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Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!

Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
awareness
Answer
10/18/13 4:02 AM
I have read the passage in MCTB on True Self vs. No self and still cannot grasp this fundamental concept in Buddhism.

If all the 5 aggregates (including consciounsess) are impermanent, then who is watching the aggregates arise and pass away? Is it awareness? If so, then what is awareness, isn't is subject to the 3Cs as well?

Does this relate to reincarnation in any way? I never really understood this...What exactly reincarnates?

Anyone can help?

Thanks.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/18/13 4:11 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
George S. Lteif:
I have read the passage in MCTB on True Self vs. No self and still cannot grasp this fundamental concept in Buddhism.

If all the 5 aggregates (including consciounsess) are impermanent, then who is watching the aggregates arise and pass away? Is it awareness? If so, then what is awareness, isn't is subject to the 3Cs as well?
The process itself rolls and knows, there isn't a knower. There isn't an 'awareness' that exists in and of itself, there isn't any awareness besides 'in the seen just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the cognized just the cognized'. The seen/heard/sensed without a knower is lucid and vivid. The 3Cs apply.

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/joel-agee-appearances-are-self.html

Joel Agee: "I don't find an ever-present awareness that observes anything, or that experiences thoughts, etc. Seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. happen spontaneously on their own. Attention is an afterthought. A moment ago some leaves in a flower box outside my window were quivering in a breeze. The immediacy of that movement -- or of any occurrence in the micro-instant of its arising -- is all the awareness and presence there is."
Does this relate to reincarnation in any way? I never really understood this...What exactly reincarnates?

Anyone can help?

Thanks.
As Ven. Dhammanando puts it:


http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index.php?showtopic=41811&mode=linear

---------------------------
QUOTE(Darkknight @ Jan 8 2007, 06:17 AM)
Q. So there is no self (Atman). so what exactly is it that is reborn, and how does what is reborn pass from one body to another?
Thanks in advance for any answers received. bow.gif

-----------------------------


The question is wrongly put and the Buddha's reponse when asked such a question was to reject it as an improper question. Having rejected the question he would then inform the questioner of what he ought to have asked: "With what as condition is there birth?"

The reason that it is an improper question is that rebirth is taught as the continuation of a process, and not as the passing on of any sort of entity. For a more complete exposition of the subject see Mahasi Sayadaw's Discourse on Paticcasamuppada.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu

....................

http://newbuddhist.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4215

Continuing consciousness after death is, in most religions, a matter of revealed truth. In Buddhism, the evidence comes from the contemplative experience of people who are certainly not ordinary but who are sufficiently numerous that what they say about it is worth taking seriously into account. Indeed, such testimonies begin with those of the Buddha himself.

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that what’s called reincarnation in Buddhism has nothing to do with the transmigration of some ‘entity’ or other. It’s not a process of metempsychosis because there is no ‘soul’. As long as one thinks in terms of entities rather than function and continuity, it’s impossible to understand the Buddhist concept of rebirth. As it’s said, ‘There is no thread passing through the beads of the necklace of rebirths.’ Over successive rebirths, what is maintained is not the identity of a ‘person’, but the conditioning of a stream of consciousness.

Additionally, Buddhism speaks of successive states of existence; in other words, everything isn’t limited to just one lifetime. We’ve experienced other states of existence before our birth in this lifetime, and we’ll experience others after death. This, of course, leads to a fundamental question: is there a nonmaterial consciousness distinct from the body? It would be virtually impossible to talk about reincarnation without first examining the relationship between body and mind. Moreover, since Buddhism denies the existence of any self that could be seen as a separate entity capable of transmigrating from one existence to another by passing from one body to another, one might well wonder what it could be that links those successive states of existence together.

One could possibly understand it better by considering it as a continuum, a stream of consciousness that continues to flow without there being any fixed or autonomous entity running through it… Rather it could be likened to a river without a boat, or to a lamp flame that lights a second lamp, which in-turn lights a third lamp, and so on and so forth; the flame at the end of the process is neither the same flame as at the outset, nor a completely different one…

~ rizenfenix

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 3:35 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
The process itself rolls and knows, there isn't a knower. There isn't an 'awareness' that exists in and of itself, there isn't any awareness besides 'in the seen just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the cognized just the cognized'. The seen/heard/sensed without a knower is lucid and vivid. The 3Cs apply.


Not sure I fully understand this point. How can the 3Cs apply to all 5 aggregates (consciousness included) if there is no knower?
What does it mean when people sometimes say that they can experience/see their thoughts? Is it just one part of the mind knowing another part?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/18/13 3:45 PM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
In my personal practice, the issue of self has become increasingly irrelevant in the last few years. This has perplexed me quite a bit --- I never really understood what is all the fuss about selves and not selves, but it is absolutely everywhere you turn in the meditation world.

I don't particularly think there is a self, or that there isn't, it depends on what level you look at and answer the question. Sure, none of the events that happens is a self, but, on a normal everyday level --- a level that does matter for decisions and has consequences much more real than me realizing none of the aggregates is a self --- there is a self, and he has to pay taxes.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the question of whether there is a self or not, or what that self is if it's there, is not fundamental or in any way central to buddhism, and that self views are only relevant to the extent that they help or hinder development. Though I am not certain of this, and I am pretty sure Daniel disagrees, and he knows better even if he hasn't convinced me.

Here is a quote by Thanissaro that I find relevant (link):

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.

The evidence for this reading of the Canon centers on four points:

The one passage where the Buddha is asked point-blank to take a position on the ontological question of whether or not there is a self, he refuses to answer.
The passages which state most categorically that there is no self are qualified in such a way that they cover all of describable reality, but not all of reality which may be experienced.
Views that there is no self are ranked with views that there is a self as a "fetter of views" which a person aiming at release from suffering would do well to avoid.
The person who has attained the goal of release views reality in such a way that all views — even such basic notions as self & no-self, true & false — can have no hold power over the mind.
What follows is a selection of relevant passages from the Canon. They are offered with the caveat that in ultimate terms nothing conclusive can be proved by quoting the texts. Scholars have offered arguments for throwing doubt on almost everything in the Canon — either by offering new translations for crucial terms, or by questioning the authenticity of almost every passage it contains — and so the only true test for any interpretation is to put it into practice and see where it leads in terms of gaining release for the mind.


Here is another (link):

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
So instead of getting into a discussion as to which type of self is your true self — or your ultimate self or your conventional self — the Buddha is more interested in showing you how your sense of self is an action. The adjectives he uses to describe actions are not "ultimate" or "conventional." They're "skillful" and "unskillful." These are the terms in which he wants you to understand your selves: Are they skillful? Are they not? And because skill can be understood only through mastery, the Buddha wants you to master these actions in practice.

(...)

So, to repeat, the issue is not, "What is my true self?" but "What kind of perception of self is skillful and when is it skillful, what kind of perception of not-self is skillful and when is it skillful?"



So I have pretty much dropped this self and not self stuff, as they don't seem important to me at this time. The main theme of my practice are the seven sets. For instance, I look at how well I am developing the five faculties: getting the right ideas and beliefs that make me want to practice (conviction), finding the energy and disposition to stick with the practice (persistence), being able to keep a meditation object in mind (mindfulness), having mental tranquility and power (concentration) and being able to distinguish skillful from unskillful actions (discernment).

This kind of approach seems much more practical and concrete --- to me --- than the issues of self or no self or true self or whatever, which have come to feel like they are borderline-meaningless. Of course, it is possible that I may be lacking a certain perceptual finesse...

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 1:25 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Insight into no self is greatly transformational, I think Daniel would rank that as one of (if not THE) greatest achievement/attainment he had, despite having come across so many different states/stages of insights/jhanas/experiences etc. The full release of all view/sense/conceit of self/Self is liberation as stated in Bahiya Sutta. Also as Buddha said, "Blissful is passionlessness in the world, The overcoming of sensual desires; But the abolition of the conceit "I am" — That is truly the supreme bliss"

A traditonal stream enterer is said to have permanently put an end to self view being one of the first three fetters. It is obvious that direct insight into the nature of dharma is necessary for this to occur.

I wrote an article Anatta: Not-Self or No-Self?

This might be relevant:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/anatta-not-self-or-no-self.html

Cooran (moderator of Dhammawheel) pointed out that a note to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of this sutta is worth considering:

‘’We should carefully heed the two reasons that the Buddha does not declare, ‘’There is no self’’: not because he recognizes a transcendent self of some kind (as some interpreters allege), or because he is concerned only with delineating ‘’a strategy of perception’’ devoid of ontological implications (as others hold), but (i) because such a mode of expression was used by the annihilationists, and the Buddha wanted to avoid aligning his teaching with theirs; and (ii) because he wished to avoid causing confusion in those already attached to the idea of self. The Buddha declares that ‘all phenomena are nonself’’ (sabbe dhamma anatta), which means that if one seeks a self anywhere one will not find one. Since ‘’all phenomena’’ includes both the conditioned and the unconditioned, this precludes an utterly transcendent, ineffable self."

(Part of Note 385 on Page 1457 of The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi).)


....

The Vajira Sutta states:

Then the bhikkhuni Vajira, having understood, "This is Mara the Evil One," replied to him in verses: "Why now do you assume 'a being'? Mara, have you grasped a view? This is a heap of sheer constructions: Here no being is found. Just as, with an assemblage of parts, The word 'chariot' is used, So, when the aggregates are present, There's the convention 'a being.' It's only suffering that comes to be, Suffering that stands and falls away. Nothing but suffering comes to be, Nothing but suffering ceases."

....

Anuradha Sutta:



..."What do you think: Do you regard the Tathagata as form-feeling-perception-fabrications-consciousness?"

"No, lord."

"Do you regard the Tathagata as that which is without form, without feeling, without perception, without fabrications, without consciousness?"

"No, lord."

"And so, Anuradha — when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life — is it proper for you to declare, 'Friends, the Tathagata — the supreme man, the superlative man, attainer of the superlative attainment — being described, is described otherwise than with these four positions: The Tathagata exists after death, does not exist after death, both does & does not exist after death, neither exists nor does not exist after death'?"

"No, lord."...

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 3:22 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Just for the sake of clarification, in the subject I have made a distinction between Self (or awareness) and self.

There is a talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on http://www.dhammatalks.org/mp3_collections_index.html called mindstorms where he discusses that there is a part of the mind that is continuously aware.
My conclusion (could be wrong) was that he is saying:

"Through the practice you will come to experience this awareness that will lead you to transcend suffering (death included). "

I always thought that Buddhism dismisses the view of a fixed entity.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 7:37 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
George S. Lteif:
Just for the sake of clarification, in the subject I have made a distinction between Self (or awareness) and self.

There is a talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on http://www.dhammatalks.org/mp3_collections_index.html called mindstorms where he discusses that there is a part of the mind that is continuously aware.
My conclusion (could be wrong) was that he is saying:

"Through the practice you will come to experience this awareness that will lead you to transcend suffering (death included). "

I always thought that Buddhism dismisses the view of a fixed entity.
First of all, it must be said that Thanissaro does not hold the view that "Awareness is Self". For example, in his commentary to MN 1: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.001.than.html , Thanissaro Bhikkhu criticized the view that "I am Awareness" and says that,

Although at present we rarely think in the same terms as the Samkhya philosophers, there has long been — and still is — a common tendency to create a "Buddhist" metaphysics in which the experience of emptiness, the Unconditioned, the Dharma-body, Buddha-nature, rigpa, etc., is said to function as the ground of being from which the "All" — the entirety of our sensory & mental experience — is said to spring and to which we return when we meditate. Some people think that these theories are the inventions of scholars without any direct meditative experience, but actually they have most often originated among meditators, who label (or in the words of the discourse, "perceive") a particular meditative experience as the ultimate goal, identify with it in a subtle way (as when we are told that "we are the knowing"), and then view that level of experience as the ground of being out of which all other experience comes.

Any teaching that follows these lines would be subject to the same criticism that the Buddha directed against the monks who first heard this discourse.



It is clear that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's view is informed by the Buddha's view of Anatta, and thus he does not accept the view of a True Self that is Awareness.

However, having said that, it does appear from his articles that he still holds a dualistic view of Awareness, much like many of the Thai Forest traditions masters that hold the view that Mind is the "Poo Roo" or That Which Knows. This dualistic knower would imply that he has not realized and actualized the view of anatta in direct experience. There might be direct apprehension of the Luminous Mind (which is the mind's awareness, cognizance), but it is still being distorted by dualistic view and self-view.

With regards to the True Self teaching of Vedanta, I can say that I have been through those phases of insights/realization. But Anatta is a very peculiar realization that is different from that of Vedanta's True Self. After which there is no more sinking back to a conceived Source or Ground of Being or Background, instead there is only full actualization as the forms, textures, details of each moment of experience without an agent, seer, perceiver.

Here are some references that discusses these issues in more details:


Writings by my friend/mentor Thusness:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html
http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2007/03/mistaken-reality-of-amness.html


By Soto Zen priest and teacher Alex R. Weith:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/zen-exploration-of-bahiya-sutta.html


Joel Agee:

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/joel-agee-appearances-are-self.html


My own journal (warning: super lengthy):

http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-e-booke-journal.html

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 10:22 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Does this relate to reincarnation in any way? I never really understood this...What exactly reincarnates?


Is your question what do buddhists believe reincarnates? AEN gives an answer (though I am not sure if actually believes this?)

You probably haven't understood this because it doesn't make much sense. Candles can't light other candles if the candle is out, to make use of a bad metaphor.

Selves (whatever level you describe them at) don't like the thought of no longer existing. And so they make stuff to make themselves feel better (commonly taking the form of religions).

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 10:42 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Right, and that explains why most if not all religious assumptions about 'afterlife' scenarios include and even emphasize terrifying awful stuff?

