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Dealing with the Dark Night

the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue

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the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 6/15/11 5:06 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Villum (redacted) 6/18/11 12:45 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 6/20/11 6:46 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Villum (redacted) 6/19/11 1:52 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 6/20/11 6:44 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Villum (redacted) 6/20/11 5:10 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 6/21/11 4:26 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 4/25/20 2:31 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Not two, not one 4/25/20 3:13 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue agnostic 4/25/20 1:23 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Chris Marti 4/25/20 1:33 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue J W 4/25/20 1:51 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 4/25/20 1:58 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Chris Marti 4/25/20 2:20 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Not two, not one 4/25/20 2:42 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue J W 4/26/20 4:01 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 4/26/20 5:33 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Chris Marti 4/26/20 7:13 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 4/26/20 7:20 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Jacob 7/28/20 2:45 PM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue J W 4/25/20 9:40 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 4/25/20 9:59 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue J W 4/25/20 10:31 AM
RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue Tim Farrington 5/5/20 3:26 AM
I stumbled into the Dharma Overground by an obscure route, picking up on a reference to Buddhist parallels to John of the Cross’s concept of the Dark Night of the Soul in the Wikipedia entry on that. My practice at this point in my life is rooted in the Christian contemplative tradition, though I was something of a prodigal— born into a basic suburban American Catholicism, and clueless about the mystical side of Christianity, I grew dissatisfied with what I was finding there for all the standard reasons and got into Buddhism during high school, mostly a vague sort of Zen, much influenced by Alan Watts (it was the 70s) and D.T. Suzuki. Though I did have a knack for certain experiences and definitely crossed into the country of inwardness, my actual meditation practice was never much more than hit-or-miss until I encountered Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga in the early eighties. That’s its own long story, but the short version is that I spent a couple years in one of his ashrams, in Oakland, and amid everything else (Kashmir Shaivism, Kundalini, the somewhat secret tantrism of that scene, scandal, politics, etc.), I also somewhat paradoxically ended up tapping into The Cloud of Unknowing and John of the Cross, in the ashram library, and so began a process of reassessing and exploring that tradition. A further encounter in 1990 with Fr. Thomas Keating, and the centering prayer practice he was teaching, pretty much convinced me that the thing could be done within the Christian tradition, and though I have inevitably found everything accented by a couple of decades of eastern vocabularies, my practice since then has spiraled in a basically Christian orbit. John of the Cross has been the foundation— i am convinced that he has covered the waterfront of the path to “union with God” better than anyone else who uses the word "God." I have also been much influenced by Bernadette Roberts (another long story there, and her experience of No-Self is its own deep fascinating can of worms; she breaks the envelope in the end, basically, but I have found her treatment of the orthodox stages of Christian contemplation to be as good and accurate and helpful as they come).

Anyway, here I am. I have raced through my first reading of MCTB (and begun my further rereadings; the book has become a friend already in the way that very few do) and been thrilled by its very refreshing no-bullshit tone and by the palpable depth of practical experience that shines through. Daniel’s phrase “Chronic Dark Night Yogi” alone was worth the price of admission for me, as it nails a vast part of my own experience. And I am fascinated by the parallels he draws between the Vipassana Jhanas or Dukkha Ñanas— the Third Vipassana Jhana, in his scheme— and John of the Cross’s Dark Night.

It is these parallels I would like to explore on this thread, if that appeals to anyone. Partly in a spirit of inter-tradition dialogue— I think a lot of interesting insight might come of a closer examination of the night in the light of the Buddhist and Christian approaches in genuine conversation. And mainly because I think the Night(s) is (are) the fire that really gets most of the cooking done, in the end.

For openers, aside from general reflections (always welcome): John of the Cross distinguishes two nights, a Dark Night of the Senses and a Dark Night of the Spirit. (Both of these, of course, presume a viable foundation of virtue, a life conformed to the basics of what MCTB calls “morality,” and what John calls the cultivation of the virtues and the elimination of the vices through mortification and purification.) (He also distinguishes active and passive phases of both nights, but I'm trying to keep it simple on this opening round.) To me, the night of the senses corresponds largely to the transition from world-oriented desires to God-oriented desires; it is fueled by a kind of conversion experience, a “spiritual” awakening— by something much like Daniel’s A&P event, as I understand it— and its fruit is the achievement of a sustainable (basically joyous) prayerful life, what John calls the life of the “proficients.” To try to translate this into MCTB terms, I suspect that this first night and its fruition revolve around what Daniel calls the concentration practices. Its characteristic prayer forms are generally content-based (John of the Cross calls content-based prayer “meditation,” to distinguish it from contemplation) and focus-oriented. I would venture to say that this involves the samatha jhanas.

The Dark Night of the Spirit, in John’s terms, is the transition to infused contemplation, which is a whole different kind of prayer, essentially a pathless engagement with nada; I believe this corresponds to what MCTB would call vipassana practices, to insight.

That seems like enough for openers— it at least baits the hook of discussion. Though one other note: it seems entirely possible to me that the Christian map, as exemplified in its orthodox form in John of the Cross, stops too soon and may have missed a continent. Bernadette Roberts has definitely gone out into the “Beyond here be dragons” part of the map, into something she calls No-Self; I also think Meister Eckhart spent a lot of his career hinting around at this too, while trying to not get condemned for heresy and killed. Marguerite Porete went there, to a large extent, and did get killed. So there is some historical reason for the limited mapwork and general gunshyness. Certainly Bernadette Roberts has raised a shit storm among a certain set of neo-Inquisitors. But if anyone can handle it, she can.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/18/11 12:45 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Sorry for rambling a bit here, but got a bit excited emoticon


I haven't seen much dark night related to concentration meditation, except that being concentrated makes it hit lots harder. But it you could be right in trying to fit it with the first A&P, which i suspect requires unusual (for pre-contemplative life) levels of concentration.

