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Q & A With Kenneth Folk

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Q & A With Kenneth Folk AugustLeo 1/30/15 1:58 PM
RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk AugustLeo 1/30/15 1:59 PM
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RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk AugustLeo 2/1/15 10:24 AM
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RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk AugustLeo 2/3/15 12:30 PM
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Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/30/15 1:58 PM
I’ve asked Kenneth Folk if he would be interested in a “Q & A With Kenneth Folk” thread here on the Dharma Overground, and he responded “sounds like a great idea. I'm looking forward to being more available there.”

My initial thought is that it might work best to have one central thread for general Q & A, and perhaps specific topics could branch out into separate threads. I’m certainly open to other schemes. My only motivation is to make it easier for Kenneth to find and respond to questions, so that this community can benefit from his involvement here on the forum.

Metta.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/30/15 1:59 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Kenneth,

In your Q & A exchange with Elizabeth on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBXz8UVs2Pk&google_comment_id=z134fxhpaxvkyhejc04cff1gstjcf1s5a04, you define experience thus: “I'm using a very simple, common-sense definition of experience. If you can describe it, or remember it, it's experience. If there is any knowing of it, with or without an "I" or "me" to know about it, it is experience.”

You then wrote that “that there is no experience of awareness. Awareness is always inferred.” And “If you carefully examine your experience in this moment, you will not find awareness. You will find seeing, hearing, tasting, touching/feeling, smelling, tasting, and mental phenomena. There is nothing in experience except experience, irrespective of whether it seems to be happening to an "I" or not.”

What are your thoughts on the seeming phenomenon of being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience?

Thanks!

Michael

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/30/15 3:30 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Be interested to see what comes up. Thank you.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/30/15 3:57 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Kenneth I know I would greatly benefit from your involvement on this forum, thanks for any time you can give to us neophites!

I asked this question on another thread, but didn't get an answer. Figured might as well try it here (sorry if this is just being annoying):

You Wrote on Another Thread:
"To summarize, the idea of not-self as a prescription is less than useful. And the hope of cultivating "not-self" as a persistant experience is counterproductive and based on a misunderstanding. But the exploration of experience, with the aim of finding out whether there is a self, leads to liberation."


My Question: Have you read Rob Burbea's new book: Seeing that Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising? In it he recommends cultivating different ways of intentionally looking, including the 3C's as provisional tools to recognize the inherent emptiness of selves' and phenomenon. In other words, to use wisdom as a tool, as a lens, and not just wait for it as a result. He argues that the advice to always just be with things as they are is not good, because "as things are" involves all kinds of assumptions and reification of "things" that are in fact empty. This seems to be counter to what you are recommending here, i.e, not using the 3C's as prescription. Is it? Here is a quote from Burbea:

"To some, this second mode of insight practice, where liberating ways of looking are intentionally cultivated and sustained, may initially sound unattractive... may involve a belief that 'being' and 'doing' are really different...'just being' is regarded as preferable or somehow more authentic...it turns out, though, that whenever there is any experience at all, there is always some fabricating, which is a kind of 'doing'...in states of 'just being' which we might image are devoid of self, a subtle self is actually being constructed anyway...What seems like 'just being with things as they appear' will undoubtedly involve all kinds of views and assumptions, mostly unrecognized, about what is perceived. Thus it is actually a way of looking; or, more likely, it will subsume, at different times, relatively diverse ways of looking...My experience in my own practice, in teaching, and in talking and listening to others, is that meditations using only the first mode of insight - that is, relying mostly on insight as a 'result' - will very probably not be enough on their own to overcome the force of deeply engrained habitual delusion that perceives and intuitively feels things to have inherent existence. As we have said, some element or aspect of a phenomenon will remain reified if it is not consciously and profoundly seen into. The overwhelming tendency is to unconsciously impute inherent existence to things, not to see emptiness. We need, therefore, to practice views that actually dissolve or remove this illusion of inherent existence."

Thoughts?

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/31/15 9:41 PM as a reply to Bill F..
Michael, I just spent three hours composing an anwer to this question and lost it when I hit the "publish" button. I'm going to weep now and crawl under the bed.

Thank you for the great question and for starting this thread. I'll try again as soon as I recover.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
1/31/15 9:59 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hi Kenneth,

Thanks for the long interview and following up here.  The link on your website http://contemplativefitnessbook.com/ does not work. 

Matt

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 9:01 AM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Thank you so much for doing this, AugustLeo. I have not so much a question as a remark, which is that ever since watching that BATGAP interview I have felt kind of depressed. Not sure why. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping to get God back? And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother? If the answer is, stop suffering, I have more or less done that, or drastically reduced it. So when I say I'm depressed, it's just a subtle feeling tone, not a deep quagmire. But still . . .

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 10:40 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
Thank you so much for doing this, AugustLeo. I have not so much a question as a remark, which is that ever since watching that BATGAP interview I have felt kind of depressed. Not sure why. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping to get God back? And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother? If the answer is, stop suffering, I have more or less done that, or drastically reduced it. So when I say I'm depressed, it's just a subtle feeling tone, not a deep quagmire. But still . . .
I think this alienation is a peice of the path that moves students and teachers from the phase of those roles to a further saturating autonomy of understanding of conditions, anatta, anicca-- reliable peace of mind.

The thing about teacher-student community is that a) there is social nesting, which is lovely and I chose socializing often by my own measure; b) teacher-student vectors can prolong dependence in a halted investigation of anicca, anatta and dukkha. 

Perhaps consider hiking clubs who deliberately thwart leader-follower tropes so the first person rotates to the back of the group and the last person eventually are the first. This way everyone experiences the hike from a variety of angles and one cannot become the willfully structured pretense of leader or follower. Each person along the way is both and in the middle along the way. There is no glaringly "quiet leader" pretending to cede to a pool of followers magnanimously. 

So I see there may be, for a number of practitioners, a sense of loss or void or alienation when their practice can no longer be satisfied by having teachers or by having students. The roles become a mental distraction and a clinging-point preventing further investigation into anicca and anatta and conditions, dukkha. The idea of God, not speaking here of any actuality of which and which is for one to investigate for themselves, is perhaps a signal for this phase, which phase has a sort of loneliness/too much openness to it and indicates for some renewed peeling of the onion by just sitting, witnessing own mind. If I say that sitting right in this phase is signless creativity/suffusive anatta*, then I risk offering advertisements of bliss and blissful now that may serve the arc of teacher-student vectors and speaking beyond my scope.

____
edit: even in zen traditions, just saying chopping wood, hauling water-- this nod to just this, just that, can become foriegn special objects (e.g., "chopping wood, hauling water"), special insistences which feed alienation/loss/unrequitable desire. Even the so-called master and teacher who made "Open mouth already a mistake" a lesson also kept himself fluent in feeding his sense desire well beyond ethical norms. So the path is ironically personal and also can be transparent and shared and released on all accounts. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 10:24 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
Thank you so much for doing this, AugustLeo. I have not so much a question as a remark, which is that ever since watching that BATGAP interview I have felt kind of depressed. Not sure why. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping to get God back? And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother? If the answer is, stop suffering, I have more or less done that, or drastically reduced it. So when I say I'm depressed, it's just a subtle feeling tone, not a deep quagmire. But still . . .

You're welcome, Jane.  emoticon 

As I said to Kenneth, his writing and speaking style and his clarity of thought help me to examine and express my own understanding.  And I really miss reading his viewpoint and the Q & A exchange about dharma and practice on his old Wetpaint site and forum. Kenneth is still my favorite teacher!

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 11:22 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
@Jane Laurel Carrington
Not sure why. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping to get God back?

God is the one experiencing *you*, it went nowhere, no need to look for him in any special 'God sensations' because every single sensations you feel are sensations of a God. Ofcourse I am not suggesting some thinking God throwing thunders, just your ordinary Great Brahma God we are all part of.

And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother?

There is also possibility that Kenneth with all his attainments, experiences, mind states, etc is yet not sammasambuddha and not yet possess omniscience regarding supermundane reality and those opinions which he expresses come from his atheistic bias and outlook on life and are not representing how it will actually be like after death.

I myself wouldn't be now so hasty to dismiss rebirth even if in past I was thinking it was all but the bullshit and/or pointed only somewhere else. It is however good that Kenneth caused that you started considering this possibility too because right view is to see all possibilities and synthesize from that true knowledge.

@Kenneth Folk
Thanks for last answer. I also apologize for reducing you to someone without omniscience. I did so not because you are not but because before your message arrive to someone mind it gets distorted by their own minds. I hope you forgive me.

And BTW, I have question regarding your experience. I have developed synesthesia and perception changes regarding presentation of colors, shapes, textures, I can eg. feel everything I see like I was touching it with my hands or some other tenticle like things or if I go at it more intensely just like I was objects I see. Especially standing out are changes in presentation of colors, they can literally pop out as ridiculously saturated and pleasurable. It is all 'controlled' via chakras and other 'mind equalizer' means. I wasn't born with this and it is not one time stroke then permanent thing, I have to work on it, if I do not then all kinda fade to insignificance which compared to colorful and rich presentation synesthesia can provide is rather unbearably bleak and like not even living... at least for visual cortex not experiencing IT feels like being dead. I also can see flat images as having depth and spent ridiculous amount of time practicing my visualization to the point I can walk down the street and see insides of people houses, insides and backsides of objects and pretty much anything I see. I do not have idea where from brain takes all those details but certainly it does pretty good job.

As I understand Daniel Ingram have developed some forms of synesthesia too, cause his descriptions of 4th path state basically screams he did. I am not however sure extent of it, if it is only on cognition level as removal of cognition inhibition process (that constitute image of mind and its removal is 4th path) or if it have more inter senses and just visualized senses qualities to it too.

I am also interested in your experiences in this axis of developement. Ofcourse if you answered this question it would be not merely for me but for welfare of all sentient beings =)

ps. for me one visual color can be felt and actually seen in many ways depending on many conditions like any mentation process change it, especially when it is put on 'main screen' of consciousness, it then change 'palette' of everything. I do not see those things discussed anywhere which for me is quite ridiculous...

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 11:04 AM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Probably should make this strictly Kenneth and asker interactions. If other people want to elaborate they can make new threads instead. It gets so bloated otherwise with thank you's and what not. So cleanup and then restart perhaps =).

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 11:19 AM as a reply to AugustLeo.
I listened to the Buddha at the Gas Pump discussion twice. Kenneth, and anyone else, what are you thoughts on rebirth? Have you experienced anything that would lead you to believe that it happens or doesn't happen?

You touched on the topic briefly in your recent interview here, seeming to say that the Buddha's talk about rebirth was a result of his growing up in a culture that accepted certain facts about rebirth.

So there are two goals of Buddhist meditation practice - 1) don't get reborn, and 2) how can you best live in this life full of dukkha? If rebirth happens, then you have some work to do, to become an arhat and end the cycle. If rebirth doesn't happen and all you want to do is vanish, then that changes things quite a bit, there are easier ways to vanish.

I think I remember seeing a post by Daniel, here, where he listed the previous lives he has seen evidence of. I'm very interested in hearing any personal experiences on this topic. Thanks,

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:55 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
And, to be clear, Jane I replied to you without having watched the 'batgap' interview, which inspired your comment. 



I started to watch it just now and saw an edit made to the interview at around 12:45 when the interviewee speaks on the terrain of trained physicists. A propos, I tend to prefer people would announce their edits else it can propose something like corporate branding-image management, sales-protection. When an interview is nearly two hours long I can't imagine that anything was too tangential as to merit 'cutting the tape'.
____________________________
edit: Kenneth noted he made a critical comment of a public figure and, among other points, the video was edited to spare him and intevierer the basis of a possible defamation suit against him.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 1:14 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother? 

