A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

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Avi Craimer, modified 7 Years ago.

A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 114 Join Date: 10/29/13 Recent Posts
First, if you aren’t familiar with 4-dimensional geometry, this post will be gibberish to you.

You could start by watching this video and this video to get an introduction.

Many people have it in their minds that time is the forth dimension. That’s true in general relativity theory, but it’s not true of our phenomenal experience since all experience happens at one point on the time dimension (the present moment) and this fact collapses that dimension when we’re doing phenomenology. Therefore, when I’m speaking of the 4th dimension, it’s best to think of it as a 4th spatial dimension set at 90 degrees to all of the three other spatial dimensions.

My theory is that the non-dual perception of 3D sensory reality is explained by awareness being a 4D entity within a 4D space. As the second video explains, a 4D entity can be aware of every point within a 3D volume simultaneously without occupying any point within that volume (just as 3D entities can be aware of every point on a flat 2D surface without occupying the same plane as that surface). This fits precisely with the descriptions that Daniel Ingram and others have given on non-dual experience. Namely, the experience of perceiving the entire 3D manifold of sense perception without occupying any point within that 3D space.

If this theory could be confirmed experientially, it would provide a potential resolution to the no-self vs true self debate in favour of the true-self model (at least on a certain level of abstraction). Rather than being a defined as a strange non-thing that defies rational description, awareness would be an entity that exists and operates in 4 spatial dimensions. Our 3D physical world is just one of an infinite number of 3D layer of this 4D space. The awareness-entity can overlap part of it’s 4D spatial extension into the 3D physical world, and this is what gives rise to dualistic perception. We experience the parts of the 3D physical world that are occupied by the 4D extension of awareness as being subject, and those parts not occupied by awareness as object. When awareness is able for the first time to withdraw its extension entirely from the 3D physical world and watch it at every point, that is the attainment of 4th path or non-dual perception.

This suggests that beyond 4th path, there could be a lot more development possible by learning to perceive 4-dimensional (or higher) space directly. Somebody with completely non-dual perception in 3-dimensions should be able to begin to have dual experiences of 4-dimensional objects. These objects would no doubt look totally different from anything we experience in physical reality so it would be difficult to learn to perceive them clearly. In general, our ability to clearly perceive any object is greatly facilitated by our possessing a concept that orients us toward perceiving that object. Therefore, a strong familiarity with 4-dimensional geometry at the conceptual level might help considerably in learning to perceive the 4D space occupied by awareness and to see awareness itself as a 4D object. Since 4-dimensional geometry was not developed until the 19th century, and it is not widely understood by non-mathematicians even today, this could explain why for thousands of years contemplatives have described awareness as a non-entity or nothingness. Using our recently developed knowledge of 4 dimensional geometry, modern contemplatives might be able to push back the veil of reality one more layer by learning to perceive awareness as a definite object, just a radically different sort of object from any possible thing we can experience in 3-dimensions. Of course, if this is possible, then there is something else, some meta-awareness that allows us to perceive awareness as a thing (5-dimensional?). So in another sense perhaps awareness will always be one step ahead of our attempts to make it an object, but that’s what keeps things interesting!

However, we will not make such discoveries if we don’t look for them, and unfortunately many people would rather accept that the ancient teachers always know best, even though we today have access to structuring concepts they absolutely lacked. I prefer to think of meditation as a process of discovery, potentially finding out things about reality that have never been seen before.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Avi
Spiritual Direction and Meditation Teaching
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Anne Cripps, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/12/13 Recent Posts
:-) Hi Avi!

...Interesting points.

I am probably going over old preliminary ground here, but just roughly to state what is meant by Buddhist ‘technical’ use of the word “self” (which doesn’t challenge or prevent other uses of the word, in Buddhism or elsewhere)… In this technical use of the word, a “self” is true and actual (that is, not imaginary (which seems obvious:-) and not a conceptual substitute for something else, not an idea or mental image or representation, not a word or other label); also, a “self” is individual (separate/ distinguishable, indivisible/uncompounded), constant, and independent of other causes and conditions.

I rather think the no-self (as distinct from “this conception/skandha/conditional-state is not-self”) proposition may either have arisen due to mistranslation of anattā/anātman; or because someone, on discovering that various objective phenomena that they’d previously assumed were ‘self’ were ‘not-self’, concluded that there "is no self”. As far as I'm aware, Shakyamuni Buddha never stated that there is “no self”, only what was “not-self”.

