What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/15/20 1:06 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Zero 12/15/20 2:23 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/15/20 2:49 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Siavash ' 12/16/20 12:59 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/16/20 12:58 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/16/20 1:27 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Siavash ' 12/16/20 8:06 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Lewis James 12/17/20 12:49 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/17/20 1:52 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/17/20 11:29 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/17/20 1:51 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Tim Farrington 12/16/20 2:08 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Olivier S 12/16/20 5:15 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Sam Gentile 12/16/20 12:58 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Noah D 12/16/20 7:52 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Griffin 5/27/22 7:12 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Will G 5/28/22 1:38 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Papa Che Dusko 5/29/22 4:19 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Ben V. 5/29/22 8:44 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Will G 5/29/22 3:41 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Ben V. 5/28/22 3:06 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Pepe · 5/28/22 4:56 PM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Ben V. 5/29/22 8:48 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Chris M 5/29/22 9:10 AM
RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma? Daniel M. Ingram 5/29/22 10:17 AM
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/15/20 1:06 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/15/20 1:06 PM

What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

Posts: 1347 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
I searched on here and only found mentions of it. Last night I listened to some dharma talks but came away with nothing. Can anyone please define/explain the soulmaking dhama and what its used for?
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Zero, modified 1 Year ago at 12/15/20 2:23 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Did you listen to the new Deconstructing Yourself Podcast? 
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/15/20 2:49 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/15/20 2:49 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Zero:
Did you listen to the new Deconstructing Yourself Podcast? 
Yes, I tried to listen to that and felt that it was for people who already knew the soulmaking dharma. That's why I'm asking actually.
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Siavash ', modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 12:59 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Tim Farrington, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 2:08 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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hey sam,

Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma comes from his later years (he died in May of this year, after living with pancreatic cancer for years), and is accessible right now almost entirely through his recorded talks, although there is a devoted project of transcribing the talks in progress. His best known work is presented in his book Seeing That Frees, which is an exploration of "emptiness," very strong dharma and very lucid. So he begins from there: a strong "foundation" in emptiness. I see the later stuff in terms of the Zen ox-herding cycle: there is the nothing step, the zero, and emptiness, the blank page; and then there is "returning to the city with bliss-bestowing hands." I think Burbea is working on articulating a vocabulary for that return, seeking a way to talk about bliss and bestowing, giving, offering, and the hands involved in that: metta in action. His talks on the Soulmakining presuppose "some understanding of and working familiarity with practices of emptiness, samatha, metta, the emotional/energy body, and the imaginal, as well as basic mindfulness practice." The "imaginal" is one of his new concepts, but you will probably be familiar enough with the other practices.

He talks very slowly, gently, and thoughtfully, so the time and patience commitment to listening to his talks is substantial. I sort of like the music of him, this dying man talking like he has all the time on the world. He is very lovable. He's moving toward manifestation from emptiness, toward compassionate, loving, creative activity, as I understand it. He's working on a vocabulary for Bodhisattvas, maybe, a way of talking about creative metta, fully engaged "in the city." But he's coming from emptiness every step of the way.
Olivier S, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 5:15 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 5:15 AM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Hi guys, 

As for the origin of the term : https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/6503372-call-the-world-if-you-please-the-vale-of-soul
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 12:58 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 12:58 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 12:58 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 12:58 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Tim Farrington:
hey sam,

Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma comes from his later years (he died in May of this year, after living with pancreatic cancer for years), and is accessible right now almost entirely through his recorded talks, although there is a devoted project of transcribing the talks in progress. His best known work is presented in his book Seeing That Frees, which is an exploration of "emptiness," very strong dharma and very lucid. So he begins from there: a strong "foundation" in emptiness. I see the later stuff in terms of the Zen ox-herding cycle: there is the nothing step, the zero, and emptiness, the blank page; and then there is "returning to the city with bliss-bestowing hands." I think Burbea is working on articulating a vocabulary for that return, seeking a way to talk about bliss and bestowing, giving, offering, and the hands involved in that: metta in action. His talks on the Soulmakining presuppose "some understanding of and working familiarity with practices of emptiness, samatha, metta, the emotional/energy body, and the imaginal, as well as basic mindfulness practice." The "imaginal" is one of his new concepts, but you will probably be familiar enough with the other practices.

