Culadasa update

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Mark Boolootian, modified 1 Month ago.

Culadasa update

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An update Culadasa sent to his mailing list today (posted to Reddit earlier).  It is a rather long read, and provides a fascinating lens on the past several years of his life (as told by Culadasa, obviously):

https://mcusercontent.com/9dd1cbed5cbffd00291a6bdba/files/d7889ce1-77cb-4bbb-ac04-c795fd271e5e/A_Message_from_Culadasa_01_12_21.pdf
agnostic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Sounds like it was his wife's fault for making him marry her.
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/comments/bz4x61/im_worried_that_culadasa_is_making_inaccurate/

Worth noting that his claims to have cured cancer with spiritual practice were fabrication. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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It's difficult for me to generate any interest in this Culadasa thing. Once again, self-awareness.
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:
It's difficult for me to generate any interest in this Culadasa thing. Once again, self-awareness.


Yup, it's an incredible confession of psychological malady. It's frightening that he still wants to teach. Who would want a studentship in these depths of self-delusion?
agnostic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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I don't know, is it better to have a teacher who pretends not to have any problems or one who is open about their problems?
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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... is it better to have a teacher who pretends not to have any problems or one who is open about their problems?

Do you think this issue is really that binary?
agnostic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:
... is it better to have a teacher who pretends not to have any problems or one who is open about their problems?

Do you think this issue is really that binary?

No there must be lots of teachers who have lesser problems (or none?). I was just speculating about having Culadasa as a teacher now vs previously. I don't have any experience with him as a teacher either way, other than having read his book and seen some videos. I find it an interesting case study in codependency though (if that is what it really is).
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Laurel Carrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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People can still benefit from The Mind Illuminated and whatever else he may write going forward. What impresses me is all the work he was able to get done even dealing with cancer in his 70s. 
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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agnostic:
I don't know, is it better to have a teacher who pretends not to have any problems or one who is open about their problems?


The latter. What is problematic is a man setting himself up as a 'teacher' of wisdom and ethics, who, by his own description, is incapable of  "function{ing} effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships."
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svmonk, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Edward:


The latter. What is problematic is a man setting himself up as a 'teacher' of wisdom and ethics, who, by his own description, is incapable of  "function{ing} effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships."

You want to read about a teacher who really was incapable of functioning effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships? Check out "The Mahasiddha and his Idiot Servent" by John Perks. Perks was Chogyam Trugpa's butler for many years. Trugpa's behavior is completely mind boggling.
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Zero, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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This whole "scandal" just seems like marital issues. People get divorced. A dharma teacher can't get divorced and have sex? Ludicrous. The Dharma Treasure Board seems mad shady to be honest. 
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Zero:
This whole "scandal" just seems like marital issues. People get divorced. A dharma teacher can't get divorced and have sex? Ludicrous. The Dharma Treasure Board seems mad shady to be honest. 
That's what it seems to me personally.
genaro, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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i scanned it, and did not really enjoy the experience. I hope Culadassa can find some closure and a way to reconnect to those he knew.

This is my attempt to let this go.  May everyone find peace and a heartfelt sense of forgiveness.

I expect i will do much worse in the rest of the time left to me, and for my own sake* am sending Metta** to Tuscon, Arizona, in the limited way that i can.


* yes imperfect stupid scaredy cat greedy nasty me
** i don't know what Metta is, I'm using my current misinterpretation, sorry, can't explain it to you.
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Stirling Campbell, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Sidebar:

Setting aside Culadasa's drama with his wife or questions of his legitimacy as a teacher, I found this section of his letter most intriguing:

During the past year and a half, I’ve also learned to appreciate and experience certain profound depths to this Dharma that I’d known about, but hadn’t fully understood and applied before.

For years I’d been living mostly in the present moment, more in the ongoing awareness of suchness and emptiness than narrative and form. As part of this radical shift in perspective, I’d stopped “thinking about myself,” creating the “story of me.” I now realize that, while freed of the burdens of “if only” and “what if,” I’d also lost another kind of perspective those narratives provide. By embracing the now as I had, I’d let that other world of linear time and narrative fall away. Thus I found myself unable to counter what the Board confronted me with by providing my own perspective, “my story” about what had happened so many years before. Having lost the perspective and context that comes from longer term and larger scale autobiographical narratives, I failed to recognize how out of context those long-ago events were with the present.

