Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

Griffin, modified 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 4:59 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 4:59 PM

Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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TLDR: Culadasa claims that, although there is no experience during cessation, sometimes (depending on your meditation technique) you can have a “false memory” of it, in form of “consciousness without an object”. Burbea apparently claimed that, according to suttas, cessation is not total unconsciousness, but an indescribable “consciousness without attribute”. Daniel, as you probably know, says cessation is a total gap in experience. What is your take on these views?

      Culadasa (TMI):
If the sub-minds are receptive but there’s nothing to receive, can a cessation event be consciously recalled afterward? It all depends on the nature of the shared intention before the cessation occurred. If the intention of all the tuned in sub-minds was to observe objects of consciousness, as with popular “noting” practices, all that’s subsequently recalled is an absence, a gap. After all, if every object of consciousness ceases, and there’s no intention for the sub-minds to observe anything else, then nothing gets imprinted in memory. However, if the intention was to be metacognitively aware of the state and activities of the mind, we would remember having been fully conscious, but not conscious of anything. We would recall having a pure consciousness experience (PCE), or an experience of consciousness without an object (CWO).
To be clear, there is no actual “experience” of “consciousness without an object” during the cessation event, nor could there possibly be. That experience, like any other, is a construct of the mind, and in this case is generated after the cessation event has already ended. How the memory of a cessation event is interpreted retrospectively takes many forms, depending on the views and beliefs held by the person whose mind is doing the interpreting. Thus, the cessation event itself is not a mental construct, but the subsequent interpretations are entirely constructed.

     Burbea (Seeing that Frees):
The words above are not describing a kind of comatose state of utter oblivion, total unconsciousness. (Footnote: This fact is also made clear through the wording of other passages, for example AN 10:6 and AN 10:7.) (…) Rather, what is being referred to is a complete fading and cessation of all appearances, and of all the elements that make up conventional experience – including all six sensory consciousnesses together with all their associated contacts, vedanā, perceptions, etc. All are utterly transcended.
An experience wherein conventional perception ceases is not really describable. Since conceiving and language are based on notions of subject, object, and time, how can what remains when they collapse possibly be conceived by the mind or conveyed in words?
DN 11. “Consciousness without attribute” (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) may also be translated “a consciousness that does not point out [or: ‘indicate’ or ‘look at’ anything]”. Such a rendering would make clear and emphasize its difference from all other consciousnesses, which always have some kind of object. 23 E.g. MN 59, AN 9:34, MN 137.
Especially when it is a momentary glimpse, an experience of cessation may be interpreted after the fact in terms that conceive of it as a knowing of an unfabricated ‘object’.
(Burbea's notions about cessation are not completely clear to me, so forgive me and correct me if I have presented his views in the wrong light!)

     Daniel ( MCTB ):
If there was any sense of an experience, even of nothingness or something that seemed incomprehensible, particularly anything involving the vaguest hint of the passage of time, it is not Fruition. This is an absolute rule. Repeating the film analogy, in Fruition it is as if a few frames of your life were simply edited out and not that they were replaced with something, even if that something seems profound, formless, cosmic, timeless, or whatever.
If there was not a complete sense of discontinuity and if it makes any sense to think of time, space, perspective, or memory continuing across the gap in relation to it, it is not Fruition. 
Fruitions are the same at all paths, as there is no experience in Fruition, just missing parts of the movie reel of our life.

“Who won? Who's next? You decide!” emoticon
Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 5:02 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 5:02 PM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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I'm off to bed! 
Chris M, modified 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 8:14 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 8:14 PM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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Griffin, you're making me curious -- what's up with these comparisons?
svmonk, modified 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 9:47 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/9/21 9:47 PM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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Hi Griffin,

I think Burbea's and Daniel's descriptions are aligned, in the sense that they describe the disappearance of experience which is not unconsciousnessnes, since the body retains posture when it happens in meditation. In fact, a survey of people I did a month or so ago indicated that in some people, normal activity continues while they are in a fruition, it's just that they have no memory of having had the experience, but they have a perfectly clear memory of before and after, so it is not like dementia. This actually happened to me as well.

Where Burbea's and Daniel's descriptions are not aligned is in the fading of perception. Daniel describes it according to the Theravada tradition, where perception abruptly cuts off, as in a path moment, whereas Burbea describes it as perception fading as concentration deepens during meditation and clinging loosens and finally dissolves. As Burbea describes it, in order to have any experience at all there must be clinging, that is, awareness must latch onto something. As the clinging fades, experience does also. Burbea's position is more aligned with the Mahayana trandition, and he quotes from Najarajuna's Mulamahdyamicakarika describing a practice called sarvopalambhopasamah,  which he translates as "fading of perception".