And what exactly is so bad about oblivion at death? No possibility of suffering or regret or sorrow? Wow, a 'self' could *never* imagine oblivion at death as a defense mechanism could it?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 11:26 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
I wouldn't say that people assume rebirth because oblivion itself is scary, but because it can generate nihilist amorality and existential doubt which is scary.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 12:45 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:
Right, and that explains why most if not all religious assumptions about 'afterlife' scenarios include and even emphasize terrifying awful stuff?

And what exactly is so bad about oblivion at death? No possibility of suffering or regret or sorrow? Wow, a 'self' could *never* imagine oblivion at death as a defense mechanism could it?
Buddhists do not "like" rebirth.

In fact, the purpose of Buddha's teachings is to end it. Not to perpetuate it.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 12:53 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
"Life is like a passing cloud, when it comes to an end, a hundred years is like yesterday, like a snap of a finger. If it is only about one life, it really doesnt matter whether we are enlightened. The insight that the Blessed One has is not just about one life; countless lives we suffered, life after life, unending. Such is suffering.

It is not about logic or science and there is really no point arguing in this scientific age. Take steps in practice and experience the truth of Buddhas words. Of the 3 dharma seals, the truth of suffering to me is most difficult to experience in depth.

May all take Buddhas words seriously.

~ Thusness*, 2006"


*My friend and mentor, Thusness, has memories of plenty of his past lives. Many of my other dharma friends too.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 1:32 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
. Jake .:
Right, and that explains why most if not all religious assumptions about 'afterlife' scenarios include and even emphasize terrifying awful stuff?

And what exactly is so bad about oblivion at death? No possibility of suffering or regret or sorrow? Wow, a 'self' could *never* imagine oblivion at death as a defense mechanism could it?
Buddhists do not "like" rebirth.

In fact, the purpose of Buddha's teachings is to end it. Not to perpetuate it.


Exactly, AEN. Maybe I should edit my post to include a #sarcasm lol?
Anyhow I would think this is common knowledge amongst folks into buddhism?
I just think it's funny how many secular moderns talk about various afterlife theories as escapist and rarely consider that oblivion at death-- the secular modern assumption-- can also be a defense mechanism (against the actual uncertainty of what if anything is experienced after death). So personally I'm agnostic although some experiences definitely point to the possibility of rebirth, which is rather troubling (and not at all comforting).

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 1:50 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:
An Eternal Now:
. Jake .:
Right, and that explains why most if not all religious assumptions about 'afterlife' scenarios include and even emphasize terrifying awful stuff?

And what exactly is so bad about oblivion at death? No possibility of suffering or regret or sorrow? Wow, a 'self' could *never* imagine oblivion at death as a defense mechanism could it?
Buddhists do not "like" rebirth.

In fact, the purpose of Buddha's teachings is to end it. Not to perpetuate it.


Exactly, AEN. Maybe I should edit my post to include a #sarcasm lol?
Anyhow I would think this is common knowledge amongst folks into buddhism?
I just think it's funny how many secular moderns talk about various afterlife theories as escapist and rarely consider that oblivion at death-- the secular modern assumption-- can also be a defense mechanism (against the actual uncertainty of what if anything is experienced after death). So personally I'm agnostic although some experiences definitely point to the possibility of rebirth, which is rather troubling (and not at all comforting).
Yeah I realized it was sarcasm right after I posted but I guess my reply applies for sawfoot.

Agree with your points.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 1:55 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Paweł K:
literal interpretations are never good when it comes to religions ...
Literal interpretation of the Quran or the Bible may be dangerous.

Literal interpretation of the Suttas are not (in my opinion). I consider the Buddha's teachings as an exceptional one.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 7:47 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
. I consider the Buddha's teachings as an exceptional one.


That is because you are a Buddhist! I am sure Christians believe the teachings of Jesus are exceptional and Muslims think that the teachings of Muhammad are exceptional, and believing otherwise is dangerous.

Jake:
. Right, and that explains why most if not all religious assumptions about 'afterlife' scenarios include and even emphasize terrifying awful stuff?

And what exactly is so bad about oblivion at death? No possibility of suffering or regret or sorrow? Wow, a 'self' could *never* imagine oblivion at death as a defense mechanism could it?


Well, I would say it starts off with a fear of death and trying to make sense of universe and the human condition and find purpose, which then gets codified into a religion where belief in afterlife is part of a moral system to encourage good behaviour in society and discourage bad behaviour.

I like Ernest's Becker take on this (see his book "the denial of death").

Oh, I can contemplate the idea that belief in oblivion is a defence mechanism, though it seems like a poor one as I generally try to avoid thinking about it as the thought scares me shitless. And thinking of that possibility doesn't make me think reincarnation is any less silly.

It is not about logic or science and there is really no point arguing in this scientific age


Exactly - it is about faith.

You might turn around and say - no, its about your first person experience. But here is the thing about first person experience - it is fallible, and is guided by our belief systems, influenced by particular practices and interpreted with our belief systems. It is not to be trusted. This is why logic and science come in useful as corrective mechanisms.

You, and your teacher, and your mates, and even the Buddha have all had these weird experiences, often brought about by particular practices which mess up your brain a bit, and you interpret them in a certain way. I have Christain friends have reported experiences of being directly in touch with God or the holy spirit. I guess some also experience talking to angels. And their faith is confirmed.

Yes, I have heard of the work of Stevenson, and I don't take it very seriously. If you like, have a look at some stuff critical of his work (just do a web search for his name and "skeptic" and you will find a ton).

Jake:
. I just think it's funny how many secular moderns talk about various afterlife theories as escapist and rarely consider that oblivion at death-- the secular modern assumption-- can also be a defense mechanism (against the actual uncertainty of what if anything is experienced after death). So personally I'm agnostic although some experiences definitely point to the possibility of rebirth, which is rather troubling (and not at all comforting).


If you are agnostic about rebirth, are you also agnostic about the possibility of an afterlife with 72 virgins?

What about Christian miracles? With a bit of googling I can find plenty of people who claim to have personal experience and scientific evidence for those.

What about all those people who have reported experiences of being abducted by aliens? Again, lots of people claiming scientific evidence for this and first person reports.

What about the idea that there are bunch of Gods hanging around Mount Zeus occasionally guiding human affairs?

Daniel M. Ingram :
.
It is worth remembering that the scientific model of the brain and experience involves a mechanical reality about which we know nothing directly at all, so it is still a black box in many ways, one we can extrapolate a lot about, it seems, but those are just models of the workings of the purported thing, so who knows what odd causal mechanism lurk therein, particularly as the Hard Question, that of the mechanism of consciousness, is still totally unsolved, meaning that what creates a sense of the continuity of consciousness is totally unknown, so this remains wide open.


This reminds me of the comment from another thread - we don't know exactly what happens at the beginning of the universe, so who knows, anything is possible...But we do have a pretty good idea of the exact age of the universe, and some good ideas about what happened then. So you use these terms: "who knows" "wide open" "totally unknown" "totally unsolved" - But we are actually making progress in understanding how consciousness works in the brain. We do have some good ideas about it, so I don't know why you say it is a total unknown, or wide open, other than because you want it to be that way thus leaving the door open to whatever else you want to believe is possible.
When you have a patient who comes to your E.R acting weird following a head injury, you probably a reasonable idea of how these two things might be linked. We can make plausible hypotheses and describe others as implausible. Given what we know, the idea that consciousness somehow persists after the brain stops functioning is so implausible as to be absurd, just as with the idea that my actions are controlled by an invisible monster that flys above me controlling my limbs with invisible strings, or that my personality is stored in karmic seeds and my experiences make imprints on these seeds. Thousands of years ago some of these beliefs were reasonable given what we knew about the world. These days, not so much.

A question for AEN:
If you were to accept a different belief system to explain some of the weird experiences you and others have had in your practice (i.e. memories of previous lives are false memories) - would that change anything else? Do any of other your beliefs and experiences about I AM THAT and thou, and no-self and non-duality etc rest in anyway on a belief in reincarnation?

edit:
George S. Lteif:
To address you post title - why would something be a "true" self? I know this terminology is often used, but it seems to be trusted. What makes one self true and another not-true? Is it possible that instead there are just lots of different kinds of selves - things we attach an "I" to?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 7:47 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
That is because you are a Buddhist! I am sure Christians believe the teachings of Jesus are exceptional and Muslims think that the teachings of Muhammad are exceptional, and believing otherwise is dangerous.
I'm actually referring to the intolerance and violence inherent to many of the monotheistic doctrines. It is easy to interpret the scriptures of Quran, for example, to support one's "holy war" against non-believers. It is impossible to use suttas to support such behaviours. It does not mean there are no violent Buddhists, it just means there is no support for any acts of violence in the Buddhist scriptures under any circumstance, unlike some other religions.

Literal interpretation of suttas does not have the downsides that can come with literal interpretations of the scriptures of other religions.

A question for AEN:
If you were to accept a different belief system to explain some of the weird experiences you and others have had in your practice (i.e. memories of previous lives are false memories) - would that change anything else? Do any of other your beliefs and experiences about I AM THAT and thou, and no-self and non-duality etc rest in anyway on a belief in reincarnation?
No it does not.

Also: I AM realization is not non-dual insight, non-dual insight is not anatta insight. Different types/levels of realization.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 8:00 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
AEN

Ok, yes, I agree as religions go Buddhism is a nice one- my point really is that it is just another religion.


A question for AEN:
If you were to accept a different belief system to explain some of the weird experiences you and others have had in your practice (i.e. memories of previous lives are false memories) - would that change anything else? Do any of other your beliefs and experiences about I AM THAT and thou, and no-self and non-duality etc rest in anyway on a belief in reincarnation?


No it does not.


Right, which is what I expected you to say. So other than helping to explain some weird experiences (where other reasonable explanations also exist), what use does the belief have? Why do you seek out evidence to support such a belief? Do you look equally as hard for counter-evidence? Do you act more morally because of this belief, because if you act wrongly you might reincarnated as a toad in a future life? If so, then I can see it has some utility.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 8:32 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Right, which is what I expected you to say. So other than helping to explain some weird experiences (where other reasonable explanations also exist), what use does the belief have? Why do you seek out evidence to support such a belief? Do you look equally as hard for counter-evidence? Do you act more morally because of this belief, because if you act wrongly you might reincarnated as a toad in a future life? If so, then I can see it has some utility.
"Life is like a passing cloud, when it comes to an end, a hundred years is like yesterday, like a snap of a finger. If it is only about one life, it really doesnt matter whether we are enlightened. The insight that the Blessed One has is not just about one life; countless lives we suffered, life after life, unending. Such is suffering.

It is not about logic or science and there is really no point arguing in this scientific age. Take steps in practice and experience the truth of Buddhas words. Of the 3 dharma seals, the truth of suffering to me is most difficult to experience in depth.

May all take Buddhas words seriously.

~ Thusness*, 2006"


p.s. a highly experienced and enlightened dharma friend of mine did tell me he took precepts much more seriously after his tracing back of present-life events to past life karmic causes

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 8:56 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Paweł K:
without this afterlife garbage Buddhism would have been taken much more seriously in our modern world emoticon

it would so beautiful atheistic religion ...

http://www.byomakusuma.org/Teachings/TheUseOfSymbolsAndRitualsInVajrayanaMahayanaBuddhism.aspx

...Here, it is important to distinguish a very important point. Those who have tried to make Buddhism concord with Modernism have constantly harped on the point that the Buddha revolted against all rites and rituals. There are two things wrong with this view. Firstly, this is an attempt to fit the Buddha in a ‘modernist weltanschauung’ as if the Buddha’s view of the world was exactly like what came into existence in the cultures of the Western world after the 17th century due to scientific developments and the Industrial Revolution. Till about 1950, the whole of the Western culture was under the sway of Modernism. Modernism believed that only what was scientific or looked scientific was true, real, fact, un-superstitious; anything else that didn’t look scientific or similar to Physics and Chemistry was false, untrue, and superstitious. Needless to say, many Buddhist scholars and educated Buddhists of that time (especially those Buddhist monk scholars of the British colonial Ceylon) fell for this consensual hypnotic illusion and subscribed rather vociferously to this view. So anything within Buddhism that didn’t look scientific, was not analytically linear, didn’t fit the Cartesian Reductionist linear paradigm was thrown out the window and declared that the Buddha did not actually teach such a thing but rather was brought into Buddhism by latter-day decadent Buddhists.

Symbols and rites and rituals were among those most valuable psychotherapeutic elements which didn’t fit the Modernist paradigm. So they were declared as wholesale non-Buddhist; and they were actually things the Buddha himself actually taught against. However, after the Cognitive Revolution in the West in the 1950’s, Modernism has lost its stranglehold on Western cultural weltanschauung and is no longer considered as the whole and sole criteria to decide what is true and what is not. After the 1950’s, Post-Modernism began to fan out across the Western cultural horizon and Modernism gradually died out. Post-Modernism upholds the fact that the scientific view of life is only one mode of gauging reality and is by no means the whole and sole determinant of what is true or false; and there are alternate modes to experience / evaluate and interpret the world / reality etc. which are equally valid. Now, if we subscribe to these quaint ideas that the Buddha had the same view as the Modernists whose ideas began only after the 17th century and that too in the West; today we automatically make the Buddha outdated in this Post-Modernist world. It is also absurd to believe that the Buddha in the 6th century BC taught what the Modernists believed in the 17th century and refuted whatever these Modernists refuted or saw as false...


http://www.byomakusuma.org/Teachings/MarshlandFlowersPart2.aspx


Issue 35: 24 - 30 September 2007

…Science itself never claims what it cannot measure at the moment as superstitious.

It is through various types of Samatha practice that various Pratiharyas (miraculous powers) also called Siddhi – Riddhis develop as a matter of course; or if they do not easily develop, they can be developed by various specialised mental exercises geared to awaken these potentials in the human mind.

In this era of modernism when the physical science was considered the evaluating measuring rod for the validity of anything, Pratiharyas were suspect. And many Buddhists with modernistic leanings even thought that these were interpolated into the Buddhist scripture by overly naïve simple village folks. Needless to say this was a result of the so called scientific education spawned out by modernism. But the beauty of science is that it moves on and does not remain static.

