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Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi

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Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/3/15 8:50 AM
Shadows on the Path is a book by Abdi Assadi

A few quotes that might spark some interest.

"The awakened state offers a change in viewpoint, but it does not change the personality. The personality needs healing on its own."

"Being mindful of our impulse to make judgments and its subtle but accumulating and devastating effects is crucial in expanding awareness."

"The benefits of using an experienced therapist who has worked on integrating his or her own shadow cannot be overestimated"

"Psychotherapy and spiritual practise are related disciplines but they are not interchangeable"

"The stain of narcissim that we all carry to varying degrees is a good marker for how much more work needs to be done"

"We are not different than fingerprints: no two are the same. That makes us different, not special. We have to make sure that we don't believe our own hype, that we do not use our small gains as ways of standing above others"

"A subtle energy of arrogance pervades many spiritual circles, and it is a sure sign of the deep work that still needs to be done"

"As one of my teachers explain it to me, enlightenment comes to us through grace, not through ambition; our worldly task is to clean up our ego-personalities so that we might offer them as perfected gifts to the divine source, whether we return there during our lifetime or at our death"

The book does not offer practices but is a motivator to look for them and makes it hard to ignore the need.

 

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/4/15 2:13 PM as a reply to Mark.
Interesting. A lot of good pithy food for thought, especially for those working on their "stuff."

Mark:
Shadows on the Path is a book by Abdi Assadi

A few quotes that might spark some interest.

"Psychotherapy and spiritual practise are related disciplines but they are not interchangeable"

How true. And yet we see on this forum many who are still confused by the intersection of these two disciplines. They expect the meditation practice alone will help them deal with their "stuff," and are surprised when they learn that it has little or no effect at all. That's because they aren't approaching their meditation practice in the right way, that is as a contemplation with a view toward gathering insight rather than as a practice to merely discipline an uncontrollable mind. Both can be done in tandem, yet people become distracted by one or the other to their detriment and just end up wasting time at fixing the asavas as they attempt to seek after peace and tranquility while ignoring the real work. 

If you need to deal with your stuff, but don't know how using contemplation and taking a good, hard honest look at yourself, then it is best to seek out someone who can help you. Once you've dealt with your stuff, learning and practicing the Dhamma will make more sense as you learn how not to create more "stuff" to deal with.

Mark:
"As one of my teachers explain it to me, enlightenment comes to us through grace, not through ambition; our worldly task is to clean up our ego-personalities so that we might offer them as perfected gifts to the divine source, whether we return there during our lifetime or at our death"

Be careful what you accept from this fellow. "Born in Iran and raised in Africa, Asia and New York City, he has studied a range of healing practices including shamanism, psychotherapy and acupuncture." He comes from an Islamic background and therefore suffers from a mind conditioned by that religion. Nothing wrong with that, unless one is endeavoring to practice the Dhamma (or worse yet, Buddhism, which in some circles suffers from much the same mental conditioning — think religious dogma! Especially as it can be present in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, yet can also be found in certain Theravadin groups.).

Mark:

The book does not offer practices but is a motivator to look for them and makes it hard to ignore the need.

And that is what it should be used for. As a motivator to look hard and deep into matters that are perceived as being upsetting. One may even locate a few of the triggering mechanisms (using insight contemplation) in order to eliminate them. And that would be helpful.

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/5/15 10:36 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi Ian,

Ian And:

If you need to deal with your stuff, but don't know how using contemplation and taking a good, hard honest look at yourself, then it is best to seek out someone who can help you. Once you've dealt with your stuff, learning and practicing the Dhamma will make more sense as you learn how not to create more "stuff" to deal with.


Daniel brings this up in his book - should we meditate or deal with our stuff. I'm trying to do both (and more) at the same time.

One of the points Abdi makes is that we all have stuff to deal with.



Mark:
"As one of my teachers explain it to me, enlightenment comes to us through grace, not through ambition; our worldly task is to clean up our ego-personalities so that we might offer them as perfected gifts to the divine source, whether we return there during our lifetime or at our death"

Be careful what you accept from this fellow. "Born in Iran and raised in Africa, Asia and New York City, he has studied a range of healing practices including shamanism, psychotherapy and acupuncture." He comes from an Islamic background and therefore suffers from a mind conditioned by that religion. Nothing wrong with that, unless one is endeavoring to practice the Dhamma (or worse yet, Buddhism, which in some circles suffers from much the same mental conditioning — think religious dogma! Especially as it can be present in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, yet can also be found in certain Theravadin groups.).



