RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Griffin, modified 3 Months ago.

“Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

Posts: 141 Join Date: 4/7/18 Recent Posts
A few questions for practitioners who believe in objective existence of entities. How do they fit into the larger context of your conception of reality? Do you think they come from “parallel universes” and make contact with us through some kind of “quantum entanglement” / “collective unconscious”? Siddhis (parapsychological phenomena) can fit into the existing scientific worldview much more easily (you just assume that there are some undiscovered forms of quantum interconnection between brains). But entities are the whole other level, especially the HGA stuff. And maybe the most important question: are they just our “neighbors” with occasional contacts in a chaotic multiverse, or are they intentionally monitoring and influencing the history of the mankind, with some kind of grand master plan? If those things are indeed real, that makes our world so much more mysterious and complex. Are there any people in the whole world who have real answers to these questions? 

There is a standard set of responses used in pragmatic Dharma circles when answering the questions about whether entities “really exist”: “It’s complicated. What does being real even mean? We are not really interested in ontological and metaphysical questions. It doesn’t matter in terms of meditation practice. It’s the same whether they are real or not. You should be able to do pragmatic paradigm-shifting.”

I appreciate these answers and see how they reflect skillfulness and pragmatism. But I also feel that something is missing. It seems like those answers are 99% honest, but not 100%. I don’t claim that there is any intentional dishonesty – I just think that sudden epistemological digressions and sterilized pragmatism are actually covering some unsaid, simpler starting-points. Which may be some of the following:

     1) “I actually don’t know whether entities objectively exist or not. It’s a mysterious topic, and maybe nobody knows for sure.”
     2) “I am pretty sure that entities exist independently from our minds, but I don’t want to say it explicitly, so I don’t sound crazy and piss of listeners who are scientific materialists.”
     3) “I am pretty sure that’s all just a part of human psyche, but I won’t say it directly so I don’t disappoint listeners who believe in that sort of stuff (orthodox Buddhists, new age woo-woo fans etc.)”

The problem is that complex philosophical answers may paint the wrong picture, especially in case of the first option. It is better to promote honesty and openness by saying “I don’t really know for sure”, than hiding behind a wall of philosophical word-play that leaves the impression that we have it all figured out, or are hiding some deep secret from the public.

You could say ask: “What do these questions have to do with your practice”? And I get the point. But let’s not be stuck only in the pragmatic paradigm. One of the driving forces of science (and culture as a whole) is curiosity. Many discoveries about the world have been made much before humanity found a practical, pragmatic utility to them. We can’t limit human conversation only to pragmatic formulas. I assume that most of you, during a conversation with a flat-earther, wouldn’t just respond: “It doesn’t matter whether the earth is round. It has nothing to do with your practice. What does round even mean? You should be able to do pragmatic paradigm-shifting between flat earth and round earth models.”
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Stirling Campbell, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

Posts: 597 Join Date: 3/13/16 Recent Posts
There is something wrong with the way people look at reality. Nagarjuna and the Buddha were correct - in reality things are empty of intrinsic reality.

Therefore, "entities" are as real as "human rights". They are a conceptual accretion that depends on a set of conditions for their existence. They appear as ideas, or even something tangible, but in either case they are constructs of the mind like all phenomena.
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This cognitive scientists ideas about appearances in consciousness gets you some of the way there:

https://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hoffman_do_we_see_reality_as_it_is


...but, really, you have to drop all of this BS about brains being the seat of consciousness. If you imagine that there are simply sensations and phenomena that we create conceptual icons in consciousness out of you are closer.

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This dialog with Ramana Maharshi is worth considering:

Devotee: Are the Gods, Ishvara and Vishnu, and their heavens, Kailas and Vaikuntha, real?

Ramana Maharshi: As real as you are in this body.

Devotee: I mean, have they got a phenomenal existence like my body, or are they pure fictions like the horns of a hare?

Ramana Maharshi: They do exist.

Devotee.: If so, they must be somewhere; where are they?

Ramana Maharshi: In you.

Devotee: Then they are only my idea; something which I create and control?

Ramana Maharshi: Everything is.
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Griffin, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

Posts: 141 Join Date: 4/7/18 Recent Posts
I appreciate your perspective. For me, that would be quite understendable and acceptable explanation. However, in MCTB2 I found some strong hints toward the view that entities also exist independently from our minds. (Of course, our perceptions are the construct of the mind, but that doesn't mean that there is no reality outside of our minds, althought it's empty; emptiness doesn't equall nonexistence.)

