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Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment

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Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
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Answer
4/15/16 3:12 PM
Hi folks,
We have just uploaded the latest episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast, which tackles Buddhist Enlightenment, and I think many of you will find it worth a listen.
We attempt to break a number of the major taboos still swirling around this often vague topic and make mention of Daniel Ingram, Mastering the Core teachings, The Dharma Overground, the Four Paths and more.
We also make a run down of our top tend dodgy enlightened teachers and will likely ruffle a few feathers with our humorous approach to it all: be aware, we use humour throughout.
We are going to have two follow up guests on and Daniel will likely be one of them. I would like to challenge him with a different line of questioning to the usual. Perhaps folks here could make suggestions? 
Let us know what you think of the episode. I think it will bring a lot of opinions out of the woodwork and expect many of you to have strong opinions on the content.
Thanks and enjoy!
Matthew

Here's the link for the episode, which is over at Soundcloud. It can be downloaded or streamed for free: Click here.

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/16/16 8:30 AM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
Thanks for the shout-out to the DhO and your emphasis on real-world dharma and phenomenology. Nice podcast. I put a link to your sites on the links page. Be well and keep up the inquiry,

Daniel

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/16/16 9:05 PM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
At about the 1:08:30 mark Stuart mentions: “this points to a developmental skill of awakening, and that this partly points toward Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours towards mastery, which then implies neuro plasticity to develop this skill. Developing any skill takes time…”.

I mention this because I recently read this article, which is a new take on the theory:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/malcolm-gladwell-got-it-wrong-deliberate-practice-not-10000-hours-key-to-achievement-psychologist-says

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/16/16 10:08 PM as a reply to C P M.
Was going to craft a post later mentioning this among other things. You beat me to it, damn.

Anders Ericsson, on whose research that 10k hours thing was poorly based, recently put out his own popular science book called Peak. I've been reading it the past couple days. Would recommend. It clarifies the 10k hour rule. As you guys mentioned flow also, it might be interesting to mention that I found today that Ericsson in some sense rejects flow,
Deliberate practice is a direct violation of the general rule, or perhaps even law, of least effort, which purports that the human system continuously strives to perform activities with minimal exerted effort or metabolic cost. It is clear that skilled individuals can sometimes experience highly enjoyable states (‘‘flow’’ as described by Mihály Csı́kszentmihályi, 1990) during their performance. These states are, however, incompatible with deliberate practice, in which individuals engage in a (typically planned) training activity aimed at reaching a level just beyond the currently attainable level of performance by engaging in full concentration, analysis after feedback, and repetitions with refinement.
The above is from the paper Capturing the Naturally Occurring Superior Performance of Experts in the Laboratory: Toward a Science of Expert and Exceptional Performance.

This was kinda tangential but I do have stuff to say about your podcast that I'll post later. I'll say for now that I enjoyed it!

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/17/16 3:27 AM as a reply to C P M.
I saw the same article and had long been suspicious os such a generalisation of skill development and 'mastery, but there wasn't time to thrash it out. I might bring the idea up with one of our next guests.

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/17/16 3:31 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.

Deliberate practice is a direct violation of the general rule, or perhaps even law, of least effort, which purports that the human system continuously strives to perform activities with minimal exerted effort or metabolic cost. It is clear that skilled individuals can sometimes experience highly enjoyable states (‘‘flow’’ as described by Mihály Csı́kszentmihályi, 1990) during their performance. These states are, however, incompatible with deliberate practice, in which individuals engage in a (typically planned) training activity aimed at reaching a level just beyond the currently attainable level of performance by engaging in full concentration, analysis after feedback, and repetitions with refinement.
That's a great quote. He doesn't reject flow states entirely of course and disruption is one of the themes mentioned in the original list of 15 pointers. Certinly a major theme of the podcast series is disrupting 'one size fits all' answers to the topics we raise. Thanks for listening.

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/18/16 11:59 AM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
Yes, I found that quote to disrupt my own 'one size fits all' expectation. I was expecting a neat fitting-together of flow and deliberate practice but that quote seriously complicated matters.

Anyway, I have a couple meta comments about the podcast. As Small Steps said in the last thread, the filesize is too large. 320kbps is way overkill for a podcast. Audible audiobooks tend to be 32, 64, or 128 kbps. I recommend trying V8, see here or send your nerd here. It would be useful to have the list-ey stuff transcribed somewhere. I feel it'd be easier to digest that 15 point list visually.

I don't feel particularly qualified to comment on the content as a whole, but there wasn't much talk in the last thread or this one so far so I'll take a stab. I don't have much to say coherently as a whole. Most of what I have to add are unordered nitpicks, impressions, or augmenting points.

I like the emphasis on the importance of language. Developing an alternative to "attainment" and "awakening"/"enlightenment" is difficult. "Awakening activity", "awakening one" is interesting but not catchy enough. Your use of "play" reminds me of Chapman's use of "participation"/"co-creation". The emphasis on "human tradition", "human experience", etc reminds me of Reggie Ray. Much of what was said reminded me of Reggie which should be no surprise considering the influence of Chogyam Trungpa.

