Lust - How Can it be Overcome?
I am an above beginner level meditator - I have been practicing Vipassana meditation regularly for past 6-7 months - By regularly, I mean 1hr of sitting meditation at least 5 times a week.
I have not been able to control my lust. I try to remain mindful during acts of sexual gratification...but they are like very few moments of awareness...rest of the time I am just going with the flow...Although I am a lay person, I want to be celibate...Please guide me.
I remember a story wherein Buddha said to someone how one should eat as if they are eating their own child having lost in a desert...are there any such stories from Buddha's life/teachings regarding this subject...Basically I need some inspiration...Please share your experience if possible
Ven. Ananda thero asked Lord Buddha a similar question on the last day of Lord Buddha. I can't post it due to lack of my english knowledge. Try to find it. It's very useful.
I would suggest that only a raising of consciousness can deal with this issue. This is why I like the Zen approach of just allowing the process to work without having to fight like a saint against ones unwanted predilections. .
By trying to "control it", you are putting the (idea of) lust outside of yourself. In effect you are seeing "the lust" and yourself as two separate entities. That (conceived) separation sets up a duality. On one side is "lust", which it sounds like you are labeling as "bad". On the other side is self, which it sounds like you want to label as "good". And you're attached to both these concepts, lust is bad and self is good (or "should" be good).
If you choose to acknowledge the sensations you are describing as "lust", the duality will disappear.
Try sitting whatever form of meditation you prefer, that doesn't involve visualization. When sensations that you describe as "lust" come up, acknowledge them. This is the difficult part. "Acknowledge" means you accept the feeling, don't judge it or yourself, and watch what happens to the thought or feeling. Then return to your practice.
In effect I'm suggesting you acknowledge the aspect of yourself that you conceive of as lust. That acknowledgement will integrate you and dissolve the duality. And lust will resume its normal, healthy role in your psyche. May your life go well.
Since you are seeking inspiration similar to the simile how one should eat as if they are eating their own child having lost in a desert, to understand the drawbacks of lust, I think Alagaddupama Sutta is a good place where Buddha gave ten similes to understand the true nature of sensual pleasure.
Here, Buddha says that one should see sensual pleasure as either bare bones, a lump of flesh, a torch of straw, a pit of burning coal, a dream, borrowed goods, a fruit tree, a slaughter house, a stake of swords or a snake's head to understand there true nature.
According to commentary and subcommentary sensual pleasure here means sexual intercourse or expressing sexual desire by other ways including hugging, petting and other acts to satisfy lust. The first 7 of the 10 similes are explained in further detail in Potaliya sutta as well as here (summary of all 10 explanations).
Bare bones, fleshless, blood-smeared, are thrown to a starving dog but
cannot satisfy the animal’s hunger. Similarly, sense-desires give no
A lump of flesh for which birds of prey fight each other; if the bird
that has seized the lump of flesh, does not yield it, it may meet
death or deadly pain from the beaks and claws of the other birds.
Similarly, the sense-desires are common to many (bahusādhāraṇa), i.e.,
the same sense objects may be claimed by many and may become the cause
of deadly conflict
A torch of straw carried against the wind may cause severe burns to
the careless man if not quickly discarded. Similarly, sense-desires
will severely burn (anudahana), i.e., greatly harm him who
thoughtlessly, and unaware of the great danger, partakes of them in
the belief that they will bring light and joy to his life.
A pit of burning coals towards which a man is dragged by others; if he
cannot free himself from the grip, he will be thrown into the fire and
consumed by it. Similarly, sense-desires are like a vast conflagration
(mahābhitāpa) into which the victim is dragged by bad company, or by
his own deeds, causing his rebirth in miserable states of woe
A dream of a beautiful landscape that vanishes on awakening. Similarly, sense-desires are a brief illusion (ittara-paccupaṭṭhāna) like a dream, and disappointing after one awakens from infatuation to reality
Borrowed goods on which the borrower foolishly prides himself in public; but which are withdrawn by the owners when they see the boastful man. Similarly, sense-desires are temporary (tāvakālika) and not a true and lasting possession of him who enjoys them, filled with vain glory.
