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"limited emotional range" .... another outing!

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the earlier thread on this was, as Daniel said, a monster ..... i feel a little bashful about poking the beast, but....

... well, as this is one of the major differences between other Buddhist traditions and Daniel's approach/teaching, it is bound to keep returning, so perhaps i shouldn't feel tooooo guilty emoticon ... i 'grew up' within a 'limited emotional range' model, and i'm still struggling to get to grips with this aspect of MCTB/DhO

reading through the monster thread, i was particularly struck by these posts:

Chuck said (my emphasis):
The limited emotional model – when taken literally – is not helpful. Those of us that seem to support it are doing so from an experiential context. I understand what the model is pointing to. At the same time I agree with others that, when taken literally, it leads to very unskillful views.

For one thing – it tends to generate a view that awakening is some kind of other-worldly state of saintly perfection. Another aspect is that it strengthens the mushroom factor in that people who do go through this experience just don't want to deal with the 'sainthood' projections and so choose to remain silent. A third element is that if awakening seems so beyond my comprehension - that all I can hope for is just to meditate and gain merit or however the story goes - then I do not make use of my opportunity to actually do the work.


yes, i completely agree, and have witnessed at first hand the 'limited emotional range' model being used very unskilfully ..... in fact, where i come from, the official line is that even the stream entrant has 'perfect morality' (based on Mirror of Dharma section of mahaparinibbana sutta) ... how messed up is that?!

Matt said (my emphasis):
Despite my earlier contrary position, I can see easily how one may be confused and mislead by the rejection limited emotional range. I would imagine that the people would be confused by the following:

1. Buddhism aims at the end of suffering. Yet on this board, we have folks who claim to have reached, or come very close to that goal yet who deny an external change in behavior. Reading the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha specifically lays out that a skillful person would not fall prey to greed, hatred, or delusion. It may seem ridiculous to say that one does not fall prey to these things, but still acts as though one does.

2. Personal practice is which external habits and behavior has changed. It seems to me that people who have their lives change for the better practice the skillful cultivation of merit, and follow the five precepts. For beginners who have already seen change, it may seem odd that some one who is supposed to be further along down the path than they do not report these changes. This is a "I'm no arahat, and even I don't act in such and such way...."

3. DhO culture. To a new person involved here, one may easily get the impression that folks are claiming attainments way beyond their level. This may come about when one reads that another is at X level, but their posts do not display anything out of the ordinary, or anything that could not be acquired through reading.

Just some things to consider.


yes, i find those very interesting things to consider....

Daniel said:
I say: do the experiment, and when you have practiced seeing things as they are to the point that you have no sense of a center point of awareness, no sense of subject or observer, a natural, luminous, causal, direct, clear, field of transient, fluxing awareness. When you have that, ask the question again, and see what you think from that point of view.

Until then, this tends to boil down to those of us, such as myself, who have done that and call it arahatship, and those who haven't done anything of the kind and read old books and say that they must be true.


ok, i've done that, and i'm coming back to ask the question again (that is, obviously, a flippant claim to enlightenment, but if i cannot flippantly claim enlightenment here, where can i? ... Joking aside, i'd be more than happy to be grilled and shown to be mistaken, but at the current time, it does appear that i've finished the job, thanks in part to MCTB )

agh, i've left it a bit late before starting this post; looking at the time, i notice that i've got to go leave in about 2 minutes, so i'll place a follow-up post in a few hours, when i should be able to get on the computer again......

brb

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/25/10 4:33 PM as a reply to Confused Maverick.
I find it helpful to remember that bhikkus needed to present their activity as inherently virtuous, because in the time of the Buddha, people commonly believed that the merit gained by giving was proportional to the moral rectitude of the recipient - in other words, the laity would give food to begging monks only if they thought they were virtuous .... you can see how the monks needed to be, or at least be seen to be, 'morally upright', and it is a small step from there to claiming that their path was in fact a path of progressive moral purification, leading to moral perfection.....

