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Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?

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Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/5/16 2:39 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? neko 4/5/16 5:24 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/5/16 6:41 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/6/16 5:45 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/6/16 12:31 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/6/16 3:20 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/6/16 4:08 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/6/16 5:19 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/8/16 12:25 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Eva Nie 4/6/16 7:03 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/7/16 5:22 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? neko 4/7/16 8:41 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Eva Nie 4/7/16 7:14 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/8/16 12:57 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Ostaron 4/8/16 10:18 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? . Jake . 4/8/16 11:39 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Eva Nie 4/8/16 11:34 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Chris Marti 4/8/16 12:00 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Chris Marti 4/8/16 12:29 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/8/16 2:50 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Chris Marti 4/9/16 11:40 AM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? bernd the broter 4/9/16 12:23 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Chris Marti 4/9/16 1:06 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Eva Nie 4/11/16 7:00 PM
RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims? Dada Kind 4/11/16 4:17 PM
Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/5/16 2:39 PM
I've been thinking about this question for awhile now: what are some minimal set of claims that the 'pragmatic dharma movement' makes. I know this will vary from person to person but I'd like to explore this territory.

Here's a set that I see

1) Through meditation it's possible to have extraordinary experiences that are temporary. This is confirmed by the long historical record of mystical experiences and the reports of present day meditators. This is increasingly being corroborated by empirical evidence. These extraordinary experiences seem matched by few other conditions, powerful psychedelic drugs being one.

2) Through meditation it's possible to cultivate ordinary, desirable skills and qualities that become increasingly accessible and present in everyday life -- concentration, sensory clarity, equanimity, compassion, etc. This is similarly confirmed by the plethora of reports and increasingly by empirical evidence.

3) Through meditation it's possible to cultivate ordinary skills to an extraordinary degree such that they reliably cause extraordinary experiences. This is confirmed by a plethora of reports but is difficult to measure empirically.

4) Many meditators become convinced that desirable, non-ordinary, permanent transformations of the structure of experience are possible and attainable through reasonable sustained effort -- 'awakening', 'enlightenment', 'non-symbolic consciousness', etc. This is supported by long historical records but so far there is no consensus about the nature of these transformations, and they're more difficult to measure empirically (if not impossible), though efforts are underway.

I call this list "minimal" because there are other claims people make that I see as non-essential in a sense, but sometimes plausible, for example:
  • it's possible to have extra-sensory perception
  • it's possible to know the nature of reality
  • it's possible to eliminate all emotion
  • it's possible to eliminate all negative emotions
  • it's possible to eliminate all suffering
  • it's possible to eliminate all thought
Or, there are many more specific qualifications of the nature of 'awakening' that people make. Or, some people claim that 'awakening' is only attainable by some special few, or after countless reincarnations, etc. The former is an elaboration of point 4 so I don't see it as minimal, the latter isn't generally believed by the 'pragmatic dharma movement'.

I believe it's important to have such a condensed list of minimal claims. I'm less motivated to say why than I am to try to identify some. Do you agree with my list? Do you have ideas for tweaking it or adding new claims? Do you agree that identifying these claims in a condensed way is important?

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/5/16 5:24 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Extremely interesting topic, thanks for starting it. I agree that it is important.

(1) needs to be clarified a bit if this is to be circulated among non-practitioners. It is clear that you are talking about concentration, jhanas and the like, but some non-technical examples of what a "temporary extraordinary experience is" would be needed.

Also the difference between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" is a bit unclear, although your list is an excellent starting point.

(3) Is a bit vague as it is currently written. What do you mean? How is it different from (2)?

I would definitely put the DN in, in some minimal form, such as "Meditation can produce transitory undesirable psychological side effects, even in individuals with no previous mental health record." So basically I would include the relevant intersections of "transitory vs permanent", "desirable vs undesirable", "ordinary vs extraordinary".

I would also add that, although it has been developed historically in the context of specific religious traditions, practice of meditation does not require any specific religious affiliation or supernatural, religious, spiritual or metaphysical belief, even at advanced levels of practice.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/5/16 6:41 PM as a reply to neko.
Thanks for appreciating it.

