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How does content fit into the nature of reality?

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How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/5/13 10:45 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? . Jake . 11/6/13 12:19 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Chuck Kasmire 11/7/13 12:27 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Nikolai . 11/6/13 1:54 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? J C 11/6/13 1:54 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? sawfoot _ 11/7/13 3:02 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/7/13 9:29 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? J C 11/7/13 10:20 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/7/13 11:36 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? J C 11/8/13 1:22 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/10/13 10:43 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/11/13 12:37 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? sawfoot _ 11/11/13 4:33 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? J C 11/11/13 6:29 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Chuck Kasmire 11/11/13 1:01 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? J C 11/11/13 6:43 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Avi Craimer 11/11/13 7:24 PM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Chuck Kasmire 11/8/13 9:53 AM
RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality? Dream Walker 11/11/13 3:50 PM
Hey,

I’m an eclectic spiritual practitioner. I’ve done a mix of concentration and insight practices, as well as a lot of more content-based spiritual practices like Jungian analysis, shamanic work, guided meditations, etc.

There is as lot of talk in Daniel’s book and on this site about content level reality vs sensate level reality. What bugs me is first, I'd like to know more about what “content” really means and how it works, which is fully really explained in the book. Second, the content vs sensate split seems to introduce a kind of fundamental dualism into reality, which in my imagination any monist or non-dualist understanding of reality should resolve.

So my question is first, how is content understood in Theravada Buddhism or other Dharma traditions? It’s sometimes called illusion, but yet, it seems that even fully enlightened people, can live fully engaged with the world of content (Daniel Ingram is a emergency room doctor!). It doesn’t seem quite right to call content an illusion if it’s still there and solid enough to interact with after one has perfectly integrated the ultimate nature of reality.

One idea I’ve been playing with that’s come up in my own meditation practice recently is that all content is essentially like a samadhi practice that we’re unconsciously practicing all the time. However, this practice is totally involuntary and often dysfunctional. When we dissolve our involuntary content-structured reality, we can choose to replace these with a new content structured reality that we choose. This is basically consistent with the Western Mystery School teaching that we constantly create our apparent reality with our thoughts, and I have a feeling that Daniel hints at this view in his book and his article on Magick.

However, questions remains: how does an enlightened being choose what reality to construct once there is no self? What are the criteria for choosing to construct content (this relates directly back to the first question as you can’t simply say whatever you want to construct, because any wants would themselves be content level stuff)? Does reality have an inherent shape, natural tendency, or divine plan such that some content naturally comes into manifestation through enlightened beings?

Basically, I’d love to open this topic up for discussion.

Avi
Toronto Spiritual Direction

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/6/13 12:19 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi Craimer:
One idea I’ve been playing with that’s come up in my own meditation practice recently is that all content is essentially like a samadhi practice that we’re unconsciously practicing all the time. However, this practice is totally involuntary and often dysfunctional.


hmm, that's really interesting. In Tibetan Buddhist models that i'm familiar with the whole cosmology of realms in Theravada buddhism is given a psychological interpretation.

So there are three big realms:

desire
form
formless

And within each there are subdivisions. The form and formless realms are the 8 absorptions. The desire realm breaks down into the famous Six Realms of hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, titans, and gods.

In this interpretation, the six realms of the desire realm are exactly like absorptions in the mindstates of anger, greed, ignorance, etc. So the basic idea is that in a moment of unawakeness mind is absorbed in either one of the desire realms or one of the form or formless realms. We cycle through the realms based on conditioning-- so sort of like we are conditioning ourselves to be in varuious samadhis, but there are samahdis of anger, greed, etc as well as the form and formless ones.

Then this interpretation goes on to talk about various strategies for what to 'do' about these various spiritual and psychological absorptions (content). The basic strategies are to eliminate them altogether so they no longer arise, transform them , or self-liberate them. Those are said to be the approaches of Sutra, tantra and Dzogchen respectively. Anyhow, interesting topic.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/7/13 12:27 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
how is content understood in Theravada Buddhism or other Dharma traditions? It’s sometimes called illusion, but yet, it
seems that even fully enlightened people, can live fully engaged with the world of content (Daniel Ingram is a emergency
room doctor!). It doesn’t seem quite right to call content an illusion if it’s still there and solid enough to interact
with after one has perfectly integrated the ultimate nature of reality.