I don't know much about the christian concept of the Dark Night, but i think i can distinguish to some degree between two kinds of 3rd vipassana jhana experiences i have had.

There seems to be some sort of shift (note sure about this) between seemingly ordinary emotions (i guess fear through disgust), and then there's the deeply soul-wrenching giving up, casting out for something, anything to help (desire for deliverance, reobservation).
I'm not sure about the mapping, but the second kind of dark night for seemed to arise from directly noticing that there were no place for "me" in any of this, after i had done a concentration meditation to become absorbed in the background emptiness from which phenomena arise (making the impermanence of phenomena very very noticeable in real time).

My impression, and i hope you will correct me, is that centering prayer doesn't actually involve looking closely at phenomena in the same way as vipassana. This fits with my understanding (following Duncan Barford: Handbook for the recently enlightened) that there is another kind of meditation that can lead to the same sorts of awakening - a meditation where you surrender everything you are to a higher power, and keep surrendering until the you isn't there anymore, because everything have been surrendered. Would this fit with centering prayer?

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/20/11 6:46 AM as a reply to Villum (redacted).
Hi Villum,

Thanks for your fascinating post.

"I haven't seen much dark night related to concentration meditation, except that being concentrated makes it hit lots harder. But it you could be right in trying to fit it with the first A&P, which i suspect requires unusual (for pre-contemplative life) levels of concentration."

I’m not sure about the correspondence between John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Senses and concentration— as I said in my initial stumbling, I have a vague notion that the particular crisis of the Night of Sense might relate to the acquistion and exercise of concentrative states concurrent with an internal realignment having to do with “renunciation” — with the transition from seeking our gratification in “the world” to seeking our gratification “in God.” This is only possible, realistically, after what we are calling here the first A & P, when the possibility of “spiritual” juice has been revealed and the desire for that juice is strong enough to trump our previous conventional desires and motivate us to reorder our lives in the interest of cultivating deep prayer. I am only groping around here at all in the interests of cross-cultural mapping, and because of the fact that John distinguishes so emphatically between the two nights. The conduct required in both of them is basically the same, however; and the deepening cultivation, out of necessity, of the basic virtues of faith, humility, patience, compassion, courage, and so forth, is also largely the same. I think that it is what the nights deconstruct that seems like the meaningful variation.

For myself, i have never really cared whether I am in a “night of sense” or a “night of spirit,” in practice; by their fruits ye shall know them, and it is only in retrospect that i am prepared to see what exactly was “purged” or accomplished in any given round. Bernadette Roberts, whose reports and analyses of experience in this territory I trust to a very high degree, says in her published works that for her the night of sense ran right into the night of spirit; two for the price of one— she bought one and got one free, basically, and good for her, but obviously her books are no help on sorting things out here. Even in correspondence she says that the Passive Night of the Senses and the Active Night of the Spirit “overlap or go on at the same time, I treat them together.” I have definitely experienced multiple major nights, and at least two genuine and distinct emergences from them (and have cycled recurrently through the territory, in a spiral sort of way, on a smaller scale, frequently), so probably there are meaningful distinctions to be made here once the terminology is sorted out (and the guy using the terms is more lucid and informed). But without that lucidity, it might well be a waste of time to try to get too precise on what corresponds to what in what language.

I do think, in practical terms, that dark nights in the strict sense of the term (i mean, in practice— “on the cushion,” as Daniel often puts it) all have to do with the shift from content/state-centered prayer or practice to God-oriented pathlessness in the cloud of unknowing, roughly speaking— from meditation to contemplation, in Christian terms, and from concentration to insight, or from samatha jhana to vipassana jhana, to try to speak DO here (and one of my main interests in this thread is in fact learning the MCTB/dharmaoverground language, in the interests of discovering the range and limits of meaningful translation and its potential to deepen practice, and also, at the very least, making more fruitful conversations possible, if only in my MCTB pidgin, in the courtyard of the Contemplative Tower of Babel).


"I don't know much about the christian concept of the Dark Night, but i think i can distinguish to some degree between two kinds of 3rd vipassana jhana experiences i have had."

John’s second night, the Dark Night of the Spirit, to me, corresponds clearly and fairly precisely the 3rd vipassana jhana, and it seems like that is probably the most promising tentative translation to make here, as it seems like we’re on solid common ground with the experiences and in the same ballpark with their interpretation.

"There seems to be some sort of shift (note sure about this) between seemingly ordinary emotions (i guess fear through disgust), and then there's the deeply soul-wrenching giving up, casting out for something, anything to help (desire for deliverance, reobservation).
I'm not sure about the mapping, but the second kind of dark night for seemed to arise from directly noticing that there were no place for "me" in any of this, after i had done a concentration meditation to become absorbed in the background emptiness from which phenomena arise (making the impermanence of phenomena very very noticeable in real time)."

Amen! This is the territory, whatever map we’re using. I agree that the conditions of the dark night seem to arise from the dissolution of our stabilizing concepts in prayer/meditation/life. The Christian way is what Daniel calls a “True Self” path, and the Buddhist way is a “No Self” path, but in both cases i think what the dark night reveals is in large part the emptiness of whatever self we’ve been assuming we were, or had; and that the gist of the work of the dark night is making peace with that. For the Christian, another aspect, in addition to the Incredible Shrinking Self is the dissolution at increasingly subtle levels of our constructions of “God.” All the handles fall off the divine, even as the hands fall off the self that was grasping for those handles.

