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I noticed that I almost unconsciously revert to trying to fight cravings via willpower, i.e. resisting them. Let's take the example of food cravings. I usually make an internal commitment to avoid junk food, but the cravings nevertheless arise, and when my mood is low I fail to resist.

Are there alternatives to willpower in fighting cravings? I had been wondering whether other solutions -- like mindfulness or even seeking healthier sources of pleasure -- might be more effective.

More so, I believe I crave more because recently I experience less pleasure from activities or emotional sources. Does Buddhism have any technique specifically linked to pleasure?

  • Willpower is one of the five strategies to remove distracted thought in MN 20. Try to follow the sequence of operation as suggested by the sutta before resorting to applying willpower. (ref: suttacentral.net/mn20/en/bodhi ) – santa100 Jul 4 at 17:35
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Firstly, don't buy and store any junk food. If they are within easy reach, you would be tempted to consume them.

Secondly, think about why you should not eat junk food. Do you have diabetes or are at risk of diabetes? See this talk about diabetes. If you understand why too much carbohydrates are bad, you will avoid them, just as how you avoid snakes. Same applies to other types of health risks e.g. high blood pressure, bad cholesterol etc.

Thirdly, replace junk food with healthier snacks that are within easy reach. For e.g. mixed nuts, fruits, seaweed snacks, kale chips, unsweetened natural yogurt etc.

Natural Buddhist way to induce pleasure? Yes, there's mindfulness of breathing according to SN 54.9.

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Some stuff for you to try:

  • Pace yourself, by letting cravings go in manageable steps (If everyone else deserves compassion, so do you in your practice of letting go)
  • Don't quit cold turkey, instead replace your habits with alternative activitites (essentially anything related to the eightfold path, not least meditation)
  • Do Asubha bhavana (foulness meditation)
  • Study dhamma (disperses ignorance on this topic, and is also conducive to comprehension/panna and hope/saddha, as alternatives to viriya/willpower)
  • Ask your sangha (You already did)
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I usually make an internal commitment to avoid junk food

Buddhism teaches to use wisdom. Constantly think about the dangers of junk food.

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Craving food is tied to a bodily sensation. When a thorn pricks you get pain to avoid it, similarly sensations when your body signals you need fast food or a particular type.

When looking at bodily sensations try to isolate the particular sensation and develop equanimity and difference towards it. Sensations tied to different types of food also slightly varied. When you body the low in sugar the sensation is different from when craving to something savory.

Also when hungry you get another sensation. Do the same for the sensations tied to how your body signals that you are hungry or need to eat.

Our mind and body is programed to react to these sensations or signals your body generate. To take back control you have to have mastery over the bodily signals. So instead of developing willpower not to eat, use the will power to master the bodies signalling mechanism, to achieve the same through sensations / bodily signals as proxy.

This is easy said than done. Go get the real hang of it you will have to do a meditation course which train you to observe bodily sensation. You can try one of:

Also you can try "The perception of loathsomeness in food" meditation. You should not over do this of you might get anorexia.

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yes sati is always the way to guard the senses and guarding the senses is always the way to nibanna

"And what is lack of restraint? There is the case where a monk, seeing a form with the eye, is obsessed with pleasing forms, is repelled by unpleasing forms, and remains with body-mindfulness unestablished, with limited awareness. He does not discern, as it actually is present, the awareness-release, the discernment-release where any evil, unskillful mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease without remainder.

"Hearing a sound with the ear...

"Smelling an aroma with the nose...

"Tasting a flavor with the tongue...

"Touching a tactile sensation with the body...

"Cognizing an idea with the intellect, he is obsessed with pleasing ideas, is repelled by unpleasing ideas, and remains with body-mindfulness unestablished, with limited awareness. He does not discern, as it actually is present, the awareness-release, the discernment-release where any evil, unskillful mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease without remainder.

"Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile... a bird... a dog... a hyena... a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, and tying a knot in the middle, he would set chase to them.

"Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull toward its own range & habitat. The snake would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the anthill.' The crocodile would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the water.' The bird would pull, thinking, 'I'll fly up into the air.' The dog would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the village.' The hyena would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the charnel ground.' The monkey would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the forest.' And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would submit, they would surrender, they would come under the sway of whichever among them was the strongest. In the same way, when a monk whose mindfulness immersed in the body is undeveloped & unpursued, the eye pulls toward pleasing forms, while unpleasing forms are repellent. The ear pulls toward pleasing sounds... The nose pulls toward pleasing aromas... The tongue pulls toward pleasing flavors... The body pulls toward pleasing tactile sensations... The intellect pulls toward pleasing ideas, while unpleasing ideas are repellent. This, monks, is lack of restraint.