However, no conspiracy theory seems to be enough to account for the fact that, in the suttas, enlightenment is virtually always expressed with some species of 'limited emotional range' model. As Daniel says in MCTB,
The Emotional Models are so fundamental to the standard ideals of awakening as to be nearly universal in their tyranny. You can’t swing a dead cat in the Great Spiritual Marketplace without hitting them.


And the extreme opposite view, that the emotional life of the enlightened is no different from that of 'ordinary worldlings', just doesn't quite ring true. Speaking personally, some permanent change has happened. My mind is no longer 'sticky' in a way it was. There is a certain kind of suffering which accompanied that stickiness which is now absent. And there are certain kinds of emotions that followed from that stickiness which cannot, i believe, now arise. I do not feel that my emotional range is 'limited' (which somehow implies a cage), but neither can i imagine any conditions that could possibly result in my falling into certain kinds of grasping states.

I can certainly experience anger ... i have children, and manifesting anger is pretty crucial. i am not exactly putting it on, they would detect the falsity, but on some level it is a free choice, a kind of tactical decision. when it has done its job, it vanishes completely. in the past, though, i have been consumed by anger, without any sense of choice, and it has lingered like the after tremors of an earthquake. this is one way my emotional life has changed as a result, i'd say, of having no fixed point of selfhood to which i am compelled to return.

I am no scholar, but one of the interesting things about the Suttas is that some are much older and less 'messed with' than others; the Mahaparinibbana sutta, for example, is very highly edited, and i have no qualms whatsoever about rejecting the claim in there that the stream entrant has 'perfect moral conduct'.... after all, that even flatly contradicts other (and earlier) suttas.

So assuming the 'limited emotional range' model became exaggerated over time, perhaps there is a more sensible view in the older suttas? One of the terms which seems to crop up in the earlier suttas, but less in the later suttas/commentaries is 'asava'. Enlightenment is often identified with "the destruction of the asavas" (or, more particularly "knowledge that the asavas have been destroyed").

Asavas is most literally translated 'influxes', but I like the more psychological translation 'inflations' (from Rune Johansson, "The Dynamic Psychology of Early Buddhism"). Inflation is a well understood psychological process (eg see "Ego and Archetype" by Edward Edinger) .... the interesting thing is that it is essentially concerned with one's own idea about one's self .... so it seems quite reasonable to say that an Arahat should at least have left behind the emotional complexes driven by trying to define a self-view.

There are a few more points i'd like to make to refine the above, but i'd best leave it there, as long posts don't really belong in forums imo.....

TL;DR .... maybe there are some classes of overwhelming, self-obsessed emotional states that an arahat will not experience, at least once they have done enough 'review' to have truly settled into their arahatship.

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/28/10 3:38 AM as a reply to Confused Maverick.
Another way of thinking about asavas:

The worldling, just sitting minding their own business, is likely to end up passing through various states of hatred, craving and delusion, without any provocation .... the asavas 'flow in' unbidden

The arahat, i'm suggesting, may experience any kind of emotion in the context of particular circumstances, but while at rest, the asavas would not 'flow in' of their own accord.

So far, this corresponds with my experience ... though i guess i should wait a year or two before i could say i was sure!

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/27/10 5:39 AM as a reply to Confused Maverick.
Hi Maverick,

"Asavas" are also translated as "fermentations", something associated with "stickiness". In your first post, you alluded to the absence of mental stickiness...

As to "limited emotional range" - even I can influence, i.e. "limit", my emotional range, and I'm quite unenlightened.

In my understanding, it's not so much about what enlightened beings cannot do, but about what even unenlightened beings can do.