Buddha, to the best of my knowledge, did not get into the nature of ultimate reality. He focused on stress, its cause,
and its cessation. When consciousness is bound up with the aggregates then there is stress. In this case the aggregates
are defined as the "clinging aggregates". And our happiness seems to be dependent on these things. When the aggregates
are not clung to, stress does not arise - the aggregates are still there - but not experienced in the same way. A simple
example: let's say someone hits your car. Most people will be quite bent out of shape. Upset, trying to pin fault on the
other, thinking about how their plans are now messed up, etc., etc. They may want witnesses, drivers license, etc. -
contact there insurance company and all that - and often ranting and raving about it for some time to come. An awakened
person might experience a moment of "Hmm, that was unexpected" but really how they react is pretty much
undetermined - but they won't be bent out of shape and it won't ruin their day - though obviously it does have an impact (so to speak) on it. The difference between these two reactions is pointing to the nature of content.

Another way to put this is in terms of Manifestative Consciousness and Non-manifestative Consciousness. Manifestative
Consciousness is when consciousness is bound-up with the other 5 aggegates. Experientially, this results in a world
composed of separate, independent 'things' that include self, other, and stuff in general. And when we experience
ourselves as a thing in a world of things - stress arises because stuff changes. This 'thingness' is in a sense
super-imposed on underlying phenomena. Non-manifestative consciousness is completely aware of phenomena (the aggregates) - but does not grab onto them as a kind of support and in this sense does not see 'thingness'. Which is why you can have Buddha saying things like "I see nothing" - when it surely seems he must be. He is saying (IMHO) that 'I see nothing upon which consciousness could land and proliferate (thing making/stress making)'. When there is no thing making, there are no things, when no things - no stress - the 3 characteristics cease.

When we dissolve our involuntary content-structured reality, we can choose to replace these with a new content
structured reality that we choose.


Of course, dissolving something that is involuntary is problematic though seeing that you have a choice in how you react
to changing phenomena, you can transform your experience and also that of others around you from one of propagating
stress to one of reducing it. That is the essence of the eight fold path and how dispassion is developed.

how does an enlightened being choose what reality to construct once there is no self?


Buddha did not say there is no self (nor did he say there is one) - just that the aggregates should be regarded as
not-self. If you could construct something called 'reality' how could that be reality? These things will make your head
hurt. Which is stress. Thoughts are stuff and when held tightly to - then there is stress. But they are hard to drop - to
let go of - this is why we are said to be fettered to them. Which is why Buddha puts so much importance on regarding
these things as not-self and developing dispassion for them.


Does reality have an inherent shape, natural tendency, or divine plan such that some content naturally comes into
manifestation through enlightened beings?


God knows?

The following links might help [edited to fix link errors]:

Not self:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel017.html#s2

Clinging Aggregates:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.048.than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.053.than.html


Arising and Passing Away
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.04.than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.02.than.html

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/6/13 1:54 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Nice post, Chuck.

Welcome back.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/6/13 1:54 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
As a materialist, my take on this is a little different. Long before intelligent beings evolved, there was a world of animals running around living their lives. They didn't have the illusion of the self; they just directly experienced the world around them through their senses.

At some point, humans evolved, and developed the idea of the self. Suddenly there appeared this separation between the self and the world.

All our knowledge of the real world comes through our senses. That's all we know. We have various perceptual filters and mental constructs that we use to interpret the world with. In many ways, all sorts of spiritual journeys are about examining, cleaning, and removing these filters.

While everyone experiences the world through their senses in slightly different ways, there are enough commonalities that it makes sense to talk about the real world. If we see and feel a wall, it's not as if some people walk through it and don't experience it, while others do. It's there. It's real, regardless of beliefs and thoughts.

So, once there is no self, we still experience the real world through our senses. As you say, it's solid enough to consistently interact with. The real world was there before humans, and it will be there after humans. But we still have the choices and questions about how to see the world, how to frame it, how to understand it. Having no self helps us understand what's really there, and what's a mental construct that we don't need or that can get us lost in delusion.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/7/13 3:02 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi,

You aren't going to find how content works in a book. Content is your life!