While all narratives may ultimately be empty constructs, they are also indispensable to our ability to function effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships. When trying to respond to the Board, all I had were the pieces from which those narratives are usually constructed. I was hopelessly unsuccessful in my attempts to put them together on the spur of the moment to provide a more accurate counterpart to the unrecognizable narrative I was being confronted with. And that is how I overlooked such obviously important facts as those described above, and why I apologized so inaccurately.

While I'm not agreeing that this is any kind of excuse, it is nonetheless something I can see being a real possibility, since it hints at some very real aspects of deepening insight. Memory, and the nature of the personal story ARE deeply impacted by it, and there isn't always much discussion about how that gets dealt with. 

Certainly I have met a number of long-enlightened people whose functioning in society seems deeply altered by years of practice, and deep insight. Anyone else find this interesting?
agnostic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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I found that interesting. I read it as a warning about the dangers of spending too much time in god realm (refined mind states) if one intends or needs to return to human realm at some point!
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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He fell into a common trap, sort of like becoming enamored of being in some non-dual whirlpool and ignoring the rest of experience. That's not an excuse for bad behavior, or for ignoring the pain and suffering of others or, worse, causing it. It seems to me he's lived in a privileged environment and that enabled his behavior and his willingness to ignore his surroundings and the people in his life to the extent that he did. He's also making it sound very advanced and sort of woo-woo, but it's not. It's just not. This is fallen guru stuff, folks.
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

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Yup.  It's disingenuous fallen guru excuses. Thirty pages of it. 
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Laurel Carrington, modified 1 Month ago.

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Damn, you guys are hard! If I remember correctly, I was the hard liner when his problems first surfaced 18 or so months ago. His story does seem to reaffirm that we are the owners of our karma. 

But back to the issue here: are people prepared for how advanced realization might affect how they deal with the world? Apparently not. Could the communities of which we are a part find a way to help do this?
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris, can you elaborate on "priveleged environment?" 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris, can you elaborate on "priveleged environment?" 

Sure:

Culadasa was a respected dharma teacher with a solid following and a sangha of his making. An author of a well-respected dharma book. Someone people looked up to and revered. That creates privilege. He lived in that environment for many years. All of the idolatry is enabling of bad behavior. We've seen it many times in other similar cases.
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Laurel Carrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:
Chris, can you elaborate on "priveleged environment?" 

Sure:

Culadasa was a respected dharma teacher with a solid following and a sangha of his making. An author of a well-respected dharma book. Someone people looked up to and revered. That creates privilege. He lived in that environment for many years. All of the idolatry is enabling of bad behavior. We've seen it many times in other similar cases.
What are you referring to when you say "bad behavior "? To be clear, I was angry at him two summers ago because it appeared that he'd cheated on his wife. Now it appears that by the time he had sex with other people he and his wife were separated. So are you denouncing him for having a sex life? If so, a whole lot of us are in trouble. Or are the sex workers the problem? He makes clear that he wasn't out on the street looking for them, and that there was no exploitation involved. 

Or are you taking issue with the lack of candor to others about the status of his marriage? He kept that a secret out of deference to Nancy's wishes. Are you bothered by his wish to help pay W's medical bills? I personally see that as a good thing for him to have done. What else--his inability to stand up to people and express his feelings with openness and precision? He would agree with you there, and says so over and over, but I don't think the term "bad behavior" is suitable, plus you and Shargrol wave his declarations away as excuses. Excuses for what? For having a messy life? 

I am especially puzzled by Shargrol saying Culadasa wrote his book without having had much traction from his own practice. You both are people who in the past have been willing to acknowledge that advanced-level meditators can have personal issues that require therapy in addition to their practice. So why can't Culadasa be unable to address his tendency to compartmentalize and/or placate angry people in order to avoid confrontation, without your questioning his realization? He has dropped everything else for the past year and a half in the interests of addressing this pattern, and is now reporting his results.

