David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago.

David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Interview with David Chapman over on Secular Buddhist Association.

I like David Chapman. I even/especially like his Buddhist tantra vampire romance novel.

In this interview he talks about things like "what is enlightenment?" and especially "how could we know what enlightenment is?" Some criticisms of the Mahasi tradition, too.

Likely to be uninteresting to those concerned 110% with practice every waking minute of the day, so I put it in the wanker section of the discussion board.
Jason B, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for the link. I listened to the podcast, and read Chapman's blog post that initiated the discussion. The blog post has a little more meat than the podcast, which is hampered by a bit of a dismissive or smug tone. It (the podcast) reminds me of a lot of professional skeptic blogs (Quackwatch, etc.) or Atheist-with-a-capital A discussions in which the speaker or author is enamored of his logical argument but grossly inaccurate or vague in characterizing that which he criticizes. Interesting that the interview is preceded by a defense against the accusation of scientism, and I can see why. I don't think they really bothered to criticize, much less describe, the Mahasi (or any other tradition). They just had a good chuckle over how misguided it is. So, that was a little annoying.

But the blog post raises some good questions, and it would be interesting to see an in-depth discussion of them. The most concrete remarks are made by Ven. Sujato in the attached youtube videos. His comment that Mahasi-style practice is hampered by providing only one technique seems insightful.

But the argument that stream-entry claims by Mahasi-followers are invalid because they are common is itself a logical fallacy. I don't know what proportion are bogus, or what the situation is in Burma, but I think the claims made here are fairly common and mostly legit because A) the technique is unusually effective, and B ) the definition of stream-entry is a limited, but meaningful, definition. To some it may look like the game is rigged. They just lowered the bar. And yet the outcome is something profound, beneficial, and yes, hard to explain.

All that said, I have noticed lately that the idea I've attained anything like enlightenment at any stage is a little embarrassing. I don't feel like I have much insight into the nature of being, and I'm not abnormally happy. I just know I went through those cycles (2), and I met those criteria. So I assume others have too.

The other definition of enlightenment that I subscribe to is Kenneth's "happiness that is independent of conditions." For now, that's a matter of faith.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Jason B:
Thanks for the link. I listened to the podcast, and read Chapman's blog post that initiated the discussion. The blog post has a little more meat than the podcast, which is hampered by a bit of a dismissive or smug tone. It (the podcast) reminds me of a lot of professional skeptic blogs (Quackwatch, etc.) or Atheist-with-a-capital A discussions in which the speaker or author is enamored of his logical argument but grossly inaccurate or vague in characterizing that which he criticizes. Interesting that the interview is preceded by a defense against the accusation of scientism, and I can see why. I don't think they really bothered to criticize, much less describe, the Mahasi (or any other tradition). They just had a good chuckle over how misguided it is. So, that was a little annoying.


He certainly comes across that way. Though I've challenged him in the past, and he's always been receptive, open-minded, and patient.

He admits he doesn't know much about Theravada, and his engagement with pragmatic dharma is somewhat superficial. I still find a lot of what he says valuable.

But the blog post raises some good questions, and it would be interesting to see an in-depth discussion of them. The most concrete remarks are made by Ven. Sujato in the attached youtube videos. His comment that Mahasi-style practice is hampered by providing only one technique seems insightful.


The Sujato stuff was hilarious. I cracked up. It's a whole series of videos where he's dissing other Theravada schools. It's not even other branches of Buddhism. It's just other Theravada schools. I mean, c'mon.

I find Yuttadhammo a lot more down to earth about the same sort of stuff.

But the argument that stream-entry claims by Mahasi-followers are invalid because they are common is itself a logical fallacy. I don't know what proportion are bogus, or what the situation is in Burma, but I think the claims made here are fairly common and mostly legit because A) the technique is unusually effective, and B ) the definition of stream-entry is a limited, but meaningful, definition. To some it may look like the game is rigged. They just lowered the bar. And yet the outcome is something profound, beneficial, and yes, hard to explain.


Yeah. I can't pay attention to that kind of stuff at all. If I had an opportunity to go sit with Sujato and have him guide me up through the jhanas to a fruition, I'd take it. Who cares what you call it? It might be an interesting experience, and it would be cool to compare. But I could really care less if someone on youtube says I'm not sotapanna because I jerked off or ate a meal after 12. C'mon.

All that said, I have noticed lately that the idea I've attained anything like enlightenment at any stage is a little embarrassing. I don't feel like I have much insight into the nature of being, and I'm not abnormally happy. I just know I went through those cycles (2), and I met those criteria. So I assume others have too.