"My impression, and i hope you will correct me, is that centering prayer doesn't actually involve looking closely at phenomena in the same way as vipassana. This fits with my understanding (following Duncan Barford: Handbook for the recently enlightened) that there is another kind of meditation that can lead to the same sorts of awakening - a meditation where you surrender everything you are to a higher power, and keep surrendering until the you isn't there anymore, because everything have been surrendered. Would this fit with centering prayer?"

The centering prayer thing is in many ways a can of worms, or a truck full of cans of worms, worthy of its own thread at least, starting with all the trickiness of it being “Centering Prayer,” a distinct brand name; and moving on through the politics and ecclesiastical politics of that; the history of the movement, as a distinct impulse of contemplative renewal within the Catholic tradition; the developments and strengths and weaknesses of the specific brand name itself; and the issue of Christian “mantra” practice in general. (The Centering Prayer folks are at great pains to distinguish what they call a “Sacred Word” from “mantra,” for various reasons, mostly in my opinion having to do with covering their ass with various Christian elements (necessarily, for the most part: again, this level of stuff is complicated socially and culturally). There is a species of Christian meditation developed by John Main that does call their mantra a mantra. The invoking of a whatchamaycallit as a prayer technique goes back at least to the desert monks of the third and forth centuries, and from there moves in a basically uninterrupted line with the hesychasts into present-day Eastern Orthodoxy, which thus needed no Centering Prayer movement and its complications just to start simply praying again. But I digress.

A very short answer to your question, in the spirit in which I think you are asking it, is that in the basic “technique” of centering prayer there is in fact no element of close examination of the passing pheneomena as there is in vipassana. The CP thing is simply to notice what comes up and let it go as it is noticed, with no emphasis on analysis or seeing-through or “noting” in the more technical sense of MCTB. The “orthodox” Centering Prayer differs from a lot of mantra work in that it says to only invoke the sacred word when distraction is noticed, when you’ve gotten caught up in something, sensory, emotional, ideational, etc. The use of the prayer word is thus, as you say, a kind of surrender of everything else and you “keep surrendering until the you isn’t there anymore, because everything has been surrendered.” At that point, “not I, but Christ in me” is left, theologically speaking.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/19/11 1:52 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Quick reply for now:

First, do you have a good and readable source to Centering prayer you can refer me to. Preferably online, but if you know a really good book, that would be ok too.

I'll try to read some St. John when i get the time to see if i can recognize the experience.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/20/11 6:44 AM as a reply to Villum (redacted).
good intro books to centering prayer are Basil Pennington's Centering Prayer and Thomas Keating's Invitation to Love and Open Heart, Open Mind. no online texts of these that i know of. the main CP website, http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org , has a number of articles and intro material.

John of the Cross's works are available to be read online. The Dark Night is at http://www.karmel.at/ics/john/dn.html
I'd recommend going straight to Book I, Chapter 8, for the best chance at getting a sense of his dark night teachings without going into hyperglycemic shock at the density of his 16th-century theological language.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/20/11 5:10 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:
good intro books to centering prayer are Basil Pennington's Centering Prayer and Thomas Keating's Invitation to Love and Open Heart, Open Mind. no online texts of these that i know of. the main CP website, http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org , has a number of articles and intro material.


I found this, which seems a good introduction and overview: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/site/DocServer/MethodCP2008.pdf?docID=121
From trying out the approach, as i understand it from the text, i really like the method, and it does seem very likely to produce insight. I don't know if the kind of faith i have works with this, but i tried it with a using a personal symbol of the undefinable Absolute (seemed appropriate, as you described the practice as a via negativa).
Will be trying out my approximation of this practice over the next week, to see how it works for me emoticon I don'ẗ imagine it will really correspond to the christian practice when it is infused with strong faith, but it's seems interesting and powerful practice anyways, at least on first look.


Tim Farrington:
John of the Cross's works are available to be read online. The Dark Night is at http://www.karmel.at/ics/john/dn.html
I'd recommend going straight to Book I, Chapter 8, for the best chance at getting a sense of his dark night teachings without going into hyperglycemic shock at the density of his 16th-century theological language.


I've just looked at it cursorily, it indeed seems a very very nice work - recognizable descriptions of experience, seems very good for helping to make sense of it all and persevering and also provides some, in my experience, very useful advice for the Dark Night/Knowledges of suffering. It also, on first look at least, helps a lot in making sense of the centering prayer.

some quick comments and crossmapping:

John of the Cross - The Dark Night, book 1, ch 8, 3:
. For it is through the delight and satisfaction they experience in prayer that they have become detached from worldly things and have gained some spiritual strength in God. This strength has helped them somewhat to restrain their appetites for creatures, and through it they will be able to suffer a little oppression and dryness without turning back. Consequently, it is at the time they are going about their spiritual exercises with delight and satisfaction, when in their opinion the sun of divine favor is shining most brightly on them, that God darkens all this light and closes the door and the spring of sweet spiritual water they were tasting as often and as long as they desired. For since they were weak and tender, no door was closed to them, as St. John says in the Book of Revelation [Rv. 3:8]. God now leaves them in such darkness that they do not know which way to turn in their discursive imaginings. They cannot advance a step in meditation, as they used to, now that the interior sense faculties are engulfed in this night.


