Lust and the Undeveloped Mind

 Yathā’gāraṃ ducchannaṃ, vuṭṭhi samativijjhati
Evaṃ abhāvitaṃ cittaṃ, rāgo samativijjhati.
Yathā’gāraṃ succhannaṃ, vuṭṭhi na samativijjhati
Evaṃ subhāvitaṃ cittaṃ, rāgo na samativijjhati.

 Even as rain penetrates as ill-thatched house,
so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.
Even as rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house,
so does lust not penetrate a well-developed mind.

                                              ~Dhammapada

 Prince Nanda

The Buddha visited his step-brother, Prince Nanda, during the prince’s prenuptial wedding feast.

After the meal, the Buddha left his alms bowl in the hands of Prince Nanda, and returned to the monastery. The young prince was obliged to follow him all the way back to the monastery and return the alms bow, where the Buddha asked Nanda to become a monk. Although Nanda agreed, he was not happy as a Bhikkhu. Each moment of the day, his mind would drift back to his fiancée Princess Janapada Kalyami.

The Buddha showed the prince how good effort would at least bring him to a heavenly state in the next life in which celestial nymphs lived who were more beautiful than any human woman.

Focused on the rewards of the next life, Nanda meditated diligently.

Even though the other monks teased him about being “paid labor” (someone who only practiced because he desired a beautiful reward), Nanda was able to purify himself and liberate from suffering to become Arahant.

The monk refused to believe that Nanda would find enlightenment for such ignoble reasons, but the Buddha explained that he had no more attachments to this life as a householder. The Buddha said, “His mind was that of an ill-roofed house, but now it is a well-thatched dwelling.”

 An ill-thatched house

It is easy understand why a monk would need to have a very developed mind in order to deal with the carnal lusts that arise within us every day. But are they important in a lay person’s life? And how should Nanda achieve enlightenment with such an unenlightened motivation as lust?

 Lust and the Everyday

There is a difference between lust and the wholesome relationships that are built between people daily. Lust is a craving that is unwholesome NOT because it involves sex, but because it distracts us from living life to its fullest.

How much of our lives, TV, books, and news is involves sex? Is there are commercial where beauty isn’t used to persuade us not to sell? Is there a movie theater that doesn’t have at least one passionate romance flickering on the screen? Doesn’t the news throw sex scandals and gossip about the celebrities we lust for on the front page?

Lust is everywhere and it is saturated out minds.

Think of the relationships you have with a long-term mate, child, father, or mother. The love there has a different quality to it. With a boy/girlfriend or husband/wife combination there can still be the mutual excitement of attraction and sexual energy: but it is an energy that is productive.

Imagine how much of your day would be open if you no longer felt the craving and longing for some sort of sensual pleasure. How much of the day would be free if we could just stop thinking about it, planning how to get it, working on getting it, etc.

Even in our meditation, how often does lust seep into the mind when we are trying to focus on other things.

We have all been Prince Nanda, distracted even when we do not wish to be.

 Using Lust as Motivation

I frequently am asked, “If I am supposed to end craving, then isn’t it wrong to crave for enlightenment?”

Coming from an unenlightened place, the Buddha has shown in the story of Nanda, we must motivate ourselves to put for the effort to better ourselves. If the motivation is something as unwholesome as sensual lust or noble as enlightenment, we must remember that these are the motivations from our starting point.

As we progress along the Middle Path, our minds become stronger and wiser. The motivations will become more wholesome. As our mind, like the leaking roof, lets in desires at the beginning; diligent practice and study will shore up and secure the mind from temptations.

 Food for Thought

Find what motivates you to practice, whether it is meditation, exercise, diet, etc. Remember that where you start in your journey is part of a process that requires patience and diligence. When you find that your will is wavering, contemplate the real benefits of indulging the hindrances and avoiding the work.

The joy of indulging sensual pleasures is that they are immediate but they are also fleeting. Whereas, hard work creates long-term and lasting results for a deeper happiness.

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Categories: Buddha, Dharma, Ethics, Four Noble Truths, Kharma, Lifestyle, Mahayana, Marriage, Meditation, New Age, Noble Eightfold Path, Philosophy, Relationships, Theravada

Author:Sumitta

Born Joshua Hudson, Reverend Sumitta (his ordained name) finished a twenty-year career as a military photo-journalist, and became a Licensed Social Worker with continuing studies in Mental Health, Healthcare Advocate, and Buddhist Minister. Currently, he works as the Director of Psychological Health and Primary Prevention of Violence for the U.S. Air Force. Previously, he served as the healthcare patient advocate for the Veterans Healthcare Administration, and is a License Clinical Social Worker, with a Master’s in Clinical Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, working as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor, public speaker, trainer and personal/family advisor. His dharma name "Sumitta," which translates to "Good Friend" in Pali.

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3 Comments on “Lust and the Undeveloped Mind”

  1. Deeps
    September 27, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    A very interesting story about Prince Nanda. I did some research online and read that Janapadi Kalyani also joined the order as a nun http://ignca.nic.in/jatak095.htm

  2. August 29, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Thank you for your response. If you read the entire post, you will see that I agree that “lust” as a term is any sensual pleasure. In this case of the story of Nanda, “lust” in this case also refers to sexual lust, which is considered to be the greatest of the lusts to overcome.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lust in a General Sort of Way « Exhibitions - August 29, 2009

    […] in order to function. I’ve never considered this in terms of sexual desire. The author of the post writes about our fascination with celebrities, for instance, as indicative of an undeveloped mind. […]

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