better at this, but I began at a much worse place. I would cut myself, romantic relationships were short and full of fighting, suicide threats were not uncommon. I would totally cut off otherwise close personal friendships for days or weeks based on trivial slights.

    Now that I know what I'm dealing with - I still can rarely talk myself down from am inappropriate 9/10 emotional response, but I DO more quickly try to take responsibility for just where the problem is amd I make amends where possible.

    Now, as for authenticity - it's not so much the acting that's necessary, but the owning.

    Sometimes I see what looks like passive aggressive behavior from the 'good guys' - and the passive aggressive action seeks to damage in the way an aggressive one does, but it much more easily allows rationalization.

    My worst behavior here cannot be rationalized away. I have to look at it, own it, and try to address it. Passive aggressive or resentful behavior lives 'underground' for a long time and allows us to disavow our negativity - and therefore never really change it.

    Chet

  9. #9
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Now, as for authenticity - it's not so much the acting that's necessary, but the owning.
    Yup! We agree lots, Chet.

  10. #10

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    I like how Chet put it, making space for it. This way you realize that trying to deny the emotions or thought that are "bad" is really denying a part of your self. Like denying your left arm. It is a part of what makes you human, and we shouldn't push that away. This, however, does not mean that we simply run with it and be what ever we feel like being. We acknowledge it, understand it, walk over and shake it's hand, "Hello, selfishness, how have you been?" We simply do not allow it to control us. That is being controlled by delusion.

  11. #11
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Dosho wrote:
    I hold much of myself back and think, "Man, I don't want to come off as an asshole." So, does that mean I should be more of an asshole?
    Does putting yourself out there automatically lead to you being an asshole? There is the possibility of you putting yourself out there, expressing that negativity, in such a way that is honest and authentic to YOU but does not necessarily mean you are being an asshole, a middle way, so to speak. So being "more of an asshole" may be correct, but giving more of yourself does not mean you become an asshole. Measured responses can be both authentic and respectful, or so I believe. From what I know of you here, Dosho, I doubt you can be an asshole; on the other hand, moving in that direction a bit might be a good thing. Maybe; you need to be the judge of your own life.

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Hey Chet,

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    It doesn't mean it's not okay either.
    I would never say there is a clear line of when it's ok to call someone an asshole and when it's not, so of course there could be occasions for the use of such language. I was just saying that someone who cares enough to reply to your posts generally deserves better than to have their post called "bullshit". But that's your call and your right.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    One of the things I'm most worried about is being ejected from this Sangha. I'm constantly afraid the boot is coming. Except for a few very strong personal relationships, I've been booted from most close relationships I've been in. In my late twenties, I learned why emotional self-regulation is so hard for me. At that point, I had to start taking responsibility for my problem, because it IS my problem. It isn't everybody else.
    While I may be a bit "goody-goody", I would never say using phrases like "bullshit" and "asshole" are worthy of kicking you out. I'll be honest...you can get my emotions really steaming, but nothing you've said here at Treeleaf makes me think, "Boy, I wish Jundo would ban this guy." That would be a bit hypocrticial of me, don't you think? As if I'm perfect! So, if it's an issue of you pushing any of us away before we reject you I can't really stop that...but otherwise, I'd say you're stuck with us for the duration.

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I just ask this: Please don't judge my effort or desire to be better merely on my admittedly poor results. Every year, I am getting better at this, but I began at a much worse place. I would cut myself, romantic relationships were short and full of fighting, suicide threats were not uncommon. I would totally cut off otherwise close personal friendships for days or weeks based on trivial slights.
    I have never doubted your efforts to better yourself by being here at Treeleaf...not for a second. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting here typing this. We all have our issues and while yours may be out in the open a bit more than mine, that's probably better than keeping it bottled up, right? Like I said, you're stuck with us...like it or not.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Does putting yourself out there automatically lead to you being an asshole? There is the possibility of you putting yourself out there, expressing that negativity, in such a way that is honest and authentic to YOU but does not necessarily mean you are being an asshole, a middle way, so to speak. So being "more of an asshole" may be correct, but giving more of yourself does not mean you become an asshole. Measured responses can be both authentic and respectful, or so I believe. From what I know of you here, Dosho, I doubt you can be an asshole; on the other hand, moving in that direction a bit might be a good thing. Maybe; you need to be the judge of your own life.
    No, it doesn't mean that automatically and maybe it is time I became the sole judge of my life. Instead of worrying so much about how I appear, I need to accept that I have no control whatsoever on how I am perceived. And that leaves me with only one way to go...a path that is clear, so to speak...to say what I really feel and leave it there. That doesn't mean I never apologize or regret something I've said, but it does mean not allowing it to affect my sense of self worth in the process.

