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We are always taught to have grit, show resilience and never to give up in difficult situations. In the lights of my knowledge in Buddhism, I think of these as a manifestation of strong attachment to objects and emotions. Am I right? Should these qualities be valued? What is the Buddhist viewpoint? Thanks!

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Having grit, showing resilience and never giving up in difficult situations, is considered good and wholesome, if it is for wholesome purposes.

For example, it is wholesome to get rid of evil, unskillful thoughts, and you can see below, that the Buddha suggested a few methods and the last one is "with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside".

From MN 20:

The Blessed One said: "When a monk is intent on the heightened mind, there are five themes he should attend to at the appropriate times. Which five?

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, and pull out a large one; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme, he should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a young woman — or man — fond of adornment, would be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung from her neck; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a man with good eyes, not wanting to see forms that had come into range, would close his eyes or look away; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking quickly? Why don't I walk slowly?' So he walks slowly. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking slowly? Why don't I stand?' So he stands. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one. In the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, and crush him; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"Now when a monk... attending to another theme... scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts... paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts... attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts... beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress."

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    Thank you very much @ruben2020♦. For providing a detailed explanation. – Noob Dec 29 '20 at 10:10
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It's one of the 4 Iddhipadas, namely the second one.:

Four Bases of Power or Success (Iddhipada)

  • Desire (chanda)
  • Persistence/Energy/Effort (viriya)
  • Intention, Mind, Thoughtfulness (citta)
  • Investigation/Discrimination (vimamsa or panna)

They are all needed in order to progress on the Path. Without them (especially the second one) the mind will not be fit for meditation practice.

One needs energy to apply the mind to the arising and ceasing of phenomena. Constant application of mind leads to concentration and mindfulness which leads to clarity of mind. Seeing clearly leads to freedom from suffering which eventually leads to Nibbana.

So yeah, these qualities should be valued and cultivated.

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    Thanks Jade for writing! I understand what you meant. – Noob Dec 17 '20 at 17:14
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If you are a child holding on to a toy, never giving up - is that grit?

Or a girl holding on to the memory of a boyfriend who abandoned her, hoping and waiting for him to come back. Is that endurance? Determination?

Just like our other actions, being stubborn and resilient to obstacles can be wholesome or it can be unwholesome. It depends on our hidden motives and/or on where it's leading us to.

You can be intent on something because of your ego, your fear, your attachment - or you can be intent on overcoming your ego, your fear, your attachment, your limits.

In Buddhism we practice being mindful of our hidden motives. Why am I doing this? Is it my ego trying to defend itself? Or is it objectively good?

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  • Thanks Andrei! That makes perfect sense. – Noob Dec 17 '20 at 17:15
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Grit requires endurance.

AN5.139:22.1: In the same way, a mendicant with five qualities is worthy of offerings to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of veneration with joined palms, and is the supreme field of merit for the world.
What five?
It’s when a mendicant can endure sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches.

In other words, it takes grit to endure the pull and push of the senses. For example:

AN5.139:23.1: And how is it that a mendicant can endure sights?
It’s when a mendicant, seeing a sight with their eyes, is not aroused by a desirable sight, so is able to still the mind.
That’s how a mendicant can endure sights.

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Resolve—which I take “grit” to mean—is one of the necessary conditions needed to succeed on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Gautama Buddha’s resolve to not get up from his place under the bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment is the best example of this.

Resilience is necessary to overcome obstacles that can arise on the path. It is an unfortunate occurrence when a practitioner’s resolve is broken because of a lack of resilience in their practice. Their mind may be too active, their schedule of things that must be done too full, their meditation too uncomfortable, too much noise in the street, much too attractive diversions luring then away, etc. One needs resilience.

What I feel you are directing your question towards, though, is desiring (what you mean by emotion?) what you may not, or cannot have. Desiring to become an enlightened being is an obvious one. My example of the Buddha’s resolve not to get up until he became enlightened may seem to be a case of desiring something that he might not have obtained, but that isn’t the case here. His resolve was to not desire anything else, because it is in the abandonment of desires and attachments to unattainable and transitory things that one finds the space in one’s life to follow this Buddhist path. You may not succeed to become a Buddha, so as long as you are not attached to that goal, you will not create suffering in your life, but as long as you keep your resolution to not desire any other outcome, and maintain your resilience even when a thought of the hopelessness of it arises, you may very well succeed.

It’s counterintuitive when you are still thinking with our inculcated (and ignorant) understanding of how things truly are. Because we are always already Buddha, and just need to extricate ourselves from all that obstructs our true nature from even our own cognitive functioning (our being able to see ourselves for what we truly are).

Good luck!

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  • Thanks James. Really appreciate it! – Noob Dec 29 '20 at 10:11
  • 🙏🏼 Glad to be helpful to you. – StillJustJames Dec 29 '20 at 10:24

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