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By "transformation target" I mean ... When you hold this compulsion in spacious non judgmental awareness, investigate it and tease it apart into (1) that which is unskillful and (2) that which is skillful, what is the "name" that you give to (2) that which is skillful?

Re: transforming unskillful aims (unwise intention) into skillful aims (wise intention), a prominent Western Buddhism site has suggested the following:

Three Poisons/Defilements (Kilesas – lit. torments of the mind)

  1. Greed (lobha) – mindfulness transforms this into Faith
  2. Aversion/hatred (dosa) – mindfulness transforms this into discriminating Wisdom
  3. Delusion (moha) – mindfulness transforms this into Equanimity

This feels mostly correct to me except for “greed (lobha) -> faith”.
This feels like a half measure in restraining greed.
It feels like continuing to cling to greed.

Is there any evidence that the Buddha agreed or disagreed with these transformation targets?

Re: alternative targets ...

My strong intuition is that nibbana, the subjugation of Mara, is neurologically the subjugation (and repurposing) of the “task negative network” by the “task positive network” i.e. The utilization of “feeling” to serve “thinking” so that the sensory-motor brain will be more inclined to “see things as they actually are” and make more accurate predictions. i.e. The dharma is a guide to transforming the sensory-motor brain to use the feedback of bad predictions (dukkha) to transform unskillful views which sustain the bad predictions (dukkha) into skillful views leading to skillful predictions. (the end of dukkha)

To that end, it is my strong intuition that these are the correct targets:

greed (lobha)   -> searching (for similarities) (aka "diffuse mode")     
hate (dosa)     -> discerning (for differences) (aka "focused mode")    
delusion (moha) -> equanimity (the earned reward of a superior sensory-motor predictive model)     

Is there any evidence that the Buddha agreed or disagreed with these transformation targets?

Why do I think these are the correct targets?

"All models are wrong. Some models are useful." ~George Box
This mental model is "useful":

sense-desire = The belief that happiness depends upon satiation of THIS desire for THIS sensory experience.
greed = The compulsion, arising from THIS belief, to pull towards.
hate = The compulsion, arising from THIS belief, to push away.
craving = The compulsion, arising from THIS belief, to pull towards and/or push away, that which I do not yet possess
clinging = The compulsion, arising from THIS belief, to pull towards and/or push away, that which I possess and fear losing

"Clinging to sense-desires" is "clinging to views." Specifically the view that "happiness depends upon satiation of THIS desire for THIS sensory experience."

Clinging to one particular way to meet our needs impairs the ability of the sensory-motor brain to process feedback that would help it to see other means by which those same needs might be met.

To say that this is "unskillful" is a polite understatement.
It represents a malfunction of the sensory-motor brain.
It represents a failure of the "task positive network" to restrain and to use the "task negative network's" "diffuse mode (searching)" and "focused mode (discerning)" as tools to extract wisdom from the feedback leading to a superior sensor-motor predictive model yielding better predictions, better decisions, better moves in the world.

Instead of clinging to a particular sense-desire, it can be skillful to cling to the desire to "see things as they actually are". In so doing,

1: the compulsion to "pull towards" is repurposed away from "greed" and towards "searching for a way to understand the experience." (aka "diffuse mode")

2: the compulsion to "push away" is repurposed away from "hate" and towards discernment. (aka "focused mode")
For example discerning between that which is unskillful and that which is skillful.

That which we call "thinking" seems to consist largely of alternating between "diffuse mode" and "focused mode".

For example, this new thing that I am trying to to understand is
1: "similar to" this other thing that I already understand ("diffuse mode") in these ways ...
but
2: "different than" this other thing that I already understand ("focused mode") in these ways ...

This "thinking" is the "task positive network" of the sensory-motor brain.
It repurposes the more primal emotions of greed and hate and uses them to solve problems.

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  • 1
    Not sure what a "transformation target" is -- maybe "an antidote" or "an opposite" but perhaps you mean something else. Also would you reference the page of the "Western Buddhism site" which you are paraphrasing: because perhaps it explains why and what it's saying, and whether it's quoting something.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 21 at 23:45
  • I think that site maybe made unfounded claims and confused you. Did they give textual references?
    – user8527
    Mar 22 at 0:39
  • @ChrisW: Fair. I mean no disrespect to this site which I highly appreciate: insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/dhamma-lists By "transformation target" I mean the skillful compulsion that the unskillful compulsion should be transformed into. i.e. When you discern that which is skillful from that which is unskillful in the compulsion, what is the "name" of the part that is skillful?
    – Alex Ryan
    Mar 22 at 5:58
  • P.S. My experience is that all compulsions which we have "mixed feelings" about contain both (1) a skillful part and (2) an unskillful part. Thus the internal conflict. Obeying the compulsion doesn't resolve the conflict. Suppressing the compulsion doesn't resolve the conflict. The "middle way" of investigating, and teasing it apart into its skillful and unskillful parts, hanging on to that which is skillful and discarding that which is unskillful does resolve the conflict. This describes every "insight" that I have ever had in "insight" meditation. ;)
    – Alex Ryan
    Mar 22 at 6:20
  • 1
    Thanks, I do believe I understand what you're asking now. I did find it difficult to read -- it takes careful re-reading because jargon like "task-negative" and "diffuse mode" is unfamiliar -- so perhaps there won't be many answers. Now I'm not saying I won't answer but I can't answer right away, I'll try to post something within days.
    – ChrisW
    Mar 22 at 7:58
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From "The Abhidhamma in Practice" by N.K.G. Mendis:

There are six roots. Three are kammically unwholesome (akusala); the other three may be either kammically wholesome (kusala) or indeterminate (abyaa-kata), depending on the type of consciousness they arise in. The unwholesome roots are greed (lobha), hatred (dosa), and delusion (moha). The three roots which are wholesome in some cittas and indeterminate in others are greedlessness (alobha), hatelessness (adosa), and undeludedness (amoha). Though these last three roots are expressed negatively they have positive manifestations. Greedlessness manifests as generosity and renunciation, hatelessness as loving-kindness, and undeludedness as wisdom or understanding.

