Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

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Griffin, modified 2 Months ago.

Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

Posts: 195 Join Date: 4/7/18 Recent Posts
Today I have read about some somatic therapy exercises which instruct the practitiner to scan the body while repeating affirmations such as “This is MY hand. This hand belongs to ME. This hand is a part of ME”, in order re-establish a healthy sense of personal boundary, embodiment and integration. This makes such a remarkable contrast to vipassana no-self practices, that it made me curious about the seeming irreconcilability.

First, let’s try to make a distinction between primary, secondary and tertiary type of sensations relevant for this discussion:

  1. Primary sensations - e.g. bare sensations that are felt in the hand;
  2. Identity sensations - sensations that make up the feeling that the hand belongs to “you”;
  3. Delusion sensations – sensations that prevent you from seeing that secondary sensations are a fabrication of the mind.
It is usually said that awakening is not about changing the content of experience, but about changing relation to it (e.g. awakening is not about eliminating anxiety, it is about not identifying with anxiety). However, this delusion-creating relation must also be constituted by some kind of sensations. Everything in the experience is made up of aggregates. So, technically speaking, the content of experience is being changed.

My questions are:

1) What exactly are these "delusion sensations" and how are they phenomenologicaly different from identity sensations? Are they some kind of preverbal mental sensations, or emotional sensations, or something else?

2) Total elimination of “delusion sensations” is beneficial (arahantship). However, is it beneficial or harmful to try to reduce “identity sensations” (e.g. percieving the hand as if it's a foreign external object)? On the one hand, it seems like drastic reduction in identity sensations does happen in some deep blissful meditation states. However, it can also happen in psychopathological context of dissociation. Thus the somatic exercises I mentioned above.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no-self.

Posts: 2279 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
In my limited experience when "in seen there is ONLY the seen" like those hands you mention, then there is no duality between the "one seeing" and the "object seen". There is no split there. All is but ONLY The SEEN , referring back to no one = non-duality.

If there is a hand "over there as a foreign object" I would say, seek therapy pronto emoticon 

But take my words with a spoonful of salt emoticon 

EDIT; may be important to mention that ALL stuff in consciousness is Anicca. I feel this non-dual state is not something to try and solidify but only learn from it and let it do its Anicca business. I might be wrong of course.
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Jim Smith, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no-self.

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It is usually said that awakening is not about changing the content of experience, but about changing relation to it (e.g. awakening is not about eliminating anxiety, it is about not identifying with anxiety).


I think it depends on the cause of the anxiety. If the anxiety has an organic cause for example due to genetic or developmental causes, or some diseases or poor nutrition, then awakening or meditation might not be able to reduce it. However if the anxiety has a cognitive cause (caused by distorted thinking) then awakening and mental techniques like meditation can have an effect. Even with organically caused anxiety, sometimes it can be eased partially by mental techniques that help the person to control their nervous system. And organic factors and cognitive factors can interact so the distinction is not always clear cut.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no-self.

Posts: 1686 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Just a pet peeve... it's not NO-self. It's closer to NOT-self. No mind object is a self. An arhat isn't "someone who isn't someone" -- that's another form of self, "the no-self self". An arhat doesn't confuse mind objects with a self. Minor but major difference. 

However, this delusion-creating relation must also be constituted by some kind of sensations.

I mostly disagree. Samsara is caused by confusion, it is not categorically different than Nibbana. That's why when we aren't confused we see that Samasara was always Nibbana and there never was a mind object that was a self. The joke was on us, we were taking our self too seriously the entire time. emoticon

If you call over Arhat Bill over to help you fix your car, "Yo Bill!", Arhat Bill will say "Whatsup?" When Arhat Bill smashes a finger under the car hood, he knows which finger to wash free of grit and bandage. He responds to his name and takes care of that finger as if it is his own, but he knows he neither OWNS or IS his name or his finger, even though they are also "his" based on his actions.

You could say that delusional sensations are not a separate category of sensations, they are just any sensations that are confused with a perminant/separate self/identity. If you look right at the sensation's arising, there will be a subtle clinging, aversion, or indifference. That's the delusion. The self clings to the things that supports the "I", is averse to sensations that oppose the "I", and ignores things that are irrelevant to the "I". 

So my "mostly" above is to say that the three poisons "greed, aversion, and indifference" could probably be said to be delusional sensations. 
Edward, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no-self.

