A sutta talks about seeing the repulsive as unrepulsive and vice versa; does that mean through Loving-kindness you see the repulsive as unrepulsive?
This question came up in the Online 10-day Retreat Nov 3, 2020, guided by Delson Armstrong. Day 3 was part of a daily 30 -minute discussion on the suttas, the Dhamma talk and reflections.
Slightly edited to improve readability
This is a very interesting understanding that you’re having. This is one way of understanding it.
If you notice, in your day-to-day life, when you’re thinking about things, or you’re having memories; if you are, let’s say, in a bad mood, or if you are in a state of mind which is unwholesome, and you think back about things that were not so wholesome, you have a certain perception of it.
But then you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion, and you think back of those things again, you’re going to have a different perception of that. It could be anything as simple as a relationship you had with a friend, a family member, or whatever it was. If you are in a bad mood, you’ll start to think about that memory, and you see it in a way that is unwholesome. But when you cultivate Loving-kindness and Compassion and you think about that memory again, then you are more compassionate and understanding and say: well, maybe they weren’t feeling so well and that’s why they behaved this way. Or maybe they were unhealthy or not fully there, fully present, you know, you sort of have an understanding mind set of whatever that memory was. That’s one way of looking at it.
So, looking at the repulsive and seeing the unrepulsive in that, or looking at the unrepulsive and seeing the repulsive in that, is also a more advanced way of playing around with your aggregate of Perception. Meaning, you are able to see what is repulsive to others and change our mind set about that and see the unrepulsive in that. It’s a practice of changing your Perception, it’s an intentional practice of being able to exercise your perception, so that the mind is so malleable that it develops a very strong sense of Equanimity. Whether something is repulsive or unrepulsive, it doesn’t matter. It just is able to stay in an equanimous state, without attaching to the unrepulsive or averting from the repulsive.
This is a conscious exercise, a conscious kind of meditation practice that certain monks will do, or certain practitioners, in order to make their perceptions malleable.
But I’m saying, on the practical level, you can see it for yourself, you can reflect on your own mind and see that the very same memories that you have, will have different feeling tones, a different sense of pleasantness or unpleasantness, based on the moods that you have, the mind sets, and your perceptions will change, based on that.
You can make it a conscious exercise, if you wanted to, but that starts to happen on its own, when you start cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion. When you start getting into places, situations and interacting with people, which may be repulsive and what I mean by that, difficult or that could create aversion in the mind, because you have cultivated Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity, in those ‘repulsive’ states, it’s easy for you to see the good in that. It’s easy for you to then be able to let go of what might be difficult, let go of the aversion that might be arising from the difficult.
Conversely, when you are in a pleasant state of mind, or you come to places, situations or deal with people who are pleasant, but then you start to attach a sense of self to it and then create craving for yourself, by attaching and wanting more of it; by understanding and using Equanimity, and seeing the impersonal and impermanent nature and the suffering aspect of what is arising, what would generally be unrepulsive, you don’t necessarily consider repulsive, but you don’t attach any sense of desire to it.
[Reads from a chat in the video call: yes, exactly; that’s how Metta destroys ill will, it just fades away, replaced by Loving-kindness, that’s right.]