He talks very slowly, gently, and thoughtfully, so the time and patience commitment to listening to his talks is substantial. I sort of like the music of him, this dying man talking like he has all the time on the world. He is very lovable. He's moving toward manifestation from emptiness, toward compassionate, loving, creative activity, as I understand it. He's working on a vocabulary for Bodhisattvas, maybe, a way of talking about creative metta, fully engaged "in the city." But he's coming from emptiness every step of the way.


Tim, thank you very much!
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 1:27 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 1:27 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Siavash:


I will listem to these talks but I can't help noticing the warning:Please Note: This series of teachings is from a retreat for experienced practitioners led by Rob Burbea and Catherine McGee. Although they attempt to outline and elaborate a little on some of the basics of Soulmaking Dharma practice, still the requirements for participation on the retreat included some understanding of and working familiarity with practices of emptiness, samatha, metta, the emotional/energy body, and the imaginal, as well as basic mindfulness practice; without this experience it is possible that the material and teachings from this retreat will be difficult to understand and confusing for some.

I wonder if they define terms like soul, which are quite problematic in Buddhism, soulful, and so forth
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Noah D, modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 7:52 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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There's also the 2 emerge Daniel Thorson interviews where rob explains it somewhat.  Also the Reddit SE wiki has select rob talks.
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Siavash ', modified 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 8:06 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/16/20 8:06 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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This is what I would do:
I would listen to them but I'd keep the warnings in mind, to manage my expectations!
If after listening to several hours of them, I still see that they are not interesting and helpful, I'd probably stop listening and stick to my current practices.
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Lewis James, modified 1 Year ago at 12/17/20 12:49 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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I wonder if they define terms like soul, which are quite problematic in Buddhism, soulful, and so forth


Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Rob's teachings. But my takeaway from reading and listening to his work is that one can take the core "not-self" insight and creatively flip it on its head: yes, there is no essence/soul/self to anything, yet we have this dependently arisen creative power, anything that seems like it may be a soul/self/essence is created, so why not take the reigns and create something beautiful, knowing that it isn't truly self gives you that power, but you have to train the skills to be able to create it skilfully.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 12/17/20 11:29 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Rob Burbea and Catherine McGee are not the only ones to use the term soul with regard to Buddhist practice. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche does too, and he is very well respected among Tibetan traditional practicioners. Soul as used in Tibetan Buddhism doesn't have the connotations of some eternal essence, but refers to something that we create here and now, for instance by working with the elements and the energy body. Having realized emptiness, we may still be alive and want to be able to benefit and live in harmony with others. We may also want to integrate out realizations and work on the "emptiness is no other than form" part. 
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/17/20 1:51 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Rob Burbea and Catherine McGee are not the only ones to use the term soul with regard to Buddhist practice. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche does too, and he is very well respected among Tibetan traditional practicioners. Soul as used in Tibetan Buddhism doesn't have the connotations of some eternal essence, but refers to something that we create here and now, for instance by working with the elements and the energy body. Having realized emptiness, we may still be alive and want to be able to benefit and live in harmony with others. We may also want to integrate out realizations and work on the "emptiness is no other than form" part. 

That's useful to know Linda because I place a lot of emphasis on what Tibetan elders say.
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 12/17/20 1:52 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/17/20 1:52 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Lewis James:
I wonder if they define terms like soul, which are quite problematic in Buddhism, soulful, and so forth


Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Rob's teachings. But my takeaway from reading and listening to his work is that one can take the core "not-self" insight and creatively flip it on its head: yes, there is no essence/soul/self to anything, yet we have this dependently arisen creative power, anything that seems like it may be a soul/self/essence is created, so why not take the reigns and create something beautiful, knowing that it isn't truly self gives you that power, but you have to train the skills to be able to create it skilfully.

