mental hindrances II

such quantities of wind

on the floor of a spacious

summer room –

and still not quite enough! ~ Issa*

desirehinderance

 

I have come to understand that overtime my meditation practice will result in a greater awareness of the sublime states: compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.  With the comprehension of each of these sublime states and discernment of their unique qualities, my practice can be extended to include an intention to breathe in the understanding of a particular sublime state and to breathe out that same awareness.  Each in and out breath is co-joined with a mindfulness that is ardent, alert, and steady as well as absent of greed and suffering.

What often impacts my practice is one of the five hindrances, desire’s lure.  Desire pulls me away from my meditation intention of mindfulness as my attention is drawn towards that which carries an implied promise of pleasure or escape from the suffering within suffering.

William James noted that desire, wish, and will are states of mind common to everyone:  “We desire to feel, to have, to do, all sorts of things which at the moment are not felt, had, or done. If with the desire there goes a sense that attainment is not possible, we simply wish; but if we believe that the end is in our power, we will that the desired feeling, having, or doing shall be real; and real it presently becomes, either immediately upon the will or after certain preliminaries have been fulfilled.”[1]

The craving for sensual desire is understood as a yearning for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches that are pleasant as well as a longing for wealth, power, position, and fame.  Craving is known by an addict as a need to find a substance that once promised euphoria and now only postpones suffering. It is known in the anxiety that comes with thoughts about losing what one has and the fear of the emptiness that follows a loss.   It is seen in the vague depression within boredom, which has the potential to either imprison behind walls of angry resentment or energize a life filled with excitement and challenges.  The Buddha noted that that the obtainment of that which we desire has the potential to be like easing thirst with salt water, the temporary relief returns with thirst multiplied.

When our minds are filled with desire, it is like trying to focus upon one’s reflection in a bowl of water filled with multi-colored precious stones.  That is, when we are overpowered by desires and cravings, we are not able to foresee consequences and become limited in our ability to recall learned moral lessons. It is suggested that the meditation on impermanence may assist with containing the pleasure-seeking mind. To remove the desire for excitement and new experiences one is encouraged to mediate on impure objects, to guard the sense doors, to eat in moderation, and to engage in noble friendships and suitable conversations.

To effectively contain desire one must first acknowledge its presence without distraction by noting, “pleasure seeking is rising within me.”  As it is abandoned, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is abandoned.”  While it fades, “an intention to experience desirable experiences is ceasing.”  When it is gone, “there is no intention to experience desirable experiences within me.”

*cited in:

The Year of My Life

Trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa


[1] William James, The Principles of Psychology, (New York, 1890), 486.

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