And this naturally leads to questions that I asked at the beginning. Just a human need to put strange phenomena into some context.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Griffin:
I appreciate your perspective. For me, that would be quite understendable and acceptable explanation. However, in MCTB2 I found some strong hints toward the view that entities also exist independently from our minds. (Of course, our perceptions are the construct of the mind, but that doesn't mean that there is no reality outside of our minds, althought it's empty; emptiness doesn't equall nonexistence.)

And this naturally leads to questions that I asked at the beginning. Just a human need to put strange phenomena into some context.
I'm thinking that people use the word "mind" in different ways. One way of using the word refers to single separate mindstreams. Another one refers to mind as everything that is aware, regardless of which single mindstream that subjectively picks up on it. 

I guess I'm part of the "I don't know" team, slightly tilting towards believing that other beings do exist as "objectively" as we do. I'm not a fan of the term objective, because I don't think we can know anything objectively and I'm not so sure it matters. Our partly shared subjective experience is strong enough for stuff to matter in our world. No philosophical debate, however convincing, can get me to say that other persons are not real, because I find that such statements are harmful. If I ever get in contact with otherworldy beings that are obviously having the subjective experience of existing, that's good enough for me. I don't need to know whether it's objective. If they think they are real, I think the decent stance is to treat them with respect. That doesn't mean that they get to have parties in my living room, and I probably wouldn't go public and tell people all about it, unless it was somehow urgent and worth the social cost. For me to say that they don't really exist just feels like it would be utterly rude, lol. I prefer to not question their own subjective experiences of their ontological status if they have one, and I can't really know if they have one. 

I haven't yet had the honor of seeing much. I once saw someone invisible move stuff, and sometimes something seems to respond to me, and the other day I may have heard Yamantaka bellow during a Tibetan ritual but that may also have been some really strange sound from my neighbors. I saw a being visit me as a child. I have had messages delivered to me in dreams. I have had a few visions. I often feel the presence of spiritual energy in relatively untouched nature. I can feel spirits be upset when nature that used to be relatively untouched gets turned into a place where new houses are built. My dad came to say farewell to me after he had died, and to my brother too in a similar way at a separate occasion. Things like that. So what was any of that? I don't know.

I'm not sure where the subconscious ends and magickal manifestations begin or whether there is such a boundary, and I don't know where individual manifestations end and collective ones begins and whether there are any clear such boundaries, and I don't know where the mind manifestations end and an objective physical world starts and whether there is such a boundary. 
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Steph, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I'm not sure where the subconscious ends and magickal manifestations begin or whether there is such a boundary, and I don't know where individual manifestations end and collective ones begins and whether there are any clear such boundaries, and I don't know where the mind manifestations end and an objective physical world starts and whether there is such a boundary. 


This is pretty much how I think of it too. I also think the possibilities of which energies can cross-streams to adapt, change, or create new phenomena are virtually limitless. So when different energies collide—whether they're coming from a variety of bodymind streams or on other planes of the natural/cosmological world—that's how these manifestations that seem like new or magickal entities likely come into being. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Steph:
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I'm not sure where the subconscious ends and magickal manifestations begin or whether there is such a boundary, and I don't know where individual manifestations end and collective ones begins and whether there are any clear such boundaries, and I don't know where the mind manifestations end and an objective physical world starts and whether there is such a boundary. 


This is pretty much how I think of it too. I also think the possibilities of which energies can cross-streams to adapt, change, or create new phenomena are virtually limitless. So when different energies collide—whether they're coming from a variety of bodymind streams or on other planes of the natural/cosmological world—that's how these manifestations that seem like new or magickal entities likely come into being. 
I tend to think something along the line of that too. 
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Stirling Campbell, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Griffin:
I appreciate your perspective. For me, that would be quite understendable and acceptable explanation. However, in MCTB2 I found some strong hints toward the view that entities also exist independently from our minds. (Of course, our perceptions are the construct of the mind, but that doesn't mean that there is no reality outside of our minds, althought it's empty; emptiness doesn't equall nonexistence.)

