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We all now that habits which are not acted upon wither with time. However, is it possible to reduce cravings to a point where the specific cravings are close to non-existent?

How does one go about to achieve this?

Let's take sexual desire or sensual desire as an example: If I don't engage in sexual activities then craving will probably reduce in intensity and frequency, but I doubt that external objects have no control in how I process them.

If I see an attractive woman or tasty food isn't it inevitable that I at times will feel strong craving?

  • Does "I doubt that external objects have no control in how I process them" make sense? I don't understand it. – ChrisW Nov 21 '18 at 17:32
  • @Chris - I think he is saying that external objects themselves aren't the primary reason for the craving. The craving is the mind. One can co-exist with the same external objects that mind has previously craved for but not crave them because the mind perception has changed. – user14148 Nov 21 '18 at 17:47
  • @Suchness I suppose it means, "..., but I expect that external objects (not just inner habits) continue to have some effect on how I process them". – ChrisW Nov 21 '18 at 18:06
  • I mean that outer object still have a (strong) influence on us – Val Nov 21 '18 at 18:09
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My teacher always said, reality is your interpretation, you are in control of your perspective.

Buddha said, you should be in control of your perception enough to be able to see repulsive in the attractive, and attractive in the repulsive. Buddha said, this is done by 1) "fabricating a fabrication" and by 2) "looking with equanimity". Buddha spoke about "proper attention" and "guarding the doors of the senses".

  1. When you see an attractive woman, if you shift your attention and think about unattractive aspects, such as menstrual cycle, bowel movement, skin disease, STD, hysterical scandals, the process of giving birth etc. in connection with her, this is called "fabricating a fabrication".

  2. My teacher said, the reason we like certain people is due to our stereotypes. We have some "types" or generalized images that we are attracted to, and the reason we find them attractive lies deep in our basic emotional experiences. In terms of Buddha-Dharma (and modern semiotics) we like people that have certain "signs" that we recognize because they trigger certain memories.

    If you look very carefully at what goes through your mind when you're looking at an attractive (to you!) woman, you should be able to see the memories/stereotypes/prejudices that get triggered. For example, a woman could remind you of your own mother back when she was very young, or maybe her body language and voice look like they promise to soothe and cradle you etc. This is just an example, you should look at your own mind to see how it works.

    Once you are able to see your triggers (attachments, stereotypes), you should be able to work with them to let go. Once you let them go, your interpretation of what you're looking at will change, and you will no longer be attracted to those particular signs.

    So when you look at the situation scientifically, in terms of psychology, phenomenology, semiotics etc. - this is called "looking with equanimity".

These two techniques are called "controlling your perspective" or "the proper way to apply your attention".

Finally, in Mahayana we recognize that all attraction and repulsion is based on One Fundamental Assumption. It is assumption that "Something Outside of You Can Make You Feel Good". This is called the Root of Ego. Everything you feel, see, and experience - pleasant and unpleasant - comes from your mind. So all these pleasant feelings you think you feel when engaging in sex - they actually come from your own mind. Therefore, it is incorrect to impute (assign, project, attribute) these sensations to an "external object". In fact, external objects are also the constructs of your mind. And your mind is nothing but an ephemeral interplay of natural forces interacting from the beginningless times. So "external" and "internal" (aka object and subject) - are not two separate things. There is no "you" looking at "woman". There is only experience, which is the nature of mind.

Once you understand that there is no "you" watching it, and there is no "woman", - once you clearly see that this is like a dream that's dreaming itself, the attraction will be cut at the root. Then there is no way it can arise anymore.

So yes, craving is not "inevitable", it's absolutely possible to stop it.

It does take some effort to go deep enough in your mind to see the mechanism, but once you see how it works, it can be mastered.