From the 18th century to the mid 20th century, science progressed in leaps and bounds to such an unimaginable extent that man thought science alone was the answer to all its questions. So the milieu developed in which whatever was scientific was true/ real/valid/non-superstitious and whatever was not scientific was untrue/invalid/superstitious. The progress of physics and other physical sciences was so mind boggling, that its dazzle blinded all those who were part of the era of modernism. But there was a flaw in this thinking and not only Buddhist but also many Hindu Swamis and Yogis also failed to see it.

First of all only what can be measured can be studied by physics and such other physical sciences. Now there are many things which cannot and will never be measured like love/compassion/beauty, the splendour of the Himalayas and so on. We cannot possibly say that such things are unreal/untrue/superstitious. Secondly the physical sciences are limited by the type of instrument available.

That means even those things which could be measurable like the chemical correlates in the brain to love and feel compassion were out of reach of the sciences in the 18th and 19th century. Now are we to say that these brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin etc were all untrue/unreal/superstitious till the mid 20th century, and then they suddenly became real/true/scientific? Such type of thinking is absurd to say the least.

Furthermore, science itself never claims what it cannot measure at the moment as superstitious. It is the half baked ultra-modernist types whose knowledge of science is limited to vague ideas and the enjoyment of consumerist goods produced by science that have these kinds of quaint notions.

As early as 1950 Einstein declared that science cannot and will not answer all the questions and problems of mankind. This is true because rational linear thinking, on which science is based, is only one mode of thinking and knowing available to man. The world view made available through science is only one possible view amongst many other views. And this materialistic reductionist view of science is not only an artificial view extracted out of reality but also it is not more real than any other view.

Using the empirical reductionist positivism (reducing all things to empirically measurable things etc) modus operandi itself, we can question this style of absurd thinking that only what is empirically measurable is true/real/valid/non-superstitious. The million dollar question is, "Is this hypothesis empirically measurable?" Since it is not, by its own logic falls apart.

The central point of Werner Heisenberg in his various books like Physics and Beyond, Across the Frontiers etc is that physics can make only statements about strictly limited relations that are only valid within the framework of those limitations. He also says, "Science tries to give its concepts an objective meaning. But religious language must avoid this very cleavage of the world into its objective and its subjective sides: for who would dare claim the objective side to be more real than the subjective? (To be continued.)


Issue 36: 1 - 7 October 2007

…but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.

Heisenberg warns that spirituality/religious experiences and science/mathematical knowledge are two different modes of thinking and should not be confused. He warns, "many modern creeds which claim that they are, in fact, are not dealing with questions of faith, but are based on scientific knowledge that contain inner contradictions and rest on self-deception." Heinrick Hertz, in his introduction to the Principles of Mechanics says, "a natural science is one whose proposition on limited domains of nature can have only a correspondingly limited validity; that science is not a philosophy developing a world view of nature as a whole or about the essence of things."

Erwin Schroedinger, the Nobel Laureate of Physics in 1933 in his various books like My View of the World, Mind and Matter, Science and Humanism etc says, "I do not think I am prejudiced against the importance that science has from the purely human point of view. But with all that, I cannot believe that (for example) the deep philosophical enquiry into the relation between subject and object and into the true meaning of the distinction between them depends on the quantitative results of physical and chemical measurements with weighing scales, spectroscopes, microscopes, telescopes, with Geiger-Muller counters, Wilson chambers, photographic plates, arrangements for measuring the radio-active decay, and what not……

Further Schroedinger says, "The scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experiences in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight, it knows nothing about beautiful and ugly, good or bad,…Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously…….Whence come I and wither go I? That is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it.”

The well known Nobel Laureate of Physics in 1921, Einstein perhaps the most well known scientist of the 20th century says in his Ideas and Opinions: Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.

Ken Wilber, a distinguished scientist in his own right and a prolific writer says in his Quantum Questions: “Modern science, in its beginning, was characterised by a conscious modesty; it made statements about strictly limited relations that are only valid within the framework of these limitations…..This modesty was largely lost during the nineteenth century. Physical knowledge was considered to make assertions about nature as a whole. Physics wished to turn philosopher and the demand was voiced from many quarters that all true philosophers must be scientific.”

This was the era named modernism, and we can see that the influence of modernism is found in almost all writing on religion, be it Buddhism or Hinduism or philosophy; during this period. Many Buddhist scholars of that period like Rahula Sankrityayana, Dr. Ambedkar are stalwarts of modernistic interpretation of Buddhism. Modernism lasted in the West till about the mid twentieth century when the cognitive revolution, threw modernism overboard and a new era of post modernism began in the west.

Many writers like Ken Wilber are of the opinion that post modernism is also on its death throes in the West and it is looking for another world view. But alas Nepal, as usual always behind time compared to the rest of the world is still in the throttling grasp of modernism, although a smattering of writers talk about post-modernism, the brunt of the Nepalese weltanschauung (worldview) is still pretty much coloured by modernism, which was itself blinded by the view that the one and only truth/fact/reality were what was compatible with the empirical, reductionist positivism that believed that only what could be measured by scientific instruments was real. (To be continued.)

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 5:07 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Paweł K:

how are you supposed to attain anything without contemplating and accepting your imminent total obliteration?


How are we supposed to 'claim attainments' without seeing this moment to moment? Or.... at least a few times a day? Or, seeing one's never having existed? (at least once in a while lol...).

On the topic of the boltzman brain, it's interesting again how often the *culture* of science (or scientism) often reproduces metaphysics with roots in the theistic traditions... like the big bang, or like the idea of Universe as a simulation. I mean, it's not surprising from a historical-sociological-cultural-anthro perspective that a contemporary culture would reproduce fundamental concepts of its lineage in different words and economic contexts... but it is still funny. Funny how fundamentalist that mindset can be.

Also, I agree, an atheistic take on Universe is way more comforting (not to mention in many many ways more logical etc). Just a shame that often gets wrapped up in other things like materialism etc.

ETA: and no offence to theists of any stripe, I'm merely exhibiting my own inclination to prefer one model to another and hinting at a few of the reasons... but what do I know anyhow. I'm starting to think real gnosis in this day and age has to be agnostic on many many fronts-- hence the value of pragmatic-existentialist approaches to the interpretation of life.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 11:00 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
Paweł K:
I always had issues believing that there is Boltzmann brain in the middle of void and we are but its dream... it just doesn't sparkle with me and only thing it gives me are cold shivers and fear

atheism on the other hand make my heart burn with bright light of comfort and safety

just meditate about this: total obliteration of all beings whether they are born from eggs, from wombs, from moisture, or by transformation; whether or not they have form; whether they have thoughts or no thoughts, or have neither thought nor non-thought, they will be liberated to nirvana without exception at their death. Isn't it most wonderful and reassuring thought of all that real Buddhist (by which I mean those who entered stream of Buddha teaching) can have?

how are you supposed to attain anything without contemplating and accepting your imminent total obliteration?
If there is no rebirth after death, that would in fact be comforting and wonderful, but from the perspective of Buddha that view of annihilation is a wrong view, and because there is rebirth (without beginning) therefore the urgency and importance for right effort in right view and right practice, leading towards enlightenment and liberation, putting an end to this cycle of rebirth and suffering. Buddha's teaching on the suffering we faced in countless births led to dispassion and liberation*.

*http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn15/sn15.013.than.html


SN 15.13
PTS: S ii 187
CDB i 658
Timsa Sutta: Thirty
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 2009

Now on that occasion the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagaha, in the Bamboo Grove. Then thirty monks from Pava — all wilderness dwellers, all alms-goers, all triple-robe wearers, all still with fetters — went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side.

Then the thought occurred to the Blessed One, "These thirty monks from Pava... are all still with fetters. What if I were to teach them the Dhamma in such a way that in this very sitting their minds, through lack of clinging, would be released from fermentations?"

So he addressed the monks: "Monks."

"Yes, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks? Which is greater, the blood you have shed from having your heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, or the water in the four great oceans?"

"As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the blood we have shed from having our heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, not the water in the four great oceans."

"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

"This is the greater: the blood you have shed from having your heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, not the water in the four great oceans.

"The blood you have shed when, being cows, you had your cow-heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"The blood you have shed when, being water buffaloes, you had your water buffalo-heads cut off... when, being rams, you had your ram-heads cut off... when, being goats, you had your goat-heads cut off... when, being deer, you had your deer-heads cut off... when, being chickens, you had your chicken-heads cut off... when, being pigs, you had your pig-heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"The blood you have shed when, arrested as thieves plundering villages, you had your heads cut off... when, arrested as highway thieves, you had your heads cut off... when, arrested as adulterers, you had your heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans.

"Why is that? From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabrications, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words. And while this explanation was being given, the minds of the thirty monks from Pava — through lack of clinging — were released from fermentations.
See also: SN 15.3.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 3:59 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
AEN

I was interested in how your belief system in reincarnation operates in your experience, and if it was necessary to any of your other beliefs. You answered a couple of questions, which I thank you for, but most of your responses are just quotes from other people. I am not sure what to make of this, other than reincarnation is not so important for you and not something you can explain - rather it is just part of the religions culture you are immersed in. And providing more ancedotal reports doesn't address the points I raised in my post.

Jake:
"Sawfoot, I'm agnostic about what experientially happens-- if anything-- after my bodily death. I just don't know what if anything happens or doesn't happen. Neither do you. If it makes you happy and helps you deal with your admitted fear of death to pretend that you know, then more power to you. Have you ever considered that the fear of not knowing is more fundamental than the fear of death? "

I don't "know" - I just think some possibilities are more likely than others, and some are so unlikely as to be effectively ruled out. And it doesn't make me happy. But it is an interesting question - I don't think you can really discriminate easily from the fear of not knowing and the fear of death. As I see it, death is by very nature unimaginable, but the possibility of not knowing is hard to conceptualise. I can't imagine my own non-existence. And as side note, if reincarnation were true, it will still involve some kind of annihilation of what I take to me, if I ended up getting born into the body of toad it probably be hard for me to remember my past lives, so effective "me" would effectively be non-existent. Heaven or the 72 virgins, on the other hand, is easier to conceptualise, so I can see why it is so popular.

Jake & Daniel:

You both ignored my questions about whether you are agnostic about the possibility of an afterlife with 72 virgins (and so on). This was a serious question! If we admit the hard problem of consciosuness, is this possibility wide open too?

Daniel:

"we are all guessing and extrapolating and modeling, and the models don't explain all that we see happening, so they clearly are lacking."

Yes, this is called science! Models are always lacking. But some are better than others. What do you think is a better model - the brain produces consciousness or the invisible monster above my head? That consciousness is linked to the activity of the heart? Or caused by movements of the foot? Do you think think our models have improved over time? Surely you don't think that is possible for a single scientific paper to provide a definitive answer to anything, so I am not sure why you ask for one.

"absolutely no idea why there is consciousness" - again, do you really believe that to be true? If we have absolutely no idea, then anything could be possible. Do you think consciousness exists just so people can worship the goat devil Krekengaard, creator of the universe? Do you think that it is likely that consciousness may have evolved in living organisms as part of a mechanism to enhance adaptive and complex decision making through the construction of a world, body and self model? Which is more plausible to you?

re: Near Death Experiences
There was a interesting study on these recently, which actually does give a suggestion of a mechanism - increase in gamma synchrony (funnily enough, increases in gamma are also associated with peak meditation experiences)

http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2013/aug/12/dying-brains-conscious-experience

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 4:45 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
AEN

I was interested in how your belief system in reincarnation operates in your experience, and if it was necessary to any of your other beliefs. You answered a couple of questions, which I thank you for, but most of your responses are just quotes from other people. I am not sure what to make of this, other than reincarnation is not so important for you and not something you can explain - rather it is just part of the religions culture you are immersed in. And providing more ancedotal reports doesn't address the points I raised in my post.
Rebirth underpins the reason why Buddhists want to seek an end of suffering. If it were only suffering of one lifetime, it is not so much of a big problem. Dharma practice is not really important if there is only one life. One life passes very quickly. Whatever problems we have will be gone in a relatively short while in the cosmic scale. The problem that Buddha and dharma practitioners are trying to solve is a much, much bigger problem. Dharma is not just about meditating to get some peace of mind. It goes far deeper than that, it takes the whole unravelling of the knot of perception, the root ignorance and the 12 links of afflictive dependent origination causing samsara.

As Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm Smith pointed out:


Whoever is attached to a result for this life, is not a Dharma person.

The purpose of Dharma is liberation, not feeling better in this life. The purpose of Dharma is not the cultivation of mundane compassion, and so on.

The purpose of Dharma is to control afflictions, then overcome them, and finally, to attain a state of total omniscience and freedom.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 9:39 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:

I don't "know" - I just think some possibilities are more likely than others, and some are so unlikely as to be effectively ruled out.
...
Models are always lacking. But some are better than others. What do you think is a better model - the brain produces consciousness or the invisible monster above my head? That consciousness is linked to the activity of the heart? Or caused by movements of the foot?
...
"absolutely no idea why there is consciousness" - again, do you really believe that to be true? If we have absolutely no idea, then anything could be possible. Do you think consciousness exists just so people can worship the goat devil Krekengaard, creator of the universe?
...
Which is more plausible to you?


Sawfoot, just as an aside, you are again defending some idea about what a scientific approach would be, which, as I see it, is very different from what actual scientists would say. If actual scientists encounter a situation in which the only way forward is to appeal to the plausibility of one model over the other, the typical response is to immediately drop the subject and move on to more promising topics. That is the reason why the hard question has almost never seriously been touched by science: there is obviously no way in for empirical, third person investigation, so the question is dropped, period. That's your genuine scientific response:indifference, disinterest, not caring one bit.

As to plausibility: it is a question of common sense, not of science. It rests on unexamined assumptions. As long as we don't understand why we find this more plausible than that, plausibility doesn't help.