That's seems to correspond very strongly with movement from the height of Arising and Passing Away to the 3rd Vipassana Jhana (almost wrote Dark Night, but that would have been silly ;) )

John of the Cross - The Dark Night, book 2, ch1, 1:
If His Majesty intends to lead the soul on, he does not put it in this dark night of spirit immediately after its going out from the aridities and trials of the first purgation and night of sense. Instead, after having emerged from the state of beginners, the soul usually spends many years exercising itself in the state of proficients. In this new state, as one liberated from a cramped prison cell, it goes about the things of God with much more freedom and satisfaction of spirit and with more abundant interior delight than it did in the beginning before entering the night of sense.


Dark night yogi? Even though there are some discrepancies, the overall picture fits, especially on reading the next section. Interesting when added to his comment that there are many people who enter the first dark night (book 1, ch8, 1). Seems to recognize being a dark night yogi as a quite common phenomenon, but does provide some comfort it as a sort of (limited) blessed state. The dark night does tend to turn on my spiritual-seeker instincts, so this seems to fit as well.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
6/21/11 4:26 AM as a reply to Villum (redacted).
From trying out the approach, as i understand it from the text, i really like the method, and it does seem very likely to produce insight. I don't know if the kind of faith i have works with this, but i tried it with a using a personal symbol of the undefinable Absolute (seemed appropriate, as you described the practice as a via negativa).


As far as methods go . . . It definitely eases along the via negativa, and the more so the deeper you get and the more discerning you become of the subtleties of what arises. There is a point for me where any invocation of the prayer word, however gently and subtly (Keating recommends invoking it as "lightly as a feather"), just ends up splashing too much, so it goes to a fairly pure insight practice of attending to the impermanence and unsatisfactoriness of the arisings as they come and go; and in practice this amounts to a no-self meditation as well, as every effort and movement of "self" is seen as anicca and dukkha. Which is really not so shocking to Christian orthodoxy as one might suspect: the transience and unsatisfactoriness of all created things is a constant theme among in the works of pretty much everyone you'll find along the path.

Will be trying out my approximation of this practice over the next week, to see how it works for me emoticon I don'ẗ imagine it will really correspond to the christian practice when it is infused with strong faith, but it's seems interesting and powerful practice anyways, at least on first look.


Faith in the Void and the groundless emptiness of all things will probably do just fine here. I'll be interested in how it plays for you.

some quick comments and crossmapping:

John of the Cross - The Dark Night, book 1, ch 8, 3:
. For it is through the delight and satisfaction they experience in prayer that they have become detached from worldly things and have gained some spiritual strength in God. This strength has helped them somewhat to restrain their appetites for creatures, and through it they will be able to suffer a little oppression and dryness without turning back. Consequently, it is at the time they are going about their spiritual exercises with delight and satisfaction, when in their opinion the sun of divine favor is shining most brightly on them, that God darkens all this light and closes the door and the spring of sweet spiritual water they were tasting as often and as long as they desired. For since they were weak and tender, no door was closed to them, as St. John says in the Book of Revelation [Rv. 3:8]. God now leaves them in such darkness that they do not know which way to turn in their discursive imaginings. They cannot advance a step in meditation, as they used to, now that the interior sense faculties are engulfed in this night.


That's seems to correspond very strongly with movement from the height of Arising and Passing Away to the 3rd Vipassana Jhana (almost wrote Dark Night, but that would have been silly ;) )


Exactly! Fearfully, miserably, disgustingly true. It's really the primo way to generate critical mass in the desire for deliverance.



John of the Cross - The Dark Night, book 2, ch1, 1:
If His Majesty intends to lead the soul on, he does not put it in this dark night of spirit immediately after its going out from the aridities and trials of the first purgation and night of sense. Instead, after having emerged from the state of beginners, the soul usually spends many years exercising itself in the state of proficients. In this new state, as one liberated from a cramped prison cell, it goes about the things of God with much more freedom and satisfaction of spirit and with more abundant interior delight than it did in the beginning before entering the night of sense.


Dark night yogi? Even though there are some discrepancies, the overall picture fits, especially on reading the next section. Interesting when added to his comment that there are many people who enter the first dark night (book 1, ch8, 1). Seems to recognize being a dark night yogi as a quite common phenomenon, but does provide some comfort it as a sort of (limited) blessed state. The dark night does tend to turn on my spiritual-seeker instincts, so this seems to fit as well.


This is why I do think some manner of distinguishing between the nights is useful: there are more than one, for sure; they recur, in a spiral fashion, very reliably pretty much every time we go through a cycle of practice. And they demand some kind of perfection, some very specific balance of surrender and effort, trust and perseverance.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 2:31 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
I was just reading this, my first post-thread on DhO, from 2011. You might almost think that i haven't progressed an inch. Smiling Stone was teasing me (or tearing me a new one, it's hard to tell with him, that enigmatic stoner smile, you know) recent about "some bible quotes proliferating everywhere? You were speaking "dhammic" talk but, at the bottom, you were the guy going on about Bernadette Roberts a few years back, an undercover deep south evangelist... " I think this must have been what he was referring to. Come to Jesus, o ye of DhO! His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He was miserable in existence too, and died in despair, wondering whether the whole thing had been for nought: "My God, my God, why have You abandonned me?" He got the Cosmic Joke, as agnostic might put it, and found out it just really wasn't that fucking funny at all.

