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Questions on MCTB
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1/30/12 10:46 AM
I'm working my way through "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" and am collecting questions. Is this an OK forum category in which to ask them? Assuming yes, here are some of the first few:

Foreword and Warning
* Ingram says that as part of his early path, he and his friend "reasoned that some sort of non-dual wisdom ... was the only way to go". I'm wondering if the "non-dual" is significant. Also, if Ingram himself is about, Daniel how did you manage to figure that -- the need for the wisdom to be "non dual" -- out so early on?

* (This alluded to my "Why Would Anyone Do This?" thread.) Ingram says, "Those darn Buddhists have come up with very simple techniques that lead directly to remarkable results", and then later "It has also been profound, amazing, and more glorious than most other paths I have heard tell of." (There's also another tangential mention in the Intro to Part 1, "You could ... still have a set of basic practices that lead to the effects promised.") What are those profound, amazing, glorious results? MCTB is aiming at clear, pragmatic, spelling out and demystification, so can we have that not only on the methods, and maps, and models, but also on the results?

* Then a warning: "You have to have your psychological trip fairly together to be able to handle the intense techniques, side effects and results I am about to discuss". What does it mean to have your psychological trip together? Mere absence of a DSM-noted malady? Or what? Is there a recommended self assessment approach to make an informed decision about proceeding or not?

Part 1 - Introduction.
* On the use of "spiritual". Ingram first notes that although the Buddhist path is often called a "spiritual" one, "You could throw out all the spiritual trappings on the Buddhist path and still have a set of basic practices that lead to the effects promised". Immediately after that he says, "Part I contains some traditional lists that were taught by the Buddha and relate directly to spiritual training" (emphasis mine). Is he therefore saying that the traditional lists in part I are examples of the "trappings" that can be dispensed with?

* What are other examples of "spiritual trappings"? Chanting in zen, for example? The big hats in Tibetan traditions?

* He notes that you can achieve the results (whatever they are) using the practices *plus* the "spiritual trappings"; or you can do it with the practices alone. Can anyone suggest why one would take the first approach? What extra benefits, if any, does the spiritual stuff provide?

* How does one distinguish between the spiritual trappings (which are said to be dispensable), and aspects of some practices that *look* spiritual but are in fact essential. Again, for example, chanting in zen?

Part 1 - Morality
* He says, "It is also helpful to assume that training in morality will help us when we get to formal meditation practices (the next two trainings in concentration and wisdom)". It's a fairly light-handed way of saying it. To see that, consider the following alternatives (Ingram's being the first):

"It is also helpful to assume that training in morality will help us when we get to formal meditation practices"

"Assume that training in morality will help us when we get to formal meditation practices"

"Training in morality will help us when we get to formal meditation practices"

So my question is, *is* training in morality actually important?

* In talking about how we should "try to make it a habit to try to take into account the feelings, opinions and welfare of those around us", he then notes: "The obvious trap here is to fail simultaneously to take into account our own needs." It occurs to me that when it comes to our own needs, the greater danger is to pay too much attention to them, and so if one is going to err it’s probably better to err on the side of self sacrifice in favor of others. Anyone see a problem with that?

thanks!

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
1/31/12 10:58 AM as a reply to Johnny Froth.
Johnny Froth:
Ingram says that as part of his early path, he and his friend "reasoned that some sort of non-dual wisdom ... was the only way to go". I'm wondering if the "non-dual" is significant.


It's a useful pointer.

What are those profound, amazing, glorious results?


"Enlightenment".

What does it mean to have your psychological trip together? Mere absence of a DSM-noted malady? Or what? Is there a recommended self assessment approach to make an informed decision about proceeding or not?


A common-sense approach is sufficient.

Is he therefore saying that the traditional lists in part I are examples of the "trappings" that can be dispensed with?


That part of the book shows how to unravel the tighly-coiled teachings contained in those little lists, to bring them down to earth and into one's own practice.

I think the word "spiritual" is used in a wider sense there.

MCTB is not written in some machine-readable code, you know. It is fairly comprehensive and cohesive, but if you go at it at that level of exegesis, you're probably wasting time better spent actually doing some practice.

What are other examples of "spiritual trappings"? Chanting in zen, for example? The big hats in Tibetan traditions?


Sure, depends on your taste and so on. If it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, it's probably trappings. You can then go on to investigate the warm fuzzy feeling, and at that point, it's no longer trappings, since you are using it to fuel your practice.

He notes that you can achieve the results (whatever they are) using the practices *plus* the "spiritual trappings"; or you can do it with the practices alone. Can anyone suggest why one would take the first approach? What extra benefits, if any, does the spiritual stuff provide?


Motivation. Whatever keeps you engaged with your practice.