It's not useful to judge someone's enlightenment by the clothes they wear, after all. Even an unenlightened being can put on some holy robes. It's not useful to judge enlightenment by facial expression. A good actor can put on any expression they like, even if they are completely unenlightened. It's not useful to measure enlightenment by coice of food. I've met quite a few thoroughly unenlightened Vegans, as well as unenlightened steak-and-potatoes eaters. And so on. In this manner, it's not a useful indicator of enlightenment whether a person can control, i.e. limit, their emotional display.

That said, enlightened beings do report changes regarding emotions, food preferences, physical prowess (it was Tarin I think who found out he could do more push-ups) and so on. But all of these things can be done (or abstained from) by the unenlightened as well. That's the thing. That's all there is to it, in my opinion at least.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/27/10 11:54 AM as a reply to Florian.
Hi Florian,

thanks for picking up the bacon sandwich on the synagogue floor emoticon

Florian Weps:
it's not so much about what enlightened beings cannot do, but about what even unenlightened beings can do.


right, yes, that is very clearly put, thank you.

yes, trying to evaluate someone's attainment by thinking "well they have a limited emotional range, so they must be enlightened" is undoubtedly seriously flawed reasoning

any concrete indicator at all could be 'faked' .... there is, as far as i am aware, no definable characteristic which could be used to say "they MUST be enlightened because...." (maybe brain scans will be able to tell this in the dim and distant future, but until such time......)

and there is clearly a big problem if people try to limit their emotional range through repression and denial .... i don't think i've ever witnessed this (i've not been around a lot of different buddhist 'scenes') .... it is rather a grim thought, but doubtless it happens...

what i find hard to come to terms with is the idea that there is no limit at all to how 'immoral'/disturbed/egotistical/malicious/whatever an enlightened person can be .... which is related to the idea that there is no 'benefit' to enlightenment other than a subtle perceptual shift ....

maybe that is a 'straw man', maybe nobody is really advocating anything so extreme, but that is a message that i have picked up.

maybe the subject does, ultimately, just need to be dropped in something like this way:

"there are nothing you can reliably say that an enlightened person will 'never do' or 'never feel' .... this does not mean that the emotional life of the enlightened is identical to how they were before enlightenment; but it does mean that any attempt to pin down how they are different is doomed to failure, as there will always be counter examples; but as all enlightened people seem to be glad to have become enlightened, why not give it a try?"

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/27/10 12:19 PM as a reply to Confused Maverick.
Hi Maverick,

Anyone looking at these models from a conceptual (non-experiential) viewpoint is going to interpret them from within the context of the stickiness (to use your term) that is always present (but not seen). So these models are superimposed on top of the stickiness – when in fact, the stickiness is what disappears and facilitates or constitutes awakening. A sticky situation.

Something that I am questioning is: To what extent do we actually practice what Buddha was teaching and if we are not practicing in that way then are we in a position to judge the outcome of those practices (specified by the Suttas)?

It's like coming upon a bread recipe and a description of how good the bread is and then changing the recipe in all kinds of ways only to find fault in the original description – 'This isn't anything like what they told me it would be'. Hmm, did I leave out the yeast?

Who among us follows the vinaya? Who is living simply in the forest making the effort to cultivate loving kindness towards all living beings 24/7? Who is doing their noting practice within the context of the jhanas?

Vinaya aside, there were eight principles for a lay person to follow:
1)Dispassion
2)Unfettered
3)Shedding – letting-go of unskillful qualities.
4)Modesty – not self-aggrandizing or attracting attention to ones self.
5)Contentment – content with basic necessities.
6)Seclusion – Seclusion of the mind from unskillful habits or tendencies.
7)Persistence – in developing skillful mental qualities and in abandoning unskillful mental qualities. But there is a quality of 'pleasure and delight' or fascination and curiosity here.
8)Unburdensome – not demanding of others.

Are we actively cultivating these qualities in our daily lives?