One thing Culadasa said that interests me in particular is that there are plateaux in practice. Having recently moved on from a years-long plateau myself, I can attest that this is true. I would think this issue is worth further study.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

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Laurel, I'm flummoxed by this man's behavior throughout this saga, so I'm referring to all of that. The whole thing reeks of shadow side craziness on all sides - Culdasa, his ex-wife, the board of Dharma Treasure. It's just weird.
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Laurel Carrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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What it is to my mind is just plain sad, overwhelmingly so. Life is sad; relationships are complicated and full of false expectations and disappointments. This does not necessarily add up to bad behavior, however, and it would be a mistake to throw this man into the same basket of deplorables as those gurus who have abused their privilege and their students. Culadasa's privileged environment made it possible for him to avoid facing his unskillful patterns for a long time, and he admits to this. Even when we are not being abusive of others (what I call bad behavior) we can do harm by virtue of our personal inadequacies. I have done harm along those lines, as has everyone. Culadasa has paid a terrible price. I see no reason, however, to question his attainments, his teachings, or his ability to continue teaching. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

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 I see no reason, however, to question his attainments, his teachings, or his ability to continue teaching. 

Okay, that's fine. I'll just leave this thought - I would not want to be his student.
agnostic, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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It is sad. His major fault seems to have been ignoring stuff (final fetter!). He seems to be doing his best to address it under tough circumstances. But there are still some red flags, e.g. apologizing to his wife and the board whilst also blaming them (been there). I’m reminded that codependency can also be a form of narcissism – subconsciously allowing a situation of victimhood to develop as a way of getting attention. I do feel sorry for the guy, even if the situation was ultimately of his own creating. But yeah 100% the oxygen for this kind of saga is the belief that awakening is some kind of special experience which requires hanging out with special people in a special place (other than here on the DhO obviously).
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

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Yes, this makes me sad, too. But not so sad that I lose sight of how dysfunctional the whole episode is on all sides.
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Stirling Campbell, modified 1 Month ago.

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Chris Marti:
He fell into a common trap, sort of like becoming enamored of being in some non-dual whirlpool and ignoring the rest of experience. That's not an excuse for bad behavior, or for ignoring the pain and suffering of others or, worse, causing it. It seems to me he's lived in a privileged environment and that enabled his behavior and his willingness to ignore his surroundings and the people in his life to the extent that he did. He's also making it sound very advanced and sort of woo-woo, but it's not. It's just not. This is fallen guru stuff, folks.

Right it's not an excuse, as I mentioned. Agreed. Setting that aside, because I really am NOT interested in his interpersonal relationships or excuses - you are saying it is not a thing then, in your opinion? The experience of time and story are not altered in this way? You don't believe it is possible, or believe it is some kind of choice, rather than the natural result of deeper, longer or more isolated practice? Or?
T DC, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Stirling, the issues of spiritual bypassing and the "stink of Zen" come to mind.  Even when our realizations on the path are genuine, there is always the possibility that we overestimate their effect on our deeper issues.  Often meditators come to the path in an attempt to solve deep and lingering social and emotional issues, and when we achive some success it's ironically also very easy to develop significant blind spots. 

I really don't think an integrated path effects our temporal memory or processing in any significant way as to be a hindrance to normal functioning.  However, if we do get wrapped up in ideas of living solely in the naked present moment and leaving our past issues behind us through the powers of realization alone - combined with significant experiences of meditative emptiness, but lacking a greater context for the gifts and shortcomings of these experiences - I think this could certainly be a powerful concoction for self-delusion. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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The experience of time and story are not altered in this way? You don't believe it is possible, or believe it is some kind of choice, rather than the natural result of deeper, longer or more isolated practice? Or?

Altered states are states. I've seen this kind of thing and experienced it myself. I've had ridiculously fabulous, wondrous, sad, scary, insane experiences (states) while meditating. They don't last for very long and don't affect the way we live for extended periods of time. I'm sure it's possible to be mentally ill, injured, or have a tumor of some sort that will cause these effects for long periods, but a meditation practice that forever alters the basic experience of being a human, for years? No, sorry, I'm not buying it.
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Stirling Campbell, modified 1 Month ago.

