13

A little personal story ahead also sorry for the long post...

Story:

Three years back my life was a disaster, I was as far away from Dhamma as possible, I was into the dark side of modern life. Drowned into money, greed, sex, addictions which inevitably rolled me into stress and depression, but I still had my job. At the time, I was reading one of the books by Thich Nhat Hanh and one evening as I left my office, I sat on a fountain-side watching all the people coming out of the high-rise buildings rushing to catch the tide back home. I had kind of epiphanies moment where I asked what am I doing with this? where is my life going? I felt that I definitely did not want to spend my life climbing the corporate ladder...it was like a terribly dreadful feeling I can't put into words...

So very next day I quit my high paying job, in a few days moved out of the big city and into my parent's house. From there I started seriously reading Buddhism. In a years time, I was way over my addictions at least the alcohol was out. From there I did a couple of 10 day- vipassana retreats and also did a month-long retreat at a Zen monastery. At the end of last year, I was over my anti-depressants tablets and stopped going to a psychiatrist.

This whole year I spent meditating in Zazen and Vipassana, I have finally to my satisfaction finished reading books. Now I have come to the point that I have known that the Theravada tradition is best suited to me and I am reading Ajahn Brahm's book on Jnanas the third time.

Question:

My life has been changed for better, I don't have a job for three years but I don't have any financial worries or family concerns. I have narrowed down to bare minimum needs and I can possibly live like this till I die.

But now it seems I want to live in a better way, in the right way according to Dhamma. Instead of getting back to rat race I can live some other kind of way to make money, go find a girl (again), basically get into Samsara. Life seems to have gotten a new meaning if I choose to give it. It will be a repeat of the cycle, just better this time.

OR

I have made some good progress in meditation. If I continue with current focus for this coming year(2019) I am hoping to progress till a nimitta. Also, I have met a normal guy online who has attained Enlightenment, (from his words and actions he looks genuine) so following his example, Nirvana seems like an achievable goal within a human lifetime.

The problem is that the idea that if I get Nirvana I will not be reborn again seems discouraging. Now life seems like worth living again, although I am very much well versed with suffering.

So, in the end, my real question is how should I make a choice between Samsara(going back to make money and lay life) and Nirvana(single minded focus on meditation)?

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    if you have to ask this question, the answer is already told, because you have already chosen. – vaxquis Dec 10 '18 at 11:56
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    It all depends on what you want. Not everyone is meant to be a monk and you don't need to give up everything to follow the Dhamma. There is a middle way. Single-minded focus does not necessarily mean Nirvana. I don't think it's effective to think of Nirvana as a goal or a place you can reach. But, the question you should answer is what do you desire and only you can answer that. – user29568 Dec 10 '18 at 12:30
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    A wise man once told me to never go backwards. Thus, you should never go back to your old life. However, if your are looking to go forward with your old life, that's a very different discussion. Both phrasing appear in your question. – Cort Ammon Dec 10 '18 at 18:13
7

The problem is that the idea that if I get Nirvana I will not be reborn again seems discouraging.

This is a problem because you think that being reborn is good but actually it is suffering. If you want to be reborn in a heavenly realm you should know that these realms are also impermanent and it is much harder to practice the dharma there. And you also have no idea how much you might have suffered in samsara.

In SN 15.3, the Buddha said this.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

If you want to achieve nibanna then practice the noble eight fold path.

"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, right resolve comes into being. In one of right resolve, right speech comes into being. In one of right speech, right action... In one of right action, right livelihood... In one of right livelihood, right effort... In one of right effort, right mindfulness... In one of right mindfulness, right concentration... In one of right concentration, right knowledge... In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. [4] Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.

You must also practice the four frames of reference. I’m not going to say how to practice it here but these four frames of reference are not four different exercises. Right mindfulness comes before right concentration so I think you should practice it if you want to achieve nibanna.

