Message Boards Message Boards

Morality and Daily Life

Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom

Toggle
TLDR:
  • Sila is about integrating and amplifying Panna
  • Canonical awakening uniquely involves this integration, not just the nondual perception part
  • Much of Theravadan dogma (i.e. precepts, seclusion, renunciation) is simply training towards a specific type of healthy ego
  • This type of healthy ego is unified and has some degree of inherent benevolence
  • An example of this training from my own experience with the energy of addiction
  • A flaw in pragmatic dharma: No discussion of integration, Morality is just “don’t be an asshole” or “common sense”
  • This flaw leads to mindfulness of misery, rather than removing the misery first, then being mindful
  • I acknowledge the value of choiceless techniques, but also hope pragmatic dharma people will consider acting directly on their suffering as well
Long version – each bullet as paragraph:

Sila involves the integration of different sub-minds into the unified reality of facing cause and effect, for the ultimate purpose of unburdening tensions on the levels at which they exist.  One part of the mind's machine maintains the perception of duality in the immediate sensory field.  There is an opposite function to this that is latent in most people: the natural, open awareness we all had as babies.  The ultimate goal of Sila could be seen as the amplification of this latent function, and the dissolution of the active duality.  

Even in people who attain technical paths (the one’s I have talked to, and myself), the latent function of open awareness is inevitably, and repeatedly derailed by tensions on more gross levels.  Furthermore, at super-advanced levels, it maintains despite other levels of tension (this is my understanding of Daniel's Fourth Path).  I think this a partial expression of Buddhist awakening as defined in the Pali Canon.  The full expression describes an awakening in which this open awareness is fused, or synergized or baked into a sense of relaxation and joy on all the other, grosser, levels of the spectrum of experience (i.e. emotional circuits, motor circuits, lifestyle-conduct, interpersonal expression, etc.).  This combination (Example C) is something special beyond Example A (technical paths) separate from Example B (kind, sane, high-functioning person).    

Many of the dogmatic, traditional or rigid aspects of the Theravadan training are processes of working towards a healthy ego, which have simply been lost in translation and codification.  Examples include the principles of “a precept” (misunderstood through time as a rule, rather than a guideline to gain freedom from all rules), “seclusion” (misunderstood as the absolute necessity of being cut off from society, rather than the relative advantage of reducing phenomenal input towards the goal of ending the hindrances) and “renunciation” (misunderstood as the forced rejection of societal values & participation, rather than a reprioritization of inner values towards the release of stress, which leads to spontaneous and natural decisions and preferences).

Unity does exist as a concept in the Dhamma, to the extent that it refers to a unified personality structure.  Basic goodness also exists, in the sense that all parts of the mind are always reaching towards a freedom from stress.  Even Dissociative Identity Disorder is none other than a complex effort of a human mind to protect itself from early and extreme, perceived threats.  Supramundane Dhamma promotes unity within the personality system, but rejects notions which suggest a unity between person and environment (or any related Eternalist or Theistic concepts).   

My practice of open investigation is revealing to me that my mind wants to be free on all levels.  There are imbalanced energies within me, that arise from sub-minds, that are currently blinded to cause-and-effect (the way things actually are ‘out there’).  Attempting to directly stop or reduce this energy only fuels the fire.  The change has to be an inside job, in the sense that the sub-mind must bear witness to cause-and-effect, and naturally or spontaneously decide to conform.  A part of this conformity comes from being convinced of the validity of the goal; that the exquisite dynamic of a balanced & integrated mind will actually feel better than the experience of satisfying my addictive tendencies through impulse.

One complaint I have with the general goings-on in pragmatic dharma is that the Panna training (nondual perception, direct point, clarity, equanimity, “Insight,” etc.) is mostly treated in a vacuum.  Most pragmatic dharma people would agree that the stages of insight are loosely measurable, and loosely common to the average Yogi’s experience.  In contrast, many would agree that Sila training is totally dependent on the context of the Yogi’s life outside of meditation, and that the Dhamma has little, unique information to offer on it.  Most Sila training is said to be ‘common sense,’ or ‘just don’t be an asshole,’ or ‘simply be a kind, sane, high-functioning person,’ etc.  Technical and focused discussions of how the two interact are few and far in between.

These underlying values in the culture of pragmatic dharma have led to the discussion and practice of choiceless awareness of the hindrances.  At the lower-quality level, this involves a suppressive noting of them.  At the higher-quality level, this amounts to “I feel like shit, but I am just going to experience it without being tossed about by subtle craving, clinging, aversion, etc.”  What is never even suggested is that choiceless awareness of the hindrances is still ingraining or wiring them into the brain and body.  While it is better to be mindful of a hindrance than to ignorantly experience it, in some cases, it might be best to learn to control and stop the hindrance before it arises. 

