When I write certain texts, in the presence of inspiration, the topic turns towards high ideals, for example beauty. The phenomenon is odd and prevalent in my life: I have written hundreds of such texts, where the topic of beauty appears almost spontaneously. It usually generates a strong awe.

I'm unsure what is going on in these cases; am I generating some archetype? Am I engaging in a spiritual process? I even write beauty as 'Beauty', with a capital 'B', to suggest its ideal nature, which was common in western history.

Or, in the context of Buddhism, am I generating more attachment? Basically, despite me not feeling attached, I consistently and inevitably return to the topic of beauty and high ideals, almost in an obsessive manner. People I've shown these texts to say they don't quite follow what I'm saying in them.

For such a somewhat spiritual experience, how can I know whether I'm doing something meaningful and legitimate, or just causing more attachment?

In sum, I'm asking how this experience -- or other spiritual experiences -- are evaluated in Buddhism.


2 Answers 2


When doing your writing see what feelings you get and does it lead to:

  • a decrease in unwholesome states and/or increase in wholesome states
  • an increase in unwholesome states and/or decrease in wholesome states

“What now, bhikshus, haven’t you known me to have taught the Dharma in this way:

    • Here, when one feels a certain kind of pleasant feeling, unwholesome states grow in him and wholesome states lessen;
    • but when one feels another kind of pleasant feeling, unwholesome states lessen in him and wholesome states grow.
    • Here, when one feels a certain kind of painful feeling, unwholesome states grow in him and wholesome states lessen;
    • but when one feels another kind of painful feeling, unwholesome states lessen in him and wholesome states grow.
    • Here, when one feels a certain kind of neutral feeling, unwholesome states grow in him and wholesome states lessen;
    • but when one feels another kind of neutral feeling, unwholesome states lessen in him and wholesome states grow.’?”

... [more detail description of the above follows in the Sutta]

Kīṭā,giri Sutta

If what you write increases lust, fantasy/delusion, greed, etc. then this is unwholesome.

Since ou writing is spiritual it might be wholesome if you write is in line with the Dhamma.

One way to discern how unwholesome states arise is as follows:

(1) the latent tendency to lust reinforced by being attached to pleasant feelings;

(2) the latent tendency to aversion reinforced by rejecting painful feelings;

(3) the latent tendency to ignorance reinforced by ignoring neutral feelings;

Pahāna Sutta

Dealing with sensations at a more granular level can be found in: Sal,āyatana Vibhanga Sutta

  • Is there any way to improve one's capacity to discern whether it produces wholesome or unwholesome states? The topics are usually virtuous, but I sometimes doubt / worry that it is unwholesome, without much evidence that it could be unwholesome.
    – user7302
    Oct 4, 2019 at 11:59
  • 1
    I updated it accordingly. Oct 4, 2019 at 12:10

I don't know what spiritual writing you're talking about, of course.

From my own experience, text[s] like Speaking of Siva (translations of devotional poetry from Bhakti saints) is attractive -- similarly Gibran's The Prophet -- actually I've read a lot of literature, my Dad used to read to me before I could even read for myself -- it's attractive, I find it attractive and engaging, it engages a part, a vocal part, a 'talky' and somewhat rhythmic part of my mind, my brain. I'm not sure it's especially 'spiritual'? It's entertaining and engaging.

Maybe I'm a 'sucker' for literature (as well as friendly speech) -- you mentioned Beauty, for example -- I even get hung up on how well authors like Tolkien use punctuation marks in their dialog.

So I guess it's like music, it's kind of harmless as a hobby -- and the suttas don't recommend music, do they, see also the seventh precept -- though Buddhist literature itself apparently uses a lot of poetic metre (the Dhammapada).

You might also/alternatively want to experiment with what is in a sense 'liberating' -- with not 'engaging' the mind; and perhaps with what's overtly ethical -- perhaps just practical, perhaps generous, etc.

It's not only rhythm that's attractive, perhaps it's also the familiar -- if you "delighted in it" in your first exposure then you may want to seek it out or to recreate that experience again -- almost the very definition of attachment. So vocabulary, like Beauty but also even Ethics, might be hollow.

Here is a famous Christian saying, on approximately that subject (I don't know an equivalent Buddhist one):

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; etc.

It's often read as a text at weddings.

Anyway, and leaving aside the topic of "Christian love" compared with any Buddhist ideals, I think its point is that "speaking with the tongue of angels" isn't of itself a virtue.

This quote from Margaret Fell suggests a similar problem:

We are all thieves, we are all thieves, we have taken the Scriptures in words and know nothing of them in ourselves

A Buddhist-tradition equivalent might be "the finger pointing at the moon" ("the finger" being words, and "the moon" enlightenment).

  • 1
    Maybe it's the opposite i.e. that the allure is specifically the bit that isn't meaningful or valuable :-( ... for example if I wrote, "Meaning guides the mind while Beauty guides the soul". The Buddhist archetype seems to me to maybe begin with ethics (rather than aesthetics), maybe even end with ethics too. The dhamma may be akaliko, but words seem to be conditional.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 5, 2019 at 13:27
  • I expressed myself pretty lousily, I meant to say more: "Words that are ONLY alluring only have allure, but lack meaning." I don't doubt that meaning is the essential quality of valuable speech haha
    – user7302
    Oct 5, 2019 at 13:30
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    "So you don't, doubt?", he asked playfully. "Maybe you should doubt, and doubt that? :-) Maybe I doubt ... better than to be certainly wrong, am I right? I once read, "Don't study the subject: study the teacher." Maybe (I'm not sure) what's good or meaningful about buddha-vacana is the fact of its being taught by the Buddha, i.e. because it allows us to study the Buddha, and possibly meaningless (or 'empty' and without 'essence') if it weren't for that -- though I note that the Buddha himself said he revered the Dhamma itself, since he had no other teacher to revere."
    – ChrisW
    Oct 5, 2019 at 13:49

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