Vipassana as i understand it at this point is really just a very fast way to skip all the other stuff and cut straight to the Stations of the Cross: there is a heavy, splintery weight on my shoulders and back, possibly from this large wooden construction i am hauling uphill . . . There is pain around the head and brow, thorny sort of stabbing flashes . . . The palms of my hands and my feet feel like someone has pounded nails through them . . . stabbing pain in the side, spear-like. . .


RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 3:13 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Really interesting to see this re-upped.  I love St Theresa also.  Maybe the dark night of the senses corresponds to the dukkha nanas, and maybe the dark night of the sould corresponds to falling into the pit of the void - temporary hopeless from depersonaliation later in the path, which happens to some.

But what you are talking about seems to be to be something else. Something full of grace - the acknowledgement, the embracing, of our reality.  Instead of fleeing from it.

emoticon

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 9:40 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Hey Tim,
It's really cool to see this and it's funny because I was just thinking about you and how you come at it from a Christian background, it's particularly interesting to me because I also had a Christian upbringing, a very fundamentalist one at that (Lutheran church missouri synod to be exact).  I'm talking like, no women can vote, young earth kind of thing. 

I've dealt with a lot of religious trauma as a result but I think it's also instilled a sense of strong spirituality in me from a young age, which has turned out to help with my current practice.  I still think of Christ as my guru in some ways, like I view Buddha as my guru, though I'm still figuring that all out.  I also view Christ and Buddha as the same entity.

I actually haven't read much into Dark Night of the Soul but the thing that really helped for me was getting into Gnosticism and reading some of Joseph Campbell's stuff on Christ-Buddha parallels.

I would love to talk to you more about it here or we can do PMs as well, just let me know.





"Vipassana as i understand it at this point is really just a very fast way to skip all the other stuff and cut straight to the Stations of the Cross: there is a heavy, splintery weight on my shoulders and back, possibly from this large wooden construction i am hauling uphill . . . There is pain around the head and brow, thorny sort of stabbing flashes . . . The palms of my hands and my feet feel like someone has pounded nails through them . . . stabbing pain in the side, spear-like. . ."

Thinking about the physical pains of Vipassana and the DN as having the marks of Christ on your body 'taking up your cross' I think is a perfect thing to think about in your scenario.  I mean that's what Christianity is all about anyway, right?  Going back to the Tonglen thing, to me that is a "Christ-like" practice, taking on the suffering of others.  I've heard some Buddhist scholars suggest that Christ was actually practicing Tonglen while on the cross.  So maybe thinking about it in that way will help to understand and move through that suffering.

Best of luck to you my friend.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 9:59 AM as a reply to J W.
John W:
Hey Tim,
It's really cool to see this and it's funny because I was just thinking about you and how you come at it from a Christian background, it's particularly interesting to me because I also had a Christian upbringing, a very fundamentalist one at that (Lutheran church missouri synod to be exact).  I'm talking like, no women can vote, young earth kind of thing. 

I've dealt with a lot of religious trauma as a result but I think it's also instilled a sense of strong spirituality in me from a young age, which has turned out to help with my current practice.  I still think of Christ as my guru in some ways, like I view Buddha as my guru, though I'm still figuring that all out.  I also view Christ and Buddha as the same entity.


I would love to talk to you more about it here or we can do PMs as well, just let me know.


Oh, this is the place, and no time like the present. I've only been paying rent on this post for NINE FUCKING YEARS.

I actually haven't read much into Dark Night of the Soul but the thing that really helped for me was getting into Gnosticism and reading some of Joseph Campbell's stuff on Christ-Buddha parallels.

I do not, honestly, recommend John of the Cross's works, to very many people. The vocabulary is gnarly as shit, the Catholicism makes most people sick to their stomachs faster than bad incense, and he such a fucking hard-ass, he scares people. If you are desperate enough, there is no one better. But I hope to never meet another person that desperate. I'm enough, for that degree of desperation.



Thinking about the physical pains of Vipassana and the DN as having the marks of Christ on your body 'taking up your cross' I think is a perfect thing to think about in your scenario.  I mean that's what Christianity is all about anyway, right?  Going back to the Tonglen thing, to me that is a "Christ-like" practice, taking on the suffering of others.  I've heard some Buddhist scholars suggest that Christ was actually practicing Tonglen while on the cross.  So maybe thinking about it in that way will help to understand and move through that suffering.


I love that tonglen angle, it gives the poor suffering Jewish son of a carpenter and a very-nearly unwed mother a ton of props. Unfortunately, I don't think the actual reports support that high view in the least. The guy sweated blood and prayed all night to find the surrender to face it as the will of God, and
got arrested for political reasons, for causing too much of a hub-bub among the meek, got the shit beat out of him and was mocked and scorned, and died bloody and exhausted and by one account, at least, in pure Dark Night mode.

He knew what Jerusalem had done historically to its prophets: it killed them, and waited a few hundred years until they were more or less harmless before enshrining them in scripture. I think Jesus knew the score. But I think he was winging it the whole way.

I am the kind of Catholic who knows himself to be at root a Jewish sectarian with 2000 years of appalling fratricide to answer for, and who also, when Jesus asks, as he does several times in the gospels, if anyone even knows who he is ---- hs to answer truthfully, well, I don't know. It's the world's most fruitful koan, as far as I'm concerned.


RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 10:31 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:

I love that tonglen angle, it gives the poor suffering Jewish son of a carpenter and a very-nearly unwed mother a ton of props. Unfortunately, I don't think the actual reports support that high view in the least. The guy sweated blood and prayed all night to find the surrender to face it as the will of God, and got arrested for political reasons, for causing too much of a hub-bub among the meek, got the shit beat out of him and was mocked and scorned, and died bloody and exhausted and by one account, at least, in pure Dark Night mode.

