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Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom

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I recently listed to this podcast Buddhist Geeks 267: It's a Jungle In There, a recording of the talk at Buddhist Geeks 2012

It raised some concerns in my mind. 

From my understanding, there was an analogy made between naturalists who in their time cataloged in extreme detail all the living phenomena in our world (animals, plants, etc). The comparison was made with meditation and using this same type of approach for studying, documenting, categorizing, and structuring the aspects of the mind and individual consciousness. 

This sounds like matrix to me. My definition of matrix is a system of control over the minds of the collective of humanity. 

Who is it that will decide and fund this research? What is their agenda? Is it an element of a technocratic elite that is pushing for controlling the minds of people? To keep people within structure and systems? Just like with the naturalists, once you can categorize every aspect of the living world, it becomes easier to control, to limit. (at least that is what some may believe) 

What if your goal freedom for yourself as a unique individual? Why would you want to participate in this research and help create a system which may be then used to reduce your freedom and keep you within a system? 

Why do we hear so much about the collective and collective consciousness? It sounds like a form of mind control to me.  

It is the individual who seeks awakening. It is the individual who seeks freedom, happiness and a better life. We don't have to rely on a collective. 

Did the ancient spiritual traditions talk about a collective and collective consciousness? A collective is different from humanity. I guess we can say we are all humans, but we are not all part of a collective. In my view, a collective is a created device for categorizing people, it tries to erase the uniqueness and freedom of the individual. 

And could all of these maps of spiritual realization turn into a form of mind control? A form of matrix. Something that is bowed down to, turned into an idol just like mindless rituals and beliefs? Yes, you will get reproducible results, but what if you want something else? Why not keep the maps to a minimum and let each individual experience the territory first hand in their way? 

I know many of these questions become clearer through strong and proper practice. Just wanted to share my thoughts and concerns. 

Just to let you know, I am a big fan of Jon Rappoport's writings on imagination and freedom of the individual. 

I have also been practicing Vipassana seriously for about 14 years, including long retreats. If you ask me to tell you where I am on the path according to systems and maps, I don't know exactly. But maybe that is a good thing, as long as I keep practicing properly. I will find my own way, unique to me.  


Dustin 

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 10:01 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Upon inspection, all the shit that made me an individual was nonsense. 

I believe the project of catalogging everything in the mind is an effort to show one's self that it is all nonsense, and thus be truly free. 

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 12:43 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Imgine being sick and going to a doctor in, say, the 12th century, before anatomy was well understood, before disease processes were better understood, before nearly all medication and treatments that we have today were understood, before the days of germ theory, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, genetics, surgery, antiseptics, and the like. If you are young enough to still have that glow of false immortality, perhaps that’s ok, but, were you given a choice between that medical situation and what we have today, it is hard to imagine not choosing today.

Imagine going to a doctor today and saying to that doctor, “My body is unique. My conditions are all special. How can you know how to treat me? Everything about me is about me being my own individual!” Well, while that is likely true in some sense unless you are a twin, as we do all have our own genetics, lots about us is very much like other people, and, in those realms of similarity, much diagnosis and useful treatment can occur, as we studied the body, we studied biochemistry, we studied genetics, we studied microorganisms, we studied how drugs interact and how they interact with most people’s bodies, and, while there are always the odd conditions and the unusual reactions, the vast majority of what we see is the same disease processes again and again and again and again and again, and the vast majority of them respond to the treatments we have for them in predictable ways.

Imagine going to a counselor or psychotherapist who has been treating clients for, say, thirty hears, in order to discuss your issues. If you declair to them at the outset, “Ah, my issues are all unique! I am very unusual, very special, and the problems I face are like nothing you have seen or treated!”, and then you describe your issues to them, what are the chances that they will come to the same conclusion about the uniqueness of your individual issues? Basically zero. Their problem will be not amazment at your very unusual patterns of issues, but avoiding boredom at how they have heard the same old things again and again and again.

