Matthew Ricard: assigning value, desirable-undesirable


“Mental confusion is a veil that prevents us from seeing reality clearly and clouds our understanding of the true nature of things.

Practically speaking, it is also the inability to identify the behavior that would allow us to find happiness and avoid suffering.

When we look outward, we solidify the world by projecting onto it attributes that are in no way inherent to it.

Looking inward, we freeze the flow of consciousness when we conceive of an “I” enthroned between a past that no longer exists and a future that does not yet exist.

We take it for granted that we see things as they are and rarely question that opinion.

We spontaneously assign intrinsic qualities to things and people, thinking “this is beautiful, that is ugly,” without realizing that our mind superimposes these attributes upon what we perceive.

We divide the entire world between “desirable” and “undesirable,” we ascribe permanence to ephemera and see independent entities in what is actually a network of ceaselessly changing relations.

We tend to isolate particular aspects of events, situations, and people, and to focus entirely upon these particularities.

This is how we end up labeling others as “enemies,” “good,” “evil,” et cetera, and clinging strongly to those attributions.

However, if we consider reality carefully, its complexity becomes obvious.

If one thing were truly beautiful and pleasant, if those qualities genuinely belonged to it, we could consider it desirable at all times and in all places. But is anything on earth universally and unanimously recognized as beautiful?

As the canonical Buddhist verse has it: “For the lover, a beautiful woman is an object of desire; for the hermit, a distraction; for the wolf, a good meal.”

Likewise, if an object were inherently repulsive, everyone would have good reason to avoid it.

But it changes everything to recognize that we are merely attributing these qualities to things and people.

There is no intrinsic quality in a beautiful object that makes it beneficial to the mind, and nothing in an ugly object to harm it.“



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on August 31, 2021 at 9:22 pm

    This post leaves me a little confused. I’m clear on the point that all things, living or otherwise have a mutable quality depending upon viewpoint. Withholding strong judgment may be wise or prudent. However, I wonder if simply letting all things in life wash thru me makes life bland? Does one never react or feel strongly about anything? I’m certain this isn’t the point of this post but sometimes there’s a fissure between philosophy and real, day-to-day existence. I’m open to any dialog you may bring to this.

  2. Rudid96

    Think about our trauma thoughts

    Our irrational fears
    Lack of trust

    It’s ok to be emotional

    Withholding Ptsd judgments


    So let me change my post

    Be bland with every trauma memory or thought

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