Interestingly enough, there was an article (paywalled) in this season's Tricycle about the Heart Sutra that is relevent to this topic. Scholars recently determined that the Heart Sutra was actually translated from Chinese to Sanskirt, and due to a mistranslation, it came out reading like a metaphysical treatise when, actually, what is is describing is a meditation experience, exactly this fading of perception that Burbea mentions. If you recall, the heart of the Heart Sutra, so to speak, says:

So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.
which describes in a somewhat wordy fashion the nonexperience at the end of the fading of perception.

Culadasa's description (the "subminds"wording) suffers from an attachment to a model of cognitive science from the late 80's and early 90's based on the then popular AI technology of rule based systems which in fact is the one part of the TMI that I thought was kind of weak. AFIK, nobody talks about subminds in cognitive science anymore. If the event is a true fruition or fading of perception, there will be no "memory" of what happened, just a before and after. There are other parts of TMI that I think are well done, and it is nevertheless near the top of my list of useful meditation books.

Griffin, modified 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 3:15 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 3:15 AM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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Just some curious differences I noticed a long time ago (and wondered why there wasn't a discussion about them here), but until now I couldn't get myself to compile all the quotes...
Pawel K, modified 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 9:46 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 9:46 AM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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I identify fruition moment as side-effect of switching of parts of nervous system which are used to generate consciousness with the non-experience aspect of fruition moment not being very relevant. More important is noticing how and why the process of switching get triggered to later being able to do it at will when it is needed, both in similar fashion and more importantly partially (which then doesn't have such clearly refined non-experience aspect to it) rather than relying on automatic processes... or rather sequence of events caused by unskillful actions.

Having fruition that looks like book examples do is the result of unskillful actions that forced nervous system to switch with such fuss as to make this fruition moment experienced. Skillful actions would be monitoring level of tiredness of parts of nervous system and switching these which are getting even remotely tired to new unused for a while set. In either way doing it that way cause the same kind of afterglow as fruition does. How much depends on how much of nervous system was changed.

In any way this is my take on it and I realized that many years ago. I saw it clearly, whole sequence right from the moment that started initializing new part of brain, which activation caused currently used part to slowly start shutting down and the switch moment which I called "context switch". In modern multi-core computers even single process running will do context switches by from time to time saving its state, halting execution and resuming execution it on the other core thus even this single process is actually using and heating up all cores equally. This is not so different to what happens in this whole fruition thingy, though in brain it is more necessary as neurons have to expend their internal energy to operate thus can get quite tired. To me it was also obvious that after this switch which was like having no working consciousness for a moment, different parts of brain were used to sustain consciousness, these which started getting active at first moment which caused fruition. This context switch is of course fruition, otherwise called cessation. Though having it I would not call "fruit of meditation". Being able to do it for any part of nervous system on demand on the other hand I would.

I say "unskillful" because person needs to use their nervous system in pretty stupid way in order to have fruition. This of course begins with the way they do practices and the way they misunderstand mindfulness. It doesn't feel natural from the start but promise of relief causes them to push on poor neurons disallowing them tag changes to not cause breaks in consciousness and then get excited on... the break in consciousness but on larger scale. If that doesn't immediately feel ridiculous then I do not know what will XD I guess not seeing irony in it is the same kind of blindness as the one which makes people not see their whole consciousness is generated by different parts of the brain after fruitions happens and rather concentrate on the fact that it disappeared for a moment. Hopefully this is treatable.

In any case mindfulness can be maintained with constant context switches of used mind faculties including those which generate consciousness by overlapping activation of parts of nervous system and this approach has this advantage that more parts of nervous system can be active at the same time and used to give better mental/sensual performance at any given time. Continuity of consciousness is however such that if I was to assess how long I am conscious I would not be able to finish this thought to say that I just got there and get new consciousness. No need for fruitions.
Soh Wei Yu, modified 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 10:21 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 3/10/21 10:19 AM

RE: Culadasa vs Burbea vs Daniel on cessation

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Griffin “consciousness without attribute”.
I don't know if Rob Burbea sees it this way but I just wanted to share my take on "consciousness without attribute": Excerpt from What is Consciousness Without Feature (Viññanam anidassanam)

What is Consciousness Without Feature (Viññanam anidassanam)

[1:46 AM, 11/8/2020] Soh: malcolm [Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith] says this quote by buddha from the pali canon: "Viññanam anidassanam from the Kevatta sutta:

    Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around"
[1:47 AM, 11/8/2020] Soh: is equivalent to dzogchen pristine consciousness

"Malcolm wrote:

    The view is self-originated pristine consciousness, free from the extreme of the dualism of an apprehended object and an apprehending subject.

