Does positive valence exist?

John Lillis, modified 1 Month ago at 4/19/24 2:34 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/18/24 10:24 PM

Does positive valence exist?

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By "positive valence", I mean a sensate phenomena (i.e. qualia) that is intrinsically appealing.

In this video, Roger Thisdell makes a very interesting argument that positive valence does not exist. Things that seem to be positive valence, like an orgasm or a nice massage or an MDMA high, are not so. What we regard as pleasure is really the release of contraction, the release of negative valence. The negative valence may appear and release so quickly that non-adepts don't register it, and so they assume it's just positive valence. There is no pleasure by itself. There is just negative valence and its attenuation.

This is the view that there is nothing worth holding onto. There is no qualia that is comparatively better than its absence. 

If he had to reside in a moment for eternity, Thisdell would pick cessation (a total lack of valence or qualia) over any pleasure, despite being fourth path. This leads me to a new understanding of unsatisfactoriness. The separate self doesn't cause unsatisfactoriness; qualia are just unsatisfactory no matter what. No positive valence.

Tweets from him:
  • "Phenomena are unsatisfactory (incapable of satisfying) even while they're present - it's not about their impermanence."
  • "Impermenance = emptiness of time. Not-self = emptiness of inherent existence. Unsatisfactoriness = emptiness of positive valance."
I recommend watching the video, he explains it better than I do.

This argument seems intuitively correct to me, but I think I'd really have to be fourth path to come to a conclusion. I've had some progress on the path, and yet there has never been a pleasure that I would choose to reside in for eternity. 

Edit: Thisdell says that if there's qualia, there's contraction—a teeny little bit of suffering. To illustrate, he compares the feeling of sitting in a comfy chair with the feeling of the formless jhanas and says he prefers the formless jhanas.
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago at 4/19/24 5:06 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/19/24 5:06 AM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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The guy has very positive views on reality emoticon

My views are that "relief" as in "dukkha subsiding" as in "negative valence and its attenuation" is itself something that is the issue and causes even more dukkha if clung to. This of course includes any forms of "I would rather not exist than exist" kind of thinking.

So while there is some merit to his views I think these views are only showing giving in to relief seeking tendencies and therefore are unskillful.

My own views are that dukkha (so "negative valence") are non-experienced positive valence which exists in mind and could be experienced. It is desire to experience relief that prevents mind from focusing on where the supposed pleasure is located at (and in general even realizing such thing must exist) and focus on pleasure that dwelling in this idea of relief gives - which is pleasure but nowhere comparable to what it could be.

Then this thing can be taken recursively up to experience of everything at all times.
It is in some sense like Nibbana but also opposite to Nibbana which is Buddha's version of the same thing but going different way - not to relief but simply acknowledging it is not satisfying but in this case not really pursuing anything - which imho works and works in exactly the same way through different mechanism. What different mechanism? I think of it as automatic gain control.

Visualization minded people can imagine it as giant 4D sphere with 3D reality on its surface, experience of everything being at the very center and Nibbana is outwards. Of course this sphere is on the surface of another sphere and like with turtles it goes all the way down. Why this particular vision? Dunno, reality&stuff? ;)

Regarding 4th path - definitely it allows person to experience this stuff. If and I mean here IF you actually attain 4th Path. Even if in some sense its equal to Stream Entry (because at this point you know how time and space are an illusion) the first step for it is 1st Path and it is already IMHO equal in scope with experience and knowledge of things which allow you to experience Nibbana. Realization and skill needed to accomplish that is seeing relief or dukkha subsiding or negative valence in the proper light. By itself Nibbana even while it might seem as its negative valence subsiding its really not. There are in fact things on which people can get and do most often get confused and imho I don't think that many people did experience Nibbana... other than the fact that we kinda do experience it quite often without even knowing it. The issue here with recognizing it is wrong attitudes make it so that when trying to analyze things we tend to draw wrong conclusions. Buddha said to investigate phenomena - doesn't mean that doing that but not doing what he meant and rather doing something else wrong will yield the same results as what Buddha did mean.

