Lokavipatti Sutta: Some devotional notes

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In this Sutta, the Buddha explains the 8 misfortunes of the world that cause people to go astray and become locked in a continuous cycle of suffering. These are: gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure and pain. It distinguishes between the reactions the disciple of Buddha has vs. the sensual or worldly person (of course, there are non-Buddhists who have cultivated the skillfulness necessary to react in ways comparable to that of the Buddhist). Although I myself, as many others, approached Buddhism out of a well of tremendous pain, it is important to maintain a stoicism towards pleasure no less than the unpleasant, since, as Buddhists well-know, pleasure, which comes about by mental and physical contact with phenomena, necessarily leads to suffering if not rightly perceived according to Buddhist principles (namely, by understanding that all pleasure and pain are impermanent and that what experiences pleasure and pain is not an enduring self but a collections of perceptions, emotions and cognitions).

I must treat every gain as I would a loss, every pleasure as I would pain, every praise as I would censure, and every improvement in status as I would disgrace. I might rejoice in acquiring money, but the pleasure acquired by money is temporary, subject to possible loss, and even in the event of neither of these things, cements my dependence upon mental and physical contact with the external world for happiness, which is always necessarily temporary. My hedonic treadmill is subtended by a false belief in the existence of an enduring self that benefits from money and by a false belief that this (nonexistent) self can experience enduring pleasure and relief from suffering through acquisition of money. Acknowledging the conditions that generate pleasure through acquisition of money shows that these conditions, although they make pleasure through contact with the world possible, also generate the necessary condition for suffering, and when eliminated, suffering is itself also eliminated.

As the Buddha says,

“He welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss. He welcomes the arisen status and rebels against the arisen disgrace. He welcomes the arisen praise and rebels against the arisen censure. He welcomes the arisen pleasure and rebels against the arisen pain. As he is thus engaged in welcoming & rebelling, he is not released from birth, aging, or death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, or despairs. He is not released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.”

It is therefore important to cultivate the kind of spiritual awareness that prevents welcoming pleasant contact, no less than rebelling against unpleasant contact, since the conditions that make pleasant contact possible, make suffering inevitable. This holds true of all physical and mental contact, all intoxication with all physical and mental contact, or, as we say in philosophy, all “intentionality.” The Sutta ends with the beautiful prose:

“Gain/loss, status/disgrace, censure/praise, pleasure/pain: these conditions among human beings are inconstant, impermanent, subject to change. Knowing this, the wise person, mindful, ponders these changing conditions. Desirable things don’t charm the mind, undesirable ones bring no resistance. His welcoming & rebelling are scattered, gone to their end, do not exist. Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state, he discerns rightly, has gone, beyond becoming, to the Further Shore.”

You may never lose the status that you have acquired or the pleasure you enjoy, but the point is that failing to regard intentionality and its objects appropriately necessarily strengthens your bonds to dependence upon intentionality and its objects for pleasure rather than generating a state of pure joy that is devoid of interest in, or dependence upon, intentional objects.

Written by

Experienced psychology writer and practitioner of psi abilities. Looking forward to contributing to a worldwide awakening to the reality of psi phenomena.

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