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Chris Marti:
The experience of time and story are not altered in this way? You don't believe it is possible, or believe it is some kind of choice, rather than the natural result of deeper, longer or more isolated practice? Or?

Altered states are states. I've seen this kind of thing and experienced it myself. I've had ridiculously fabulous, wondrous, sad, scary, insane experiences (states) while meditating. They don't last for very long and don't affect the way we live for extended periods of time. I'm sure it's possible to be mentally ill, injured, or have a tumor of some sort that will cause these effects for long periods, but a meditation practice that forever alters the basic experience of being a human, for years? No, sorry, I'm not buying it.

I guess I'm not making myself clear, or easy to understand, or perhaps the proximity to the Culadasa letter has made this impossible to break out as a sub-topic, so I'll go ahead and make this its own topic, unfreighted by any feelings or facts in relation to this one. 
DD DD DD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:

Altered states are states. I've seen this kind of thing and experienced it myself. I've had ridiculously fabulous, wondrous, sad, scary, insane experiences (states) while meditating. They don't last for very long and don't affect the way we live for extended periods of time. I'm sure it's possible to be mentally ill, injured, or have a tumor of some sort that will cause these effects for long periods, but a meditation practice that forever alters the basic experience of being a human, for years? No, sorry, I'm not buying it.


Isn't the whole point of Buddhism that altered states in meditation lead to permanent changes in the basic experience of being human?

Without commenting on Culadasa's personal situation, I think it's crazy to suggest that the sort of thing he's describing is somehow totally out of left field in terms of an experience a very advanced practitioner might be having.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Isn't the whole point of Buddhism that altered states in meditation lead to permanent changes in the basic experience of being human?

How would the basic experience of being human change? In my version of this, the basic experience of being human includes all the common, everyday qualities we all share. It's not those basic experiences that change. What changes is our understanding of them, and relationship to them.
DD DD DD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:

How would the basic experience of being human change? In my version of this, the basic experience of being human includes all the common, everyday qualities we all share. It's not those basic experiences that change. What changes is our understanding of them, and relationship to them.


Yeah I think it's sort of turtles all the way down, i.e. dependent on our definitions of words and so on. But to put what I'm saying in pragmatic dharma language: I think of 3C's as part of the basic experience of being human, and I'd imagine that a more advanced practitioner would have less dukkha than a less advanced one, thus changing their basic experience.

How plausible this sort of experience sounds is obviously based upon what tradition you are looking from, but even for the more pragmatic dharma crowd here, one might interpret his experience as a subtle and extended dark night. People on here seem to have no trouble with the notion of a dark night "lasting" (however much anything may last) years. That would qualify IMO as a change in the basic experience...

Anyways, if you read e.g. Jeffrey Martin's stuff, which I consider to originate mostly from the modern non-dual crowd, this type of zombie-like consequence of enlightenment is considered totally standard. I believe that many other groups also have similar ideas of enlightenment side effects. Certainly from the perspective of traditional Theravada, where the goal is to end craving, aversion, and delusion, thus enabling you to e.g. experience no mental suffering at physical pain, profound changes in basic experience are the goal.

All I'm saying is that, whatever our opinion of the likelihood or desirability of this sort of experience, there are tons of people just like us who 1) think that this experience is common and 2) a normal side effect of legitimate awakening, plus there are many old traditions that idealize awakening as somewhat zombie-like.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

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I think of 3C's as part of the basic experience of being human, and I'd imagine that a more advanced practitioner would have less dukkha than a less advanced one, thus changing their basic experience.

So why do you think it works that way? How would seeing through the three characteristics change our basic human experience? Are you sure this is about less dukkha, or is it about knowing how dukkha works and relating to it differently? I say it's the latter, from my personal experience.

Certainly from the perspective of traditional Theravada, where the goal is to end craving, aversion, and delusion, thus enabling you to e.g. experience no mental suffering at physical pain, profound changes in basic experience are the goal.

End? Or understand?

