Monday, 23 June 2014

MN45: The shorter discourse on ways of undertaking things

The Buddha that there is pleasure and pain, both now and in the future. The combination of both possibilities leads to four permutations. What you do can be:

  1. pleasant now, but ripen in the future as pain. You should avoid doing those things. The Buddha mentions indulgence in sensual pleasure in this category, and uses the simile of a vine-creeper. As a seed, or sprout, it seems innocent enough, but it may grow, and eventually cause a lot of damage to the tree. It reminds me of something Warren Buffett once said: "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken".
  2. painful now, and painful in the future. Ordinarily, it is easy for us to avoid those types of undertakings. We are not rational all the time, though, and we sometimes engage in some very dysfunctional activities. The Buddha did mention the mortifications of naked ascetics as an example in this category. They are painful now, and just lead to a bad destination in any event.
  3. painful now, but ripen in the future as pleasure. It has applications in daily life, where you have to take a long term view for the benefits to pay off. The Buddha mentions that we may be distraught because of the lust, hatred or delusion, but if we keep the precepts, we will appear in a happy destination.
  4. pleasant now, and pleasurable in the future. This ought to be the easiest for us to do. The Buddha refers to the jhanas as an example of something in this category.
Occasionally, some people seem to disparage the pursuit and attainment of jhana, even using derogatory phrases to those who seek them as "bliss bunnies". But we should not take that view. The jhanas are, after all, the means by which the Buddha attained his Enlightenment.

When I read suttas like this, I am often very impressed at the Buddha's intelligence and the way he analyses things.

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