And this naturally leads to questions that I asked at the beginning. Just a human need to put strange phenomena into some context.

I don't think there is any way to know if what is assumed to be "outside" is real. I would suggest that it most certainly (in my experience) is not a land of separate things. What we see, and what we are is a "unity". Nothing exists independently of the mind.

Things are objects because there is a subject or mind;
and the mind is a subject because there are objects.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
- from "Verses on the Faith Mind"
by Chien-chih Seng-ts'an


Linda is right, it is worth examing what "mind" means or where it stops. I would suggest that when you think you are looking at the "world", what you are REALLY looking at is "mind". When I am saying "mind", I don't limit that to what you think of as YOUR mind, I mean your filtered version of whatever may or may not be "out there".

What you think of as the "world" has never been seen by you in real time, or as it really is. From a scientific perspective, for example, it has been demonstrated that what we percieve shows up in the brain many milliseconds after it has happened. Even fly, for example, sees reality much more immediately, though still behind the actual event. This means that everything you believe you are reacting to has already happened.

We have also deduced that other animals are able to percieve things we can't... like infrared and ultraviolet light, or sound in frequecies or decibel levels that are beyond our sensory capacity.

At the VERY least we have to doubt the efficacy or accuracy of our senses, then. They are filtered, and limited.

What about our thoughts? Ask yourself: is someone who blows up a busy marketplace a terrorist, or a hero? It depends on our perspective. It is obvious that our perspective alters how we percieve reality.

So, what you are looking at as "real" is definitely, at the very least:

1. In the past

2. Heavily filtered by limitations or biases of the sense doors

3. Heavily filtered by your obscurations/thoughts about how things are.

Are you in any position to decide what is "real" or, therefore separate from "mind"? Who would be? If you have insight into the non-dual nature of reality, I personally think it would be impossible to definitively side with the idea that there are definitely other separate entities "outside" of our experience.

Daniel Ingram characterizes the qualities of an enlightenment as:

1. Complete Interdependence
2. Perfect Lawful Causality
3. Total Agencylessness
4. Total Centerpointlessness
5. Total Subjectlessness
6. That Manifestation=Awareness both ontologically and geo-spacially.
7. Atemporality
8. Total Boundarylessness

Of course it is only HIS experience, but if it really even a partial list of the qualities of enlightenment, it is worth looking at these carefully. What does he mean by "agencylessness", "centerpointlessness", "subjectlessness", or "boundarylessness"? What are the consequences of an experience that is atemporal? How about the idea that "manifestation=awareness both ontologically and geo-spacially"?
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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I'm quite happy to say that everything is made of mind, or energy, or matter. Whatever we call it, every word seems to produce different reactions in different people, depending on their background. How about 'stuff'? Can we all agree that everything is made of the same kind of stuff?!
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Steph, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

Posts: 647 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts
Something important that Stirling and others have brought up is the way people think of the word "mind" itself. I think the word "mind" has alot of baggage attached to it for many meditators, in that they specifically relate it to being associated with the brain... thinking that mind happens because of brain. So therein lies some of the problem of duality in thinking that the mind is a product of brain.. some separate thing that springs forth due to the brain. The term consciousness or awareness maybe has less baggage for people because I think lots of folks think of consciousness as something more vast - or boundless is more accurate probably - the universe itself is conscious. I don't know if that little adjustment in terminology helps people, but I think it's a fair distinction. 
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Stirling Campbell, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Steph:
Something important that Stirling and others have brought up is the way people think of the word "mind" itself. I think the word "mind" has alot of baggage attached to it for many meditators, in that they specifically relate it to being associated with the brain... thinking that mind happens because of brain. So therein lies some of the problem of duality in thinking that the mind is a product of brain.. some separate thing that springs forth due to the brain. The term consciousness or awareness maybe has less baggage for people because I think lots of folks think of consciousness as something more vast - or boundless is more accurate probably - the universe itself is conscious. I don't know if that little adjustment in terminology helps people, but I think it's a fair distinction. 

I agree. There is a direct relationship (or, rather no separation) between what we think of as "our" mind and the MIND that we believe is external. 

I do actually PREFER awareness, but I'm not sure if it is as relatable in this conversation. 