He knew what Jerusalem had done historically to its prophets: it killed them, and waited a few hundred years until they were more or less harmless before enshrining them in scripture. I think Jesus knew the score. But I think he was winging it the whole way.

I am the kind of Catholic who knows himself to be at root a Jewish sectarian with 2000 years of appalling fratricide to answer for, and who also, when Jesus asks, as he does several times in the gospels, if anyone even knows who he is ---- hs to answer truthfully, well, I don't know. It's the world's most fruitful koan, as far as I'm concerned.

For me Buddhism and comparative studies has changed the way I read the Bible and I would say strengthened my faith unequivocally. I feel a stronger connection to Christ than I ever did when I was 'in the church' despite now being what they would consider a heretic and blasphemer, and don't consider myself Christian **as it is defined by the church** anymore.

Just to summarize a few of my main interpretations briefly because there's people who can probably go into much more clear detail on this stuff and plenty that has been written about it (i'll try to find some good resources):

- I view Yahweh as basically the Dharma Protector of the Jewish people.  Gnosticism has the concept of Yahweh as a demiurge.  In Buddhist phenomology that would place Yahweh in the realm of Great Brahmas, mistakenly viewing himself as all-powerful.  The form of Yahweh is human-like, and patriarchal, "He" is a manifestation of Jewish spiritual consciousness, not truly all-powerful (this can be shown through logic).  This would place him in the 14th realm according to Buddhisht phenomology:

14 - Great Brahmas (Maha brahma): One of this realm's most famous inhabitants is the Great Brahma, a deity whose delusion leads him to regard himself as the all-powerful, all-seeing creator of the Universe. According to the Brahmajāla Sutta, a Mahā brahmā is a being from the Ābhāsvara worlds who falls into a lower world through exhaustion of his merits and is reborn alone in the Brahma-world; forgetting his former existence, he imagines himself to have come into existence without cause.

- The lives of Christ and Buddha follow a very similar arch. The prophecies, virgin birth (or some variant), temptation and suffering, and finally resurrection (enlightenment and fruition).

- Christ too taught that we could become like him ("the kingdom of heaven is within you", "the marks of Christ are on my body", "take up thy cross", etc etc etc).  But this message has been largely stripped and hidden away by the Church, starting almost immediately and continuing to this day.  Most priests are ignorant in that they claim to hold the keys of heaven, but mostly do not possess any special knowledge, but they will call any layperson who does claim to have direct experience or even those who claim that direct experience is "possible" -- a blasphemer.  Who are the real blasphemers, those who claim to hold power and have none, and on top of that do everything in their power to prevent *us* from actual attainment?  Or the laypeople who search and seek, through harmless and natural means (by *breathing*), to connect with a greater part of themselves?

If I could recommend one place just to start -- they used to have Joseph Campbell's The Power Of Myth on Netflix but it's been taken down, maybe you can find it somewhere, but here's one clip on Buddha-Christ consciousness.  There's a whole 2 hours of him talking about this stuff somewhere, I forgot which episode but I'll try to find a link if you are interested:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmSircOd1w4

Man, what a way to start a Saturday!  Thanks for the inspiration Tim.

With Metta
John



RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 1:23 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:
You might almost think that i haven't progressed an inch.

I wouldn't say that at all. You became one of the most dedicated and successful dark-night yogis ever.

Also to John W, continuing on this Christianity & Buddhism theme. I also suspect there's a relationship between the Quaker experience of the "light within" and jhana/nimitta. That came to America via William Penn amongst others. Just found this old Dho thread with some more parallels. Ah, Saturday afternoons ...

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 1:33 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Can we just get to the point here? This stuff is a humanity thing. It's been found, and sought, and taught for eons among us human beings. The language differs, the cultures differ, the traditions differ, but it's all about the same thing.



RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 1:51 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Can we just get to the point here? This stuff is a humanity thing. It's been found, and sought, and taught for eons among us human beings. The language differs, the cultures differ, the traditions differ, but it's all about the same thing.


Cheers to that.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 1:58 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Can we just get to the point here? This stuff is a humanity thing. It's been found, and sought, and taught for eons among us human beings. The language differs, the cultures differ, the traditions differ, but it's all about the same thing.



Yes, yes, and at any given moment, in humanity's history, and in our own specific little lives, when we sit our ass down on the mat, we still have to do something precise, unique, and specific. It's like a Feynman sum-over-histories problem for a particular case: what is the algorithm, the Feynman diagram, whatever, that describes and formulates the practice of this person here, now. The available menu of techniques in the evolution of spirituality is ever-evolving, and revitalizing old ones in an unforeseen new way is a big part of that. One of the things that happens at DhO is these high-energy collisions of formerly discrete particles, with a consequent shattering into a brief flash of energy and then a reconstitution into a changed particle thenceforth. We're a spiritual atom smasher! We're making new streaks in the cloud chanbers! I've gone off the metaphorical deep end!

Hell yeah it's all about the same thing. And so we keep working. And part of that work, so characteristic of DhO, is flinging ideas at each other just to see what happens when they collide.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 2:20 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
This stuff we do, and our goal, is the anti-Babel.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/25/20 2:42 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
This stuff we do, and our goal, is the anti-Babel.