Hi Jane
This is Kenneth's teaching that Nibbana means death or oblivion, not the Buddha's. Are we all practicing 'awakening' and (in new-agey terms) raising our vibrations in order to enter oblivion? Buddha called Nibbana the Deathless, not Death
The Dalai Lama, and many other schools of Buddhism, have referred to Nibbana as a "state beyond sorrows" and a "state of freedom from cyclic existence" - the Buddha (as far as I know) negated that the goal was oblivion
IMO it's important that we decide on which teacher's dharma to have faith in until we know these answers for ourselves 100%, with only knowing and no belief - I personally choose Buddha's. There are too many subtle traps along the path. Be happy : )
Daniel

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 1:47 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Thanks, Daniel. I have less knowledge of Buddhadharma from the source than I would like, but I had thought that what you say is in fact the case. However, Kenneth seems to think otherwise, and so my question to him would be, why? Does this have something to do with secular Buddhism? which, of course, is a label. 

Andreas: I hope Kenneth comes in and answers some of these questions, but I have trouble imagining us not doing some discussion on our own, without necessarily starting new threads (which to me would be cumbersome). And expressions of gratitude are never an encumbrance, with the possible exception of the Academy Awards. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 2:30 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
ever since watching that BATGAP interview I have felt kind of depressed. Not sure why. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping to get God back? And maybe I hate to think of the goal, Nirvana, as the same thing as death? In which case, why bother? If the answer is, stop suffering, I have more or less done that, or drastically reduced it. So when I say I'm depressed, it's just a subtle feeling tone, not a deep quagmire. But still . . .

Well, depression is/can be normal when experiencing a loss.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:57 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
[removed by request]

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 4:31 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
Jane: I have less knowledge of Buddhadharma from the source

Oh, good heavens. Notions of there being "the source" cause of a lot of arrogance and divisions. Some Therevadans trend comments like, "Well, you can think of the Pali cannon as at the forefront..." and others outright say their lineage is the "authentic teaching". So arrogant. Silly, at best.


Hi Katy - repectfully you are also promulgating a 'view' that holds that the historical Buddha's teachings are not well encapsulated by what we have of the Pali Cannon as much as any other view, or that those historically most ancient Buddhist texts are not super important. Kenneth is also expounding a view that Nibbana or the goal of the path is oblivion. IMO there is a real danger of too much equivalency here. I think there is a fine line between discenment between teachings that are authentic (in my view pointing toward awareness and equanimity of reality as it unfolds) or, for example, the many spiritual teachings focused on attainment of a God realm, versus arrogance, when one feels like they have the thing. I think this all gets settled when one no longer clings to views and philosophies (the raft or the finger pointing toward the moon in those oft-used analogies) and instead focuses on liberation from the second arrow - what the Buddha (as we know him) concerned himself with
I think there is a danger of muddying the waters so to speak when one is totally unconcerned with 'authentic teachings'
Kenneth was expressing a view about oblivion as the goal, something that I pointed out was not a part of Buddha's teaching as I understand them. These points are very important if one hopes to achieve stream entry and beyond. If one already claims stream entry, these points of contention should not exist (according to Buddha) because the fetter of having doubt in the Buddhadharma has been generally overcome, so one wouldn't need to languish over whether or not teachings on rebirth or karma were true or not (for example) because these are the teachings of the Buddha, and he is now your teacher above all others. I understand that this rubs many secularists, materialists and existentialists the wrong way indeed
I say this as a very non-religious person. I think discernment is very good (and encouraged in Buddhism) but I also believe that there are major differences between some of the ideas that Kenneth puts forth and those of Buddhism. If these contradictions are unimportant to you that is fine - to me (and maybe others) these points of contention and disagreement between teachings and philosophies are quite important
My biggest criticism would be that terms like Nibbana and Stream Entry and Arahat mean specific things in Buddhist teachings and they cannot be re-defined away from what the Buddha taught them to be, as the 'pragmatic dharma movement' tends to do, because he invented those words and built a complete teaching around their specific meaning. I think there's a danger in levelling out the playing field so much that we lose touch with what the buddhadharma is. If we're not talking about the buddhadharma that is fine too - it could be any old dharma. This is The Dharma Overground anyway, and this could be my dharma or your dharma, Kenneth's dharma or the buddhadharma. I think it's critical that we know which one we are following
Happy Sunday : )
Daniel


RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:58 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
[removed by request]

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/1/15 7:17 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Just a friendly reminder that this thread is intended to be a Q & A thread with Kenneth Folk.

Everyone's voice is a valuable contribution to this community, so I'm respectfully requesting that those who want to reply to questions or comments posted for Kenneth in this thread, please consider splitting off to a separate thread. 

Thanks.

Michael emoticon

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 1:11 AM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Hello Kenneth,

You wrote in the article 'Jhana and Nana'
That pre- and post- fourth nana yogi's need to follow two different instructions. A pre- fourth nana yogi should put his focus in penetrating the object. A post- fourth nana yogi must concentrate.

My question
I am planning to do a home retreat for a longer duration, maybe 30 days. I am following the mahasi sayadaw noting technique. In the retreats I have been to I just kept noting and noticing everthing that I would experience. During sits I would take the abdomen as my ancher and would stay there but with the intension to notice the characteristiscs (four elements). During walking I would stay with the feet and notice the characteristiscs. I wouldn't switch to more concentration practice but just follow the same technique and instructions during the whole retreat. The article is from 2009, do you still hold the opinion that post- fourth nana yogi's should concentrate more? Do you suggest that when I cross the A&P, I should do more samatha practice like counting my breath or using a mantra to boost the concentration?
I get the idea that concentration is important, but isn't it key to understand what is happening in your experience? Or is the ability to understand your experience automatic after your have crossed the A&P and is it just a matter of concentration, so you can see deeper?

Thanks in advance for your answer!

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 3:02 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Hi Kenneth,

I liked some of your comments in the other thread, and I think what you say about awareness is pretty sensible.

Here are two questions, with quotes from that thread that relate to the first question:
Kenneth:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5660045
KennethAs the experiences of the witness and primordial awareness were integrated through the years, it became increasingly difficult to think of them as special, or to believe that they were more real, more valid, or more ontologically significant than an itch, a sound, or a thought. This was simultaneously devastating and liberating. I could no longer privilege even the loftiest of phenomena as the "right" way to be or the "truth." The common habit of spiritual teachers to speak of Reality as though it had a capital "R" no longer made sense to me.
...
Here is my current working model: all experience has exactly the same ontological status as any other. In other words, there is no reason to believe that any experience, however subtle, exquisite, or profound, gives one special knowledge or insight into the ultimate nature of the universe. As humbling and discouraging as this may sound, it turns out to be a great relief, once integrated. It's terrible when Santa Claus dies, but at least you don't have to drag him around anymore. Now, having grieved extensively the death of my sacred states, I am much more likely to be delighted than discouraged upon noticing that there is nothing in this or any other world that we can be sure of.


1) Your phrasing appears to indicate that you used to believe that meditation practice gave you access to some kind of "ultimate" reality. Now, in your interview you still talk about liberation and awakening, and describe them as appropriate terms. While you profess to not holding a belief that meditation practices can give access to the "ultimate", it appears that you advertise yourself as someone who has access to special knowledge and/or insight (i.e. you are "awakened" or "enlightened"), who has taken steps that are "hard, and rare" and you can train clients to access that kind of special knowledge or insight - which you describe currently as "experience as process". Given that there is nothing in this world you can be sure of, do you worry that you profit (or profited in the past) from offering what might end up (or has ended up) being "fool's gold" - beliefs which while initially hugely attractive (paraphrasing your words) are devastatingly and horribly wrong? Profit in this instance can refer to both financial but also factors such as respect or status.

2) Do you (or have you) take(n) on clients with mental health issues (e.g. those that have suffered or suffer from depression or anxiety) who are looking to find a cure/happiness? And how have your decisions here relate to using your own testimonials of curing suicidal depression and drug addiction and finding "happiness beyond conditions" to advertise your services (currently at $125 per 45 min session)?

BTW Katy, if you seek/scan through the interview you don't find that little power posing - some, but I find it hard to imagine it was being consciously used.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 3:29 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
I should add, his statement was self-contradictory. "This is the only certain statement." would have worked, I think. Speaking of which, I recommend Certainty of Uncertainty by Poerkson. It's a collection of essays about radical constructivism. Along with general semantics, radical constructivism seems aligned with Kenneth's thought.

Anyway,
Katy, if you seek/scan through the interview you  don't find that little power posing - some, but I find it hard to imagine it was being consciously used

emoticon I laughed at Katy's post because I was also armchair analyzing it as passive aggression.

EDIT:
Oh, yeah and I was also wondering how Kenneth reconciled his lack of ultimate perspective perspective with his claim to some kind of awakening.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:43 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
[removed by Kenneth's request]


 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 6:48 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
I can't resist answering the question about the pose--at a certain point well into the interview, Kenneth explained that his neck was bothering him. So it was muscle strain, not a desire to intimidate or even sell anyone anything.

And BTW, I personally am having a lot of problems with the hostile, anonymous questioning. If people don't want to work with Kenneth or buy his apps, then don't. Let's please stick with the matter of the interview itself. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:44 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
[removed by Kenneth's request]


______
Edited: To correctly cite AN 5.159

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 9:08 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy,

Is everyone who practices meditation and is concerned with awakening a Buddhist and required to adhere to 2500 year old doctrines invented by a man who existed completely out of our technological, scientific, contemporary context? Is money inheritly bad? Should we adhere to everything the Pali canon says just because?

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 9:19 PM as a reply to Ryan J.
Ryan Kenneth Johnson:
Is everyone who practices meditation and is concerned with awakening a Buddhist and required to adhere to 2500 year old doctrines invented by a man who existed completely out of our technological, scientific, contemporary context? Is money inheritly bad? Should we adhere to everything the Pali canon says just because?


Teaching for the purpose of material gain regards, in buddhist-speak, the dharma eye, aka "wisdom" eye: in plain speak: the inablity to see conditions with the knowledge of cause and effect.

Today a dharma teacher can rightly say, "I'll pay my plane ticket to offer the retreat you've requested, and you who ask me to teach please feed and house me during retreat and give a dana towards the ending of causes of, say, for example, ocean acidifaction and overharvesting or supplying the 3Rs of education in children without such empowering education, towards local food sustainability, towards senient empathy-- or you please mobilize an action towards a beneficial cause with your skillset (so if you give a retreat to Google or your neighborhood there is a nice range of monetary to skill dana); and if I really cannot afford my transportation I will let you know as it's less polluting for me to come to you than for all of you to come to me."

In this year, 2015, it is the very tiny, passé teacher with "pink eye" not wisdom eye who would seek payment for their newly-spun trinkets and new definitions and dependency, failing to offer seekers companionship and skill in positive mental attention to own mind and to see the causality therein and thereout. 

____
edit: so in anyone's time, charging for this is ignorance, but I grant that the West has been experimenting with a business model for a few decades now. If you're free, you're fortunately welcome to support business-guru dharma and it's outcomes, like the sale of bottled water.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 9:30 PM as a reply to Ryan J.
Regarding charging for dharma teachings: There is something unsettling  about charging 125 dollars an hour (or any amount) so an unenlightened being can be helped to transcend all suffering, endless bodily rebirth, and samsara.  On the other hand, if people are benefiting from the exchange then this is much better than if they had not spent the money and made no progress because of not spending the money.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 9:46 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Ryan,


[removed by request]

As a secular student of buddhist science of mind (like Ken?),  I'll just quote the dhammapada again :

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you, like the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. 

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you, as your shadow unshaken.In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. 


