Why would anyone do this?

Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
I'm confused. After a gentle introduction to Buddhism, I ran across the Dan Ingram stuff and I'm thrown.

If you take crystal meth, or heroin, or cocaine, you'll have a wonderful time. For a time. But there is a good chance[1] you will suffer greatly at some point in the process. So getting involved with those kinds of behaviors is not generally advised. The benefits are not justified with respect to the costs.

Now look at meditation. How does it compare? On the downside, it is pretty bitter. According to Willoughby Britton, on one of the BuddhistGeeks podcasts, the majority of people she surveyed went through a "dark night" where the average duration of some form of life debilitation was 3.4 years[2]. And according to Ingram himself, the dark night comprises over 90% of his practice even *after* stream entry (although, granted, it doesn't sound like it is of the debilitating kind).

So what's the upside? Well, according to Ingram in one of the three videos attached to Willoughby's podcasts, his wife wouldn't note him as anything special as a result of his practice. And he admits that he is not objectively better in his medical career as a result of it either. He still gets frustrated (cf. his account of how he labored over whether or not to respond to certain questions on this website). Furthermore, I think part of the appeal of his message is that this enlightenment game is *not* the kind of metaphysical game changer, where all suffering and craving goes forever, that it's often touted to be.

So 3.4 years of debilitation, of pain caused to you and your family, followed by 90% or more of your practice time also being some form of suckiness and for what?

Am I the only person who wonders if that is less a path and more a pathology? If it was anything else -- drugs, alcohol, stabbing yourself in the eye with a spike -- we'd at least advise the practitioner to stop, and may take action to force them to.

So what am I missing? Why on earth would anyone do this stuff?

Thanks.

Johnny

P.S. Note. This is not a rhetorical question. Buddhism in general, Mahasi Sayadaw more specifically, and Ingram et al in particular are intriguing. And Britton sounds like a thoughtful scientist trying to get some good solid answers to lots of good questions. It's because it is appealing and thoughtful I'm asking. So that any choice I make to do it (or desist) is made as thoughtfully as both Britton and Ingram appear to be.



[1] Actually, I don't know what the chances are, but they don't sound any *greater* than the chances Britton gives of experiencing a debilitating multi-year dark night. Ingram appears to agree.

[2] And that was only the debilitating period. The overall dark night was presumably longer.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

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Someone should make a sticky concerning "pragmatic dharma 2.0" (thanks to whoever wrote that originally) and other goals for practice besides or beyond MCTB 4th path. It would be super helpful in cases such as these.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
Someone should make a sticky concerning "pragmatic dharma 2.0" (thanks to whoever wrote that originally) and other goals for practice besides or beyond MCTB 4th path. It would be super helpful in cases such as these.


Great idea. While waiting for someone to make that post sticky, can you give me a link to it? I tried to find it but couldn't.

After all, I really can't believe I'm the only one who is asking this specific question. In fact, I thought Willoughby Britton was about to ask it herself in her BuddhistGeeks podcast on the Dark Night Project. After discussing how she met and began speaking to Ingram (maybe I should start calling him Daniel. Or Dan? Or maybe just "The FOSOD"?) she begins to ask "Why ...?"

By that point I was nodding vigorously and thinking "Thank you! My question exactly. WHY!?" Unfortunately it turns out that Willoughby is merely asking "Why does it happen?" or "Why is it necessary?" My position, on the other hand is, I'm not sure I care why it happens, and let's assume that it *is* necessary. In which case, why do it at all!?

It's all a bit like TV ads for medicine. They tell you the good stuff, like how it's going to lower your cholesterol, but then you get:

"Warning: Medication X may cause sleeplessness, headaches, loss of appetite, green gonads, hair growth on teeth, falling out of eyes, and a tendency to become sexually attractive to crows"
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
End in Sight:
Someone should make a sticky concerning "pragmatic dharma 2.0" (thanks to whoever wrote that originally) and other goals for practice besides or beyond MCTB 4th path. It would be super helpful in cases such as these.


Great idea. While waiting for someone to make that post sticky, can you give me a link to it? I tried to find it but couldn't.


That's because it's as-yet unwritten. emoticon

The basic point I wanted to convey is that there is lots of territory either beyond or parallel to MCTB 4th path, which does seem to correspond to the traditional Buddhist claims about the goal of spirituality (i.e. that walking the path permanently alleviates suffering). So, that kind of practice seems easier to justify than the kind that leads to MCTB 4th path.

As for why people would pursue MCTB paths in the first place, despite all the warnings...actually, I don't know. And yet, I pursued those as well, despite the warnings. Some people seem compelled to examine and clarify their experience, in whatever way they know how to, even if the costs are high.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
The basic point I wanted to convey is that there is lots of territory either beyond or parallel to MCTB 4th path, which does seem to correspond to the traditional Buddhist claims about the goal of spirituality (i.e. that walking the path permanently alleviates suffering). So, that kind of practice seems easier to justify than the kind that leads to MCTB 4th path.


Ah, OK, I understand. So on the one hand that may point to an answer, namely "You go through the DN shit etc, not for what's just on the other side, but for what is *beyond* that." The "enlightenment 'yond enlightenment" as it were.

But I don't get the impression it's as profound as that. Or rather, if it is, still there is something just on the other side. Dan Ingram gets pretty excited about even stream entry and shortly thereafter. So it really is what you refer to here:

End in Sight:
As for why people would pursue MCTB paths in the first place, despite all the warnings...actually, I don't know. And yet, I pursued those as well, despite the warnings. Some people seem compelled to examine and clarify their experience, in whatever way they know how to, even if the costs are high.


Can you say more about your own experience?

I mean, clearly I too am compelled to examine and clarify. That's why I'm here asking. And it's why I've started practicing daily too. But I ran into the Ingram stuff only after starting a week ago, and now I'm thinking "Whoa! This stuff may be way more accessible than I'd hoped, which is good. But it also may be way more costly and damaging than I ever remotely considered, which may be bad." So personally I think it's only prudent to take stock before getting in too deep.