So according to the Theravada Abhidhamma:

  • The opposite of greed (lobha) is greedlessness (alobha), which manifests as generosity and renunciation.
  • The opposite of hatred/ aversion (dosa) is hatelessness (adosa), which manifests as loving kindness.
  • The opposite of delusion (moha) is undeludedness (amoha), which manifests as wisdom or understanding.
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Right resolve(s) are the tools opposing the root causes of suffering, good householder, and conditioned by right view. And what is right resolve/striving:

  • ...Being resolved on renunciation (virāganissitaṃ), against greed: resolved on no-desiring/on turning away.
  • ...on freedom from ill will (nirodhanissitaṃ), against aversion: resolved on non-destruction.
  • ...on harmlessness (vossaggapariṇāmiṃ), against delusion: resolved on giving up/letting go ([wrong] stand/position).
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  • This is feels 100% correct insofar as it consciously aims the intention towards the extinguishment of the 3 fires. I guess what I'm looking for is: Precisely how are each of the 3 fires split into their skillful and unskillful components? i.e. Initially, each are perceived to be wholly unskillful, but in the course of extinguishing them, we learn that attaining and sustaining release requires repurposing that which is skillful and discarding that which is unskillful.
    – Alex Ryan
    Mar 30 at 19:29
1

That site says this:

Three Poisons/Defilements (Kilesas – lit. torments of the mind)

  1. Greed (lobha) – mindfulness transforms this into Faith
  2. Aversion/hatred (dosa) – mindfulness transforms this into discriminating Wisdom
  3. Delusion (moha) – mindfulness transforms this into Equanimity

I have no idea where they got this idea and i don't think there is any similar expression anywhere in the theravadin texts.

1

I don’t remember the sutta but following way can help you neutralise the lobha,dosa and moha ....
Lobha can be neutralised by practising Santosh ( roughly translates into satisfaction with what you have).

Dosa can be neutralised by practising compassion (there are various other ways but compassion works always).

Moha can be neutralised by getting rid of ignorance or practising 8 fold path.

For dosa I can give you the link : https://suttacentral.net/an5.161/en/thanissaro

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  • Thank you. I appreciate the contribution. I must respectfully differ. I think the correct transformation target is the one that does not give rise to mixed feelings. “Does this increase samadhi?” is a good test question. Unrestrained compassion for predators seeking to harm you does not feel like the most skillful “transformation target” for you or those who care for you. From the predator’s perspective, it might be. ;)
    – Alex Ryan
    Mar 22 at 17:42
  • @AlexRyan That’s the challenge... having compassion even for the predators... Mar 22 at 23:49
  • Upon reflection, I suspect this might be a gender-specific issue. It's possible that a female can have compassion for a predator and experience no internal conflict so long as that predator provides for or at least does not threaten her offspring. After all, we do have twice as many female ancestors as male. I cannot imagine a healthy male not having mixed feelings about having compassion for a predator. One can feel compassion for the hunger pangs of the shark, and yet not be compelled to feed their baby to it. The predator is an "asset" to females but a "threat" to males.
    – Alex Ryan
    Mar 23 at 20:34
  • @AlexRyan no gender specific issue only ending the suffering specific issue... Mar 24 at 1:29
  • @AlexRyan Buddha did whatever he did out of compassion Mar 25 at 3:33
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Is there any evidence that the Buddha agreed or disagreed with these transformation targets?

I'm not aware of that list's being explicit in a sutta reference -- not that I know all the suttas but other answers seem to think so too.

But still, if I assume that they're true and that you want my explanation of them, here's how I make sense of them given what I remember.


Delusion (moha) – mindfulness transforms this into Equanimity

I think there are three poisons:

  1. Greed (associated with "pleasant")
  2. Aversion or hatred (associated with "unpleasant")
  3. Ignorance or confusion (associated with "neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant")

And I think it's said that the third of these is the "root" problem -- because people are confused about what's "neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant" therefore they chase after the pleasant and so on and that's samsara.

Whereas I think a monk learns to esteem what's neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant.

See also What is the difference between householder and renunciation equanimity?


Greed (lobha) – mindfulness transforms this into Faith

This seems like the least easy to understand, maybe the least orthodox of the three statements if it is unorthodox.

Maybe "faith" is what motivates renunciation and generosity (instead of greed).

It's strange though because I thought that "faith" was a help only initially, i.e. before then seeing things truly for yourself -- because that (experience) comes with practice, and "with faith" may be how practice begins.

But then again, see the topic Reference request for "the Buddha takes the Dhamma as his superior" -- maybe that "dwelling in dependence" (on the three jewels) and "respecting the Dhamma" is what might be described as a "faith".


Aversion/hatred (dosa) – mindfulness transforms this into discriminating Wisdom

That reminds me of the answers to this question -- Experiencing physical pain -- including,

According to my teacher, the enlightened attitude is to see pain as information. (For comparison, the non-enlightened attitude is to block/avoid/suppress pain by all means.) Because pain is information, we should evaluate it, see what message it carries and what it means for us, and then act.

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