I feel a bit more motivated to explain how I see this list. I see it as a natural companion to the quasi Pragmatic Dharma Manifesto on the frontpage. Not that I agree with everything there, which is precisely my point: I want a list with claims that we could reasonably call fact. I.e., a list that we're sure we could defend against scrutiny from the most militant scientific materialist or eternalist rationalist

I observe that most people's exposure to meditation comes with all sorts of inessential baggage that deters many people (and also, to be fair, draws many people in) [not an original observation]. I feel that many people discount meditation by its association with a litany of nonsense. I'd like to have a handy list of bedrock claims, shorn of everything inessential, including some of the pragmatic dharma material. I should add that I do believe more than just this minimal list.

Wrt the non-original observation I'm reminded of Crowley,
1. This book is very easy to misunderstand; readers are asked to use the most minute critical care in the study of it, even as we have done in its preparation.

2. In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist.

It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.
I could swap terms like Jhana, Nana, Path, Awakening, etc and this is in a similar spirit to what I'm pointing at. Specifically, what can we surely claim about the results?

In response to your points:

Yes, I think every one of the points need commentary to make them complete.

If I were to expand on (1) I would mention radically altered states of consciousness, absorption, visions, out of body experiences, past life experiences, feeling of unity, altered sense of time, altered sense of vividity, etc. I'm thinking also of William James' Variety of Religious Experiences.

The problem of defining extraordinary is considerable. By definition, one who's never had a remarkable meditation experience, never tried drugs, etc will have no ability to discriminate. Indeed, experiences I consider remarkable may be relatively prosaic compared to what I may experience in ten years. There's serious difficulty with communicating how compelling some of these experiences can be.

Any suggestions for definition?

For (3) I'm pointing to what Shinzen Young handily compares to taking a mathematical limit. I.e., everyone knows that concentration can produce a slightly altered state, everyone knows that sensory appreciation can become an altered state (amazement at sunset, etc), but when these skills are taken to their limit the experience becomes different in character not just degree.

Hmm.. maybe something about DN. Suggestions?

And, I'm taking the last point you made as granted. I'm debating whether including that point would ruin the minimalism.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 5:45 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
The most important claim of hardcore dharma is this:

 although it has been developed historically in the
context of specific religious traditions, practice of meditation does
not require any specific religious affiliation or supernatural,
religious, spiritual or metaphysical belief, even at advanced levels of
practice.

Because this claim is what makes hardcore dharma different from the rest.

I'm pointing to what Shinzen Young handily compares to taking a mathematical limit. I.e., everyone knows that concentration can produce a slightly altered state, everyone knows that sensory appreciation can become an altered state (amazement at sunset, etc), but when these skills are taken to their limit the experience becomes different in character not just degree.
I frequently wonder if this guy has any meaningful education on this subject other than "10 ways to talk math-babble and sound wise at it".
Look about 5 minutes at the definition of a limit and you would realize that
1) Limits may not exist.
2) Even if a limit exists, it is usually boring except for some crafted examples.

But I get it, limit is just too cool a word to ignore lol.

ok, enough hating for today

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 12:31 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I actually don't consider that claim as most important. If, for example, I'm an ordinary person that believes the only potential of meditation is to make me a little calm and peaceful then the fact that I could do it without any attached religion wouldn't be very interesting.

I actually think the limit metaphor is clever. Limits aren't boring; they're the standard formulation that makes rigorous basic differential/integral calculus possible.

To the charge that it's just for the sake of sounding smart or whatever, I would point out that most people are making mathematical metaphors all the time but they're just not educated enough to make good ones. Math is unusually suited for making metaphors.

I haven't seen any hard proof that Shinzen is as educated as he says he is. But, he appears to correctly understand entropy, vectors, norms, limits, viscosity, and more I can't remember. I've never seen him butcher any scientific or math concept. Maybe we'll see with his upcoming book.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 3:20 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:

I actually think the limit metaphor is clever. Limits aren't boring; they're the standard formulation that makes rigorous basic differential/integral calculus possible.
If you are a diehard calculus fan, then yeah, limits are the hottest thing since sliced bread.

If you consider that limits are just a formalisation for intuition, then it's obvious how the metaphor fails.

So let's say you have an expression E = (x / x - 2).
Computing the expression for x={-100, +100, +1.95, +2.05} immediately gives you an idea what E should be for x = {-inf, +inf, +2}.
Unfortunately, we cannot compute E for those values directly, so we need to introduce the concept of a limit to make sense of this idea.

