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Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
6/28/17 8:09 PM
This will be the comments thread to the main.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 2:54 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Paweł K:
multi-tasking... it only work in three cases: 1. you are a girl 2. you are a computer 3. you are batshit crazy and are prepared to meet with rainbow unicorns... and then become either a girl or a computer

you have been warned!


Indeed.  "Multi tasking" is a convenient designator of language, actually referring to rapid alternating of attention between tasks in discrete moments.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 2:56 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Explanation

Morality is not as technical or patterned as what happens in the mind during meditation.  It requires more perspective or understanding in advance to set up a proper plan.  Definitions need to be established first, then principles are created from those.  Out of some basic principles, a strategy can be created.   If you learn to understand the mechanics of happiness, you can create your own set of definitions, principles & strategy.  There are some common misconceptions about morality:
  • It is not mappable.  It is unique to each individual’s life.  Any notion of “progress” in morality does not honor that everyone is different.
  • It is completely separate from wisdom & skill in meditation.  “Path” shifts or insight experiences have no connection to character traits or lifestyle.  
  • It is not worth separating from wisdom or skill in meditation.  There is only one, central path.  No need to make distinctions between trainings.  “Path” shifts or insight experiences have a direct correlation with character traits and lifestyle.  
  • There are already lots of good morality resources out there that directly acknowledge the link between morality hacks & “path” shifts.  
 My proposed morality plan involves 13 stages as taught to me by my teacher Dhammarato and are roughly based on the 7 factors of enlightenment, the 4 nobles truths, the 8fold path & a few key suttas in the Majjhima Nikaya, including number 48.   The general idea is to make space in the mind, insert positive energy into that space, use that energy to investigate, use that investigation to throw out hindrances, use that emptiness to judge the skillfulness of actions, throw out the unskillful actions, practice lifestyle design, unify the sub minds and allow automaticity and gladness to emerge.  The principles which support this are based around things like pragmatism, gamification, habit formation, love, etc.  

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 2:58 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Case Studies  

Here are some case studies which highlight the way different people’s paths intersect with morality & wisdom.   


Example 1: Mary

Mary is deeply into meditation but has fairly large gaps in various areas of conventional life skill.  She just went through a progress of insight through organized vipassana practice, had a cessation & noticed some relief & space in her mind.  She also has access to a cognitive perspective on the 3 c’s that she did not before.  Beyond these effects, she did not notice major changes to her personality, emotional processing or behavior.  This would be a case of trained/purposeful wisdom without spontaneous integration.


After her first cessation, Mary was happy to find the baseline relief that she did, but disappointed that it did not do more.  Mary decided to pursue the same path again, at a deeper level of mind.  She succeeded & was delighted to find that the experience did repeat & this time wiped away much more baseline suffering.  Her mind is now at least 4x as quiet as it was, she notices an increase to sensory clarity & is quicker to recover when she gots lost in emotional turmoil.  Still, the overall quantity of her negative thoughts & emotions as well as their basic patterning remains intact.  

At this point, Mary can decide to pursue the more advanced & complex Wisdom experiences which follow the 2nd one or she might focus more of her efforts on integrating the core changes to her being into the more coarse levels such as emotion & behavior.  For our purposes, she chooses the 2nd option.  Mary notices that her mind is now more quiet & asks how that could benefit her emotional life.  When she looks inward, she notices how negative emotions are more clearly seen against the backdrop of mind.  She can observe how they change quickly & also how they tend to perpetuate into more negative emotions.  With her fancy new lens of observation, she is able to purposely convince herself that negative emotions are not worth engaging in because they always lead to more negative emotions.  She acknowledges that the first wave of most emotions are necessary to gather data about how to act skillfully in the world, but they do not have value beyond that.  Following this process of gradual motivation or alignment, she finds that she is able to change her personality & her life in ways that she never could before these 1st two insight experiences.



Example 2: Rob

Rob feels a degree of mastery over some major areas of life including career/finance and familial relations.  He practiced samatha for many months with diligence & had a powerful insight experience into not-self.  Not only did he notice that his mind became more quiet, but he also suddenly had a dramatic decrease in emotional reactivity & an increase in positive states.  These effects have remained with him & seem permanent.  This would be a case of trained/purposeful wisdom with spontaneous integration.
 After his first powerful insight experience, Rob is very content with his life.  Not only did the lens through which things are observed get improved, but also the contents of the observed.  He is more loving, emotionally stable & clear than he was before.  Rob keeps meditating because he feels that it is a good idea & it has become habit.  But he doesn’t feel much desire to strive for anything.  Looking around to the other yogis he knows, he feels that many people are missing the point with all of their mapping & effort.