The word citta (heart/mind), and terms like Pali pabhassara citta (luminous heart/mind)) or Sanskrit prakṛti-prabhāsvara-citta (original luminous heart/mind), may be of relevance here. Citta includes both a knowingness aspect and an energic aspect; these two are sometimes compared to a rider and horse, or to cooperation between a sighted non-ambulant person and a blind ambulant person. Not sure how one can establish the eternity and causeless nature of the citta; but apart from questions such as, “When and how did it all begin?” and “Will it ever end?” (which one may not know) this is may seem somewhat ‘self-like’:-)

Some years ago I established a clairaudient link with a friend who lived in another district; now we live about 100 miles apart. I would describe this experience, which also sometimes includes what feels like transception of energy or sensation, as non-local mind-and-energy-continuums functioning within 3D space. I don’t think one has to wait till 4th path to experience similar. If we were nothing but skandhas, I don’t know how I could have established the link; but the sensations, mental-yak, impressions, effort, and our consciousness-of-the-experience are skandhic manifesting.
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Avi Craimer, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 114 Join Date: 10/29/13 Recent Posts
Hey Anne,

Thanks for the clarification regarding the Buddha's use of the term Self. It basically sounds like he was talking about what the Western traditions would call God: something eternal, indivisible, incorruptible, etc. So if I'm understanding you correctly, the Buddha's claim is not that there is no Self/God, just that nothing we have a sensory experience of is such a thing. That is certainly compatible with a theistic perspective that claims that God is super-sensible, i.e., not something that can be perceived with our senses (even mental senses). Yet, we can still hold that there is evidence of Self/God via the sensory manifestations that arise from contact with the divine. Similarly, we can't really experience nibbana (it's more of a non-experience) yet, we have evidence of nibbana via the entry and exit experiences.

As for what I was saying about the no-self vs true self debate in my original post. I was speaking about a more relative question. Namely, I was asking about the nature of that specific awareness which comprehends the entirety of the 3D manifold of ordinary sensory experience as a seemless non-dual whole. Let's call this awareness 3D-NDA for 3D non-dual awareness. Daniel's work (as I read it) suggests that 3D-NDA is a non-thing that cannot be said to exist.

There is also “awareness”, but awareness is not a thing or localized in a particular place, so to even say “there is also awareness” is already a tremendous problem, as it implies separateness and existence where none can be found.
-MBCT


Reading this again, we could equally argue that if 3D-NDA is in fact a 4-dimensional thing that can be experienced, then we were simply mistaken to think it it was true Awareness rather than simply another level of mind-stuff. This argument makes some sense, but it still pushes things beyond the level that was supposed to have been the final frontier, and it re-opens the possibility that it might be turtles all the way down. That is to say that we might never reach a point of simply knowing Awareness as a non-thing, because there is always some deeper perspective that could allow us to experience what we previously thought of as Awareness as merely a relative entity. To me that would be a fairly radically different picture than the one presented in MCTB. I can't speak to the Buddhist tradition more generally as I'm not a Buddhist scholar, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how this fits into the traditional texts.

Now I feel that I must acknowledge that all of this is wildly speculative, based on hints I've received in my practice and the aesthetic appeal of certain theoretical ideas. I don't pretend to have verified any of it first hand, but for me it opens up interesting possibilities for thinking about practice beyond 4th path.

Sincerely,
Avi
Meditation Teaching
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Anne Cripps, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/12/13 Recent Posts
:-) Hi Avi!

In my 40-odd years of practice I don’t think I’ve thought of the God-comparison before…can’t help but laugh at the thought of it!:-D But I think the Buddha was most particularly engaged in referring to people’s conceptions and views of their own ‘Godlike selves’ (though I expect you know that:-)

In reference to your question “about the nature of that specific awareness which comprehends the entirety of the 3D manifold of ordinary sensory experience as a seamless non-dual whole”… If referring to awareness/consciousness-of-objects (this is a subtle point), that is the 5th skandha, viññāṇa/vijñāna (consciousness): awareness/consciousness-of-objects is like a coin having two sides, you get both or none; the ‘consciousness’ side of this ‘coin’ doesn’t exist apart from the ‘objects’ side. Because the ‘consciousness-of’ side is co-dependent on the ‘objects’ side, it is referred to as not-self; one could consider it a functioning or manifesting; without it we couldn’t practise mindfulness!

In addition to “the 3D manifold of ordinary sensory experience”, the "objects" side of the ‘coin’ can include such as sensations, thoughts and perceptions, inner activity, and awareness/consciousness of being aware/conscious. Unifying ones object-field of consciousness in this way is, I think, an important step in mindfulness practice (the saying “the world [of ones experience] is consciousness” seems a reflection of this). I expect you know about this.

None of the foregoing may be directly helpful in your enquiry, for which I apologise, Avi; but I'm sure your own good practice will supply further insights and openings (-:
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katy steger, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Anne,

Anne:
If referring to awareness/consciousness-of-objects (this is a subtle point), that is the 5th skandha, viññāṇa/vijñāna (consciousness): awareness/consciousness-of-objects is like a coin having two sides, you get both or none; the ‘consciousness’ side of this ‘coin’ doesn’t exist apart from the ‘objects’ side. Because the ‘consciousness-of’ side is co-dependent on the ‘objects’ side, it is referred to as not-self; one could consider it a functioning or manifesting; without it we couldn’t practise mindfulness!

