May 14, 2010

Tortured by Love, Lust, a Crush? Buddhism has some advice for you.

“Foulness Meditation”

“The Lord Buddha advised those who are ardent on attaining Nibbana to contemplate the body with its impurities…”


Growing up, my momma was an American Buddhist. While I appreciated the community hugely, growing up, I didn’t get into Buddhism personally until I was 16. I was graduating from high school, and figured that before I left my teenage home (Karme Choling, a Buddhist meditation center in rural Vermont) I’d say goodbye to all that in proper Buddhist style: by doing a weeklong meditation retreat. Nine hours a day, including zen-style meals, of meditation.

And I finally, personally, fell in love with Buddhism. Meditation, I belatedly realized, wasn’t just some way of avoiding living life. It wasn’t boring. It was…to use a word I generally avoid…transformative. I could begin to live and enjoy life from a clear, open, sane, relaxed point of view (and as a teenager, that was one helluva discovery).

So I canceled my plans and studied and partied and meditated and worked (as a lumberjack) at Karme Choling for a year. Along the way, I learned a whole hell of a lot.

One of the funny little things that’s stuck with me is how to wake oneself from that exquisite pain that is lust or having a crush on someone. If you’re in love or in lust or intimidated or entranced by a beautiful man or woman, you have only to remember that, just like everyone else, below that alluring exterior they’re full or blood and spit and mucus and poo and pee, like everyone else. You’re actually supposed to visiualize them going to the bathroom.

It works. You remember they’re human, and stop tripping out.

Excerpt from a Buddhist text:

35) How to Combat and Subdue Lust and Desire

Afflictions stemming from greed, while numerous, are all included within the defilements of the “five desires” and the “six Dusts.” From the root of greed stem other evil afflictions, such as stinginess, envy, hate, fraud, deceit … known as secondary afflictions. The “five desires” refers to the five defilements, that is, the desire for beautiful forms (sexual desire …), wealth and money, fame and power, exquisite food and elegant attire, [excessive] rest and sleep.[48] The “six Dusts” are form, sound, scent, taste, touch and dharmas [i.e., external opinions and views].

The six Dusts encompass the five desires; however, the term “five desires was created as a separate expression to stress the five heavy defilements of human beings in the realm of the “six Dusts.” The concept “six Dusts” is used when speaking in general, while the expression “five desires” refers to specific afflictions. I employ the term “six Dusts” here to cover other defilements not included in the five desires, such as excessive fondness for music and songs as well as infatuation with romances, novels, etc …

When the five desires and six Dusts flare up, the general way to counteract them is through skillful visualization of four truths: Impurity, Suffering, Impermanence, and No-Self.

1. Impurity

This means that the body is impure, the mind is impure and the realm is impure. Impurity of the body means that we should reflect on the fact that beneath the covering layers of skin, our bodies and those of others are composed entirely of filthy, smelly substances such as meat, bones, blood, pus, phlegm, saliva, excrement, urine, etc. Not only that, body fluids are excreted through nine apertures (mouth, ears, nose, anus, etc.). If we stop to think carefully, the physical body of sentient beings is hardly worth cherishing.


Vaguely relephant bonus: Karme Choling’s innovative garden:


Image: Flickr

Reply to Gina cancel

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Gina Oct 26, 2015 1:23pm

Your thinking is closer to what I believe juliette. But releasing the hold it has over us seems impossible. I’m not even sure I want it to go away. I need to feel thru it. Accept any consequences that might result. In hindsight I find the thinking remains until one of two things happen. 1. The pain is too great to hold on so tightly, or 2. A new obsession, love, crush replace a the old. I will live, I will feel, I will go on till things change. Embracing this as a part of life is a gorgeous thought.

Juliette Jul 8, 2015 8:39am

Sorry, another thought. I think I see what you are getting at with the "impurities" of the body now. I think what you are saying is that we are all "biodegradable", so the superficial reason we are crushing on someone is impermanent and should not be the basis of our actions. Am I getting closer to the idea here?

Juliette Jul 8, 2015 8:35am

I thought that repression was an act of violence (according to Thich Nhat Hahn), and Buddhism teaches non-violence so we shouldn't try to crush any of these feelings, but take them out and look at them for what they really are? Be kind to it, "speak" to it, to get at the truth, and only then can we maybe see the crush for what it is – a projection of what we would hope that other person is based on physical attractiveness. It is not necessarily who they really are, and forcing our idealizations of them onto them is also an act of violence, which we should avoid. The crush itself might actually be productive in the proper context. It could inspire us to get to know that person for who they really are, but be careful not to fall into the trap of projecting an incorrect notion onto them. Just my novice ideas, anyway. thanks for the article, it got me to thinking.

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Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.