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 12:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The same is true in meditation and spiritual practice. If you comb through the reports of practitioners in the Pali Canon and then comb through reports of practitioners on this forum, with its many, many posts about what people are actually experiencing, and you know a bit about the maps and standard patterns, and have seen those same patterns in your own practice countless times and seen those same patterns in the practices if your dharma companions and co-adventurers on the spiritual path, there is precious little that is particularly unusual, unique or that stands out in any way. Yes, there are some who are at different levels of practice regarding different skill sets. Yes, some people do have talent and some don’t. Yes, some are good at mapping and some aren’t. Yes, some people are good at pattern recognition and some aren’t. Still, the patterns repeat again and again and again.

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 12:51 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Were you to, say, go to a psychiatrist or psychologist, for example, and describe a fascination that spiritual technologies are being studied as part of a grand government conspiracy to implement mind control, that studying meditation theory and phenomenology so as to understand what was going on with practitioners was going to be used for that purpose, there is no psychiatrist or psychologist would find that particular belief set unusual, and certainly wouldn’t find it unique, but instead would fit it into a well-know pattern of thought processes they had seen again and again and again, and it is called “paranoia”. It is not that some fears of the government or scientists doing bad things aren’t warranted, as sometimes they are, but what I was describing was not part of some sinister movement to subvert meditation practice to mind control, not that you will necessarily believe me, but I offer this anyway as an attempt at reassurance.

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 1:31 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Dustin Mattison:
It is the individual who seeks awakening. It is the individual who seeks freedom, happiness and a better life.


There is no such thing as an individual.

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 3:56 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
But what if improved knowledge of the mind is used to make advertising more effective?

That may be a good thing if it helps people to satisfy their genuine needs. However, if advertisers use the knowledge to encourage clinging to mind objects, such as brand logos, or clinging to particular consumption choices, that could be seen as quite harmful. Conversely, I suppose this knowledge could be used to give people defences against manipulation (e.g. considering rotting flesh while watching the ads).

This is a serious ethical issue for me, personally.

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 10:20 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Dustin Mattison:

And could all of these maps of spiritual realization turn into a form of mind control? A form of matrix. Something that is bowed down to, turned into an idol just like mindless rituals and beliefs? Yes, you will get reproducible results, but what if you want something else? Why not keep the maps to a minimum and let each individual experience the territory first hand in their way? 

I know many of these questions become clearer through strong and proper practice. Just wanted to share my thoughts and concerns. 

I have also been practicing Vipassana seriously for about 14 years, including long retreats. If you ask me to tell you where I am on the path according to systems and maps, I don't know exactly. But maybe that is a good thing, as long as I keep practicing properly. I will find my own way, unique to me.  


Dustin 
I am a Theravada monk and am not aware of Buddhism teachings of collective consciousness - if there are, it should be obvious that letting it bother oneself is pointless suffering. Daniel has rightfully pointed out most of the answers. I suspect you will find your own answers by investigating what Vipassana practice is about - self exploration, self realization with absolute freedom from influence. The Buddha said know it, not believe it. And if you explore enough and realize that there is no possibility of a 'matrix' in Vipassana other than perhaps: noting the 3 Characteristics: Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta. Leading to my presumption that you have been practicing for 14 years 'properly', by simply being completely aware and not recognizing the 3 characteristics on purpose as they could possibly lead you on to something. Then I suggest that you look at the maps as a form of entertainment as I do, simply because reading/knowing them does not harm oneself in anyway unless one 'foolishly' buys into the content. You might agree with some and disagree with some, the maps might start to be useful or not, matter or they will not, but I think you will realize that with or without noting the 3 characteristics, there is no matrix in all of that thereafter. That I hope will bring you peacefully back to where your practice should be! emoticon

practice 'properly' - I practice 'choiceless awareness' simply because noting feels unnatural but that could just be me, or you, or anyone. I do not know if noting is 'proper' or not, but I strongly believe it is one of many very proper paths leading to the same conclusion. I relate with some parts of the maps and do not bang my head with those that do not.