Despite my above statements, I must admit that neutral mindfulness (i.e. noting with mental labels) did wonders for me when nothing else could.  I did it constantly for over two years.  I’m just suggesting that others consider that an integrated approach that includes Sila could be just as technical, relatable, and valid as The Sixteen Nanas or The Nine Stage Elephant Path.  I hope that some people on the forums consider doing something other than “All-states-are-relative, mind-constructs-everything, I-take-this-moment-for-what-it-is-without-conditions” when they encounter pain or suffering in the future.  It’s okay to try and change things.  These efforts don’t have to be compartmentalized from awakening!

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 4:24 AM as a reply to Noah.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Noah. 

What is your take on samadhi? I seem to remember from past discussions that your development was unbalanced from that point if view too: You got 4th path long before getting skilled at jhana. I think this is relevant for the topic of addiction you seem to care much about.

As for sila: What is your take on morality for non Buddhists? Awakening is a universal (as in culture-independent), physiological human phenomenon. Buddhist morality is a relative one, informed by awakening, but still relative, I believe.

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 7:21 AM as a reply to neko.
Thanks for the response Neko.

In terms of the OP topic, my take on samadhi would be that the individual factors of jhana align with the factors enlightenment in the sense that they are signposts for how to direct the activities of the mind, towards a looser and more carefree way of being.  I also know that basking in states of deep samadhi can help with some of the healing being talked about in OP.  However, I am against depending on any progress to occur automatically, for this type of thinking seems to fit in more with the ideals of surrender (hopes for magical meditations solutions) rather than pragmatic morality.

This is how I conceptualize samadhi states:

Any meditation state can be explained as a graph in which the x axis is breadth or strength (hard vs soft), the y axis is depth (stratum of mind), and the z axis is quality of experience (jhana/samatha vs nana/vipassana).  

To distinguish between cases of samadhi, I find it better to focus on the factors of jhana rather than trying to number a jhana.  For instance, my soft first jhana involves a fabricated version of each factor.  My personal mid-strength first jhana involves self-sustaining Piti beginning to come forward, which then fuels applied and sustained attention.  LIkewise, my strong 1st jhana involves this relationship then extending to a pervading Sukha which sort of monitors and sustains the state.

Each practitioner has their individual scale of jhana (from softest possible to personal best), but there is also the objective scale of what is possible (from softest possible to Pau Auk Sayadaw or Daniel's fire kasina descriptions).  My personal best (of what I can consistently reach) is probably less than 10% of what is possible.

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 5:15 PM as a reply to Noah.
The notion that Morality and Pragmatic Dharma (meaning the broad group of people who emphasize function and results over tradition and dogma, which is a pretty large and diverse group) do not in some broad way (assuming you could easily categorize this group) emphasize or get explicit about Morality is preposterous.

A few moral qualities:

Honesty: this site and its sister communities value honest, open, non-dogmatic, straightforward, human descriptions of practice. Honesty in speech is a moral virtue, one that is practiced here in ways rarely seen in other similar communities. In this, the DhO and its sister communities excel in honesty.

Dana: the gift of the dharma is the highest gift, according to the Buddha. This site and its sister sites are all free, freely participated in, advice and time freely given to help others to learn and practice the dharma. By its nature, that is the goal of this community. Thus, this community and its sister sites exemplify the highest ideal of Buddhist giving explicitly by their very function.

Service: many people here serve the community and other communities in various ways, specifically supporting each other as a sangha to be well, practice well, function well, and help others well. Numerous people give freely of their time and resources to support this site and keep it functioning and free. Further, I know many of the people here as people, and in their own lives they give to their families, communities and world in numerous generous ways. In this, this community and its sister communities excel in service.

Speech: this site and its siter sites, while having their moments as do all online communities, strive to talk about these deep, sensitive topics in ways that are skillful and supportive. In this, this community, while not always meeting the highest ideals of speech, clearly strives for right speech in serving others. In this, the ideals for speech are high and the struggle to maintain skillful speech is ongoing and diligent.

Livelihood: I know many of the members of this community, and I personally know of none that earn their living through a wrong form of livelihood.

Thought: this community has a bredth of thought about the dharma that is rare in this world, and it strives constantly, post after post, thread after thread, to think wisely about the dharma. In this, the standards for the community are very high, and they are met here to a degree that I rarely see elsewhere. In this, the community excels in right thought and the aspiration to right thought by its very function and mission.

I could go on and on, but that gives you some idea of how this community, by its very nature, is a moral community, striving daily to meet high ideals for morality, exemplifying many moral virtures to a high degree online and in daily life.

We could spend a lot of time talking about how moral we are as a community, or we could just be moral and do our good work without stating, "Ah, we are soooooo Moral!" That we very rarely pat ourselves on the back for our extensive good deeds and service is a sign of humility, another moral virtue.

I prefer the actions to the words, but, if someone has somehow missed the deeply moral nature of this community, perhaps a reminder is necessary to thwart the false view that this community is not moral, doesn't emphasize morality, doesn't speak of morality, and doesn't highly value morality. Even among those who emphasize deep meditation in their posts, you will find that there is a great deal of moral emphasis in their lives.