Anyways, my tl;dr conclusion is that positive valence does indeed exists. So is negative valence and so is kinda in-between saddle shaped neither positive nor negative valence.
John Lillis, modified 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 4:28 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/19/24 2:52 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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After sitting with Thisdell's view for a bit, it feels really clarifying and valuable. 

It's important to note that, even if an absence of qualia is "phenomenologically superior" to qualia, we can't expect humans to actively minimize qualia. There is a deeply conditioned imperative to keep living and adventuring, regardless of the phenomenology. I know both Rob Burbea and Culadasa expressed a desire to keep living. Humans are not rational phenomenology-optimizers in this way. 

Thanks for the response, Ni Nurta. 

The guy has very positive views on reality emoticon
Much like Early Buddhism, wouldn't you say? 

My views are that "relief" as in "dukkha subsiding" as in "negative valence and its attenuation" is itself something that is the issue and causes even more dukkha if clung to. This of course includes any forms of "I would rather not exist than exist" kind of thinking.
I definitely agree that clinging creates suffering. But surely one can, without clinging, have retrospective thoughts comparing one phenomenology to another phenomenology, right? It's good to think about this stuff because it's a foundational ethical question, I think.

Edit: Here's another way of expressing this view. Sensations are contractions and thus slight sufferings. Any qualia that seems appealing is really only appealing in comparison to a higher-suffering state. It is the attenuation of qualia, and not qualia itself, which we like.

Edit: There is a lot of beauty in this view, too. Death is not a thing to fear or dread. It is reunion with the unfabricated. And what is meditation besides cultivating unfabrication? Everyone reunites with it in the end. Super egalitarian. In this view, the Boddhisatva's return to the living is an actual sacrifice, rather than a nice bonus of living a pleasurable, enlightened life for a little longer. It also explains why parinibbāna is a good thing, rather than a tragedy.

Edit: Maybe this stuff is hard to square with Daniel's post-4th perceptual upgrade from Actualism-inspired practice. The obvious move is to frame it as the attenuation of qualia. (The mechanism of the change was, at least in part, the elimination of "the attention wave.") He writes:

There also began to be this tension around something else I started referring to as the Attention Wave, meaning some part of the fluxing field that interfered with other experiences and did so totally unnecessarily. It was also sensate but, on careful inspection, actually didn't seem to add any mental functionality and instead seemed to dull experience. In some modes of attention it barely seemed to operate, and these modes were clearly better than those in which it did and nothing seemed to be lost by its being nearly absent.

Remember how there was that thing I called the Attention Wave? It seemed totally gone, so far as I could tell. Remember the pristine clarity of field that had so called to me? It shone in everything and still does. 

The field clarity shone and still shines. It is really, really nice. Here is the other thing, that really, really nice-ness also did something good to my emotional life. Being as most ordinary sensations are now so generally satisfying, this itself really takes a lot of pressure off of everything else and makes so many things so much more fun and enjoyable. It is not that there aren't hard periods and difficulties, as there are. It certainly didn't eliminate affect, which still seems to be there and capable of a full range of affective feelings, but it did make some large difference, and I would recommend it, as, for me, it is clearly a vast improvement on numerous fronts.

However, it did do something totally remarkable, and that was create the ability to sit totally at rest, totally at peace, just like that, and I don't mean in some stage or state, not in some jhana, just by the field being nice to itself. That simple thing was well worth the work it took to get it. It doesn't sound as fancy or as flashy as all the other stuff I have done, but it is more valuable than them all.

Edit: From the Lesser Discourse on Emptiness, MN 121: "And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition​​​​​​​."
Martin, modified 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 5:09 PM
Created 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 5:09 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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I always thought this was the standard view in Buddhism. It's dukkha and dukkha nirodha, after all, not dukha and sukha. 
shargrol, modified 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 5:19 PM
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RE: Does positive valence exist?

