1.5 The Dangers of Sense Pleasures

Continuing in the “nobody ever teaches on this vein,” we continue with the 4th topic in this list of foundations, “the dangers of sense pleasures.”

We’re midway through a series of classes looking at a series of topics the Buddha often taught as the foundations of practice — before he taught the 4 Noble Truths and the practice of deep letting go, he would teach these basics: Giving, Ethics, Heaven (basic karma: do good & you go to good places). The list completes with two interlinked topics:

The dangers of sensual pleasures, and the power of renunciation.

Expect me NOT to say that loving pleasure is bad, or that sex is bad (God/dess forbid!), or that the body is somehow sinful! I will certainly say that those ideas are a toxic inheritance from medieval Christian patriarchy. Pleasure, sex, and bodies are beautiful. Full stop.

This teaching in no way contradicts that, but on the contrary, acknowledges that pleasure is the most powerful sensation we get. Almost! I talk about a Buddhist framework called “the gratification, the danger, and the escape,” which describes WHY you might want to learn to be cautious around intense pleasurable sensory stimuli. And I’ll almost certainly say, in effect, this, which for greater emphasis I’ll draft here in verse:

Addiction to sensory pleasures leads to resource depletion,
which leads to extractive colonialism,
which keeps the addicted in denial about the sources of their pleasures,
increases inequality,
and destroys civil society.

This is in harmony with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tax-the-rich plan she’s talking up this past week. And how incredible it is that someone is finally saying out loud: “there should not be billionaires.” And next week: Renunciation as both the balm to individual anxiety AND the cure for capitalism. I know, good luck. But the Buddha always said this process goes against the stream of ordinary culture. This is one of the ways.


Continuity, the basis of practice

(Recorded on 2.5.19 at Insight Meditation Satsang, Berkeley, CA)


The dangers of sense pleasures

(Recorded on 2.5.19 at Insight Meditation Satsang, Berkeley, CA)
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