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In the answer to another question user Dhammadhatu wrote that according to the Four Noble Truths

  1. suffering is to be comprehended,
  2. the origin of suffering is to be abandoned,
  3. the cessation of suffering is to be realised, and
  4. the path to the cessation of suffering is to be developed.

That's the theory.

Is it correct that this process needs to be applied to different types of suffering separately, like explained below?

Imagine that on a given day I experienced and registered following phenomena:

  • Someone said something and I was upset for 15 minutes.
  • I was angry at the people around me in a crowded place and wanted punch them in the face.
  • Instead of doing something productive, I watched a movie I saw many times before.

All three are symptoms of suffering. In step 2 (origin of suffering is to be comprehended) I find out, what exactly it was that caused my suffering.

  • In the first example it may be my wish to be accepted by all people, and when someone reacted in an unexpected way, I interpreted it as if thy weren't liking/accepting me.
  • In the second example the cause of the suffering was my emotional (I just don't like it) and fact-based (among every 100 people, there are at least 5 rude idiots) aversion to crowded places.
  • In the third example the cause of the suffering was my thought that I'm too weak resisting the habit of watching movies I already saw.

Step 3 maybe the goal -- how do I want to behave in future, if I experience a similar situation? What could be a better response to it?

In the first example I could realize that the number of people, whose opinion really matters to me is very small, and the person I was upset about wasn't one of them.

In the second example I could decide to

  • avoid crowded spaces at all (e. g. by coming and going to work outside of the rush hours),
  • when I experience bad emotions I use them as motivators (emotional fuel) for work (say to myself "work hard now in order to never see those ... faces in the public transport").

In the third example I could decide to

  • allocate a quota of my weekly time for entertainment and then use it for that purpose without guilt,
  • define a healthy reward for not watching that movie (if I work instead of watching the movie today, I'll do something fun tomorrow),
  • during that work I'm supposed to do, regularly think about why (to what end) I do that work and artificially create a feeling of joy during work so that gradually it will become a reward in itself (more attractive than watching a movie).

The final and fourth step is to implement these solutions, i. e. develop a habit of reacting to old challenges in a new way. Then, other types of sufferings will appear, which I handle in an analogous way. Note that for every type of suffering I design a separate strategy.

Is this how the Dharma practice is supposed to work?

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To answer your question, 'yes', dhamma practise is done in ways you described.

When it is comprehended our suffering arises from our self-centred desires & attachments towards things, we work to change those unhealthy desires, views & habitual reactions (which arise in many forms & are summarised as greed, hatred & delusion).

This is called 'Right Effort', which is the effort to prevent & give up unhealthly & unwise states of mind and the effort to develop & maintain healthy & wise states of mind.

This 'Right Effort', particularly in the social situations you described, often is about changing the way we think about & view things and often requires the creative & thoughtful efforts shown in your post. In Buddhism, this creative thinking for developing solutions is called 'wise reflection' ('yoniso manasikara'). The purpose of it is to change to a kind of thinking that does not produce greed, hatred, anger, confusion & suffering.

The Buddhist scriptures provide an example of this in the discourse on Two Sorts of Thinking

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It feels to me that all can be worked with discursive meditation.

In the first example I could realize that the number of people, whose opinion really matters to me is very small, and the person I was upset about wasn't one of them.

To me, this solution is still focused on craving/aversion. The reason why we feel upset is because "we crave" acceptance, which is one of the eight worldly preoccupations: the pursuit of praise. As long as we're holding to this "craving", there is not small enough set of people whose opinions will lead us to suffering.

In the second example I could decide to

  • avoid crowded spaces at all (e. g. by coming and going to work outside of the rush hours),

Again, for me, this solution is still focused on craving/aversion. In this case, the worldly preoccupation is the avoidance of discomfort. Discomfort is inevitable; what is not is our reaction to it. For example, one could deal with this specific problem by doing loving-kindness with all the crowd, or thinking that we're exposed to this crowd in order to do virtuous actions (such as work) which will lead to the ease of suffering for ourselves and others (i.e., "I'm carrying this suffering so other people won't have to", or "as many others have suffered for me, this is my time to suffer for others").

  • when I experience bad emotions I use them as motivators (emotional fuel) for work (say to myself "work hard now in order to never see those ... faces in the public transport").