So although you say you don't know why people pursue MCTB in the first place, you yourself did it anyway, despite the warnings. So why? You must have had *some* kind of expectation of overall net benefit, no?
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
End in Sight:
The basic point I wanted to convey is that there is lots of territory either beyond or parallel to MCTB 4th path, which does seem to correspond to the traditional Buddhist claims about the goal of spirituality (i.e. that walking the path permanently alleviates suffering). So, that kind of practice seems easier to justify than the kind that leads to MCTB 4th path.


Ah, OK, I understand. So on the one hand that may point to an answer, namely "You go through the DN shit etc, not for what's just on the other side, but for what is *beyond* that." The "enlightenment 'yond enlightenment" as it were.

But I don't get the impression it's as profound as that.


How much less suffering in your life would it take for it to be profound?

One of the things I've realized is that my previous standards for happiness were very poor. "Not suffering" (or "suffering less") sounds very dry and uninteresting in itself, but recognizing how unpleasant "normal" happiness is really did change my tune concerning that...the only thing that's dry and uninteresting is the "normal" range of happiness to unhappiness.

One of my favorite suttas concerning this is here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.075x.than.html

Basically, sensual pleasure (pleasure from chasing around desires) is deeply unpleasant, but one has to practice a bit to understand why that is, and what the alternative is.

Can you say more about your own experience?


I started practicing seriously because MCTB made sense to me, because I felt compelled to examine my experience in the methodical way MCTB describes, and because I had this belief that maybe, just maybe, Dan Ingram was a weirdo and MCTB 4th path would be really really awesome in terms of making me much happier even if it didn't do that for him.

Eventually, when I got what I considered to be MCTB 4th path, I realized that Dan Ingram wasn't a weirdo, but it is a positive change despite that. I did end up happier afterwards...experience was clearer and simpler than before, a lot of psychological baggage started going away (though this began to happier beginning at MCTB 1st path), some baggage that I picked up along the climb beginning at MCTB 1st path started going away too, etc.

So although you say you don't know why people pursue MCTB in the first place, you yourself did it anyway, despite the warnings. So why? You must have had *some* kind of expectation of overall net benefit, no?


Some people characterize the impulse as stemming from "insight disease", a condition that compels a person to keep examining their experience due to the felt need to understand something about it, regardless of the cost / benefit analysis. I think this is an unfortunate way of looking at things for practical reasons (it causes people to believe, once they no longer see anything further to understand, and have lost the impulse that made them look for something to understand, that there is nothing important left to do)...a more fundamental cause for me seemed to be the compelled belief that examining my experience would lead to something good (i.e. there is something distorted and unfortunate about "normal" experience and it needs to be changed), and MCTB made a strong case that the good thing that examination will lead to is MCTB 4th path, and so the pursuit began there.

Whether you think of it as "insight disease" or something else, I think the basic point is, lots of people have a need to pursue this kind of thing even if their estimation of the cost / benefit ratio doesn't look good. It's an impulse, not an arm's-length calculation. (I would say that the cost / benefit ratio is good if the main goal is less suffering, rather than MCTB 4th path or "insight" dissociated from happiness...but that's up to you.)

Just FYI, my "dark night" experiences during MCTB-style practice were generally short and didn't mess up my life. I was unequivocally happier after I started practicing than before.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

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Johnny Froth:
Ah, OK, I understand. So on the one hand that may point to an answer, namely "You go through the DN shit etc, not for what's just on the other side, but for what is *beyond* that."

But I don't get the impression it's as profound as that.


End in Sight:
How much less suffering in your life would it take for it to be profound?


Sorry, I don't think I was being clear there. Let me try an analogy in which I compare <whatever-aspect-of-our-being-is-affected-by-practice> with physical fitness. In other words, let's compare meditation with gym training (and watching diet etc).

Consider the following three fairly common states of physical well-being:

1. Ill
2. Maybe not 100% healthy, but pretty good. But not particularly fit in terms of running a half-marathon (say)
3. Healthy (still maybe not 100%, but still good), but also fit. One of those annoying people who can run a half-marathon without any training

So if meditation is going to the gym and watching what you eat, and the Dark Night is the pain, the burn, the inevitable injuries experienced in training, what are the stages beyond 3 that you get back in return for going through Dark Night?

Well, what Ingram hints at but doesn't really make explicit is what I hoped could have been expressed as:

4. Health and superb levels of fitness. Maybe state level athleticism. In other words, something that many people in stages 1-3 could relate to, and could conceive of them achieving if they worked at it.

Now while that is cool and funky, it's not what I'd call "profound". That's what I meant with my earlier comment. And I'm not saying that such an outcome is a bad thing -- clearly it's good. I'm not even saying "Aww, is that all?". If it's true, I'd be saying "Gosh, really!?" My confusion is simply that no one is giving me something like 4 as a straight answer.

But what you said earlier -- which I said could perhaps constitute an answer and a profound one at that -- could be construed not only as:

5. Olympic level fitness. In other words, something beyond the reach of most people, to the extent that even suggesting it would make them laugh.

but more likely something like

1000. Silver Surfer level existence, where the whole idea of fitness and health becomes irrelevant and meaningless. In other words, something the meaning of which isn't 100% clear, and the attainment of which is such that not only the attainer's worldview is forever re-written, but the whole notion of an attainer and a worldview become insufficient.

So at the root of my overall question is simply -- can someone tell me, in terms of how one's existence is enhanced, what life looks like beyond point 3? What is 4? And beyond? Is there a 4 and beyond? Surely if this DoH thing is about anything its about clarity, removal of extraneous mystical/philosophical clutter, and telling it as it is. That's all I'm asking for.

Johnny Froth:
Just FYI, my "dark night" experiences during MCTB-style practice were generally short and didn't mess up my life. I was unequivocally happier after I started practicing than before.


Thanks. That's clear and useful.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

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Johnny Froth:
So at the root of my overall question is simply -- can someone tell me, in terms of how one's existence is enhanced, what life looks like beyond point 3? What is 4?


Many would say that 4 is "no insight disease". If you've been dragged around by some weird impulse to meditate, for a long time, then losing that impulse would be pretty sweet.