I'm not saying that your argument is wrong or that your questions don't matter, but portraying your standpoint as the scientific one is mistaken in my opinion.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 11:01 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
Christian B

The point is of inference to the best explanation. I am using plausibility as a term to describe one metric for determining whether one theory is better than another in order to choose between them. Obviously one could look into the factors that make one theory more plausible or "better" than another, and I agree it is important to analyse those assumptions. So we can drop the term plausibility if you don't like it, fine. The point is that some descriptions are in some way "better" than others. However you want to define that, I am guessing that Daniel, for example, probably thinks that reincarnation is more likely/better/more plausible than the 72 virgins idea. while at the time is seeming to suggest that any explanation is possible.

I think the "the hard problem" is quite possibly just a big red herring, but that is another subject.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 1:22 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
The point is that some descriptions are in some way "better" than others. However you want to define that, I am guessing that Daniel, for example, probably thinks that reincarnation is more likely/better/more plausible than the 72 virgins idea.


There are three possibilities, as I see it: maybe you can decide which theory is better based on empirical evidence. That's the ideal case, and the case with which science is concerned.

If that doesn't work, you might still be able to identify pragmatic reasons. For example, if one theory is simpler (involves fewer concepts), is easier to understand, or is more familiar, it might be better than an alternative one, just because it is more practical. This is where most of the discussions here on this board are. If I for example had experiences of remembering past lives, a theory about rebirth would appeal to me more than your 27 virgins, but I would still have to admit that my choice is idiosyncratic and based on use value only.

If neither evidence nor pragmatic reasons help, the only thing left is personal taste. This is where the feeling that x is "somehow" better than y lives. This is the realm of common sense, the unexamined assumptions etc. Finding common ground or even communicating well can be very hard if tastes differ.

So my suggestion would be: assume that people choose their view based on some combination of taste and personal assessment of usefulness, based on their experience. If you want to convince somebody that your approach is better, try showing them how it is useful for them.

edited for spelling & clarity

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 11:53 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Yes, this is called science! Models are always lacking. But some are better than others. What do you think is a better model - the brain produces consciousness or the invisible monster above my head? That consciousness is linked to the activity of the heart? Or caused by movements of the foot?

"absolutely no idea why there is consciousness" - again, do you really believe that to be true? If we have absolutely no idea, then anything could be possible. Do you think consciousness exists just so people can worship the goat devil Krekengaard, creator of the universe? Do you think that it is likely that consciousness may have evolved in living organisms as part of a mechanism to enhance adaptive and complex decision making through the construction of a world, body and self model? Which is more plausible to you?

re: Near Death Experiences
There was a interesting study on these recently, which actually does give a suggestion of a mechanism - increase in gamma synchrony (funnily enough, increases in gamma are also associated with peak meditation experiences)

http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2013/aug/12/dying-brains-conscious-experience


OK, interesting reflections, thanks Sawfoot.

A couple questions:
Why assume consciousness is caused at all?

Related question: What are you calling consciousness? Are we talking about bare sentience? The fact of sensations? Or are you talking about higher order phenomena such as self-referential concepts and narratives?

Basically, I think there are lots of assumptions buried in your line of reasoning as quoted above, which assumptions are all very understandable with a background in sociology,. history etc as they evolved for particular reasons in particular epochs and survive for certain reasons today but I don't think those reasons have much to do with truth, rather more to do with the way culture and conformity function (and often function to cover up for the fear of the unknown).

The example you give of a 'mechanism' which explains NDE's is a perfect one to expose some of those assumptions.. after all, no one says 'ah the occipital lobes! finally we have a mechanism to explain all these visual illusions like my coffee cup here!' In other words, one set of phenomena are suddenly illusions when we find 'the physical mechanism' and another set of phenomena are just... what?... mediated by the brain but really there? Now of course I'm not saying there is no difference between hallucinations and other perceptions... but isn't it interesting how that bias functions? (I.e., that the facticity of phenomena which are doubted by the mainstream are 'proven' to 'just be due to a brain thing' when we identify a correlated brain structure, but things which the dominant culture believes in just have brain regions which are evolved to register their actual existence?)

The basic metaphysics which underly science are solipsistic (only I have experience) and materialistic (there is no experience) combined. It's hilarious!

Oh, and giving an evolutionary explanation for 'consciousness'? That is really absurd because everything can be explained in terms of stimuli in- processing- behavior out. No need for consciousness. Plenty of technological artefacts have the capacity to model things inlcuding themselves but we don't attribute consciousness to them. So this is clearly no 'explanation' for consciousness. I'm suggesting, the whole metaphysical set up is just incapable of dealing with the issue, period, and the closer we get to actually dealing with the issue, the more we will have to question those basic frameworks.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 10:34 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Sawfoot, I'm agnostic about what experientially happens-- if anything-- after my bodily death. I just don't know what if anything happens or doesn't happen. Neither do you. If it makes you happy and helps you deal with your admitted fear of death to pretend that you know, then more power to you. Have you ever considered that the fear of not knowing is more fundamental than the fear of death?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 10:01 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:


Daniel M. Ingram :
.
It is worth remembering that the scientific model of the brain and experience involves a mechanical reality about which we know nothing directly at all, so it is still a black box in many ways, one we can extrapolate a lot about, it seems, but those are just models of the workings of the purported thing, so who knows what odd causal mechanism lurk therein, particularly as the Hard Question, that of the mechanism of consciousness, is still totally unsolved, meaning that what creates a sense of the continuity of consciousness is totally unknown, so this remains wide open.


This reminds me of the comment from another thread - we don't know exactly what happens at the beginning of the universe, so who knows, anything is possible...But we do have a pretty good idea of the exact age of the universe, and some good ideas about what happened then. So you use these terms: "who knows" "wide open" "totally unknown" "totally unsolved" - But we are actually making progress in understanding how consciousness works in the brain. We do have some good ideas about it, so I don't know why you say it is a total unknown, or wide open, other than because you want it to be that way thus leaving the door open to whatever else you want to believe is possible.
When you have a patient who comes to your E.R acting weird following a head injury, you probably a reasonable idea of how these two things might be linked. We can make plausible hypotheses and describe others as implausible. Given what we know, the idea that consciousness somehow persists after the brain stops functioning is so implausible as to be absurd, just as with the idea that my actions are controlled by an invisible monster that flys above me controlling my limbs with invisible strings, or that my personality is stored in karmic seeds and my experiences make imprints on these seeds. Thousands of years ago some of these beliefs were reasonable given what we knew about the world. These days, not so much.


Actually, we have absolutely no idea why there is consciousness. The relatively obvious and trivial point about head injury and the ED and the like totally misses the point about why there is perception and what it is, which we can say lots of things about what we generally think the necessary causal mechanisms seem to be from our point of view, but there is a reason it is called the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Thousands of years ago they also noticed things like people with their skulls bashed in didn't seem to move much or seem to perceive, as well as noting that when they got hit in the head they didn't seem to perceive things as well: nothing particularly new there.

You still miss the basic point of what experience IS, exactly how it emerges from the things we call neurons with receptors and all of that. We are still extrapolating much and still don't know the fundamentals at all. It is still very much Plato's Cave in this regard.

Point me to the scientific study that explains why there is perception and exactly how it works and exactly what underlies it: best wishes in that regard. Look in the literature for a definitive mechanism: if you have that, then you can say much, but without that, we are all guessing and extrapolating and modeling, and the models don't explain all that we see happening, so they clearly are lacking.

The Near Death Experience literature is fascinating, but it is still totally phenomenological, not mechanical, assuming there is such a thing, as all mechanism is still an extrapolation from the sensate phenomena, albeit often some resulting in some very predictive extrapolations, but that doesn't rise to the level of perfectly verifiable ontology.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 12:47 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Does this relate to reincarnation in any way? I never really understood this...What exactly reincarnates?


Is your question what do buddhists believe reincarnates? AEN gives an answer (though I am not sure if actually believes this?)

You probably haven't understood this because it doesn't make much sense. Candles can't light other candles if the candle is out, to make use of a bad metaphor.

Selves (whatever level you describe them at) don't like the thought of no longer existing. And so they make stuff to make themselves feel better (commonly taking the form of religions).
I believe in literal rebirth, and there are countless practitioners that have memories of them. I do not believe they are merely imagining them. Even some of the non-practitioners of Dharma do have memories of past lives.

Take for instance also, Dr. Ian Stevenson's research into the past lives of children. These children have vivid memories and are 'proven' to be accurate, and they have no prior knowledge or contact with those places (in their present lifetime) or people and so on. These reports were published in well known scientific and medical journals.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 1:37 PM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:


Take for instance also, Dr. Ian Stevenson's research into the past lives of children. These children have vivid memories and are 'proven' to be accurate, and they have no prior knowledge or contact with those places (in their present lifetime) or people and so on. These reports were published in well known scientific and medical journals.


I'm not sure if this is the same study but I remember reading one where they tested a large number of folks with hypnotic regression and then catalogued their remembered 'past lives'. After analyzing the results the authors were surprised to discover that they were consistent with what we knew about the time periods in question in terms of demographics and statistical likelihood of leading various lifestyles. In other words there were no or very very few exciting memories of being even moderately wealthy or interesting; and certainly no Cleopatras etc. Also there were some memories which were corroborated through subsequent research when details were checked etc. Pretty interesting stuff.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/19/13 7:22 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
yeah
screw that whole chapter
just practice well

daniel

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 3:42 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
George S. Lteif:

If all the 5 aggregates (including consciounsess) are impermanent, then who is watching the aggregates arise and pass away? Is it awareness? If so, then what is awareness, isn't is subject to the 3Cs as well?


One simple but useful perspective on this is that awareness/consciousness arises together with its objects. That is: Consciousness/awareness only arises if there are certain conditions in place, most importantly, if there is something to be aware of. And conversely, objects only arise if there is consciousness/awareness (as well as some other conditions). If you look at it this way, you don't need the assumption of a lasting awareness/consciousness into which / out of which phenomena arise. Instead, consciousness/awareness can be seen to be tied to its objects, and therefore as being causal, dukkha, impersonal.

I like this viewpoint because it seems to be more or less consistent with the Pail Canon view and it also helps explain what happens at fruition: The conditions for consciousness and objects to arise are suspended, because the 3Cs are seen clearly for a moment - and so, consciousness and its objects temporarily cease.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 4:49 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
I came across this explanation somewhere. I like it as well. With the same approach and simplicity, how do you think rebirth can be explained?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 5:43 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
Causality need not imply continuity of separate, independent existence.

Continuity, separateness and independence are extrapolated all the time from ordinary, causal, dependent, discrete sensations.

Reality seems to function just fine regardless.

There is clearly generally what might be loosely termed continuity of consciousness and personality across one's life from an ordinary, extrapolated, relative point of view, despite the fact that this is not strictly true from an ultimate point of view.

It is just a hop, skip and an existential jump to do the same thing "across lives", but mechanisms for this are going to be in the realm of pure speculation.

It is worth remembering that the scientific model of the brain and experience involves a mechanical reality about which we know nothing directly at all, so it is still a black box in many ways, one we can extrapolate a lot about, it seems, but those are just models of the workings of the purported thing, so who knows what odd causal mechanism lurk therein, particularly as the Hard Question, that of the mechanism of consciousness, is still totally unsolved, meaning that what creates a sense of the continuity of consciousness is totally unknown, so this remains wide open.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 11:20 AM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
George S. Lteif:
. With the same approach and simplicity, how do you think rebirth can be explained?


I don't really have an answer for that, but one could think along the following lines:

The fact that I am alive and the ways in which I act in this world have effects on other beings. These effects include that what I do can (and in most cases inevitably will) cause other beings to be born and to live in this world which in part is shaped by my actions. I could leave an apple on the kitchen counter for two weeks and fruit flys will hatch. I could plant some stuff in my garden and all kinds of insects and animals appear. I could breed chickens or rabbits. I could have children of my own etc.

Now there is no reason to suppose that this fact - that my life conditions other lives - ends with my death. Maybe I write a love song that brings couples together who would otherwise never have met. Maybe in this way, children are born who would not have been born if I had lived my life differently. There are millions of possibilities here and therefore, it's pure speculation and actually not worth the effort. But on a very general level, I think a secular and down to earth way of understanding the the teachings on rebirth is that my existence and the way I live my life can and most likely will condition other lives, and this conditioning will continue long after this body has fallen apart.

This understanding can be helpful because it underscores the importance of morality, which in my opinion is the main point of the buddha's teaching on rebirth, while leaving out most of the metaphysics. But there are lots of loose ends, for example, this view doesn't account for the possibility of remembering past lives.

Thoughts?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 1:28 PM as a reply to Christian Calamus.

I don't really have an answer for that, but one could think along the following lines:

The fact that I am alive and the ways in which I act in this world have effects on other beings. These effects include that what I do can (and in most cases inevitably will) cause other beings to be born and to live in this world which in part is shaped by my actions. I could leave an apple on the kitchen counter for two weeks and fruit flys will hatch. I could plant some stuff in my garden and all kinds of insects and animals appear. I could breed chickens or rabbits. I could have children of my own etc.

Now there is no reason to suppose that this fact - that my life conditions other lives - ends with my death. Maybe I write a love song that brings couples together who would otherwise never have met. Maybe in this way, children are born who would not have been born if I had lived my life differently. There are millions of possibilities here and therefore, it's pure speculation and actually not worth the effort. But on a very general level, I think a secular and down to earth way of understanding the the teachings on rebirth is that my existence and the way I live my life can and most likely will condition other lives, and this conditioning will continue long after this body has fallen apart.

This understanding can be helpful because it underscores the importance of morality, which in my opinion is the main point of the buddha's teaching on rebirth, while leaving out most of the metaphysics. But there are lots of loose ends, for example, this view doesn't account for the possibility of remembering past lives.

Thoughts?