    Thank you Alan.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  14. #14
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Dosho, can you control how others perceive you? NO.
    Do you let the perceptions of others control you? Of course, but this is conditioning and you already know this. Moving on...
    Can you control how you behave in this world? Certainly to some extent, but you are sooooo conditioned (as am I and everyone else here to some extent).
    What does this leave you? I think all that's left to you is how you ACT in the here and now.
    How you ACT is all you can control. At some point you need the FAITH to just throw those ACTIONS out there in an honest and authentic way and let them BE.
    If those actions go way out of whack, like Chet sometimes tends to do, then let HIM be your teacher in how to rein that in.
    There is a balance in all this. Truly. But it is a journey, not an outcome. Just keep going!!!!!!!!

  15. #15
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    I genuinely feel for people who are going through what you go through, Dosho. I've been there and occasionally am still feeling what you describe.

    I need to be more concerned about what others think now, but I think you may need to go in the other direction, LOL! I rarely let people see how they affect me - but I might be just as concerned about rejection as you are. I just suck at presenting a 'good' face because of my lack of emotional control..so maybe I compensate by denigrating those that do. Part of me is jealous of the control that you have - the ability to edit my image for the sake of group acceptance would be a valuable egoic tool, but since I suck so badly at it, I denigrate its value. This is something I need to work on, and if for no other reason, your presence is valuable to me.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: Benefits of expressing Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I completely and totally agree that it is not about banishing or disowning our demons. Better is to accept and maybe tame them (this reminds me of that Chod thread). But do we need to express those demons to others as a means of accepting and taming them? Can there be benefits to that for people, both those on the giving and receiving end of those bad, selfish, inconsiderate expressions? How might this balance us/others?
    To follow the Buddha-way is to act out of compassion. Everything could be seen this way.

    To express those demons is not to follow the path of compassion, but rather, so satisfy one's own need.

    Where does this selfishness and those inconsiderations come from?

    To me, is has helped tremendously by changing the way I act. By changing the physical side, I started transforming my mental patterns, without suppressing or acting out on the negative sides of that which I call "me". I used to be inconsiderate, aggressive, and violent. Very, very much so. Today, I'm not. I think that that is one of the reason Buddha laid forth the path for us to follow, because it does lead us to a better place. The idea of Karma-Vip?ka stipulates this: by acting in a "good" way (i.e. out of compassion) this will lead to positive reactions and consequences. By deliberately acting out on negative impulses, one will face negative consequences.

    In my experience.

    /Philip

  17. #17
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Phillip,

    I see where you're coming from and even partially agree. The problem comes from self-editing or pretending that we're farther along than we are. If you hide from your teacher, how can he or she help you? Also, how do you prevent 'bad' drives from going underground and causing problems?

    So yeah, endeavor to express the good, but be as honest as possible about where you ARE stuck and be honest about how you REALLY feel.

    In my experience, the Byron Katie stuff works really well here because you do express your true feelings on paper (judge your neighbor) and THEN inquire as to whether those feelings are based on things you actually know or CAN know. That way, they can be refuted in a way that often allows them to drop without suppressing them.

    In my opinion, sometimes endeavoring to be a great Buddhist will prevent you from expressing Buddha. We are where we are, and I think we should acknowledge that to ourselves without trying to completely press ourselves into some misbegotten concept of perfect Buddhist behavior.

    Chet

  18. #18
    disastermouse
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain. Dhammapada 160
    Great! How does that work in your life, though?

    Also, that scripture seems to be referencing the fact that one should not seek for outside aid from deities.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if 'controlled' could also be translated as 'tamed' - which changes the reading a little bit, wouldn't you agree?

    'Control' seems to indicate a ruthlessness that 'tamed' does not, at least in my mind. Also, how would you fit Chod into that scripture if read with a suppressive bent? Does the seeming incompatibility of that scripture with Chod argue that Chod is misguided or that the translation, besides being out of context, is perhaps translated a little unskillfully?