I see problems with the phenomenological approach. "I'm experiencing the same thing you're describing" seems to me an untestable statement with even the most painstaking description and patience. It seems there's always faith involved somewhere. And, even if we assumed people were experiencing something essentially similar it doesn't seem obvious to me that we could determine that from language.

The talk about ritual made me wonder if there was any work done on the history of deliberate ritual creation. Couldn't find anything; maybe someone out there will have something. When I try to think of examples for meaningful, modern, non-Christian rituals I can think only of fraternal organizations and occult organizations. Iirc, the Golden Dawn people claimed to have received their manuscripts from some otherwordly source, but Crowley didn't hide that he wrote rituals for the OTO. Here's an archive of Fraternal organization documents. One can read the Freemanson rituals there. As you guys said, it's an ambitious dream; it seems that it would take a team of people familiar with many traditions to create truly relevant and meaningful rituals. I remember Chapman saying basically the same. Maybe the task is too difficult and Western society will just deal with whatever emerges to poorly fill the void, including musical genres, festivals, subcultures, pop-culture, etc

It occurs to me that effective, meaningful ritual involving symbolism could legitimately be called brainwash. Reading the rituals of Freemasonry I even get the sense "this is a fuckin cult". How would this reaction be avoided? I have no idea

Speaking of open source and Golden Dawn, this might interest you: the only example I know of of open-source deliberate ritual creation. Speaking of the limits of rationality I wonder if you're familiar with the territory of the blogosphere bordering Chapman that speaks of 'post-rationalism' here, here, or here. I see some similarities with your work. Speaking of flow have you read Chapman's article comparing flow to tantra?

Are you guys looking for suggestions for episodes? I think one on online dharma communities would be good.

Hoping most of that made sense and passes for feedback

"even warlords"

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/17/16 11:44 PM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
0If Daniel comes on the show, it would be great to discuss his emphasis on the perceputual shift as the definition of awakening vs the psycho-emotional models.

Specifically why(if?)  that the perceptual shift is the goal vs the perceptual shift being a tool to the final goal of being free of suffering.

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/20/16 3:53 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Hi,
Your comments on phenomenology are interesting but can I suggest that faith is a basic feature of human interaction and dialogue: we assume constantly that what is said is what we assume it to be and that a person's gestures and movements are what they appear to be. Faith is a basis for our interaction with the world in general for that matter.
Although Phenomenology is always imperfect, it does imply the attempt to describe things accurately and in that attempt the possibility of building more accurate descriptions emerges. We are, after all, not isolated units separate from each other. We pollute each other constantly. I think your reading of phenomenology may be overly simplistic.
What's more, if we don't attempt to find more accurate deascriptions of the ongoing phenomena of pre- and post- awakening shifts, then we are left to rely on Buddhist descriptions or hang out in our own self-reflective worlds, or worse, retreat into the ephemeral and ineffable. Either way, I would argue that faith is involved.
The issue of ritual is immensly complicated and I agree with most the points you raise. The issue of cultism emerging is such a huge trap. Having ventured through many spiritual groups, I know firsthand how difficult it is to avoid the classic cult group failings. Introducing a democratic principle is hugely positive and I think the Dharma Overground has done well in keeping relatively faithful to its rules.
I'm not familiar with post-rationalism having only heard the name mentioned, but will take a look at the links you provided; thanks.
Matthew

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/20/16 9:42 PM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
Thanks for the podcast! 

You guys mentioned that speaking from personal experience is important when discussing enlightenment, so if Daniel comes on the show, ask him tons of questions about his personal experience. Really drag it out of him. As him about the nitty-gritty details of his sensory experience. What, precisely, is awakening, in his eyes? What are some things that cause fast progress on the path? What holds people back? What would he have done differently if he had to do it again? What has changed in his practice since he attained arahatship? What are the current frontiers of his practice? In what ways is enlightenment a disappointment?

Thank you!!

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/22/16 4:17 PM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
I agree with you on the faith bit. I think I'm trying to point out that phenomenology doesn't remove the faith part. I don't see this is a dealbreaker, I'm just pointing it out. To be clear, I'm referring to phenomenology as it's used on this forum, not the philosophical tradition. Also, I've totally drunk the phenomenological Kool Aid else I wouldn't be here. I think it's the best approach. I'm just pointing out that we should be skeptical.

I'll make a contrast with the scientific method as is fashionable. We consider a scientific theory 'true' if: it's consistent with empirical data, makes predictions that are later verified, and enables useful technology. If we're being honest there are other factors that scientists in fact consider: elegance, simplicity, intuitive attractiveness, consistency with existing theories, etc.