The important thing is that the result of the limit computation is in no way surprising - in fact the limit is designed to match our expectations.
Also note that the result of the limit does not become "different in character, not just in degree". The result of the limit is part of the limit domain (|R, +inf, -inf), i.e. it is exactly of the same character.

So if one states something like "limits, as well as meditation, is awesome because of unexpected results for big inputs", then it just indicates that the idea of the limit was not understood in the first place.

People are too easily expressed by limit/infinity-waving.
Not a new thing btw:
http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/10/getting-eulered/

Also we need latex for posts. This is highly important for the evolution of DhO to the next stage of algebraic consciousness at this point.
Otherwise we will get stuck in a local maximum of negative awakeness in a partial function.

More importantly, all of calculus has been proven to be false:
https://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/09999-1/

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 4:08 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Except sometimes limits do give surprising results and my statement about a change in character is true.
So if one states something like "limits, as well as meditation, is awesome because of unexpected results for big inputs", then it just indicates that the idea of the limit was not understood in the first place.

People are too easily expressed by limit/infinity-waving.
Not a new thing btw:
http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/10/getting-eulered/
Not what I said and I'm familiar with the Diderot-Euler story. I'm not purporting to prove anything with math, just making a useful, compact metaphor.

To the last bit about calculus being false or whatever you're trolling poorly or confused. If you'd like to carry on being off-topic I'd be willing to do so in another thread. I'm not really sure what your goal is here

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 5:19 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
Except sometimes limits do give surprising results and my statement about a change in character is true.
How so? Care to give an example?
To the last bit about calculus being false or whatever you're trolling poorly or confused. If you'd like to carry on being off-topic I'd be willing to do so in another thread. I'm not really sure what your goal is here
It was a joke. I'm currently febrile and my weighting function for humor produces some idiosyncratic results, that's all.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/6/16 7:03 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
I see this as useful. If one is to suggest that people put a lot of time and effort into something, then it is useful to be able to give them a realistic description of what might be gained.  I can't really personally see anything I would add to it either.  Sounds well thought out, nondenominational, not super controversy invoking, etc.  Two thumbs up!
-Eva

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/7/16 5:22 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
I just noticed that your set of minimal claims makes no statements about Buddhism except "there have been lots of accounts about this and that".

I guess if it doesn't say anything about Buddhism/the Buddha himself, then there's no reason to call it 'dharma'.
Maybe Rather "pragmatic meditation weirdos' movement" or something.

Suggestion: Buddha and the rest of the tradition achieved cool stuff, all of which is done today.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/7/16 8:41 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
I just noticed that your set of minimal claims makes no statements about Buddhism except "there have been lots of accounts about this and that".

I guess if it doesn't say anything about Buddhism/the Buddha himself, then there's no reason to call it 'dharma'.
Maybe Rather "pragmatic meditation weirdos' movement" or something.

Suggestion: Buddha and the rest of the tradition achieved cool stuff, all of which is done today.
That is why I would include the reference to meditation having been developed originally mostly in religious traditions. As an acknowledgement and a justification for using traditional pali / sanskrit / tibetan / japanese / chinese terminology.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/7/16 7:14 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
I just noticed that your set of minimal claims makes no statements about Buddhism except "there have been lots of accounts about this and that".

I guess if it doesn't say anything about Buddhism/the Buddha himself, then there's no reason to call it 'dharma'.
Maybe Rather "pragmatic meditation weirdos' movement" or something.

Suggestion: Buddha and the rest of the tradition achieved cool stuff, all of which is done today.

The subject was MINIMAL PRAGMATIC dharma CLAIMS.  What Buddha did aeons ago is hard to say, the texts were written hundreds or more years after his death and underwent constant alterations.  We have no access to the exact facts of buddha's words and life so no real claims can be made from a non religious perspective.  Besides, the goal was not advertised as being about history.  No one is saying that those paragraphs describe every aspect of pragmatic dharma history, development, influences, and practices or that they are a stand alone text that should be presented in isolation of any other information. 

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 12:57 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva Nie:
bernd the broter:
I just noticed that your set of minimal claims makes no statements about Buddhism except "there have been lots of accounts about this and that".