    Most importantly here, I think there's a time for a hard approach and a time for a soft one. A momentary hard approach may work if, say, your friend's beautiful wife makes a drunken pass at you when your buddy's away. Determination in the face of this solitary event would certainly seem to be warranted, and the one moment of resistance would be karmically well-rewarded.

    But how would such steeley reserve stand up against, say, repeated sexually obsessive thoughts about your friend's wife on your own part? Or feelings of jealousy? Or a drinking problem?

    I think that there are times when being harsh with your unskillful thoughts works best and times where you have to truly meet the demon, converse with it, and possibly suffer setbacks over a long journey of understanding before you dissolve the problem at its root.

    Or maybe I lack willpower - and yet, there must be a way to practice morality even for those of us who lack such traits, no?

    How did Siddhartha defeat the demons while sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree? Did he attempt to 'control' them?

    Chet

  19. #19

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    How did Siddhartha defeat the demons while sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree? Did he attempt to 'control' them?

    Chet
    I don't think he defeated them. He just put up his Vulcan Mind Shield and out of mutual respect they both coexisted. There is something to control but I don't know what it is. :roll: I just keep coming back to the same old shit..I mean the same old wonderful healthy life I have at lease for now. :wink:

    /Rich

  20. #20
    Stephanie
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    This makes me think about the difference between guilt and shame. In moments of guilt, one thinks, "I don't want to be the kind of person who does something like that." In moments of shame, one thinks, "I don't want other people to see me as being the kind of person who does something like that." Of course that's an oversimplification--and guilt often comes without awareness of "what kind of person I am," sometimes it's just feeling bad about doing something that harmed someone else.

    But I make this theoretical distinction because I think it illustrates where I see a lot of people getting stuck on the Buddhist path, and a place I was stuck for a long time as well... being overly concerned about 'being good' in the eyes of others. We might not admit it to ourselves, but often our efforts and frustrations have to do not with pure concern over the behavior / action / event itself, but in how that affects others' perception of us. We don't want to be judged, we don't want other people angry at us, we don't want "to be mean." We want to be better friends, better partners, better people. We think endlessly of how we can become more humble and patient and kind with a secret hope that it will make others like us, love us, even tolerate us more.

    But all of that is delusion.

    What Zen practice has helped me do is to drop the concern of what others think about me or how they react to me. I've learned throughout my life that even if you're going above and beyond there is still someone who will fault you. And often the right thing to do is not the thing that is going to make others like us or make things more comfortable or pleasant.

    Being afraid of confrontation does not make you a good person, but many people want to dress up this weakness as a virtue. On the other hand, it is a virtue to not be afraid of confrontation but to act in a way so as to avoid it, or to find a way to make it less divisive, because one knows that escalating conflicts almost inevitably leads to some sort of hurt or harm.

    Passive aggression is a clear sign that someone lacks true equanimity but is afraid of conflict or afraid of other people seeing them act angry or aggressive. Through passive aggression, a person finds a way to instigate others so that other people act out the anger he or she is afraid to act out or own him or herself. The aggression is still there, it's just been trumped by cowardice and/or shame.

    It's a burden to go around trying really hard to be good. As the Buddha taught, this like all other primary delusions is rooted in the concept of a self, a graspable entity that can either be 'good' or 'bad.' Letting go of perfectionism and 'goody goody-ness' has been the cause of a tremendous sense of freedom and release in my life and practice. It hasn't made me suddenly start 'being bad,' it just means I'm more likely to respond to situations fluidly, instead of consulting my inner image of 'what kind of person I'm supposed to be' to dictate my (necessarily fake) response.

  21. #21

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    What a glorious thread this is!

    I believe this is a topic that each of us must wrestle with . One set of views may not fit all people ...

    Here are my own 'rules of thumb'.

    I believe that the Precepts generally guide us away from anger, greed, jealousy and other such emotions. As anyone who has ever had a moment (or days on end) flooded by those emotions can testify ... they generally do not lead to the peace and balance which is at the heart of this practice. Others get hurt, we get hurt, holes get punched in walls, plates get broken and life gets broken. These emotions are fire, and we must be careful how we play with it.