TIbetan Buddhism has a pretty straightforward take on this, and it comes up a lot:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

And the middle way is the path of living between ultimate reality and conventional reality.

"Second, the content vs sensate split seems to introduce a kind of fundamental dualism into reality, which in my imagination any monist or non-dualist understanding of reality should resolve."

form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Problem solved!

"However, questions remains: how does an enlightened being choose what reality to construct once there is no self?"
"we constantly create our apparent reality with our thoughts..."

Is the reality you construct any more real than the reality you involuntarily construct? This seems to be a core question you are asking. So who chooses? Who creates? Are we not always subject to dependent origination?

The problem goes away if you stop believing in the idea of perfectly enlightenment beings who can perfectly integrate the ultimate the nature of reality - and that investigation of sensate experience is "special".

What is more real, ultimately - sitting on a toilet or sitting on a meditation cushion?

JC,

"Having no self helps us understand what's really there, and what's a mental construct that we don't need or that can get us lost in delusion."

What is a self anyway, that we can get rid of it? It seems that we have many different senses of self. Autobiographical self, continuity of consciousness, self-esteem, our sense of body in space, sense of homestatic drives, self-construct from our interactions of others, our sense of strengths and weakeness, our knowledge of habits, and so on. Lots of these aspects of self are needed, but can cause problems if we hold on to them too strongly. In Buddhist terms, the point is not to say that they are delusionary or real, just that they are empty - empty of inherent existence and subject to causes and conditions. And as Chuck points out, the Buddhist idea is not that we can rid of the self (if we can even say such a thing exists or not exists), but we can change how we relate to our experience of "selfing".

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
arhat content two truths
Answer
11/7/13 9:29 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Thanks all for the interesting replies. JC, in the wikipedia article you linked to, several of the traditions mentioned say that ultimately the two truths must be reconciled by those on the path to enlightenment.

If one trains for a long time in the union of the two truths, the stage of acceptance (on the path of joining), which is attuned to primordial wisdom, will arise. -Ju Mipham quoted in wikipedia article on Two Truths


I'm very sympathetic to this idea. In my mind, the idea that content is just a totally separate level that has nothing to do with spiritual development is deeply suspect. But, it seems like in Theravada, this path of union isn't emphasized as much. Perhaps, I'm wrong about this, it could be that it's something that is more emphasized at later stages of the paths model which I haven't read much about yet. I'd be very interested to know more about these unification practices that bring together the two truths.

Chuck, your post was quite helpful and clarifying for me. The distinction between manifestative consciousness and non-manifestative consciousness is interesting since in Magickal acts one is essentially trying to use manifestative consciousness skilfully. That would suggest that an Arhat could not use the powers (magick) any more, yet, from what I've read, they can. So something still doesn't add up.

I appreciate the perspective of some of you that it might be more helpful not to focus on the Arhat state (or purported state), but I think we can often understand a lot about a spiritual paradigm be examining closely it's ideal, and seeing whether 1) the ideal even makes sense, and 2) it is something we would ultimately want to achieve. Part of my concern about content vs sensate reality is to try to get clear on whether the Arhat is actually a desirable spiritual ideal, or whether it represents the ultimate spiritual bypass.

Toronto Spiritual Direction

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/7/13 10:20 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
That was sawfoot who linked to the article emoticon

Could you elaborate? Why would being an arahat be the ultimate spiritual bypass? What do you see as the ideal state?

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/7/13 11:36 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Why would being an arahat be the ultimate spiritual bypass?


To me the Arhat would be a spiritual bypass if after achieving it one was no longer able to be motivated to work toward manifesting a better reality at the content level. I believe that we all have important things to express and work toward at the content level, activities we are passionate about, causes to make the world better, etc. Moreover, I believe that spirituality can and should be a great inspiration for doing our work in the world, and spiritual guidance can inspire great wisdom at the content level. It bothers me that all these aspects of spiritual development are often de-valued as a distraction from the work of liberating insight. Perhaps they are different from liberating insight, but that doesn't make them less important. Sometimes, I get the sense that the Arhat is a state of utter disconnection from that beautiful interplay of mind and world. Yet, the life stories of people like Daniel Ingram, if in fact what he's achieved is Arhatship, suggest that there might be some strange way in which enlightenment doesn't affect content level activities at all, and only radically transforms the subjective experience of those activities. On the other hand, it does seem very odd to me that Daniel has undergone such a radical transformation of his entire perceptual field, while, according to his own words, remaining entirely ordinary in his day to day life, relationships, activities, etc.