______
EDIT I: addressing Ryan
Edit II:

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/2/15 11:42 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Well, WTF. I forked over money to work with Kenneth and Beth a few years ago, and what I got from it would be impossible to praise too highly. Kenneth's training, combined with the community I worked with at Kenneth Folk Dharma (and later at Awakenetwork) are the best thing, taken compositely, to ever happen to me. I have worked with others since. I had the money and did not begrudge it. Maybe that makes me a gullible fool. People who had more money would donate to allow other yogis without means to get instruction. In the meantime, dharma teachers get to eat, have clothes to wear, and a roof over their heads.

If Kenneth's thinking has evolved over the years, there's no difficulty for me about any of that. My own thinking has evolved as well. I am a college history teacher. What I do in my classroom now is lots different from what I did 20 years ago, and I may even be embarrassed to think of my (comparative) ignorance when I first started teaching. Regardless of all of that, I fully believe that my students got their money's worth. 

Kenneth's claim to be awakened by no means suggests that he is now cast in concrete. He explained in the interview that awakening looks different for different people, although it has the same taste--the taste of freedom (this last bit being my words). This question over money can tie people in knots. I respect Michael's desire to move any such discussion elsewhere, to another thread. The thing is, given the way things are going on this thread, I would be beyond amazed if Kenneth even bothered to post again. 

I am am not suggesting servile hero-worship. I myself have some pointed questions. And if I am taking it upon myself to defend Kenneth, who is more than capable of defending himself, then I apologize sincerely for my presumption. I actually respect you a lot, Katy, but I just plain have to butt heads here. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 3:37 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy
As I see it this Kenneth is free to sell his products for prices he feels they are worth and does not have to give away his free time for free. If it was not meditation but eg. piano lessons then would that be considered morally appropriate to charge money?

You do not need piano teacher to learn playing on piano. You do not need piano or advices from teacher. There are books about it and cheap keyboards that are as good for practice as real deal piano. And even with teacher you still have to do all the hard work of learning how to play. Why this unhealthy view that meditation is somehow different?

Teaching mediation to mentally ill people is slightly different topic and quite complicated and depend on every case individually. Sending everyone with any mental issues home/psychiatrist is not very moral thing to do because there is great therapeutic value of meditation in some cases. This is hardly the topic to discuss those kind of complex issues, especially given that author of this thread intended it to be about practice...

Pawe?

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 8:28 AM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Given the interest in asking Kenneth questions about his BATGAP interview, I had originally conceived that this thread would be an opportunity for community members to ask Kenneth to expand on his current teachings and dharma perspective as an ongoing dialogue.

I believe that this community could benefit from Kenneth’s participation in this way. Others may or may not agree with me. As I posted earlier, his writing and speaking style and his clarity of thought help me to examine and express my own understanding, whether I agree with his perspective or not.

I admit that this thread has taken a turn in a direction I hadn’t intended, just as life can do. I’m okay with that. I never expected the type of questions that Katy Steger is asking, probably because those questions just haven’t been important to me. That’s not to say that say that those questions shouldn’t be asked, if someone feels they’re important.

It’s not up to me to say that those questions don’t belong in this thread.  It’s not my thread, it belongs to this community, and this community as a whole can make that decision. That’s okay with me. Ultimately, Kenneth will decide which questions he chooses to answer, if he chooses to answer any. And that’s okay with me, too.

Finally, it’s been instructive for me to read Katy’s questions & comments and observe, in real time, the experience of my “sub-selves” struggling to react in various ways, without ever becoming embedded in the struggle. And that’s totally okay!! So, thank you Katy. emoticon

Metta to all.

Michael

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 9:17 AM as a reply to P K.
This is no longer a discussion, but a rant. We all now know exactly what you think on the issue of charging money for instruction. In the meantime, the thread's original purpose has been highjacked, and the rest of the forum has been denied an opportunity to have questions addressed and hear more of what Kenneth has to say. 

ETA: I posted this at exactly the same time as Michael's post, so this is not in response to his gracious comments. However, I will acknowledge that he and I obviously disagree. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 11:18 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Hi Jane, 

That's fine. I have posed my questions, too, like "How many student hours do you need to sell per day to meet your target sales and income needs?" and a few of you have raised issues with my question to which I've responded transparently, "a rant" in your estimation.

And, yes, your dude will surely reply to some questions and possibly do some nice brand work with all this*.

____________
*A nod to Ken's comment in Wired.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 10:06 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.

To be clear, again, Jane, people can certainly receive dana (money, food, gifts, music, housing... anything really etc.) for dharma teaching. I am raising the point that there is in the Theravadan traditions an interdiction on teaching for the purpose of material gain (AN 5.159).  

I have noted how teaching for material gain:
-- [removed by request]
-- but also in the sense of "wisdom eye", dharma speak for knowing cause-and-effect;
-- where the greatest "payment", to me, to a teacher if a practice is worthwhile, is good practice.

But, no, recieving dana in the form of money (or anything) no conflict there. Many people like myself make anon and deductible contributions as dana becuase it's easier than buy a teacher food or sending in a portion of fuel oil payment and the like.

And, of course, people can give money to persons and corporations as they see fit. If a teacher self-identifies as enlightened and people want to pay for their time and pay to have that relationship, it's up to those people.

_____
Edit x3: format and clarity and adding this "Edit x3"
edit 4: redaction by request
edit 5: further edits by request

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 12:30 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
I posted this at exactly the same time as Michael's post, so this is not in response to his gracious comments. However, I will acknowledge that he and I obviously disagree. 
I'm not so sure we disagree.  emoticon  I'd hoped I made this clear in a previous post, but maybe not.

I would prefer that questions and comments such as Katy's (questions/comments that aren't practice oriented such as the questions re the BATGAP interview) be moved (if that's possible) and/or posted in a separate thread.  I don't have any control over that, so even though having them here in this thread is not what I want, I'm okay with that. (And this thread has provided me with some invaluable learning experiences!)

Other community members who either agree or disagree are free to make their thoughts known, and/or act accordingly.

Metta to all.  emoticon

Michael

EDITS:  1x for a typo.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 12:51 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
AugustLeo:
Kenneth,

In your Q & A exchange with Elizabeth on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBXz8UVs2Pk&google_comment_id=z134fxhpaxvkyhejc04cff1gstjcf1s5a04, you define experience thus: “I'm using a very simple, common-sense definition of experience. If you can describe it, or remember it, it's experience. If there is any knowing of it, with or without an "I" or "me" to know about it, it is experience.”

You then wrote that “that there is no experience of awareness. Awareness is always inferred.” And “If you carefully examine your experience in this moment, you will not find awareness. You will find seeing, hearing, tasting, touching/feeling, smelling, tasting, and mental phenomena. There is nothing in experience except experience, irrespective of whether it seems to be happening to an "I" or not.”

What are your thoughts on the seeming phenomenon of being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience?

Thanks!

Michael
I like this question because it points to the very essence of waking up. "Being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience" describes the process of systematically training attention. It's useful to think of this as a series of steps. It might look like this.

1. Embedded in experience. You're a cat on the front lawn, staring at a gopher hole, waiting for the gopher to emerge. You have no self awareness. You aren't even conscious that you are seeing. You are fully "in it."

2. Able to name the obect. You can play the children's game "I Spy with my Little Eye." If someone where to ask you what you are looking at, you would say, "A gopher hole."

3. Able to form a concept around the activity.  If someone were to ask you what you are doing, you would say that you are waiting for the gopher to emerge, and that you understand that gophers live in holes.

4. Able to observe the experience as experience. This is the beginning of vipassana. If someone asked you about your direct experience, you would answer "seeing." You understand that all seeing has something in common, irrespective of what is seen. Seeing a gopher hole has a lot in common with seeing a house or another cat.

5. Able to conceptually separate object from apparent subject. If you are asked who is seeing, you would say "I am seeing."

6. Able to attend to the apparent "I". You can turn attention toward the one who seems to be seeing. You can even become absorbed in this experience of witnessing and reify it as "the witness."

7. Able to deconstruct the witnessing state by looking directly at its component parts. At this point, "the witness" no longer seems to be "I"; it is revealed as just another state.

8. More of the same, at various levels of subtlety, always moving from identification to conceptualization to investigation to deconstruction and around again.

We could add more substeps and detail, but this shows the trajectory from absorption/emeddedness toward seeing exerience as experience. We could also extend the steps to become aware of what appears at first to be a ground state, aka Primordial Awareness, within which everything else arises, and then to investigate the component parts of the apparent ground state to see that our experience of the supposed ground state is just another experience.

To summarize, the process of waking up involves becoming aware of experience, then becoming aware that there seems to be someone having the experience, and then becoming aware that this apparent someone is also an experience. We aren't able to find a personal nugget of knowing or an impersonal field of knowing that can stand apart from experience and evaluate it from on high. No experience is more real than any other, or prior to any other; there is only experience, always moving, referring back to no one.

This does not mean that the momentarily arising sense that "this is happening to me" stops arising. It continues to arise, which is good, because this sense of provisional identity is fundamental to functioning in the world. However, this oft-arising sense of I is seen as just another experience. It is no longer seen as the one immutable lens through which all other experience must be filtered.

edit: typos

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/7/15 4:29 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
AugustLeo:
Jane Laurel :
I posted this at exactly the same time as Michael's post, so this is not in response to his gracious comments. However, I will acknowledge that he and I obviously disagree. 
I'm not so sure we disagree.  emoticon  I'd hoped I made this clear in a previous post, but maybe not.

I would prefer that questions and comments such as Katy's (questions/comments that aren't practice oriented such as the questions re the BATGAP interview) be moved (if that's possible) and/or posted in a separate thread.  I don't have any control over that, so even though having them here in this thread is not what I want, I'm okay with that. (And this thread has provided me with some invaluable learning experiences!)

Other community members who either agree or disagree are free to make their thoughts known, and/or act accordingly.

Metta to all.  emoticon

Michael

EDITS:  1x for a typo.
I would prefer that my posts stay here as there was no indication that Q&A would be curated (they are very much practice-oriented from my vantage) and I would not have posted them elsewhere or here had I been advised.


That said, you are defining now what you'd like not in your thread and it's easy to accomodate*. Best wishes.

____
Edit: * Meaning I can exit your thread because you have requested, I think, this action; however I do not agree with any revisionist editing/culling of the posts in thread.
Edit2: removing last names

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 1:17 PM as a reply to Jason Snyder.
Jason Snyder:

You Wrote on Another Thread:
"To summarize, the idea of not-self as a prescription is less than useful. And the hope of cultivating "not-self" as a persistant experience is counterproductive and based on a misunderstanding. But the exploration of experience, with the aim of finding out whether there is a self, leads to liberation."


My Question: Have you read Rob Burbea's new book: Seeing that Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising? In it he recommends cultivating different ways of intentionally looking, including the 3C's as provisional tools to recognize the inherent emptiness of selves' and phenomenon. In other words, to use wisdom as a tool, as a lens, and not just wait for it as a result. He argues that the advice to always just be with things as they are is not good, because "as things are" involves all kinds of assumptions and reification of "things" that are in fact empty. This seems to be counter to what you are recommending here, i.e, not using the 3C's as prescription. Is it? Here is a quote from Burbea:

"To some, this second mode of insight practice, where liberating ways of looking are intentionally cultivated and sustained, may initially sound unattractive... may involve a belief that 'being' and 'doing' are really different...'just being' is regarded as preferable or somehow more authentic...it turns out, though, that whenever there is any experience at all, there is always some fabricating, which is a kind of 'doing'...in states of 'just being' which we might image are devoid of self, a subtle self is actually being constructed anyway...What seems like 'just being with things as they appear' will undoubtedly involve all kinds of views and assumptions, mostly unrecognized, about what is perceived. Thus it is actually a way of looking; or, more likely, it will subsume, at different times, relatively diverse ways of looking...My experience in my own practice, in teaching, and in talking and listening to others, is that meditations using only the first mode of insight - that is, relying mostly on insight as a 'result' - will very probably not be enough on their own to overcome the force of deeply engrained habitual delusion that perceives and intuitively feels things to have inherent existence. As we have said, some element or aspect of a phenomenon will remain reified if it is not consciously and profoundly seen into. The overwhelming tendency is to unconsciously impute inherent existence to things, not to see emptiness. We need, therefore, to practice views that actually dissolve or remove this illusion of inherent existence."

