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In the Buddhist precept it teaches us to 'abstain' and 'refrain'. How is this abstention is different to suppression? It's good to practice with understanding and wisdom but most people are still practising, some people are naturally good in practising some precepts but not the other precepts. Is it true there is an element of suppression in the practice until we reach the final goal? Why should someone follow and practice the Buddhist precepts (5, 8, 10 or hundreds of precepts) if there is no suppression?

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1. How is abstention different from suppression?

It is not. Suppression means "preventing the development, action, or expression of (a feeling, impulse, idea, etc.); restrain" 1, so they are actually synonyms.

(In case you are referring to the psycho-analytical concept of repression, instead of suppression, then abstinence is indeed different from it since repression is applied in a different context and from a different point of view.)


2. Is it true there is an element of suppression in the practice until we reach the final goal?

I'd say suppression (as defined above) is mostly useful in the initial phases of developing morality. As one progresses, there will be no more suppression since the act of abstaining will be implicit in the use of alternative skillful actions. (For example, instead of just abstaining from punching someone when one gets angry, one may foresee the upcoming situation and take appropriate measures like avoiding or seeking mutual understanding. Technically, one is still abstaining but this type of action is more refined and has no element of stopping a punch from happening when anger has already entered one's mind.)

So I'd say, no, it is not true.


3. Why should someone follow and practice the Buddhist precepts (5, 8, 10 or hundreds of precepts) if there is no suppression?

As I pointed above, suppression and practicing the precepts are the same in the beginning. After that initial stage the precepts are still being followed but there will be no suppression.

This leaves this specific question (3rd question) meaningless. If this was not the type of answer you were looking for in this specific question, I suggest clarifying it a bit since I had a bit of trouble understanding it.

  • Thanks for your prompt reply. I think there are many ways in dealing with our shortcomings such as anger, we can see there are a lot of anger management provided by some company. But how about something more subtle such as sensual desire or the desire of sexual activity? Someone who eats 3 meals a day needs to adapt himself to 1 meal a day, there is repression of hunger in the initial stage. But I believe sexual desire is much more subtle and rooted in our being so to speak. – Eric Aug 25 '14 at 7:34
  • It can take a whole life of 'initial phase', we are told our body is full of impurities or maybe imagining woman as mara for example yet the desire is still there only 'temporarily inactive'. How is it different from repressed sexual desire? We can only practice the precepts without repression if we are perfectly enlightened. But repression is not the way of practice at the same time, right? – Eric Aug 25 '14 at 7:44
  • When the perception of ugliness is well established towards the body, desire fades away very quickly. By training this perception, in time, that desire won't even come up and so there won't be repression because there won't be anything to repress. One can only repress what is present. If the sexual desire is not present, there is no repression. This and other forms of meditation also help by providing another source of pleasure which acts as a support for abandoning sensual desire. – Unrul3r Aug 25 '14 at 9:04
  • The purpose of focusing this i.e. body is full of urine, faeces, pus, etc. is to hold back the sexual desire. So there is suppression there. And no one knows how long one needs to 'instill' this perception. – Eric Aug 25 '14 at 11:16
  • This is turning into an argument and not an addition or a request for clarification of the answer which is the purpose of the comment section. Do you have an additional question to ask? If you do, feel free to ask. If not, then we'll end here and I'd wish you well and good luck! – Unrul3r Aug 25 '14 at 11:46
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**Is it true there is an element of suppression in the practice until we reach the final goal? **

Yes there is an element of suppression until we reach the final goal but it is more a question of intensity.One starts with suppressing a lot then it gradually lessens to not needing to suppress anything anymore.Not needing to because at some stage insight would have arisen and uprooted the defilement from its root or weakening it considerably.

For example one may use the Jhanas as a means to suppress the hindrances and to let insight arise.Once insight has arisen then the hindrances can be eradicated.Same goes for practicing the precepts as a form of restraint. Precepts deals with the coarser hindrances and the Jhanas deal with subtle hindrances.

Suppression of defilements is needed in the path because wisdom,which is the only thing that can eradicate defilements, cannot arise when one's mind is running around with defilements in the first place.

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