Lobha has been an on-going interest in practice of late and that continued through the month I’ve been away on retreat and travelling between retreats (in Finland and Switzerland, lucky me!)
‘Lobha’ is much more than greed and desire: it’s that sense of wanting, enjoying, relishing the experiences I have that are pleasurable, leaning into them however subtly, so they persist and continue into the next moment. The flip side is ‘dosa’ – aversion, the ‘not wanting’ which is still wanting something to be other than it is.
So, I’ve been getting more intimate lobha as it operates in the mind. Getting to know it from its own side.How it thinks and feels, what motivates it, even coming up with a kind of job description for it. Its ‘job’ is to strengthen desire and wanting in the mind especially by getting me to act on my desires. So it embellishes the attractive features of an object (sweet, tasty, highly pleasurable cake with my coffee) and downplays it’s unattractive aspects (will rot my teeth, contribute to weight gain, encourage greed). It feels sticky and excited by itself – Ms Feelgood.
It gets me to do all sorts of things (especially on the cakes, chocolate and other sweet things front) I later regret! Lobha is biased towards the pleasurable, that’s what she’s seeking out. From desires point of view the best life is one pleasurable experience after another.
When Awareness is present and there is interest in the mind it’s possible to see lobha more objectively. There is no need to be particularly firm with myself (suppression) or to let my desires run wild (indulgence) but to see what can be noticed about the nature of desire. Seeing desire from the perspective of Awareness is fascinating. You’re seeing it from the ‘outside’ rather than being completely involved with wanting or not wanting it.
A couple of examples.
I was meditating recently with a group of people. I had my eyes open as I usually do and I noticed a flicker of irritation and ‘not liking’ as my vision caught someone who I’d had a small disagreement with the previous day. The person next to her was someone I’m fond of and there was a sense of ‘liking’. I went back and forth between the two people – liking and not liking, not liking and liking. There was an understanding in the mind that this process of liking and dis-liking is going on all the time in relation to different things and how impersonal it all is. It’s simply liking and dis-liking in the mind, happening all the time in a mind relating to objects of experience. There was no need to take it so seriously. It needn’t go any further than that – into fully fledged desire or ill-will – and in those moments it didn’t.
Secondly, as part of my travels between retreats I crossed through the Swedish and Finnish Archipelago on a 9 story ferry. It takes 11 hours and on the return journey to Stockholm I found a place to meditate in a large almost empty bar. I settled back, with my eyes resting on the sea outside of the window, to watch my mind. Sounds became the main objects I was aware of: laughter from a group on the far side of the room, clinking of glasses behind the bar and the bland piped music in the background.
And then there was a moment, sharp and sweet, when I realised the mind was ‘liking’. It was homing in on certain chords and harmonies in the largely unnoticed music and the emotional tone in one voice that the mind liked. Seeing this happening there was the choice to ‘go with’ the liking and let lobha grow or to just be aware. Actually, ‘knowing’ the awareness and the process was much more satisfying so it was quite natural to stay with that..
A useful question for me has been ‘is awareness in the driving seat or is it lobha?’ What’s motivating me in this moment? And the thing that I’m relishing might be quite neutral or ‘positive’ like watching the light on the high snow covered mountains in Switzerland. It doesn’t matter, it’s still ‘wanting’ energy in the mind and that means lobha is coming out to play and her next object might not be a skilful one.
Awareness can sound a bit of a killjoy here. What’s wrong with enjoying a mountain view? Or a fabulous lake-side sunset (we had quite a few in Finland!)? As Ayya Khema said, as long as we have senses, pleasure will arise through what we see or hear or taste etc. She continued ‘but don’t confuse sense pleasure with the value of joy that arises through practice’.
And what I noticed was as the mind became steadily more clear and content through the retreat the mountains were not less beautiful but there was less elation and more equanimity in the mind that was aware of them.
(thanks to Alessandra for the memorable rendition of ‘whatever lobha wants’ 2 years ago on retreat in Slovakia).