Beautiful. Nice and consise. Now I'll listen to the recordings.
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Griffin, modified 6 Months ago at 5/27/22 7:12 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Is there somebody willing to share their practical experience with this practice?
Will G, modified 6 Months ago at 5/28/22 1:38 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Hey Griffin,

Although I wouldn't consider myself to be practicing what Burbea calls soulmaking directly, I do practice something like it which feels like an extension of or follows in some sense naturally from realizing anatta and emptiness, in the form of an art/life practice. The way I think about it is maybe closer to the ethos of vajrayana, although i'm no expert (check out Steve's guru viking interview with Ngakpa Chögyam for more on the art-dharma connection, ep16 I believe). I would say its also kind of independent of any morally loaded notions of 'skillfulness', and while I'm not sure about this, I'm not really a fan of that framing, because it implies that you can know what is skillful and what isn't.

Burbea talks about how seeing things as empty causes them to fade, and that no perception is independent of conception (and relatedly, that no perception is free of self on some subtle level). Dwelling deeply into emptiness is of course liberating, but ultimately, even emptiness is empty, and seeing things as empty is arguably just one perceptual lense among many. 

​​​​​​​I went through a period about a year after realizing emptiness where I felt like something was missing or had gotten skewed, like I had lost or neglected the ability to feel invested on an affective level in the 'content' of experiences, like emptiness had become the predominant lense or tone of my experience, but some of the beautiful or interesting things I once cared about, and still wanted to care about, were tending to fade as a result.

Burbea talks a lot about desire, which he sees in a sense as the function of what he calls the soul (see his talks on dharmaseed). The way I understand soulmaking is as a reinvestment or rehabilitation of the desiring faculty post emptiness realization, on a kind of cultural/affective axis of development. 

Practically speaking, in my experience, this has to do with picking up on points of interest in the senses or the imagination and holding a kind of intention of encouragement of their flourishing, leading to their intensification in vividness, breadth, depth or frequency (Perhaps another point of connection with vajrayana, the emphasis on brightness, luminosity, or the emptiness is form part of the tetralemma). As Rob describes, this could be an image, a thought, an idea, etc. It has to do with lingering in them rather than immediately seeing them as empty. In the case of an art practice, this lingering on and savouring of formal specificity may also take the form of a painting, for example, or a song, but I don't think rob emphasized this more 'material' component of the practice. With or without a material outlet, to me this practice is really where the juice of life lies, and like any practice, although it is much harder to pin down or practice 'formally', I have found that it really does take on a kind of momentum in daily life, and has helped me feel like a more well-integrated, interested and caring human being. 

Insight practice can leave one not so invested in the 'content' of experience, and depending how long it takes us to exhaust the very valuable "insight-disease" program, we might, over the years, have neglected the part of our mind that actually cares about singular forms and images, and the associations they trigger, which is all we're ultimately left with anyway. 

Hope that was of some interest :-)

Best,
Will
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Ben V, modified 6 Months ago at 5/28/22 3:06 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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I may be off track here in my understanding so take it with a grain of salt.

I listened to one talk maybe a year ago by Burbea on soul-making and he gave me the impression that he borrowed the term, along with its meaning, from the late famous Jungian analyst James Hillman. Hillman took Jungian psychology somewhat in a different direction, or expression, than what other Jungians do. I'm familiar with Jungian psychology, but less so with Hillman's version of it.

I think soul-making in this context would be the developmental task to create one's own individual myth (meaningful narrative) in life and one that resonates with one's inner truth/call. As long as one is living, one will inevitably create one's life. Soul-making would be here about creating a life that resonates with our true depth. I would assume that once enlightened, one is not exempt from having to continue creatively engage with the world of form and the imaginal. Dharma soul-making then would be the creative expression of a person who has realized emptiness. But I'm not 100% sure about this. Just more or less guessing from some limited knowledge of Burbea and Hillman.

Think of how different Dharma teachers differ in their expressions of the Dharma. Jack Kornfield vs. Daniel Ingram. Mahasi Sayadaw vs. Ajahn Chah. Each a totally different style. Each with their own individual creativity.
Each practiced the same Dharma and yet different styles of expressions came of it. 