— Self-Liberated Vidyā Tantra"
[7:52 AM, 11/8/2020] John Tan: Yes.  But how it is understood.
[8:01 AM, 11/8/2020] John Tan: Can be I AM, can be anatta.
[8:05 AM, 11/8/2020] John Tan: This I m aware all along.  Malcolm doesn't understand zen, they r pointing to the same essence and nature.  The only difference is Dzogchen is strong in view and clear about freedom from extremes and mmk.

[Comments by Soh: I don't think Malcolm is saying Zen is not pointing to the same realization, as Malcolm also stated, "There really is no difference between perfection of wisdom, mahāmudra, Chan/Zen, etc., and tregchöd. I have heard it said that Tulku Orgyen asserted that trekchöd exists in all yānas, perhaps EPK would be kind enough to confirm this. What separates from trekchöd from these other systems of the method of introduction. Trekchöd, like any secret mantra practice, is based on empowerment/introduction."]
[8:55 AM, 11/8/2020] John Tan: Once we r free subject-object duality, consciousness/appearance is without feature, without end and luminous all around.  So is there realization about mere appearances is key otherwise It is just reification of consciousness.

 p.s. another term in Dzogchen is Zang Thal:

Kyle Dixon [Realised student of Malcolm who Malcolm told me is the first person to fully get his teaching/view], "The reality of mind for him is non-arising which would be anatta

The difference between gsal ba and zang thal is difference between clarity experienced as background subject and clarity totally freed from that through realizing anatta"

He also wrote,

"Cognitive clarity is your cognizance reified as a subject, a self, while zangthal is that same aspect totally freed of all extremes and conditions."


    badge icon
    Also, John Tan, 2014:
    "It is also important that Buddha relates a description similar to consciousness without features in Bahiya sutta. This is what I told jax abt allowing the five elements to "kill u" when he asked me abt how I understand consciousness without features."
    "Consciousness without features. See how yor answer.
    We must know that Buddha told the bhikkhu the way the question is phrased is invalid and must be understood not as a cessation of the 4 elements without remainder.
    But I believe Stian is not seeing that way.
    Therefore cessation/nirodha should b understood from the perspective of "no footing", the release without ground of the elements.
    And a consciousness that is so is luminous without feature
    Where the place without heat and cold
    Not exactly no-mind but the featureless quality of groundlessness...that is u must understand the featureless quality in the experience."
    "Just realized that kevatta consciousness without features is not the cessation of the 4 elements but the 4 elements having no footing.
    Very often we say if there is no subject, how can there b object. This may sound logical but isn't verified as an experiential truth.
    As we can c from the case of actual ism and two fold emptiness. Y is this so?

         · 1m
    badge icon
    <--- my recent post just wrote about the groundlessness.[0]=AZWrPtqjTPEE9Le_LE86i4TEkOiHh1un-uZe5Ly-OOEM2duSSgWe0yYHgH9QxuAlEGEgYSbTmGCugG_Ri_AosV0l2liRqXHE99d7BHnOZPWBhQ1R2WlN7ghPfn83GcWDpOC8gtFix03PMCOMP5ytn-JsDo3pE61Wb-NBPLp32SqSadRuoaUEYv-1MG_NDvb2n0E&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

     · 1m




    Myriad Objects
    “Where do water, earth, fire, & wind
    have no footing?
    Where are long & short,
    coarse & fine,
    fair & foul,
    name & form
    brought to an end?
    "'And the answer to that is:
    Consciousness without feature,
    without end,
    luminous all around:
    Here water, earth, fire, & wind
    have no footing.
    Here long & short
    coarse & fine
    fair & foul
    name & form
    are all brought to an end.
    With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness
    each is here brought to an end.'"
    - DN 11