(I see Claudiu also wrote about "insight disease". I didn't mean any disrespect by what I wrote in saying that it was a bad way to characterize things, but rather, was trying to point out that thinking about the problem in terms of "insight disease" leads a lot of people to decide that they're done prematurely, when they no longer feel compelled to look for any more "insight"; so, there are ways to think about it that I would say are better.)

There is more to it, but I don't know how to characterize it. Maybe someone else wants to give it a shot.

And beyond? Is there a 4 and beyond?


There may be a "beyond" but there may also be a 4* (parallel to but not stemming from 4) instead. For example, if at 4 you're an excellent pole-vaulter, at 4* you might be an excellent swimmer. The two are related (as they are both athletic endeavors) but the path to each is quite different.

So, what's beyond? Do you want a metaphor or just a straightforward assessment? The straightforward assessment is "less suffering". How much less? I dunno, I don't see any limits apart from those constrained by having a physical body (implying that one can feel physical pain). What kind of metaphor would be suitable? I dunno, it depends on how much you value "less suffering". Your Silver Surfer metaphor seems appropriate enough.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
(I see Claudiu also wrote about "insight disease". I didn't mean any disrespect by what I wrote in saying that it was a bad way to characterize things, but rather, was trying to point out that thinking about the problem in terms of "insight disease" leads a lot of people to decide that they're done prematurely, when they no longer feel compelled to look for any more "insight"; so, there are ways to think about it that I would say are better.)

None taken. I actually think it's an accurate description of what goes on (or how people perceive it as it's happening to them). But, I agree, the goal should not be to 'end insight disease'.
C C C, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
I understand what you're asking Froth, and I asked all the same questions when I first got here. It's a simple cost/benefit analysis. The 'cost' seems high and the 'benefit' seems very small or sort of shrouded in mystery. Enlightened people don't seem to talk much about the benefits.

Jed McKennas 3rd book Warfare will appeal to you. I'm paraphrasing the sort of angle he takes here:

Not only do you not want enlightenment, you can't want it. Pursue worldly happiness until you can no longer bear not investigating what's really true. When the fire is lit in you, it happens by an act of grace (ie. it can't be forced, so don't try). Then your job is to let it burn, let it consume you. If you resist, you suffer. The only thing you can do it let go, surrender. If you're capable of having a great time in the dream state, then go and have a great time! Cherish whatever fun times and happiness the material world can give you - it's not a curse.
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

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Johnny Froth:
... Ingram (maybe I should start calling him Daniel. Or Dan? Or maybe just "The FOSOD"?) ...


Due to previous conditioning and hitherto unexamined habits of speech and mind, I use the academic convention of referring to the FOSOD by his last name when I mean the author of a text which I am critically engaging, and by his first name when I mean the dude himself.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
HI Johnny -

Well, a person does not have to meditate to get some freedom from self-created suffering (versus actual pain and inhumane conditions). Daniel mentions in those videos with Willoughby that he knows people who got 'stream-entry' a variety of ways (e.g., tai chi). Sometimes I mention Aryton Senna: he mentioned what sounds like, to me, samadhi behind the wheel of a race car.

I was describing a friend tonight who was a fly fisherman. The practice of fishing, particularly just casting fly rods, was where he became tempered. A great personal idol to me is a large-animal behaviorist: he is remembered by many as "having no ego whatsoever". Some other people I've met are hermits, quiet Spinoza types who practice from home/homestead.

So, meditation is just one way to process any longstanding rut of anger, misery, depression, disgust (buddhist dukkha nanas), angst, "ontological grrrr/gah/boo". Some people use psychotherapy, some people use sports, gaming, dog walking, reading....

I am not religious, however, the buddhist system of studying the mind and its cosmology of mutability worked for me as a training (in conjunction with lots of other efforts).

Does that help?

[Edit: C C C made a post tonight in the ADHD thread with the quote: "As you mature, some of this takes place normally," Rose said with a smile. "I just recommend accelerating the process so it doesn't take you ninety years or ninety lifetimes to figure out what a fool you are and start making some adjustments."]
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Hi Katy,

katy steger:
...a person does not have to meditate to get some freedom from self-created suffering...
Does that help?


Yes it does. The upside then, is freedom from self-created suffering. And I get your additional:

katy steger:

meditation is just one way ... Some people use psychotherapy, some people use sports, gaming, dog walking, reading....


I've done some martial arts in the past, and I know that some practitioners, especially of arts such as kyudo, see it primarily as a path to enlightenment. I've often wondered if perhaps any activity involving intense but diffuse concentration could be brought to bear in the same way -- weight lifting and pistol shooting are two likely candidates, I've always thought.

But although freedom from self-created suffering sounds cool, if that's "all" there is to this, then I guess I'd probably say it's not the right thing for me, given the costs outlined by Ingram etc in terms of the Dark Night. Maybe I don't have as much self-created suffering as some people. At very least, whatever I have doesn't feel bad enough to put up with the DN shenanigans as I've heard them explained. I'll have to keep pondering for a bit though before deciding.

Thanks for your help.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
So 3.4 years of debilitation, of pain caused to you and your family, followed by 90% or more of your practice time also being some form of suckiness and for what?
Siddhartha Gotama was dissatisfied with something in his princely life and so he left. He continued to be dissatisfied with the aesthetic practices he learned. On his own, through his own efforts, and finally in sitting alone after years of practices, he came by his own freedom (from his own dissatisfied state).

So, your way will be unique too and it will ultimately have to come through you alone by your effort and the sincerity of your effort and willingness to not give up in dark times. Perhaps think of the practices you undertake as your means to exhaust the limits of outside solutions/any restlessness you may have to have someone elses's solution or "way" work for your condition.. The solution that arrives will be yours, because the mental condition that arrives is yours.

Thus, the buddhist Stages of Insight (concentration and mindfulness) are just one way to go, and even therein a very personal effort comes on that frees one from adhering to those Stages of Insight.

Make sense?
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 Tarver , modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
If it was anything else -- drugs, alcohol, stabbing yourself in the eye with a spike -- we'd at least advise the practitioner to stop, and may take action to force them to.