Thoughts?
Hi Jason,

I haven't read Burbea's book, but I love the quote you reproduced here, and agree with his views as summarized by you in the first paragraph of your question. The idea that there is one right way to be, or a lensless lens from which to view the world, is one of the most common misconceptions among meditators, and I appreciate that Burbea is able to so clearly address it.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 1:33 PM as a reply to P K.
Pawe? K:

I also apologize for reducing you to someone without omniscience.

No need to apologize. I am indeed without omniscience. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 1:55 PM as a reply to P K.
re: Pawel's questions about synesthesia and changes in visual perception

Yes, this happens to a lot of meditators, myself included. There is often a low-level synesthesia when the mind is very quiet. Sounds, for example, are experienced as both sounds and physical sensations, and sometimes colors or shapes. Visuals can be felt in the body. Mental phenomena and mind states can have a characteristic inner sound (or inner silence). As you say, this is variable, depends on conditions, and is trainable. I would add that it is reproducible, within limits, by which I mean that one can get better at it, but mastery will never be absolute.

Changes in visual perception similar to those you describe, e.g., richer colors, brightness, things appearing two-dimensional or hyper-three-dimensional, are also very common occurences among meditators. All of this is normal, and has been reported by many meditators.

These are interesting and valuable experiences, and worth cultivating for their own sake. They can also be investigated from a vipassana point of view. I recommend that you do both.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 2:33 PM as a reply to chris mc.
chris .:
I listened to the Buddha at the Gas Pump discussion twice. Kenneth, and anyone else, what are you thoughts on rebirth? Have you experienced anything that would lead you to believe that it happens or doesn't happen?

Hi Chris,

I don't believe in rebirth, even though I've had experiences that seemed at the time to be vivid recollections of past lives. This is related to my basic assumption that subjective experience does not equal direct insight into the ultimate nature of reality, or as in this case, the mechanical functioning of the universe.

Once, while on retreat in a monastery in Burma, I spent a couple of days calling up memories of past lives. It worked, and I recalled several episodes in great detail, along with metadata about the lives overall. Earlier, as a teenager, I underwent hypnosis and past life regression, and had a similar recollection of what seemed to be a past life. This happened at a party and was all in good fun.

Also, I sometimes have vivid experiences of visiting other realms and interacting with the beings I find there. In Buddhist terms, these might be called devas. They might seem as real as the people I interact with in normal waking life, and they might seem intelligent, self-aware, and aware of me as not only a self-aware being, but also a visitor or alien in their world. If I believed that my subjective experience alone was an unfiltered lens into Truth, I would assume that these devas exist, similar to the way I think my family and community exist, and that when I am not there visiting or observing them, they go on about their lives just as any Earthbound human would do.

But I do not assume that. Rather, I assume that this human organism can have all kinds of experiences that are competely made up by this human organism. In fact, this happens several nights a week in the form of vivid dreams. Just as most of us would not assume that our dreams are windows into another reality, but rather ephemeral events confined to our own minds, I don't assume that devas exist outside of our dreams or visions.

In this same way, I don't assume that my vivid experiences of past life memories are actual memories of real events involving other historically existing humans. In the absence of this assumption, and in the absence of independently verifiable evidence, I can only say I'm highly skeptical about rebirth. Rebirth, it seems to me, is a religious belief with no more or less validity than the belief that a partisan God created the Earth in seven days and then spent centuries punishing people for not believing in him. Both notions seem equally unlikely from where I sit.

Most importantly, I don't know; which is in no way the same as saying that anything is as likely to be true as anything else. My default response to unverifiable, unsupported, and unfalsifiable claims is to assume they are untrue. I would recommend this approach to anyone, as I believe it stands at the very foundations of sanity, intellectual honesty, and the ability to communicate clearly with others.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 3:48 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Have you had experiences of 'powers' that seem to have some degree of 'objective' validation i.e. premonition, synchronicity, mindreading, healing, etc? If so, do you assert with 100% certainty that they can all be explained by typical cognitive biases, coincidences, etc?

You seem to be asserting a dualistic true-untrue, and a dualistic does exist-doesn't exist. What if there are other perspectives that transcend these dualities?

It seems to me that suspension of judgment results in more sanity than assuming claims to be untrue. Assigning degrees of plausibility (between 0 and 1) to claims seems to result in more sanity, from my point-of-view; I assign few claims a 0 or 1. Of course, when it's time to make a decision some claims can be practically assumed to be 'untrue' (0) or 'true' (1). I would argue that the two-valued logic your post is based on is inadequate for complex issues and is the very foundation of unsanity.

Unrelated to the above:
From your perspective, does your take on awakening differ from Dan's?

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 4:07 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
Thanks, Daniel. I have less knowledge of Buddhadharma from the source than I would like, but I had thought that what you say is in fact the case. However, Kenneth seems to think otherwise, and so my question to him would be, why? Does this have something to do with secular Buddhism? which, of course, is a label. 
Hi Laurel,

First a few words to help frame the question:

Your response, quoted above, is in reply to Daniel Leffler's assertion upthread that, "This is Kenneth's teaching that Nibbana means death or oblivion, not the Buddha's."

This is fairly accurate, but needs some explanation.

First, nobody knows what the Buddha's teaching was. We have only interpretation. Daniel Leffler has his interpretation and I have mine. It's tempting to imagine that there is one correct way to understand the Buddha's teachings, and that all other interpretations are fringey. This is wrong, of course. There has never been consensus about what the Buddha meant, throughout the history of Buddhism. This means that even today's popular Western view of nibbana as eternal bliss-out, which is highly influenced by New Age thought and Christian images of heaven, should not be taken as orthodoxy. Gasp. emoticon

So, while Daniel Leffler is correct that my teachings are mine and not the Buddha's, it's essential that we understand at every step of the way that everything that has ever been written about the Buddha in the history of Buddhism was written by someone other than the Buddha. Even this is too sloppy, because we must also admit that we aren't absolutely sure there ever was a historical Buddha. If we can be this honest in the foundations of the discussion, we can skip over a lot of pointless arguments. Suffice to say that I think there is value in assuming that there was a Buddha and that the early Buddhist texts were, at least sometimes, fairly representative of his thought. This gives us some sound conceptual frameworks with which to understand our experience, and some effective techniques to try out for ourselves.

I love to bring this word "oblivion" into the discussion because it so clearly galvanizes our thought around what nibbana might be. Among my Burmese and American teachers in the Mahasi tradition of Buddhism, there was very little controversy about the understanding that nibbana is the complete and utter lack of experience. Take a moment to let that settle.

Nibbana, in the Mahasi tradition, as it was explained to me, is not a special kind of experience. It's not an impersonal background glow of awareness into which we will merge. It's not pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. It is simply the end. While that may feel very scary to those of us steeped in the Christian ideal of eternal life, try to think of what it might have meant for the Buddha, to whom life was an almost unendurable parade of sorrows; since the Buddha believed that the default case was an infinite chain of rebirth across all the realms, including the hell realms, animal realms, hungry ghost realms, and jealous god realms, it would have been great comfort indeed to believe that it might finally come to an end.

Viewed from the point of view of the person to whom it happens, then, nibbana is indeed extinction. And that is a very welcome situation if you believe the alternative is unsatisfactoriness punctuated by hell. You don't get to enjoy nibbana. Nobody does. But the cultural lens into which the idea arose made the idea of the utter, complete, and permanent end of experience a cause for celebration. Nibbana is peace.

Now let's consider oblivion. Notice that the description, from the point of view of the person to whom it happens is exactly the same as nibbana: the end of experience. In oblivion, there isn't anyone there to suffer. Nonetheless, viewed through the cultural lens of someone who grew up in a Christian/NewAge culture, the very idea of it is horrifying. Imagine the opportunity cost; surely almost any kind of life is better than none at all. And if there is a chance of melding into the Universal Consciousness, leaving behind all traces of "me" while still being able to feel the bliss... how wonderful that would be, and how cruel and pointless it seems to contemplate a world in which my essence cannot take part.

Two words. Nibbana and oblivion. Both look exactly the same to the person to whom they happen, which is to say they don't look any way at all; there is no one there, either to celebrate or to complain. And yet the words themselves evoke such different responses.

This cultural revulsion toward the idea of oblivion is so entrenched that even some senior Western Buddhist teachers won't go near it. I recently heard an interview in which a Western teacher described nibbana by saying there is no experience. "But it's not nothing!" he quickly insisted, and went on to try to explain using the simile of the zero in mathematics. It made no sense. For me, it seems pointless to speculate about the ontological significance of nibbana if it is the end of experience for the person who enters it. At the same time, I do acknowledge that some people are comforted by the idea that even though they won't be there to appreciate it, nibbana is warm, welcoming, and enduring. In any case, there is no need for us to know the answer to what the Buddha meant by nibbana. I don't think we can know. My hope is that we can see our beliefs as beliefs, and not put too much stock in them either way.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 4:18 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
I can't resist answering the question about the pose--at a certain point well into the interview, Kenneth explained that his neck was bothering him. So it was muscle strain, not a desire to intimidate or even sell anyone anything.
Yes, thanks for pointing this out, Laurel. I have a condition called spasmodic torticollis that cause my head to turn involuntarily to the right. I can't turn it back to the left or keep it facing forward except by manually holding it with my hands.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 4:26 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:

You seem to be asserting a dualistic true-untrue, and a dualistic does exist-doesn't exist. What if there are other perspectives that transcend these dualities?

It seems to me that suspension of judgment results in more sanity than assuming claims to be untrue. Assigning degrees of plausibility (between 0 and 1) to claims seems to result in more sanity, from my point-of-view; I assign few claims a 0 or 1. Of course, when it's time to make a decision some claims can be practically assumed to be 'untrue' (0) or 'true' (1). I would argue that the two-valued logic your post is based on is inadequate for complex issues and is the very foundation of unsanity.

No, I don't assert that. And I think you did an admirable job of wreaking havoc on that straw man.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 4:43 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
katy steger:
Kenneth 

-- Have you seen Professor Cuddy's TED Talk presenting her findings on body chemistry and "power posing" body language?

-- Did you deliberately use power posing (hands behind the head, chest out) in your interview?

-- Did you know for the interview that power posing increases the success of selling yourself to others?

-- Did you initiate an edit at around 12:45 when you were speaking about phsyics or any other edits to the interview?

-- Does your livelihood depend on dharma and meditation students?
One of my guidelines for life is as follows:

If your goal in a discussion is to communicate, educate, or understand, and your interlocutor's goal is to hurt, discredit, or humiliate, you will fail and your interlocutor will succeed. Best not to engage.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 4:57 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
emoticon Thanks. Though, my use of 'seems' disqualifies it as a technical strawman as I didn't claim certainty in my interpretation of your argument. Anyway, it still appears to me that you are asserting some dualities, but we'll let the reader judge that.

Do you mind responding to the rest?

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/7/15 4:33 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth :
katy :
Kenneth 

-- Have you seen Professor Cuddy's TED Talk presenting her findings on body chemistry and "power posing" body language?

-- Did you deliberately use power posing (hands behind the head, chest out) in your interview?

-- Did you know for the interview that power posing increases the success of selling yourself to others?

-- Did you initiate an edit at around 12:45 when you were speaking about phsyics or any other edits to the interview?

-- Does your livelihood depend on dharma and meditation students?
One of my guidelines for life is as follows:

If your goal in a discussion is to communicate, educate, or understand, and your interlocutor's goal is to hurt, discredit, or humiliate, you will fail and your interlocutor will succeed. Best not to engage.
There's nothing humiliating in that, I think, Kenneth. You have a business. 
Your business offers your enlightenment [1] products.