"And what is restraint? There is the case where a monk, seeing a form with the eye, is not obsessed with pleasing forms, is not repelled by unpleasing forms, and remains with body-mindfulness established, with immeasurable awareness. He discerns, as it actually is present, the awareness-release, the discernment-release where all evil, unskillful mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease without remainder.

"Hearing a sound with the ear...

"Smelling an aroma with the nose...

"Tasting a flavor with the tongue...

"Touching a tactile sensation with the body...

"Cognizing an idea with the intellect, he is not obsessed with pleasing ideas, is not repelled by unpleasing ideas, and remains with body-mindfulness established, with immeasurable awareness. He discerns, as it actually is present, the awareness-release, the discernment-release where all evil, unskillful mental qualities that have arisen utterly cease without remainder.

"Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile... a bird... a dog... a hyena... a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, he would tether them to a strong post or stake.[1]

"Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull toward its own range & habitat. The snake would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the anthill.' The crocodile would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the water.' The bird would pull, thinking, 'I'll fly up into the air.' The dog would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the village.' The hyena would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the charnel ground.' The monkey would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the forest.' And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would stand, sit, or lie down right there next to the post or stake. In the same way, when a monk whose mindfulness immersed in the body is developed & pursued, the eye does not pull toward pleasing forms, and unpleasing forms are not repellent. The ear does not pull toward pleasing sounds... The nose does not pull toward pleasing aromas... The tongue does not pull toward pleasing flavors... The body does not pull toward pleasing tactile sensations... The intellect does not pull toward pleasing ideas, and unpleasing ideas are not repellent. This, monks, is restraint.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness immersed in the body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should train yourselves."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.206.than.html

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Practice samatha meditation. The feeling of calm and well being that it engenders reduces and even altogether replaces the pull of addictive, impulsive behaviors. This has effect has been extremely well documented in regards to TM (which is basically just a riff on samatha).

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This is on Eliminating bias, but it works just as well for other unskillful traits.

We are told that bias/prejudice is bad and that we should get rid of it. But being biased and thinking "I am biased"; one will never be able to get rid of bias.

How come?

Because there is no thing there that is this "I" in which there is this bias.

There is no way to find this bias to see it, analyze it, understand it, get rid of it because it is not where you are looking.

But thinking "There is bias in me" (the 'me' there being conventional speech) and focusing on getting rid of every instance of the expression of that bias, eventually gets rid of that bias. It dies out from lack of deployment. This is another way of describing kamma that ends kamma. The impulse to act (to react) is not responded to and that ends that kammic force right there.

This way of dealing with faults completely eliminates the reluctance one has to admit faults because seeing things this way, faults are never a reflection on the core values one wishes to see in one's self, they are always 'out there'; it is curiously impersonal and liberating.

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Householder, Interested,

- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

In relation to all various kinds of touches which could be encountered with kama-raga/tanha, sensual desire/craving, the Sublime Buddha gave a set of different contra-actions to them for his monks, which may be possible to addopt to certain extent also for lay practitioner, but of course not easy:

Sabbasava Sutta: All the Fermentations

There are fermentations

  • to be abandoned by seeing,

  • those to be abandoned by restraining,

  • those to be abandoned by using,

  • those to be abandoned by tolerating,

  • those to be abandoned by avoiding,

  • those to be abandoned by destroying,

  • and those to be abandoned by developing....

(Note that this works also in regard of bhava-tanha and vibhava-tanha in same way if not clear of what might be the danger)

What might be conductive in regard of the hindrance of sensual-desire is generously given in "The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest" under 1. Sensual Desire

Will-power, how ever, till reaching the certain path, is in all cases always and for all of those actions required.

Only after perfection of the path, no more will-power is needed: Cetana Sutta: Act of will

"For a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue, there is no need for an act of will, 'May freedom from remorse arise in me.' It is in the nature of things that freedom from remorse arises in a person endowed with virtue, consummate in virtue.

"For a person free from remorse, there is no need for an act of will, 'May joy arise in me.' It is in the nature of things that joy arises in a person free from remorse...

..."For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.' It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release.

As for the "food-aspect" Silas are the means at first place. 1. not violation the 5 serious, incl. not indulging in inproper sense pleasures, also livelihood, trade, and secound to take the precept of not eating at the wrong time, making the aspects of the five more strict.

It would be hard to ever overcome raw sensual-desires and developing Samadhi and Panna, if not looking after observing the 8. precepts.

In regard of alternative pleasures instead of sensual-pleasures, Jhanas, dwelling in refined areas, are mentioned as replacement for finding needed joy to walk on and of which, at least when doing, would not harm anybody and protect good silas. Of course if after the possibility to dwell in Jhanas, one would not lead proper livelihood, such seek after refined pleasures could be also for no long lasting happiness (a usual case is modern use of meditation for manager, more productivity... without Silas).

(Note that this gift of Dhamma is not dedicated for trade, exchange, stacks or entertainment but as a means to make merits toward release from this wheel)

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