Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

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Steve James, modified 7 Months ago.

Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 103 Join Date: 2/15/19 Recent Posts
In this episode I am once again joined by Dr. Ian Wickramasekera, Bön Buddhist practitioner and associate professor of Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counselling at Naropa University.

We learn how a mirror divination from a mysterious Lama, and a powerful lucid dream, saw Ian travel to Sikkim in search of the monastery of his previous incarnation.

Ian discusses the similarities between the Western tradition of hypnosis and the system of Dzogchen, and why he considers hypnosis to be the best means to approach and apprehend Buddhist thought.

Ian reveals why gurus are so often surrounded by high-hypnotisable people, to what extent hypnotic language can be used by spiritual teachers to induce religious conversion and enhance their followers’ devotion, and what the Dharma has to learn from Western hypnosis.



https://www.guruviking.com/ep74-dr-ian-wickramasekera-gurus-hypnosis-toxic-devotion/


Audio version of this podcast also available on iTunes and Spotify – search ‘Guru Viking Podcast’.



Topics Include

0:00 - Meeting a Dharma Guardian in a lucid dream
0:51 - Dream yoga and Ian’s past life as a monk in Sikkim
11:11 - Tenzin Wangyal’s lucid dreaming advice
13:38 - Visiting Sikkim to find his past life monastery
24:34 - Reflecting on Lama Dawa’s divination for Ian’s life
27:22 - Meeting hypnotists and Bon Buddhism teacher Daniel P Brown
28:29 - Hypnotism is the best means to integrate Western thought with Buddhism
37:30 - The Default Mode Network and the sense of self
41:24 - The similarities between the views of hypnosis and Dzogchen
49:52 - The possibilities of combining a realised Dzogchen master and a master hypnotist
54:18 - Common misunderstandings about Vajrayana
57:33 - What is a high-hypnotisable person?
1:01:16 - Hypnotism in marketing and propaganda
1:07:49 - Toxic guru devotion and spiritual materialism in Dzogchen
1:12:40 - Religious conversion phenomena and powerful state experiences
1:19:48 - Is high hypnotic ability required to experience the deepest meditation teachings?
1:25:02 - Do spiritual teachers deliberately use hypnosis to induce conversion and devotion?
1:36:40 - Teaching hypnosis to a Vietnam veteran with a catastrophic spine injury
1:38:54 - The tradition of open skepticism
1:43:43 - Different teachings suit different personality types
1:48:46 - How gurus use the hypnotic voice in meditation instruction
1:52:56 - Can you be hypnotised against your will?
1:56:44 - Ian’s powerful near-death experience
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Noah D, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

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Thanks Steve.  I'm glad you covered the full comparison of Dzogchen & hyponsis with him.  I was convinced after hearing his argument, but I was originally skeptical in the 1st 2 episodes.  

At one brief point, Dr. Ian mentions "thogal phenomena."  Ian Baker also briefly mentions thogal in your talk with him.  I've had a thought for a while now that maybe some day you could do a series of interviews engaging with teachers on this topic, similar to what you have done with the 6 yogas of naropa & karmamudra.  From some perspectives, thogal is even more secret than completion stage energy body practices, yet great masters like the Dalai Lama continue to encourage openness about the esoteric side of dharma.  In an IMS talk, Guy Armstrong once joked that (paraphrasing) "Thogal is so secret that I have to kill you just because you heard me mention it."  The same could be said for some of the other topics you've explored on the show, so if anyone could overcome that, it would be you!
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Steve James, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

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Thanks Noah, this is a great idea!

I will look into it :-) 
Hi Steve, I don't know how you put the chapters with time stamps on the side of the video for the other videos but that is a very handy feature! This particular video doesn't seem to have that metadata.
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Steve James, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 103 Join Date: 2/15/19 Recent Posts
Hector:
Hi Steve, I don't know how you put the chapters with time stamps on the side of the video for the other videos but that is a very handy feature! This particular video doesn't seem to have that metadata.


Hi Hector,

Youtube automatically adds those - I just checked the video and it looks like they are there.

Perhaps it takes a couple of hours to populate?