[1] Like, many people (say, well known  "After the Ecstacy, the Laundry") you've also found that meditative study means not much if there's no realization in quality of life; your brand of this product is called "process as experience".

If you wish to add to your portfolio the study of cause-and-effect, it's free. [2] 


Again, did your named mentor Bill Hamilton seek his livelihood on you and giving you your lessons? [2]

And did you find evidence that your acknowledged teacher, the historical buddha, taught also for the purpose of his material gain? [2]



_________
Avatar August Leo, when I'm addressed as Kenneth has here, I may reply. I think that's a fair practice. I'm not in the habit of asking permission to speak when spoken to and it's a bit passé these days to propose it.

Edit: [2] Further, mine are practice questions: when something very skillful is given to you and the provider of that gift explicitly refuses to profit from teaching you and you turn around and do cause the aim of profit to yourself from that freely given teaching

edit: removed last names and reference to a state that was not a product: Kenneth has noted: "There never was a witness product. There was a time when I believed the witness state was somehow more real than ordinary waking consciousness. But this was years before I accepted money for teaching." 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 6:10 PM as a reply to P K.
There is also possibility that Kenneth with all his attainments, experiences, mind states, etc is yet not sammasambuddha and not yet possess omniscience regarding supermundane reality and those opinions which he expresses come from his atheistic bias and outlook on life and are not representing how it will actually be like after death.
This.

Kenneth: No need to apologize. I am indeed without omniscience.
This.

I urge and admonish those reading this thread to focus on Kenneth's methods of awakening and to take his views on rebirth and parinirvana with a grain of salt.  His answers are simple and easy to digest, and the truth is not always so simple or easy to digest.  

To say that consciousness comes only from the body and the brain is to dismiss that physicists don't understand what 95% of the "Universe" even is (mysterious "dark energy/dark matter").  It is to dismiss the fact that our bodies and brains are connected or involved with some of that 95%, that our brains and bodies are more than what they seem, etc. Occam's Razor is not an absolute truth.  The simplest answer is not usually the correct one when it comes to physics/metaphysics.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 7:23 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth Folk:
Jane Laurel Carrington:
Thanks, Daniel. I have less knowledge of Buddhadharma from the source than I would like, but I had thought that what you say is in fact the case. However, Kenneth seems to think otherwise, and so my question to him would be, why? Does this have something to do with secular Buddhism? which, of course, is a label. 
Hi Laurel,

First a few words to help frame the question:

Your response, quoted above, is in reply to Daniel Leffler's assertion upthread that, "This is Kenneth's teaching that Nibbana means death or oblivion, not the Buddha's."

This is fairly accurate, but needs some explanation.

First, nobody knows what the Buddha's teaching was. We have only interpretation. Daniel Leffler has his interpretation and I have mine. It's tempting to imagine that there is one correct way to understand the Buddha's teachings, and that all other interpretations are fringey. This is wrong, of course. There has never been consensus about what the Buddha meant, throughout the history of Buddhism. This means that even today's popular Western view of nibbana as eternal bliss-out, which is highly influenced by New Age thought and Christian images of heaven, should not be taken as orthodoxy. Gasp. emoticon

Hi Kenneth -
As I understand it, bliss is mentioned in the suttas in quite a few places in connection with nibbana
There is a confounding of nibbana with parinibbana in the suttas however so one cannot be sure what is being referred to at any given time. As pretty much everything, including 'being', was said to be abandoned at parinibbana though, it makes sense to me that there is no bliss, however, the perspective we have on these questions (from here in temporal meatspace I mean) may make them Mu by nature. Perhaps time and being and such are small considerations from there, and we just have wrong view here on earth and can't comprehend these things (very Mahayana I know : )

Beyond reasoning, everlasting,
The not-born, the unproduced,
The sorrowless state that is void of stain,
The cessation of states linked to suffering,
The stilling of the conditioned - bliss.
(Itivuttaka, p. 31)
 
“The greatest of all gains is health,
Nirvana is the greatest bliss,
The eightfold path is the best of paths
For it leads safely to the Deathless.”
(Middle Length Discourses, p. 613)
 
Having understood the unconditioned state,
Released in mind with the cord of being destroyed,
They have attained to the Dharma-essence.
Delighting in the destruction (of craving).
Those serene ones have abandoned all being.
(Itivuttaka, pp. 31-32)

As most know these questions were considered unskillful by the Buddha as a thicket of views and he said it was best to avoid them and to just practice
But why dedicate a life to practice if nibbana is oblivion? More below

So, while Daniel Leffler is correct that my teachings are mine and not the Buddha's, it's essential that we understand at every step of the way that everything that has ever been written about the Buddha in the history of Buddhism was written by someone other than the Buddha. Even this is too sloppy, because we must also admit that we aren't absolutely sure there ever was a historical Buddha. If we can be this honest in the foundations of the discussion, we can skip over a lot of pointless arguments. Suffice to say that I think there is value in assuming that there was a Buddha and that the early Buddhist texts were, at least sometimes, fairly representative of his thought. This gives us some sound conceptual frameworks with which to understand our experience, and some effective techniques to try out for ourselves.

I would agree that it makes more sense to assume that there was a historical Buddha and (due to the sheer weight and ridiculous repetitiveness of the suttas) that there are concepts that can clearly be called Buddhist, such as karma, rebirth, awakening and dependant origination spanning the course of three lifetimes (for example).

I love to bring this word "oblivion" into the discussion because it so clearly galvanizes our thought around what nibbana might be. Among my Burmese and American teachers in the Mahasi tradition of Buddhism, there was very little controversy about the understanding that nibbana is the complete and utter lack of experience. Take a moment to let that settle.

Though Mahasi Sayadaw may have taught that nibbana = oblivion (is that true?!), the Buddha clearly did not, and went out of his way to negate that nihilistic view. Oblivion would have been an easy thing to teach and, from your presentation of how awful life was back then, pretty attractive to potential students as well (if the Buddha cared about the size of his sangha)
Or, he may have just said parinibbana was the same as death or unconciousness or deep sleep, but he did not. The scriptures try very hard to put something into words to express that it is not possible to comprehend parinibbana with the mind, oblivion, on the other hand, is far too simple to understand to not to have been expounded upon:  

There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress. (Udana 8.1)

'Dimension' is also translated as 'state' in other places. I'm no Pali scholar but it would be interesting to hear from those here that are about the implications of that word/verse

This cultural revulsion toward the idea of oblivion is so entrenched that even some senior Western Buddhist teachers won't go near it. I recently heard an interview in which a Western teacher described nibbana by saying there is no experience. "But it's not nothing!" he quickly insisted, and went on to try to explain using the simile of the zero in mathematics. It made no sense. For me, it seems pointless to speculate about the ontological significance of nibbana if it is the end of experience for the person who enters it. At the same time, I do acknowledge that some people are comforted by the idea that even though they won't be there to appreciate it, nibbana is warm, welcoming, and enduring. In any case, there is no need for us to know the answer to what the Buddha meant by nibbana. I don't think we can know. My hope is that we can see our beliefs as beliefs, and not put too much stock in them either way.

The Buddha also said Nibbana was not nothing as far as I know, so that Western (Buddhist?) teacher you refer to was not contradicting the buddhadharma I would think. But, here I now agree with you Kenneth, when you say that we can't know what the word nibbana means (as the Buddha basically says) then why interject the idea of of oblivion into the picture at all anyway? I am confused about this - wouldn't this be spreading false dharma and be considered wrong view? I know lot's of people think this subject is not very important, but I find it is actually of the utmost importance - the same goes for the subject of rebirth and karma, but another thread : )
To boil this down (and to show I'm not just being argumentative for fun : ) if it is your belief that we die once and for all at death (no rebirth) and nibbana as oblivion is the same as deep sleep, do we enter oblivion/nibbana every night when we turn in? Is everyone enlightened then? Why dedicate our lives to awakening, long periods of meditation, scriptural study and contemplation if there is the same result for a so-called Arahat as there is for a worldling? Why not just be happy, have tons of sex, smoke loads of dope and live la vida loca? 
TBH I have a long-standing aversion to religion and groups in general myself (I'm a loner/rebel by nature and haven't in the past self-identified as Buddhist or any religion) but I'd imagine it's safe to say you are not a Buddhist either by any stretch?

Edit: me grammer no good

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 6:36 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Thanks, Kenneth, for your lengthy and thoughtful answers. I try to envision what any "future" state might be and can't do it. So it's obviously not something I can theorize about. I have been reading what Rob Burbea has to say about emptiness. This seems to help clarify why I draw a blank in trying to figure some things out.

BTW, it's fun to see a lot of people on the forums reading and sharing the same stuff. 

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 9:27 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
This is so ironic.

Kenneth in his long post (up there), about oblivion, spends two paragraphs protecting himself from the ability to know what the Buddha taught, and then promptly claims that the Buddha taught oblivion.

Furthermore he is also incorrect in asserting that the Mahasi tradition taught oblivion as the goal, in fact Mahasi Sayadaw, in his two volume, four part, treatise on vipassana directly states that the experience of phala-samapatti is not oblivion (devoid of perception).

The teaching that fruition is oblivion, is a modern misunderstanding.



Where it is explicitly said that phala-samapatti is not devoid of perception (sanna):



Mahasi Treatise with relevant passage: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8c3yvgnuupvhkfk/treatise-vol2-part2.pdf?dl=0

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 9:52 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
I guess my question is - what is the point of this nibbana debate? From a pragmatic point of view is it adding anything to the teachings? I thought the interview could have been used to talk a lot more about practice, though I understand Rick seems to have a deep interest in talking about philosophical stuff.

This is coming from someone who is deeply agnostic about such issues - any input or experience that a human being can have is fundamentally limited given that it comes from the perception of the human brain. I don't think the human brain has much of an ability to understand ontological concepts like time and existence; any understanding we have is coming from the perspective of a human brain emoticon As a result, all of these debates a pretty meaningless. If the Buddha existed and thought nothingness was the answer, I frankly don't care - the Buddha was human and therefore even he couldn't truly understand ontology.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 10:22 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith wrote:

"If the Buddha existed and thought nothingness was the answer, I frankly don't care - the Buddha was human and therefore even he couldn't truly understand ontology."

I agree, Elijah. We don't know what happens after death, and no amount of arguing will change that. I appreciate your willingness to speak honestly about your doubts that the Buddha could understand ontology any better than anyone else. And like you, I don't care what the Buddha thought unless his thoughts can be useful to us now, in our time, in our own lives, in our own cultures. 

If there is one thing I would like to bring back to the DhO, it's a healthy sense of skepticism. I'm alarmed at what appears to be a fundamentalist trend on these boards. Fundamentalism is directly at odds with Daniel's guidelines for this forum. Here are the first three, copied from the home page:
  • pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, jhanas, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, etc.
  • diligent practice over blind faith: this place is about doing it and understanding for yourself rather than believing someone else and not testing those beliefs out
  • openness regarding what the techniques may lead to and how these contrast or align with the traditional models
I urge everyone to follow these guidelines. No one ever woke up by believing what someone else said. Each of has to do the practice, to find out in our own experience what is true and useful.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 12:07 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Daniel Leffler:

Though Mahasi Sayadaw may have taught that nibbana = oblivion (is that true?!)


Please note that I have not claimed that Mahasi Sayadaw, or indeed anyone, taught that nibbana = oblivion. In fact, I'm not even claiming that myself. I'm not interested in ontological speculation.

I'm talking about the phenomenology of direct experience. What I am saying is that from the point of view of the person to whom it happens, nibbana and oblivion are indistinguishable, an observation that to me is so blindingly obvious that I'm surprised anyone is willing to dispute it, since to believe otherwise is to imagine that you or some disembodied awareness that used to be you is going to be sitting around in nibbana enjoying it.

