Cycles of Negativity

Ajahn Pasanno

Cycles of Negativity

There’s a discourse where the Buddha says that, for the ordinary, unenlightened person, the only escape from dukkha-vedanā is to try to immerse themselves in sukha-vedanā in some way: some kind of pleasure or gratification to take the edge off the dissatisfaction. (S 36.6)

It’s important to recognize and reflect on this in terms of the culture we have, which conditions all of us: the amount of debt in the culture, different kinds of drug and alcohol addictions, rampant obesity, the movement towards anything that is viewed as somehow pleasurable—anything that takes one away from discomfort, insecurity, and uncertainty, in order to get some feeling of comfort.

One of the realities of our existence is that we actually are exposed to all sorts of uncertainties, discomforts, and difficulties, just by virtue of being alive and having a human body and mind that feels and experiences. There’s a certain necessity to be able to recognize and be willing to be present for that feeling of being vulnerable, whether it’s on the physical or emotional level. We are in a very vulnerable position.

We’re subject to illness, death, and separation from the things that we like, and we are of necessity put into situations where we’re confronted with what we dislike. As long as we don’t have the tools, or the courage and daring, to be present for this, we’ll try to find some way out. We distract ourselves in different ways, and, of course, those tend to be not very useful strategies. Or we project negativity externally, looking for somebody or something to blame, even blaming ourselves. We end up in cycles of negativity that the Buddha characterized as unwholesome actions of body, speech, and mind.

This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Beneath the Bodhi Tree, (pdf) pp. 55-57.