  • Thank you. This made a lot of sense. – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 18:12
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    You can ask me if you are confused about something – TheDBSGuy Dec 10 '18 at 18:28
  • Sure.Thank you. – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 20:02
  • If you choose life you choose death. Think of it in this way and as you grow older the choice will become more and more a 'no-brainer'. Besides, life is miserable without some degree of realisation. But I'd agree that when life is going well rebirth doesn't seem like such a bad idea, and you could always take a vow to return for the sake of others if you like it here. . – PeterJ Dec 11 '18 at 11:47
5

"So, in the end, my real question is how should I make a choice between Samsara and Nirvana?" <--

Don't mean to discourage you but from reading your words and your question, you are very well in no foreseeable position to worry about "Nirvana or Samsara". Long way to go mate.

All you need to worry about is to continue practicing. Have you been following the 5 precepts? If so, continue. If ready, try the Theravada 8 precepts. Keep Practicing and follows the 8-fold paths.

After a while, if you practice well, you will be able to achieve enlightenment step by step. By that time, you will find out what is meaningful for your life and you will be able to answer your question.

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    Hi, you mis-understood me a little bit. I am not saying a choice like should I get Nirvana or not when I am in position to do that. I am saying should I go back to world, start making money, get a girl...but this time keeping the precepts or should I continue with single minded focus on meditation keeping away the world and aim for Nirvana. As an anology, think of a monk asking you should I disrobe and go back to job or should I remain a monk and work towards my Nirvana. – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 10:28
  • You might find this sutta helpful accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.075.than.html – TheDBSGuy Dec 10 '18 at 18:31
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The problem is that the idea that if I get Nirvana I will not be reborn again seems discouraging.

This seems like craving for material desires. The 'discouragement' is your wanting, desiring and craving. This is what is known as a fetter which is intrinsically connected to dukkha (suffering); a ball and chain negating any advancement. This is a pivotal point in relation to progression. Here there is ambivalence: the pull further back to the realms of the six-sense doors and thus various degrees of unsatisfactoriness or the drawing to a greater realization. Use the knowledge you have attained thus far to exit this troublesome mindset.

So, in the end, my real question is how should I make a choice between Samsara and Nirvana?

Keep it simple. Some questions to contemplate by yourself are: Since you've been practicing has your suffering decreased? If so, how does this inform your current predicament?

  • Thanks. I am in kind of self imposed seclusion right now, so I wont say material desires but I agree with you over sense based desires. But what about small-small moments life is made of, like a cup of tea, watching a sunset, taking a dip in water, looking at stars...all life will be gone into void...how do you reconcile with end of life? – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 10:38
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    That seems like an interesting question and is deserving of being asked as a main question on the site perhaps restructured slightly. In terms of material desires and sense based desires, they are interrelated, spherical or symbiotic, for example, if there is ear-consciousness leading to pleasure then there must be something material to complete that circuit. The latter component being rupa. You can still do your regular small things (tea, looking at stars). Everything will continue as normal, just your perception will change. It will become clearer, more precise. – user14148 Dec 10 '18 at 13:27
  • Sorry, I did not upload the question as suggested. To me it felt like it will be an intellectual or philosophical rendering. – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 20:12
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No matter what puthujjanas claim, kama is bad, there is no '''striving to avoid craving is a craving itself'', there is no ''I can delight in the senses without craving'' like philosophers craving to sensuality love to say. Puthujjanas always try to salvage the institutions and rules that they build and cherish, trying to say that they create their rules for the good of the people, but puthujjanas have no knowledge of what is right and wrong, and as long as you remain with those people, especially those puthujjanas who always down play the danger in sensuality, you will not progress. you are too weak to become a good person surrounded by bad people. Same thing with the puthujjanas who always express the dhamma and knowledge into emotions, like love with the puthujjanas who invented vajrayana, or like depression with the puthujjanas who invented dry insight and their moronic ''dark night'' as ''knowledge into dukkha''.