It's also important to note that the Mahasi tradition teaches us to systematically develop the ability to access nibbana, aka cessation or fruition. Many people, including myself, have trained in this way, and their reports are remarkably consistent; there is no experience in nibbana. You simply lose consciousness. I realize this isn't very romantic, and I apologize for being such a bubble burster, but there it is. If Buddhists who have had this experience are teaching that nibbana is "not nothing," it is presumably because (1) the fact that one feels really good upon emerging from this unconscious state leads them to infer that something wonderful must have been going on there or (2) to admit to students that nibbana is the lack of experience is to risk scaring off the students. As you can see, I'm not very worried about scaring off students, and prefer to tell it as I see it, whatever the outcome. As for the inference that something wonderful must have been going on in nibbana since you feel so good when you emerge from it, I would point out that after you die, assuming you have entered nibbana, there will be no emerging. There will just be the lack of experience. Good news, bad news, who knows?

The reason this matters is that if you are a New Age Buddhist who has put all her/his eggs in the nibbana-as-cosmic-blissout basket, or a confused Buddhist who doesn't understand that Hinduism and early Buddhism are diametrically opposed on the question of what happens to meditative adepts after death, you have a right to be told that the foundations of your belief system are based on a misconception. The very fact that some people on this thread are shocked or outraged by what I'm saying is evidence that it needs to be said. The real outrage is that you haven't heard this before.

edit: typo

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/3/15 11:52 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hello,

As for some clues in regards to the cessation or oblivion experience, the Christian contemplative Bernadette Roberts mentions this phenomena in her book "What is Self?"

Basically she describes the experience of ecstasy (as she calls it) as the cessation of self (or consciousness), concomitant with a loss of consciousness. But there is a caveat, Roberts claims that if the self (consciousness) and senses are untied then it is possible to abide in ecstasy without losing consciousness.

I find this very funny from a comparative religions standpoint because the goal for jhana-monks in Buddhism was to attain sanna-vedayita-nirodha (the cessation of perception and feeling), moreover the Buddha was silent on the question of self.

In other words I believe the Buddha reached Robert's state of (what she describes as) no-self, I believe Christ got further but I won't say anymore.

Also in regards to the above post, I apologize for being fundamentalist, I suppose I was pointing out the factual discrepancies between what you believe and what the Buddha taught (as per the Pali Canon), but whatever.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 11:14 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Hello Kenneth,

Kind of you to take the time to answers people's questions.
I can't seem to find an answer to my questions though, maybe I overlooked it, or maybe you overlooked my question or decided not to answer the question, which you have all the right too. I just wanted to say this, in case you overlooked my question because I would appreciate it if you can answer it. It is the question about the article 'Jhana and nana'. Thank you for your time and if you decide not to answer, then this is also fine.

Edited: 1x

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 2:23 AM as a reply to Daniel - san.
If samsara and nirvana is the same thing as some expound, and Im experiencing samsara right now, and nirvana is oblivion. There is some logical leap Im not following there. Logically it does not make sense to talk about nirvana as oblivion.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 4:41 AM as a reply to James Yen.
Hi James,

The second quotation you cite I can find in the linked pdf file (treatise-vol2-part2.pdf, p28-29), but not the first -- "Misrepresenting the Tathagata", with the numerical headings 37,38.

Could you furnish the location of that one --  so I can compare it with the Pali version?

Chris M

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 6:01 AM as a reply to James Yen.
James Yen:
This is so ironic.

Kenneth in his long post (up there), about oblivion, spends two paragraphs protecting himself from the ability to know what the Buddha taught, and then promptly claims that the Buddha taught oblivion.

Furthermore he is also incorrect in asserting that the Mahasi tradition taught oblivion as the goal, in fact Mahasi Sayadaw, in his two volume, four part, treatise on vipassana directly states that the experience of phala-samapatti is not oblivion (devoid of perception).

The teaching that fruition is oblivion, is a modern misunderstanding.



Where it is explicitly said that phala-samapatti is not devoid of perception (sanna):



Mahasi Treatise with relevant passage: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8c3yvgnuupvhkfk/treatise-vol2-part2.pdf?dl=0


We need to be careful of which Nibbana we're talking about when we say it. There is the Nibbana in this very life where the formulated reality is known and loses it's power -- that's awakening. That's knowing the nibbanaing nature of experience.  Then there is Nibbana at death, which is whatever it is.

The first quote is more about distinguishing between "no self" and "not self". Meditation shows you that experience is not self, but yet it happens to an individual, so saying no self doesn't make sense either. This was probably buddha's biggest contribution - supporting the idea of a middle path within the domain of self and no self. The first quote really isn't focusing on the meaning of nibbana.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 10:20 AM as a reply to James Yen.
James Yen:
This is so ironic.

Kenneth in his long post (up there), about oblivion, spends two paragraphs protecting himself from the ability to know what the Buddha taught, and then promptly claims that the Buddha taught oblivion.

Furthermore he is also incorrect in asserting that the Mahasi tradition taught oblivion as the goal, in fact Mahasi Sayadaw, in his two volume, four part, treatise on vipassana directly states that the experience of phala-samapatti is not oblivion (devoid of perception).

The teaching that fruition is oblivion, is a modern misunderstanding.



Where it is explicitly said that phala-samapatti is not devoid of perception (sanna):



Mahasi Treatise with relevant passage: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8c3yvgnuupvhkfk/treatise-vol2-part2.pdf?dl=0
Thank you, James Yen. 

Chris M:
You will find this in the "Alagadd?pama Sutta: The Simile of the Snake". Here is a link to Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation: http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/middle-length-discourses-buddha/selections/middle-length-discourses-22-alagaddupama-sutta

And this replies to Elijah's inquiry about the value of the meditative practice; that the practice of developing mental calm and attendance causes naturally over time conduct releasing of own-causal suffering and knowing things as they are (conditions, which a human experiences as pleasant, unpleasant and neutral in terms of sensations, and knowing which occurences are beyond one's control) and thereby changing what/how one can do for a fulfilling life (e.g,  brahmaviharas, those pro-social traits universal across traditions and secular humanism).

Here a stanza from the Ratana sutta, found in both the Samutta Nikaya text and in the Khuddaptha (the Short Texts) (with thanks to accesstoinight.com and its contributors for providing the P?li and the English translation):
(...)
Ended the old, there is no new taking birth.
dispassioned their minds toward further becoming,
they, with no seed, no desire for growth,
the prudent, go out like this flame.
This, too, is an exquisite treasure in the Sangha.
By this truth may there be well-being.


The P?li where one sees nibb?na, the noun, is made verb (Nibbanti) to show the action happening "just like a lamp (flame)" ((yath?)yam(pad?po)):
Kh??a? pur??a? nava? natthi sambhava?
Virattacitt? ?yatike bhavasmi?, 
Te ???abil? avir??hicchand?
Nibbanti dh?r? yath?yampad?po
Idampi sa?ghe ratana? pa??ta?
Etena saccena suvatthi hotu.

Therefore whether one is understanding Nibb?na as un-binding, going out, unlocked/emancipation, it is clear through the text that James raised "annihilation" (oblivion) is a misleading teaching (if one indicates they are teaching Buddhism).

Kenneth, in the batgap interview of January 2015, you acknowledge that you are not sure what was taught by the buddha, and as you know that are interdictions for teachers in Theravadan buddhism against teaching for the purpose of material gain, and knowing you are teaching annihiliationism ("oblivion") and that you also consider a key tenent of buddism, rebirth, not to be-- why don't you just teach and sell your time as authentically you and/or not recruit historical figures and religious traditions with which you are at odds?  

It seems Mr. Tolle has been well to do this. Eckhart Tolle has many free teachings on line if you are unfamiliar and he has done apparently well as himself.




Of course, people are free self-identify as saints, awakened beings, and so on, and people are also free to buy other people's time in the hopes of being able to self-identify as awakened, too. 




edit: by request


_______
Hi Sawfoot: 
Well, it's a favorite pose for me to share, because the professor's one request is that we share her research abundantally, that it will cause people to feel good and do well, reduce their cortesol, MDs may reduce their lawsuits, and job applicants improve their hiring odds.
In the US many people have seen this talk (23+ million views to date) and use it, so I am curious to know if Kenneth uses it, neck issues aside. 
edit 1x: typos and clarity

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 8:50 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth Folk:
Elijah Smith wrote:

"If the Buddha existed and thought nothingness was the answer, I frankly don't care - the Buddha was human and therefore even he couldn't truly understand ontology."

I agree, Elijah. We don't know what happens after death, and no amount of arguing will change that. I appreciate your willingness to speak honestly about your doubts that the Buddha could understand ontology any better than anyone else. And like you, I don't care what the Buddha thought unless his thoughts can be useful to us now, in our time, in our own lives, in our own cultures. 

If there is one thing I would like to bring back to the DhO, it's a healthy sense of skepticism. I'm alarmed at what appears to be a fundamentalist trend on these boards. Fundamentalism is directly at odds with Daniel's guidelines for this forum. Here are the first three, copied from the home page:
  • pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, jhanas, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, etc.
  • diligent practice over blind faith: this place is about doing it and understanding for yourself rather than believing someone else and not testing those beliefs out
  • openness regarding what the techniques may lead to and how these contrast or align with the traditional models
I urge everyone to follow these guidelines. No one ever woke up by believing what someone else said. Each of has to do the practice, to find out in our own experience what is true and useful.
Hi, B B here. I disabled my account as best I could and have been trying to visit this site less. Nevertheless, I've decided to contribute something to this discussion.

What I personally find lacking in Kenneth's outlook is any sense of deference to the many 
contemplatives down through the centuries who have put in vastly more cushion time than 
he has, and who we can say with confidence achieved a more much thorough understanding 
on matters such as rebirth as a result. I agree that a tendancy towards fundamentalism 
should be kept in check, but we inevitably must take a stance on central teachings such
as rebirth in our moral decisions. An emphasis on pragmatism can very easily create a corresponding 
tendency towards dismissal of central teachings when it suits us. Kenneth has 
apparently reached such a degree of certainty in his stance on rebirth that he's 
comfortable making major moral decisions with all sorts of ramifications on its basis, 
such as the decision to charge for his teaching time. Either that, or he's comfortable 
with charging for a greater chance at what is possibly liberation from endless 
wandering in samsara and its concomitant suffering on an unimaginable scale, and thus 
possibly denying some poor souls the opportunity entirely, which IMO is absolutely 
sickening. Have his experiences of past lives and out-of-body experiences really been 
sufficient to warrant that certainty though, given the consequences of the decisions 
made on its basis and the weight of the arguments against it? I'd imagine that in many 
ways it would be a lot harder to simply say "I don't know" as a Pragmatic Dharma leader 
on big questions, and defer to tradition, than to come to decisions based on limited
experience, defend them vigorously, and allow those beliefs to trickle down into the rest
of the community.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 9:54 AM as a reply to B. B.
B.B.,

       You are making a connection between hours of time spent meditating and definitive knowledge of rebirth. I have a harder time making a connection in such a definite way. Do you believe there is a certain number of years or hours that lead to this knowledge, or just that those with more time have more knowledge such that a person meditating for five years has a better understanding of rebirth than someone with one year practice experience, but lacks half the knowledge of someone with ten years? Who are the people you believe we can feel confident about on these issues who are still alive?
       I think you made some interesting points, but I do not believe Kenneth is connecting his beliefs in rebirth with charging for teachings. Do you see it as equally detrimental when teachers charge for dharma books, or retreats, and if not, why not?