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Related to the brain/mind fallacy:

For Buddhism, the mind is central to both human existence and the world of experience, while material concerns are secondary. For science, the nature of matter and its emergent properties are central, while the mind and subjective experience are secondary. So there is a fundamental complementarity, and at the same time a certain tension, between these two approaches to understanding the world and the good life.

To my mind, the principal obstacle to a deep integration of Buddhist insight and scientific discovery is the uncritical acceptance among many scientists—and increasingly the general public—of the metaphysical principles of scientific materialism. The fundamental belief of this scientific materialism is that the whole of reality consists only of space-time and matter-energy, and their emergent properties. This implies that the only true causation is physical causation, that there are no nonphysical influences in the universe. When applied to human existence, this worldview implies that subjective experience is either physical—despite all evidence to the contrary—or doesn’t exist at all, which is simply insulting to our intelligence. As the philosopher John R. Searle states in his book The Rediscovery of the Mind, “Earlier materialists argued that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena, because mental phenomena are identical with brain states. More recent materialists argue that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena because they are not identical with brain states. I find this pattern very revealing, and what it reveals is an urge to get rid of mental phenomena at any cost.”

It is commonplace nowadays to equate the mind with the brain, or to insist that the mind is nothing more than a function of the brain. But this is merely a metaphysical belief that has never been validated through scientific research. While the mind and brain are clearly correlated in precise ways that have been revealed through advances in cognitive neuroscience, the exact nature of those correlations remains a mystery. This mystery, however, is veiled by the illusion of knowledge that the mind-body problem has already been solved. But, while all other branches of modern science have focused on the direct observation of the natural phenomena they seek to understand, the cognitive sciences have insisted on avoiding such direct observation of mental phenomena. The simple reason for this choice is that subjectively experienced mental processes and states of consciousness do not fit within the materialist paradigm that has dominated science since the beginning of the 20th century. - B. Alan Wallace

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/six-questions-b-alan-wallace/
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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I watched this "dialogue" between Alan Wallace and physicist Sean Carroll and it was just painful, they completely talked past each other. I consider myself to be somewhat of a scientist and a meditator and I don't really see any inherent contradiction or tension between the two. I wonder how much of this tension comes down to factors like this:

- Politics: networks of influence centered around people with a certain slant.

- Funding: describing research in more matter-like or mind-like language to appeal to certain funding sources.

- Fear: a physicist with no spiritual or meditation experience might feel afraid of deep subjective experiences. A meditator with less science knowledge might feel afraid the scientists are trying to explain away or minimize their subjective experience.

As for ontology, I agree with shargrol that we can never prove it so it's kind of a waste of time and energy to get too worked up about it. But for me the simplest explanation is that material and mental phenomena are made of the same kind of stuff, and I don't find that threatening. Actually I find it amazing that the brain is made of the same kind of stuff that exists in distant galaxies and particle accelerators, and yet could also be the substratum for an incredibly rich world of subjective experience (dreams, hallucinations, memories, fantasies, jhanas, nondual experiences, nibbana, entities).
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Stirling Campbell, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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It is well known that Shinzen Young saw giant insects at one point on his path:

In my own experience, after I’d been meditating for about five or six years, I started to have visionary material, very intensely. One of the interesting things about visionary material is that once it gets going it’s not necessarily limited to when you’re sitting in formal practice. That’s something that people that go through this phenomenon discover to their chagrin. Once it gets going it’s there all your waking hours often. So that means when you’re just walking around or whatever you’re seeing stuff all day. And in my case it was mostly, but not exclusively, giant insects. And they were very realistic. It’s not like seeing a static image. It moves with all of the motion of a living being. The perfect arthropod articulatory motion that you would find in an actual creature. These things, they move and they were extremely vivid. We say visionary material but I should say you can touch and hear and smell it too. That’s what I meant when I said that it’s extremely realistic, whatever its ultimate ontological status may be. In any event, that went on for a good year. And I was in school, I was in graduate school and I walk to school and there’d be giant grasshoppers greeting me along the path and all sorts of stuff, and I still function quite well. There’s no problem. It wasn’t like being schizophrenic or anything like that. It was just a phenomenon of that intermediate realm. It means that I had dropped into that realm and some material was coming up.