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Buddhist believe in original suffering the way Christians believe in original sin. 
Martin, modified 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 5:36 PM
Created 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 5:36 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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:-)
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Ni Nurta, modified 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 6:07 PM
Created 29 Days ago at 4/19/24 6:04 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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John,

Here's another way of expressing this view. Sensations are contractions and thus slight sufferings. Any qualia that seems appealing is really only appealing in comparison to a higher-suffering state. It is the attenuation of qualia, and not qualia itself, which we like.

I don't experience sensations as anything that could be called contractions or viewed as suffering. I mean there surely are pain sensations but not all sensations are pain.

Where it gets really real and 'awakened' imho is at level of who is the experience of these sensations - and there we go to rabbit hole where rabbits say "it depends".

Depends on what?
If all neurons which takes part in activity that generated the qualia are ready and want to take this activity then having electric rush is pleasant for them - thus in a sense to the mind.
If however neuron is "tired" as I shorted complex issue of "you cannot use one neuron for too long or its starting to experience pain" then it won't like being forced to have activity running through it and in effect there will be dukkha.

That is really all there is to it.
In a sense its as dry as living on a Sun. Hence knowing it feels like a sunshine emoticon

There is a lot of beauty in this view, too. Death is not a thing to fear or dread. It is reunion with the unfabricated. And what is meditation besides cultivating unfabrication? Everyone reunites with it in the end. Super egalitarian. In this view, the Boddhisatva's return to the living is an actual sacrifice, rather than a nice bonus of living a pleasurable, enlightened life for a little longer. It also explains why parinibbāna is a good thing, rather than a tragedy.​​​​​​​

Meditation is an automatic optimization based on optimization target... or if that terminology doesn't sound dharma enough then we call it in meditation circles as "loss function".

Personally I believe I am experiencing everything and everyone anyways and this body and its views is just illusion caused by lack of sufficient persistence between 'moments'. There are ways to scoop some echoes or even seemingly cause echoes back - this is the kind of dharma when the dharma sheet hits the fan hard.

Therefore me loosing body means I loose this projector of experience. Then again if its worth it why not copy it. Or as the amazing Shpongle album title says "Nothing lasts... but nothing is lost". Also I believe Buddha knew this - I mean even if he didn't he would know... see what I did there?

But let's get back to planet Earth...
Thinking of death as returning to unfabricated sounds to me like sign of at least slight depression and it is exactly the "relief" I am talking about. The thing with relief is that indulging in relief in any form causes mind to seek more of it while increasing overall dukkha level. At some point death looks like liberation.

I won't say even there might be some merit in thinking that BUT if the way relief works otherwise is any indication it will be short-lived pleasure and then lotta more dukkha. And the pleasure of this type might seem great but it really isn't high quality.

Even when learning Nibbana I did indulge in relief as it made sense and I did have similar thoughts to those you say. It wasn't something satisfying and certainly my teacher wasn't satisfied with my performance either. It is by abandoning relief when true Nibbana arise - and it is already "reunion with unfabricated", literally and perhaps more than having passion for relief and dying. At least this what blue guy said.

Also - parinibbana is when you die but otherwise already are unbound. Unbound from what? Passion for relief. Of course Buddha taught it as "cravings", "passions" and so on and wouldn't dare to badmouth concept of relief - he couldn't for his mission to be successful. He wanted to teach those who have ears and want to listen and those who have eyes and want to see, etc.

Maybe this stuff is hard to square with Daniel's post-4th perceptual upgrade from Actualism-inspired practice. The obvious move is to frame it as the attenuation of qualia. (The mechanism of the change was, at least in part, the elimination of "the attention wave.")

Personally I had different set and even order of "axes of development" than Daniel and overall my practices looked very different for the most part but in some things at least we seem to overlap. There are faculties in mind related to how we do attention and focus which have a limited-time purpose but we tend to use them past their expiration date and this isn't good for our sensate experience. Its like an overlay we have that covers sensate experiences. In that is also what 4th path deals with but different, elsewhere. It makes sense Daniel handled this thing quickly because once you do one its easy to do another one. I didn't have much issues getting 4th path and in fact that area of mind was always for me "I'll deal with it once I deal with my senses" and when I did and had satisfactory 'handling' of my senses with skills like being able to control aspects of it I did 4th path and it was literally walk in the park. Well, not quite but I mostly had fun and still worked on senses rather than paths.