    On the other hand, to fully remove these emotions from the human mind ... including potentially harmful emotions such as anger ... would rob of us of an important part of being human. We would be reduced to living in a way as emotionally numb and dull as a piece of cold wood or a stone. Some schools of Buddhism (and some other Eastern and Western religions too) have sought to completely kill or squelch such emotions within us (sometimes many other human emotions too). This has traditionally been described as pouring water on the fire until coals become completely wet and cool, and the fire is completely out.

    When Buddhism came to China, Korea, Tibet and Japan ... the Buddhist teachings on the emotions subtly changed (I paint with a broad brush, but I speak as a general trend). The fires of emotions were not seen as necessarily negative things, but they must be handled carefully and with balance. A campfire, so useful for cooking our supper if skillfully made, will quickly burn down the woods if left untended. A single candle can burn us and others, and the whole house down, if handled wrong. So it is with our emotions. Thus I say that the Precepts guide us away from excess and uncontrolled anger, greed, jealousy ... Anger at injustices in the world, for example, may spur us on to fight for change ... yet that anger should be kept in balance, and tempered with an equal dose of acceptance of life, lest it burns us to ashes too. The desire for change should not be allowed to run rampant as greed for and attachment to change from 'how things are'. A healthy dose of competition need not become jealousy and violence. We should use strong words much as we would scold a 3 year old child found playing with matches ... that is, with love and concern and understanding, not simply to hurt the child. A harsh word can be an "intervention" to shake a friend up who needs to hear ... or it can simply be a cruel and destructive word meant to hurt someone (the most famous example of "Zen tough love" may be all those old tough talking Masters administering "40 blows" of Wisdom). Thus, do not extinguish life fires ... but handle them with care and use them in constructive ways!

    What is more, we must all recognize that we have these fires burning within us, and we must be mindful of that fact. I tend to believe that we all have the potential for the best and worst of human behavior within us, given the right ... or wrong ... conditions. We each have a little bit of Hitler or Osama, the murderer or the thief or rapist, within us (Kannon and Mother Theresa too). Under given conditions, the fire within any of us can run wild, and we could do truly heinous things when pressed. We must be very careful, for fire is a powerful thing.

    I do not know if there are or are not firey hells after we leave this earthly world ... but I have seen enough people who make hells for themself, and those around them, in this very life by their thoughts, words and deeds.

    I believe that the Precepts guide us toward generally healthful and helpful ways of using fire. I believe that Zazen and all Buddhist Practice ... with its emphasis on understanding the "mind theatre", not being ensnared by it, learning to let thoughts and emotions go, learning to embrace life and find balance ... make our living by the Precepts easier and easier. As the days and years of Practice pass, we do become much better fire handlers!

    I also believe that, in the early days of Buddhist practice, we may not yet be good at keeping with the Precepts, so we may just have to "cold turkey" it! We may then have to do our best to grit our teeth, bite our tongue, and not yield to anger ... simply not letting the harsh words pass our lips. In that case, the Buddha's Precepts really are more like the "rules" that a parent sets for a child ... and insists that the child abide though the child does not like it or understand ... all until the child matures and learns to live by the Precepts herself. The children (us) must be forced as a "law" to not play with matches ... until the child grows up and is old enough to understand their use.

    I believe that there is a difference between angry thoughts, angry words and angry actions. Thus, if you think ugly thoughts (I do not know of any human being, short of a Buddha, who will not think ugly things sometimes ... like yesterday when someone dumped trash in the farmfield behind our house), simply do as you can not to let them pass your lips. If ugly words pass your lips (again, I think it hard to be a human being and escape that ... as my wife can testify when we have our semi-annual husband-wife barn burner) ... do not act upon the angry and harmful impulses. All should be avoided, but thinking "I want to burn down your house" is not quite saying out loud "I want to burn your house" ... each far removed from actually pouring gasoline on the house and lighting it!

    What is more ... we are not machines. We will all slip (although, hopefully, not doing too much damage in the process. I have never killed anyone ... Thank Buddha! ... let alone broken anyone's jaw ... but I do have a lovely dent in the wall that I made about 5 years ago in a moment of unbridled fire. I intentionally never fix it ... and even cut it out and brought it with me when we moved ... as a reminder of what I am capable of.) That is what it means to be human ... a creature made, in traditional Buddhist understanding, partly of the fire element!