Rob continues like this for a couple years until something terrible happens to him & the house he has built comes crashing down.  He turns back to the dharma & decides to go for the 2nd layer of mind.  He succeeds.  He finds that the depression & low functioning he has gotten himself into is impermanent.  He is able to begin to climb out of it, but also notices that remembering the terrible event tends to pull him back in.  The Wisdom effects of the 2nd layer of mind do help him stay equanimous around these contents & he does still maintain the perspective that effort & mapping are ultimately empty.  

Rob continues to cycle back forth between depression & equanimity, all with the benefits of the 2nd path basis of operation.  After some more time, he decides to try to build new habits again.  He notices that each time he performs an action, the desire to perform it again gets stronger & the tendency to do its opposite gets weaker.  He also notices that despite the clarity & space in his mind, his thoughts & emotions are negative.  When he makes them positive instead, it amplifies the clarity & space.  So decides to practice being purposely positive.  

Rob retrains his mind & body at the level of content.  Where before this integration happened spontaneously, it now happens through purposeful training. 



Example 3: Sarah

Sarah is a kind, wise & funny person.  Most everyone loves her.  She grew up in a loving family, overcame all the right challenges & learned key life lessons.  No is perfect & Sarah has her flaws: She gets impatient with her siblings & has irrational fears sometimes arise.  But broadly, Sarah is a very masterful human being.  She is able to adapt to life & she understands the way conventional conditionality works in terms of how people change.  She is in touch with her emotions & her body.  


Sarah has no understanding of her core perceptual mechanism.  She has never observed the fluxing patterns of reality at a granular level.  She has never lost herself in a state of boundless love or infinite consciousness.  She has never tuned into the vastness of conscious awareness which the attention mechanism operates within.  

At this time, Sarah is not enlightened.  Someone might read descriptions of an enlightened person & think she is, but she is not.  But one day, someone gives her a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.  Sarah starts reading it and finds herself devouring it.  It speaks to her in a way that she has never experienced.  Sarah still doesn’t know about purposeful meditation, but she decides to start being mindful in her daily life.  She finds that it feels really rewarding and fresh to operate this way and continues doing this for two months.  One day, she is carting through the supermarket and picks out an eggplant.  Looking at it, the music and purple object drop away for a moment.  When she returns she is confused and feels completely empty inside.  She notices that her entire inner world has opened up.  The change is permanent.

This is an example of spontaneous wisdom.



RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 11:05 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:

Morality is not as technical or patterned as what happens in the mind during meditation.  It requires more perspective or understanding in advance to set up a proper plan.  Definitions need to be established first, then principles are created from those.  Out of some basic principles, a strategy can be created.   If you learn to understand the mechanics of happiness, you can create your own set of definitions, principles & strategy.  There are some common misconceptions about morality:
  • It is not mappable.  It is unique to each individual’s life.  Any notion of “progress” in morality does not honor that everyone is different.
  • It is completely separate from wisdom & skill in meditation.  “Path” shifts or insight experiences have no connection to character traits or lifestyle.  
  • It is not worth separating from wisdom or skill in meditation.  There is only one, central path.  No need to make distinctions between trainings.  “Path” shifts or insight experiences have a direct correlation with character traits and lifestyle.  
  • There are already lots of good morality resources out there that directly acknowledge the link between morality hacks & “path” shifts.  


Thanks for posting Noah!  Just to clarify, in the misconceptions piece you seemed to list all the options?

Personally I have a slightly different perspective - I think perhaps a debatable point here is whether a final higher morality can be trained, or if it is simply a matter of working through our inborn 'stuff'.  I think a training approach as you have outlined here is obviously very useful - guidelines and antidotes for behavior are integral to traditional Buddhism, and what you have outlined here seems like a valuble pragmatic take on it.  From an ultimate perspective however, I think the perfection of morality is fundammentally based in insight.