Fair concerns. He does not mention it much but in the book he writes "For me this one thing has been an early morning martial arts and meditation practice. If I have time it can take over an hour, if I am in a rush I will still spend ten minutes. It is something that has been present for several decades of my life"

In his writing he seems to have a solid understanding of meditation.


Mark:

The book does not offer practices but is a motivator to look for them and makes it hard to ignore the need.

And that is what it should be used for. As a motivator to look hard and deep into matters that are perceived as being upsetting. One may even locate a few of the triggering mechanisms (using insight contemplation) in order to eliminate them. And that would be helpful.

Another idea stood out to me. "when we point a finger at someone we have three fingers pointing back at us" The qualities in others that cause us to react strongly are pointers to what is not well integrated in our own personality (the shadow). It gives a whole other flavor to dealing with "difficult" people emoticon 

Thanks for the pointers.

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/5/15 12:18 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:
Hi Ian,


Mark:
"As one of my teachers explain it to me, enlightenment comes to us through grace, not through ambition; our worldly task is to clean up our ego-personalities so that we might offer them as perfected gifts to the divine source, whether we return there during our lifetime or at our death"

Be careful what you accept from this fellow. "Born in Iran and raised in Africa, Asia and New York City, he has studied a range of healing practices including shamanism, psychotherapy and acupuncture." He comes from an Islamic background and therefore suffers from a mind conditioned by that religion. Nothing wrong with that, unless one is endeavoring to practice the Dhamma (or worse yet, Buddhism, which in some circles suffers from much the same mental conditioning — think religious dogma! Especially as it can be present in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, yet can also be found in certain Theravadin groups.).


Fair concerns. He does not mention it much but in the book he writes "For me this one thing has been an early morning martial arts and meditation practice. If I have time it can take over an hour, if I am in a rush I will still spend ten minutes. It is something that has been present for several decades of my life"

In his writing he seems to have a solid understanding of meditation.

That may be so. There are many people in this world who would qualify according to that criteria.

My concern is: does he have an equally solid understanding of the Dhamma as taught and practiced by Gotama? From what little I've read of his writing, the jury is still out, and it's not looking very good at that. (Just my 2 cents for what it's worth.)

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/5/15 1:55 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi Ian,

This podcast seems a good intro to the focus of his book http://abdiassadi.com/?powerpress_pinw=3189-podcast

He assumes there are multiple ways to wake up, this seems reasonable.

Interested to have your thoughts on the podcast.

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/5/15 11:29 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

Interested to have your thoughts on the podcast.

Hello Mark,

I listened to the podcast. Twice. And took notes.

What Abdi is saying about the difference between growing up psychologically and waking up spiritually is very true. The first must happen before the second can happen, in my experience. I know because I was trained by a man who also knew the difference, but never ultimately confronted it within himself. Yet, he knew how to help other people get over their "repressed emotions."

The podcast was mostly an advertisement for Abdi's services. Even so, just as with many advertisements, you can learn something if you listen very closely and understand what you are hearing. He talked about unhealthy addictive behaviors that are created by spiritual seekers based upon a distorted sense of spiritual ego satisfaction and delusion, and yes that trap is definitely there and something to be aware of. One can see it surfacing even on the Internet, especially when people who do not know one another personally start sparring with each other over spiritual matters or practice.

He also mentioned that "spiritual development and deep understanding can come only after we are at peace with ourselves." And that too is very true.

The most important point he was making was all the talk about a "deep sense of inner deficiency" that people exhibit, and how this is caused by long held emotional wounding embedded in the body. And the person may not even be aware that this is going on underneath the surface. All they know is that they don't "feel" emotionally well or "in phase" as my former teacher was wont to put it. These emotional wounds are held in the body by energy valences until they are blown off, that is confronted by the person who then experiences the emotion for the first time. Such emotions have become suppressed unconsciously by the mind because whatever event caused the emotion to be hidden in the body in the first place was too much for the fragile ego to confront in that moment in order to "experience it out." And so the mind merely buried the emotion in the body.