A fruit tree climbed by one who craves for the fruits; but another man, likewise greedy for them but unable to climb, chooses another method and fells the tree; and unless the first man quickly descends, he will break his limbs. Similarly, in the blind pursuit of sense pleasures one may “break all one’s limbs” (sabbaṅga-paccaṅga-bhañjana), may suffer severe injury of body and mind. The Sub-Comy refers also to punishment and torture incurred by reckless deeds to which people are driven by sense infatuation.
A slaughter house (or place of execution): because sense-desires are like a butcher’s (or executioner’s) block (adhikuṭṭana). This may mean that sense-desires kill much that is noble in man and cut off his higher development.
A stake of swords: sense-desires are piercing (vinivijjhana) penetrating deep within, causing wounds where there had been none. Unfulfilled or frustrated desire, or the pains of jealousy, are, indeed, like that ancient torture of the state of swords.
A snake’s head: sense-desires are a grave risk and peril (sasaṅka-sappaṭibhaya) for the present and future welfare, if one walks unwarily.
Alagaddupama Sutta [Nyanaponika Thera trans]
Lust is a biological impulse without which you would not have been born in the first place.
So honor it and respect it as nature's method to keep our race going.
Thus, realize it a powerful force and there are also repercussions to bashing it down or inhibiting yourself. Don't use any method that involves self-criticism, self-judgment, self-harm, hatred, etc. Otherwise you may make the problem worse and be sucked into a love-hate cycle.
The best methods from my experience:
- the skeleton method upon yourself and others
- breathing meditation. Go for the 1st samadhi, after learning about it if you do not know about it.
- watching thoughts. Watch your thoughts until they disappear, this includes even your judgment of the process of this watching. Just watch detachedly. Keep letting go.
- avoid sexy medias: music, shows, fantasies. If thoughts come up use the above method.
- read as much buddhist parables and original scriptures as possible. Replace the habits that create more seeds of lust in the first place (see Right Effort).
It takes about a month of doing this to replace the neural wiring that causes excessive lust in the first place.
The friction is definitely worth it because with this clean, pliable mind you can focus on anything of your choosing. This is your real mind. (not to be confused with Real Mind)
The son's flesh simile is from SN 12.63 (Puttamansa Sutta: A Son's Flesh).
Lust is a very powerful force and it'd need a combination of various strategies to counteract it, everything including diets, moral disciplines, persistence, etc.
MN 20 (Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts) suggests 5 helpful strategies to counter unwholesome thoughts:
- He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful
- (Then, if evil thoughts still arise) he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts
- (Then, if evil thoughts still arise) he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts
- (Then, ...) he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts
- (Then, ...) with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness
Don't try to force this on to your self. You could try parts of @Christopher-Lee's answer to a certain extent. This should not reverse polariser your mind in the opposite direction though. This is something to watch out for.
In addition to this always keep looking at the sensation when there is a lustful through or state of mind. You will see there are certain sensation through out the body associated with lustful thoughts and state of mind. You have to be very equanimous looking at it's arising and passing away without aversion towards sensations or attachment towards the sensations which arise and pass away. As time goes you will become less lustful and also you will have more control.
Please be advised that, although many people will give you their take on how lust is to be "mindfully integrated" into daily life, this is the complete opposite of the Buddha's teaching.
It's not easy, living at home, to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, a polished shell.
-- Ud 5.6
Then Ven. Ananda approached the nun and, on arrival, sat down on a prepared seat. As he was sitting there, he said to the nun: "This body, sister, comes into being through food. And yet it is by relying on food that food is to be abandoned.
"This body comes into being through craving. And yet it is by relying on craving that craving is to be abandoned.
"This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.