    If we fall into the fire we should simply pull ourself out, dust off, learn from the experience ... forgive what can be forgiven in our actions, sincerely apologize to whom we should ... move on and try not to fall into the flames again.

    It is for these reasons that we recite again and again and again ... the Verse of Atonement ... the Verse of At-One-Ment ...

    All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,

    On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,

    Born of my body, speech, and thought,

    Now I atone for it all.


    Gassho, J

  22. #22
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    How does that work in my life?

    Maintaining a constant vigilance and a ongoing moral inventory.



    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain. Dhammapada 160
    Great! How does that work in your life, though?

    Also, that scripture seems to be referencing the fact that one should not seek for outside aid from deities.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if 'controlled' could also be translated as 'tamed' - which changes the reading a little bit, wouldn't you agree?

    'Control' seems to indicate a ruthlessness that 'tamed' does not, at least in my mind. Also, how would you fit Chod into that scripture if read with a suppressive bent? Does the seeming incompatibility of that scripture with Chod argue that Chod is misguided or that the translation, besides being out of context, is perhaps translated a little unskillfully?

    Most importantly here, I think there's a time for a hard approach and a time for a soft one. A momentary hard approach may work if, say, your friend's beautiful wife makes a drunken pass at you when your buddy's away. Determination in the face of this solitary event would certainly seem to be warranted, and the one moment of resistance would be karmically well-rewarded.

    But how would such steeley reserve stand up against, say, repeated sexually obsessive thoughts about your friend's wife on your own part? Or feelings of jealousy? Or a drinking problem?

    I think that there are times when being harsh with your unskillful thoughts works best and times where you have to truly meet the demon, converse with it, and possibly suffer setbacks over a long journey of understanding before you dissolve the problem at its root.

    Or maybe I lack willpower - and yet, there must be a way to practice morality even for those of us who lack such traits, no?

    How did Siddhartha defeat the demons while sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree? Did he attempt to 'control' them?

    Chet
    You answered the first question but noticeably ignored the other ones. Why?

    Chet

  23. #23
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Sorry, that is my answer for them all -- obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, anger, etc ... I'm a dope fiend that has been clean for 24 years so it is not conjecture on my part ... I maintain a constant vigil and an ongoing moral inventory ... as for Buddha I thought you were just being rhetorical ... did he try to control his behavior? I think yes; he did not react to temptation nor fear through conscious decision making.
    That's an interesting perspective, but I disagree. Remember the parable of the rope?

    "There is an old Buddhist parable that tells of a man walking home one evening. In the half-light he sees on the path a snake apparently crossing in front of him. He starts and jerks himself away, heart beating fast, wide-eyed and alert. Peering closely he suddenly realises that he was mistaken, in fact it is an old piece of rope! Relieved and laughing to himself at his foolishness he goes to step over it and glancing down suddenly realises the rope is a string of jewels. He gasps in awe!"
    Also, from 'Buddhism Is Not What You Think':

    "There’s a Zen story about a student who made a special point of keeping all the Buddhist precepts. Once, however, while walking at night, he stepped on something that made a squishing sound. He imagined that he must have stepped on an egg-bearing frog. Immediately he was filled with fear and regret, for the precepts include not killing. When he went to sleep that night he dreamed that hundreds of frogs came to him, demanding his life in exchange.

    When morning came, he went back to the place the incident had occurred and found that he had stepped on an overripe eggplant. Suddenly his confusion stopped."
    Insight and effort are both needed.

    The Buddha did not simply fight his fear, greed, and delusion - he had no fear because he understood the underlying nature of reality.

    If you try to be vigilant against all threats to your morality, you have more in common with the Buddhas made of stone than Buddhas made of flesh. It's true that you may resist many problems with such rigidity, but you will also choke off a lot of the living blood of life.

    The only people who are perfectly moral are also perfectly dead.

    This is just my perspective, of course. I believe you are very right regarding your attitude toward you addiction, as proven by your long period of abstinence ...I just don't think all situations are the same.