Daniel

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 7:16 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
TLDR:
  • This flaw leads to mindfulness of misery, rather than removing the misery first, then being mindful
  • I acknowledge the value of choiceless techniques, but also hope pragmatic dharma people will consider acting directly on their suffering as well
[...]

These underlying values in the culture of pragmatic dharma have led to the discussion and practice of choiceless awareness of the hindrances.  At the lower-quality level, this involves a suppressive noting of them.  At the higher-quality level, this amounts to “I feel like shit, but I am just going to experience it without being tossed about by subtle craving, clinging, aversion, etc.”  What is never even suggested is that choiceless awareness of the hindrances is still ingraining or wiring them into the brain and bodyWhile it is better to be mindful of a hindrance than to ignorantly experience it, in some cases, it might be best to learn to control and stop the hindrance before it arises. 

Despite my above statements, I must admit that neutral mindfulness (i.e. noting with mental labels) did wonders for me when nothing else could.  I did it constantly for over two years.  I’m just suggesting that others consider that an integrated approach that includes Sila could be just as technical, relatable, and valid as The Sixteen Nanas or The Nine Stage Elephant Path.  I hope that some people on the forums consider doing something other than “All-states-are-relative, mind-constructs-everything, I-take-this-moment-for-what-it-is-without-conditions” when they encounter pain or suffering in the future.  It’s okay to try and change things.  These efforts don’t have to be compartmentalized from awakening!

(OK, so the following is a bit of a wild guess, based on extrapolations from my own experiences and on fragments of your extensive writing in the past. Possibly, it is completely misguided, but maybe not.)

Reread those sentences I quoted in bold writing.
The reason why you do not experience the removal of the hindrances by using noting only is not due to a flaw of the method. Also, it is most likely not a flaw of how you're doing the technique.
The reason is: you have not done noting as intensive retreat practice.
Noting on intensive retreat (as in: all day, 14 hours formal meditation plus all times off-cushion noting, going really high concentration, for more than a week) is a very different experience than doing 2-3 hours of formal noting in daily life.
In the intensive retreat setting, eventually noting will violently rip out the hindrances.
BAM!
Just like that.
The specifics are not really predictable, and it is not pretty, but it happens.
But do the very same exercise with a smaller dose in daily life, and nothing of the sort happens, while all the other benefits of noting still happen.

Guess who agrees with me? Goenka, on the beginner's case.
He says explicitly that you cannot remove deep Sankharas in daily life, you absolutely need to go on retreat for that purpose.

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 8:38 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for the response Daniel.  So many good points to reflect on there.  There is value in all three of these things: discussing meditation methods and attainments, discussing moral values, and actually acting with morality.  I agree that 'this community' does all three very well.

What I was suggesting is the discussion of, and acting out, how these three things fit together: how they are more than the sum of their parts, etc.  I don't see a lot of technical examination like this.

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/14/16 8:41 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
@Bernd:

I really like this idea!  I think you could be right about my practice history.  Your idea reminds of what Culadasa says in TMI about how some cessations have a stronger effect than others, depending on how many 'sub minds' are involved.

I'll have to think more about this, but it seems like you're talking about the purifying effects the nanas can have when they are experienced in their 'hardest' forms.  It makes sense.  

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/27/16 7:53 PM as a reply to Noah.
Edit: what i mean to say is that i dont believe any if this.   This is intended to be an open duscussion, so i will put my cards on the table.  Your practice history and jhana descriptions do not match expectations for someone claiming to be advanced, let alone 4th path.

 It is not a plausible representation in the context of these traditions.  I will not set aside my rationality simply because we are talking about meditation.  So in that vein, this thread is just theorizing in the air.  It is also inaccurate theorizing at that.

Sorry this is rude, but people need to have perspective.


 



Noah - I haven't kept up with all your practice logs, etc.  I had the impression that you were a smart guy.  However, this all seems so incredibly theoretical. 

Just in this thread, you are talking about 'what the pragmatic dharma community does' and 'what cessations do to the mind' and possible different variants of enlightenment or paths to enlightenment.  And then relating all of these different thought constructs together.

Please feel free to continue theorizing, since it can be valuable in its own right.  But personally, my head would be spinning if I tried to meditate while pondering all these issues.  And I just don't think it is possible to answer some of these questions, or rebut them.  The science isn't there.  

And please let me play the devil's advocate here, in a spirit of just openness, without it coming across like I am trying to insult you:  But isn't it really easy for someone to say that they are "4th path" but that it hasn't ended any of the hindrances or changed their relationship to human suffering?   

RE: Actually Integrating Morality and Wisdom
Answer
7/27/16 7:49 PM as a reply to Mike H..
Hi Mike, thanks for the thoughts.  Perhaps I should have kept this theory in my sandbox thread, which is what I usually do.  I appreciate your show of good faith, although I do not consider myself a particularly smart dude, just a really obsessive one.