This matters. A lot. It's sad to me that people get so confused about it. This is where the dharma gets very fuzzy for many, and the notion creeps in that awakening literally ends suffering can become dangerous and pernicious.
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Ben V., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Concerning 'End' vs 'Understand', I think the whole debate is inevitable even from the get go of the tradition, the core texts, the suttas. Not saying the suttas are ambiguous. It's more complicated than that. Here is an attempt to reconcile both views.

In the suttas the Buddha often uses fairly unambiguous, clear expressions that often favour the "End' of craving/suffering argument. We read things like: ''the destruction'' of craving'', ''uprooting craving like a palm stump so that it cannot arise again'', etc. Even the 3rd Noble Truth is called ''Nirodha Sacca'', the truth of ''cessation'' (of dukkha). In dependent origination discourses he talks or cessation of each link, including ''tanha nirodha'', cessation of  craving. Reading passages like these, it's hard not to see Theravada as advocating for the end of craving, aversion, and delusion.

And yet in other suttas he makes it clear that all experiences are dukkha. He says ''sabe sankhara dukkha'' (all formations are dukkha), and that ''whatever is felt is included in dukkha'' in Samyutta-Nikaya. He also says the eightfold path is for the full understanding of dukkha. Hence, here, supporting the 'understnd' part of this debate.

What I wonder then, is by absolute cessation of craving, suffering, etc, what is meant is cessation as meant in fruition (cessation of all mental activities). With the cessation of experience, obviously there is no craving, since everything ceased. But once back to conscious experience, the dukkha of life is still there, although understood clearly and related to differently (i.e. no identification of self with it).

Note: I'm saying this more from a textual analysis point of view than personal experience. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Reading passages like these, it's hard not to see Theravada as advocating for the end of craving, aversion, and delusion.

Maybe this is sloppy translation combined with an oral tradition and ignorant or willful misinterpretation.

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DD DD DD, modified 1 Month ago.

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MCTB2:
If our “awakening” doesn’t endure the test of time, or if there is not a fundamental and sustained reduction in suffering, write it off and keep going.
I consider Daniel/Mahasi crowd to be at more or less the "light" end of a spectrum of interpretations of the effects of awakening. On the far, "heavy" side, I would place e.g. Tibetan Buddhism (flying is a pre-requisite for further pre-requisites). Certainly most modern Thai + Burmese meditation traditions plus some Advaita Vedanta traditions (others it's impossible to discuss as they are coming at things from the non-dual view totally) have a pretty strict view on the consequences of enlightenment, more so than Daniel. See e.g. Papagi unconcerned at news of the death of his son.

I agree with Ben V. that the suttas seem pretty unambiguous to me in terms of a very strict view of awakening, another illustrating snippet is the Sallatha Sutta (two arrows simile):
When touched with a feeling of pain, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught. He feels one pain: physical, but not mental.
As I was saying above, my only point here is that it's not as if your intepretation in terms of understanding rather than ending is mainstream or historically standard. I'm not even saying that's a bad thing, as I'm perfectly ok with the possibility that traditional Buddhism is more theory than fact.

As for myself, I'm agnostic. The only thing I believe in is states of consciousness moving towards and near cessation, since I believe I've experienced those and gotten close to reality collapsing. I am optimistic about the possibility of cessation, and want to "run the experiment" to find out what might change for me after. But for my 5 years of practice life I've been a foolish worldling, wandering far and wide always unable to do the deed so to speak, so I don't know for sure.

I do believe that people do experience authentic, profound, and lasting changes to their consciousness due to intense practice - the stories abound. As for whether that's pathological or what the Buddha was talking about I don't know.
Martin, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Chris Marti:
 but a meditation practice that forever alters the basic experience of being a human, for years? No, sorry, I'm not buying it.

Can you elaborate here? Are you saying that meditation never results in a permanent (or even multi-year) fundamental alteration of experience? 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

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Can you elaborate here? Are you saying that meditation never results in a permanent (or even multi-year) fundamental alteration of experience? 