Bill

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 1:26 PM as a reply to Bill F..
It's obviously a difficult task deciding on the degree to which a meditative tradition can be relied upon--by virtue of its age, the dedication of its practitioners, etc.--as verification of its original teachings. Maybe one teacher has just been parroting dogma to the next all this time, too afraid to criticize cherished beliefs? Maybe at some point the weight of tradition grew so great that it suffocated all dissenting voices, so that none managed to make a lasting impact. Personally, I'm not cynical enough to believe that, not least because there has clearly been no end to practitioners capable of embracing radical new forms of practice and reinterpretations of the teachings.  Also, if you read modern accounts of out-of-body travel by those who have mastered it, there's all sorts of uncanny parallels in their descriptions, such as how the energy bodies of people, and even animals, who are sleeping are said to hover a few inches above their physical bodies. Several of these are also mentioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In other words, Buddhism can be a science of the mind, where conclusions based on visionary experiences undergo a kind of peer review just the same as experiences of jhanas and other states.

I found a book on this subject which I've yet to read called 'The Awakened Ones: Phenomenolgy of Visionary Experience' by Gananath Obeyesekere, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University.

I do believe that some contemplatives that are part of living traditions within Buddhism who have the aptitude and have put in enough time should be able to contribute to an ongoing verification of the teachings on rebirth and cosmology, where detailed personal experience is being shared amongst practitioners. I don't know whether it's guaranteed that visions of past lives will arise in time for all practitioners, but my view is that there should be enough who do have them to consider it reasonable to defer to tradition in this regard. E.g. even someone with no experience of Buddhist meditation that I know of such as William Buhlman, with sufficient adeptness in out-of-body travel, was able to call up visions of past lives (described in 'Adventures Beyond the Body', IIRC). Not being part of a community of advanced practitioners, it's going to be much easier for Kenneth to dismiss the visions that he's had.

"Do you see it as equally detrimental when teachers charge for dharma books, or retreats, and if not, why not?"
If they judge that more good will come of it, presumably because without charging they wouldn't be able to cover the minimum cost of actually manifesting the resource, then I don't have a problem with it. In Kenneth's case however, the resource has got a mind and a body and can support itself by begging or joining a monastery. If he was to charge a subsistance rate just to have some measure of financial security, I'd be OK with that, but I do recoil at the idea of charging any more when it comes to dharma teachings. Of course, for those who are absolutely convinced that rebirth is just a load of codswollop, it's much more understandable.

I do also believe that those who can teach the dharma are morally obliged to do so when it's most appropriate.

"I do not believe Kenneth is connecting his beliefs in rebirth with charging for teachings."
So regardless of whether he does or does not believe in rebirth, he would continue charging just as much for his teachings? I find that appalling.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 2:37 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
The "real outrage" is not understanding the irony of this statement:
  • pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, jhanas, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, etc.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 6:04 PM as a reply to B. B.
Hi,

       Regarding Buddhism and out of body states being peer reviewed, how would that work in an empirical way? If time spent on the cushion and believing in rebirth is correlated, how does that sit with contemplative Christians who believe clearly in heaven but not rebirth and have spent decades in contemplation? Why privilige one over the other as being true just because it's our religion? I had also asked about living teachers whom we should trust more on this issue and you referred to me to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
       Also, am I misreading or are you suggesting Kenneth should join a monastery or beg if he wants to teach, or do you just think he should charge less? What do you do for work, and how frequently do you volunteer your time to others? Also, what is a community of advanced practitioners? He did spent a year on retreat in Burma didn't he? I realize I am challenging you, but I am curious where your own life lines up with your thoughts about how others should live theirs. Hopefully it isn't taken personally and can be received as interest more than judgement. 
      Dharma teachers can, and do publish books for free. That's the reason this site exists, so in the age of the internet the idea that that is the way to spread their teachings most effectively and to the most people does not seem correct.
       Thank you for your response.

Bill
      

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 7:08 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Kenneth, I hope you're doing well. You have a knack for coming up with very interesting and practical noting techniques and approaches to meditation in general. In the nearly two years since we've had a chance to talk, I'm curious if you've come up with new techniques or refinements that you'd like to share and describe.

Thanks in advance and best wishes.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/8/15 12:10 PM as a reply to Bill F..
Bill F.:
Hi,

       Regarding Buddhism and out of body states being peer reviewed, how would that work in an empirical way? If time spent on the cushion and believing in rebirth is correlated, how does that sit with contemplative Christians who believe clearly in heaven but not rebirth and have spent decades in contemplation? Why privilige one over the other as being true just because it's our religion? I had also asked about living teachers whom we should trust more on this issue and you referred to me to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
       Also, am I misreading or are you suggesting Kenneth should join a monastery or beg if he wants to teach, or do you just think he should charge less? What do you do for work, and how frequently do you volunteer your time to others? Also, what is a community of advanced practitioners? He did spent a year on retreat in Burma didn't he? I realize I am challenging you, but I am curious where your own life lines up with your thoughts about how others should live theirs. Hopefully it isn't taken personally and can be received as interest more than judgement. 
      Dharma teachers can, and do publish books for free. That's the reason this site exists, so in the age of the internet the idea that that is the way to spread their teachings most effectively and to the most people does not seem correct.
       Thank you for your response.

Bill
      

Hi Bill, 


I think it's up to him to live within the laws of his society and everything else is fair game, no? So abiding law, I don't have an answer to your interest in knowing how anyone should live their lives.

After watching the batgap.com January 2015 interview with Kenneth Folk, I do still wonder why he sells his time coaching in regards to an awakening within a Buddhist lexicon. He seems at odds with their belief in rebirth and non-annihilationism. 

For example, how does Kenneth define "secular buddhism"? 

Further, his bio does credential himself in the Burmese Theravadan tradition, yet that Theravadan tradition has a suttic interdiction (AN 5/159) on teaching their dharma for the purpose of material gain. Did he have to pay for his training in Burmese monasteries?

It seems like even a secular buddhist has some trouble shaking off their Theravan interdiction for teaching for the purpose of material gain unless those training months culminated in being non-Theravadan? A person who refutes key tenents in that system and their own training could  just state as part of their bio "I'm not a Theravadan buddhist, but I trained in their system for free" and if they made any any enlightenment claims in the Theravadan model (e.g., arahat) they could probably retract those, too? What do you think?


Then I consider other parts of the Batgap.com interview on 1/17/15, and I learn that some time ago Kenneth mentions he also went through a "Witness" phase and that he went through "other phases through the years and through the decades", and that he can still put himself in what he calls a "witness trance" (which he does on video), which phase he says is easy to fetishize, "All you gotta do is learn how to dwell as the witness. <excited>"

But Kenneth does note around 38:17 in the video, "I'm embarassed now to admit that I've gone through these phases but it happened this way. I completely bought in.."  

So I understand these various phases and/or awakenings, and I see in Kenneth's "Buddha and Money" thread (locked) he started this week that the culmination of the various phases does permit the making of what he calls "snarky comment" to get attention. 


So people shopping for meditation coaches they can just inquire of such coaches:
 
"Did you have any past awakenings/phases in which you completely bought in and that you now you dismiss?
If so, is there any guarantee that what I'm paying to be coached in now has longevity? Do you think you'll dismiss this later as an embarassment, too? Should I buy in?" 






[edited by request]

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/4/15 10:48 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy: That was directed at B.B. It is fine if you read it, and felt inspired to write something off of that, just clarifying. We're good.-Bill

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/5/15 5:27 AM as a reply to P K.
Pawel:

You do not need piano teacher to learn playing on piano. You do not need piano or advices from teacher. There are books about it and cheap keyboards that are as good for practice as real deal piano. And even with teacher you still have to do all the hard work of learning how to play.


An apt metaphor, ironically. Learning to play piano from books and cheap keyboards rarely makes a musician. Music is far more than a technical skill; it's inheriting and carrying on a lineage that preserves and builds on the experience of generations of people who, on the shoulders of their teachers, have mastered the skills and realized, furthered the art; and subsequently passed those skills and realizations on to succeeding generations. It's tradition that transcends the individual. Even in Western tradition, where the, especially modern, tendency to glorify the 'great' composers and performers, in particular the do-it-yourself-ers, is in fact a mere ripple on the surface of the underlying currents of the ocean of tradition.

Why this
unhealthy view that meditation is somehow different?

Also ironically, meditation is not different. And, unfortunately, the view that abstracting some convenient aspects of the skill by individualistic neophytes and considering that then a mastery equivalent to the what the traditions embody – this, going a step further, all too often manifests as, to use a stronger term, a cultural pathology.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/5/15 9:56 AM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
Kenneth Folk:
AugustLeo:
Kenneth,

In your Q & A exchange with Elizabeth on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBXz8UVs2Pk&google_comment_id=z134fxhpaxvkyhejc04cff1gstjcf1s5a04, you define experience thus: “I'm using a very simple, common-sense definition of experience. If you can describe it, or remember it, it's experience. If there is any knowing of it, with or without an "I" or "me" to know about it, it is experience.”

You then wrote that “that there is no experience of awareness. Awareness is always inferred.” And “If you carefully examine your experience in this moment, you will not find awareness. You will find seeing, hearing, tasting, touching/feeling, smelling, tasting, and mental phenomena. There is nothing in experience except experience, irrespective of whether it seems to be happening to an "I" or not.”

What are your thoughts on the seeming phenomenon of being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience?

Thanks!

Michael
I like this question because it points to the very essence of waking up. "Being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience" describes the process of systematically training attention. It's useful to think of this as a series of steps. It might look like this.

1. Embedded in experience. You're a cat on the front lawn, staring at a gopher hole, waiting for the gopher to emerge. You have no self awareness. You aren't even conscious that you are seeing. You are fully "in it."

2. Able to name the obect. You can play the children's game "I Spy with my Little Eye." If someone where to ask you what you are looking at, you would say, "A gopher hole."

3. Able to form a concept around the activity.  If someone were to ask you what you are doing, you would say that you are waiting for the gopher to emerge, and that you understand that gophers live in holes.

4. Able to observe the experience as experience. This is the beginning of vipassana. If someone asked you about your direct experience, you would answer "seeing." You understand that all seeing has something in common, irrespective of what is seen. Seeing a gopher hole has a lot in common with seeing a house or another cat.

5. Able to conceptually separate object from apparent subject. If you are asked who is seeing, you would say "I am seeing."

6. Able to attend to the apparent "I". You can turn attention toward the one who seems to be seeing. You can even become absorbed in this experience of witnessing and reify it as "the witness."

7. Able to deconstruct the witnessing state by looking directly at its component parts. At this point, "the witness" no longer seems to be "I"; it is revealed as just another state.

8. More of the same, at various levels of subtlety, always moving from identification to conceptualization to investigation to deconstruction and around again.

We could add more substeps and detail, but this shows the trajectory from absorption/emeddedness toward seeing exerience as experience. We could also extend the steps to become aware of what appears at first to be a ground state, aka Primordial Awareness, within which everything else arises, and then to investigate the component parts of the apparent ground state to see that our experience of the supposed ground state is just another experience.

To summarize, the process of waking up involves becoming aware of experience, then becoming aware that there seems to be someone having the experience, and then becoming aware that this apparent someone is also an experience. We aren't able to find a personal nugget of knowing or an impersonal field of knowing that can stand apart from experience and evaluate it from on high. No experience is more real than any other, or prior to any other; there is only experience, always moving, referring back to no one.

This does not mean that the momentarily arising sense that "this is happening to me" stops arising. It continues to arise, which is good, because this sense of provisional identity is fundamental to functioning in the world. However, this oft-arising sense of I is seen as just another experience. It is no longer seen as the one immutable lens through which all other experience must be filtered.

edit: typos
Thank you Kenneth.

How does jhana and the progress of insight fit into this process?

And to reiterate John Power's question:
John Power:
Hello Kenneth,

You wrote in the article 'Jhana and Nana'
That pre- and post- fourth nana yogi's need to follow two different instructions. A pre- fourth nana yogi should put his focus in penetrating the object. A post- fourth nana yogi must concentrate.