In addition to “the 3D manifold of ordinary sensory experience”, the "objects" side of the ‘coin’ can include such as sensations, thoughts and perceptions, inner activity, and awareness/consciousness of being aware/conscious. Unifying ones object-field of consciousness in this way is, I think, an important step in mindfulness practice (the saying “the world [of ones experience] is consciousness” seems a reflection of this). I expect you know about this.
I think another way to express two-sides-of-the-coin point can be by the analogy of a relationship. When two people talk, between them is something new forming: the relating. The people are simultaneously contributing stuff and reacting to stuff and creating stuff: so "relating" is dependent and constantly in flux, being changed by and changing the stuff (the conditions present at the relating: bodies, environment, emotions, sensations...)

We generally just don't see an embodied "relating" and "relationship"; there is just the space between people, the interacting happening between people within dynamic conditions.

So another way to express viññāṇa is like this; viññāṇa is the relating-ness that arises dependent on form -- it doesn't arise alone, it is the invisible arising with form. Dynamic, dependent and not visible, it is very much there like the "relating" between, say, two people --- that being that is continually created by two people interacting.

A sense of self comes from that neutral viññāṇa which is very "clean" and "simple" -- just outgoing, turning towards/touching --- when it becomes bound up by volition and sensation, which result together in gratification; it is hard to see that "I" is an embodiment of the relating-ness (viññāṇa) of the skandhas, and that that "I" develops more and more in interacting with its own skhandas, other dhammas (stuff) and other viññāṇa that are developing similarly, the turning towards gratifying sensations, which continual turning towards sense-gratification can lead to greed, which greed interaction can lead to ill-will. (Painful sensory experience can also lead to colouring the viññāṇa with aversion/recoil/ill-will.)

If a self sees itself as a distinct, separate entity, then it is blocking out its obvious contingency with other stuff, with other nearby similarly developing beings.

When a self realizes (perhaps by clearly observing viññāṇa and the other skandhas) that what "it" actually is a resulting of interacting conditions, it changes how it relates, because it understands that its experience will be dependent on the forms (conditions) with which it exists and how it relates with this stuff as well as the other "viññāṇas" interacting and affecting it, too. A "domino" effect of contingent being. A long-term understanding causes relating to become friendly and/or neutral; a short-term assumption can develop the viññāṇa into a sense of "I" but built nearly entirely and continually on sensory gratification.

This is not an "all-one" nor a "no-self" realization nor is it a "non-dual" realization anymore than it is a non-plural or a non-singular, which words mean something else entirely from what is "interbeing", contingent identity, dependently originating; these are different views or experiences resulting from detecting dependent origination (aka: contingent identity).

And if this contingent identity is understood, then it can cause behavioural changes: this "own consciousness" realized as a contingent, fluid "identity", aka. dependently originating, interbeing, is eventually aware of its own volitional contributions to the relating/to the interbeing in which it is constantly being born into, from and bearing.

So realizing dependent origination, one can experience viññāṇa in its neutral-going-towards/touching-relating --- its seeming natural, initial state when first arising and conditioned only by the khandhas. And one can return viññāṇa to that by continually studying sensations and restraints on sense-gratification/aversion. To be completely thorough in this area is yet beyond me.

And, again, realizing dependent origination, one also can behaviourally aim towards "skillfulness" as a result of increasingly clear awareness of being an aggregate and dependently arising, and specifically being a human interbeing with particular conditions (aka: amid other dynamic stuff and sentients) and attempt to train apt behaviours in skillful ways relative to one's own unique human conditions (i.e., in a buddhist context that could be brahmavihara conduct).

[edited: trying to write this more clearly]
Rist Ei, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 500 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
Anne Cripps:

The word citta (heart/mind), and terms like Pali pabhassara citta (luminous heart/mind)) or Sanskrit prakṛti-prabhāsvara-citta (original luminous heart/mind), may be of relevance here. Citta includes both a knowingness aspect and an energic aspect; these two are sometimes compared to a rider and horse, or to cooperation between a sighted non-ambulant person and a blind ambulant person. Not sure how one can establish the eternity and causeless nature of the citta; but apart from questions such as, “When and how did it all begin?” and “Will it ever end?” (which one may not know) this is may seem somewhat ‘self-like’:-)


heart is body, subconsciousness
knowledge is mind, consciousness
and also there is true and only self whats eternal, what is constantly aware of both.

in dreams its heart predominant
in waking life its mind predominant
so ultimately dreams and waking life is one and the same but its possible to win eternity only when mind(intelligence) is predominant.

now when we become aware in waking life, we are identified with mind, now in order to become eternal we need to let go of mind(third eye area) too.

i think you knew it already...
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Sweet Nothing, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: A Four Dimensional Theory of Non-Dual Perception

Posts: 164 Join Date: 4/21/13 Recent Posts
We can only know for sure by experience rather than theory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9sbdrPVfOQ

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