"This body comes into being through sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse is to be abandoned. With regard to sexual intercourse, the Buddha declares the cutting off of the bridge.
-- AN 4.159
"Yes, indeed, lord. I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, and those acts the Blessed One says are obstructive, when indulged in are not genuine obstructions."
"Worthless man, from whom have you understood that Dhamma taught by me in such a way? Worthless man, haven't I in many ways described obstructive acts? And when indulged in they are genuine obstructions. I have said that sensual pleasures are of little satisfaction, much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a chain of bones: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. I have compared sensual pleasures to a lump of flesh... a grass torch... a pit of glowing embers... a dream... borrowed goods... the fruits of a tree... a butcher's ax and chopping block... swords and spears... a snake's head: of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks. But you, worthless man, through your own wrong grasp [of the Dhamma], have both misrepresented us as well as injuring yourself and accumulating much demerit for yourself, for that will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
-- MN 22
The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality,
not the beautiful sensual pleasures
found in the world.
The passion for his resolves is a man's sensuality.
The beauties remain as they are in the world,
while the wise, in this regard,
subdue their desire.
-- AN 6.63
The OP asked "how" to overcome it: and didn't ask "whether" to overcome it, nor ask "how to integrate" it.
@ChrisW True, though I believe he asked for inspiring passages that would motivate him to stop. Since he did get other answers (or comments) advising the integration of a healthy level of lust, I felt it would be right to clearly distinguish that from the teachings of the canon. In doing so, my hope was that the doubt of "whether it's actually important" would lessen, hence aiding in the subduing of a hindrance, making this a 'how to' answer in this way. Take care.
Given that you're a Vipassana meditator, I hope you'll understand when I say this- do not have aversion to lust or lustful thoughts. You need to be patient. Avoid sexual misconduct, but you need to cleanse a lot till you're free of lustful thoughts. Keep going at your meditation, but again- no aversion (and ofcourse no attachment)
The following is taken directly from wikipedia Five Hindrances
The hindrance of sensory desire is compared to taking out a loan – any pleasure one experiences through these five senses must be repaid through the unpleasantness of separation or loss which invariably follow when the pleasure is used up. There is also interest to be repaid on the loan. Thus, the Buddha said that the pleasure is small compared to the suffering repaid.
In order to overcome the hindrance of sensory desire (kamacchanda), the meditator must first apply mindfulness and recognize that the hindrance is present. Then one must look at the hindrance, analyze it, make it the object of our meditation, experience it fully. The meditator can then apply specific techniques such as contemplating the impermanence of the pleasant desire.
Ajahn Brahmavamso emphasizes the technique of letting go of concern for the body and the five senses completely; he states:
In meditation, one transcends sensory desire for the period by letting go of concern for this body and its five sense activity. Some imagine that the five senses are there to serve and protect the body, but the truth is that the body is there to serve the five senses as they play in the world ever seeking delight. Indeed, the Lord Buddha once said, "The five senses ARE the world" and to leave the world, to enjoy the other worldly bliss of Jhana, one must give up for a time ALL concern for the body and its five senses.
http://insightmeditationcenter.org/ has this to say about lust:
If there is excessive preoccupation with lust, one can focus on the body’s non-attractive parts, such as
urine, saliva, pus, feces, phlegm, sweat, body hair, teeth, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver,
spleen, intestines, undigested food, blood, fat….
• If desiring something that is harmful to us, we can focus on the consequences of getting what we want.
Maybe you are craving potato chips and it gives you high blood pressure. Reflect on the possible effects
of high blood pressure.
• If we desire something that might be appropriate, but we are clinging to that desire, we feel we just have
to have it, we can focus on the impermanent nature of what we want. How long will the satisfaction last
if the desire is fulfilled? This desire will fade. It may come back, but it’s not permanent.
I have not been able to control my lust
"Abstain from sexual misconduct" has various interpretations, one of which is:
- Sex between consenting adults is OK
- Sexual assault, rape, is not OK
When you say, "I have not been able to control my lust" it's not clear what you're talking about; but basic compassion might be enough reason to deter you from assaulting people.