I guess this line of thinking make sense. I have always struggled with the metaphyics especially in other religions. Buddhism seemed very scientific and rational yet while discussing with some friends recently, I realised that I have never really pondered over re-birth and Buddhist cosmology. I am hoping to find some answers and explanations. Christianity is already full of myths and stories that have never evolved with time. I have a hunch that this is the same case in all traditions (could be wrong) emoticon

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 3:07 PM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
AEN:
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I forgot to thank you for illustrating my point so nicely in your last post.

Christian B
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"There are three possibilities..."

I find this too simplistic to account for people actually form their beliefs, though maybe it is a way to think about how people like to think they form their beliefs.

Certainly a pragmatic view is popular on these forums, and scientific approaches are often misunderstood, actively disliked, or ignored (often some combination of all of those). To me it seems like pragmatic view (or the belief of adopting a pragmatic view) leads one to make some serious errors in reasoning, and it is worth exposing those. Certainly exploring why we cling onto certain beliefs or adopt particular ones (like reincarnation, or materialism) is interesting and worth exploring from a practice point of view.

Jake
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Just to note, I don't think I brought up consciousness, I was just responding to Daniel playing his "hard problem" card to say that "anything is possible". My use of the word mechanism was in response to the term used by him. Talking about consiousness is hard, and the word itself and its common usage is problematic, and easy to nitpick, so I may/may have used it in a clumsy way.

I would assume that consciousness does have a cause, in that certain states of the brain are associated with consciousness, whereas some states of the brain are not associated with consciousness, like in deep sleep and with anesthesia.

"The example you give of a 'mechanism' which explains NDE's is a perfect one to expose some of those assumptions.. after all, no one says 'ah the occipital lobes! finally we have a mechanism to explain all these visual illusions like my coffee cup here!' In other words, one set of phenomena are suddenly illusions when we find 'the physical mechanism' and another set of phenomena are just... what?... mediated by the brain but really there? Now of course I'm not saying there is no difference between hallucinations and other perceptions... but isn't it interesting how that bias functions? (I.e., that the facticity of phenomena which are doubted by the mainstream are 'proven' to 'just be due to a brain thing' when we identify a correlated brain structure, but things which the dominant culture believes in just have brain regions which are evolved to register their actual existence?)"

I am little confused by some of what you say here, but if I understand what you are saying this seems pretty straighforward from an evolutionary point of view.

"The basic metaphysics which underly science are solipsistic (only I have experience) and materialistic (there is no experience) combined. It's hilarious! "

I think I pointed out above that materialism does not mean you have to deny experience. It seems to me that you want to cling to that straw man to make it easier to dismiss. Why do you think you want to do that?

"Oh, and giving an evolutionary explanation for 'consciousness'? That is really absurd because everything can be explained in terms of stimuli in- processing- behavior out. No need for consciousness. Plenty of technological artefacts have the capacity to model things inlcuding themselves but we don't attribute consciousness to them. So this is clearly no 'explanation' for consciousness. I'm suggesting, the whole metaphysical set up is just incapable of dealing with the issue, period, and the closer we get to actually dealing with the issue, the more we will have to question those basic frameworks. "

Elsewhere it seemed you had some understanding of contemporary philosophy of mind. However, this statement comes across as unsophisticated and a tad extreme. Do you have anything positive to offer as an alternative, other than these repeated calls to question frameworks? If you know about contemporary philosophy of mind, I assume you are familiar with people trying to do that. Any of these approaches you like?

Oh, and no answer on the questions about agnosticism? And further:
What do you think is more interesting - the discussion of philosophy or what our desire to have this discussions and our positions reveal about our hang ups?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 2:37 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/21/13 3:41 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Sawfoot, some good points. As for contemporary philosophy of mind, what I am aware of it seems pretty much in the anglo-american tradition, which is obviously not my thing when it comes to philosophy. I have read a few books in that tradition and found them to rotate around the solipsistic/materialistic extremes. But like I said-- that is not much my thing.

As for something positive: I prefer phenomenology, pragmatism and existentialism as styles of thinking to approach some of these questions over the analytical anglo-american approach.

R.E materialism: what I am trying to point out is that we can actually explain everything evolutionarily relevant without referencing consciousness at all. Machines which process data, whether organic or not, have no need for consciousness. They just require input-processing-output and when we look at brains, that is exactly what we see. We then correlate that to different kinds of consciousness by asking people what they experience when different parts of their brains light up in an fMRI. So I am not aware of an evolutionary 'explanation' of consciousness.

Also, to be fair, I've pointed out in a few places in this and/or other threads where this has come up recently that I do indeed have a hang up about this in the sense that when it comes up I feel like responding. I totally admit that. It is one of those things that bugs me, perhaps as pseudo-science bugs you. And I do think it's interesting from a practice perspective to engage in these conversations with part of my mind operating on a meta level to see if and how I get bothered and/or upset as an impulse to respond.

So that level is definitely important and I'm happy to 'out' it. I do think the issues are worth considering as well, on their own terms. And I genuinely do find it interesting that people often seem more interested in knowing what happens after death than not knowing. As for the 72 virgins, you seem to feel that is a very important point though I'm not sure why, but yeah I guess ultimately I'm agnostic about that possibility as well. However, like yourself, I do find certain possibilities more probably or plausible than others. Personally I find oblivion or continuing to experience in some different form most likely, and a tough call to say one is more likely than the other. But when it comes down to it, I think the hard problem is actually pointing at something very significant, something limiting about the basic assumptions of mainstream science, which is the assumption of some kind of dualism between consciousness and matter, whether traditional dualism or emergentist. I just think that whole fabrication is starting from an unnecessary premise (that consciousness and matter are ontologically distinct, rather than for instance two properties of Universe, like sides of a coin).

I think everything we know about physics, biology, social sciences and phenomenology can happily coexist if we just assume that matter and consciousness are two sides of the same thing, and what emerges are different orders of both, not one from the other. So I guess that is where I lean when I think metaphysically about what might be the case. This means a definition of consciousness which is extremely simple, indeed, but if this simple basic sentience is the same as matter in some sense, then there is no hard problem, and I'm not aware of how this assumption would upset any established science but it would have the virtue of stopping endless investigations into what causes what. As far as I can tell it's just as justified as other metaphysical assumptions about the relationship between matter and consciousness, and like them it is completely metaphysical, but it has the virtue of starting with a premise that won't end up with either extreme of solipsism or materialism. What do you think about that?

P.S. Sorry if I've been a bit sarcastic in some of my replies! There's really no need for that. Perhaps that's one of my personal take aways from these conversations, or something that I'm working out in process through these conversations. Thanks for the help with that ;)

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/22/13 5:11 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Hi Jake, thanks for your response.

>> "R.E materialism: what I am trying to point out is that we can actually explain everything evolutionarily relevant without referencing consciousness at all. Machines which process data, whether organic or not, have no need for consciousness. They just require input-processing-output and when we look at brains, that is exactly what we see. We then correlate that to different kinds of consciousness by asking people what they experience when different parts of their brains light up in an fMRI. So I am not aware of an evolutionary 'explanation' of consciousness."

So you are referring to is the "zombie" argument. There are many views on this. Many philosophers seem to think it is a significant problem, and in your formulation it seems to lead to the conclusion that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, which is a position most people would want to avoid. My position is that consciousness experience, or qualia, is integral to the kind of information processing that complex minds do, and evolved as part of an evolutionary adaptive strategy to guide behaviour, and as such, zombies without qualia wouldn't be able to engage in the kinds of complex behaviours that humans normally exhibit. So brains that produce consciousness evolved because it has a function, and it has a cause.

>> "Personally I find oblivion or continuing to experience in some different form most likely, and a tough call to say one is more likely than the other. But when it comes down to it, I think the hard problem is actually pointing at something very significant, something limiting about the basic assumptions of mainstream science, which is the assumption of some kind of dualism between consciousness and matter, whether traditional dualism or emergentist. I just think that whole fabrication is starting from an unnecessary premise (that consciousness and matter are ontologically distinct, rather than for instance two properties of Universe, like sides of a coin). "

While dualism is an easy and natural to position fall into for many individual, you are claiming that the assumption of mainstream science is that consciousness and matter are ontological distinct, which doesn't sound correct to me at all. As I understand it, the point of materialism or physicalism is that there is only kind of "thing" - matter/energy.

That consciousness and matter are "two sides of a coin" is a position that a materialist could take - though avoiding the thorny notion of "property" - if consciousness states are in some sense the same as brain states (i.e. some form of identity theory), then we can see that they have different aspects. I am sympathetic to that kind of perspective.

>> "I think everything we know about physics, biology, social sciences and phenomenology can happily coexist if we just assume that matter and consciousness are two sides of the same thing, and what emerges are different orders of both, not one from the other. So I guess that is where I lean when I think metaphysically about what might be the case. This means a definition of consciousness which is extremely simple, indeed, but if this simple basic sentience is the same as matter in some sense, then there is no hard problem, and I'm not aware of how this assumption would upset any established science but it would have the virtue of stopping endless investigations into what causes what. As far as I can tell it's just as justified as other metaphysical assumptions about the relationship between matter and consciousness, and like them it is completely metaphysical, but it has the virtue of starting with a premise that won't end up with either extreme of solipsism or materialism. What do you think about that?"

"if this simple basic sentience is the same as matter in some sense, then there is no hard problem"… This sounds like panpsychism to me. This position has become more philosophically respectable in recent years. For example, it sounds vaguely like what Dave Chalmers might say perhaps, the guy who coined and popularised the term the "hard problem" - and if you take the hard problem seriously then it is one road you can end up at.

I do also spend much time thinking about why I engage in these discussions, and normally come to the conclusion that I should be spending my time doing other things, so I will do my best to bow out for now.

p.s.
I came across this debate recently, which is really nicely presented, as you get to see the slides and the speakers, and the topic will be of interest to people to this forum and relevant to these discussions - personally I would side with Owen Flanagan and really like the way he formulates the materialist position and the "hard problem".


###############################################

http://video.at.northwestern.edu/2013/03-04_CogSci/CogSci_03-04-13.P2G/NewStandardPlayer.html?plugin=HTML5

Evan Thompson - Owen Flanagan debate
Understanding Consciousness: Is Physicalism Enough?

Thompson's Position: The scientific method gives us no direct and independent access to consciousness itself--no direct access, because third-person observations are always of the behavioral and physiological expressions of consciousness, not consciousness itself; and no independent access because the scientific method itself presupposes consciousness, so we must unavoidably use consciousness to study consciousness. Full recognition of this situation demands that the neuroscience of consciousness include an ineliminable phenomenological component. Some of the phenomenological resources for such a "neurophenomenology" of consciousness can be found in Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist contemplative methods of training the mind.

Flanagan's Position: Subjective realism is the view that the hard problem of consciousness is psychological and epistemological, not metaphysical. Conscious mental states are physical states that have an epistemically irreducible phenomenological or experiential character. The subjective realist acknowledges that providing a first-person phenomenology is a burden for a full theory of the conscious mind, and like the anti-physicalist has things to say about the rules for doing good phenomenology. The worry about many Buddhist methods of mind-training is that they are too theory-laden to deliver the kind of neutral, pure phenomenology needed by the science of the mind.


p.p.s

George S. Lteif

>> " I guess this line of thinking make sense. I have always struggled with the metaphyics especially in other religions. Buddhism seemed very scientific and rational yet while discussing with some friends recently, I realised that I have never really pondered over re-birth and Buddhist cosmology. I am hoping to find some answers and explanations. Christianity is already full of myths and stories that have never evolved with time. I have a hunch that this is the same case in all traditions (could be wrong) emoticon
"

Here is a really nice short description of how rebirth/reincarnation emerged in buddhist religion (and its roots), and a discussion of it, in a paper by Flanagan:

I would say your hunch is correct. And remembering past lives is an example of a false memory. There is a huge literature on this and is not something that you have to puzzle much over explaining.

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usc.edu%2Fschools%2Fcollege%2Fcrcc%2Fprivate%2Fflanagan_lectures%2FScience_for_Monks.pdf&ei=ikpmUtKAAYX70gX384GoDQ&usg=AFQjCNGc3VzWcloOvWVdHdafD-crup7JFQ&sig2=yny_2yq3wNdzn5oia5KfdA

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 4:06 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Interesting developments in this discussion (considering the OP).

I like some of what you guys have written and I dislike some of it, too.

The matter of rebirth has come to seem to me a knowable matter. When I hold that in mind (that the facticity of rebirth is knowable) and then read your philosophical-metaphysical theoretical duking-it-out, I get discouraged.

I hate to be that guy, but... why don't you guys go find out, for yourselves, for real?

I already know the answer to that, though. I'm a heady intellectual myself; What a thrill—almost erotic—a good, thoroughly abstract discussion is. God dammit, I swear intellectual masturbation is the most potent drug, the most insidious addiction.

I mean this in all seriousness.

If the planets happen to align and you can temporarily bypass that reflexive, knee-jerk intellectualization, then consider the following:

Your mind moves, but it doesn't move like your body. Notice how your mind moves. It's not easy to see and it is difficult to understand because you are so used to understanding movement in the way that your body and other physical objects move. Notice how your mind moves; how it comes to objects.

Why do we use the expression "absentminded"? Usually this expression means to be absorbed in an object or train of thought that is re-moved from the "current situation"—meaning the body and it's immediate environment. This expression (and simple observation) demonstrates that the mind can "move away" from the body. Deeply consider this.

At night, when you are sleeping, dreams appear. Often in dreams you find that there is a body in an environment. How have your mind come to this dream body in this dream environment? Your mind is definitely not attending to your snoring body lying in bed, sleeping. How has your mind moved?

But much more importantly, notice that basic dumbfoundedness that drenches your mind, that basic deep confusion—so simple, so blinding—as to how you got here, to this (dream) body in this (dream) environment. Notice how thoroughly unaware you are of (the factors, the causes and conditions leading to) the initial arising of the dream, the dreamscape, the dream-body and the movement of your mind from your (physical, sleeping) body to the dream-body.

