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Two minor epiphanies

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Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/28/12 11:52 AM
As I continue to meditate, I'm also continuing to study. And the first part of Goleman's "The Meditative Mind" (the part in question is an outline of the Visuddhimagga) has triggered a couple of "aha!" moments for me. May be of interest to others -- and comments[1] welcome.

On dukkha and sukha

For a long time, even pre-interest-in-Buddhism, it puzzled me that there was such an asymmetry in our experiences when it came to happiness and suffering (or: pleasure and pain). Why do we "prefer" one over the other? I couldn't see any reason for that being the case[2]. But in Goleman's description, they *are* symmetrical, and in some sense they are *both* suffering. Freedom means having neither. This has the feeling of freeing a logician from the law of excluded middle (where a sufficiently well constructed proposition has to be either true or false; it can't be neither). This is still something I'm toying with in my head -- i.e. have not experienced it yet -- but I find it cool nevertheless.

On no-self

This is a continuing thorn in my side, but I think I saw a glint of light at the end of the tunnel. Again, for a long time, even pre-interest-in-Buddhism, my interest in Quantum Mechanics (I have a friend who works in the field -- specifically in the philosophical implications on computation -- and we discuss this stuff a lot) gives a possible way of looking at things. In QM, the observer is critical. Things like electrons, tables, cheesecakes, are all names we give to interactions between an observer and <something-we-tend-to-think-of-as-the-universe>. But what is that observer? It's not this bodily lump that's typing into the DhO forum. It's not the brain of that bodily lump. So what is it? One notion my friend and I have pushed around is that it is unitary, and solely perceptive. In other words, it is *nothing but* the conscious subject of perception. Let's label that as "self".

So, and this is the crucial point, that "self" indeed does *not* exist, but that's for a quite precise definition of the word "exist". In other words, part of the significance of "no-self" is not so much in the "self" portion, but rather in whatever it is that the "no" is trying to negate.

"Exsting" -- the thing that no-self says the "self" doesn't do -- is, for most people, a messy aggregation of concepts and notions which, if unpicked, don't hold up for the particular thing I'm talking about; the raw, unitary, subject of perception. But most people don't/can't unpick that mess, and so the notion of no-self is important. When most people think of an existant self they really *are* muddled. But if you've already seen through the muddle -- either via meditation, or careful discussions with my QM friend, or both -- then no-self is just confusing because it's refuting a position you've already refuted yourself. It's like explaining to your kid that Santa Claus isn't a real person, and end up with him all confused and thinking "What!? You're not a real person dad!!??"

So another way of rendering the whole anatta thing could be this:

Yes, the "self" does not exist, but still it's there.

Robert

[1] Other than those of the form "You shouldn't be studying things child, you should just be meditating" :-)
[2] It's like the problem in Physics as to why time moves only forwards. There is no explanation *in* Physics as to why that shoud be.

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/28/12 11:59 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
A stage comes in medittation where you will see phenomena arise and pass away in your entire
mind-body experience and then ask yourself - what is leading to this arising and passing away ?
Is a "self" sitting behind and doing all this ?
You may realize that it is just causes and conditions leading to other causes and conditions and
so on and on..seeing in this light ( law of dependent origination ) you will come to see the
sense in which anatta is meant..the most useful sense which I can translate to language is
seeing it in the sense of being "impersonal"..and since it is impersonal , it is not "me" and not
"mine"..and thus one starts de-clinging to what is not "me" and what is not "mine"

Blood is just blood..impersonal...where is the "me" in that blood ? and similarly for other parts of
experience...(this is not an exhaustive explanation..just a clue)

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 12:18 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Another clue is that awareness knows what is happening now including all your experience/willpower/intention/talking to yourself/subvocal descriptions/attention. It's all known.

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 12:24 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
Another clue is that awareness knows what is happening now including all your experience/willpower/intention/talking to yourself/subvocal descriptions/attention. It's all known.


yes and taking a step further , awareness itself is arising and passing away due to impersonal causes and conditions

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 9:32 AM as a reply to Shashank Dixit.
Shashank Dixit:
A stage comes in medittation where you will see phenomena arise and pass away in your entire
mind-body experience and then ask yourself - what is leading to this arising and passing away ?
Is a "self" sitting behind and doing all this ?

But I already don't believe that there is a self doing all of that arising and passing away. I haven't believed that for years.

...Blood is just blood..impersonal...where is the "me" in that blood ? and similarly for other parts of
experience...

Of course. I'm finding it hard to understand how anyone could see things as otherwise.

emoticon

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 11:13 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
lol , in that case you may be already be a stream winner..the question that occurs immediately after stream-entry(atleast this
is what happened in my case) is :- Why is there still suffering when there is no-self in all the aggregates ? It is only
after a while it occured that instinctual feelings ( such as fear, anger , nurture , desire ) continue to arise and they keep
arising the *feeling* of self even though *conceptually* one knows without a trace a doubt that there is no-self in any of
the aggregates..and this is why there are further paths to eradicate these instinctual feelings completely and consequently
the feeling of self and then suffering stops forever.

For a long long time I totally ignored "Right Intention/resolve" and "Right Effort" part of the Noble Eightfold path..it
requires a firm intent to uproot ill-will/lust(Right Intention) and a constant effort(Right Effort) in not letting unwholesome states to arise and make things go out of hand (and thereby avoid adding more fuel to the already existing fires)

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 11:42 AM as a reply to Shashank Dixit.
Shashank Dixit:
lol , in that case you may be already be a stream winner..

emoticon
I hope not. That would be the biggest anti-climax *ever*.