I think soul-making is about finding one's own personal, unique expression and creativity.

About the word soul. Sometimes we use terms like that in ways that it did not mean long ago. Interesting questions here could be: what was the 'atta' that the Buddha denied?  Does the term 'soul' as used by Jungians or by Burbea the same meaning as the atta the Buddha denied? Language is tricky...
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Pepe ·, modified 6 Months ago at 5/28/22 4:56 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 5/28/22 4:56 PM

RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Thanks Ben! Never understood what it meant. Makes sense.

Regarding Anatta, perhaps we can elude some conflicts by saying: An-Atta = Core-Less? 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 4:19 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Will G
Hey Griffin,

Although I wouldn't consider myself to be practicing what Burbea calls soulmaking directly, I do practice something like it which feels like an extension of or follows in some sense naturally from realizing anatta and emptiness, in the form of an art/life practice. The way I think about it is maybe closer to the ethos of vajrayana, although i'm no expert (check out Steve's guru viking interview with Ngakpa Chögyam for more on the art-dharma connection, ep16 I believe). I would say its also kind of independent of any morally loaded notions of 'skillfulness', and while I'm not sure about this, I'm not really a fan of that framing, because it implies that you can know what is skillful and what isn't.

Burbea talks about how seeing things as empty causes them to fade, and that no perception is independent of conception (and relatedly, that no perception is free of self on some subtle level). Dwelling deeply into emptiness is of course liberating, but ultimately, even emptiness is empty, and seeing things as empty is arguably just one perceptual lense among many. 

​​​​​​​I went through a period about a year after realizing emptiness where I felt like something was missing or had gotten skewed, like I had lost or neglected the ability to feel invested on an affective level in the 'content' of experiences, like emptiness had become the predominant lense or tone of my experience, but some of the beautiful or interesting things I once cared about, and still wanted to care about, were tending to fade as a result.

Burbea talks a lot about desire, which he sees in a sense as the function of what he calls the soul (see his talks on dharmaseed). The way I understand soulmaking is as a reinvestment or rehabilitation of the desiring faculty post emptiness realization, on a kind of cultural/affective axis of development. 

Practically speaking, in my experience, this has to do with picking up on points of interest in the senses or the imagination and holding a kind of intention of encouragement of their flourishing, leading to their intensification in vividness, breadth, depth or frequency (Perhaps another point of connection with vajrayana, the emphasis on brightness, luminosity, or the emptiness is form part of the tetralemma). As Rob describes, this could be an image, a thought, an idea, etc. It has to do with lingering in them rather than immediately seeing them as empty. In the case of an art practice, this lingering on and savouring of formal specificity may also take the form of a painting, for example, or a song, but I don't think rob emphasized this more 'material' component of the practice. With or without a material outlet, to me this practice is really where the juice of life lies, and like any practice, although it is much harder to pin down or practice 'formally', I have found that it really does take on a kind of momentum in daily life, and has helped me feel like a more well-integrated, interested and caring human being. 

Insight practice can leave one not so invested in the 'content' of experience, and depending how long it takes us to exhaust the very valuable "insight-disease" program, we might, over the years, have neglected the part of our mind that actually cares about singular forms and images, and the associations they trigger, which is all we're ultimately left with anyway. 

Hope that was of some interest :-)

Best,
Will


Very nice post! Thank you Will! 
And yes it was of interest. I always felt this dismantling of the chariot will at one stage result in letting this chariot be a chariot and enjoy the ride emoticon so to speak. 
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Ben V, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 8:44 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Very interesting Will,

It makes me think of a contrast I sometimes think about between Buddhism and Analytical psychology/psychoanalysis.

In Buddhism, a feeeling or thought or experience (FTE) comes up and one looks at it in a way that sees through its emptiness (3cs), and disentanglement from it.

In Analytical psychology, (a FTE) comes up and is considered potentially as rich in meaning, a carrier of a larger message that once inegrated can lead to some healing or growth of the personality.