There's nothing fantastic about this (except the depths of that dumbfoundedness). Nothing magical, spiritual or fancy. It's one of the most basic of all activities—the movement of mind.

After seeing this and a few other pieces of the puzzle, rebirth becomes not a matter to be settled with high philosophy, but direct experience.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 4:27 AM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Interesting developments in this discussion (considering the OP).

I like some of what you guys have written and I dislike some of it, too.

The matter of rebirth has come to seem to me a knowable matter. When I hold that in mind (that the facticity of rebirth is knowable) and then read your philosophical-metaphysical theoretical duking-it-out, I get discouraged.

I hate to be that guy, but... why don't you guys go find out, for yourselves, for real?

I already know the answer to that, though. I'm a heady intellectual myself; What a thrill—almost erotic—a good, thoroughly abstract discussion is. God dammit, I swear intellectual masturbation is the most potent drug, the most insidious addiction.

...

After seeing this and a few other pieces of the puzzle, rebirth becomes not a matter to be settled with high philosophy, but direct experience.


I don't get it Stian. It see it not as a matter of high philosophy, but of evidence that fits into theoretical framework (though you might argue that envitably entails a philosophical framework). And what you are proposing is just another philosophical framework, that privileges knowledge obtained via introspection. Yes, you can come to "know" rebirth through your own experience. But in what sense is this experience "real"? And can tell you anything more than just that you have had that experience?

Our brains didn't evolve to be observed. They evolved to guide action in the world. But, given these powerful minds that we ended up with, if you stop to observe the mind you can come to all sorts of strange conclusions about it.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 2:40 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot:
Our brains didn't evolve to be observed. They evolved to guide action in the world. .


The problem with the materialist mindset like with any -ism mindset is it is already so thoroughly saturated with assumptions and presumptions that it is often productive of statements like the above, which have no basis in fact and a shaky (and assumed) philosophico-metaphysical basis. In other words, we're all thinking metaphysically all the time, just often don't know it, and this seems particularly evident in the above. You side stepped the 'zombie argument' up thread or in another thread, but I think it's worth thinking about for yourself rather than referencing authorities in consciousness studies on the matter.

I get the feal that you are sincere and reasonable Sawfoot but so darn committed to your preconceived notions. The thing about a healthy inclusion of post-modern insights is that, at their best, they are insights into the phenomenology of how descriptions/decisions interact with impressions to shape 'experience'. In other threads you seem to write this off in a paper-tigery way. But I suggest you avail yourself of the library and read up on some good phenomenology- Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Heidegger. And consider how such a radically different approach to the relationships between thinking/language/models and other forms of experience might fit in with science and technology as practical human activities aimed at practical human goals (rather than elevating these activities to the status of Truth-determining, which in my opinion is a hangover from Judeo-Christian approaches to truth which still influence Western culture).

As for the question of rebirth I think Stian is pointing at something profound when he speaks about the veil that conceals the 'where' we came from before our memories began. And the reflections about mind's particular way of 'moving' are also helpful pointers. But what do they point at? You won't get it by merely reflecting on it, by comparing ideas, you need to delve deeper into direct experience and what those questions point to in your living experience, day and night, waking and dreaming. To me, the most authentic intellectual position on this matter is a sort of bemused wonder and curiosity, as the phenomenology of experience points to many open questions about the nature of consciousness and the many possibilities for experience before/after this body. Existentially, it is possible that a conviction in the reality of experience beyond the bounds of this life may already be present (as has been the case for me as long as I can remember) or may develop through one's explorations, and still coexist with intellectual skepticism.

And for a conversation on the topic to be productive it is good to recognize that there is nothing inherantly comforting about this possibility. If anything, quite the reverse in many ways, which is why rebirth is conceived problematically by all forms of buddhism that I'm aware of, as something to be addressed (although not necessarily renounced).

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 5:17 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:
sawfoot:
Our brains didn't evolve to be observed. They evolved to guide action in the world. .


The problem with the materialist mindset like with any -ism mindset is it is already so thoroughly saturated with assumptions and presumptions that it is often productive of statements like the above, which have no basis in fact and a shaky (and assumed) philosophico-metaphysical basis. In other words, we're all thinking metaphysically all the time, just often don't know it, and this seems particularly evident in the above. You side stepped the 'zombie argument' up thread or in another thread, but I think it's worth thinking about for yourself rather than referencing authorities in consciousness studies on the matter.

I get the feal that you are sincere and reasonable Sawfoot but so darn committed to your preconceived notions. The thing about a healthy inclusion of post-modern insights is that, at their best, they are insights into the phenomenology of how descriptions/decisions interact with impressions to shape 'experience'. In other threads you seem to write this off in a paper-tigery way. But I suggest you avail yourself of the library and read up on some good phenomenology- Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Heidegger. And consider how such a radically different approach to the relationships between thinking/language/models and other forms of experience might fit in with science and technology as practical human activities aimed at practical human goals (rather than elevating these activities to the status of Truth-determining, which in my opinion is a hangover from Judeo-Christian approaches to truth which still influence Western culture).

As for the question of rebirth I think Stian is pointing at something profound when he speaks about the veil that conceals the 'where' we came from before our memories began. And the reflections about mind's particular way of 'moving' are also helpful pointers. But what do they point at? You won't get it by merely reflecting on it, by comparing ideas, you need to delve deeper into direct experience and what those questions point to in your living experience, day and night, waking and dreaming. To me, the most authentic intellectual position on this matter is a sort of bemused wonder and curiosity, as the phenomenology of experience points to many open questions about the nature of consciousness and the many possibilities for experience before/after this body. Existentially, it is possible that a conviction in the reality of experience beyond the bounds of this life may already be present (as has been the case for me as long as I can remember) or may develop through one's explorations, and still coexist with intellectual skepticism.

And for a conversation on the topic to be productive it is good to recognize that there is nothing inherantly comforting about this possibility. If anything, quite the reverse in many ways, which is why rebirth is conceived problematically by all forms of buddhism that I'm aware of, as something to be addressed (although not necessarily renounced).


ah, I am not sure it is possible for anyone not to be saturated with assumptions and preconceptions. Being aware of them as possible is good, and in my own recent post I acknowledged (in a roundabout way) that the evidence based framework I was pushing is itself is just another manifestation of high philosophy.

And one of these assumptions is that my experience of practical human activities aimed at practical human goals then I want the best model of external reality I can get my hands on. And if this is a hangover then I think we are stuck with it, and I might as well keep drinking and enjoy the party as it isn't going to end any time soon.

Sure, I am officially recognising that there is nothing inherently comforting about the possibility of rebirth (and some experiences and thoughts of it could be very scary), yet practices like buddhism seem inherently about a search for comfort (the ending of dukkha), and for some the rebirth concept is a source of comfort (e.g., if you have played your cards right and collected enough merit or karma in this lifetime...).

My experience of phenomenological reality seems always tinged by assumptions which can lead to certain conclusions, which is the inherent problem with examination of sensate reality - there is no such thing as "theory neutral" experience (IMHO). And so I can be led into thinking that I/awareness have always existed and always will exist (for example), but I don't much faith in it, as I just don't trust my inherently theory driven understanding of my inherently theory driven sensate experience.

Anyway, thanks Nikolai for that description. And reading Stian again with that in mind makes more sense. Though put in those terms it doesn't sound so mysterious, and leads me to think that everyone is probably talking about different things when they use the concept "rebirth". Though no surprise there.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/5/13 12:37 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot:

My experience of phenomenological reality seems always tinged by assumptions which can lead to certain conclusions, which is the inherent problem with examination of sensate reality - there is no such thing as "theory neutral" experience (IMHO). And so I can be led into thinking that I/awareness have always existed and always will exist (for example), but I don't much faith in it, as I just don't trust my inherently theory driven understanding of my inherently theory driven sensate experience.

.


If that (the bolded portion) were true, how would you know it? (How would you know that 'the fact all experience is theory laden' wasn't just another theory?) That actually sounds like bad post-modernism to me. There is no theory free experience-- except the experience that there is no theory free experience, which is known directly? I'm not sure about that at all. To me it seems evident in phenomenolgy of experience that there is very definitely direct knowing which bypasses interpretation in that the process of interpretation feeding back with impressions/impulses can be seen in real time.

When it is seen in real time, then the artefacts of not seeing it in real time become translucent. Those artefacts include the sense of being a solid seperate subject in a world of inherently existing objects for example. While the process of attributing these falsities to experience is seen in real time, these imaginings/fabrications lose their power to condition experience, for even if they keep arising they are known to be imaginings. So in my experience liberating insight hinges on having a direct clarity in experiencing as it occurs.

After the fact (whether of a passing insight or a baseline-shifting insight), when describing the insight and its ramifications, there is automatically 'theory' in that all descrioptions are by nature nested in referential structures of other descriptions. But in my experience as insight deepens the whole process of describing becomes more explicitly pragmatic and/or poetic and decreasingly dogmatic, in that descriptions are seen as such rather than conflated with impressions/impulses. Also, the nested structures of descriptive modeling which were absorbed through socialization break down in this process so that descriptions become increasingly 'free-floating' which is another way of putting the fact that they become more explicitly pragmatic/poetic and less and less dogmatic. That means they seem less True, and more/less useful/illuminating instead.

So experientially there seems to be a big difference between experience that is weighted down with unrecognized fundamental existential assumptions and experience that is not so weighted down. As a simple example, there is a huge phenomenological difference to thinking "Oh, i need to remember to get eggs on the way home" when that thought is more free-floating, disentangled from all the referential structures that assume solid separate self and a world of inherently existing objects. When it is seen in real time that there is no solid stable thing reffered to by the term 'I' then there is a completely different feel to the thought, as it is no longer so laden with the whole cognitive-affective superstructure of identity but is merely a convenient (pragmatic) tag.

So even if in some sense there is an irreducible interpretaive/theoretic component of direct experience, which is reasonable to assume, there is still a sliding scale of degrees to which any given moment is unconsciously conditioned by these assumptions and moreover there appears to be a gradual dimunition of the quantity of presuppositions weighing down experience, which is replicable and stable over time, if one practices well. So not only does this seem evident from phenomological reflection but it seems confirmed by phenomenological discipline (meditation practice) and the latter's results .

This is to say nothing of the passing moments in which it seems very clear that experience can be completely direct, directly complete, in an open-ended (empty) way. Knowing is directly immanent in phenomena; pheneomena are their own knowing; sensations are their own alertness without a separate point of observation to 'know' them. Which is another way in which the directness of experience coexists with and ontologically overrides the pervasive interpretations even when they are operative and present-- because they presuppose simple experience which is its own direct knowing without separate observor who could toggle between direct/interpreted modes. Of course, this knowing is in a sense useless, because it always knows the same 'thing'-- interdependant Universe as phenomena arising and passing without apparent beginning or ending. This is yet another reason why it seems simpler to assume that experience has no beginning or end.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/5/13 7:40 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:

If that (the bolded portion) were true, how would you know it?


OK, that all sounds a bit arrogant a few hours after work... look what I'm trying to say is, everything you say about doubting your experience seems really useful and helpful and 'true', but I would say, you are basically talking about doubting your interpretation of experience, which validates what I am trying to say; which is, doubt your interpretations and the conclusions that are the output of our assumptions and examine your living experience even when it means giving up your preconceptions of 'how things are'.

You know, there is that wonderful Zen saying:

Before I practiced, mountains were mountains and rivers were rivers.
During my intensive practice of Zen, mountains were no longer mountains and rivers were no longer rivers;
after the completion of my practice of Zen mountains were again mountains and rivers were again rivers.


I think 'materialism' is likely part of your initial 'mountains are mountains, dammit!" and I think I am pushing you on this because I have the strong sense that, for a time, letting go of your beliefs in that regard will facilitate your process of awakening!

Now, that is my understanding of what these forums (DhO and its sister fora) are about: practice aimed at awakening. As you have said elsewhere, you wish to experience awakening, Sawfoot_.

And I confess I would be happy to encourage that, which perhaps oddly enough is indicative of my own lack of maturity lol. So, please try to take my somewhat theoretic reflections as expressions of my desire to facilitate your experience of awakening, and please accept my apologies if my contributions do not facilitate that aim.

Take good care and I wish you the best in your practice (whatever you end up saying you believe about the nature of reality ;))
-Jake

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 12:02 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Hi Jake,

Just in reference to a specific point, that all experience is theory-based is itself a theory, I wasn’t sure why you would interpret me to suggest otherwise. And in response to “how would we know” – my main reason in saying that in relation to our “unmediated direct experience” was motivated by (non-experiential!) knowledge of how the brains works, e.g., even the simplest perceptual phenomena (which ultimately must be foundational in our conscious experience) is theory based. And so the broader point was of the limitations of phenomenology, and how scientific knowledge of the world can act as a useful supplement and corrective when it goes astray (and leads to fairies etc..*-) !) But I take your point about sliding scales and degrees, and the potential for using that as a sort of escape.

I took your posts in the intended spirit. I share the idealisation that the DhO is about “awakening”, and all discussions are secondary the spirit of that endeavour. And so you signed off as if you had over reached yourself but I appreciate the efforts to engage and have found it useful, and struck some kind of nerve.

We all have our hindrances which impede the process of awakening. I see intellectualisation, understanding, rationalisation and addiction to thinking as perhaps my main hindrance in that regard (and you might empathise here…). On reflection, I still don’t see materialism specifically as a direct obstacle, but rather it is parcelled in with the predilection for the rationalisation, and the tendency to rely on that in preference to just seeing what is there in my experience. So I am preferring the term naturalism to materialism, but as I see it is entirely compatible with a position of “bemused wonder and curiosity” and the leaving of open questions, though mostly closing the door on some possibilities (e.g., experience beyond this physical brain). Of course, you might think it is best to drop it just because you think it is wrong, but I don’t think that is quite what you are suggesting. If you are just saying, spend less time theorizing and be driven by assumptions and more time paying attention to sensate experience, then this is always good advice, but I don’t think this is your point either.