And I don't know you but I suspect you have been able to control your lust, frequently, perhaps most of the time.
Someone asked a question about controlling anger recently, on another site, How to get over anger at inconsiderate drivers, which I tried to answer by introducing Buddhist perspective. Maybe controlling anger is a skill you learn gradually, through repeated practice.
And it's gradual: it's not being "always angry" versus "never angry", and it's situational too; you might learn to avoid situations which make you angry, you might learn to avoid the desire to become angry, you might learn skills which you can use instead of becoming angry, you might learn how to let your anger disappear easily if it starts to arise.
Maybe the same is true of lust as it is of anger.
I try to remain mindful during acts of sexual gratification
I think that the Bhikkhuni Sutta suggests it's possible to be mindful when eating (to destroy old feelings [of hunger] and not create new feelings [from overeating]); and, even that craving (for awareness and for freedom) and conceit (that one can be like someone else who benefited from Buddhism) can be helpful. But, not sexual activity:
Sexual intercourse is to be abandoned. With regard to sexual intercourse, the Buddha declares the cutting off of the bridge.
I.e. if you do want to be "celibate" and "mindful" then you probably cannot do that "during acts of sexual gratification".
I remember a story wherein Buddha said to someone how one should eat as if they are eating their own child having lost in a desert
There are innumerable stories in the world, of women who visit allegedly spiritual teachers: the teachers engage in sexual activity with their students ... and the students don't get much out of it.
I suppose that might be true in Buddhism as well, for example:
Vipassana teacher Jack Kornfield quotes one unnamed female Buddhist teacher, wherein she talks about an "old" "realized" lama choosing a thirteen- to fourteen-year-old nun to become his sexual consort every year. After talking to "a number of Western women who had slept with their lamas" this same unnamed individual concludes the practice benefited only the lamas.
If you want to help other people then treating them as a sex object might be missing the point.
On the subject of being aware of the "unattractive", there's a story (I can't find it at the moment) of someone being shown an illusion of an attractive body, which then ages until it's old and ill and dies. I think that's supposed to teach you to not "fall in love with" the body.
Conversely, the Abhisanda Sutta suggests that breaking any of the precepts is dangerous and that by not breaking the precepts you gain various worthwhile rewards: so as well as considering "non-attractive" parts of lust it should be possible to be happy about the rewards from "abandoning" harmful behaviour and from "abstaining" from breaking precepts.
The provided definition of sexual misconduct is problematic: two adults having a side affair while being married and committed would still perform it under consent. May I suggest: Sexual conduct that has the immediate potential of causing trouble. In my experience I've found that even staring at women can fall under this category, as strange women might have partners, and catching you staring might provoke problematic emotions and thoughts (greed, anger, delusion) inside themselves - something which you don't want to take responsibility for.
By trying to be mindful of it you feel as if its a task and then just drop it and go with the lust .Your lust here is possessive of you ,its more fun for you than meditation ,meditation has become a routine not a way of being .You want to have choice & freedom .
First step is not to fight it .Its the attitude you have towards lust that you meditate upon not the lust itself.There is no problem in lust ,spiritual ego may feel its going to drop spiritually if it falls to lust .When actually the teaching is about making you fearless ,there is nothing to fear even fear itself ,you don't apply the teaching to go somewhere,you are the teaching,the person who tries to apply is ego .
Its said that Puma a disciple of Buddha wanted to go preach in a far away city and asked permission of Buddha .Buddha told him these people are violent and nobody went there before to teach them .He said but somebody has to go.Buddha said well what will you do if they insult you .He said I will thank them for not torturing me .Buddha said what if they torture you .Puma replied I will thank them ,they could've killed me .Then Buddha said what if they killed you .Puma said I will thank them for liberating me from a life where mistakes could've been made.Buddha told him now you can go anywhere ,there is no fear on you.