The fundamental qualities of being human: intelligence (thoughts), emotions. We always have these. What changes with a dedicated practice, sometimes permanently, is how well we know them (intimacy), what we do with them, how we use them. 
charon, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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Stirling Campbell:
Sidebar:

Setting aside Culadasa's drama with his wife or questions of his legitimacy as a teacher, I found this section of his letter most intriguing:

During the past year and a half, I’ve also learned to appreciate and experience certain profound depths to this Dharma that I’d known about, but hadn’t fully understood and applied before.

For years I’d been living mostly in the present moment, more in the ongoing awareness of suchness and emptiness than narrative and form. As part of this radical shift in perspective, I’d stopped “thinking about myself,” creating the “story of me.” I now realize that, while freed of the burdens of “if only” and “what if,” I’d also lost another kind of perspective those narratives provide. By embracing the now as I had, I’d let that other world of linear time and narrative fall away. Thus I found myself unable to counter what the Board confronted me with by providing my own perspective, “my story” about what had happened so many years before. Having lost the perspective and context that comes from longer term and larger scale autobiographical narratives, I failed to recognize how out of context those long-ago events were with the present.

While all narratives may ultimately be empty constructs, they are also indispensable to our ability to function effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships. When trying to respond to the Board, all I had were the pieces from which those narratives are usually constructed. I was hopelessly unsuccessful in my attempts to put them together on the spur of the moment to provide a more accurate counterpart to the unrecognizable narrative I was being confronted with. And that is how I overlooked such obviously important facts as those described above, and why I apologized so inaccurately.

While I'm not agreeing that this is any kind of excuse, it is nonetheless something I can see being a real possibility, since it hints at some very real aspects of deepening insight. Memory, and the nature of the personal story ARE deeply impacted by it, and there isn't always much discussion about how that gets dealt with. 

Certainly I have met a number of long-enlightened people whose functioning in society seems deeply altered by years of practice, and deep insight. Anyone else find this interesting?

 

 
I also found this the most interesting part of it, and was really hoping it would be discussed by some really experienced meditators on here. To what degree is this pointing towards how living in the present moment for extended periods of time can affect and distort the narratives that shape modern day social reality in unexpected ways. And, how much of this is compounded by the setting, say someone like Culdasa living in an almost retreat like setting on/off for many years would likely be more susceptible to distortions that someone living a more integrated life within an everyday setting. The ‘Guru’ aspect would again further compound this, I suspect.
 
Lots of different threads, all very interesting to consider.
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

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charon:
Stirling Campbell:
Sidebar:

Setting aside Culadasa's drama with his wife or questions of his legitimacy as a teacher, I found this section of his letter most intriguing:

During the past year and a half, I’ve also learned to appreciate and experience certain profound depths to this Dharma that I’d known about, but hadn’t fully understood and applied before.

For years I’d been living mostly in the present moment, more in the ongoing awareness of suchness and emptiness than narrative and form. As part of this radical shift in perspective, I’d stopped “thinking about myself,” creating the “story of me.” I now realize that, while freed of the burdens of “if only” and “what if,” I’d also lost another kind of perspective those narratives provide. By embracing the now as I had, I’d let that other world of linear time and narrative fall away. Thus I found myself unable to counter what the Board confronted me with by providing my own perspective, “my story” about what had happened so many years before. Having lost the perspective and context that comes from longer term and larger scale autobiographical narratives, I failed to recognize how out of context those long-ago events were with the present.

While all narratives may ultimately be empty constructs, they are also indispensable to our ability to function effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships. When trying to respond to the Board, all I had were the pieces from which those narratives are usually constructed. I was hopelessly unsuccessful in my attempts to put them together on the spur of the moment to provide a more accurate counterpart to the unrecognizable narrative I was being confronted with. And that is how I overlooked such obviously important facts as those described above, and why I apologized so inaccurately.

While I'm not agreeing that this is any kind of excuse, it is nonetheless something I can see being a real possibility, since it hints at some very real aspects of deepening insight. Memory, and the nature of the personal story ARE deeply impacted by it, and there isn't always much discussion about how that gets dealt with. 

Certainly I have met a number of long-enlightened people whose functioning in society seems deeply altered by years of practice, and deep insight. Anyone else find this interesting?