And I think the DhO has been very successful at slowly decoding and integrating all this stuff.  It seems increasingly clear that the basic ingredients (up to a certain point) are the same across traditions, just cooked up into slightly different meals and served with different garnishes.  And by that I mean both different Buddhist traditions, but also things such as Sufi, Christian Contemplatives, and Hinduism.  The great thing about Buddhism for me are the survival of the very precise meditation instructions and path guidance from the Suttas, and the ability to get people all the way (as opposed to most of the way) with some regularity.

And now ... I would like to suggest a way to deal with some of the remaining conflict.  Having been reading Jung, it seems to me that a lot of the differences between traditions could be explained by psychological types - introversion versus extraversion, sensation versus intuition, thinking versus feeling.  Here are some thoughts ...

. Introverts may initially be more suited to the internal path of the body witness (Mahasi vipassan)
. Extraverts may initially be more suited to the external path of Dzogchen/Mahamudra
. Sensing types may have better access to concrete experiences of cesssation
. Intuitive types may have better access to concrete experiences of no self through self-inquiry
. Thinking types may find the suttas really helpful
. Feeling types might be better suited to vajrayana

So I am an ambivert, strongly intuitive and thinking.  This seems to explain a lot about the path I took.

Does this speak to anybody else?

Malcolm (the entity formerly known as curious)  

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/26/20 5:33 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
This stuff we do, and our goal, is the anti-Babel.


Chris, beloved friend, mentor, friend, moderator of this sangha's forum, administrative voice of Actual Authority--- did i mention, beloved friend?--- co-practioner at the construction site Ground Zero of "the Babel Project: Making it worse, making it taller, or tearing that sucker down to a perfect universal spiritual vocabulary?"--- if you really want to tangle with me on my home turf of metaphor and mythology . . .

then

1) you are crazier than even I thought you were, and i thought you were as crazy as i could imagine, but you may have exceeded my imagination here in sheer reckless gall; and

2) i think we should take it outside, to the Bar of Last Resort at a minimum, and possibly to the alley out back. Marquis of Queensbury rules applicable up to a given point, which line you will clearly notice when i begin violating them. DhO forum rules applicable throughout, since if i dispense with THOSE, you have the power, authority, and responsibility to ban my foul-mouthed ass.

--- . . . did i mention beloved friend?

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/26/20 7:13 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
That's enough coffee for you today, Tim.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/26/20 7:20 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
That's enough coffee for you today, Tim.

sorry, man, two cups left on my strictly rationed, highly-disciplined caffeine consumption. Duck and cover, my man, duck and cover.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
4/26/20 4:01 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:

. Introverts may initially be more suited to the internal path of the body witness (Mahasi vipassan)
. Extraverts may initially be more suited to the external path of Dzogchen/Mahamudra
. Sensing types may have better access to concrete experiences of cesssation
. Intuitive types may have better access to concrete experiences of no self through self-inquiry
. Thinking types may find the suttas really helpful
. Feeling types might be better suited to vajrayana

Interesting to think about.  I like this idea of mapping the different Buddhist approaches to personality types, like Myers-Brigg for example.  Probably would be helpful to many people.

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
5/5/20 3:26 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
emoticon


I come back to this post, my first on DhO, two days after i joined on 6/13.2013 and so after ghosting around eavesdropping a bit before taking the plunge into textual incarnation, i entered humbled and introduced myself to the sangha, choosing as my first offering a proposal for dialogue between the Catholic Dark Night lineage of John of the Cross--- which is not a Carmelite lineage per se: Teresa of Avila is many things, and her dark nights are gnarly and well-accounted and self-admittedly crucial, but hers is not a dark night path in the sense that John X’s is, and honestly, with all due love and love and more love, and respect, and in the knowledge that she is a sort of icon, exemplar, and heroine of contemporary feminist theology--- my mother adored her, as did several of my best female friends on the path, two of whom, Mirabai Starr and Claudia Love Meir, have written excellent books about her—teresa’s writings have never helped me a bit. Our real teachers, the necessary ones, are the very few without whom we would be dead or, worse, frozen forever in despair. For me,
those two were John X and Bernadette Roberts, hands down.
 
looking back on this post this morning, it strikes me how well it has done in terms of the genuine basic intention of inter-tradition dialogue. Those first exchanges with Villum (((redacted)) are priceless and beautiful exchanges in mutual respect.
 
There are only two moments, looking back, where i felt real fear for the thread’s poject: Smiling Stone’s humorous and loving post of something-something, which i can’t track down at the moment, when he gently mentions his dubiousness at points about me as some kind of Bible-thumping Christian mole in this Buddhist organization, and the sequence with Chris Marti on the thread itself, as follows, for full context:
 
Chris
 
Can we just get to the point here? This stuff is a humanity thing. It's been found, and sought, and taught for eons among us human beings. The language differs, the cultures differ, the traditions differ, but it's all about the same thing.
 
Tim

Yes, yes, and at any given moment, in humanity's history, and in our own specific little lives, when we sit our ass down on the mat, we still have to do something precise, unique, and specific. It's like a Feynman sum-over-histories problem for a particular case: what is the algorithm, the Feynman diagram, whatever, that describes and formulates the practice of this person here, now. The available menu of techniques in the evolution of spirituality is ever-evolving, and revitalizing old ones in an unforeseen new way is a big part of that. One of the things that happens at DhO is these high-energy collisions of formerly discrete particles, with a consequent shattering into a brief flash of energy and then a reconstitution into a changed particle thenceforth. We're a spiritual atom smasher! We're making new streaks in the cloud chanbers! I've gone off the metaphorical deep end!

Hell yeah it's all about the same thing. And so we keep working. And part of that work, so characteristic of DhO, is flinging ideas at each other just to see what happens when they collide.
 