So what am I missing? Why on earth would anyone do this stuff?


I love how you frame the question, and my sense of this forum is that you have come to the right place to ask it.

First off, personally, I have tried both the alcohol and the (prescription) drugs, and have at times come pretty close to considering the spike, but the meditation still seems to me like the best option of which I am aware to get to the root of suffering and dealing with it as permanently as anything can be dealt with in this ever-changing, impermanent world. Put another way, I am deeply committed to changing the way my head works such that the noise between my ears either stops or stops bothering me.

True story: I have a friend who is a retired airline pilot, who, when I met him, was already a few years into a project to build an airplane from a kit. He sunk his entire fortune into the scheme, going to unbelievable lengths like living illegally in his rented workshop space, etc. I found a magazine about people who build kit planes, and bought it for him as a gift. The magazine had a kind of index of dedicated amateur builders such as himself, listing the kits that they had built and flown, including basic info like total cost and total time. He was astonished to discover -- astounded! -- that the average time it takes to build a typical kit plane is ten years. He had no idea what he was getting into when he started, but he couldn't imagine it taking more than, maybe, a year or two, or three at the most. But, he was so deeply financially and psychologically committed to the project that even once he found this out, he carried on.

The analogy to meditation should be clear.

One thing I don't know about Willoughby Britton's research is how many of the people who spent an average time of 3.4 years debilitated were aware of what was going on and working "with a map", and how many just somehow thought something like "this shouldn't take very long" or "this is only going to make things better, and has minimal downsides". (I listened to that podcast very carefully several times, by the way, but not recently so maybe I am just forgetting.)

I am encouraged by Ingram's report in the video that other people find him normal and unexceptional. I am very encouraged by his descriptions of his subjective experiences. And finally, what made a really big impression on me was his summary of "a series of case reports" where everybody who had attained a certain level of success with these kinds of practices came back with eerily similar statements to the effect that this was the most valuable thing that they had ever done.

What isn't clear is what proportion of people who take a serious run at it (and defining "serious" is problematic) actually make it over the top? What proportion of people who buy airplane kits ever finish building and fly them? What proportion of people who develop alcoholism or drug addiction ever get sober and stay sober, or for that matter even try? Then, in other areas, what proportion of grad students ever finish doctorates, and what proportion of people who get licensed to sell real estate or insurance ever make any money? Everywhere one looks there are many eggs, a medium number of tadpoles, and rather few frogs. I think that one of the many valuable points that Ingram makes is that people get into meditation without knowing what the prospects are, much like my friend building the airplane, and these "already tadpole" aspirants -- this forum is full of them! -- are the main audience for this information.
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
I'm confused. After a gentle introduction to Buddhism, I ran across the Dan Ingram stuff and I'm thrown.

If you take crystal meth, or heroin, or cocaine, you'll have a wonderful time. For a time. But there is a good chance[1] you will suffer greatly at some point in the process. So getting involved with those kinds of behaviors is not generally advised. The benefits are not justified with respect to the costs.

Now look at meditation. How does it compare? On the downside, it is pretty bitter. According to Willoughby Britton, on one of the BuddhistGeeks podcasts, the majority of people she surveyed went through a "dark night" where the average duration of some form of life debilitation was 3.4 years[2]. And according to Ingram himself, the dark night comprises over 90% of his practice even *after* stream entry (although, granted, it doesn't sound like it is of the debilitating kind).


You're right about the costs. If you think this kind of meditation practice will be a self-improvement program, you're in for a big surprise. The cost of this is much greater than you probably can imagine right now. Consider the three characteristics: Understanding suffering clearly means you don't get to choose seeing only what you like to see. Not-Self really means what it says. Impermanence is universal, there's no firm ground anywhere, ever. Ultimately, the cost of enlightenment is everything. It's like dying: you can't take anything with you, and you won't be there.

So regarding the dark night: it's a good thing Willoughby Britton and Daniel Ingram are giving straight talk on this, because in general, this is totally hushed over on the spiritual marketplace. Right? You can't sell that, so it's not mentioned. It's a good thing that you know beforehand, instead of having some teacher spoon-feed you with quaint excuses such as "these are the defilements coming loose, just keep going" or whatever. If it ever comes to that, that is, as much of the teaching out there is so ineffective you're unlikely to even hit the process of insight, let alone the dark night.

On the other hand you don't even need to do Mahasi Noting like your hair is on fire, in order to hit the dark night, as I got there in my late childhood by doing some mind games at night for some time (decomposing words into letters and sounds) when I couldn't sleep. Many people report similar experiences; Daniel visualized giant floating spheres, I think. And once you're there, the only way out is through, as they say.

So while I can understand your disappointment, please direct it at the Woo Meisters and peddlers of quaint metaphysical fluff who either don't know better (i.e. they are charlatans) or deliberately keep their students in the dark (i.e. they are creepy), and who sold you something that doesn't exist.

So what's the upside? Well, according to Ingram in one of the three videos attached to Willoughby's podcasts, his wife wouldn't note him as anything special as a result of his practice. And he admits that he is not objectively better in his medical career as a result of it either. He still gets frustrated (cf. his account of how he labored over whether or not to respond to certain questions on this website). Furthermore, I think part of the appeal of his message is that this enlightenment game is *not* the kind of metaphysical game changer, where all suffering and craving goes forever, that it's often touted to be.

So 3.4 years of debilitation, of pain caused to you and your family, followed by 90% or more of your practice time also being some form of suckiness and for what?


"For nothing" would be the appropriate in-joke here. But that glosses over your following question:

Am I the only person who wonders if that is less a path and more a pathology? If it was anything else -- drugs, alcohol, stabbing yourself in the eye with a spike -- we'd at least advise the practitioner to stop, and may take action to force them to.

So what am I missing? Why on earth would anyone do this stuff?


Because they absolutely can't stand not doing it.