 

 
I also found this the most interesting part of it, and was really hoping it would be discussed by some really experienced meditators on here. To what degree is this pointing towards how living in the present moment for extended periods of time can affect and distort the narratives that shape modern day social reality in unexpected ways. And, how much of this is compounded by the setting, say someone like Culdasa living in an almost retreat like setting on/off for many years would likely be more susceptible to distortions that someone living a more integrated life within an everyday setting. The ‘Guru’ aspect would again further compound this, I suspect.
 
Lots of different threads, all very interesting to consider.

Oliver Sacks describes the case of a man with such debilitating brain damage to his frontal and temporal lobes that he was confined to the present moment. He was venerated by the Hare Krishnas as an awakened being. 

https://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/users/se367/14/Readings/sacks-Oliver-1995_anthropologist-on-mars_the-last-hippie.pdf
charon, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Edward:
charon:
Stirling Campbell:
Sidebar:

Setting aside Culadasa's drama with his wife or questions of his legitimacy as a teacher, I found this section of his letter most intriguing:

During the past year and a half, I’ve also learned to appreciate and experience certain profound depths to this Dharma that I’d known about, but hadn’t fully understood and applied before.

For years I’d been living mostly in the present moment, more in the ongoing awareness of suchness and emptiness than narrative and form. As part of this radical shift in perspective, I’d stopped “thinking about myself,” creating the “story of me.” I now realize that, while freed of the burdens of “if only” and “what if,” I’d also lost another kind of perspective those narratives provide. By embracing the now as I had, I’d let that other world of linear time and narrative fall away. Thus I found myself unable to counter what the Board confronted me with by providing my own perspective, “my story” about what had happened so many years before. Having lost the perspective and context that comes from longer term and larger scale autobiographical narratives, I failed to recognize how out of context those long-ago events were with the present.

While all narratives may ultimately be empty constructs, they are also indispensable to our ability to function effectively in the realm of conventional reality and interpersonal relationships. When trying to respond to the Board, all I had were the pieces from which those narratives are usually constructed. I was hopelessly unsuccessful in my attempts to put them together on the spur of the moment to provide a more accurate counterpart to the unrecognizable narrative I was being confronted with. And that is how I overlooked such obviously important facts as those described above, and why I apologized so inaccurately.

While I'm not agreeing that this is any kind of excuse, it is nonetheless something I can see being a real possibility, since it hints at some very real aspects of deepening insight. Memory, and the nature of the personal story ARE deeply impacted by it, and there isn't always much discussion about how that gets dealt with. 

Certainly I have met a number of long-enlightened people whose functioning in society seems deeply altered by years of practice, and deep insight. Anyone else find this interesting?

 

 
I also found this the most interesting part of it, and was really hoping it would be discussed by some really experienced meditators on here. To what degree is this pointing towards how living in the present moment for extended periods of time can affect and distort the narratives that shape modern day social reality in unexpected ways. And, how much of this is compounded by the setting, say someone like Culdasa living in an almost retreat like setting on/off for many years would likely be more susceptible to distortions that someone living a more integrated life within an everyday setting. The ‘Guru’ aspect would again further compound this, I suspect.
 
Lots of different threads, all very interesting to consider.

Oliver Sacks describes the case of a man with such debilitating brain damage to his frontal and temporal lobes that he was confined to the present moment. He was venerated by the Hare Krishnas as an awakened being. 

https://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/users/se367/14/Readings/sacks-Oliver-1995_anthropologist-on-mars_the-last-hippie.pdf


Thanks for the link, I'd not heard of this case before.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 3787 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
I also found this the most interesting part of it, and was really hoping it would be discussed by some really experienced meditators on here. To what degree is this pointing towards how living in the present moment for extended periods of time can affect and distort the narratives that shape modern day social reality in unexpected ways. And, how much of this is compounded by the setting, say someone like Culdasa living in an almost retreat like setting on/off for many years would likely be more susceptible to distortions that someone living a more integrated life within an everyday setting. The ‘Guru’ aspect would again further compound this, I suspect.

I'm going to continue to take a hard line here because this man Culadasa is relying on you all to accept his trite excuses.