There are so many questions that remain to be answered about how this is possible, and what's really going on with this state.

What do you see as the ideal state?

That's a question I certainly can't answer universally, and I'm not even sure I can answer it completely for myself. But here goes anyway: The ideal is not to completely uproot individual consciousness, but rather to purify and strengthen our minds and connect to higher guidance about what we are to do with these human lives. I tend to follow more of a Kabbalistic model, which says God is not just in nothingness (Keter), but also in ordinary content-level reality (Malchut) as well as all the levels of reality in between, and the paths between these levels. That's why I was curious about the unification practices mentioned in that wiki article. For me, the ultimate understanding would be one that sees the truth in both the sensate level and the content level, and sees how the two are experientially synthesized.

Is this perspective more emphasized in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism and less emphasized in Theravadan? That's the vague sense I have.

Avi
Toronto Spiritual Direction

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/8/13 1:22 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
One thing I really like about Daniel's work is the way he divorces enlightenment from the spiritual side. It's what you make of it. Since you're a spiritual person you could interpret your enlightenment in that kind of spiritual way, and since I'm not, to me it's more about the perceptual shift.

Kind of the point is that it doesn't change content level activities: there is a Zen saying that before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water, and after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water. Having the delusion of some kind of central controller just gets in the way, it's just the mind spinning round and round, and doesn't actually have anything to do with the real stuff underneath all that, the content.

There's been a movement to separate the meditation techniques from the religious or spiritual side, and that movement took the Burmese Theravada traditions as its starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/8/13 9:53 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Thanks Nick.

Avi, best of luck with your search. If you find it all starting to drive you crazy - come back and take a look at this stuff.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/10/13 10:43 PM as a reply to J C.
Sorry, it's taken me a few days to get back on this. It's been a busy weekend. This discussion has been very helpful to my own thinking about content and sensation. I'll share my new theory in a subsequent post, but first I'll reply to JC and Chuck.

JC

One thing I really like about Daniel's work is the way he divorces enlightenment from the spiritual side. It's what you make of it. Since you're a spiritual person you could interpret your enlightenment in that kind of spiritual way, and since I'm not, to me it's more about the perceptual shift.


I use 'spiritual' in a very broad way, to mean something like, "fundamental aspects of the meaning of human life." In that sense, I don't think anybody is really "non-spiritual", and most certainly not those who choose to devote large amounts of time to meditation practices. Of course, I acknowledge that for many people concepts like God, spirits, energy, and so on aren't very useful. However, saying that vipassana is about perceptual shift rather than spiritual development doesn't get you out of the sorts of questions I've been raising about meaning and content. If Therevada meditation produces a radical perceptual shift, the question arises, is this shift one that we should be pursuing? Is the goal of life really just to minimize sensate suffering? What about such goals as pursuing personal projects, having fun, raising a family, having loving relationships, etc. If you think that some or all of these goals are worthwhile, then it's worth asking how valuable is the kind of perceptual shift produced through the path Daniel describes. For one, thing according to Daniel himself, even after full enlightenment, one still suffers as a result of ordinary physical pains and ailments like sickness and injury. Full relief from suffering for the Arhat comes after death, but, JC, since you're a scientific materialist, you probably don't believe in literal reincarnation anyway, so having your suffering end after death is probably a given whether you're enlightened or not. That's why I think the question of what benefits/drawbacks enlightenment has on the level of content, is an extremely relevant question, even for atheists. To properly evaluate this, we need to understand in more detail what it's actually like to experience reality as an arhat does. It's not enough that arhats might say they are happier, because not all changes that lead to greater self-evaluated happiness are valuable when considered prospectively (I can provide more detail on the argument for this claim upon request).