    Chet

  24. #24

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    The only people who are perfectly moral are also perfectly dead.
    I agree. And what a relief it was when I realized this. I was raised in a pretty thick religious climate. All our heroes were spottless. All our ideals were sinless. It really made life seem like a contest rather than a gift. It was unrealistic. Then I realized that maybe, just maybe, the only people who ever got any better were the ones who quit trying. Sounds kinda backwards but I think it's true. I don't think of the Precepts as a ladder but as a sidewalk. You're not "moving up" you're just "moving forward." It's all about choices. Everyday were given choices to make, and they all basically come down to this, choosing Life or choosing Death. Sounds drastic doesn't it. But every single day I have to choose NOT to drink alcohol. Doesn't matter how long I go without it. Every day alcohol becomes real and asks me if I would like to come back to it. And by saying no I am saying yes to Life. Doesn't make me better than anyone. My wife can have a margarita when we go out for Mexican. But that's the point. She can have ONE. Me, it's like what's the point of one? Let's get bombed! And that's a problem. Some people are addicted to ideas. Some people are addicted to always having to be right. Either way we are all given two choices each day, all day long...Life or Death. Choose Life. Buddha did. I don't believe in a perfect Buddha. But the Way itself, well that's perfect. Our life is to be a reaching towards but never a having. We travel but never arrive. We sit but have no goal.

    gassho

  25. #25
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    I think there are two issues contained in "expressing bad." One is how we treat ourselves, and the other is how we treat those around us. As for how we treat ourselves, I think the key is to be aware of both how we are feeling about something and how that feeling may be affecting us. For example, feeling anger is one thing, feeling anger to the point that I see red and get out of balance is something else. So maybe it's a matter of degree; if I feel anger toward someone but can let it go, that's great; but if I feel anger to the point I can't let it go, then I need to express it somehow. Now this does not necessarily mean I have to express it to the person that made me angry. Here is where I think skillful means comes in. First of all, getting my anger out by punching a wall is better than getting my anger out by punching the person. There are lots of other ways of expressing anger: write about it, make art expressing it, primal scream techniques, working out to burn off the energy, etc. I think these are all skillful means of treating your feelings, and I think treating yourself needs to come first. Be honest about how you are feeling and then deal with your feelings.

    As for treating others, to continue with my anger example above, if someone is really pissing your off it may be entirely appropriate to let that person know they are pissing you off, but the skillful means issue is are you trying to help that person in some way or just treating your own anger in a negative way? So, it may be perfectly fine to say "YOU'RE REALLY PISSING ME OFF WHEN YOU ...." and then explain what it is they are doing that is pissing you off. It can be very helpful to the person to know how they are affecting you, thus giving them an opportunity to change their behavior. However, unskillful means is more like "YOU STUPID M*&^%ER F@#%&ER GFY" etc. This is not helpful to the other person, and I contend not necessary for the angry person to say to that other person. Reacting in this fire out of control manner, to use Jundo's analogy, is not treating yourself or the other person well.

    So, to summarize I would say that you first need to be aware of and accept your negative feelings, and if they need to be expressed, then finding a way to express those negative feelings in ways that are helpful (skillful means) to both yourself and others can definitely have benefits. I am sure the flesh and blood Buddha (as opposed to the mythically perfect One) knew this and acted accordingly with himself and others, and since we are also buddha then we can learn how to do it also. I believe it's part of our Path to do so.

    I hope this makes sense. It's clearer in my head than it appears on the page. My profession is being a counselor and counselor educator, so I am really really used to dealing with people's negative feelings without getting personally caught up in them. Part of the way I don't get caught up in them is by learning to express them in ways that are skillful and not reckless. So I have no problem telling someone how negatively I feel about their behavior, but I often take the time to do so in a skillful way. (Heading off a potential objection here) I don't believe at all that this makes me any less authentic or honest. Actually, I think I could make the argument that understanding my negative feelings and finding healthy ways of expressing them makes me more authentic because of the deeper understanding and aware approach I take to expression.

    AL

    PS: Bringing this issue to the recent situation with Chet that got me to start this thread, believe me, if Chet pissed me off I would have no problem telling him so, but he doesn't so I don't. However, I do quite honestly tell him when I disapprove of his behavior. I manage those situations as skillfully as I can, and sometimes that's not very helpful, so I keep learning and making the effort to be/do better for both our sakes. It is an imperfect process between imperfect people, so we muddle through as best we can, always aspiring to be/do better.