Someone who knows what they are doing with psychotherapeutic training can help another find and blow off these energy valences, freeing up the psyche to be able, in a healthy way, to experience their emotions without attempting to avoid them or shutting them down. The trick is in finding these deep seeded emotional wounds (and the self hatred that often accompanies this), and being able to deal with these issues for the first time.

Once a person is relatively free of the major emotional hindrances that are holding them back, they can then use the Dhamma that Gotama teaches (in the practice of satipatthana) in order to maintain their healthy mental and emotional state, and make advances on the path of purification. I know because I have done this myself. The use of contemplation in this way can be an invaluable tool at one's disposal. However, most instruction in meditation is woefully lacking in teaching people how to utilize contemplation in this manner. Even the two Satipattana Suttas can be a bit too abstract in this regard, unless one figures out how to use them in order to deal with individual issues of substance.

Overall, I was favorably impressed by Abdi's talk. He's passing on valuable information that needs to be better understood by aspiring practitioners in the midst of their practice.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/6/15 1:26 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi Ian,

Thanks very much for taking the time to write that up.

Perhaps the main doubt I'm left with is this idea of Grow Up before Wake Up. I see that someone with dibilitating issues e.g. severe depression, would probably be better served by psychological methods than spiritual. But a common theme regarding shadow work seems to be that it is never ending. I imagine that means that someone who has dealt with a lot of their stuff is often dealing with more subtle issues, but it might also be a change of environment/experience that uncovers big issues much later. In particular I think of scandals where highly practised monks came to the west and engaged in sexual misconduct.

My approach at the moment is to build a practise that creates space for work in both directions. The balance depending on circumstances - I'm writing this on DhO because most of my effort is in that direction. Seeing the wide range of behavior and experiences reported on DhO was a good encouragement to look for complimentary practises. 

As meditation gets deeper and the afterglow lasts longer it seems obvious that spiritual bypassing is a real risk. Maybe it would be wise to take a break from meditation occassionally just to see if there is any addictive attachment! On the positive side it seems many experienced practitioners drop their time on cushion at some stage.

I have the feeling that many people on DhO associate the dark night and other experiences on the cushion as a sort of integration/washing away of subconscious issues. I can see that insight meditation helps deal with some issues but the wisdom from Abdi and others points to the need for complimentary practises.

Could you point to instruction that addresses: "The use of contemplation in this way can be an invaluable tool at one's disposal. However, most instruction in meditation is woefully lacking in teaching people how to utilize contemplation in this manner." ?

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/7/15 1:15 AM as a reply to Mark.
Hello Mark,

Mark:

Could you point to instruction that addresses: "The use of contemplation in this way can be an invaluable tool at one's disposal. However, most instruction in meditation is woefully lacking in teaching people how to utilize contemplation in this manner." ?

That second statement addresses a multifaceted phenomenon when it comes to meditation instruction. In one sense, what I meant by that statement is that the instruction given to a beginner and intermediate practitioner will be focused on development of the mind to accomplish certain disciplines, like quieting the mind (dealing with the monkey mind while endeavoring to experience deeper levels of solitude, as in pursuing the four higher immaterial realms in dhyana meditation), controlling what thoughts are introduced for observation and which are let go of (relating to wholesome and unwholesome thought), being able to maintain concentration on an object of observation for an extended period of time in order to better examine it when one advances on to contemplation (insight) meditation.

Unfortunately, many times beginners become stuck for years in the practice of noting as it is taught in the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, never realizing that they can combine this concentration practice with insight. In other words, it is as though they have blinders on and are discouraged from following their natural intuition which seeks to know and comprehend (realize) the meaning and nature of things and concepts. And so they are never encouraged to work with the development of both concentration and insight together, as one can find discussed in the discourses in numerous instances. In the beginning, the purpose of noting is to encourage the mind to remain in the present moment, rather than to wander off into thoughts of the past or the future.Yet noting can soon become boring, as if one is spinning their wheels in the sand, if it isn't allowed to put down its blinders in order to seek insight into the subject matter of what is being noticed. It is that insight that leads to the path knowledges, as well as to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Dhamma.

