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Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB

Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/20/17 12:43 PM

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/21/17 5:47 AM as a reply to James Kirk Cropcho.
Cool, I've enjoyed a number of posts from that blog over the years, some very insightful posts on science, consciousness, society and that sort of thing (bit too thinky for me to read on the regular). I particularly like Scott's comment moderation policy, quoting from a Victorian book,

"Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates; At the first gate, ask yourself, is is true? At the second gate ask, is it necessary? At the third gate ask, is it kind?

...we only require you to pass at least two of those three gates. If you make a comment here, it had better be either true and necessary, true and kind, or kind and necessary.

Somewhat suprised (but pleased) by the almost entirely positive tone of this review, given Scott's ability and inclination to pick things apart (curious he ignored the discussion of powers).  Also mostly pleased with the interest in the comments, though a little disappointed (but not surprised) at some of the commentators taking on the standard sneering skeptic role, satisfied to dismiss anything outside their experience with trivially disproved arguements.

But I love watching these ideas gradually permeate the western world, nice to see someone with some influence on the rationalati like Scott coming aboard. Better watch out for a small influx of geeky/rationalist types here and in r/streamentry

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/21/17 8:50 PM as a reply to James Kirk Cropcho.
I've read articles from this site here or there for awhile. Surreal seeing this here. Also pretty much what Adam said.

I thought the review was fair and thorough. After awhile of reading reactions to MCTB you start to see the patterns for the negative ones. It seems that many in the comments were put off by DN stuff or cycling stuff. It's unfortunate.
Based on this post, Enlightenment (in the
Buddhist sense) sounds like a country that takes decades to reach—and if
you try, you might never reach it, but just get stuck in some horrible
airport terminal forever—and if and when you do finally get there, it’s
not clear that you’ll be changed or improved as a person any more than
if you simply smoked some pot, or learned a new part of math, or visited
Spain or the Amazon Basin or the South Island of New Zealand.
Epistemically, you might have learned secrets of the universe
that can’t be articulated in words, but you might have just rewired your
brain in a strange and not especially helpful way, where the
consciousness is directly linked to the sensory input or something.
Morally, you might become a better person, but you might also become Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, or one of the spiritual gurus who seduces students
and takes their money.So while I don’t begrudge anyone else this path, I think I’ll stick
to learning more math, visiting new places, occasionally getting high,
and Enlightenment in the scientific sense. Thanks for the tip, other
Scott A!
If this commenter is the Scott A I believe he is, then I watched his MIT lectures on computability. I'm now reading his comment about MCTB and getting high. Very weird.

Sometimes it's hard to believe when people aren't fascinated by meditation or are put off totally by potential danger. Individual differences I guess.

Overall, the comments on the page are interesting and worth a read if you want to see how rationalists react to MCTB.


another gem,

I’ve got an autism diagnosis too, so I guess it must be.But, I mean… was the Buddha autistic too? And something about
the whole life-is-pain thing must have struck a chord with regular
people, surely, or why didn’t they just tell him to go away and stop
being so emo?

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/22/17 2:15 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
See the comments below that review for my replies. Thanks to Scott for the review. May the second edition of the book address the deficiencies he has noticed in the first edition.

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/22/17 1:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
A review of a review, kinda. Cool of you to reply. Some cross pollination with these rationalist communities seems fun. It ups the geek levels of interest in pragmatic meditation even higher. Unfortunate that Scott doesn't do interviews or videos afaik. If you two were up to it that would be unique.

I did happen to see this on Twitter,

I'm pretty sure this account is associated with SSC at least tangentially, maybe coincidence.

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/23/17 1:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi Daniel,

I've got a question based on your response to Scott. Please feel free to leave it a yes/no answer, or that it'll be best explained by reading MCTB2 when it comes out. Do you feel like dukkha stopped being fundamentally unpleasant at either your 4th path attainment or when your PCE-mode exploration ended the attention wave? I'd also be curious to hear from any other 4th-pathers.

It's definitely cool to see more crossover. I eventually found my way here from reading David Chapman's blogs, and I also enjoyed Mark Lipmann's meditation/rationalism blog. There's a decent number of people on the TMI and streamentry subreddits who are working on the early paths and who are at least loosely affiliated with rationalism. 

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/24/17 3:23 AM as a reply to JP.
The question of unpleasant and dukkha is a perennial and understandable one.

The issues is this: pain exists for nearly all of us, except a few rare people who feel no pain at all due a genetic variant. I have actually met a child who had this, and their feet, hands, skin and bones in general did very poorly, as they simply couldn’t tell when they had hurt themselves.