Here's an example (from a Jed McKenna book):

You could buy a nice meditation cushion, incense sticks, a Buddha statue, and a meditation timer, furnish a temple room in your house, and sit for an hour a day.

Or you could go to your bathroom, scrunch up a used towel to sit on, spray a bit of perfume into the air, put a rubber duck on the toile seat and bow to it, and sit for an hour a day.

Which one is more fun? What other differences do you notice? Etc.

How does one distinguish between the spiritual trappings (which are said to be dispensable), and aspects of some practices that *look* spiritual but are in fact essential. Again, for example, chanting in zen?


Finding out would be a nice starter practice.

So my question is, *is* training in morality actually important?


Yes, because you, like me and everybody else, have this huge capacity for acting like a jerk.

In talking about how we should "try to make it a habit to try to take into account the feelings, opinions and welfare of those around us", he then notes: "The obvious trap here is to fail simultaneously to take into account our own needs." It occurs to me that when it comes to our own needs, the greater danger is to pay too much attention to them, and so if one is going to err it’s probably better to err on the side of self sacrifice in favor of others. Anyone see a problem with that?


There are no bonus points for self-punishment. Your body can be treated well, just like every body. Likewise, your mind. You are nothing special, and should not be singled out for preferred status or inferior status.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
1/31/12 12:03 PM as a reply to Johnny Froth.
Johnny Froth:
So my question is, *is* training in morality actually important?

I think it is vital for having a safe, non-painful path. If your intention is to find out the truth and screw whatever else happens, I'm gonna get the truth! Then you can do all sorts of horrible things to yourself and others in that pursuit, like ignoring horrible side-effects because you seem to be getting closer to the truth, acting like a jerk to others that aren't helping you find the truth, etc. But if your intention is to suffer as little as possible, and to cause as little suffering as possible to others, and to use insight to further that goal, then practice has an entirely different approach, e.g. if horrible side-effects come you wonder what you can do about them, how to minimize them (if possible), how to not let it affect others.. instead of acting like a jerk to others that aren't aligned with this pursuit, you'll do your best to treat them well, perhaps help them understand, or if not, just let them be, etc. My advice is: start with the intent to be happy and harmless, and take your pursuit from there.

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
1/31/12 1:08 PM as a reply to Johnny Froth.
Try reading the book first. I think it will explain a lot by the end, and then perhaps go through it again and see how things now look given the whole perspective.

As to what it means to have your psychological trip together, read the resolution in the Dark Night section and if the answer to that is, "No, I am not willing to adopt that working hypothesis that there is another way to go beyond 'Whatever I feel right now is real and the only valid reaction to these phenomena'," then this stuff isn't for you.

Daniel

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
2/1/12 10:20 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Try reading the book first...

Fair enough. I can see that the theory is that much of this can be "understood" only if "experienced". So I'll try to read/do first, and then question later.

But it is hard! I have questions screaming at me from every page. Holding my tongue isn't going to be easy emoticon

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
2/1/12 12:12 PM as a reply to Johnny Froth.
I have questions screaming at me from every page. Holding my tongue isn't going to be easy.

That feeling is all too familiar...but it's sooooooo much more revealing and profound to have a lot of these questions answered by direct experience, which many of them will be if you can continually, simply and naturally observe your ongoing sensate experience. It's easy to overthink things but the noting technique, if that's what you're doing which is what I'm assuming based on your other posts, is so simple that, at first at least, there's a tendency to think "Surely that's not all I need to do?" which then leads to going off on all sorts of unhelpful tangents!

Stick to the instructions, it's annoyingly easy but the changes it leads to are evident once you really get into it; note whatever you notice as happening right now, see how any and all phenomena can be seen, over and over again, to be devoid of any self/observer/watcher, how they all just arise and pass away without "you" having to make it so, and how, if you try to either hold on to phenomena through attraction or distance yourself from it through aversion, it leads to discontent and dissatisfaction. Why? Because you've already seen, through the other two characteristics, that those very phenomena, in all their empty, transient glory, can't ever satisfy you or lead to a happiness not dependent on more of the same empty, transient conditions.

Here's a few useful links which might help you with the more practically orientated questions, mainly found on Nikolai's blog:

Nick's own experience of noting, which has a lot of useful pointers and real-life details.
Fast noting.
Detailed noting.

Now, get a practice thread up and tell us what's happening in your sits! emoticon

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
2/1/12 2:33 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
Now, get a practice thread up and tell us what's happening in your sits! emoticon


I have, it's here.

RE: Questions on MCTB
Answer
2/1/12 2:51 PM as a reply to Johnny Froth.
I have, it's here.

Good man, I've bookmarked it so if I think of anything useful to suggest then I'll post it directly to your blog.

Sounds quite good so far, a few clear indicators of progress as far as I can see so keep it up!