Also, no matter what puthujjanas say about ''missing out on sensual pleasures'', the more you are good at getting the citta into right samadhi, the more you will be good at getting all the delights of the jhanas. Most Puthujjanas cannot resist hyping sensual pleasures and pass themselves as expert of sensual pleasures while mocking the non sensual pleasures. Those puthujjanas addicted to sensuality fantasize that having non-sensual pleasures means becoming dead or living like a robot or rock or being egotist. And like any other toxic puthujjanas they base their life on their fantasies and emotions, while claiming they are ''rational'', ''pragmatic'', ''good people'' and that they know what they are talking about.

A puthujjana will never be wrong to get the citta in to samadhi and the only way to do this is to divide thoughts, words and actions into ones which are geared towards passion for the ''5 strings of sensuality''+ meanness towards others and ones which are about renunciation, viraga, nirodha and good will. Once the puthujjana keep track of thoughts and sanna, there remains to put right effort into cultivating the '' ones which are about renunciation, viraga, nirodha and good will'' and you will be fine and get the citta into right samadhi.

In the suttas, THe thing that is unclear is how to get the vipassanas: whether getting out of the famous jhana with ''neither perception nor yet non-perception'' means you reach nibanna or rather you need a reflection on this state [or even on previous jhanas], but as long as you focus on viraga, on not grasping, on nirodha, on akincana and son on, you cannot be wrong.

2

There is a difference between desiring and having

Instead of getting back to rat race I can live some other kind of way to make money, go find a girl (again), basically get into Samsara.

The problem with the rat race is how it tends to drive people to be motivated by acquiring more money, a higher position, more material possessions (to justify the desire for more money) and this is a downward spiral due to the desire, not the possession. You can have a good job, a high pay and possessions (in my opinion) without falling foul of the obsession that corrupts most people.

You can have money and put it into charity work, helping local small businesses, helping people out of poverty...the uses are up to you, there is no shame in earning a high salary.

So don't feel like you have to avoid those things (as long as you can control yourself) - live the way you think is worthwhile and Nirvana or Samsara will sort themselves out.

2

You should not take this reply or my experience as a definitive answer, but look if you may find something useful in it.

I was also in your position a while ago. I was (and sometimes I still am) going back and forth between clarity of the mind and nostalgia for the old days, even knowing how much unsatisfaction was present in my life at those days. I was afraid of letting go. I was afraid of not being able to enjoy life again as I used to do.

A few months ago I saw a video from Ven. Yuttadhammo's channel on YouTube. It was a little Q&A session, and the topic of that specific question was about letting go. https://youtu.be/hkT4chlOTjU

After seeing it, something "clicked" in my head.

You don't HAVE to let go of anything. As "Krizalid" said, keep going with your practice, and maybe, dissenchantment will come by itself. The fear and the doubts about letting go come from still being attached to the objects of attachment; they still look satisfying and something worth investing your time and energies on.

The "little" change I did with my mindset was to let go and detach from the fear of letting go and detach. I opened myself to the possibility of disenchantment. Maybe I'm not ready yet to give the big step. Maybe I've not seen the way things are clear enough. Maybe I'm still deluded by my sense and my convenient lack of short and long term memory (when the thing to remember is the frustration and constant anxiety I usually had to dealt with).

Despite all of what I've said, one thing is for sure: What "I" am today is the best version of "myself", and I owe my inner peace to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha (and certainly to this "e-Sangha" as well). I keep reminding myself that the effort spent was totally worth it.

Have a nice day!

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    Thank you. Attaining 'disenchantment' from life, that is something very useful. – user14093 Dec 10 '18 at 10:50
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It will be a repeat of the cycle, just better this time.

Doctrinally I think that Mahayana might have some things to say -- including about Samsara and Nirvana, renunciation and so on -- I don't see any Mahayana-tradition answers here, so, maybe there's another kind of answer/view (elsewhere) to your question.

But, I am not equipped (with its doctrine) to answer from that perspective.

The problem is that the idea that if I get Nirvana I will not be reborn again seems discouraging.