Once you are beyond the point of no return, once you realized that everything you think of as true is just opinion founded on more opinions or wishful thinking, that the things and roles you identify with are not yours in any meaningful sense, that you yourself, body and mind, are very elusive and impossible to pin down once and for all in any meaningful sense - i.e. you have hit the dark night - then there's no way back, right? You can't really go back and pretend all those insights never happened to you. You can try, and many people do, and maybe some succeed (if there are any, they are unlikely to speak up, because that would defeat their success), but as far as I know, that's not a long-term option.

So the only way out is to go on, and depending on your personal make-up, it will be difficult to varying degrees. Not every single detail mentioned in Daniels book happens to every practitioner, I can assure you of that. But it's good to know what can happen.

Cheers,
Florian
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Amen!
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Florian Weps:
So while I can understand your disappointment, please direct it at the Woo Meisters and peddlers of quaint metaphysical fluff...


I'm not at all disappointed, just confused, and all I'm directing at people are questions. The basic form of the problem is that the whole pragmatic dharma thing looks to me something of the form:

"Following process P will cost C and produce benefit B."

Fair enough. I'm considering following process P, and while I've heard a lot about C I haven't yet heard enough (for me) about B to let me go ahead and take the plunge. That's all.

Florian Weps:
You're right about the costs. If you think this kind of meditation practice will be a self-improvement program, you're in for a big surprise. The cost of this is much greater than you probably can imagine right now.


Good. I like being right! :-) And you seem to be saying I'm even more right than I thought I was. So far I seem to be on a roll. On the costs side of the equation -- the dark night, the fear and disgust and 3.4 years of debilitation and so on -- you're saying "oooh, you betcha!".

But, hmmm, did you happen notice that it was the *other* side of the equation I was asking about? I asked, "for what?". Now it's true you came in like a beacon of apparent hope and clarity with:

Florian Weps:
"For nothing" would be the appropriate in-joke here. But that glosses over your following question:
...
Because they absolutely can't stand not doing it.


Ah, now *that's* the kind of Buddhism I'm used to hearing. Very Zen. Very ineffable. Very ... how did you put it ... Woo Meister-ish and metaphysically fluffy? ;-)

Trouble is, I *can* stand not doing it. Maybe I'm already enlightened and just didn't know it. Regardless, I'm still confused. Ah well.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
Trouble is, I *can* stand not doing it. Maybe I'm already enlightened and just didn't know it. Regardless, I'm still confused. Ah well.
Well, for me, I had an eye-opening experience while doing MDMA. And then I wanted that experience but without having to depend on external circumstances (like taking MDMA). And then I realized that life sucked a lot more than I thought it did.

Somewhere here I wanted to find 'the truth' and thought that would set me free. Reading MCTB + getting stream entry, as it defines it, only intensified that desire. That caused tons of chasing it around and tons of suffering, sometimes referred to as 'insight disease'. I eventually came to realize that searching for 'the truth' in that way, although it did provide tons of motivation and seeded tons of effort, was just painful, and also wouldn't lead to life not sucking at all. But, as that was fading ...

... I then realized that life doesn't have to suck in any way whatsoever as it's essentially only mistaken deeply-ingrained beliefs or ignorance of what life sucking is and what leads to it that make life suck. So now I'm practicing to have life not suck in any way whatsoever (informed by the practice of Actualism). There were very tough patches and probably still will be, but I think it's worth it in the end, cause life not sucking is pretty great. (Note that life still sucks at Arahatship as MCTB defines it, though a lot less.)

Say you have a scale of happiness, the larger the number the better. Say an ordinary average person is 10, an ordinary unhappy person is 5, an ordinary quite happy well-to-do person is 15... but having life not suck at all is like 300 - enough such that there is hardly any difference between an ordinary well-to-do person and an ordinary unhappy person, compared to life not sucking at all.

---

Note that, I don't think it would be worth it if the end was MCTB 1st path (as I still suffered a lot then), or MCTB 2nd path (as I still suffered a lot then), or MCTB 3rd path (as I still suffered a lot then). I don't know about MCTB 4th path as I'm not sure I have attained it, but a lot of people were not satisfied with that, either, and went on to practice / are practicing other things (including Daniel Ingram). And I'm not satisfied now (as I still suffer a lot), but it's getting better daily.

Maybe a way I could put it is this... the MCTB paths provide the potential to suffer less. If you integrate the understanding into daily life and learn how to skillfully deal with things (which will be easier after the paths as you're more aware of what's going on), then that could reduce your suffering a lot, to the point of it being worth it. But I managed to find ways to suffer at all points of the path, which indicates to me that the states themselves were unsatisfactory, as my goal is a state in which it is impossible to suffer. (Using the word "state" very roughly.)
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
Florian Weps:
You're right about the costs. If you think this kind of meditation practice will be a self-improvement program, you're in for a big surprise. The cost of this is much greater than you probably can imagine right now.


Good. I like being right! :-) And you seem to be saying I'm even more right than I thought I was. So far I seem to be on a roll. On the costs side of the equation -- the dark night, the fear and disgust and 3.4 years of debilitation and so on -- you're saying "oooh, you betcha!".

But, hmmm, did you happen notice that it was the *other* side of the equation I was asking about? I asked, "for what?". Now it's true you came in like a beacon of apparent hope and clarity with:

Florian Weps:
"For nothing" would be the appropriate in-joke here. But that glosses over your following question:
...
Because they absolutely can't stand not doing it.


Ah, now *that's* the kind of Buddhism I'm used to hearing. Very Zen. Very ineffable. Very ... how did you put it ... Woo Meister-ish and metaphysically fluffy? ;-)


Heh. I recently filled an entire thread with ineffable Woo fluff. Bad habit.

That in-joke is fluffy, yes, because it implies that "nothing" is an object. Still, keep it in mind, if you like.

Trouble is, I *can* stand not doing it. Maybe I'm already enlightened and just didn't know it. Regardless, I'm still confused. Ah well.


Ok. I get where you're coming from (I hope). Sorry for any confusion I caused.