So, there is still pain. Pain is still unpleasant, in that unpleasant is hard-wired to some degree in the nature of ordinary mammalian sensory apparatus.

Are the reactions to it different? Yes, but not entirely.

The differences are as follows, and in general terms:

1) Pain is in proportion spacially, meaning that the volume of experience that has the pain is just that much volume, as the wide-open mind doesn’t contract into the pain in the way it did. That is not the same as nothing being unpleasant, but there is a background of neutral to pleasant in which it sits that the mind doesn’t forget in the way it did before.

2) Mental reactions are different, though not entirely transformed. The different part has to do with mental proliferation around the pain, to the rapidity with which any mental proliferation around the pain vanishes as soon as the pain does, and the space that is around the mental proliferations that might arise. So, it is not that the mind might not think, “Oh, fuck, I stubbed my toe hard!”, as it might, but that thought, like all thought, is a small, ephemeral thing in open space, not something contracted into that becomes this huge blinding thing.

The similarities are as follows:

1) Enough pain can compromise the function of this mammal. For example, I have had somewhere around 13 kidney stones to date, some mild, some moderate, and some that caused a truly amazing amount of pain. Some women I have known who have had bad kidney stones and natural childbirth have told me that they at least are equal in how much pain they can produce, and a few have said that their worst kidney stones were worse than natural childbirth. Having had a few that were basically off the charts quantities of pain, I can believe them. When I am having one of those, I get nauseated, sweat, shake sometimes, want to move all over the place, and, on rare occasions, have felt like I might pass out from the pain simply pouring so much sensation into the poor mammals brain that it began to overload. Past a certain point, cognition becomes difficult, as it feels that all circuits get swamped by the sensations.

2) Pain produces some aversion to circumstances in which the pain occured proportional to how much pain was there. This seems some deep hard-wired mammalian protective response and makes great survival sense. The fact of severe pain causing conditioning to avoid those situations would not surprise the likes of B F Skinner, but it does surprise some idealists who imagine that someone might be able to have no deep, instinctual, mammalian, sympathetic nervous-system mediated, memory-based reactions to pain. Is the perception of those different? Yes, but they still occur. So, do I believe that conditions, such as PTSD, are still possible in the highly awakened? Yes, given sufficiently adverse circumstances.

So, is this way better? Definitely. Is it an entire solution to the fact of pain? No, not while a mammal who was born still lives. Consider the cases of Channa, the arahant monk from the Pali Canon who committed suicide due to some chronic pain that became to much for him to bear. Even the Buddha suffered from headaches and back pain, which the Pali Canon goes into detail about and the karma that produced those.

Long ago, and before I realized it would be such a hard text to find again, I read an account of the Buddha’s last days, in which he was in terrible pain from some intestinal illness (dysentery? mesenteric ischemia?). Anyway, whatever it was, in this account the Buddha said something like, “Though I attain to the highest jhanas I am able, I am not able to find relief from this suffering.” I have been searching for that version of his last days for two decades since I read it in some book on some Buddhist text reading shelf in India somewhere, and, should anyone know where it can be found, the reference would be much appreciated.

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/24/17 11:57 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
That is an excellent response to the question. Thank you, Daniel.

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/24/17 12:32 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, what is that based on? Memories of how it was before? Memories of realizing it was different right after getting 4th path? Other factors?

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/24/17 1:19 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks Daniel! When you put it that way, that sounds like the most you'd even want to ask for, and I don't think I'd want total elimination of pain/unpleasantness even if it were possible. 

RE: Slate Star Code: Book Review of MCTB
9/24/17 1:32 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi Daniel. Was the story you read DN 16?

DN 16: Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha
Part 2
The Blessed One's Deadly Sickness
28. But when the Blessed One had entered upon the rainy season, there arose in him a severe illness, and sharp and deadly pains came upon him. And the Blessed One endured them mindfully, clearly comprehending and unperturbed.
29. Then it occurred to the Blessed One: "It would not be fitting if I came to my final passing away without addressing those who attended on me, without taking leave of the community of bhikkhus. Then let me suppress this illness by strength of will, resolve to maintain the life process, and live on."
30. And the Blessed One suppressed the illness by strength of will, resolved to maintain the life process, and lived on. So it came about that the Blessed One's illness was allayed.
31. And the Blessed One recovered from that illness…

32. … "Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration of mind, [19] that his body is more comfortable.

Part 4
The Buddha's Last Meal

21. And soon after the Blessed One had eaten the meal provided by Cunda the metalworker, a dire sickness fell upon him, even dysentery, and he suffered sharp and deadly pains. But the Blessed One endured them mindfully, clearly comprehending and unperturbed.