I guess my understanding from the suttas was something like,

  • Birth is painful and so on -- even now, with your life (much more) in order, you're uncertain, maybe subject to craving
  • Nothing you might want to do, nothing worthwhile, benefits from having a self or being a self. For example if knowledge or skill is required (wuld be beneficial) somewhere, then (just) convey knowledge or skill to that place, to that situation -- it's not better to also bring a bunch of "self" along with that. I think that "self-view" is maybe unskilful and better abandoned -- do without it, you know.
  • I think that abandoned "self-view" maybe changes the perspective of "I will [not] be reborn" etc. -- i.e. your view of whether that's good or bad or even meaningful: "to the extent that you don't exist now, what does rebirth mean?"
  • Beyond self-view (as a fetter), I think the suttas1 mention other 'fetters' -- notably e.g. craving for "existence" and for "sensuality" -- I suppose you might want want to identify these, in a "know your enemy" (Mara!) kind of way.

I think that Buddhism accepts that a lot of people are going to live in Samsara -- it's not exactly wicked to (e.g. if you keep the precepts) though perhaps not ariya, but, I think that Buddhism warns it's subject to dukkha -- IOW death as well as birth, etc.

1 Please forgive the link to Wikipedia instead

So, in the end, my real question is how should I make a choice

My immediate reaction, my habit, on seeing a question like that, is to say that "that's a false dichotomy" -- for example:

  • The difference between the two is mind-made, a figment of your imagination (or an artefact of having "seized a view")
  • You don't have a choice -- you couldn't escape Samsara even if you wanted to (by which I mean only that maybe you hadn't while you write this question)
  • So given that you're in Samsara at the moment, maybe a better question is how well (how Nobly) you can live
0

The moral precepts keep people from self-harm and maintain normal health. It seems you have already clearly learned this fact from experience.

As for meditation, when jhana is reached (although also beforehand), this provides a pleasure that far surpasses sensual pleasures, including the pleasure of loving affection. Generally, a person that reaches real jhana does not return to sensuality or worldly relationships; unless they do so purely from compassion for another person.

As for reincarnation, this is obviously a misinterpretation & corruption (by the ambitious clergy) of what the Buddha taught (such as the clergy's composition of the Jataka Tales, which eventually resulted in the extinction of Buddhism in India). Without promises of good reincarnation, how was the Buddhist clergy supposed to make money?

What 'Samsara' truly means to repeatedly attaching to things as 'self', as explained in SN 22.99:

There comes a time when the great earth is consumed with flame, is destroyed & does not exist. But for beings — as long as they are hindered by ignorance, fettered by craving, running around & wandering on — I don't say that there is an end of suffering & stress.

Just as a dog, tied by a leash to a post or stake, keeps running around and circling around that very post or stake; in the same way, an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for people of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma — assumes form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form.

He assumes feeling to be the self...

He assumes perception to be the self...

He assumes (mental) fabrications to be the self...

He assumes consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness.

He keeps running around and circling around that very form... that very feeling... that very perception... those very fabrications... that very consciousness. He is not set loose from form, not set loose from feeling... from perception... from fabrications... not set loose from consciousness. He is not set loose from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is not set loose, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

You have already been reborn in hell, with the suffering you have experienced in this life. Your life is impermanent. The suttas say all conditioned things are impermanent & subject to vanish; that all that is subject to arising is subject to cessation. Whether you aspire for jhana & Nibbana or simply live a moral life, this will not change the impermanence of your life. Whatever Dhamma path you choose will make little difference because living a life following Dhamma generally (more or less) avoids rebirth in the lower realms of 'animal birth' ('psychopathy'), hungry ghost ('addiction') and 'hell' (suffering, depression, anguish, torment).

This above said, the suttas teach the household life is 'stuffy & burdened'. Generally, 'a girl' wants to get pregnant and have a family; which requires personal & financial commitment and also choosing the right girl. To be a householder requires much commitment & serving the aspirations of the girl. Then when you have children, there is the potential to worry & fret over the children and over the family in general. The suttas say about this worry & fret in the here & now:

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while running & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while running & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes samsara. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are running & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

SN 15.3

  • This was really helpful. Thank you. – user14093 Dec 11 '18 at 2:07
  • Thanks............. – Dhammadhatu Dec 11 '18 at 2:08

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