Technically what Daniel did there is he stopped pointlessly re-triggering certain faculty that caused similar consciousness copying as what the part involved with state pre-4th path did. Just elsewhere and related to different stuff and with more "perceptron" kind of consciousnesses. These technically create layers - I can even touch these layers with my visualized touch skills... which is both fun and kinda creepy at the same time.

From this point on I'll use eyesight/vision to simplify language but this applies equally to all sense qualias.
When you see something your parts of your brain have consciousnesses where they decode it and this decoding is literally experiencing things. You see a texture with rough or glassy surface? Something in your brain experiences it like it was interacting with this surface. Then it goes further down the chain and along the way there are filters which are there to prevent receivers of the generated information to not be flooded by amount of signals. As part of this process consciousnesses exist which re-experience all that stuff and then all this stuff goes to... if you are 4th path to main consciousness and if not then to another set of buffers and filters which there apply perspectives to it - to put experience in some context which makes more sense for your survival - namely perspective of self. This strips most qualia out of experiences and makes sure that senses feel separate so no bs like feeling taste of colors happen.

Then if you start tweaking all these filters you can get to much nicer experience. I say tweaking because it might seem something got completely removed but in reality its just tweaked to pass signals as they are without additional buffering. On this note I need to stress this - one should never aim at faculty loss. Buffering maybe is not needed, and certainly not the amounts of it people seem to have but attempting to break faculty that does buffering in order to remove it - it can work but you might have pretty bad time at times. Its much better to tweak it and learn to consciously control it. That way you don't loose faculty and have all the advantages. Faculties evolved for a reason you know. They might not have evolved to provide the best out of the box user experience but tweaking and improving mind is what we do in pragmatic dharma circles emoticon

With that I worked on I can literally in seconds make all perceived color be as strong as to generate qualia of heavenly tastes and smells. The 'heavenly' comes from jhana. It was a bad time when I had these faculties broken and didn't have good grasp of jhanas and thing went south. Bad time in this case means lots of unpleasant qualia.

And here we come to why I say positive valence exist - the experience in question, of jhanic presentation of colors which can be so vibrant as to have heavenly tastes and smells if they have anything to do with negative valence then its through making mind too close to it being sensed but not giving enough bandwidth to actually be able to experience it and on top of that the way signals flow in non-jhanic state causes parts of mind to get tired. Term bandwidth here is used because jhanas use parallel activation and while per neuron activity is much less the qualia bandwidth doesn't need that much information. Try to funnel the same amount of stimuli through single pathway as you would do with e.g. ten pathways and it comes up a jumbled mess and it feel like little part of your soul hurts on top of that.

In that case of experiencing that mess and dukkha - it does seem like the best thing would be for it to just stop. Enough so that it stopping a'ka all the ways relief seeking mind fantasizes about it and goes about doing it does feel very attractive. The issue is that it doesn't really work through this thing I call relief. It can be done if you look around and just being enough mindful how it all operates you do actually stop the flow - in this case its not relief. Doesn't feel like it. Doesn't feel like anything really. One can then say that surely it must be much much better than before. Yes it is better but its also empty and again - doing it isn't relief, its not due to dukkha subsiding and it isn't release of negative valence. In fact when done right is like the issue never existed in the first place and relief neither - not as a possibility even. Just erased from mind. The difference between doing poorly and right is like my attempts at Nibbana and then learning doing it right. And then again what the issue was anyways... there is other way - to just let the signals flow in broadband style which if you do then again - it doesn't feel like relief in any way whatsoever. It too makes relief to literally disappear like it never ever existed.

So that example - something I practiced and explored day after day for almost decade (well, more like 9 years until I finally realized it with enough understanding and confidence I am correct in my assessment of how these things work) is why I speak of it in this authoritative tone - hopefully not too jarring.