    PPS: Assuming Chugai is in a 12-step program, one of the great benefits of such programs is the constant vigilance he talks about. People on the successful recovery road are able to recognize and deal with their feeling in healthy ways. I think people in that program would agree that it is totally possible to be authentic about how they feel yet treat those feelings in helpful (interpersonal) rather than harmful (substance abusing) ways. I've tried to describe my non-12-step perspective on that, at least in part, above. Frankly, we could all learn a lot from such programs even if we don't have a substance addiction.

    OK, gotta go to work now.

  26. #26
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    The stories of the rope and frog both illustrate to me the very point of vigilance.
    As does Buddha realizing the underlying (overlaying) reality and dropping all fear, anger, etc ...
    Oh? You acknowledge that vigilance against misunderstanding is necessary? Then I guess we agree more than we disagree.

    But if you really, deeply, truly dissolve the drives beneath 'bad' behavior, except for occasional urges due to inertia, why would unskillful urges persist (aside from physical addiction, of course)?

    I mean, I think gambling is stupid. It does not attract me at all. I do not have to be vigilant to avoid gambling because the desire to gamble does not arise within me. If I was a gambler, and the desire did arise within me, would total and complete insight not break the desire?

    Things like this have been reported to happen all the time - desires that plagued a person suddenly disappear in light of a radical adjustment of their view. I can't think of any more radical adjustment of view than awakening.

    Once again, I understand that persistent urges will persist (did you see what I did there?) due to pattern, inertia, and the fact that there are always cracks in the psyche that don't get light...but I mean that in general, a lot of harmful or unskillful behavior may begin to disappear with more (and more frequent/constant) insight into how reality actually works.

    And then we can save the big guns of vigilance and determination for the unskillful urges that are resistant to insight.

    Chet

  27. #27

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I mean, I think gambling is stupid. It does not attract me at all. I do not have to be vigilant to avoid gambling because the desire to gamble does not arise within me. If I was a gambler, and the desire did arise within me, would total and complete insight not break the desire?
    I'm going to have to say NO. Addiction is beyond our control. It isn't a matter of insight. It simply NEVER goes away.
    We learn to live with it, like the death of someone we love. We can go on without them but never bring them back.
    It's really all a matter of understanding ourselves. Also of having compassion for others...WHERE THEY ARE. I may
    ask myself, "Who is it that is wanting to drink?" And I can get some relief from that, but it doesn't make the desire
    go away. Maybe we should focus less on always having to be right and have the last word and instead try to understand
    those people who suffer from things we obviously can't understand. That is, I think, what this path is all about.
    Please don't think that addiction has anything to do with inertia. That really just pisses me off.

    gassho.

  28. #28
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    I mean, I think gambling is stupid. It does not attract me at all. I do not have to be vigilant to avoid gambling because the desire to gamble does not arise within me. If I was a gambler, and the desire did arise within me, would total and complete insight not break the desire?
    I'm going to have to say NO. Addiction is beyond our control. It isn't a matter of insight. It simply NEVER goes away.
    We learn to live with it, like the death of someone we love. We can go on without them but never bring them back.
    It's really all a matter of understanding ourselves. Also of having compassion for others...WHERE THEY ARE. I may
    ask myself, "Who is it that is wanting to drink?" And I can get some relief from that, but it doesn't make the desire
    go away. Maybe we should focus less on always having to be right and have the last word and instead try to understand
    those people who suffer from things we obviously can't understand. That is, I think, what this path is all about.
    Please don't think that addiction has anything to do with inertia. That really just pisses me off.

    gassho.
    I thought I was being pretty clear about setting aside physical addictions.

    Gambling is not a physical addiction, it is a psychological one - as opposed to drinking or drugs.

    You know what though? Gambling is more along the lines of a physical addiction because of the dopamine/reward center involvement. So my example was probably bad.

    I'm talking more about things like bad sexual behavior, or my own BPD, or a tendency toward putting off zazen in favor of video games..etc.