I guess if it doesn't say anything about Buddhism/the Buddha himself, then there's no reason to call it 'dharma'.
Maybe Rather "pragmatic meditation weirdos' movement" or something.

Suggestion: Buddha and the rest of the tradition achieved cool stuff, all of which is done today.

The subject was MINIMAL PRAGMATIC dharma CLAIMS.
That still contains the word dharma emoticon.
So either we say something about the Buddha or the word needs to GTFO.

  What Buddha did aeons ago is hard to say,
Yes, therefore we do not need to make absolute claims about what exactly the first Buddhists achieved.
the texts were written hundreds or more years after his death and underwent constant alterations.  We have no access to the exact facts of buddha's words and life so no real claims can be made from a non religious perspective.
The idea that what Buddha & co. did can hardly be achieved today is a decidedly religious claim.
In contrast, the notion that it can be done is indeed pragmatic.
Note that this is a distinguishing feature of pragmatic dharma. Tons of today's buddhist teachers (even those who seem quite moderate, learned and intelligent, for instance the on DhO frequently-quoted Bhante Sujato) think that the Buddha very probably was the best ever.
IMO no one can claim that and still call them pragmatic-dharma-person.
Consequently, this criterion should be part of minimal pragmatic dharma claims.
  Besides, the goal was not advertised as being about history.  No one is saying that those paragraphs describe every aspect of pragmatic dharma history, development, influences, and practices or that they are a stand alone text that should be presented in isolation of any other information. 
The goal was acknowledged to
vary from person to person but I'd like to explore this territory.
So maybe that aspect isn't important for you.
For me, it is what distinguishes pragmatic dharma from superstition.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 10:18 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Bernd, with respect, buddhism doesn't have sole ownership over the word dharma. It's a concept that predates buddhism. Also, it seems obvious to me that pragmatic dharma practioners have no problem borrowing practices or ideas from outside of the umbrella of buddhism - take, for example, the section in MCTB on magick - as long as they "work". 

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 11:34 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:


The idea that what Buddha & co. did can hardly be achieved today is a decidedly religious claim.
In contrast, the notion that it can be done is indeed pragmatic.
So we don't know what he did or did not do or even much or anything about his life but we are still supposed to know for sure that we can achieve the same as him?  I personally would not make claims that I or others can do something without even knowing what that something is.  I do think it's fine to claim as likely things that many alive today seem to have achieved.  If that is the same is what Buddha did, I have no way of knowing though.  For all I know, some people may well have done different things than him or even surpassed him.  It certainly seems possible but I would not make any such claims with such minimal to nonexistent evidence.   The Buddha was just one guy, others came before and after him. I personally do not base my goals solely around one lone figure in history, information about whom may well be sketchy and agreement about whom is even more scattered.  Dharma practices have survived because over time, various methods were found to work for certain goals, but we don't even know for sure how close any of those things are to things that happened before recorded history began.   

Note that this is a distinguishing feature of pragmatic dharma. Tons of today's buddhist teachers (even those who seem quite moderate, learned and intelligent, for instance the on DhO frequently-quoted Bhante Sujato) think that the Buddha very probably was the best ever.
IMO no one can claim that and still call them pragmatic-dharma-person.
Consequently, this criterion should be part of minimal pragmatic dharma claims.

In your opinion but that does not make it fact.  I don't see why pragmatic dharma has to be compared to prehistorical legends that could potentially be myth.  That does not sound particularly pragmatic to me personally.   

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 11:39 AM as a reply to Ostaron.
Yep, let's try to stay on topic making positive contributions. For simplicity's sake I'd suggest further back and forth could be done on another thread to preserve the integrity of this thread.

Droll, interesting topic. Seems to connect a bit to the conversation on T DC's current thread.

I'm gonna re-read your OP this weekend and think about it before responding further but again, thanks, interesting topic./

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 12:00 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
  • it's possible to have extra-sensory perception
  • it's possible to know the nature of reality
  • it's possible to eliminate all emotion
  • it's possible to eliminate all negative emotions
  • it's possible to eliminate all suffering
  • it's possible to eliminate all thought

From my personal experience with a long term meditation practice I can't agree with these statements:  the possibility that all emotion can be eliminated (ergo all negative emotion), that all thought can be eliminated (ergo emotion and negative emotion), or that it's possible to know the nature of reality, whatever that means.