  • Thanks Andrei, by the way, do you practise Asubha? Are you undertaking the 8 precepts? – Val Nov 21 '18 at 17:17
  • I practice Dzogchen, which is cutting the illusion at the root by not separating "external" from "internal", so my practice is at a more fundamental level than simple fabrications (asubha) and 8 precepts - but yes, I practice what I preach. – Andrei Volkov Nov 21 '18 at 17:20
  • What do you mean "at a more fundamentak level than simple fabrications (asubha) and 8 precepts"? – Val Nov 21 '18 at 17:37
  • Meaning, when one practices at the level of Dependent Origination (Emptiness), the more basic requirements are automatically fulfilled. – Andrei Volkov Nov 21 '18 at 17:41
  • How do you go about this? – Val Nov 21 '18 at 18:10
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We all now that habits which are not acted upon wither with time. However, is it possible to reduce cravings to a point where the specific cravings are close to non-existent?

Yes, even to the point of complete extinction.

How does one go about to achieve this?

How I did this was through practising Satipatthana very diligently, in fact with such diligence I find myself now being more aware than not aware. I discovered that I was the one creating my own misery. I began practising Satipatthana because I realised sitting for one hour daily could take decades to progress but ultimately the motivation came from meditation in the form of flashes of insight. My ears were pricked and I wanted to know more but I wanted to know quickly. I needed to bridge the huge gap between 1 hour daily meditation and life. When I started Satipatthana things moved very quickly. As I now understand, Satipatthana is for the one who already has an ability to comprehend with depth and can summon a pinpoint focus on demand. This was confusing for me as my sagnha had knowledge of Satipatthana but I couldn't understand why they weren't practising it. Many people are extremely averse to being more aware. Some of the Buddha's teachings are tailored for specific groups, societies or individuals. I would suggest you read and practise and find out what resonates with you. Most importantly, begin to listen to your own self directed intuition.

Let's take sexual desire or sensual desire as an example: If I don't engage in sexual activities then craving will probably reduce in intensity and frequency, but I doubt that external objects have no control in how I process them.

This is a very wise observation. Knowing how you hold those cravings in your mind is paramount to the feeding of them and therefore whether they occur in the future and this is regardless of how long you have abstained from those desire objects. Removing the object itself is only a small part of a greater enigma. Being well versed in the noble truths and the three marks of existence is very helpful here alongside closely examining yourself.

If I see an attractive woman or tasty food isn't it inevitable that I at times will feel strong craving?

Yes, from therein lies the knowledge to understand yourself, the mechanism by which the craving takes place and the various degrees of unsatisfactoriness that one experiences from craving, what one can do about it and how that can be done. The answers are there, just watch yourself with curiosity. Have a look at The Four Noble Truths.

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However, is it possible to reduce cravings to a point where the specific cravings are close to non-existent?

It's possible because the Buddha and many of His noble disciples from ancient time 'til now have been able to do it.

If I see an attractive woman or tasty food isn't it inevitable that I at times will feel strong craving?

It's not "inevitable". If it was there'd be no Buddhas nor Arahants. It obviously does take tons of effort and time dedicated to the cultivation of the Path. But once one has entered the Stream (ie the Noble Fruits), it should become easier, sorta like the difficulty a piano student faces at the beginning while trying to master the art. But thru constant practice that gradually builds up finger memory strength, eventually it'll become second nature and one'll be able to play complex music effortlessly and beautifully. If one finds one's craving's still strong at times, it might be a good idea to try out the 5 strategies the Buddha taught in MN 20

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If I see an attractive woman or tasty food isn't it inevitable that I at times will feel strong craving?

I have found that when such arises, there are effective ways of dealing:

  • Reject "inevitable" and replace it with "now". This opens up change for future.
  • In considering your own craving regarding other sentient beings, ask yourself what the other sentient being wants. This will provide greater perspective and break you out of identity view. A pretty dress may simply be an expression of joy in color, not an invitation to craving.
  • Ask yourself to contemplate the opposite of your craving with love and kindness. I.e., glance away at something "un-pretty" and see the pretty in that. Glance back and forth until you see both the same.

The other answers are fine, but you might be asking for something concrete and actionable in the moment of craving.

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