Kind of the point is that it doesn't change content level activities: there is a Zen saying that before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water, and after enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water. Having the delusion of some kind of central controller just gets in the way, it's just the mind spinning round and round, and doesn't actually have anything to do with the real stuff underneath all that, the content.


In my personal experience the activity of the mind is extremely relevant to the content of my life. I've made many positive changes in my life as a direct result of content level insight produced through practices such as reflection, dialogue, therapy, creative artistic expression, energy work, and more. The idea that all the effort we put into understanding and bettering our lives on a content level is useless at best or harmful at worse just doesn't hold up to scrutiny. That's not to deny that some of our issues originate on a level that is fundamentally sensory, and can only be addressed at the pure sensate level, but lots and lots of problems are content level stuff that respond well to content level practices.

As for the Zen saying, I'd expect that if all or most of my meaningless sensate suffering were eliminated, this would have a very profound effect on what I would be capable of doing with my life, unless that same process which eliminated the suffering also undermined some crucial capacity for curiosity or action-orientation within me. That's what I'm trying to figure out in asking about the arhat state. A similar saying about Kung Fu makes a different point, "before learning kung fu, you just punch and kick, then when you start training, you don't know how to punch or kick, then after mastery you just punch and kick again." Yet, clearly the content-level efficacy of the kung fu master's punches and kicks is much much different from the one who has never trained.

Chuck Wrote:
Avi, best of luck with your search. If you find it all starting to drive you crazy - come back and take a look at this stuff.


I thought that the whole idea of this website was open intellectual dialogue about all this stuff. Your comment amounts to saying "trying to search for your own answers to these questions just drives you crazy, and it's pointless anyway, because we already know the TRUTH, and the truth is Buddhist doctrine. Come back and talk when you have seen the light and are ready to bow down before the unquestionable truth." That's not an attitude consistent with open dialogue in my books.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 12:37 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
For those who are interested. I've posted my further thoughts on this subject over here in the form of a longer essay.

Avi
Toronto Spiritual Direction

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 4:33 AM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi Craimer:


I thought that the whole idea of this website was open intellectual dialogue about all this stuff. Your comment amounts to saying "trying to search for your own answers to these questions just drives you crazy, and it's pointless anyway, because we already know the TRUTH, and the truth is Buddhist doctrine. Come back and talk when you have seen the light and are ready to bow down before the unquestionable truth." That's not an attitude consistent with open dialogue in my books.



There is no Truth, obviously, as truth in this sense is just in the mind of an individual, and there is no Buddhist doctrine, as there is no Buddhism, only Buddhisms, and each of these are filtered through the minds of individuals. What I see Avi reacting to (and also in the essay he posted) is to a response to a particular kind of Buddhism, the one found in MCTB, a filtering and reconstruction of the American Vipassana movement. I think, Avi, you make some good points, but just keep in mind many of them don't apply to other Buddhisms.

J C:


One thing I really like about Daniel's work is the way he divorces enlightenment from the spiritual side. It's what you make of it. Since you're a spiritual person you could interpret your enlightenment in that kind of spiritual way, and since I'm not, to me it's more about the perceptual shift.

There's been a movement to separate the meditation techniques from the religious or spiritual side, and that movement took the Burmese Theravada traditions as its starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement


I think this is a huge mistake.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 1:01 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi Craimer:
Your comment amounts to saying "trying to search for your own answers to these questions just drives you crazy, and it's pointless anyway, because we already know the TRUTH, and the truth is Buddhist doctrine. Come back and talk when you have seen the light and are ready to bow down before the unquestionable truth." That's not an attitude consistent with open dialogue in my books.


My comment was: Avi, best of luck with your search. If you find it all starting to drive you crazy - come back and take a look at this stuff.

Compare what you read into my words with what I wrote. I ask this because if you can see what went on there - how this additional meaning became projected onto my words then you understand how habitual patterns in our mind (karma if you wish) project onto phenomena (aggregates - in this case a few words of text) perceptions that lead to stress and agitation in our mind.