Whereas the instruction given to an advanced practitioner could be focused on refining the abilities of the mind to benefit from insight contemplation using the practice of satipatthana as a means of "seeing things as they are" rather than how one might have pre-concieved them to be. This might entail help in being able to sharpen discernment of objects, such as using one's knowledge of the significance of namarupa in arriving at a determination about whether an object deserves to be viewed as having a positive or a negative influence on circumstances. Such determinations then can be influencial in the activity of sankhara or volitional formations as these are affected by the emotions. Insight into the formation of a sankhara can then help to clear it (blow off unwholesome sankharas) within the affective mind. This is where the practice begins to take on real meaning and significance for the practitioner in a practical way leading to the cessation of dukkha.

It helps to understand the definitions of the Pali terms being used in order to make sense of what is being said and pointed at. These are all just conceptual descriptive terms, but once one sees how they operate in a real life situation, it begins to make common sense how one can clear away misconceptions in their thinking in order to be at peace. As Gotama said, "Mind is the forerunner of all actions. All deeds are led by mind, created by mind. If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, suffering follows, as the wheel follows the hoof of an ox pulling a cart."

If a person is able to control their mind long enough to be able to hold it on one object for five consecutive minutes or more without an unnoticed interruption, then one is ready to begin a practice in insight meditation. With dedicated practice, one ought to be able to accomplish this within six months to a year, depending upon the level of distractions that one has to deal with in the midst of life. Unfortunately, this is much harder to accomplish living a householder's life in our modern world than it is within a monastic setting or on a private retreat. Having or creating an atmosphere of silence is also very conducive to making progress in this practice.

Actually, I have been planning to write a book about this, but haven't had the time, due to one distraction or the other, to be able to dedicate to the project. There are other things going on which are taking precedent over my being able to get to this project. My working title for the book is: The Lost Art of Contempation. With a subtitle of: An empirical study of the depth and vastness of consciousness, its practical implications and applications in the physical worlds.

Tentatively, I have outlined a brief description for each of seven chapters. This was all done nearly two years ago, and reading back over it now, I'm not exactly certain where I meant to go with one or two of these. I'll just have to sit and contemplate it for a while, and maybe I'll rediscover the ground some of these chapters were meant to cover. I've also written an unfinished Preface for the book. The Preface and description of the chapters follows:

1. Sitting Quietly Content in an Empty Room
Developing the ability to be alone with oneself. Becoming friends with meditation.

2. Developing Discernment of Things As They Are
Empirical observations: 4 noble truths, right view, right thought, the three characteristics. Keeping things simple.

3. Varieties of Knowledge and Insight
The variety of Zen references to the experience of nibbana through its teaching of no-mind. Different ways of pointing toward the same phenomenon.

4. The Distraction of Mysticism
The nama-rupa of mind-created experience. To be wholly without concepts is called the wisdom of dispassion.

5. The Role of Intention in Contemplative Practice
The selective use of intention helps sharpen focus on contemplative objects. Mental resolutions assist in focusing the mind on achieving goals.

6. Applications in Practical Problem Solving
The use of contemplation in psychological and existential problem solving

7. The Wisdom of Contemplation
Finding the still point of the turning world and staying there. Opening up to the possibility of happiness means accepting the truth whatever it turns out to be. Contemplation should develop into a regular daily practice, with few, if any, excuses for putting it off.


P R E F A C E:
A word of advice to the approaching reader of this book. If you want to get the most out of this work, read every sentence, every word even, with thoughtful repose as to the meaning behind them and not just as mere empty scribblings (meaningless words) on a page. Let your personal experience and intuition be your guide. Invest in and continually dip down into that experience as you attempt to discover the deeper significance of what is being said in these pages. If you do this, you will not be disappointed.

This book makes an attempt to describe what for many of us is a virtually impossible experience to describe: the content of our contemplative life. And yet, without some conceptual framework from which to work, it would indeed be impossible to attempt to communicate such experience. The subtitle of this book is: “An empirical study of the depth and vastness of consciousness, its practical implications and applications in the physical worlds.” An ambitious aspiration to be sure, but one which attempts to summarize and communicate its subject matter in brief, cognizable collections of thought fit for further personal private investigation and discovery. In other words, fit for contemplation on their own by successful practitioners of the art of contemplation.