Posts: 101 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
My experience of all this is much closer to Griffin's than Shagrol's. I had a profound insight during a retreat a few years ago where the world 'flipped' and what I perceived to be out there and distinct from me was seen to be the only thing in experience that was comprising me at all. The subject was seen through permanently, at least some layers of it. Prior to this, there were 'delusion sensations' which were like an indistinct fog that seemed to be in the middle of my head and which just permanently popped away after this experience. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

Posts: 780 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
2) Total elimination of “delusion sensations” is beneficial (arahantship). However, is it beneficial or harmful to try to reduce “identity sensations” (e.g. percieving the hand as if it's a foreign external object)? On the one hand, it seems like drastic reduction in identity sensations does happen in some deep blissful meditation states. However, it can also happen in psychopathological context of dissociation. Thus the somatic exercises I mentioned above.

"percieving the hand as if it's a foreign external object" is type of identity sensations

When you see stone laying on the road do you perceive it as not you?
If you start paying attention to it and frame it in relation to yourself then you will perceive it as not part of you and this is as much indentity sensation as you feeling yourself as you. When indntity is gone you neither perceive object as you or not you when you perceive it. Doesn't mean you cannot perceive it as you or not you, it is just not compulatory, not forced. If it is gone as in you cannot do it then you are even more deluded than you were before though.

These deluded people who obsess about solution to issue they do not even understand call themselves arhats. There was always a lot of arhats with deep meanigful knowledge to sell. Do avoid emoticon
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

Posts: 1686 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
well said

​​​​​​​... as the wise say, "beware of self and other"  emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

Posts: 6060 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Michael Taft often says that awakening isn't brain damage - meaning that if we end up unable to sense things or do things, that's not the real deal. 

I think it was a very interesting question, though. I think language may be an issue here. I believe that in conversation, some people conflate the concepts of "sensations" and "perceptions" while other's don't (to different degrees, depending on context, which makes the whole thing a bit fuzzy). Thus we are often not talking about the same thing. I believe that in order to tease out what is what in dependent origination, we need to distinguish between the two (if we choose to use those words). If we do, it is quite possible to have a difference in perception without adding new sensations, right? Please correct me if I'm wrong. I haven't really studied the texts and I often use my own words for the categories that stand out for me along the axes that seem relevant at the moment.

So... what elements make up the delusion? What about conclusions? Often not consciously drawn ones, but automatic thinking. Stuff that we take for granted. Filters. Habitual reactive chains that effect what we focus on and so forth, what stands out. The stories that we construct around the sensations, but not just verbal stories. The threads through which we weave sensations together, imbuing them with specific meaning, and turn them into larger constructs that get reified in the process. And this happens on many different levels of abstraction, a lot of it very early on in the preprocessing. 

So one could say that there are elements there, and those elements are worthy of investigation to the extent they are at all approachable. They just aren't sensations, at least not at any level that we can observe as direct as sensations. And yes, I'd say (with my limited experience) that they are mental and preverbal. They seem to occur in the preprocessing. I think that through meditation, some of what used to be preprocessing becomes conscious material, and thus appears as sensations instead, but "it's turtles all the way down". For many layers of the turtles, it's probably beyond what can ever be experienced by us humans as "sensations". I think of it as the sensations having tags, and there could very well be fractals to that, with tags to the tags for internity. The delusion is when we mistake the information in those tags as saying something about something else than the tag itself and thereby deduce connections - like "this shit is happening to me and I am the one suffering from it" - and put things out of proportion. It closes things, narrows down what is experienced. 

I'd love to discuss this more, especially in an empirically driven way. 

By the way, talking about language issues... If the mind is the sixth sense, wouldn't this then logically also be called sensations? But I think it's more helpful to think of it as our way of ordering sensations rather than sensations per se. Maybe the trick is to stop habitually treating the "tags" as tags and instead start to as a default see them as sensations in their own right, which they were all along. That is, stop assuming that they are saying something true about something other than themselves as an experience. So the "tags" were never the problem. Our believing in them as real coordinates etc were. And that's a filling of the blanks inbetween sensations. 

Something like that. 
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Two questions on the phenomenology of no(t)-self.

Posts: 101 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
I agree that classifying thoughts as sensations makes 'delusion sensations' easier to understand. Thoughts have more solidity, the less clearly they are seen; the 'self' that seemed to be perceived, was merely a non-verbal thought. Seeing that with great clarity for one moment, made it pop away permanently. 

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