Olivier, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 733 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
I look forward to listening to this, I've been curious to discover hypnosis because someone I know who's a hypnotherapist tells me that he thinks meditation is related to hypnosis, but didn't know where to start. And I've been thinking about how it seemed that a lot of people I met in meditation retreats are noticeably quick to be "fascinated", somehow, like, very open to cues and extremely receptive to anything interesting someone might say. I wonder if this is what makes them hypnotizable, I guess I'll find out emoticon
I've done hypnosis as a recipient, it really feels like guided meditation (say on insight timer or something)
someone saying something to you while you are relaxing and you just replay the scenario or sensations in your head.
genaro, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 77 Join Date: 11/23/19 Recent Posts
Olivier:
I look forward to listening to this, I've been curious to discover hypnosis because someone I know who's a hypnotherapist tells me that he thinks meditation is related to hypnosis, but didn't know where to start. And I've been thinking about how it seemed that a lot of people I met in meditation retreats are noticeably quick to be "fascinated", somehow, like, very open to cues and extremely receptive to anything interesting someone might say. I wonder if this is what makes them hypnotizable, I guess I'll find out emoticon
In a past life (sic) i spent some time studying hypnosis, i just wanted to know how it worked.  It's reasssuringly expensive, the best way to learn is to go on a hypnotherapy training course thing, but you get to pay for the ability to charge $$$.  And of course the people on the course act as therapists and clients all through so you get both sides. (and it's probably cheaper than a professional encounter).  One advantage of being trained is that you get to understand the correct use of language (eg no suppositions about the clients perceptions as in 'how did you experience that' against 'and what did you see'.   After some time I'd met so many people who said 'you can do so much w/ hypnosis' that i formed the opinion that they were saying that they could not do much without it, ie had formed a dependancy on it, despite the desired clinical outcome being self reliance. They're known as 'trance junkies'.  There's even a protocol of inducing trance, and doing a metta routine at them, full-on baby talk/ self love, people love it, except for me :-(

Much more economical is to read some books, the best one I've come across is 'Training Trances' by John Overdurf and Julie Silverthorn. They're both NLP people BTW, but what 's in the book is close to the whole story.

Myself i view hypnosis as valuable for some, yet meditation is a better choice as you get to mess with your own mind without being dependant on another, and i think it's more likely to stick.  Yes they are related; hypnotic protocols implicitly involve an operator, if you try self hypnosis it's easy to get to tthe point where the operator (= the client) is so tranced out you get nowhere.  Succinctly w/ hypnosis the concious mind is moved out of the way to allow stuff to happen, w/ meditation consciousness is maintained and enhanced.  Yet if you know some hyp. protocols then you can use them in meditation if that bakes your noodle, you might reinvent something like Dzogchen (NB: i know nothing about that).

Regarding hypnotizability: it's trainable ('practice makes persistent' .... so mediation i think is likely to give you more skills in that area) but what some people recognise is that people go into a deep a trance as is necessary for what they need.  There's loads of books out there on the subject of inducing really deeep trance really quickly but that's a distraction from core buisness. IMHO.

I did meet a couple of modern bhuddists on a course once, they wanted to use it to enhance thier mediation practice. An experiment, they seemed pleased.

Of course all the above is wrong (i'm not so clever) but i hope you can use some of it.
Steve James:
Hector:
Hi Steve, I don't know how you put the chapters with time stamps on the side of the video for the other videos but that is a very handy feature! This particular video doesn't seem to have that metadata.


Hi Hector,

Youtube automatically adds those - I just checked the video and it looks like they are there.

Perhaps it takes a couple of hours to populate?


Oh I figured it out, I must have accidentally clicked the chapter title the last time. Clicking on the title text then opens the chapters tab on the right. Thanks for adding them and for the interesting content!
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Griffin, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 156 Join Date: 4/7/18 Recent Posts
I agree about thogal. There is an aura of mystery and secretedness around it. It would be very interesting if you could find someone who is willing to talk openly about it.
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Ugi Mueller, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 6 Join Date: 7/17/20 Recent Posts
I'm happy to chime in with where I've found the best experiental and theoretical insight into the practice of Thogal. It was aswell a very mysterious topic for me for quite some time. There are several possible reasons for the secrecy of Thogal but the main one is probably as pragmatic as it gets: the danger of hurting yourself by misunderstanding and misapplying the traditional instructions (like squinting towards the sun or pushing against your eyes). 

Anyway, here's the clearest description of Thogal I've seen so far, talked completely open about. It goes a lot into detail about the misconceptions around Thogal visions and the actual purpose of the practice. Hope it's insightful to you!:


»One thing that I've mentioned a few times when teaching, is that just as has been said about the difference in calming the mind, or Shamatha meditation and ati yoga, the nature of mind recognition, you recognise the nature of mind, not through relaxation, but suddenly, that is, it is suddenly recognized. I use this instruction often when I start sitting. In the same way now that the nature of the mind is suddenly recognized without the need to calm down, settle and relax with time or that the recognition of the nature of the mind would take place as a result of its relaxation. Better so that that basic state of mind is recognized immediately. Then let your body relax and your energies flow freely.

(prayer) For the benefit of all beings ... For the benefit of all beings ... We practice to attain Buddhahood, perfect awakening, for the benefit of all beings.