If you want me to flesh out my statement a bit, then it is something like: "Avi, I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your search for "the ultimate understanding ... that sees the truth in both the sensate level and the content level, and sees how the two are experientially synthesized". In my life I did not find that intellectual investigations - if that is what you have in mind - led me anywhere. Eventually, I came to a point where I could see that it was not the world that created all kinds of stress for me in my life but rather my own mind. At which point I tore deep into my own experience to try to find a way out of the craziness I experienced. More than anything, I wanted to know the truth (which is something each person has to find out for themselves - what that means for you). That was long before I ever encountered Buddhism or any other ism that purported to know the TRUTH. Having later come upon Gotamas Dhamma (as Ian would say), I did find that the central teachings that I have described early in this post - theoretical as they may seem - do acurately describe the nature of the problem and point to the way through it. So if you find that your search for the ultimate understanding isn't going anywhere then you could look at these teachings that I have linked to and investigate them in your own experience and see if that helps." - Something like that.

You wrote:
Is the goal of life really just to minimize sensate suffering? What about such goals as pursuing personal projects, having fun, raising a family, having loving relationships, etc.


I don't know what the goal of life is - seems like everyone is trying to get something and that that something keeps changing. The awakening experience is not for everyone - and the great majority of those that undertake the journey don't make it. The world - the one that we project onto phenomena - comes to an end. It is not subtle. It is not always pleasent and at times quite terrifying. Pursue personal projects, have fun, raise a family, have loving relationships. Why not? I mean this in a friendly way. Much of what Buddha taught was on how to do all that well - really well. For some, those endeavors won't lead to a sense of ease.

sawfoot:
What I see Avi reacting to (and also in the essay he posted) is to a response to a particular kind of Buddhism, the one found in MCTB, a filtering and reconstruction of the American Vipassana movement. I think, Avi, you make some good points, but just keep in mind many of them don't apply to other Buddhisms.


I completely agree.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 3:50 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
I recommend the book "My Big Toe" by Thomas Campbell for a very long winded explanation of the ultimate reality.
webpage here Check out his youtube videos first and see what you think. The other book I have not finished yet but is similar is Butterflies are Free to Fly - Free Book here...

See what you think...
good luck
~D

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 6:29 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:



J C:


One thing I really like about Daniel's work is the way he divorces enlightenment from the spiritual side. It's what you make of it. Since you're a spiritual person you could interpret your enlightenment in that kind of spiritual way, and since I'm not, to me it's more about the perceptual shift.

There's been a movement to separate the meditation techniques from the religious or spiritual side, and that movement took the Burmese Theravada traditions as its starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana_movement


I think this is a huge mistake.


Ok, I'll bite. Why?

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 6:43 PM as a reply to Avi Craimer.
Avi Craimer:
Sorry, it's taken me a few days to get back on this. It's been a busy weekend. This discussion has been very helpful to my own thinking about content and sensation. I'll share my new theory in a subsequent post, but first I'll reply to JC and Chuck.

JC

One thing I really like about Daniel's work is the way he divorces enlightenment from the spiritual side. It's what you make of it. Since you're a spiritual person you could interpret your enlightenment in that kind of spiritual way, and since I'm not, to me it's more about the perceptual shift.


I use 'spiritual' in a very broad way, to mean something like, "fundamental aspects of the meaning of human life." In that sense, I don't think anybody is really "non-spiritual", and most certainly not those who choose to devote large amounts of time to meditation practices. Of course, I acknowledge that for many people concepts like God, spirits, energy, and so on aren't very useful. However, saying that vipassana is about perceptual shift rather than spiritual development doesn't get you out of the sorts of questions I've been raising about meaning and content. If Therevada meditation produces a radical perceptual shift, the question arises, is this shift one that we should be pursuing? Is the goal of life really just to minimize sensate suffering? What about such goals as pursuing personal projects, having fun, raising a family, having loving relationships, etc. If you think that some or all of these goals are worthwhile, then it's worth asking how valuable is the kind of perceptual shift produced through the path Daniel describes. For one, thing according to Daniel himself, even after full enlightenment, one still suffers as a result of ordinary physical pains and ailments like sickness and injury. Full relief from suffering for the Arhat comes after death, but, JC, since you're a scientific materialist, you probably don't believe in literal reincarnation anyway, so having your suffering end after death is probably a given whether you're enlightened or not. That's why I think the question of what benefits/drawbacks enlightenment has on the level of content, is an extremely relevant question, even for atheists. To properly evaluate this, we need to understand in more detail what it's actually like to experience reality as an arhat does. It's not enough that arhats might say they are happier, because not all changes that lead to greater self-evaluated happiness are valuable when considered prospectively (I can provide more detail on the argument for this claim upon request).