Just sayin'

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 12:25 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Here's the thread to argue about math metaphors bernd,
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5841611

I'm gonna get around to changing stuff in the OP later.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 12:29 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thinking about this a bit more, I would propose a shorter list:

1. It is possible to understand the nature of experience in regard to how the mind constructs it moment by moment
2. It is thereby possible to reduce the stress, sometimes dramatically, caused by not understanding how the mind constructs experience

Some might recognize this list as being a differently stated version of the four noble truths.

I would not make claims about reality, knowing that it is just experience, and is thus constructed by minds, each mind having its own point of view and resulting set of experiences. I would not make claims about eliminating things that are part of being a human being, like thoughts and emotions. So, in being short, precise and not over-promising, this list is more in line with that I think of as the pragmatic take on the dharma  emoticon

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/8/16 2:50 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Thinking about this a bit more, I would propose a shorter list:

1. It is possible to understand the nature of experience in regard to how the mind constructs it moment by moment
2. It is thereby possible to reduce the stress, sometimes dramatically, caused by not understanding how the mind constructs experience

So, in being short, precise and not over-promising,
I wonder if this list reduces pragmatic dharma to insight practice.
Then it would be too short I guess.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/9/16 11:40 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I wonder if this list reduces pragmatic dharma to insight practice.

So.... is that a problem?

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/9/16 12:23 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
It's not if you declare that all other buddhist aims/practices are insignificant by comparison.
I would disagree.

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/9/16 1:06 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
???

Can you explain how you came to that conclusion? Is pragmatic dharma the only place one can find an insight practice? I think almost every dharma tradition uses insight practices. And I don't think insight practice precludes other types of practice alongside. I would also assert that many practices lead to those very same conclusions about the nature of experience. Those conclusions are pretty darned universal among those who are awakened, in my experience.

Curious...

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/11/16 4:17 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
To all: I'm considering adding a point about lack of belief.

5) No particular belief system is required for meditation. Although, belief in the plausibility of points 1-4 after review of the evidence is propitious.

How's that?

To the points about the word 'dharma' I'd say that 'pragmatic dharma' lacks clear definition, and for that matter, so does 'meditation'. The first one doesn't bother me but the second does. If I could define 'meditation' clearly then the list could just as well be called Minimal Pragmatic Meditation Claims.

Does anyone have a proposed definition of meditation that's appropriately encompasing? Notions of intention come to mind, but that becomes tricky when we consider dzogchen, mahamudra, etc. One could say that even if during a sit there is no intention, still the intention before the sit was to set up conditions for there to be no intention. Also, making intention central precludes meditation that happens spontaneously.

I'm still considering a rewrite of 3) but not much comes to mind besides saying, in particular, see skills from 2). I'm tempted to reference the positive psychology research on flow states and make an argument about taking those skills to their limit as an example. Tangent (math metaphors are everywhere)

Chris:
I more or less agree with your two added points but it's much harder to convince someone of that a priori. To bring in another math metaphor, I could imagine plotting sets of claims on an axis from weak to stronger. I'd put my list close to weakest and then my list with those two added points appended a little farther down. Farther down still would be claims about what enlightenment really is, etc.

Bernd:
Are you a lineage holder in Sawfoot's tradition?

RE: Minimal pragmatic dharma claims?
Answer
4/11/16 7:00 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
  • it's possible to have extra-sensory perception
  • it's possible to know the nature of reality
  • it's possible to eliminate all emotion
  • it's possible to eliminate all negative emotions
  • it's possible to eliminate all suffering
  • it's possible to eliminate all thought

From my personal experience with a long term meditation practice I can't agree with these statements:  the possibility that all emotion can be eliminated (ergo all negative emotion), that all thought can be eliminated (ergo emotion and negative emotion), or that it's possible to know the nature of reality, whatever that means.

Just sayin'
The way it was originally worded was a bit vague, but I interpreted the above separate secondary list to be in the 'maybe' or 'and some people also think' type category.  In other words, they are commonly encountered beliefs in pragmatic dharma but not essential ones and not everyone is going to agree (although granted no matter what is said, there will always be at least a  few that do not agree anyway).  Not sure if that was the intended meaning though.