On reflection then, I think it would be fair to admit that my ingrained assumptions (i.e., naturalism) do lead me to think that any possible experience I might have would not inviolate those assumptions, and the only scenario I can imagine where that might be broken would be down the road of mental illness. And yet, while it might be worthwhile to think how this might hinder awakening, I don’t see how this would block it in any way.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 1:26 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
On reflection then, I think it would be fair to admit that my ingrained assumptions (i.e., naturalism) do lead me to think that any possible experience I might have would not inviolate those assumptions, and the only scenario I can imagine where that might be broken would be down the road of mental illness. And yet, while it might be worthwhile to think how this might hinder awakening, I don’t see how this would block it in any way.


What if there were processes between the raw information of reality and what selectively gets to your consciousness?

Information -> Control, judge, impose order, create permanency -> Consciousness

What if you adopt a way of seeing the world that locks down and tightens these processes? What if these processes were what creates the illusion of a self? What if shutting down these processes would allow the experience of awakening? Possible blocks?
Just some thoughts....
Good luck
~D

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/8/13 3:54 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
sawfoot _:
On reflection then, I think it would be fair to admit that my ingrained assumptions (i.e., naturalism) do lead me to think that any possible experience I might have would not inviolate those assumptions, and the only scenario I can imagine where that might be broken would be down the road of mental illness. And yet, while it might be worthwhile to think how this might hinder awakening, I don’t see how this would block it in any way.


What if there were processes between the raw information of reality and what selectively gets to your consciousness?

Information -> Control, judge, impose order, create permanency -> Consciousness

What if you adopt a way of seeing the world that locks down and tightens these processes? What if these processes were what creates the illusion of a self? What if shutting down these processes would allow the experience of awakening? Possible blocks?
Just some thoughts....
Good luck
~D


Yeah, that sounds like a "common garden variety" seeing through a lifetime of taken for granted selfing block. I do have that block, and overcoming it hopefully is just a matter of time and intensity of practice (some more retreats under the belt would help no doubt).

So funnily enough I was meditating earlier and I was trying to catch how distractions arose, and I what I perceived to be happening on several occasions was a gap where awareness faded, then there was this moment of decision, where the mind "decided" to move in a certain direction (which I supposed was an instance of grasping), so an instance of a fabrication of experience in a certain way, an imposition or ordering towards something.

Now Jake talks about seeing such things in real time, which I thought was the point (i.e. of vipassana) but you talk about locking down, tightening and shutting down such processes - I thought just seeing was enough? And I don't quite understand what you mean by such terms as "tightening".

cheers

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/8/13 4:16 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
So funnily enough I was meditating earlier and I was trying to catch how distractions arose, and I what I perceived to be happening on several occasions was a gap where awareness faded, then there was this moment of decision, where the mind "decided" to move in a certain direction (which I supposed was an instance of grasping), so an instance of a fabrication of experience in a certain way, an imposition or ordering towards something.

Now Jake talks about seeing such things in real time, which I thought was the point (i.e. of vipassana) but you talk about locking down, tightening and shutting down such processes - I thought just seeing was enough? And I don't quite understand what you mean by such terms as "tightening".


I have been investigating similar phenomena, what I have found is that there is a moment of tension, felt as bodily affect, which can be described as an "upward movement" in the gut just before restless proliferation or "downward movement" in the gut just before sleepy proliferation. The movement grows in intensity and is relaxed when you enter into proliferation, and by tolerating/not being overwhelmed by the intensifying movement, and just being dispassionately aware of it, you can avoid entering into proliferation.

I would say that it is important not only to know about this, but to try and isolate it more and more via not accepting its invitation to enter into proliferation. What starts to happen is that the affective trigger for proliferation stabilizes due to repeated instances of not accepting its invitation, and then one can incline one's mind such that it relaxes entirely and suddenly it takes no effort to "stay present." The way I have found to relax it is to pay attention to the aspect of it that is already fading and also to shift attention down below the navel to the spot where it seems to fade into. When that trigger for proliferation fades then there is the experience of body moving on its own, if you look at your hands they don't seem to be "yours," there is just "in reference to the seen there is only the seen" with no sense of "I am".

Just seeing this and not trying to isolate and relax may be enough for certain attainments but in my view being a slave to this process is inherently dissatisfactory no matter how you observe it, as this is the process of becoming. No matter how clearly you can see it it still has an influence on your behavior. It seems to me that every time this process occurs while I am interacting with someone, they subconsciously sense it and it creates a subtle "power dynamic" between me and them. Also it is obnoxious to be constantly pulled into proliferation.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 6:03 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
this is the process of becoming.


What is inherent in those phenomena that makes it 'becoming'?

Is every other phenomenon 'becoming' too? If not, why not?

What becomes?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 6:29 PM as a reply to Big Nothing.
Hello Big Nothing,

When I say that it is the process of becoming I am translating the pali word "bhava" which means something like state of mind. That process I referred to as becoming is the process of a state of mind or a mood forming.

As for "what becomes" I don't think that there is a "mind" which changes state, just that there are certain phenomena like thoughts, bodily tensions, and attention distortions which arise and pass. When these phenomena are conglomerated and labeled as self it might seem like something "becomes" but when your attention zooms in, it seems that no phenomena inheres throughout the mood-change.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 7:17 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
Hello Big Nothing,

When I say that it is the process of becoming I am translating the pali word "bhava" which means something like state of mind. That process I referred to as becoming is the process of a state of mind or a mood forming.

As for "what becomes" I don't think that there is a "mind" which changes state, just that there are certain phenomena like thoughts, bodily tensions, and attention distortions which arise and pass. When these phenomena are conglomerated and labeled as self it might seem like something "becomes" but when your attention zooms in, it seems that no phenomena inheres throughout the mood-change.


I see. I was wondering if you might be trying to dispel something while at the same time unknowingly reifying it. I don't think so now, at least not at the level of mind or being.

To go a little further though, these phenomena that are are conglomerated, do they inherently exist more than the mind or being to which they're usually imputed? If the whole (mind or being) is empty, aren't the constituent parts likewise empty?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/8/13 8:29 PM as a reply to Big Nothing.
aren't the constituent parts likewise empty?


This doesn't feel particularly relevant to me, assuming you mean empty in the sense of having no inherent existence. It is true that the components are made up of smaller components and those components are made up of still smaller components and so on ad infinitum... but to me recognizing this as an intentional practice is just another way of going about dismantling. Or, perhaps it is another way of viewing the components but as I said before I'd rather have the not be there at all.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 9:49 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
but as I said before I'd rather have the not be there at all.


Isn't that craving for non-becoming, one of the conditions of further becoming?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 10:41 PM as a reply to Big Nothing.
I don't think that is craving for non-becoming. Craving for non-becoming would happen if I were to simply sit there and mentally complain about all the annoying distractions and lines of proliferation my thinking gets in to. What I am actually doing is seeing the drawback of becoming and keeping myself firm and un-persuaded in the face of the allure of becoming, which is pretty much plain discernment. In practice this basically means fixing my mind in a position of receptive awareness that manipulates/narrates experience as little as possible as opposed to engaging in proliferation.

And how is there unyoking from becoming? There is the case where a certain person discerns, as it actually is present, the origination, the passing away, the allure, the drawbacks, and the escape from becoming. When he discerns, as it actually is present, the origination, the passing away, the allure, the drawbacks, and the escape from becoming, then — with regard to states of becoming — he is not obsessed with becoming-passion, becoming-delight, becoming-attraction, becoming-infatuation, becoming-thirst, becoming-fever, becoming-fascination, becoming-craving. This is unyoking from sensuality & unyoking from becoming.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.010.than.html

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 11:03 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
I don't think that is craving for non-becoming. Craving for non-becoming would happen if I were to simply sit there and mentally complain about all the annoying distractions and lines of proliferation my thinking gets in to. What I am actually doing is seeing the drawback of becoming and keeping myself firm and un-persuaded in the face of the allure of becoming, which is pretty much plain discernment. In practice this basically means fixing my mind in a position of receptive awareness that manipulates/narrates experience as little as possible as opposed to engaging in proliferation.


Okay. I just felt your words conveyed a flavour of aversion and struggle -- a desire to eliminate something not properly understood, which is something I've seen and done a lot of. But if what you're doing makes sense and is working for you, I'll leave you to it and wish you good luck.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/8/13 11:19 PM as a reply to Big Nothing.
Okay. I just felt your words conveyed a flavour of aversion and struggle -- a desire to eliminate something not properly understood, which is something I've seen and done a lot of. But if what you're doing makes sense and is working for you, I'll leave you to it and wish you good luck.


There is definitely aversion and struggle at times. And there is also probably not proper understanding of becoming. But so far it is the best I can do. Do you have any concrete practice suggestions I could utilize?

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/9/13 1:25 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:

There is definitely aversion and struggle at times. And there is also probably not proper understanding of becoming. But so far it is the best I can do. Do you have any concrete practice suggestions I could utilize?


I'd only suggest that you keep doing what you're doing, but also contemplate the emptiness of the constituents of being and becoming, and let the implications penetrate you through and through. It might radically change your idea of what needs to be done, or it might just help you enjoy the practice more. One thing it won't do is make you less happy or insightful. It's also consistent with the practice path you're already following -- as long as you treat it as skillful means, intelligent fabrication.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/8/13 5:24 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Yeah, that sounds like a "common garden variety" seeing through a lifetime of taken for granted selfing block.
You totally hit the nail on the head. It is very common. It may be a bit deeper than you perceive. Anyone who hasn't hit stream-entry has a lifetime of this problem.
sawfoot _:
And I don't quite understand what you mean by such terms as "tightening".

Tightening your control, increasing judgement, imposing greater order, creating greater permanency...What creates your self/ego? Would having a world view that increases the aspects of self help in it's elimination?
sawfoot _:
I thought just seeing was enough

Yes...seeing is enough....perhaps seeing the information clearly and cleanly without the processes inbetween distorting it.
Go from this-
Information -> Control, judge, impose order, create permanency -> Consciousness
to this
Information -> Consciousness

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 12:38 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Interesting developments in this discussion (considering the OP).


Kind of amazing really.

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
God dammit, I swear intellectual masturbation is the most potent drug, the most insidious addiction.


I vote for sex - with I.M. a close second. Maybe there needs to be a self-help group for this - I M Anonymous?

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
After seeing this and a few other pieces of the puzzle, rebirth becomes not a matter to be settled with high philosophy, but direct experience.


Very much so. You will never be able to convince someone of this that has not had the experience - and what would be the point anyway? It would just become another belief to hold onto and they would then go around trying to beat other people over the head with it - making themselves kind of obnoxious and annoying.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/4/13 1:11 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
After seeing this and a few other pieces of the puzzle, rebirth becomes not a matter to be settled with high philosophy, but direct experience.


Very much so. You will never be able to convince someone of this that has not had the experience - and what would be the point anyway? It would just become another belief to hold onto and they would then go around trying to beat other people over the head with it - making themselves kind of obnoxious and annoying.


Just out of curiousity, phenomenologically speaking, what does this experience entail? Stian is talking in a roundabout way, but you seem to know the same secret handshake. I am not planning to get on an obnoxious and annoying high horse, I am just curious, as I may have some wrong headed pre-conceived ideas about what such an experience would be like.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
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12/4/13 2:41 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Chuck Kasmire:

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
After seeing this and a few other pieces of the puzzle, rebirth becomes not a matter to be settled with high philosophy, but direct experience.


Very much so. You will never be able to convince someone of this that has not had the experience - and what would be the point anyway? It would just become another belief to hold onto and they would then go around trying to beat other people over the head with it - making themselves kind of obnoxious and annoying.


Just out of curiousity, phenomenologically speaking, what does this experience entail? Stian is talking in a roundabout way, but you seem to know the same secret handshake. I am not planning to get on an obnoxious and annoying high horse, I am just curious, as I may have some wrong headed pre-conceived ideas about what such an experience would be like.


As I see/saw it:

The felt sense of exisiting/self/being/having presence/having a location in the world/me-ness/conceit/identity no matter how 'small', or 'refined' or unrecognisable it becomes due to practice is a foramtion/a compounding/a fabrication made up of aspects of the field of experience such as sensations and feeling tone, mental overlays, thoughtloops, views, habitual ways of holding and reading experience, etc. This felt sense of existing can be taken as an object of attention. One can see it ebb and flow, shift about, take on differing qualities depending on feeling tone and thoughts of evaluation. Pay attention from the angle of specific neutrality towards it and eventually, since it is not being fed by ignorance of it any longer, will eventually show its cessation, perhaps for a short moment, or moments, or a long period, and perhaps will result in a baseline shift, insight, or not. It depends.

For myself, the insight was that this compounding of me-ness would arise and pass, arise and pass and there were moment/s were it would cease to arise at all and in those moments it was clear there was a process of becoming/existing as 'me-ness' that continued to 'take birth' again and again. And at times didn't for periods or moments. I'd refer to this process of compounding and assigning 'me-ness' to the compounding as the movements of mind that stian refers to above. There is a process of rebirth occuring from moment to moment of this sense of being/self/presence/having location in the world/me-ness/becoming/identity/I/ME/MINE etc. There are gaps in the supposed flow of it. Pay attention and you will see that it can cease....... and then re-arise. The re-arising is a moment of rebirth as far as I see it. Why it re-arises is all to do with dependent origination as I see it.

The previous birth conditions the next birth, like a candle lighting another candle. Here I am referring to the moment to moment births being created again and again out of ignorance of cause and effect chain of links (DO). There is a compounding of unpleasant feeling tone mentally associated with a sensation in the chest triggering and re-enforced by revolving habitual thoughts of hatred for some co-arising object of mind all superimposed with a feeling of "I don't want this for ME!!". It arises and passes, arises and passes and continues to trigger rebirth as a "hating me" giving the impression of a flow of 'hating me' until some aspect of the compounding shifts to something different. Perhaps the revolving thoughts shift to more positive themes, which in turn may trigger pleasant feeling tone over a sensation in the chest which gives form and shape to felt sense of "happy me". All moments of rebirth. The moments of 'I'-making are the rebirths.