It could be that the 'limited emotional range' model became exaggerated over time but it could also be that this was (and still is) a reasonable conceptual model to use considering the difficulties in describing transcendent qualities that arise. Using the term 'limited' is making a judgment of this model that may not be relevant. Is a train limited by its rails? Is a ship limited by its lack of wheels? Perhaps the model points to a dropping away of qualities that are no longer relevant as opposed to putting constraints on something that is. If we actively follow the original teachings then perhaps we will find that this model is more accurate then we currently believe. I didn't so can't say.

What I am suggesting here is that what we define as the 4 paths may only be part of the story. We may in fact be side-stepping our potential by making assumptions about which practices are or are not essential – only someone who has put into practice the entire suite of trainings is in a position to speak to the accuracy of this model. Short of this, I can only speak to the outcome of my own practices.

-Chuck

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/27/10 12:38 PM as a reply to Confused Maverick.
Confused Maverick:
Hi Florian,
thanks for picking up the bacon sandwich on the synagogue floor emoticon

Heh. Someone would have slipped on it.

as far as i am aware, no definable characteristic which could be used to say "they MUST be enlightened because...." (maybe brain scans will be able to tell this in the dim and distant future, but until such time......)


Well, there is a faintly grubby home-video out there of "Ken Wilber Stopping his Brains". That kind of thing? (I'm not passing judgement on Ken Wilbers attainments here).

what i find hard to come to terms with is the idea that there is no limit at all to how 'immoral'/disturbed/egotistical/malicious/whatever an enlightened person can be .... which is related to the idea that there is no 'benefit' to enlightenment other than a subtle perceptual shift ....


I'm speculating wildly here, but isn't asking for the benefits of enlightenment just another view/opinion/fantasy about how things ought to be, as opposed to clearly perceiving how they actually are? On the other hand, doesn't clear perception of things how they are reveal the way to "go with the flow" (to use a worn-out phrase) of things as they are changing? To me, from my perspective at least, the perception of things how they are, and how they are changing, is the connection between "insight" and "morality", the former about perceiving, the latter about intending, change. End of speculations.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: "limited emotional range" .... another outing!
Answer
1/28/10 8:05 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Chuck,

Thanks for wading in.

Just as an aside, to nobody in particular: I know that this kind of discussion can seem to be pointless theorising.... personally i consider it to be part of developing Right View, which is the context for, and subtle driver behind, more concrete practice.

Chuck Kasmire:
Something that I am questioning is: To what extent do we actually practice what Buddha was teaching and if we are not practicing in that way then are we in a position to judge the outcome of those practices (specified by the Suttas)?


i think this is an excellent point. if someone had followed the vinaya for a decade or two before getting enlightened, it seems safe to assume that they would be pretty well behaved post enlightenment. most of us are not in that position.

One of the most interesting perspectives that Daniel introduces in MCTB is the distinction between dealing with your 'stuff' then going for insight, vs going for insight then dealing with your 'stuff'. I think this is very relevant. If one was following the vinaya at the time of the Buddha (or, indeed, the fascinating guidelines for laypeople that you list), one would have been doing both at the same time.

Nowadays, most of us are laypeople who plunge into retreat now and again, giving us the opportunity, potentially, to ignore our 'stuff' most of the time, then get deeply into insight territory for brief bursts.... so perhaps in this context, the possibility arises for people to be 'technically' enlightened but with a host of unresolved 'stuff' .... a New Kind of Being!

Chuck Kasmire:
Using the term 'limited' is making a judgment of this model that may not be relevant. Is a train limited by its rails? Is a ship limited by its lack of wheels? Perhaps the model points to a dropping away of qualities that are no longer relevant as opposed to putting constraints on something that is.


excellent point imo ... the term 'limited' is ambiguous .... it implies that something is doing the limiting, ie a persistence of duality, whereas clearly what was intended by these models was 'dropping away' of tendencies, freedom from them.

we would not normally describe a child who has outgrown temper trantrums as having a more 'limited emotional range', but technically this is accurate.... this is what 'limited emotional range' models are actually pointing to. Perhaps a less ambiguous term would be helpful.