    Chet

  29. #29

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Gambling is not a physical addiction
    Really? Ever been around someone with a gambling addiction when
    they were tempted to gamble? Their hands get sweaty and start
    twitching, their eyes look like they just took a hit of meth, their
    heart starts racing and their blood pressure rises...ALL addiction
    is physical because it has its home in the body. It's psychological
    too, but one can't deny that it is also physical. Mind and body are
    one, remember? Anyway, I appologize if I misunderstood you and
    jumped too soon. You're a mentor of mine even when you're
    misunderstood. :wink:

    gassho

  30. #30
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Gambling is not a physical addiction
    Really? Ever been around someone with a gambling addiction when
    they were tempted to gamble? Their hands get sweaty and start
    twitching, their eyes look like they just took a hit of meth, their
    heart starts racing and their blood pressure rises...ALL addiction
    is physical because it has its home in the body. It's psychological
    too, but one can't deny that it is also physical. Mind and body are
    one, remember? Anyway, I appologize if I misunderstood you and
    jumped too soon. You're a mentor of mine even when you're
    misunderstood. :wink:

    gassho
    Hey Ghop...yeah...I edited my post because I realized my error...sorry you didn't see it before you posted.

    I think insight CAN be helpful with addiction, but you are right - anything that really messes with the dopamine/reward center of the brain is going to cause some problems - and substances seem especially problematic.

    For what it's worth, my use of drugs dropped off dramatically after my insight experience. But then, I was probably not 'addicted' in the proper sense. Ditching smoking is MUCH more difficult.

    Chet

  31. #31

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    sorry you didn't see it before you posted.
    Me too. I seem to be addicted to making an ass out of myself. :roll:

    And I really would like a fu@%ing drink :!:

    bows

  32. #32
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Impermanence is the proponent for constant vigilance. Thoughts are the origin of action, the seeds as it were.To maintain insight, one need's to tend to ones thoughts (seeds). Buddha did not awaken and then say. "Cool, got it, all right! Hell with this forest living, I'm going back to the palace." He continued constant maintenance of his insight.
    Ah yes! But this can be tricky business, in my experience. Too hard, and you're just maintaining an idea that invariably falls out of step with actual reality (do you remember the story about the blind man who was given a lamp even though he was blind. When his light went out and he ran into other travelers on the road, he hadn't realized his light was out.). Too far the other way and it's just rationalizing laziness.

    I guess we're just arguing about where that middle ground is. Likely, it's a little different for anyone. Ultimately the decision is ours. If we're dishonest with ourselves, we may rationalize erring in either direction.

    I could probably come more in your direction, Chugai.

    Chet

  33. #33
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Impermanence is the proponent for constant vigilance. Thoughts are the origin of action, the seeds as it were.To maintain insight, one need's to tend to ones thoughts (seeds). Buddha did not awaken and then say. "Cool, got it, all right! Hell with this forest living, I'm going back to the palace." He continued constant maintenance of his insight.
    Nicely said, Chugai

  34. #34

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    Al (Jigen), Chet, Stephanie, Chugai, Dosho, Anista, Jundo, ghop
    Well done!
    Gassho

  35. #35
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Benefits of being Bad?

    IMO, all 'addictive' behaviors... however they fit into the traditional definition of addiction or not, have at least some physiological component. We repeat behaviors because they are gratifying, and anything that is subjectively gratifying has a neurological correlate. Sex and porn pretty obviously impact the brain's reward centers, and playing video games does as well, if in a more subtle way (the basic underlying 'hook' of any video game is pursuing rewards for successful task completion, it's a very basic thing in terms of biological drives).

    I think that's not all there is to it... I don't think strict biology / scientific materialism is a satisfying or complete explanation of subjective human experience. As humans, we are capable of creativity, in which we engage in behaviors that transcend basic biological drives. But I think biology is always a part of it... even with BPD... the low stress tolerance definitely seems to me to be a biological thing that no amount of insight would completely resolve. Just as the neurochemical process of addiction can be activated no matter how much insight a person has into some of the underlying social and psychological factors that contribute to their addictive behavior (e.g. dysfunctional relationships, co-occurring psychological disorders, socioeconomic factors, peer/community norms, etc.).

    In my experience I've found that I as well as my clients can rack up insights upon insights and still engage in the same behaviors. Insight can help, it can radically transform, but often it's not enough. If we're living in life circumstances that are difficult or unpleasant, we might understand the root causes of our unhappiness, but the pain, stress, isolation, or whatever we're dealing with is still there to contend with, and so we still react to it. Zazen practice might increase our ability to detach from whatever reaction is arising, but it doesn't make that reaction go away... you might, for example, notice that you're grumpy because it's hot, and therefore not take your grumpy thoughts about other people as seriously, but you're still going to sweat and have a headache and feel less focused and pleasant than usual.

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