In Buddhism: A FTE comes up: it is noted. 

In Analytical psychology, a FTE comes up, and one asks: Tell me more about this FTE? What comes up in your mind about it (if you let your imagination run freely about it)? Is it a symbolic expression of something important to integrate? Etc, etc. Such inquiry leads to growth, personality intergration, etc.

Seeing FTE with the lens of the 3cs is liberating, but it would be unfortunate if doing this leads some to lose the capacity to engage creatively with FTE/form in a way that leads to growth. 
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Ben V, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 8:48 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Hi Pepe,

Ya I think anatta=core-less may help avoid the (soul vs no-soul confusion). But even then, any words seem to have the power to trick us into misunderstanding sometimes. Some words also change meaning across time.
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Chris M, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 9:10 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Seeing FTE with the lens of the 3cs is liberating, but it would be unfortunate if doing this leads some to lose the capacity to engage creatively with FTE/form in a way that leads to growth. 

As long as we know the FTE has no permanent essence there's no problem and these two ways of dealing with our experience are compatible.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 10:17 AM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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Remember, Three Trainings, Three Ontological/Epistemological Frames:

Morality: A being who was born, will die, has a past and a future, and all of the specifics matter greatly, including meaning, ethics, intentions, causes, effects, colors (e.g. orange/yellow robes), rituals and customs, aesthetics, decorum, monastic rules, social impact on the community (roles of laity and the ordained), making merit, good rebirths, creativity, communion, psychology,  etc. Buddhism in theory and practice is all about these things, and, for most, this is nearly all of what Buddhism is. Even in its oldest forms, all of these mattered tremendously, and you will find vastly more Buddhist writings and emphasis on these than things like impermanence in the fine-grained sense. Read the Jataka Birth Stories to get a sense of some of the fun in all of this.

Concentration: This is also about the specifics, specific skillful qualities of mind and depths of experience, and also the powers, realms, entities, rebirth and previous lives, etc. Here, again, we find that the specifics are key. This is also a large amount of Buddhist training and writings.

Wisdom: Ok, yes, this specific training is all about things like the Three Characteristics and other ways of expressing and operationalizing concepts like emptiness, where meaning is largley irrelevant and essence regardless of specifics is key, but this makes up a comparatively very small portion of Buddhist writings and practice then and today.

Soul-making appears to me to be a Jungian-influenced (and many others) reframing and elaboration of some specific aspects of the = first two trainings with a lot of creativity, mythic resonance, imagination, and inspiration. I think it is there for lots of reasons, one of which is very much to counter notions like in Buddhism thoughts are just to be noticed as more things that come and go, a notion that obviously misses entirely the first two trainings, which make up by far the bulk of both traditional and contemporary Buddhism.

As I mention in MCTB2 many times, all Three Trainings are key, and it is unfortunate that many think of Buddhism as being so small and limited. For me, it was various Eastern and Western magicical traditions, training in medicine, explorations of the powers, various fiction literature traditions, and some strains of Western and Buddhist-related psychology, as well as deeply exploring many of the more seemingly fantastic and colorful aspects of Buddhism that filled in the gaps that soul-making does for many.
Will G, modified 6 Months ago at 5/29/22 3:41 PM
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RE: What is Rob Burbea's Soulmaking Dharma?

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I like this comparison Ben. In a sense, the fact of a thought coming up can in itself feel like the expression of something being integrated, as countless hours of meditation seem to have testified to (I remember thinking relatively early on that 6 months of meditation had felt like years of therapy). While i've often been aversed to the storytelling aspect of psychoanalysis and seen it as a kind of reifying/diagnosing activity that would be best avoided altogether, I think it can be valuable if taken more lightly/creatively, and I like the idea of seeing thoughts as little symbols of something to integrate, each one like a tiny dream. I think soulmaking is a bit like thought/affect culture-creation (think mind-jogourt) which eventually follows from knowing these to be fabrications. There may be a certain amount of hygiene involved, but its also a lot about flavour/preference..

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