On the path to enlightement - a pure perception beyond all conceptual mental filters, stripping away neurosis and confusion is what ultimately matters, while a moral life is not necesarily a training in its own right, but a support for the path.  What use is it to overcome our mental blocks, but in turn impose upon ourselves a rigid system of moral action?  However, how we act is inseperable from the life we live, and as such morality is truly essential in living a good life.  Truly I do believe innate morality can be perfected ultimately only by removal, as enlightenment can only be obtained by the removal of confused perception.  That said enlightement is just a step on the path toward moral perfection, and what's more the perfection of morality can only be known in a personal sense. 

When we clear our minds of all delusion, when we take the final step, we enter into an ultimate state devoid of all self reference - a state of pure confidence and wholly spontaneous action yet paradoxically complete free will.  Yet still we remain in the relative world, bound by relative constraints.  Therefore, although choice is perfected, because it occurs in a relative basis no such ultimate perfection is observed.  Which is a long way of saying no-one can recognize anothers enlightenment via strictly external signs, but also explains why ideals of relative enlightened perfection are unattainable.

I hope that makes sense!  Also I can elaborate on the path post enlightenment if you're curious.  Cheers!

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 11:20 PM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks TDC.

I did want to point out that surrender, clear seeing & acceptance play very prominent roles in the steps I've outlined above

Where the rubber hits the road with morality is how's your relationship with your coworkers, your family, how much cortisol do you experience on a daily basis, how much happy chemicals, etc?

Its great to talk about inborn stuff and natural undoing through insight and all that, but some people will live more skillful lives then others.  As I'm defining it, skill is synonymous with sustained pleasure.

I don't know if your a betting man, but if morality was a race, my money would be on the person purposely training at it.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/25/17 11:37 PM as a reply to Noah D.
So I've noticed that I have to choose between:
a) saying what I actually am thinking
b) knowing my audience & speaking in a way that ppl will understand

That being said, I did option a above, so here is my attempt at option b (this is all tongue in cheek btw)

Thanks TDC!  

You make really good points about insight being about how we work through our stuff.  That is actually something I touch upon in both the case studies post & the principles post: sometimes things happen naturally, other times through effort.  In either case, the common factor is that they are skillful, aka they actually work.

In terms of morality being a support for the path, there is a word for that: mundane.  The mundane version of the 3 trainings is morality, concentration, wisdom.  Each one is a support for the next.

The supramundane version is wisdom, concentration, morality.  This is what I am outlining with the posts above.  

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/27/17 11:51 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Thanks TDC.

I did want to point out that surrender, clear seeing & acceptance play very prominent roles in the steps I've outlined above

Where the rubber hits the road with morality is how's your relationship with your coworkers, your family, how much cortisol do you experience on a daily basis, how much happy chemicals, etc?

Its great to talk about inborn stuff and natural undoing through insight and all that, but some people will live more skillful lives then others.  As I'm defining it, skill is synonymous with sustained pleasure.

I don't know if your a betting man, but if morality was a race, my money would be on the person purposely training at it.


I agree, training in morality can't hurt, but my main concern on the path was always to fully overcome my suffering - mental, emotional, and otherwise - and from that perspective I found it consumately frusterating to try to be satisfied with incomplete results.  I think on the path there is a deep longing to be finally done - the path is inherantly a painful process of working with being incompletely skillful and reaping the negative fruits of such actions.  We learn from our failure, but still we wish it didn't have to happen.

Maybe this discussion is irrelevant, because training in morality is wholly a support for the path, and a genuine end to 'moral suffering' lies far beyond enlightenment itself, I just bring it up for the sake of theory.  People argue for the need to integrate shifts and train on axes seperate from wisdom, but my general perspective is, "just keep going!"  That is what I'm expressing here.

That said the practice of Qi Gong was essential for my post enlightened development, but I view that less as a seperate axis and more as a natural outgrowth of training made possible by achievement in insight.

Cheers,
Tim

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/27/17 2:45 PM as a reply to T DC.
@TDC: IMO whether you view it as separate axis or one natural transformation is only a difference in semantics.  That said, the "one, natural journey" view is simply less stastically likely to be useful to the majority of people.  The style of isolated trainings might rub people the wrong way,  but its what the buddha presented & it is most likely to work cause how else do you actually identify & overcome the obstacle?  Not you personally but everyone else.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/28/17 2:05 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Hi Noah,

This is a great topic and post. Something, I personally would like to put more thought into, too.