The other definition of enlightenment that I subscribe to is Kenneth's "happiness that is independent of conditions." For now, that's a matter of faith.


Yeah. And this is the interesting stuff, and this is why I posted it.

Just as a point of discussion, I think Kenneth's definition is useful for two reasons: (1) it just sounds like what you'd expect enlightenment to be, and (2) it turns out to describe perfectly the experience of rigpa or PCE or whatnot (I don't know if they're the same - another interesting question).

If you hear the phrase "happiness without conditions", it sounds abstract. Very lofty. But in those non-dual experiences, it really DOES seem that way! Not in the sense "oh, this happiness will never end", but rather, "this happiness I'm experiencing now is based in unconditioned knowledge of the perfection of being." Perfect fit. Once I put all that together, I started doing Kenneth's 3rd gear stuff.

This kind of goes back to my post on the personality under conditions of awakening. The MCTB definition of awakening is really abstract. Kenneth's definition, by contrast, is concrete. Very easy to describe what one of those is like: "Everything was perfect." "I forgave everyone." You can't get anymore straightforward than that.

Problem is, landing a hard non-dual experience is hard. It's much easier to land a jhana. It may even be easier to get path. I don't know. People keep saying that if you get a few paths, the 3rd gear stuff is easier, but I haven't found that to be the case. I haven't had a powerful non-dual experience since before I started meditating. Interesting stuff.

Anyway, I'm probably misusing terms. But if Chapman is right, we're all usually misusing terms all the time anyway.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 295 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Fitter Stoke:
I haven't had a powerful non-dual experience since before I started meditating.


+1

While I've had a handful of novel and exciting experiences in the context of meditation[1], the utter-most powerful experiences I've had has always been outside the context of meditation[1].

[1] By "meditation" I mean formally executing instructions for traversing the jh/nanic arc.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Fitter Stoke:
I haven't had a powerful non-dual experience since before I started meditating.


+1

While I've had a handful of novel and exciting experiences in the context of meditation[1], the utter-most powerful experiences I've had has always been outside the context of meditation[1].

[1] By "meditation" I mean formally executing instructions for traversing the jh/nanic arc.


I've been trying for two or three weeks now to reproduce one of my earlier experiences but can only generate a mere shadow. I'm thinking I'll give it a little more time and then go back to wholeheartedly mastering the progressive, developmental path for a few more months and then try again.
T DC, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 389 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
I read that blog post, and frankly it seems like an argument about enlightenment from someone who has never really experienced attainment. He talks in there about insights that seem to be IT, only to fade over time. However, if one has experienced a level of genuine attainment, perhaps 4th path is a good example, it should be clear that that insight does not fade, and holds up, as it originally was perceived, over time.

So to me, interesting arguments aside, the post seems like discussion and serious doubt of a topic of which the author has no genuine experience. There is a reason that enlightenment is described as being obvious, or "like seeing the face of one's own mother"(impossible to miss). Rather than assume the teachings are wrong, as he seems to be doing, perhaps a more prudent view would be to acknowledge that perhaps, having not had such an experience personally, he should put more time into meditation, and less into skeptical speculation.

(Personal Rant): The idea that many different enlightenment exist is ridiculous! It is the end of dualistic confusion (for Christ's sake!). I feel like this shouldn't be an issue. Why are we practicing? ->4 Noble truths: We are suffering as a result of confusion, and we wish to experience genuine peace by overcoming this confusion. What is the confusion? ->Believing ourselves to separately existing individuals. So what would overcoming this look like? -> Overcoming that delusion, knowing firsthand the unity of all things.

This is referred to as the ultimate state due to the fact it trumps all else. It serves as the basis for all other experience. The very point of it is that there is no separation. So how could there be two different enlightenments? Seriously, if overcoming separation is the goal, and this can be done, if all things are one, then how could two people perceive this differently? Does this not seem to be logically incoherent?
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Dream Walker, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 1312 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
T DC:
I read that blog post

There are 34 links to different posts that are on that page...he has a lot to say...I read them all and thought he made some great points and pointed out some history that I was not familiar with.
Read some more and see what you think...You bring up some great points though.
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Dream Walker, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: David Chapman: Enlightenment & Epistemology

Posts: 1312 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
I've been reading his blog and find it very interesting
the-crumbling-buddhist-consensus-overview
I've never really read the history of Buddhism....lots of interesting thought here.
~D

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