Using our emotions as fuel for the pursuit of material acquisitions and the avoidance of their loss is even a greater pathway to suffering. Not only we're identifying with our emotions, but we are using them to increase our ignorance. There is nothing wrong with being with other people; there is nothing wrong with being other people. They, as us, are there trying to be happy, trying to make other people happy, and trying to avoid suffering. No amount of money or status in the world will prevent us from feeling or seeing ours and other peoples' suffering.

In the third example I could decide to

  • allocate a quota of my weekly time for entertainment and then use it for that purpose without guilt,
  • define a healthy reward for not watching that movie (if I work instead of watching the movie today, I'll do something fun tomorrow),
  • during that work I'm supposed to do, regularly think about why (to what end) I do that work and artificially create a feeling of joy during work so that gradually it will become a reward in itself (more attractive than watching a movie).

In this case, two preoccupations are arising: the pursuit of stimulus-driven pleasure and its counterpart, the avoidance of discomfort. As long as we crave for pleasure, we will suffer. Rewarding ourselves with stimulus for having gone through some suffering will only lead us to more craving, because we're coping with suffering by means of stimulus. There is nothing wrong with watching movies or to relax; what drives us to suffer from such activities is that we haven't done what's important today (this doesn't mean work): the acts that will lead us to a good death. One solution here is to meditate on our precious human life of leisure and opportunity, and on the inevitability of our death. If we don't act now, tomorrow will be too late; there is no time to loose today if we haven't worked on our spiritual practice, our tours, our work, our goals. If we have, today we can watch the movie without fear, as if we die this instant, we won't feel we have wasted our lives (and because watching this movie will help us tomorrow to act with virtue, i.e., a good motivation).


Remember: we are not among bullets and persecution; we are not working ourselves to exhaustion; we don't have mental or physical restrictions; we have this precious human life of leisure and opportunity to be happy, to make others happy, to meditate on the four noble truths and to release ourselves from ignorance and to ease the suffering of all sentient beings.

Our lives are finite, they can end right this moment; there is no time to waste. In order to have a good death we have to have a good life, not tomorrow... today. A good life is not a life full of pleasures or achievements, is a life full of love, compassion and truth for ourselves and others.

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i think all strategies must be based on certain principles, which are also dhammic, and in fact grow out of them, so that a few strategies as possible would cover as much base as possible, because otherwise the practice becomes unnecessarily particular, unsystematic and caught up in strategies

in fact the method described in the suttas is very simple and straightforward: one analyzes whether or not their actions, speech and thoughts enhance the existing and engender the absent wholesome qualities and whether or not they reduce the existing and prevent emergence of the absent unwholesome qualities, and so acts accordingly doing more of that which enhances and engenders wholesome qualities and less of that which enhances and engenders their opposites

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From my perspective, the answer to your question is "It Depends". Please forgive me as I go off on a ramble... :-)

There is essentially only one type of 'anguish' and that is "that which arises from craving". However, many buddhist monks have geeked out over the years in categorizing various "types" of things in order to create their own understanding in practice about their condition. It is useful, but it probably isn't "the underlying state" they are talking about, but mental forms.

You have spent a laudable amount of effort thinking about how to fulfill the various conditions to reach equanimity. That's a very good thing, and is important to raising of sensitivity to your condition that you need to develop.

However, The Practice is what is the most important thing. "Thinking" about Practice is second, even though it does tend to condition our Practice.

Also, although Theravada practice is a bit proscriptive for me (as mentioned above.. and if that works for you, then please go in that direction!) I don't believe there is much to gain from continuously questioning every action we take. Rather, being aware of conditions inside our own being that occur when things happen is much more important to our path.

Yes, being aware of those things which cause us and others suffering is important. However, how do you judge the particulars? What is "enough" fun, or relaxation? What is too much? Although we believe we know what "extremes" of these look like, as far as normal boundaries these tend to be arbitrary distinctions, codified into traditions by monks that grew tired of these questions and made up a simple formula that would work for anyone. They knew that if you practiced long enough you would see through this, and find the ground on which you stand.

In the end, the main thing that matters is letting go of Attachment and Craving. That's it. The Path(s) are ways to approach that goal, and The Noble Truths are the guideposts that show you which direction to go. The behavioral, moral and ethical boundaries you set along the way should be informed by your practice, and by compassion towards yourself and other sentient beings. Often, this is the hard part for people.. so they follow a set of guidelines set down by others, and that is perfectly great. But don't forget... these are not written on stone.. they are just starting points.

By the way, I'll paraphrase a number of masters when I say... please don't try to eliminate desire, for that would be as ridiculous as ridding yourself of your head if you wanted to stop thinking.

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