Tag Archives: indirect effects

Jon Elster

Some psychological and social states have the property that they can only come about as the by-product of actions undertaken for other ends. They can never, that is, be brought about intelligently and intentionally, because they attempt to do so precludes the very state one is trying to bring about. I call these “states that are essentially by-products”. There are many states that may arise as by-products of individual or aggregate action, but this is the subset of states than can only come about in this way. Some of these states are very useful or desirable, and so it is very tempting to try to bring them about. We may refer to such attempts as “excess of will”, a form of hubris that pervades our lives, perhaps increasingly so.

Jon Elster, ‘States that are Essentially by-products’, Social Science Information, vol. 20, no. 3 (1981), p. 431

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Meditation does produce lovely blissful feelings sometimes. But they are not the purpose, and they don’t always occur. Furthermore, if you do meditation with that purpose in mind, they are less likely to occur than if you just meditate for the actual purpose of meditation, which is increased awareness. Bliss results from relaxation, and relaxation results from release of tension. Seeking bliss from meditation introduces tension into the process, which blows the whole chain of events. It is a Catch-22: you can only experience bliss if you don’t chase after it. Euphoria is not the purpose of meditation. It will often arise, but should be regarded as a byproduct.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English, rev. ed., Somerville, Massachusetts, 2002, p. 26