...Why is there still suffering when there is no-self in all the aggregates ?

But exactly. And that's kinda the point of the other epiphany I mentioned. In asking myself, "why are suffering and wellbeing asymmetric in experience" (i.e. why do I prefer the former to the latter), I'm really just asking "why *is* there suffering (and wellbeing)". Or, more precisely, I'm asking "*Is* there suffering? It doesn't look like there really is."

BUT, there's still a big gap between where I am and where you are (if you're there). Or at least, I hope there is. I postulate three kinds of people:

The first are like someone who has found a manuscript full of horizontal lines and small tadpole-like marks and thought either "Darn. Someone has scribbled over this nice paper", or at best, "Cool look at the pretty pictures."

The second -- people like me, who have explored a particular line of reasoning -- are those who have spotted the fact that, "Holy crap -- this is the score for Beethoven's Fifth!"

But the third -- those like you (?) who have awakened or at least are some ways along the path -- are those who not only know what the manuscript is, they have *heard* the symphony.

I know -- in my "knower" -- about self, and no-self; about suffering and its non-existence. But I haven't experienced it yet.

I haven't heard the symphony yet. emoticon

R

P.S. Actually, the musical analogy is nice in that for sufficiently developed musical sensitivities, someone who has heard the symphony can then "hear" it simply by reading the score. They don't actually have to be exposed to the real sounds anymore. And for the most highly developed, they can *always* hear it, because they have memorized the score. The "music" is simply always with them whenever they want it. Da-da-da-daaaa.

P.P.S. I'm not sure what that's all analogous *to*, but I hope there's something emoticon

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 12:01 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
*Is* there suffering? It doesn't look like there really is."


This was a point of debate I used to have with my bro..he used to say that there is actually no suffering and then I would
ask him , why would he get sad at times and he had no answer..ofcourse in the ultimate reality that suffering is also non-
existant because it is just the mind labelling an event as suffering..it is just an event , yet it is infinitely better to not
experience this at a level of feeling as well and I know its true because if someone were to give me a pill that will remove
the feeling of suffering forever , I'll gladly take it emoticon

But the third -- those like you (?) who have awakened or at least are some ways along the path -- are those who not only know what the manuscript is, they have *heard* the symphony.

I know -- in my "knower" -- about self, and no-self; about suffering and its non-existence. But I haven't experienced it yet.

I haven't heard the symphony yet.


Dilligent non-stop practise and setting the right conditions and I'm sure results will follow !

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 12:17 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
I know -- in my "knower" -- about self, and no-self; about suffering and its non-existence. But I haven't experienced it yet.

I haven't heard the symphony yet. emoticon

For future reference, what you said is also said in the Canki Sutta

...
To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.
...
To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. I describe this as an awakening to the truth. But it is not yet the final attainment of the truth.
...

The first phrase would refer to what you said: "I haven't heard the symphony yet.", the second phrase means whether you just "heard the symphony" before or is hearing it all the time

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 1:49 PM as a reply to Shashank Dixit.
Shashank Dixit:
Richard Zen:
Another clue is that awareness knows what is happening now including all your experience/willpower/intention/talking to yourself/subvocal descriptions/attention. It's all known.


yes and taking a step further , awareness itself is arising and passing away due to impersonal causes and conditions


And in the end we won't be able get the benefit of this knowledge without the reduction of clinging. I may believe what Buddhists are saying but if there's clinging then the experience isn't deep enough to justify the belief.

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 3:48 PM as a reply to John P.
John P:

For future reference, what you said is also said in the Canki Sutta

Cool! And thanks. It's always nice, when stumbling around in the dark, stubbing one's toes and bruising one's shins, to discover that by one has managed to come, even if only by accident, to the same conclusion as someone else who had the benefit of the lights being switched on (or at least of being in possession of night vision goggles) emoticon

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 4:03 PM as a reply to John P.
John P:
... Canki Sutta

...
To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. I describe this as an awakening to the truth. But it is not yet the final attainment of the truth.
...


I read around the section you quoted. Just prior to the second stanza you listed there is this (emphasis mine):

"...Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment."
I find that seems to describe some of my own experience very well. I don't have an old venerable monk to follow, but if I simply replace him with the Dhamma as a whole, then I can see myself at the point I've highlighted. I am at the beginning of exertion -- a large part of which I take to be meditation -- in the hope it will produce the promised realization.

(That said, I feel obliged to add that I'm a pretty skeptical person so unfortunately -- or not, depending on your point of view -- I still have to allow for the fact that the entire endeavour is hokum emoticon We'll see. I hope.)

RE: Two minor epiphanies
Answer
10/29/12 9:19 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
Shashank Dixit:
Richard Zen:
Another clue is that awareness knows what is happening now including all your experience/willpower/intention/talking to yourself/subvocal descriptions/attention. It's all known.


yes and taking a step further , awareness itself is arising and passing away due to impersonal causes and conditions


And in the end we won't be able get the benefit of this knowledge without the reduction of clinging. I may believe what Buddhists are saying but if there's clinging then the experience isn't deep enough to justify the belief.


The bold part above is what its all about..well said !