This is my current take on it.

Nick

Edited x 2

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/4/13 11:31 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Just out of curiousity, phenomenologically speaking, what does this experience entail? Stian is talking in a roundabout way, but you seem to know the same secret handshake. I am not planning to get on an obnoxious and annoying high horse, I am just curious, as I may have some wrong headed pre-conceived ideas about what such an experience would be like.


Hi Sawfoot,

All pre-conceived ideas about anything are always provisional by nature are they not? I think they are only wrong-headed if they don't allow investigation - to be challenged. I like Ajahn Chah's teaching of just saying 'not sure'. Because how can I be? One way or the other? I can't be sure of my own experience of this either - but taking this to an extreme - I can't be absolutely sure the sun came up today either - maybe I just imagined it. But where does that kind of thinking take us? It's a dead end.

I tend to subscribe to the 'If it looks like a duck...then it probably is a duck' line of reasoning. My acceptance of something that gets called rebirth is based on my own experience and of several people I know and trust that have investigated this for themselves. It just seems to be the best explanation.

Certainly there is lots of sort of new-age (guess it's sort of old-age now) past-life stuff out there where people are seeing themselves as all these great beings and such that to me seem quite imaginary and wishful.

In my limited experience, past lives are about as mundane - actually more so - as the present one. More so because in our present life we still have all these ideas, hopes, imaginings about what will happen to us in the future - what we will be - that in reality probably won't pan out.

Here is what happened to me maybe 15 years ago: I had a dream - a very unusual dream in that I was a young boy about 10 years old and I had access to all that individuals thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears - dream characters in my experience are quite shallow - here the depth of what I experienced was only comparable to my own waking experience. I was in a large concrete building with many other people. Everyone was naked and terrified. I knew I was being killed though I had no idea why. I recall thinking 'Why are they doing this - I haven't done anything'. I knew I couldn't escape and even if I could there were men with guns outside that would kill me. Some kind of poison turned on. Lots of screaming. Intense pain in chest. Life trying desperately to hold on to a body. Shear terror and then release. I died.

I have been killed in many dreams - stabbed, shot by arrows, machine gunned, etc. but I always wake up at that point - I have never actually died in a dream - gone through the entire process - until this - so this is another aspect that was quite different from a normal dream. So I died. Awareness moved up and expanded tremendously - Awareness now took in both my current life - I knew that I had been this kid - but now I was experiencing Chuck and that I was home sleeping in bed. I knew that some of the men that had killed me were still alive and I remember having a great sadness for them - having to live with what they did for so many years when for me it was over in a few minutes. I could see a long chain of something like beads stretching back in time. Each one a life - a completely one-off one of a kind life - yet passing through all of them was a continuity in a sense. All of this is taking place within an awareness that is just not human - vast such that all that was just known and held sort of all at once. Then at some point I just opened my eyes - and there I was - back again same old me. An interesting phenomena at that point was that my body from toes up to mid-chest was numb - sort of paralyzed but vibrating all over.

This was back before I had encountered Buddhism or any other ism for that matter. Since that time, I have come to know some people that are much better at meditation than I am. One friend I related my story to related to the imagery and told me how I could bring that back-up and work through the beads one at a time to examine those past lives - this is what she did. But my skill level is just not there. Another friend took the time to develop the jhana skills to look into past lives in order to work with things at a deeper level and reported that indeed this could be done and they had found it quite useful.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/5/13 12:11 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
...men with guns outside that would kill me. Some kind of poison turned on. Lots of screaming. Intense pain in chest. Life trying desperately to hold on to a body. Shear terror and then release. I died.

I have been killed in many dreams - stabbed, shot by arrows, machine gunned, etc. but I always wake up at that point - I have never actually died in a dream - gone through the entire process - until this - so this is another aspect that was quite different from a normal dream. So I died. Awareness moved up and expanded tremendously - Awareness now took in both my current life - I knew that I had been this kid - but now I was experiencing Chuck and that I was home sleeping in bed. I knew that some of the men that had killed me were still alive and I remember having a great sadness for them - having to live with what they did for so many years when for me it was over in a few minutes. I could see a long chain of something like beads stretching back in time. Each one a life - a completely one-off one of a kind life - yet passing through all of them was a continuity in a sense. All of this is taking place within an awareness that is just not human - vast such that all that was just known and held sort of all at once. Then at some point I just opened my eyes - and there I was - back again same old me. An interesting phenomena at that point was that my body from toes up to mid-chest was numb - sort of paralyzed but vibrating all over.

This was back before I had encountered Buddhism or any other ism for that matter. Since that time, I have come to know some people that are much better at meditation than I am. One friend I related my story to related to the imagery and told me how I could bring that back-up and work through the beads one at a time to examine those past lives - this is what she did. But my skill level is just not there. Another friend took the time to develop the jhana skills to look into past lives in order to work with things at a deeper level and reported that indeed this could be done and they had found it quite useful.
hi SawsAll, Chuck;

Same here with the young dreams of death, past, present, occasionally future until it just became acceptable and I didn't care about death anymore and simply accepted the horrific continuity of human behavior. I don't hold out hope of much better in this life now even though it has had many benefits and merits for me to take comfort in.

One highlight was dropping a mortar and turning into vapor right there. Felt like freedom, that flying apart to bits. I realized the body was simply irrelevant to being and the vaporizing in every direction was awesome too.

I think the dreams died when the dreams died altogether for me. Now all I encounter when lucid in sleep is flashing lights, apparently this is the brain erasing short term memory and that is about all she wrote.

What I can recall was mostly about forms of death and many kinds of murder. Anything I have sensed that is older than about 2000 years back is even more militant and brutal. I have had multiple sensitives tell me the same stuff separately, a long blood soaked path into the past.

I figure I like to smoke now because of all the times past when I have been burned alive or at a stake. Probably more often as a bird or beast but also as a human.

My sense of recent past being and becoming is that I didn't make it past four years old a few times and simply had to start again.


Of what I have had the most vivid pleasant recall is life as various birds. That felt like freedom compared to a human life, even if it was eating rotten flesh off of putrid bones.

Sorry if that isn't appealing, it felt good in those bones, stretched out on the sky, wind in feathers...

>3bird

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/5/13 3:50 AM as a reply to triple think.
Cheers Chuck and Nathan. Those descriptions were more in line with what I thought people are talking about than Nikolai's perspective.

I have also had experiences of being killed in dreams, waking at that exact point. Never much fun. It is interesting how cross culturally the most commonly reported remembered dreams involve bad stuff happening. There is one theory about dreams (by a chap called Revonsuo) based on that fact which argues that dreaming evolved as a functional adaptive response to threats experienced in our ancestral environment, with dreaming operating as "threat simulator" - so we if we dream about being chased by a tiger then we are better equipped to survive with being chased by a tiger.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/5/13 10:53 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Hi Sawfoot,

I imagine dreams to be multi-functional. So I can imagine that preparing us for potential dangers is one of those. Similar with working through past trauma or ongoing stress. Dreams can also be a way of investigating some aspects of our experience that our waking mind can't accept or tune into. I think they are great tools for this. I used to be very much a rational, scientific oriented person - never believed in any of this weird stuff until it just forced itself upon me. In the beginning, using dreams was a useful tool for exploration. For example, there was a period of time when I was interested in looking into remote viewing. At the time I was getting the Christian Science Monitor (a great newspaper BTW) and noticed that every day it had one main color photo on the front page that was about the featured article. So each night I would set my intention to have a dream about that photo - and awaken during that dream - and write the dream down. Results proved interesting - usually could see no connection - but maybe one in 5 times it was sort of uncanny. One time I dreamed of a tropical waterfall and the picture in the paper was of a water truck delivering water in Honduras - a close up of the water spewing out of the pipe with palm trees in the background. Another time I dreamed of two brothers that were fighting each other in kind of a family feud and the photo was of two men with rifles and was about the strife going on between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.

Over the years I have had numerous teaching dreams. I think these are pretty common. I am usually with a group of other people and there is a teacher giving some instruction to us. I am not talking about school dreams of having no pencil and I have to take a test type of worry dream - but the sense of getting some kind of meaningful instruction. The best meditation instruction I ever got was in a dream I had where I was outside a meditation hall - the teacher comes out and sets his cheat sheet on a table and walks away. I went over and took a peak at it and then woke up and wrote it down.

Ever since going through the no-self/actual-freedom whatever it was experience of 5 years ago - I just have nice entertaining pleasant dreams. Kind of amazing really. I think in the entire time I have had only one that I could classify as a bad dream. Also, and this is an interesting phenomena - I no longer wake-up. I lie down and sleep - I dream - yet in the morning I do not experience anything like waking up. Even if there is an alarm or someone calls my name - I just open my eyes, get up and continue on. Kind of like awareness had its on/off switch replaced with a volume control.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/5/13 12:06 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
hi again Chuck +Allz,

czeck + czeck indications == correct =>3Bird>: : :::::::::::: ,,,...''' :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: .

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/5/13 3:08 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Chuck, have you written down your "spiritual journey" somewhere? I would very much like to read it.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/6/13 12:14 PM as a reply to Pål S..
Pål S.:
Hi Chuck, have you written down your "spiritual journey" somewhere? I would very much like to read it.


I have kept a journal over the years as this thing has unfolded so technically - yes but effectively - no - in that it is not on-line anywhere. There are bits and pieces of it about. On Kenneth Folks old site on wetpaint I wrote a thread titled Mahasi and Chah that talked about some of it but I think that is now e-dust. I think I wrote some in a document about actual freedom as 4th path on the old DhO wetpaint site - there is still the thread but the original document behind the thread I think is now e-dust as well. Odd how so much stuff in the cloud evaporates. I feel more comfortable talking about this stuff these days so I will continue writing about these things as long as it seems useful.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/6/13 12:42 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Pål S.:
Hi Chuck, have you written down your "spiritual journey" somewhere? I would very much like to read it.


I have kept a journal over the years as this thing has unfolded so technically - yes but effectively - no - in that it is not on-line anywhere. There are bits and pieces of it about. On Kenneth Folks old site on wetpaint I wrote a thread titled Mahasi and Chah that talked about some of it but I think that is now e-dust. I think I wrote some in a document about actual freedom as 4th path on the old DhO wetpaint site - there is still the thread but the original document behind the thread I think is now e-dust as well. Odd how so much stuff in the cloud evaporates. I feel more comfortable talking about this stuff these days so I will continue writing about these things as long as it seems useful.


e-dust no more!

http://jaytek.net/KFD/KFDForumOld/kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/thread/4402183/Mahasi%2Band%2BChah.html

I believe the awake network peeps are trying to get a more permanent home for the old Folk forum there.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/6/13 1:22 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
e-dust no more!

I believe the awake network peeps are trying to get a more permanent home for the old Folk forum there.


Amazing - one of those rebirth kind of things! I must cultivate more faith in the cloud.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
12/6/13 3:25 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
sawfoot _:
e-dust no more!

I believe the awake network peeps are trying to get a more permanent home for the old Folk forum there.


Amazing - one of those rebirth kind of things! I must cultivate more faith in the cloud.

Thanks, yes remember reading that thread back in the day. I've really found it helpful reading about others experiences and keeping them in the memory bank. With several of those combined it ends up covering a lot of territory, functioning almost like a substitution for a mentor. I hope the helpfulness of this causes enough 'urges' in you and other long-time practitioners to keep sharing.

RE: Awareness, True Self, No self - Really Confused!!!
Answer
10/20/13 12:16 PM as a reply to George S. Lteif.
Daniel wrote something good on Awareness four years ago.


Dear Mark,

Thanks for your descriptions and analysis. They are interesting and relevant.

I think of it this way, from a very high but still vipassana point of view, as you are framing this question in a vipassana context:

First, the breath is nice, but at that level of manifesting sensations, some other points of view are helpful:

Assume something really simple about sensations and awareness: they are exactly the same. In fact, make it more simple: there are sensations, and this includes all sensations that make up space, thought, image, body, anything you can imagine being mind, and all qualities that are experienced, meaning the sum total of the world.

In this very simple framework, rigpa is all sensations, but there can be this subtle attachment and lack of investigation when high terms are used that we want there to be this super-rigpa, this awareness that is other. You mention that you feel there is a larger awareness, an awareness that is not just there the limits of your senses. I would claim otherwise: that the whole sensate universe by definition can't arise without the quality of awareness by definition, and so some very subtle sensations are tricking you into thinking they are bigger than the rest of the sensate field and are actually the awareness that is aware of other sensations.

Awareness is simply manifestation. All sensations are simply present.

Thus, be wary of anything that wants to be a super-awareness, a rigpa that is larger than everything else, as it can't be, by definition. Investigate at the level of bare sensate experience just what arises and see that it can't possibly be different from awareness, as this is actually an extraneous concept and there are actually just sensations as the first and final basis of reality.

As you like the Tibetan stuff, and to quote Padmasambhava in the root text of the book The Light of Wisdom:

"The mind that observes is also devoid of an ego or self-entity.
It is neither seen as something different from the aggregates
Nor as identical with these five aggregates.
If the first were true, there would exist some other substance.

This is not the case, so were the second true,
That would contradict a permanent self, since the aggregates are impermanent.
Therefore, based on the five aggregates,
The self is a mere imputation based on the power of the ego-clinging.

As to that which imputes, the past thought has vanished and is nonexistent.
The future thought has not occurred, and the present thought does not withstand scrutiny."

I really found this little block of tight philosophy helpful. It is also very vipassana at its core, but it is no surprise the wisdom traditions converge.

Thus, if you want to crack the nut, notice that everything is 5 aggregates, including everything you think is super-awareness, and be less concerned with what every little type of consciousness is than with just perceiving them directly and noticing the gaps that section off this from that, such as rigpa from thought stream, or awareness from sensations, as these are golden chains.