This work was inspired by the work of Siddhattha Gotama, who is more popularly known as the historical Buddha, a title which fittingly enough means “the awakened one,” which legend tells us was a self-imposed description. Yet, the preference here is to refer to him by his given name, in order to examine and place the legend in a more down-to-earth light and atmosphere. For if you think of him as just another human being, you can begin to lose the vision of the mystical legend, the mystique of a mythical persona that generally surrounds the title of the name “Buddha,” blinding the viewer to his true human nature, while placing his life within the context of your own in order to better understand what he had to teach. A brilliant man to be sure, and yet he was still just a man. But one who was relentless in his pursuit of his given purpose: which was to find the way to the end of human suffering.

In the recorded history of mankind, no other single historical figure has clarified the nature of consciousness as completely and in such detail as did Siddhattha Gotama. If you study his recorded talks, authenticated within the discourses of the Pali Canon which is the closest evidence we have of what he is actually said to have said, you can witness the prominence of his brilliance in person. No one as yet has ever discounted his main thesis that all composite and aggregate things are impermanent, all composite and aggregate things are unsatisfactory, and that all dhammas (all things including the unconditioned) are without self nature. For anyone who has realized the truth of the existential worlds, this thesis is neither a belief nor an educated opinion, but rather an empirical observation which any individual, trained and disciplined in the rigorous practice of contemplation, may verify for him- or herself.

One of the purposes of this book is to assist the reader in the discovery of his own ability for contemplation. And while this may be somewhat elusive in the beginning, it is hoped that by the end of this book, and going forward, one gains a more coherent understanding and appreciation for the value of a regular practice of the art of contemplation.


If you're up to it, perhaps you can provide me with some feedback. Does any of this strike you as something you might be interested to read?

In peace,
Ian

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/7/15 3:34 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi Ian,

Balancing concentration, insight and perhaps metta is a topic that certainly interests me. I'm slowly working through Shinzen Young's practices which are mainly noting and something similar to metta.

Maybe we should agree on a definition of insight. I don't have a formal definition, I tend to think of it as opposed to concentration practises. So concentration for me is getting into a state where experiences cease or are very limited. For example concentrating on the breath to a point where there is nothing else. In particular this means no thoughts arising and a fixed attention. For me the insight practises are about exploring the nature of experience so for example observing how an emotion can be broken down into physical components or how a thought can be observed rather than "owned". 

Shinzen has a concept of foreground and background experiences. So if we are noting seeing then it is in the foreground - we bring attention to those perceptions. Of course other perception like hearing happen but they are considered to be in the background and not the focus of attention. There is no intention to stop the activity in the background although that can happen naturally. In regards to the perceptions being noted it seems the goal is to get more and more refined in how they can be observed which leads to insights regarding the 3 Cs. 

I wonder if you would consider the noting practise I'm describing as an insight practise ? 

I think I understand your concern regarding noting that becomes a concentration practise. Noting can lead to deep concentration and that can lead to states that are different and validate some ability.

Perhaps we can define notions of "self" and "Self" to help our discussion. There is the self which is the collection of habits, personality traits, memories etc which navigates the mundane world. There is Self which is independent of the self and is often interpreted as a ground of experience, emptiness, oneness or god.

This separation of self & Self is obviously a limited concept and just a view for discussion. We can certainly make a strong argument that self does not act in the world - it does not exist etc. 

For our discussion is it fair to say that the self acts in the world while the Self does not ?

Insight practise seems to have benefits for both self and Self. In regards to self one aspect is cognitive distancing (CBT term) - having the ability to hold an experience without reacting. In Stoicism this was the idea of dealing with "impressions" with reason. The Stoics seemed to get a lot of this stuff right and were writing it down around the same time Gotama lived. But it seems the Greeks did not figure out the potential of concentration techniques that India had.

In regards to noting it seems that hardcore noting can allow a direct experience of Self. Perhaps a faster way to achieve SE than other technique.

To bring this back to your message, it seems you are interested in bridging the self-Self i.e. using contemplation to both Grow Up and Wake Up. Is that a fair interpretation ?

You wrote "If a person is able to control their mind long enough to be able to hold it on one object for five consecutive minutes or more without an unnoticed interruption, then one is ready to begin a practice in insight meditation." That seems to be setting the bar incredibly high but maybe you are very good at concentration or I am very bad. Perhaps the most profound insights are going to require very strong concentration (but there are reports of these insights happening even without concentration). I suspect deep concentration increases the chances of deep insights. But there are plenty of insights that don't need much concentration - the monkey mind itself is full of insights. 