I'm not here to sell you anything. If those items don't add up in your balance, I certainly won't tell you otherwise. If you are comfortable with your situation, don't mess with it! If you have a job, friends, family, hobbies, and so on, you actually have a wonderful life. You are in the fortunate top percentage of the world's population (that have ever lived, most likely). Everything is lined up just so. And you are asking me why you should introduce a destabilizing factor into this nice set-up? I'm saying, don't do that, then.

Yes, I know, it's fashionable in religious circles to think up reasons for taking up some kind of religious practice such as prayer or meditation. If the lack of such expectations from our side is unsettling to you, I'll reassure you: you don't have to do it! It's perfectly okay to enjoy what you have and make improvements where it makes sense to you. You are actually under no oblication at all to go on any big spiritual quest.

There are tons of things you could do instead which are more in line with the life you are having, even religious or spiritually themed ones, if that's what you want.

But here's food for thought: if you can stand not doing it, why are you poking around sites like the Dharma Overground? ;)

Cheers,
Florian
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Hi Florian,

Florian Weps:
But here's food for thought: if you can stand not doing it, why are you poking around sites like the Dharma Overground? ;)


Well one answer is that despite, as you say, being probably in the top tiny percentage of the worlds population ever in terms of material wealth and comfort etc, I still have something deep in me asking "Is this all there is to it?". And I'm not the first to experience this, am I? Isn't the general story of Gautama himself one of a well-off individual faced with some kind of existential angst?

It is, as Morpheus said to Neo, like a splinter in the mind.

Still, I'd like a reasonable hope that the cure for the splinter isn't actually worse :-)
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Paul Anthony, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Fascinating discussion around a great question from Johnny. Some thoughts:

- The ''woo fluff" line of argument is obviously a real phenomenon but I wonder if it's a straw man in this discussion. Surely there is a central non-fluffy claim in Buddhism about the end of suffering. Even the most charitable possible reading of this must propose a net reduction of suffering of some kind as an ultimate outcome of Buddhist practice. (e.g. it could be like Buckley's - you suffer more immediately but in the end it's all gone - or maybe it's more like gentle exercise which gradually leads to health and happiness of some kind - anything, but something!). To my mind, there is no dodging the fact that a practice that actually increases suffering in all knowable timeframes can not reasonably be said to lead to the end of suffering - moreover it would seem to lack any other reasonable utility.

- It's been proposed that the reason you practice is because you have no choice. Fair enough - though it sounds more like a pathology than a remedy. But even this implies that there'll be less suffering with practice than without practice, so there is a modest claim embedded in there about reduction of suffering.

- Pragmatic dharma is supposed to be pragmatic, "Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations". So a pragmatic dharma movement should (in my mind) be making solid, reliable and sensible claims about human suffering - assuming such claims can be made.

- The bottom line is - there is a claim in Buddhism that Buddhist practitioners either are or will be suffering dramatically less than non-practitioners. Can this claim be reconciled with the work of Ingram, Britton, etc.?

Respectfully,

Paul
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
Well one answer is that despite, as you say, being probably in the top tiny percentage of the worlds population ever in terms of material wealth and comfort etc, I still have something deep in me asking "Is this all there is to it?". And I'm not the first to experience this, am I? Isn't the general story of Gautama himself one of a well-off individual faced with some kind of existential angst?

It is, as Morpheus said to Neo, like a splinter in the mind.

Still, I'd like a reasonable hope that the cure for the splinter isn't actually worse :-)


This is much better than giving us the responsibility of convincing you, the discerning spiritual shopper, to choose our particular brand of woo.

As for being reasonably sure about the cure: really, you have to see for yourself. There are various descriptions by several people floating around here on the DhO, but: reading those won't do you any good with regard to the splinter. Still, the general thrust of those reports is that it was worth it, though maybe not for the reasons that initially motivated them.

And like other people here already pointed out: experience of the dark night varies from person to person, and also varies during the course of the process for an individual. So you don't have to expect every single horror from every single description of the dark night.

In the end, either you do it or you don't.

Cheers,
Florian
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Thom W, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:

It is, as Morpheus said to Neo, like a splinter in the mind.

Still, I'd like a reasonable hope that the cure for the splinter isn't actually worse :-)


To add one more voice for the positive - in my experience, a thousand times it is better. I'm not even saying "well, I'm not really that much happier but I still wouldn't go back". Rather, I am happy, totally and wonderfully so, and for this I thank the ways the path has wrangled and mangled me, as it's been and continues to be quite a freakin' adventure. To summarise the effects - the richness of life just gets richer, the mysteries of life get deeper, the moment-to-moment clarity greater and the simple joys simpler and more joyful. All this with an astounding lack of fear, worry, negativity etc... Couple this with greater energy (and willingness) for love and appreciation of fellow human beings and you have a description of how things have got better for me since starting the meditative contemplative path, which at some point ceased to be separable from life as experienced from moment to moment. It wasn't easy from any "normal" perspective but that's just part of the adventure.

I don't wish to be a cheerleader for a certain way or approach, but I would like to help dispel any fear that the cure for the splinter is holistically worse than the splinter. If you're drawn to explore the nature of the question you mention (is there more to life?) then give yourself full permission to explore it in your own way, in your own time, in whichever fashion speaks to you the most. Follow your intuitions and enjoy the process. But if the ways such as presented in this forum and other places do appeal, that's great. There are plenty here who can help with the specifics.

Thom
Aman A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 793 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
Why on earth would anyone do this stuff?


It is not that anyone does this stuff, it is that this stuff does everyone.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Why did Neo take the red pill? This is your life, don't you want to see the truth of what it really is?

The progress of insight is the process of tuning your attention to what's already actually there. If it makes you feel bad, that's because life is not always pleasant and some things about it are difficult to accept. Personally, I don't like the fundamental dishonesty involved in continually ignoring these things. I feel that a life is too important to just sleep through.

If you think that these things (impermanence, suffering and no-self) are not important, or that it's enough to have an intellectual understanding of them, you might change your mind after a near-death experience or some other kind of powerful reminder of your mortality.