What criteria do we have for trusting someone's phenomenological descriptions? Here are some that come to mind: That it resonates with us. That we can identify aspects of our experience that we believe correspond with their descriptions. That the person seems remarkable to us somehow. That we believe all human experience is fundamentally similar. That they've meditated a long time. That they write well. That we believe language alone is able to convey another's experience. That we believe language combined with embodied relationship is able to convey another's experience. Etc.

I don't see any of the above as fundamentally reliable. Nor do I see any combination of the above being as functional as the criteria for a scientific theory. I realize the extreme of this way of thinking leads to ridiculous results like solipsism, wondering if your buddy is a philosophical zombie, doubting if anyone feels emotions like you do, etc. I realize that maintaining this extreme of skepticism in every day life isn't even feasible, let alone pragmatically advisable.

But I think this line of thinking is important nonetheless. If we come to believe that our experience matches someone else's description I think we should always maintain a morsel of doubt. The reasons for this I think are obvious. Fortunately, I recall Daniel giving this caveat in his Buddha at the Gas Pump interview. Gotta hunt it down now... Found it.  Link starts at 20:03 and the relevant bit ends at 22:30. It doesn'tseem to me that he's doubting the whole basis of phenomenology altogether but the skepticism is there.

RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
4/25/16 10:51 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Sure fella,

we may be communicating at cross purposes at this point. I mention that
phenomenology was imperfect in the podcast and simply provides a number of
tools. For me, at least, scepticism is a given and throughout the podcast
episode, scepticism was on display regarding the narratives that run through
Buddhism and the self-referential discourse that takes place in Buddhist
circles. The same applies to much discussion regarding spiritual transformation
in general and part of the reasoning behind the incorporation of
phenomenological tools is to leave those self-referential spaces. I was also
referring to wider contemporary uses of phenomenological tools and not whatever
has been discussed at this site, which I haven’t been involved in.
As for
trusting someone’s phenomenological description, it’s an important
consideration and problematic if we assume the description is complete and
accurate. The way I see it, and describe in the episode, phenomenological
descriptions are an attempt at accurate description and are therefore always
imperfect and typically a work in progress. The point of bringing such
descriptions into a critical feedback loop is to dismantle the sorts of
linguistic tropes that pass for description of spiritual experiences and create
a culture of increasing transparency. Demanding that an individual find better
ways to describe, define and give form to experience forces a certain
intellectual discipline in which critique can refine understanding, highlight
spiritual traps and push discussion/understanding forward by not settling on
initial formulations, or the confirmation of expectations within a closed, or
self-referential practice group. This requires discipline. Phenomenology as an
intellectual, descriptive practice is a discipline in this regard. It is also a
group practice, where sharing can dismantle assumptions, force clarity and so
on. I have found in my own extra-curricular spiritual practice, that not being
able to rely on Buddhist language, or spiritual language and the accompanying ineffability
of it all, has dismantled many of my own assumptions and myths regarding
practice and its results that has been sobering to say the least as well as leading to the sorts of experimentation at my blog and, obviously, on the podcast.
Secondly, I
think that at bottom, we are social, co-emergent beings. The idea of
individualism in its atomised extreme brought about during the last century in
the West is, in my humble opinion, inaccurate. Such a conceptualisation is
manifest in our language of solipsism. I think that our emotions,
self-consciousness and most of our thinking are not in the least original. The
problem is not whether we experience the same or similar things, but to what
degree we are capable of experiencing, thinking anything that can be considered
original. The challenge is to push our current collective understanding of
phenomena forward, not reproduce the linguistic formulae that currently exist,
and therefore reproduce pre-existing thought and current ideology, Buddhist or otherwise. This means working on the
ideological systems that dominate Buddhist or spiritual discourse, which tend towards sollopsism and escapism and, specifically in western Buddhism, excessive individualism. If you see
language as participation, then it starts to make more sense why description is so important.
The
descriptions laid out by those who have achieved first path or have had a major
spiritual breakthrough or peak experience are typically solipsistic. In a
disciplined feedback dialogue, questioning can strip away all the additional
baggage, as often takes place on this forum, to reveal what actually took place
and what is actually taking place. As you probably know, spiritual experiences
can be so powerful that people weave all of their psychological baggage, needs,
and expectations into them, or go down the ineffability or spiritual poetry
paths. The idea of going further with all this would be an extension, in some
senses, of what has taken place here. The objective to remove awakening
phenomena, and the after effects, from enclosed spaces like this, to make it
more available to the wider world, to decodify it: to liberate awakening from
Buddhism and not leave it in the hands of spirituality. My view is that
philosophy would need to play a great part in this venture and not just the
sciences.


RE: Imperfect Buddha Podcast on Enlightenment
Answer
5/1/16 12:32 PM as a reply to Matthew O'Connell.
Yes I suspect we're talking past each other. I'll say that when I assume phenomenology can at least approach 'truth' or usefulness I agree with almost everything you said. Besides that I don't think what else I have to say is productive. If I think of anything productive I'll post it on future threads. I hope some of this exchange was useful somehow! Hope the podcast keeps-a-coming