I agree that the perceptual shift has effects on your life, in that you're no longer wasting time and energy in reactivity and self-referencing (or at least not as much). As far as "deep" questions like ultimate meanings and goals, I see those as somewhat tangential to becoming an arahat; it's a separate question.

My purpose in becoming an arahat is not happiness specifically. My main motivation is curiosity. As you say, we need to understand in more detail what it's like to experience reality as an arahat does, and I don't think there's a good way to do that other than to become one. I think it sounds awesome. I'm not really sure what, if any, changes that will cause in other areas of my life; I suspect very little. I really like the "three path" idea described in MCTB, which separates the 'morality' or 'virtue' path (which covers all the questions you're asking here) from the insight or concentration paths. I would imagine there are arahats who just want pleasure, arahats who find meaning in serving a community, arahats who are just miserable grumps, arahats who don't find meaning anywhere, and so forth, just like there are all kinds of lawyers or doctors, for instance.

I think I'm pretty non-spiritual even by your definition, which is broader than the way the word is usually used. Meditation for me just isn't about "meaning." It's just a project to improve my perception, done because I'm curious what it's like and it sounds cool.

not all changes that lead to greater self-evaluated happiness are valuable when considered prospectively (I can provide more detail on the argument for this claim upon request).


You mean something like Nozick's Experience Machine, where you're plugged into a machine and would consider yourself happy, but of course we wouldn't want to plug ourselves in? Please elaborate.



In my personal experience the activity of the mind is extremely relevant to the content of my life. I've made many positive changes in my life as a direct result of content level insight produced through practices such as reflection, dialogue, therapy, creative artistic expression, energy work, and more. The idea that all the effort we put into understanding and bettering our lives on a content level is useless at best or harmful at worse just doesn't hold up to scrutiny. That's not to deny that some of our issues originate on a level that is fundamentally sensory, and can only be addressed at the pure sensate level, but lots and lots of problems are content level stuff that respond well to content level practices.


Yes, content level stuff responds well to content level practices. In my own practice, I've found that it also responds well to meditation, which is a non-content level practice... specifically, it makes things less "sticky" so I'm not as reactive to emotion and don't identify with experiences. It improves my mood. But that doesn't really change any of my goals or values at a deep level, just removes a roadblock.

RE: How does content fit into the nature of reality?
Answer
11/11/13 7:24 PM as a reply to J C.
I think I found Daniel's answer about the nature of the nature of the Arhat's understanding of content, and how this works within the unified perceptual field. These gems are really scattered throughout the book in seemingly random places.

Arahats also have a wondrous understanding of all of this that is
unique to them and buddhas (though there may be hints of it at third
path) called the “sambhogakaya.” They know that the full range of
phenomenal reality and even the full range of the emotional life can be
deeply appreciated for what it is. They see that the world of concepts,
language, symbols, visions, thoughts and dreams is fundamentally the
same as the world of materiality, that they both share the same essential
nature from an experiential point of view. Mastering the Budda's Teachings, p. 311


Wow! That sounds like something I can sign up for. I feel that it's the sambhogakaya that is missing from so much Buddhist discourse that denigrates thinking as some kind of evil (not to say that all Buddhist discourse does so, but some surely does). As a philosopher and shaman, the content of verbal thoughts and mental images have always brought me lots of joy and satisfaction, so the thought of these going away after enlightenment makes me resist the whole idea. On the other hand, this sense that thoughts are not really separate from sensory reality, but are actually just another aspect of it, is exactly the way I have perceived things in my clearest moments. Merleau-Ponty, a French phenomenologist, whose work helped catalyse my own initial A&P event, writes about the nature of thought in very much this way, and it seemed like a revelation when I first read his work on the subject.