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I am speaking of a state of mild but persistent agitation in which one

notices the arising of the habit of (1) sorting through the current collection of unresolved discomforts with the intention of picking one to latch onto, (2) orienting oneself towards the desired sensory experience and (3) re-entering the cycle of greed, hatred and delusion with respect to that desired sensory experience BUT chooses not to re-enter the cycle.

I am speaking of a very unusual state in which the cycle of samsara is not entered but neither has the agitation to re-enter it ceased.

Kind of like “craving without a target”.

Kind of like an inner conflict between (1) a part which wants to relieve the agitation by latching onto a target for craving and (2) a part which wants to find a more skillful means of extinguishing the agitation.

Kind of like being in a hinterland between suffering and the end of suffering.

I have a vague intuition this state might be related to “stream entry” but I am not certain about that.

Does this sound similar to anything the Buddha spoke about?

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    I’m not sure if this is what you are describing, but I have seen other Buddhist teachers give a similar description to someone becoming aware of the subtlest form of dhukka: all pervasive dissatisfaction
    – user13375
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 7:39
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    sounds like craving for becoming, like when i binge drink, then i crave for becoming healthy, good, etc..
    – blue_ego
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 17:51
  • @lilredindy: 1/ Very interesting. Depending upon the precise meaning the Buddha intended for the terms “kāma” (sense-desires) and “bhava” (becoming), either “craving for becoming” or “craving for non-becoming” might be a match. The aim is to uproot the habits of “pulling towards that which is pleasurable” and “pushing away that which is unpleasurable” (but is uncorrupted by the desire for identity). So I am uncertain.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:16
  • 2/ As @OyaMist wisely alluded to, even a skillful desire can be a source of suffering if one craves for its immediate gratification. It is more skillful to patiently but persistently cultivate its arising.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:18
  • @AlexRyan i think you are right, your last comment is the same as equanimity(upeksha), that is a factor of awakening.
    – blue_ego
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 15:07

3 Answers 3

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Do you mean boredom?

It's called neutral feeling or neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling i.e. adukkhamasukha vedana.

The neither-pleasant-nor-painful feelings also known as neutral feelings is one of three types of feeling including pleasant and painful. Feelings here means sensations experienced by the six senses (including the mind).

Neutral feelings invoke neither pleasure nor pain. For e.g. if you stay in the same house everyday, then the overly familiar sensations of the sights, sounds and smell of the house will not invoke any feeling in you other than boredom.

The definition of neutral feeling comes in MN 44 and also states its relationship to ignorance:

Neutral feeling is pleasant when there is knowledge, and painful when there is ignorance.”

“The underlying tendency for greed underlies pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency for repulsion underlies painful feeling. The underlying tendency for ignorance underlies neutral feeling.
MN 44

In Contemplation of Feeling, Nyanaponika Thera explained this:

Pleasant feeling is habitually linked with enjoyment and desire; unpleasant feeling with aversion; neutral feeling with boredom and confusion, but also serving as background for wrong views.

Also:

“Mendicants, there are these three feelings. What three? Pleasant, painful, and neutral feeling. Pleasant feeling should be seen as suffering. Painful feeling should be seen as a dart. Neutral feeling should be seen as impermanent. When a mendicant has seen these three feelings in this way, they’re called a mendicant who has cut off craving, untied the fetters, and by rightly comprehending conceit has made an end of suffering.
SN 36.5

The neither-pleasant-nor-painful feelings also known as neutral feelings, normally make us bored or dissatisfied. Cravings would lead one to seek pleasures (kama tanha) or to become something or achieve something (bhava tanha) rather than sit around all day experiencing neutral feelings that don't bring satisfaction.

No feelings at all, would also be a cause for boredom and dissatisfaction. From the same article by Nyanaponika Thera, we read the commentary of the suttas and his comment:

Comy.: "From the fourth Jhana onwards, it is the neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling (that is present in these meditative states). But this neutral feeling, too, is called 'pleasure' (sukha), on account of its being peaceful and sublime. What arises by way of the five cords of sensual desire and by way of the eight meditative attainments is called 'pleasure as being felt' (vedayita-sukha). The state of Cessation of Perception and Feeling is a 'pleasure, not being felt' (avedayita-sukha). Hence, whether it be pleasure felt or not felt, both are assuredly 'pleasure,' in the sense of their being painfree states (niddukkhabhava-sankhatena sukhena)."

In AN 9.34, the venerable Sariputta exclaims: "Nibbana is happiness, friend; Nibbana is happiness, indeed!" The monk Udayi then asked: "How can there be happiness when there is no feeling?" The venerable Sariputta replied: "Just this is happiness, friend, that therein there is no feeling."

To the arahant, neutral feelings, no feelings and Nibbana are all pleasant.

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  • Thanks. I am uncertain. I had never considered the neutral feeling tone as being mildly but persistently unpleasant before. If this is the meaning of the word, this might be a match.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 5:57
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    @AlexRyan, to illustrate Ruben's point, we also have: > AN2.6:2.1: When you keep seeing things that are prone to being fettered as boring, you give up greed, hate, and delusion. > AN2.6:2.2: When these are given up, you’re freed from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress. > AN2.6:2.3: You’re freed from suffering, I say.
    – OyaMist
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 12:21
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    @AlexRyan. Although the "rewiring experience" may be initially unpleasant, consider that a stream-enterer would see such skillful effort as productive, much like committing to an exercise regime that over time yields ease and freedom. People who exercise regularly find the exercise enjoyable. What changed? The right view of a stream enterer. NOTE: Discussion is awkward on BSE--there are more interactive forums such as SuttaCentral.net Discourse&Discover. BSE is great for finding references, but not so great for discussion
    – OyaMist
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 17:24
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    @OyaMist You can use the chat feature of BSE for lengthy discussions.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 3:17
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    Indeed, BSE chat is helpful,
    – OyaMist
    Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 11:11
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pariyesana, searching, looking around for satisfaction.

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  • Very interesting. The searching for a mechanism to end the agitation is a match for the phenomenon in question. I suspect it is not the searching itself but rather the searching tainted by the craving for immediate gratification which is the source of the agitation. I am unable to determine from suttacentral.net if this term has that connotation.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:38
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it sounds like restlessness, worry, etc., an inability to concentrate one's effort..

the 5 hindrances from the wiki:

Restlessness-and-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): the inability to calm the mind and focus one's energy.

also check out "How to Deal With Worrying With Buddhist Practices".

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  • Very interesting. Uddhacca feels like a match. I suspect my initial characterization of “craving without a target” to be delusion on my part. Craving always has a target (I think). If we are not consciously aware of what the target is, we might label this craving “restlessness”. But, when we sit with the restlessness and allow the underlying conflict to emerge into full consciousness, the true target of the craving is revealed.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:29
  • yeah, i agree...it's just a misunderstanding on your part, but you seem to have figured it out
    – blue_ego
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 14:58

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