On the top of my mind, I used to think about designing an app which would help you develop Paramis or an app that allows you to rate how well you did that day on all eight path factors and then generate a spider chart like they do in sport video games like FIFA. Something along the lines of building a morality gym; as silly as it sounds emoticon .

Anyways, I'll bring forth some more thoughts when I have some free time.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/28/17 2:59 AM as a reply to Mettafore.
Very interesting maps. Thanks for posting them.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/28/17 2:36 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah - Just to be clear, I'm not arguing against seperate trainings but against the idea of seperate axes, which as you said may be a red herring here.  I recognise the Buddha presented seperate trainings, but surely he presented them as directed toward a common goal.  Sorry to derail the thread, I just got thrown off by your 'misconceptions about morality' segement in the explanation.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/28/17 7:41 PM as a reply to T DC.
Yes, one dukkha expressed in 3 ways (body speech & mind) & through 3 poisons (greed hatred & delusion).

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/28/17 7:42 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Very interesting maps. Thanks for posting them.


Thank you.  Will make this a comment thread & create a separate one with same charts better explanation.

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/29/17 5:54 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Reading this, it reminds me of some commentarial stuff regarding the differences between Arahants and SamasamBuddhas (for short: Buddhas) and how the latters have worked eons on their morality aspects and gained a kind of personality devoid of moral flaws, which is not the case for arahants. Examples are given of arahants in the Buddha's time who kept various flaws in their behaviors they had before awakening (funny stories around this in the Pali texts), and how a Buddha would not have such flaws. 

Without getting into discussions of whether there are such things as beings who have worked through all moral flaws, the image given here shows how morality/behavior issues can still be present after awakening and be worked on. The "first and last training" emoticon

RE: Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
6/29/17 7:32 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Really very interesting work. Nice!

I would add how some things in morality require insane amounts of effort to occur and how some unfold naturally as attainments mature. The old effort vs surrender, attainment vs habits.

I would also add that most maps I've seen don't represent what is happening after second path (at least for me).

My guess is that, while 1st and 2nd deal with things that happen to everyone, after that, mind shifts and changes become so personal they can't be mapped.

Again, really good maps.

RE: Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
6/29/17 10:28 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Thanks Ernest - that is actually covered in my principle on pragmatism - "appreciate spontaneous progress plan for contingency"

RE: Pragmatic Morality
Answer
6/29/17 10:32 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Thanks Ben.  Yeah One of the key peices to what I've learned about morality is to *decrease standards* while simultaneously increasing skills.  I have some degree of traction on this after 2 years of daily observation, so I think it's a tough one.

RE: Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
7/3/17 2:10 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Notes for main thread:

pragmatic morality is about connection: enhancing your relationship with reality to participate more fully or appropriately.  Increasing your listening or receiving capability to take data in & understand.  Increasing your expression & action capabilities to utilize what you have learned.  This is a 2nd person, relational process, optimized by the dropping away of all unaligned & disharmonious patterns.  What gets left behind is unskill & the associated suffering. What remains is skill & the associated joy & emptiness.  Skill is synonymous with connection & intimacy.

RE: Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
7/5/17 4:36 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Thanks for creating this Noah!

I found especially the beliefs part helpful. Since you seem interested in this, do you have some more thoughts or techniques for overcoming (strong) beliefs?

RE: Pragmatic Morality Comments
Answer
7/5/17 6:41 AM as a reply to streamsurfer.
Yea!  Just added this description to the main thread 2 days ago - https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6363460#_19_message_6377845

In my experience, alignment occurs in this order:
-super surface hindrance
-distractions 
-surface hindrance 
-underlying belief/ emotion 
-action 

Harmonization happens through careful analysis of what true, sustainable pleasure looks like.  This is literally the only thing the mind (at least my mind emoticon) wants.  By "pleasure" I mean nondual perception, altruistic joy, unified connection, self confidence, physical relaxation, etc.  

Beliefs are just the mind being lazy, trying to use pattern matching to create shortcuts in dealing with the environment based on past experience.  They are tied down by ropes of emotions from ones childhood usually.  Therefore yoy have to be in a *good mood* before releasing them.  This initially loosens the ropes.  Then you have to look closely enough & bribe your subconscious with pleasure.  "Hey, if you stop thinking you need validation from others to be happy, I bet you will feel love alllll the time."  Or whatever it is.  

Obviously clear seeing without bribery also works so try the stoic route too.