3

As far as I've studied the suttas (not very much, to be honest), it seems that whenever dukkha is analysed and reflected upon, it is mostly done in terms of the phenomena as they arise in the present.

In contrast, modern psychology and therapy seems to put a lot of effort and value in trying to understand/recognize the specific historical causes that led to the establishment of any unwholesome trait/behaviour/thought pattern in the first place.

For instance, while buddhist practice seems to focus on the arising of craving or aversion, and the understanding of how ignorance makes us to crave/control the external world, modern therapy methods emphazise the importance of knowing the reasons in our past that may indicate when such craving/aversion started to be a part of our habitual way of thinking.

Do the specific past historical causes play any role in the buddhist analysis of dukkha?

Thanks in advance!

Kind regards!

  • Of course, this is called "karma" – Andrei Volkov Jul 26 at 12:58
  • 3
    @AndreiVolkov If that's the answer, you might distinguish between the suttas talking about karma using generalisations or as a generalisation, conversely practitioners (or people doing psychotherapy) maybe somehow or for some reason trying to identify specific/individual formative events. – ChrisW Jul 26 at 13:07
  • 1
    @Val Hi! Isn't CBT interested in the specific circumstances leading to the creation of those present cognitions? Kind regards! – Brian Díaz Flores Jul 26 at 13:41
  • 1
    Brian, like the Buddha's teaching CBT also employs a flexible appraoch, where the teaching style is tailored to the clients needs. While the client might tell his past experiences & insights are won by the client, intellectual insight is not enough for change to occur. That's why CBT is a multimodal approach which addresses thoughts, emotions, behaviours as well as environment & relationships. It's irrelevant where you learned your present cognitions, but the fact you still are convinced by them is the issue. 'Belief' is not just 'cold' intellectual stuff but emotional. (believing=acting!) – Val Jul 26 at 15:35
  • 1
    Well cognitive content can be addressed in CBT, called cognitive restructuring/reappraisal/disputing, but there is also a mindfulness based approach, called cognitive defusion or urge surfing where content isn't challenged but seen as transient phenomena. While the latter can be good at times, disputing & seeking for alternative thoughts is imo indicated – Val Jul 26 at 20:50
1

Certain buddhist schools adhere to the idea of Alaya-vijnana, which roughly corresponds to the western notion of an unconsciousness.

The idea is that karma is originated by "seeds" (bhijas) stored in our unconscious memory, and are made up of previous experiences. These seeds can therefore be seen as the cause for our karma.

This connects to the four right efforts, in order to examine the seeds and deal with them to accomplish non-arising, abandonment, arising or maintenance according to dharma.

A question to reflect on: Is understanding our past necessary for liberation?

1

The past is "old kamma". The present can create "new kamma". Buddhism focuses on stopping "new kamma". However, the "old kamma" obviously can trigger off "new kamma".

In Dependent Origination, ignorance & sankhara links can (but not always) include the re-emergence of "old kamma".

The nama-rupa link includes feeling, perception, volition, contact & attention. At nama-rupa, attention & volition can be used to counteract current contact, feeling & perception of "old kamma" sankharas.

The suttas say "old kamma" is something to be "felt" rather than identified with as "self".

At Savatthī. Bhikkhus, this collection (of aggregates; kaya) is not yours, nor does it belong to others. It is old kamma, to be seen as previously generated and fashioned by volition, as something to be felt.

SN 12.37

1

There are some suttas which have analysis on past kamma and how it leads to suffering, for e.g. MN 136 below.

"Now there is the person who has killed living beings here... has had wrong view. And on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, in the heavenly world. But (perhaps) the good kamma producing his happiness was done by him earlier, or the good kamma producing his happiness was done by him later, or right view was undertaken and completed by him at the time of his death. And that was why, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappeared in a happy destination, in the heavenly world. But since he has killed living beings here... has had wrong view, he will feel the result of that here and now, or in his next rebirth, or in some subsequent existence.

Above, we only find a general analysis. It does not relate to a specific person, like YOU. This is because in AN 4.77, the Buddha taught the following:

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma... is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

For a specific person like YOU, the Buddha does not recommend analyzing the past or dwelling in remorse. Instead, he teaches to develop oneself, as taught in AN 3.99:

"Now, a trifling evil deed done by what sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment? There is the case where a certain individual is developed in [contemplating] the body, developed in virtue, developed in mind, developed in discernment: unrestricted, large-hearted, dwelling with the immeasurable. A trifling evil deed done by this sort of individual is experienced in the here & now, and for the most part barely appears for a moment.

Instead of analyzing past historical events, the Buddha recommends understanding how the five aggregates and dependent origination works, through insight.

0

modern therapy methods emphazise the importance of knowing the reasons in our past that may indicate when such craving/aversion started to be a part of our habitual way of thinking.

Actually the suttas expands the scope of "the past" far beyond what one did yesterday or 10 years ago. They say actions carried out in previous lives also leave imprints and consequences in the present life and also into future lives. About the "habitual way", there was already the concept of Anusaya/Underlying tendencies

"Here, student, some man or woman kills living beings and is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Because of performing and undertaking such action, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell. But if on the dissolution of the body, after death, he does not reappear in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, but instead comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is short-lived. This is the way, student, that leads to short life, namely, one kills living beings and is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings." ~~ MN 135 ~~

0

Yoniso Manasikaro, ['womb-so, mind-study-so] if understood to mean: "etiological investigation"; "tracing things back to their point of origin", is an exact parallel to Freudian Psychoanalysis.

Tracing things back to their point of origin brings one to the intent in back of the action that originated any given series of events. Seeing that intent and contrasting it to the pain [dukkha] that prompted the investigation in the first place gives one an opportunity to re-evaluate and modify future behavior by getting rid of intent blind to consequences.

The recognition that hunger [tanha] is the point of origin, and that the end of pain is effected by getting rid of that hunger is not a method for accomplishing that end, it is the information you need to recognize the problem when by tracing things back you come across the place where the originating hunger arose. It is at that point that one makes plans and forms intentions to get [upadana], and it is at that point where behavioral change can be made which will bring that episode to an end and, with an alert and now educated mind, prevent it's arising again in the future.

The two things: description of the solution to a problem [the insight, or vipassana] and the behavior modification necessary [getting rid of the stresser, or samatha] to bring about change are both necessary.

0

Sanna is the store of past experiences. When you experience something now, the recognition and filling in of attributes happen from Sanna. Past traumatic experiences pay a role towards these identifications. E.g. Say you had a bad stomach after eating mangos, then every time you see or taste a mango you will get an averse reaction. To overcome this one must overcome the reactive identification ones mind produce that mangos give a lot of grief and pain. With laps of time and trying mangos again, if one's perception changes then one's mental reaction when one encounters mangos will become different.

The current mental reflexive reaction and perception is a product of past experiences. If these reflexive reactions and labelling of the mind is subjected to Vipallasa then there is suffering.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.