Chris

This stuff we do, and our goal, is the anti-Babel.
 
Tim

 Chris, beloved friend, mentor, friend, moderator of this sangha's forum, administrative voice of Actual Authority--- did i mention, beloved friend?--- co-practioner at the construction site Ground Zero of "the Babel Project: Making it worse, making it taller, or tearing that sucker down to a perfect universal spiritual vocabulary?"--- if you really want to tangle with me on my home turf of metaphor and mythology . . .

then

1) you are crazier than even I thought you were, and i thought you were as crazy as i could imagine, but you may have exceeded my imagination here in sheer reckless gall; and

2) i think we should take it outside, to the Bar of Last Resort at a minimum, and possibly to the alley out back. Marquis of Queensbury rules applicable up to a given point, which line you will clearly notice when i begin violating them. DhO forum rules applicable throughout, since if i dispense with THOSE, you have the power, authority, and responsibility to ban my foul-mouthed ass.

--- . . . did i mention beloved friend?
 
Chris

That's enough coffee for you today, Tim.
 
that joke from Chris, foregoing my offer to tangle, and well able to recognize when i am starting to get my hackles up in my way, is the state of the art in building along what i consider the most dangerous fault line in DhO: how capable are we here, really, of Actual Dialogue, not dharma combat for kicks, but genuine mutual exchange between distinct traditions, here on DhO? Let’s ask the genuine Advaitists whose earthly forms survived the dharma combat spectacle of the recent Advaita/Buddhism thread, which began with what the iniator of the thread on the Dharma Battleground terms a few things that “seemed like fighting words.” That thread is a study in cluster fucks, for the most part, or worse. And there are genuine moments of genuine cross-tradition dialogue of mytual respect and genuine interest and win-win learning in dialogue. Those are the gold, and the hope, but the amount of shit you’d have to wade through to find those golden nugget moments is daunting.
 
But they are there, and they are here on this dialogue thread--- a dark night thread, not a dharma combat thread--- in abundance.
 
Chris is one of my best friends on DhO, from his early support and apprciation of what my peculiar sense of humor brought to the mix, on. It is one of the finest friendships of my life and i know how blessed i am to have found my way into it, as a man dying of thirst knows how blessed he is to have found a bit of water. His moderator cap, and his position as the court of last resort and final judgment on DhO obviously complicate the friendship; the poor guy loves me, but it is his responsibility to keep me from violating the rules of the forum and otherwise qualitatively just Fucking Things Up. But in this instance, it is simply in his capacity as an equal among equals in the culture of DhO that he is taking a position that is highly likely to lead me into a condition that many of you will recognize results in a certain amount of heat and smoke, and does eventually lead to Chris having to put on his moderator cap and give me a yellow card, or his Administrator cap and red card me for egregious violation of the forum’s rules, and ban me.
 
Nevertheless, i am not really worried about this, beyond what i’ve said here. Chris and i are both looking to the same Law, here, under which we both live, and breathe, and have our being, in this specific instance of being fellow members of the extraordinary and blessed congregations of saints and sinner known as the Dharma Overground. What the Torah is to Judaism, the Law in all its aspects, the rules of DhO and the Spirit of MCTB are to both of us as cocongregants in the temple here. Shit gets too bad, both of us will kneel and pray on it, in our ways, and in my native language. In his native language, maybe, he’ll just see right through the shit, with a good 2 o3 three minutes of vipassana, and get on with the real work of Liberation.
 
So, the dialogues in good shape after nine years, is what I’m saying.
 

RE: the Dark Night: Christian-Buddhist dialogue
Answer
7/28/20 2:45 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:
Chris Marti:
This stuff we do, and our goal, is the anti-Babel.


Chris, beloved friend, mentor, friend, moderator of this sangha's forum, administrative voice of Actual Authority--- did i mention, beloved friend?--- co-practioner at the construction site Ground Zero of "the Babel Project: Making it worse, making it taller, or tearing that sucker down to a perfect universal spiritual vocabulary?"--- if you really want to tangle with me on my home turf of metaphor and mythology . . .

then

1) you are crazier than even I thought you were, and i thought you were as crazy as i could imagine, but you may have exceeded my imagination here in sheer reckless gall; and

2) i think we should take it outside, to the Bar of Last Resort at a minimum, and possibly to the alley out back. Marquis of Queensbury rules applicable up to a given point, which line you will clearly notice when i begin violating them. DhO forum rules applicable throughout, since if i dispense with THOSE, you have the power, authority, and responsibility to ban my foul-mouthed ass.

--- . . . did i mention beloved friend?

Can concur with the method for intuitive types being self inquiry, I had never engaged in any longstanding spiritual practice, had not engaged in any pranayama, meditation or yoga but got to a state of no self through reconciling the desparity between my own desires and the nature of reality through observation and inquiry.
Religious practice isn't necessary for all people to reach the state of an Arhat if they are inquisitive enough, they may not even be conscious of different spiritual attainments or if spiritual attainments even exist. From what I've seen, although risky because of the lack of coping mechanisms through yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, this rare path can sometimes be more effective because there is no longing or yearning for spiritual attainment or title which goes exactly against the state of no self. 
Now anyone intelligent enough and thoroughly trenched in Buddhist practice would realise that letting go of the desire for spiritual attainment would lessen the hold of the illusory self thus actually pushing a person further along the path to becoming an Arhat. However you would be surprised the number of people who spend years of their lives seeking enlightenment as if it were something outside themselves.