Moving out of these examples in normal waking experience the challenge is to recognize any such cases in any part of the mind and employ the best way to deal with them. It can be either non-experience or full experience. In-between? Meh... definitely NOT to do relief. Relief only works to make mind need more relief and to get more relief there needs to be more dukkha. It is really easy to understand concept... we tend to hold liking to relief as its what we know and rely on. We hold it in so high regard that Buddha couldn't even say what his idea was about and had to dance around it like moth seems to dance around the flame.

Anyways, this post got quite long.
From me I hope and wish that you find sources of positive valence to confirm its existence. Not all qualia is bad and need to be gone. Only bad qualia is bad and in which case most obvious ways to do it (I am unsubtly hinting at 'easy solutions' ) don't really work. Even to arrive at Parinibbana you need to put effort in to understand this, feel it, live it.

Metta Fruitins,
Ni
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 6:52 PM
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RE: Does positive valence exist?

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Is this the first time I actually like (positive valence) Ni's post? emoticon 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 6:53 PM
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RE: Does positive valence exist?

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"If all neurons which takes part in activity that generated the qualia are ready and want to take this activity then having electric rush is pleasant for them - thus in a sense to the mind.
If however neuron is "tired" as I shorted complex issue of "you cannot use one neuron for too long or its starting to experience pain" then it won't like being forced to have activity running through it and in effect there will be dukkha."

Oh no! And then he screws it all up for me (negative valence) emoticon 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 6:55 PM
Created 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 6:55 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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shargrol
Buddhist believe in original suffering the way Christians believe in original sin. 


and kids believe in Santa! 

Let them have it! emoticon  They might eventually grow out of it! 
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Ni Nurta, modified 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 9:38 PM
Created 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 9:38 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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Screwing up as in neuron which was supposed to have activity in some range of activation (by other neurons) but its wildly different range can happen due to many different causes - if its momentrary its nothing to worry about. Sometimes glitches happen, we evolved to deal with lack of morning coffee and trained ourselves with too much of it so we toughened ourselves up to not over-react without a good reason. The issue is constant glitching which causes in nervous system impression of pain/suffering/dukkha - I choose to just acknowledge neurons can by themselves experience both positive and negative valence or if neither excited about doing it nor yet tired the kinda in-between ok state.

The positive experiences are NOT negative not happening though. Negative stuff subsiding and then not happening is just it subsiding and not happening. Nothing resembling pleasure in that - and though in practice typically it involves positive experiences mind need not be confused of the sources of both negative, positive and ok (equanimous) experiences or mind can start optimizing for wrong things and then end up having bad day(s).

Instead optimizing for mostly equanimous experiences with pleasure being experienced consntantly in moderation and from time to time in short sronger bursts seems to yield best results. Negative things - for most issues its just tired neurons so optimize for... no, not mostly dukkha not happening as much as whatever parts experiencing dukkha are involved with to be handled by other neurons so tired neurons can go to sleep - which shouldn't really feel like much. No activity means no sensations.
John Lillis, modified 28 Days ago at 4/21/24 1:26 AM
Created 28 Days ago at 4/20/24 11:32 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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I appreciate the perspectives, everyone. The valence debate seems to be a matter of objective phenomenology. Common ground is possible here. How the phenomenology translates into words or ethics or explanatory frameworks is another matter.

Maybe we should focus on pleasure. Is pleasure positive valence? This requires a close study. Are the gaseous vibrations of pleasure actually appealing, or are they just... sensations? Perhaps subtly irritating ones?

I'll keep my eyes peeled for positive valence. And I'll be sure not to let this coagulate into a myopic View that cuts me off from what's actually happening or interferes with my wellbeing. The goal is to perceive stuff as finely and accurately as possible.

In a relevant article on valence and nirodha samapatti, Thisdell talks about how the jhanas teach us about the unsastisfactoriness of pleasure (in a way that is unrelated to the dualistic self).