More about the "point of no return": there are some assumptions we hold, unconsciously, which contradict the three characteristics. They are taken so much for granted that it's hard to see them at all. It's only when they're broken (by a counterexample in your direct experience) that we become aware of them. Unless we become aware of them, the "dishonesty" mentioned above is not seen as such. You may even think things like "of course I know there's no such thing as a separate permanent self. That's just simple physics", while still holding an unconscious assumption that the self really exists. You are not aware of any dissonance. Presumably this is the state you're in right now, in which case you should probably stop reading or talking about meditative practices of any kind, just in case, if you want to stay there emoticon
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
N A:
Why did Neo take the red pill? This is your life, don't you want to see the truth of what it really is?


Yes! Superb analogy (in more ways than one), and I use it all the time myself. So here's the question:

Would Neo still have taken the red pill if he'd had a chance first to talk to Cypher?
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
N A:
Why did Neo take the red pill? This is your life, don't you want to see the truth of what it really is?


Yes! Superb analogy (in more ways than one), and I use it all the time myself. So here's the question:

Would Neo still have taken the red pill if he'd had a chance first to talk to Cypher?


If you want to draw parallels with the progress of insight: That movie is about Agent Smith.

Neo and Morpheus and the red and blue pill and the phone phreaking Rastas, and arguing about whether the steak Cypher eats is real, and Trinity's outfit - that's scenery, woo, fluff.

The protagonist is Agent Smith. You are Agent Smith.

Cheers,
Florian
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Florian Weps:
Neo and Morpheus and the red and blue pill and the phone phreaking Rastas, and arguing about whether the steak Cypher eats is real, and Trinity's outfit - that's scenery, woo, fluff.

The protagonist is Agent Smith. You are Agent Smith.

Haha! Cute!
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Florian Weps:
Neo and Morpheus and the red and blue pill and the phone phreaking Rastas, and arguing about whether the steak Cypher eats is real, and Trinity's outfit - that's scenery, woo, fluff.

The protagonist is Agent Smith. You are Agent Smith.


I'd rather be Trinity's outfit.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I'd rather be Trinity's outfit.

emoticon

Likewise.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Just as an aside[1]:

N A:
You may even think things like "of course I know there's no such thing as a separate permanent self. That's just simple physics"


Personally I think physics says no such thing. In fact for me the word "physics" refers to what is little more than the various activities in which this particular self (i.e. I) engages in order to try to comprehend and manipulate the pretty dancing lights I call "the universe".

From that point of view, not only does physics not deny the existence of a self, as you can see it is actually *defined in terms of* self. And so in that context, when looking back to Buddhism:

a. I have no appreciation (yet) of what is meant by "non-self"
b. I have no clue as to how I'll redefine "physics" once I do figure out a.

:-)

--

[1] And apologies if this is out of place on DoH.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
N A:
You may even think things like "of course I know there's no such thing as a separate permanent self. That's just simple physics"


Personally I think physics says no such thing. In fact for me the word "physics" refers to what is little more than the various activities in which this particular self (i.e. I) engages in order to try to comprehend and manipulate the pretty dancing lights I call "the universe".

Modern physics gives a fairly comprehensive description of the universe as a collection of interdependent fields. There's no room in this description for any kind of dualistic split, any boundary between subject and object, or anything that's exempt from the laws that govern change. Impermanence and no-self are basic parts of the modern scientific worldview. This is quite compelling if you're a materialistic atheist (and not compelling otherwise, so feel free to ignore it).

I have no appreciation (yet) of what is meant by "non-self"

Maybe this deserves its own thread.

Consider how you determine that something is *not* you. For example you look at a table, and see that it's not you. Turns out that if you look at *anything* closely enough, you will see that it's not you, just like a table. This includes "your" body and "your" mind, which are really just a body and a mind, and even "your" sense of self, which is really just a sense of self, not belonging to anyone. Other people have expressed this much better - the descriptions in MCTB and other Theravada literature are very good, and half of the dhamma talks on the net deal with this or related topics.
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
N A:
Johnny Froth:


I have no appreciation (yet) of what is meant by "non-self"

Maybe this deserves its own thread.

Consider how you determine that something is *not* you. For example you look at a table, and see that it's not you. Turns out that if you look at *anything* closely enough, you will see that it's not you, just like a table. This includes "your" body and "your" mind, which are really just a body and a mind, and even "your" sense of self, which is really just a sense of self, not belonging to anyone. Other people have expressed this much better - the descriptions in MCTB and other Theravada literature are very good, and half of the dhamma talks on the net deal with this or related topics.


Hint: it's not about expressing it well or finding beautiful words or concepts.

It's about sitting down and remembering for several minutes to keep noticing how whatever I notice isn't I, me, or mine. It can help conceptually to keep in mind that anything that's being noticed can't itself notice something else. "A perception can't perceive another perception", as they say. Don't try to chase the perceiver, but notice the fact that everything is being noticed.

Doing that for five minutes a day will be worth more than many months of speculation in online forums.

This will, of course, get the process of insight going.

Cheers,
Florian
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
N A:
Modern physics gives a fairly comprehensive description of the universe as a collection of interdependent fields. There's no room in this description for any kind of dualistic split, any boundary between subject and object, or anything that's exempt from the laws that govern change. Impermanence and no-self are basic parts of the modern scientific worldview.


Yeah, I'd have to disagree with you there. Or rather, it's fine but I think our interpretation of terms would differ. As with "physics", for me "fields" (and "particles", "waves", "double slits" and so on) are all defined in terms of a self, by which I mean me. Subjectivity, or inter-subjectivity in the way Bernard D'Espagnat discusses it, is inherent in the whole shebang.

It would be a long thread, and probably best done as another, but just to maintain some level of Buddhism relevance in this specific post: the implications of physics on Buddhism and vice versa are an important part of why I'm interested in the latter. My view of what physics is, is that it is an exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically *not* a modeling of reality itself.

In that light, the potentially stunning aspect of Buddhism is that it purports (I think) to expose the actual nature of reality. If that were true then, OMG^OMG, *that* would be worth a Dark Night or two to get it.

But I have no idea if it's true. Sigh; how could I?
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
As with "physics", for me "fields" (and "particles", "waves", "double slits" and so on) are all defined in terms of a self, by which I mean me.
...My view of what physics is, is that it is an exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses.