Your chapter 7 reminds me the Stoics had a fascinating take on what happiness is. In Buddhism we often compare the happiness of advanced practitioners to that of non practising lay people. It would be interesting to compare the Stoic and Buddhist perspectives. Basically the Stoics believed that true happiness was deciding in accordance with the virtues (the ideal sage). The notion of decisions was basically limited to what one can control - whcih turns out to be only our decisions and not their impacts. They identified things as good, bad or indifferent. So good is virtue, bad is vice and indifferent is everything else. It is quite radical, for example health, wealth, reputation, relationships were all considered as indifferent in regards to happiness. So very close to the Buddhist concepts of not being attached. Perhaps the big difference is that they put the self and moral action in the center of happiness and I wonder if they got that right. It seems to lead to a more pragmatic philosophy for the layperson.  

I'd be be more than happy to read more about your thoughts and provide feedback. I can offer beginner mind emoticon

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/8/15 12:47 AM as a reply to Mark.
Hello Mark,

Mark:

I wonder if you would consider the noting practise I'm describing as an insight practise ?

Generally speaking, you could call that insight practice. Anything that allows you to gain insight into "things as they are," (which could be a million things, at this point) is a plus. Your description of Shinzen's concept of foreground and background, while it is something to be remarked about, is really just common sense and a matter of methodology in terms of the practice more than anything else. Once you've realized and accepted the truth of the three characteristics, then that insight is in the process of becoming internalized in your way of thinking. From that point on, it's just a matter of being mindful of it when things come up in order to preempt the effect of dukkha when it arises.

However, when I use the word, I'm referring to it in the same way it is being used in the discourses with regard to gaining insight about the main teachings of the Dhamma: the four noble truths, dependent co-arising, the five aggregates of personality view and all the rest. It is mindfulness of that insight that will free the individual from experiences of unsatisfactoriness. Mindfulness of moments when the dukkha is arising so that one can preempt it with seeing it (whatever illusory phenomenon is arising) as it actually is.

Also, and perhaps this is just me, but I would also apply it to personal matters or issues that I'm attempting to become clear about (what we might term "growing up"). For example, when I left the religious order of which I had been a member for seven years, I harbored a lot of resentment toward the man who was my religious superior. Over time, using contemplation and just common sense reflection on this issue, I was able to arrive at an understanding which dissipated that resentment all at once. Blew it off completely in one fell swoop. That freed my mental and emotional energy to tackle other things.

Mark:

For our discussion is it fair to say that the self acts in the world while the Self does not ?

If I understand your conceptualization of these two terms correctly (which I'm not certain I do, but maybe I do), I will paraphrase the same thing that Gotama said with regard to this: that I understand the conventional everyday social persona when using the pronoun "I" and can speak about it without becoming attached to it. If that's what you are talking about, then yes. (Although I generally do not use those terms — self vs. Self — when communicating about this phenomenon because it can be misapprehended by people, so I just stay away from it.)

Mark:

To bring this back to your message, it seems you are interested in bridging the self-Self i.e. using contemplation to both Grow Up and Wake Up. Is that a fair interpretation ?

Pretty much. And yes, I agree that a person can wake up before they grow up. It's just that a certain amount of growing up is best to have occurred before one wakes up. The growing up can sometime take the rest of one's life to undergo that process. Chogyam Trungpa and the personal misconduct that he had to deal with is a perfect example. It all depends upon the individual. No one size fits all interpretation as far as this goes.

Mark:

You wrote "If a person is able to control their mind long enough to be able to hold it on one object for five consecutive minutes or more without an unnoticed interruption, then one is ready to begin a practice in insight meditation." That seems to be setting the bar incredibly high but maybe you are very good at concentration or I am very bad. Perhaps the most profound insights are going to require very strong concentration (but there are reports of these insights happening even without concentration).

Not that high if you take into consideration that I said "without an unnoticed interruption." Had I said "without an interuption" then you might have had a point.

