37 Practices of the Bodhisattva - Verse 21

Ken McLeod

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Ken McLeod continues his commentary on the 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva with the 21st verse. Watch the other videos here.

Sensual pleasures are like salty water:
The deeper you drink, the thirstier you become.
Any object that you attach to,
Right away, let it go—this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

We know sensual pleasures won't satisfy us. Why are we tricked again and again?

For more of Ken McLeod's teachings, visit Unfettered Mind.


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fishman.ellen's picture

Although this is about neuroscience and being skeptical about reserachers's claims, so too we should be skeptical of mind, which is a bigger trickster than "coyote", a Native American prankster who through his antics helps people realize the foolishness of human ways.

Excerpt below by Brian Hoffstein on March 11, 2012, 12:00 AM

In a New Yorker essay "The Truth Wears Off," Jonah Lehrer examines the pattern whereby researchers' results - held to be sacred artifacts of science - have been found to decline in effect. “The Decline Effect” has shown up in a number of occasions where an experiment’s original correlation is unable to be replicated. Lehrer writes: The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

It is essential we do a more rigorous examination of the cause and effect of our observations, and understand that science is a long-term endeavour with many variables. Just because something is thought to be true one day does not permit it eternal validity. While Neuroscience has a bright and important future, we need to embrace our potential to make mistakes. Just as people used to believe the sun revolved around the earth, our own beliefs could be laughable to future generations. In the long run, skepticism is paramount for progress to flourish.

So before you go banging your head on the wall because a study says it helps stop procrastination, remember to take our conclusions with a grain of salt - as we surely have not seen the last of “The Mozart Effect.”

fishman.ellen's picture

Ah, the trick. Just in those words lays the answer. No one can be satisfied. For in this case as always, one speaks of two which really speaks of one which turns into NO Oooooone.

The whole is the hole which ends up being a HOLE that never is filled, asif in a seive, pleasure runs through and can't be captured, the trick is we, you and me, believe it can. Magical wonder these pleasures of the hand, the ear, the nose, the senses- for the delusion rests with the believer - happiness is a state of being never-never land oh Peter!

The wolf howls , the bird sings, moments, just moments.

cobham's picture

I deeply sympathise. In an effort to cope with obsessive mind, as I've started to understand is the mode that the mind goes into, I've had to stop listening to music, which I realize isn't the solution. I'm still working on being mindful, so that I'm aware of the effect that the music or visual media is having on my mind. In doing this, I find some detachment and a little space. At first it feels like I'm denying myself enjoyment and so doesn't feel like it's for the best interest of myself, lately I've been feeling that the things that I experience as making me happy, don't really make me happy on a deeper or inner being level. It's like it gives me an excited kind of happiness rather than a steady, peaceful kind of happiness. It's still a work in progress and it seems that the English language is limited when trying to describe different types of happiness, on the other hand it could be my understanding that's limited. Good luck anyway!

James Mullaney's picture

The biggest attachment to sensual pleasure that I've had to wrestle with is classical music. I often find myself spending an inordinate amount of time listening to Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Bach, et.al. At first it's uplifting and edifying; but after an hour or two it becomes a drain on my prana. Yet letting go of the experience is often difficult, especially when it's so easy to rationalize as "high art."

When I finally do shut off the CD player, there's the music echoing through my inner consciousness, continuing to play despite my wish to turn it down! Can you comment on this attachment to music, Ken? I'm sure it's unhealthy yet it is my passion. I guess I need to cultivate more self-discipline.

Maybe there's something in the silence I'm afraid to face.

George Draffan's picture


Here are two different ways I might practice with this.

The first way is to turn your attention from the music, or the habit of listening to music, to the experience of "attachment" -- how does attachment actually feel, physically and emotionally? When the music beckons, take some time to explore the sensations and feelings of desire, the attraction, and the attachment.

The second way is to go ahead and listen to the music, but rather than letting the experience take you over emotionally or energetically, try regarding the music as you might a purely natural sound -- perhaps leaves rustling in the wind, or the sound of waves rolling on a beach.

~ George Draffan, for Unfettered Mind