RE: mindless rituals. This is good vipassana material. How do I feel when I am kneeling and prostrating countless times each day? Do I indulge in my ego construct and fuel anger in doing such mindless activities? Or do I try to find this ego construct and perhaps I can understand humility? Where is the 'I'? Why am I practising vipassana, is it another mindless ritual? What is a mindful non-ritualistic thing that 'I' should be doing instead?

P.S. There are 3 questions I ask myself whenever I am confused, they tend to answer very well to life's issues:

1. Is it useful?
2. Is it skillful?
3. Is it beneficial for my/our long-term benefit?

May all beings be happy! (It will not happen due to my wish, but I know it makes me happy wishing everyone!)

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 11:48 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Imagine going to a doctor today and saying to that doctor, “My body is unique. My conditions are all special. How can you know how to treat me? Everything about me is about me being my own individual!” ....
Imagine going to a counselor or psychotherapist who has been treating clients for, say, thirty hears, in order to discuss your issues. If you declair to them at the outset, “Ah, my issues are all unique! I am very unusual, very special, and the problems I face are like nothing you have seen or treated!”, .....

Daniel,

Thanks for your feedback! It is helpful and got me thinking more about this. Regarding my comments about the uniqueness of the individual, it would definitely be useful to be able to categorize behaviors, detect common patterns and make efficient decisions on how to proceed when helping a patient/student. However, even the teacher/doctor/health care practitioner is a unique individual who can use his judgement, reasoning and imagination to come up with solutions for the student/patient which have never been thought of or tried before! He can be stuck in the "matrix" where he applies a cookie cutter approach, or he can realize his power to take a different path. To take a path of non-continuity, not a sequence of A to B to C, but something else entirely. 

After considering this issue further I think that whether a student or teacher, we first need to establish a foundation in the domain of study. There are standard practices, common stages, typical symptoms etc. that need to be understood and mastered first. 

Then we can explore the territory of the unknown, the creative, non-systems, non-matrix. 

My concern is that it is conceivably possible to intentionally control the minds of people by keeping them facinated with symbols, paths, stages, and maps. There is a trade-off and risks involved. On the one hand it would be really good to develop ever more intricate categorizations and mapping the territory of the path of awakeing. On the other hand, this can lead to less freedom and more opportunities for abuse. 

I really got excited listening to your podcasts. I got the sense that mastering the core teachings of the Buddha and getting enlightened is just the beginning. Once realizing those levels, one can look forward to using one's imagination and creativity to approach life. I need the foundation to be firm so I practice the standard things which are known to get results. Yet, it doesn't mean I will be glued to those systems. I have the freedom to choose as a unique individual. 

About the concept of self, I don't accept the idea of a soul or never-changing "I". Yet, I think it is conventionally very useful to maintain a sense of self and uniqueness. Whether or not in the ultimate sense we are unique, practically speaking it can protect ourselves and others from being harmed or harming. 

Any of us can succumb to naivety, or to being unknowingly used by others. A skeptical point of view can be useful, especially on the Internet. 

I still think the danger of the issue I raised is real and should be kept in mind. 

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/28/17 11:54 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
[quote=] The Buddha said know it, not believe it. And if you explore enough and realize that there is no possibility of a 'matrix' in Vipassana other than perhaps: noting the 3 Characteristics: Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta.

Yilun Ong, thanks for your response. I will contemplate what you said above. Yes, I think when simply developing awareness and equanimity towards sensations there is no possibility of a 'matrix', if done properly. That type of insight gives me confidence and removes some doubts/skepticism. 

RE: Collectivism and the Individual and his freedom
Answer
9/29/17 1:49 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
It's Jeffery Martin's brain chip master plan. See here https://youtu.be/42Xi9peYYHU