I myself occasionally have quite realistic hooded "monks" visit me. A deeply realized teacher (who has also seen them) suggested that the best course of action was to ask them for help on the path, offer them help, and bow to them.
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Jim Smith, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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These links are from my blog and web site:

Evidence for the Afterlife, Non-physical Consciousness
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_afterlife


My own experiences:
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/psi_experience
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Simon T., modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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We can see them as blob of energies operating at a different frequency than matter.
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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I think one of the main points in buddhism is that we can never know what "metaphysics" is right. We have our experiences which cannot be denied, but the why and how of the "beyond" is unknowable. There are a lot of funny passages in the sutta where the buddha basically makes fun of the proto-hindu metaphysics at the time.

I've compared notes with folks and even though all advanced meditators have entity experiences, most do not put a lot of stock in "there IS" an entity "out there" in some specific "dimension". They and myself seem comfortable with not denying what we've experience (something showed up), enjoying pondering it, but also not struggling to create a fixed metaphysics for it. Especially because we can never tell if the metaphysics is true or not. 

So it boils down to honoring the experience as it occurs/occurred.
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Griffin, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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shargrol:
I think one of the main points in buddhism is that we can never know what "metaphysics" is right. We have our experiences which cannot be denied, but the why and how of the "beyond" is unknowable.
(...)
Especially because we can never tell if the metaphysics is true or not. 
So it boils down to honoring the experience as it occurs/occurred.

It seems like the consensus here is that this attitude is the most skilful one. I agree.

However, at the same time, if we look at history at the grand scale, we see that many issues were once considered to be eternally unanswerable mysteries: the structure of the atom, discovering medical causes of many illnesses (as well as cures), causes of natural phenomena (thunder, rain, earthquakes etc.), cosmological discoveries, reaching the moon... All those things were a COMPLETE MISTERY for countless millenia. Most people surely thought that those questions are in the realm of unreachable metaphysics and that even thinking about them is a waste of time.

My point is that we cannot uncritically prescribe to "permanent agnosticism" (e.g. the view that questions about the nature of entities are inherently and eternaly unanswerable). If we really don't know the truth about certain issue, then we also don't know whether it is possible to find out the answer. Perhaps these musings are today's idle sci-fi wanderings, but may be tomorrow's scientific revolution. I know, I know, that sounds naive and immature - but imagine how naive it would sound if someone in 15th century said that one day we'll send flying machines to space.
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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shargrol:

I've compared notes with folks and even though all advanced meditators have entity experiences, most do not put a lot of stock in "there IS" an entity "out there" in some specific "dimension". They and myself seem comfortable with not denying what we've experience (something showed up), enjoying pondering it, but also not struggling to create a fixed metaphysics for it. Especially because we can never tell if the metaphysics is true or not.
When you do your stuff and suddenly you have to deal with demon or two then reality of that situation doesn't seem like the thing that needs most attention emoticon

I would go with "this sheet is real" but there is a catch: not all is. The architecture of mind allow experiences of entities to arise naturally without external influence. Though the same architecture allows us to have a contact with these external influences / entities.

Also the moment you run out of conventional/rational explanations, even if so convoluted that Occam's soul comes out and says "Dude, for Christ f**king sake, come on... how is this better explanation? I would go with 'ghosts are real' emoticon", is the moment you become batshit crazy XD
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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I don't think I said that well...

What I mean is, folks will always say there IS an entity HERE where it's here, but there is less of a need to figure out where it goes when it isn't here. Does that make more sense?

That's what I mean by honoring the experience.
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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Perfect... sense emoticon

I usually do not think about this stuff either.
It is imho better to not give them any attention emoticon
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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yeah no need to give them attention... but they're welcome to visit if they really want to emoticon
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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shargrol:
yeah no need to give them attention... but they're welcome to visit if they really want to emoticon

I wonder if noting Vipassana could help with schizophrenia? I know it works well for paranoia however schizo stuff is a whole different level of realness. 
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: “Non-pragmatic” questions about entities

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I've compared notes with folks and even though all advanced meditators have entity experiences, most do not put a lot of stock in "there IS" an entity "out there" in some specific "dimension". They and myself seem comfortable with not denying what we've experience (something showed up), enjoying pondering it, but also not struggling to create a fixed metaphysics for it. Especially because we can never tell if the metaphysics is true or not. 


+1 for shargrol's comment. Being comfortable with "I don't know" is valuable.

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