I have made a small bodhicitta prayer that always opens the karmic bhumis of the subconscious, opens the energy body from the deep subconscious. If there are some attachment points, some knots in the experience, then with the help of bodhicitta it is very easy to focus attention on those knots and look at their empty nature or selflessness, whether the knots are physical, mental or psychic. If there is no such knot or point, then one can nevertheless look for a moment to be certain or make it the main exercise. In the following instructions it is assumed that you have firm experience of emptiness of mental phenomena because without that it is impossible to practice thogal.

If the nature of the mind is correctly identified, there is no I, , no me, no self to be found there, and as a result the feeling is really fresh and refreshing. Very fresh, like nature in the morning, during the morning dew. If there are knots from which selflessness is not recognized, i.e. there is some kind of charge, then one should practoce vipashyana and look into the shape, texture, color, emotion, mood, smell, taste and flavor of the knot or knots. If, on the other hand, the nature of emptiness is clear experientially, then one can turn from dharmakaya practice, emptiness body practice, to light body practice, or thogal. From trekcho to thogal. Thogal focuses the light, luminosity, energy, and dynamism of the natural mind, of the empty mind. In hindu or shaiva tantra this shift would be called turning the focus from Shiva aspect to Shakti aspect.

In emptiness meditation, we look at the objects of the mind and mind in a transparent way, transparently. Light body practice, on the other hand, looks at the light that is in that transparency. In exactly the same way, if you think about this room where you are sitting, then we have space. The space itself is colorless, odorless, tasteless and transparent, but then there is also light in this space that can be observed as a separate phenomenon but as a phenomenon inextricably linked to that space. The difference between trekcho and thogal is that simple. The body of emptiness, the body of light. 

Thogal can be practiced in many different ways. Light can be sensed bodily, with the whole body. The natural light of the mind, or the energy that is in it, can be sensed by the whole body, and in this way by sensing the body connecting with it. The classic and traditional way is to engage with your eyes open and connect through your eyes. External, physical light is also used here as an aid; the light of the sun, the light of the moon, the light of a candle or lamps, that is, the physical light which is in the physical space. Lights are external supports for thogal. The Thogal exercise internally is that we recognize the nature of the mind and sense the light, the energy in it. It’s very subtle, as if the taste of a meal prepared by some top chef, a Michelin chef. That is, it is not about the taste of grill spice used in the grill on the corner, but about very fine tastes. If we think that we have a collection of different organic honeys in different jars then the practice of thogal is the most delicious taste of all, the delicacy and richness of the best honey. Thogal is a sambhogakaya exercise. Sambhoga is translated into English as enjoyment because it has such an enjoyable, one could say blissful tone, but that bliss is very, very subtle, and absolutely wonderful.

This experience of bliss, is not intoxicating, like gross bliss, but is very subtle. The stability and clarity of the body of emptiness, is not diluted, does not disappear or fade through this bliss because the bliss of the natural state is very subtle. In sanskrit this type of bliss is called sahajananda. It means spontaneous, natural bliss, Sahaja. Sahaja is a well-used term in the writings of the Indian mahasiddhas, the historical mahasiddhas.

Thus, Thogal can be practiced through or with the whole body or through the eyes. When the eyes are open, it automatically connects through the eyes to the heart. The richest honey-like taste or sensation begins to be felt in the heart.  

We have two aspects to the whole body, the whole energy system, in all the nadis or channels; 1. a karmic aspect that captures karmic marks, dirt, samskaras, and 2. a clean aspect that doesn’t stain. Classical dzogchen sources speak of a nadi named Kati. Kati-Nadi. Kati is a Tibetan word for which no Sanskrit equivalent is known. The Kati channel, runs from the eyes through the crown chakra down to the heart. It’s not really essential that the Kati channel is a Dzogchen Channel that isn’t tainted by karmic recordings. The essential thing is that it is only noticed when doing thogal practices with the eyes open, through the eyes there is an automatic connection with the heart in such a very wonderful way. This is due to the Kati channel.

However, it is not just an exercise of the eyes and heart, nor of any single Nadi. Of course, when it comes to dzogchen, it is an experience that encompasses the entire energy body, the whole being. Because of this, the fact that you start with the body or the eyes is not essential because before long the thogal experience covers one's whole being. Then it is not just in the heart, or in the eyes, or in any single area of ​​the body but it is a completely comprehensive experience. And as I often say in my teaching, bodhicitta prayer is a means of checking whether the recognition of the nature of mind is correct or whether it is wrong or incomplete. Here it becomes clear through the thogal when it has that same loving, kind, compassionate tone, that is, that sambhoga, an enjoyable tone. It becomes clear that if you practice Thogal in the right way and check whether all beings are included in the experience, in this kind of recognition of the mind, that answer is always, yes.

When you practice Avalokiteshvara or White Tara, for example, they are Sambhogakaya exercises as well. They have emphasized an energetic tone of subtle bliss and enjoyment.