You just said two different things there. Do you think you are consciousness?

[EDIT: And yes, might best start a new thread if you want to pursue the question.]
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

[EDIT: And yes, might best start a new thread if you want to pursue the question.]


OK, will do.
Aman A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 793 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
My view of what physics is, is that it is an exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically *not* a modeling of reality itself.

In that light, the potentially stunning aspect of Buddhism is that it purports (I think) to expose the actual nature of reality. If that were true then, OMG^OMG, *that* would be worth a Dark Night or two to get it.


Physics used to be of interest to me as well. After meditation, it no longer is an interest of mine. My interest in theoretical physics was just an escape mechanism.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
My view of what physics is, is that it is an exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically *not* a modeling of reality itself.

That's a valid perspective. In this case, no-self becomes the observation that "consciousness" itself can't be found through these interactions.

Now, this might not sound very interesting ("Just because I can't find it, doesn't mean it's not there") until you see how many things actually can be found. Feelings, thoughts, intentions, the sense of control, the sense of observer, the instinct of self-preservation, memory, the passage of time, the space in which all of this arises - all these can be seen to be just "interactions of reality upon consciousness", and not a separate permanent self. So whatever this "consciousness" itself is, it's probably very different and much more simple than what you intuitively think of as either consciousness or yourself. See the "no-self vs true self" chapter in MCTB for more on this.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
N A:
Johnny Froth:
My view of what physics is, is that it is an exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically *not* a modeling of reality itself.

That's a valid perspective. In this case, no-self becomes the observation that "consciousness" itself can't be found through these interactions.

Now, this might not sound very interesting ("Just because I can't find it, doesn't mean it's not there") until you see how many things actually can be found.


No actually I think it is *really* interesting and useful, and in fact gives me a little push further in a direction I've been wondering about.

My views on physics, while not unique and new, are a bit uncommon. So I've often wondered if *perhaps* I already "get" the no-self thing, and that whatever the illusion/error is commonly suffered from is something I've already gotten past without realizing. None of this is getting in the way of my practice at the moment, so I guess I can afford to let it simmer away for now. But it's well noted for future use.

So thanks for that.
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Simon E, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 248 Join Date: 9/23/11 Recent Posts
Bhante V. and the folks over at http://www.dhammasukha.org/ with their TWIM don't seem to have bad periods/a dark night the way that 'pure' vipassana does. He did 'pure' vipassana for 20 years and was not happy with the results/practice and considers the meditation practice he now teaches to be 'better'.

This is ofcourse based on my very limited knowledge and understanding, make of it what you will.

It's interesting how many different meditation practices there are based on the buddhas teachings and how much they differ.
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Blue ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 267 Join Date: 7/14/11 Recent Posts
We do this so we don't go to hell.

People who have stream-entry can no longer enter any of the states of woe after death.

To those who don't believe in karma I suggest talking to some of the attained people on this forum. The purer the mind gets the more you see the karmic law actually acting in real time. It is very real. It is possible to see little karmas effect things, how mediocre karmas effect things, how positive karmas affect things, how negative affect things, how the positive and negative interact and can trump each other.

For me personally, I often see past karmas coming up in the form of body sensations, the sensation is descriptional enough to let me know the approximate size of a karma what what aspect of my life it has to do with.

-d
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Paul Anthony, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Blue .:
We do this so we don't go to hell. People who have stream-entry can no longer enter any of the states of woe after death. To those who don't believe in karma I suggest talking to some of the attained people on this forum. -d


I take your point - however I'm not sure that there is a real abundance of clear, unequivocal statements on the multi-lifetime view of karma to be found on DhO, despite the presence of a number of individuals that I take to be highly attained.

In the single lifespan, ten years in the dark night is a long time. It's obviously quite possible that someone would not physically survive it due to death (e.g through natural causes if you start to practice late in life). It would seem that we are forced to adopt a multi-lifetime view of karma in order to get the books to balance. Otherwise, in this context the dark night must be seen as pathological - similar to many other diseases of the end of life such as Alzheimer's. If you don't live through it, and you only live once, then there's no way that it can conceivably have been 'worth it'.

Respectfully, Paul
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Mr. Jake *, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Why would anyone do this?

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
That's a fair point. But I think that for me anyway, the DN is really overblown in a funny way in our community. This is natural enough; the pendulum swinging away from the sweetness-and-light pop spirituality of a lot of mainstream dharma (but most certainly not all of it). My take is simple: the dark night is only going to be as aweful as we make it through resistance, clinging, pride and avoidance. These traits are habits which characterize a given person whether or not they ever take up practice, and that person lives with their effects either way: the difference is the wonderful opportunity DN is to see another way of being.

The flip traits of openness, acceptance, deep intimacy with difficult emotions and situations, letting-go of assumptions, forgiveness of self and others, and perseverence are pretty much forced on us in DN in a way that they are not in general in life, because DN-as-DN makes it abundantly evident that "dukkha" is a form of self-referentiality; it's not due to circumstance, it's due to attitude and habit. If we are honest with ourselves about the insights characterizing this phase, we cannot blame others and circumstances for our *fundamental* existential dissatisfaction.

This is the whole point to me: DN, as in seeing the truth of dukha as arising from our own mind activity, needs to be clearly distinguished from all the symptoms of resisting the implications of these insights. The very habits of resistance and denial and suppression and blaming others and circumstances for dukha which, when mixed with these profound insights into dukha, lead to all the horrible symptoms often naively equated with DN, aren't something we learn or develop *in the DN* they are something we have already been doing that we bring to DN.

The sooner we make this distinction, the sooner we can start integrating the lessons of this phase in the cycles of practice. Implicit in what I just wrote is an important point that should be spelled out: a big difference between carrying on in a resistant, external control oriented mode of being *while in the dark night* and while in pre-practice ordinary life circumstances is that in the former context, these habits are starkly inauthentic insofar as we persist in them, since they go directly against the insights into the nature of suffering which define this amazing and profound phase of practice.

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