The level of concentration that one needs to practice insight meditation or reflection outside of the meditative state is the same level of concentration that one needs in order to properly read and comprehend a book on a relatively complex subject. In other words, it shouldn't be bothered by random distracted thoughts to the point that one has to keep reading the same sentence ten times in order to get what it's saying. Ideally, the mind remains quiet so that undistracted reading and comprehension can take place. This is where, if one needs to develop that kind of concentration, one can use the practice of dhyana meditation in order to condition the mind to develop stronger levels of concentration. Spending time in the fourth dhyana will do the trick in this; a person doesn't have to develop the immaterial dhyanas (even though it may be beneficial to do so).

The most profound insights require that the person's intuitive mind combined with their ability to remain focused and engaged with examining the subject matter of their contemplation be strong enough that they're able to figure them out, either directly through deductive or inductive examination and reasoning based upon a person's personal experience and knowledge of how things work in conventional reality or through an intuitive epiphany which explains the same thing in more or less of a mental flash of recognition. Once again, there's no one size method that fits all. Which leads me to agree with your statement that "but there are reports of these insights happening even without concentration." And those happen through the process of intuition. Intuitive insight!

In peace,
Ian

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/8/15 6:17 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:

However, when I use the word, I'm referring to it in the same way it is being used in the discourses with regard to gaining insight about the main teachings of the Dhamma: the four noble truths, dependent co-arising, the five aggregates of personality view and all the rest. It is mindfulness of that insight that will free the individual from experiences of unsatisfactoriness. Mindfulness of moments when the dukkha is arising so that one can preempt it with seeing it (whatever illusory phenomenon is arising) as it actually is.



My exposure to Buddhism supports what you are saying - applying insight meditation to the broader teachings is not something I've seen well explained and I think it would be of value and interes.

Are you familiar with Life's Meandering Path by Karma Yeshe Rabgye ?



Also, and perhaps this is just me, but I would also apply it to personal matters or issues that I'm attempting to become clear about (what we might term "growing up").


I think that makes a lot of sense. The Stoics (I hope you don't mind me using that philosophy for comparison) had morning and nightly meditations, basically this involved contemplating the day ahead in the morning and mentally playing through moments where you hope to be able to exercise the virtues that day, then in the evening there is a contemplation of the day's activity focused on how you could have been more effective in using the virtues.

It raises a question as to whether that technique can address all issues or whether other techniques can help. 


Mark:

For our discussion is it fair to say that the self acts in the world while the Self does not ?

If I understand your conceptualization of these two terms correctly (which I'm not certain I do, but maybe I do), I will paraphrase the same thing that Gotama said with regard to this: that I understand the conventional everyday social persona when using the pronoun "I" and can speak about it without becoming attached to it. If that's what you are talking about, then yes. (Although I generally do not use those terms — self vs. Self — when communicating about this phenomenon because it can be misapprehended by people, so I just stay away from it.)


Yes we are on the same page I think. When using "I" instead of "self", what is used instead of Self ?



Mark:

You wrote "If a person is able to control their mind long enough to be able to hold it on one object for five consecutive minutes or more without an unnoticed interruption, then one is ready to begin a practice in insight meditation." That seems to be setting the bar incredibly high but maybe you are very good at concentration or I am very bad. Perhaps the most profound insights are going to require very strong concentration (but there are reports of these insights happening even without concentration).

Not that high if you take into consideration that I said "without an unnoticed interruption." Had I said "without an interuption" then you might have had a point.



You are right that I misread, sorry. But the definition of unnoticed could be confusing. We need to not notice quite a lot of activity before a thought is verbalised internally. But your later explanation of the level of concentration makes it clear what you meant.

What you wrote resonates well for me. So I hope you'll share more about the details.

Thanks.

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/8/15 6:55 PM as a reply to Mark.
Hello Mark,

Mark:

Are you familiar with Life's Meandering Path by Karma Yeshe Rabgye ?

No, I'm not. I don't tend to read that many books about the Dhamma these days, and especially books written from the Tibetan perspective which I find can sometimes be either ambiguous or stray off the path laid out by the Pali discourses. I did once, a few years ago, read a book (Ethics for the New Millennium) written by the Dalia Lama (Gejong Tenzin Gyatso) that I thought expressed the truths expressed by Gotama fairly accurately that I was pleasantly surprised to see. But other than that, I generally stay away from Tibetan authors (unless one is pointed out to me to look into).