In this practice of Thogal, it also becomes clear that why Pemako’s tantric teachings visualize the rainbow body, that is, the colors of the rainbow in countless rays in the subtle body. When we visualize the five basic colors in channels of the body and aura then it emulates this same body of pleasure, Sambhogakaya. That is, visualizing the colors of the rainbow is a preparatory exercise for Thogal. When in Tibetan we talk about Thogal, Sambhogakaya yoga, Sambhogakaya meditation, one could say that the visualization of the rainbow body is a preparatory exercise, in Tibetan, ngondro for Thogal.

In some traditions, there are certain postures, bodily mudras or bodily asanas, as well as different eye positions, different gazes for Thogal. Of course, Thogal can take a complex expression, in exactly the same way that deities on the tantric side can be expressed in complex forms of visualisation for example. The way we practice it however, is the simplest and most direct way. These practices are considered “secret” because the samsaric mind, which is filled with samskaras, kleshas, ​​vrittis and vasanas, is unable to properly recognize this nature of mind. For a moment, yes, but not properly. On the other hand, in a group of experienced practitioners such as those present with very solid experience of emptiness meditation, with bhumis open and great number of bhumis perfected, thogal is no longer a secret but an obvious, clear and lived experience.

One thing that is also talked about in connection with Dzogchen Thogal are visions. To be exact these are called pure visions. It means that we can see without visualizing, that is, without visualizing by intention, completely spontaneously, our own enlightened energy body, or Sambhogakaya. We can see thigles, or bindus, which are a kind of energy in our energy body. Bindu or thigle means the kind of ball, literally a point. That is, we can see such balls with a blank in the middle and the colors of the rainbow at the edges of the ball, i.e., a round rainbow, a spherical rainbow. That is the simplest, pure vision. We can also see the deities of our own energy body, probably the deities we practice through our tantric line but also other deities because all the deities come from our mind, Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya. So that when we see a vision in Thogal of some deity, we see in the picture a part of our own energy body in its enlightened pure state. There can be several deities. Through this, we can understand where the deities actually come from.
In Buddhist tantra, it is always made clear that deities are not gods and are not outside of ourselves. When we have a vision of deity, we can experience that the deity radiates, emanates from our own natural mind, the energy body. This is how we can understand why it is said that deities are the nature of our minds.

Visions can be seen in very simple ways, in the form of bindus or thigles. It can be one thigle, several thigles or it can look like the whole room is full of thigles. One can see deities, one can see sacred geometric patterns, very classical patterns such as six-pointed stars, five-pointed stars, star shapes, swastikas and so on, i.e. all the symbols that exist in Buddhism as well as other wisdom traditions. We can also see vajra, or dorje, we can see bells, stupas, deities, buddhas and bodhisattvas. Through Thogal, it becomes clear that they are manifestations of our own mind. We can also see mandalas, that are vibrational fields of Buddhas, expressed as a geometric structure, as if in the form of a temple structure. Through these visions one can understand where all these symbols, paintings, art especially in Tantric Buddhism originally come from. Through these visionary experiences we can see what our true nature is... and that is the whole point.

It goes without saying, of course, that when you see bindus, deities, mandalas, or that the whole sky, as if the whole screen were full of buddhas and mandalas, they are all, of course, empty. If it happens to make a dramatic impact or to feel like an incredible religious experience, it is due to immaturity in emptiness meditation. I would say that if you practice Thogal successfully and are able to recognize the light of rigpa, for a longer period of time, or without interruption, then you will no longer fall into this pit. Then you can no longer experience such dramatic, religious experiences because they are automatically seen as empty, without a self. On the other hand visions are interpreted in very strange and weird ways without that emptiness insight!

Seeing visions is not the main purpose of the Thogal exercise but rather visions are a guiding sign. Visions are also not necessarily images seen with the eye but can also be experienced through the body. The main point of Thogal is to stay in the empty nature of the mind and with the whole body, with the whole being to see the light that is in the nature of the mind.«


- Written by Kim Katami of Pemako Buddhism
Thank you for posting this! For people who do fire kasina, does the bindu sound a lot like the patibhaganimitta counter-part sign?
According to the visuddhimagga it looks like a crystal fan in space.
shargrol, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

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Hector, that is similar to my hunch, too.  I have a feeling that bindu are natural eye phenominon seen in a degree of blissy concentration. 

I'm happy to be shown I'm wrong.

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5865158#_19_message_5860997

Sam Gentile, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

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Steve,

I just wanted to say that I found this episode fascinating, just like the others on esoteric Tibetan Buddhism.
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Steve James, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Gurus, Hypnosis, & Toxic Devotion - Dr Ian Wickramasekera - GV Podcast

Posts: 103 Join Date: 2/15/19 Recent Posts
Sam Gentile:
Steve,

I just wanted to say that I found this episode fascinating, just like the others on esoteric Tibetan Buddhism.


Thanks Sam, I also find the subject fascinating! :-)

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