People report updating their understanding of what states are preferable, similarly as they go through the jhanas. Once you've gone from jhana one, characterised by extreme pleasant sensations, to jhana four, characterised by pervading equanimity or 'neither-pleasure-nor-pain', you realise that deep peace is actually preferable to fiery rapturous ecstasy. And then once you've sufficiently passed through nirodha and processed it's significance, you understand that actually 'lights-out' tops everything. The recontextualisation of all mind moments that occurs after nirodha can cause many to conclude "that was it", understood in the profoundest meanings of the words.

Ni, your description of your practice is very interesting. Maybe I'll read through your practice log. 

Edit: I'm not quite convinced that a disbelief in positive valence is a tenent of Buddhism.

For what it's worth, Claude 3 said it isn't. Claude says that the dukkha characteristic is just about (1) the impermance of good sensations and (2) the pain of the dualistic self. Claude also says that sukha is positive valence. 

I'm not asking you guys to convince me, though! That seems like a big scholarly undertaking, and does it really matter?

Edit: Ni, you posit that there exists positive, negative, and neutral valence. That reminds me of positive, negative, and neutral vedana (sukha, dukkha, upekka). Distinguishing between vedana and valence can make all the difference here. Vedana is the affective feeling tone that accompanies the sensation, while valence is about the texture of the sensation itself—whether it is intrinsically appealing.

Edit: I think my initial explanation has confused things a little. The argument is not that pleasure is merely the release of contraction—the argument is that pleasure itself is a contraction. Also, forget what I said about "negative valence appearing and releasing so quickly that non-adepts don't register it." That was just me being confused. 
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Dream Walker, modified 28 Days ago at 4/21/24 5:35 AM
Created 28 Days ago at 4/21/24 5:35 AM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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As far as I understand, Buddha spoke of dhukka and sukka. However people wish to define those terms, they seem to be opposites.
I have not understood that ALL experiences are just one or anothher or lack therof. It seems that there is dopimine that creates pleasure in many experiences of many mammals with a lot of data in experiments. 
I do kinda agree without overgeneralizing that contraction/stress/dhukka happens and awakenings help reduce that.
I just can't say that all pleasure, once all dhukka is finished, is eradicated. I've not heard that from actual advanced practisioners.
Interesting premises but a bit to nihilistic for me. 
I prefer that sensations that create a "me" are jacked into the stress of fight or flight. Less "me" less stress.
​​​​​​​~D
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Ni Nurta, modified 28 Days ago at 4/21/24 8:51 AM
Created 28 Days ago at 4/21/24 8:51 AM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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Imho at the point of the real deal Nibbana the kind of pleasure that comes from relief - dukkha subsiding is eradicated. Then only EQ and positive valence remains with mind not clinging and not being aversive to either seeing both clinging and aversion as a great risk. Quickly mind can get confused by its own experiences and get re-entangled in dukkha.

I gave it a lot of thought at some point in my practice and if Buddha would mind going more deeply in to positive valence and my conclusion was that for as long as its done mindfully then there is nothing wrong with it.

More common understanding would be pleasure leading to attachment and clinging and it leads to dukkha. To me this understanding while obviously true because it isn't hard to validate it didn't ever say the whole story - the "how?" does it lead to attachment and clinging and what clinging even is?

What I arrived as is that positive valence shifts locations within mind and not being mindful of that and just assuming that once found it should be there leads to having focused mind - thus not focused and not experiencing where pleasure is thus dukkha. Solution here is either refocus mind dynamically or do Nibbana.

Why then even bother with anything other than Nibbana if it works?
Nibbana isn't directly resolving the issue - it does so fully but does so through a kind of recursive action which taken to its conclusion will resolve dukkha but its actually in some sense more steps than just experiencing it directly.

Now I cannot really imagine Buddha teaching this stuff like that - I cannot him concepts like recursion when there are more fundamental things people need to understand. Imho his teachings stripped to bare minimum were still confusing and for the most part misunderstood. Going with making them more complicated by adding more stuff would make whole thing even more confusing and judging by what kind of tendencies minds have it would be even more butchered.