Mark:

I think that makes a lot of sense. The Stoics (I hope you don't mind me using that philosophy for comparison) had morning and nightly meditations, basically this involved contemplating the day ahead in the morning and mentally playing through moments where you hope to be able to exercise the virtues that day, then in the evening there is a contemplation of the day's activity focused on how you could have been more effective in using the virtues.

It raises a question as to whether that technique can address all issues or whether other techniques can help.

Yes, I'm familiar with the practice by Stoics, although I didn't know that it was something that they had originated. However, I'm not that familiar with Stoics at all, have never studied or looked into the movement. I have been using a form of that method now for many years. I had come across someone when I was a child or adolescent who had mentioned that contemplative practice, and thought at the time that is sounded like a good idea.

As a matter of fact, my present practice involves meditating for an hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening, focusing on contemplation of issues or ideas that I'm currently working on. Sometimes I use it to help me plan an essay that I'm writing, or I might focus on a current matter that I have to deal with. It's so easy to switch back and forth between subjects, and it is sometimes the only time during the day when I can plan out what I want to accomplish during the day or when I have time to sit and consider matters that I haven't yet had the time to fully consider. It is truly a time of contemplation for me.

Mark:
When using "I" instead of "self", what is used instead of Self ?

That's a superfluous question. In other words, there is no answer. How many people understand the difference between the two terms that you've just explained who also understand that both are annata. One can only talk to others using conventional terms. If one is the listener, he just has to understand when one is switching between the two, if he's familiar that the two designations exist. If not, then he continues on in ignorance of that.

Mark:
What you wrote resonates well for me. So I hope you'll share more about the details.

Finally, someone who understands what I've been endeavoring to explain about the simplicity of the Dhamma and how it can be used in a practical way. All I did was apply the instruction in the discourses to my everyday perception of what passes for reality. This can really be helpful when you look at the five aggregates and figure out how they apply to your view of reality and to the personality you assume yourself to be.

At one point, I was interested to learn just where in the Dhamma on the aggregates one could find the origin of the emotions. It turns out it is found in the confluence of vedana, sanna, and sankhara with regard to any affective reaction. I was doing it in order to find a way to rid myself of unwholesome emotion. I've always had this tendency to seek out the root cause of things in order to better understand them. You might say I came preprogrammed into this world with this approach. (Makes one wonder what occurred in previous lifetimes.)

I approached each major teaching in that same way, looking directly at my own perception of experience and watching the reactions taking place in the mind. If someone had taken the time to explain things this way for me in the beginning, it would have shortened the time it took for me to realize what I've come to realize.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi
Answer
5/9/15 11:12 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Hi Ian,

Ian And:
Hello Mark,

Mark:

Are you familiar with Life's Meandering Path by Karma Yeshe Rabgye ?

No, I'm not. I don't tend to read that many books about the Dhamma these days, and especially books written from the Tibetan perspective which I find can sometimes be either ambiguous or stray off the path laid out by the Pali discourses. I did once, a few years ago, read a book (Ethics for the New Millennium) written by the Dalia Lama (Gejong Tenzin Gyatso) that I thought expressed the truths expressed by Gotama fairly accurately that I was pleasantly surprised to see. But other than that, I generally stay away from Tibetan authors (unless one is pointed out to me to look into).



I mention that book more because it is the closest one I know of to the book you have in mind. For example it encourages the daily review, contemplation etc. It is probably of no use to you in regards to your practise but it might be interesting in regards to writing style. It's a secular interpretation of the Mangala sutra. I read the book after listening to an interview of the author, he seemed to be really applying the principles in the world i.e. walking the talk.


Yes, I'm familiar with the practice by Stoics, although I didn't know that it was something that they had originated.


I don't think they initiated the idea of the contemplative planning/review but did introduce the idea of focusing on virtue as the goal.



I approached each major teaching in that same way, looking directly at my own perception of experience and watching the reactions taking place in the mind.


That seems to be the key point that we should discuss in more detail. Consider how detailed the instructions are for noting or meditating on the breath. Can you describe contemplation of the teachings in a similar way ? I could try to contemplate myself but we may have very different ways of contemplating, I suspect mine would tend to quickly turn into fantasy!

Thanks.