         · 1h

    Myriad Objects
    So it seems when the Buddha speaks of this in the Pali texts, he is speaking about viññāna anidassanam
    Venerable Ñānananda has written extensively on this topic.
    Basically it seems it is considered the equipoise of an Arahant when they are completely free from ignorance and no longer reify any appearances as “Self vs Other” or the extremes of “existence” vs “non-existence” - the elements ‘cease to find footing’ - they are no longer reified at all & their mind is no longer established in passion, hatred or delusion.
    Some sources also suggest that this can refer to the mind of an awakened being (stream-enterer or higher) while engaged in meditation and on the Paṭiloma cessation aspect of contact/dependent origination.
    In the earliest Abhidhamma texts it is called Supramundane Jhāna, a samādhi only available to stream-winners and above.
    copy and pasted from a post from Geoff on the dhammawheel forum:
    “Conditioned arising in its forward sequence is always a description of deluded cognition. When rooted in ignorance and craving, any experience automatically includes all of the first eleven links. That is, for the worldling there is always ignorance, contact, craving, grasping, becoming, and birth, which is the birth of a "being" (satta).
    This sets up identity and alienation -- i.e. the struggle for ego survival -- of "my being" in "the world." Whenever there is "a being" in "the world" there is going to arise circumstances of "my being" vs. "the world."
    When the forward and reverse sequences of conditioned arising are penetrated the entire deluded cognitive and conflicted affective edifice of the forward sequence of dependent arising immediately collapses like a house of cards.
    This is why the mind of a learner engaged in practice is designated as measureless (appamāṇa). But this does not mean that there is a non-cognitive blackout. Non-cognitive absorptions are never considered supramundane.
    Ven. Ñāṇananda, Nibbāna Sermons:
    The cessation of the six sense-bases does not mean that one does not see anything. What one sees then is voidness. It is an in-‘sight’. He gives expression to it with the words suñño loko, “void is the world.”
    In Concept and Reality Ven. Ñāṇananda equates the experience of non-indicative/non-manifestative consciousness (anidassana viññāṇa) with the fruition-gnosis samādhi (aññāphala samādhi) of an arahant. AN 9.37 describes this samādhi as follows:
    Sister, the concentration whereby -- neither pressed down nor forced back, nor with fabrication kept blocked or suppressed -- still as a result of release, contented as a result of standing still, and as a result of contentment one is not agitated: This concentration is said by the Blessed One to be the fruit of gnosis.”
    “With his penetrative insight the Arahant sees through the concepts. Now, an object of perception (ārammaṇa) for the worldling is essentially something that is brought into focus -- something he is looking at. For the Arahant, however, all concepts have become transparent to such a degree in that all-encompassing vision, that their boundaries together with their umbra and penumbra have yielded to the radiance of wisdom. This, then, is the significance of the word ‘anantaṃ’ (endless, infinite). Thus the paradoxically detached gaze of the contemplative sage as he looks through concepts is one which has no object (ārammaṇa) as the point of focus for the worldling to identify it with.”

         · 1h

    Myriad Objects
    Ven. Ñāṇananda, Nibbāna Sermon 07:
    “Now viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ is a reference to the nature of the released consciousness of an arahant. It does not reflect anything. To be more precise, it does not reflect a nāma-rūpa, or name-and-form. An ordinary individual sees a nāma-rūpa, when he reflects, which he calls 'I' and 'mine'. It is like the reflection of that dog, which sees its own delusive reflection in the water. A non-arahant, upon reflection, sees name-and-form, which however he mistakes to be his self. With the notion of 'I' and 'mine' he falls into delusion with regard to it. But the arahant's consciousness is an unestablished consciousness.
    We have already mentioned in previous sermons about the established consciousness and the unestablished consciousness. A non-arahant's consciousness is established on name-and-form. The unestablished consciousness is that which is free from name-and-form and is unestablished on name-and-form. The established consciousness, upon reflection, reflects name-and-form, on which it is established, whereas the unestablished consciousness does not find a name-and-form as a reality. The arahant has no attachments or entanglements in regard to name-and-form. In short, it is a sort of penetration of name-and-form, without getting entangled in it. This is how we have to unravel the meaning of the expression anidassana viññāṇa.”

         · 1h

    Sim Pern Chong wrote in 2007:
    There is also a spacious or all-pervading quality to the experience of non-duality and this is what was meant as a sense of Oneness. At times, objects and surroundings can be 'de-cognated' ( that is ... freed from being perceived as such) and a free-ing joyful and vitalising feeling can be felt. This feels like the mind has finally comes to a must-needed rest from its incessant mental activities.
    Also, in the deeper range of non-duality, there is an increasingly penetrating brightness. This brightness is the result of mind's deconstruction which allows for intense penetration into consciousness. The Brightness can be so intense that it is truly stunning.