FYI I do not assume competence of people. Assuming competence of Buddha is already stretching it but there exist valid reasons for that. For how competence of typical person - hell no!

If that's the case why I even say these things?
I say these things in the way that they are either understood or not - exactly the way minds tent to operate. Anyone with any degree of Stream Entry is much less likely to arrive at wrong conclusions even if they can still and inevitably will get at times confused. Its the thinking process itself which needs to become jhanic and thinking in ever complex models to be the source of positive valence rather than thinking being non-jhanic and only done to get relief, negative valence subsiding. And this also tells me something important: Buddha actually didn't think that highly of his students. I mean if he did he would just take his things and went home rather than staying with them teaching them. If that is the case, if, then we shouldn't really take that stuff he taught as the ultimate stuff.

I for one assuming incompetence everywhere (yes, also myself) did believe anyone. Heck, even now I am mindful to find any fault in my conclusions. Not being able to do it only proves I am slacking in my mindfulness because there is also higher realization, better dharma. Like for example neurons just get tired and need activity from time to time and that gives negative/positive qualia. Just imagine Buddha talking to his students about how mind arise from clicking activity of little sentient beings in their bodies, mostly concentrated in their heads but not quite. Imagine hims saying they are getting tired and people need to shift mysterious clicky activity of these beings around their bodies and also make sure each of them has from time to time opportunity to click and their clicking becoming part of mind. At most sound that stuff could be described as sound of cicadas after awakening and best left alone for individual contemplation.

Thankfully we have XXI century. Everyone know we have neurons and mind arise out their activity. Culture-wise and knowledge-wise humanity is about grown up enough to talk about this stuff in more proper and pragmatic context.
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Raphael Scullion, modified 27 Days ago at 4/21/24 3:31 PM
Created 27 Days ago at 4/21/24 3:31 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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There seem to be two main directions on the path, one leading towards transcendence, the other towards immanence. It also seems that the pull of practice moving us into one direction may at times obscure the view of the other.

Being pulled in practice towards transcendence, the mind may recognise that all perception arises from a contraction of awareness, may recognise the dukkha of that contraction as negative valence and may seek to let go of dukkha, further and further. Letting go of self-invested attention, jhana arises. Moving through the jhanas, the mind unfolds further into spaciousness, formlessness and finally into the complete stillness that is nirodha. 

I feel that the utter completion to which this path can be followed, gives rise to the strength of conviction that the direction only goes one way. That contraction inherently wants release and the mind seeks to liberate itself from dukkha. 

However, and I may eat my words as I continue progressing along my own practice of transcendence, I feel the path goes both ways and in a very crucial way the 1st Jhana nests in the 4th.

My phenomenology isn't the strongest, but in my jhana practice I periodically get very obsessed about how the qualities of Jhana express themselves and interplay in different fields of perception. For the rupa jhanas, these are the somatic field, the visual field and the heart, with the field of attention giving rise to and being shaped by jhanic factors in the previous three fields.

Viewed with insight, the contraction of attention in what I would call for lack of a better word my 'heart' does not feel like suffering, it feels like love. The way this love moves through the jhanic cycle seems to be - 

1. A nourishing love of beginnings and things coming into existence
2. A creative love, or a love of the created, of things arising and passing away
3. A compassionate love of dissolution and things coming to an end
4. Equanimity, or a love of stillness 

If positive valence exists, then I would place it in universal and particular expressions of the first two, mudita and metta, if you will. 

In other words, if you live on the Northern Hemisphere, step outside and smell the spring that is currently in the air. Pleasure in the spring-ness of things, I believe, might be a positive valence. The contraction comes in when we think about it as somehow 'our' spring. Typically right after, we start moaning about the rain. 
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finding-oneself ♤, modified 27 Days ago at 4/21/24 6:38 PM
Created 27 Days ago at 4/21/24 6:38 PM

RE: Does positive valence exist?

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This is way too advanced stuff for me to get into, but I did happen to listen to that podcast coincidentally, and it's amazing. That host has a buch of other really really good podcasts too. Give a listen.

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