The idea that one can live only in the present and be totally unaware of one's life, surroundings and the reality outside of just the momentary last few seconds is nonsense, unless it's being used to explain away bad behavior of some sort. I keep mentioning about self-awareness because it is the mark of being grounded in the reality of being a human being, right here, right now. If he was as realized as people think, Culdasa would have the level of self-awareness that keeps us humans on the track of being decent and respectful of others as called for, and not using our mediation practice as an excuse. It's upsetting when gurus leverage their so-called "crazy wisdom" or advanced practice oon those in their vicinity who respect them. It's a form of abuse.

These gurus are people. Please hold them to common-sense standards of behavior and accept nothing less.

Also, I read the entire document, despite it being insanely long and hard to stomach.

Please see shargrol's latest post for the rest of what I think about this because it's well-spoken, thoughtful, and correctly captures how we can best think of this silly affair:

I personally find it disengenous to 1) suggest that there is a big gap between the realm of meditation and the realm of psychology, 2) to suggest that it is reasonable for an experienced meditator to be completely blind to very basic psychological motivations and reactive patterns, and 3) it's wrong to use the general framing of "everyone has some blindspots" to excuse some really basic blindspots that really should have been caught through meditation. 

My current working hypothesis is that he has spent a lot of time thinking about meditation and rewriting a book about meditation based on someone else's model and with the benefit of other co-writers... but he doesn't seem to have gotten much traction in his own practice. Happy to be wrong about it.

The reason I feel it is important to say all of this is that we all need to navigate the world of teachers and therapists and meditation books and psychological models of awakening without simply believing what is said --- we need to be able to be critical thinkers and tough judges.  Our own minds are at stake.




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Ben V., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 340 Join Date: 3/3/15 Recent Posts
I appreciate this reflection, from you Chris and Shargrol, and find it the most grounding reflection for us unenlightened folks aspiring to awakening who are trying to make sense of a suposed enlightened teacher-figure's behavior.

My gut-feeling, initial reflection on reading the document was that this individual/teacher is (sorry only a French Canadian expression came to mind): ''il patine''. Which means ''he's skating''. It is a strange expression basically meaning when someone made a big mistake and spends a lot of energy trying to explain/cover it up with long or countless explanations. I think the expression came from the image of someone about to fall on the ice but making huge efforts not to fall, legs flying in all directions trying to regain balance, yet everyone watching knows the person will fall. But then I think, ''what do I know'', I'm not enlightened. I think this can lead to much confusion in students: they refuse to listen to their gut feeling and common sense on the ground that they are not enlightened, but the teacher is.

I wonder if all these scandals should not make people re-think the teacher-student relationship. Now everytime I hear of a teacher that lives in some 'Ashram-like' setting, the only teacher in the community with no peer supervision, surrounded by an admiring crowd, somewhat disconnected from the real world, my red flag alert goes on immediately. 

In the pragmatic dharma world, this model is thannkfully abscent. It seems more like a coaching model in which more experienced meditators give advice or coaching, and nothing more. The IMS-Spirit Rock model also seems good, where they don't have a 'one guru' model as described above, and have peer supervision and a clear code of ethics. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 3787 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
 I think this can lead to much confusion in students: they refuse to listen to their gut feeling and common sense on the ground that they are not enlightened, but the teacher is.

Yes.

This is what wayward gurus rely on, and leverage, from their followers - reverence, unquestioned belief, and not applying common sense judgment to their specialness.
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 1494 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
And we give the specialness to the gurus because we secretly want to be special ourselves, but don't want to own it directly, so we vicariously live it out by associating with the special guru. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 3787 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Martin, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 194 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Stirling Campbell:
Sidebar:


Certainly I have met a number of long-enlightened people whose functioning in society seems deeply altered by years of practice, and deep insight. Anyone else find this interesting?


Yes, I found that interesting. You can see why people have, in the past, gone off to live in caves or monasteries, instead of trying to run a business and juggle relationships. It's not surprising that there are aspects of fundamentally modifying your experience of reality that get in the way of doing those sorts of things. Life is pretty tricky even when you don't throw DYI mindscaping into the mix. Caution makes sense.  
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Culadasa update

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
I read it all.  I found it convincing.

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