My question
I am planning to do a home retreat for a longer duration, maybe 30 days. I am following the mahasi sayadaw noting technique. In the retreats I have been to I just kept noting and noticing everthing that I would experience. During sits I would take the abdomen as my ancher and would stay there but with the intension to notice the characteristiscs (four elements). During walking I would stay with the feet and notice the characteristiscs. I wouldn't switch to more concentration practice but just follow the same technique and instructions during the whole retreat. The article is from 2009, do you still hold the opinion that post- fourth nana yogi's should concentrate more? Do you suggest that when I cross the A&P, I should do more samatha practice like counting my breath or using a mantra to boost the concentration?
I get the idea that concentration is important, but isn't it key to understand what is happening in your experience? Or is the ability to understand your experience automatic after your have crossed the A&P and is it just a matter of concentration, so you can see deeper?

Thanks in advance for your answer!
Thank you.

Michael

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/5/15 5:18 PM as a reply to Bill F..
“Regarding Buddhism and out of body states being peer reviewed, how would that work in an empirical way?”

I think you get a sense of how it can work in Ajahn Maha Bua's biography of Ajahn Mun. It's simply a matter of those who have had such visions sharing and discussing them with their peers, so that by compiling all the data, wrong views can be corrected and tentative conclusions can be arrived at.

“If time spent on the cushion and believing in rebirth is correlated, how does that sit with contemplative Christians who believe clearly in heaven but not rebirth and have spent decades in contemplation?”

There’s such an emphasis on faith and devotion in Christianity that I’d imagine if a Christian contemplative found themselves rising out of the body, either they themselves would consider it a sign of their getting sidetracked from the purpose of their contemplation, or they would be strongly discouraged from exploring that experience by their seniors. Besides, it would likely be much rarer for Christian contemplatives, as visionary experiences are said, by Daniel Ingram among others, to arise mostly from states of hard jhana, which are themselves explicitly discouraged in Christianity, though I can’t find the source on that at the moment. 

"Why privilige one over the other as being true just because it's our religion?"

Of the authors whom I've read on out-of-body travel, all have had their views shift into line with the general Buddhist/Hindu outline of the cosmos (including reincarnation on multiple planes), despite their disparate beginnings. Many also believe in an eternal soul of some kind, though this is an understandable conclusion to have reached without Buddhist meditation techniques. 

"I had also asked about living teachers whom we should trust more on this issue and you referred to me to the Tibetan Book of the Dead."

That is a difficult question to answer because teachers are so reticent to discuss these kinds of experiences. I do find it striking though that even in Tibetan Buddhism, which is so radically different to the Buddhism of the Pali suttas, the belief in rebirth and multiple planes of reality remains central. Many Tibetan Buddhist masters, such as the Sixteenth Karmapa, were, and presumably still are, known to be able to identify the exact birth location of reincarnated lamas. Secret of the Vajra World covers this if you haven't read it already.

"Also, am I misreading or are you suggesting Kenneth should join a monastery or beg if he wants to teach, or do you just think he should charge less?"

If a person decides that teaching the dharma is the best way for them to allievate suffering and make the world a better place, and if they are reasonably qualified to do so, then I feel that person should do their utmost to provide their teaching time to anyone who wants it. Otherwise, assuming an orthodox Buddhist view on the matter, they could literally be denying some people the opportunity to achieve Awakening in this lifetime, and so possibly dooming them to countless more lifetimes wandering in samsara before they get another chance. 

Imagine a scenario where a person with huge untapped potential for Awakening, but no particular affiliation with any religion due to, say, being raised by unreligious parents, is told by a friend that they are taking meditation lessons. This piques their interest, but on enquiring about the cost per lesson, they realize that they can't afford it. That's it. End of story. They never pursue their interest in meditation, perhaps due to the unappealing associations with commercialism it now has for them, and go on suffering endlessly in samsara.

I'd argue that even if Kenneth was only 10% sure that rebirth was literally true, its consequences are so great that he should act on the assumption that it is just in case he turns out to be right.

"What do you do for work, and how frequently do you volunteer your time to others?"

I'm not going to toot my own trumpet or provide an opportunity to appeal to hypocrisy.

"Also, what is a community of advanced practitioners?"

In its context, I simply meant a community of practitioners within which there are a number who are contributing to an ongoing verification of teachings on rebirth and cosmology.

"He did spent a year on retreat in Burma didn't he?"

I don't believe he's put in enough time for his view alone to change my mind. I would take seriously a movement founded by serious monastics, or better yet Tibetan yogis, stretching across several generations, who are all united in their belief that the teachings on rebirth and cosmology don't have any basis in an external reality. This would have actually have a precedent in the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism, in the sense of a movement that contradicts central teachings.

"I realize I am challenging you, but I am curious where your own life lines up with your thoughts about how others should live theirs. Hopefully it isn't taken personally and can be received as interest more than judgement."

I'm not interested in opening up about my life and I don't think it's relevant.

"Dharma teachers can, and do publish books for free. That's the reason this site exists, so in the age of the internet the idea that that is the way to spread their teachings most effectively and to the most people does not seem correct."

Putting a free version on the internet would be better than just publishing a print version and charging a minimum for it, I agree.

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/5/15 6:41 PM as a reply to B. B.
B.B,

     I do not agree with all you have written, but I thank you for responding. 

Bill

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/5/15 10:28 PM as a reply to Kenneth Folk.
re: Kenneth
Folk
(2/3/15 2:33 PM as a reply to chris [a different chris].. )

" I don't believe in rebirth…"

A curious take on 'rebirth', that should seem obvious (IMO), involves a radical understanding of the impersonality of experience, i.e. that any, all experience does not (exclusively) 'belong' to the experiencer (other than in the sense of transitory temporal occurence), is not 'mine' (as in a certain well-known usage of "I/me/mine").

"… I assume that this human organism can have all kinds of experiences that are competely made up by this human organism…."

This statement neatly feeds into the opening comment above, as there's the perspective of the individual as particular and unique ('special' being a common usage), and another perspective that there's no experience any human being has ever had that hasn't been experienced some indefinitely huge number of times by other humans, across history (and prior). And the keypoint: these experiences, that are only delusionally taken as personal, are what get 'reborn' ('carried again'), again and again, with no knowable beginning nor ending. They are (recurrently) fabricated, but not "made up by this human organism" in the sense of 'originality'.

(Notice how verbally formulated experiences pop up again and again just here in this forum, even just in this thread. And under various names – notably many under pseudonyms.)

But, such a "a radical understanding of the impersonality of experience" appears to be virtually impossible for a Western mind, per se (that is, clingning to itself as such, and with no clue that it does so).

So in the case of statements by 'Kenneth Folk' here, it is understandable how nibbana might be considered 'oblivion'. 'Kenneth-Folk-ness' would have to be radcially relinguished for the experience of 'touching' nibbana to occur (it is said). But that can't happen, would seem 'oblivion' where 'Kenneth-Folk-ness' maintains center-stage. (Read 'anybody-ness', here; it's focused here, impersonally, on this particular person because of the context.)

Alexander Piatigorsky (in The Buddhist Philosophy of Thought) surveys, in passing, virtually the whole body of Western (and Asian- but Western-minded) commentary on the nature of core Buddha teachings, and the Abhidhamma elaboration thereof, noting that everything written (ca. 19th-century through 1982, the year of his publication), reduces to translating, filtering those teachings into the commentators' native Western conceptual frame of reference. Piatigosky's subtle (it's a deeply phenomenological perspective) point is that the commentators are missing the whole point – that those teachings are pointing to a radical ability to see through, and move beyond, any conceptual frame of reference.

That was ca. 1982, before all the wonderful enlightenment that's taken place in the West in the past couple decades (not to mention the current 'mindfulness' fad). But the deeper I delve into the presentations (writings, youtube sessions, etc.) of the modernist take, the "secular," "pragmatic,"etc. buddhisms and take-offs, the more Piatigorsky's insight rings true.

(Needless to say, these are my viewpoints – so others won't have to waste effort pointing that out.)

RE: Q & A With Kenneth Folk
Answer
2/7/15 4:15 PM as a reply to AugustLeo.
Bump ...

Michael (Augustleo):
Kenneth Folk:
I like this question because it points to the very essence of waking up. "Being aware of experience, and then becoming conscious that you are aware of experience" describes the process of systematically training attention. It's useful to think of this as a series of steps. It might look like this.

1. Embedded in experience. You're a cat on the front lawn, staring at a gopher hole, waiting for the gopher to emerge. You have no self awareness. You aren't even conscious that you are seeing. You are fully "in it."

2. Able to name the obect. You can play the children's game "I Spy with my Little Eye." If someone where to ask you what you are looking at, you would say, "A gopher hole."

3. Able to form a concept around the activity.  If someone were to ask you what you are doing, you would say that you are waiting for the gopher to emerge, and that you understand that gophers live in holes.

4. Able to observe the experience as experience. This is the beginning of vipassana. If someone asked you about your direct experience, you would answer "seeing." You understand that all seeing has something in common, irrespective of what is seen. Seeing a gopher hole has a lot in common with seeing a house or another cat.

5. Able to conceptually separate object from apparent subject. If you are asked who is seeing, you would say "I am seeing."

6. Able to attend to the apparent "I". You can turn attention toward the one who seems to be seeing. You can even become absorbed in this experience of witnessing and reify it as "the witness."

7. Able to deconstruct the witnessing state by looking directly at its component parts. At this point, "the witness" no longer seems to be "I"; it is revealed as just another state.

8. More of the same, at various levels of subtlety, always moving from identification to conceptualization to investigation to deconstruction and around again.

We could add more substeps and detail, but this shows the trajectory from absorption/emeddedness toward seeing exerience as experience. We could also extend the steps to become aware of what appears at first to be a ground state, aka Primordial Awareness, within which everything else arises, and then to investigate the component parts of the apparent ground state to see that our experience of the supposed ground state is just another experience.

To summarize, the process of waking up involves becoming aware of experience, then becoming aware that there seems to be someone having the experience, and then becoming aware that this apparent someone is also an experience. We aren't able to find a personal nugget of knowing or an impersonal field of knowing that can stand apart from experience and evaluate it from on high. No experience is more real than any other, or prior to any other; there is only experience, always moving, referring back to no one.

This does not mean that the momentarily arising sense that "this is happening to me" stops arising. It continues to arise, which is good, because this sense of provisional identity is fundamental to functioning in the world. However, this oft-arising sense of I is seen as just another experience. It is no longer seen as the one immutable lens through which all other experience must be filtered.

edit: typos
Thank you Kenneth.

How does jhana and the progress of insight fit into this process?

And to reiterate John Power's question:
John Power:
Hello Kenneth,

You wrote in the article 'Jhana and Nana'
That pre- and post- fourth nana yogi's need to follow two different instructions. A pre- fourth nana yogi should put his focus in penetrating the object. A post- fourth nana yogi must concentrate.

My question
I am planning to do a home retreat for a longer duration, maybe 30 days. I am following the mahasi sayadaw noting technique. In the retreats I have been to I just kept noting and noticing everthing that I would experience. During sits I would take the abdomen as my ancher and would stay there but with the intension to notice the characteristiscs (four elements). During walking I would stay with the feet and notice the characteristiscs. I wouldn't switch to more concentration practice but just follow the same technique and instructions during the whole retreat. The article is from 2009, do you still hold the opinion that post- fourth nana yogi's should concentrate more? Do you suggest that when I cross the A&P, I should do more samatha practice like counting my breath or using a mantra to boost the concentration?
I get the idea that concentration is important, but isn't it key to understand what is happening in your experience? Or is the ability to understand your experience automatic after your have crossed the A&P and is it just a matter of concentration, so you can see deeper?

Thanks in advance for your answer!
Thank you.

Michael