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You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?

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You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/23/08 4:00 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Florian 3/23/08 5:21 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 3/23/08 5:44 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/23/08 9:37 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/23/08 10:38 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/23/08 10:56 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 3/23/08 12:27 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/23/08 11:01 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 3/23/08 11:56 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/24/08 12:44 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Florian 3/24/08 12:47 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 3/24/08 1:37 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 3/24/08 2:35 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Florian 3/24/08 3:12 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Daniel M. Ingram 3/25/08 2:52 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Chris Marti 3/31/08 12:33 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 3/31/08 12:48 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Chris Marti 3/31/08 3:06 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Hokai Sobol 4/1/08 1:13 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 4/8/08 7:05 AM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Daniel M. Ingram 4/8/08 8:45 PM
RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit? Wet Paint 4/9/08 10:26 AM
Author: Yverc
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I just read the essay "Why The Notion That You Cannot Become What You Already Are is Such Bullshit" by Daniel Ingram that can be found at http://www.interactivebuddha.com/bullshit.shtml

I found it to have certain good points. It sure can discourage people to practise and instead do something else. However, i think this is only if the notion is taught incorrectly or in the wrong context and is misunderstood by the student.

So i made this post to comment on parts of the essay that i disagree with and explain why i disagree. The essay seems to be a response a specific person. I am not that person, but i hope it is ok for me to comment on it anyway.

You can read my post at http://crevy.blogg.se/1206282644_you_cannot_become_wha.html

The reason i didn't post the entire post here instead is because there seems to be a 2000 word limit which is by far exceeded. You really should change the post length limit if you want people to write anything else then brief comments and thoughts.

I hope this can inspire some discussion (even if you can only type very short replies due to the post length limit...)

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 5:21 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi Yverc,

Regarding the limit: This is a wiki; for longer texts, simply start a new page. Discussions can then be attached to the page.

Regarding your essay: The whole of the Dharma Overground is the opposite of the position criticised in Dan's "bullshit" text. This group is about goal-oriented practice, talking about attainments, discussing technical points of practice, following instructions, comparing results, in short: all the interesting stuff often considered taboo.

People drawn to this mode of practice can deal with long-term goals and know how to break them down into manageable steps, like to have "maps" or descriptions of states and stages so they can assess and track their progress, and so on.

The last paragraph of your essay, which I quoted, explains how a "source-oriented" practice might be best for people in certain stages of their progress. This might be the case - and maps, comparison of results etc will make it clear for them just why this would be so, while mumblig mystic-sounding phrases will likely just add to the confusion.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 5:44 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi, Crevy. Have you read the original discussion that lead Daniel Ingram to write the "Bullshit" reply?
See here: http://www.fallingfruit.tv/episodes/enlightened-teachers
If so, where do you stand in that discussion?
Having it all again here point by point seems rather pointless.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 9:37 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

Ok! How do i start a new a page?

My position is that it can be very misleading to tell people that there is no goal. And it can also be very misleading to tell people there is a goal. I do not see any necessary conflict between those positions. Some teachers seem to stress both at different times. It all depends on the context.

I love talking about attainments, discussing technical points, etc etc. A spiritual community without openess and sharing has no point. I am absolutely tired of forums where people refuse to talk about their experiences and only refer to books.

If being goal-oriented blocks the goal for a person, then it is rational for the time being to drop the notion of a goal and maps. Then he reach the goal and can look at the map. Right now i am somewhat skeptical to maps, because i do not seem to fit into any maps that i've read. I cannot point and say where i am in my spiritual progress. Maybe this will change. I don't know. My own experiences doesn't seem to be mentioned in the maps.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 10:38 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

Nope. Thanks for providing me a url to that discussion. I am reading it right now! It is extremly interesting! Yeah, having it here point by point here again indeed seems pointless.

However, nobody in the discussion seemed to have my exact perspective. So if you find any flaws in my post/blog comment, feel free to share.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 10:56 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

My perspective (as can be read in the post) is that the notion that you cannot become what you already can unblock further spiritual experiences and deepening of insights. It also helps you integrate previous experiences as you then don't cling to them. You simply notice "i experienced non-desire" and try to keep an attitude of non-desire in order to not block that very experience to deepen and re-manifest itself. You still got motivation to meditate as that very attiude makes it impossible to percieve meditation as boring or frustrating (as you then don't have any expectations that can fail to be fullfilled) and it is also self-rewarding and self-motivating as it continues to give you spiritual experiences because of the unselfish attitude.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 12:27 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Ok, fair enough. Maps do not aim to describe any personal experience as such, or psychological and biographical idiosyncrasies - even if they are really that - but maps do a good job at describing the unfolding of quite universal stages and cycles when a certain practice is undertaked and followed to its completion/conclusion. Certainly, different maps cover different aspects or specialize in specific stages with more detail, or even specific trained states, masteries etc..

Now, when you hit into serious personal limitations regarding your capacity to stay present and focused, or, when you encounter the vagueness of any presumption whatsoever - including your exact perspective - in relation to direct experiential disclosure of conditional reality at it unravels moment to moment - where does that leave us with all this talk of "what you already are"?

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 11:01 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

If you meditate on "i cannot become what i already am" or "now i am drop all ideas and concepts about myself" nothing has to happen. You need talent to reach lower brainwaves to access the direct conscious experience of "i cannot become what i already am" or "my ideas or concepts about myself are not me". Those "notions" are actually descriptions of experiences that might take years of meditation effort to reach. How long time it takes depends on talent and practise. Some people experience it almost right away and some can never experience it due to lack of talent. It is also related to self-empathy, compassion, level of self-acceptance etc etc (which is also dependent on if you can become aware of these subconscious qualities through lower brainwaves, but also happen automatically due to more and more ordinary life experiences getting integrated as those increase self empathy, and self empathy decrease brain waves).

Practise, talent, and enough integrated ordinary life experiences (that takes hundreds of life times to get) are very much needed.

Was this an answer to your question?

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/23/08 11:56 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Well, not really. The general points you make have nothing to do with becoming or not becoming what you already are. Again, "subconscious qualities" and "lower brainwaves" are not very helpful in this regard. You have started a thread based on some points you make in your article, and wanted to discuss those points. What it boils down to, it seems, is that your perspective is concerned with self-acceptance, right? You even talk of self-empathy, though - depending on the chosen meaning of empathy - it's either an oxymoron, or the crux of false identity.

If the opposite of self-acceptance is the case, then therapeutic concerns are the answer, not tweaking the practice and path to accord with and to compensate for one's own lack of self-esteem. Teachings of buddha-nature, innate bodhicitta, and the fundamental wisdom mind have nothing to do with this sort of thinking, and are there to address an entirely different level of experience (or "being", for some), not to make us feel better with our practice.

In short, my question to you seems to remain intact: when you hit into serious personal limitations regarding your capacity to stay present and focused, where does that leave us with all this talk of "what you already are"?

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/24/08 12:44 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

With self-empathy i mean what you have emotionally learned from integrated life experiences (can be mystical experiences, traumas etc etc). You have learned and grown from an experience when you no longer cling to it in any way. If you have a better word for it, feel free to suggest that i use that word instead in the future.

When i talk about self-acceptance i refer to what the psychologist Abraham Maslow call b-values (being-values) which are words people use to describe the qualities in peak/transpersonal/mystical experiences.

I do not mean self-acceptance in the sense of baseline personality. No, what i refer to is the perfect self-acceptance that is always there that accepts the entire universe and everything that happens in every momemt exactly as it is. This is an independent quality that is not effected by your personality or level of self-esteem.

To answer your question: If you hit your actual personal limitations no talk or practise can help you (because then it would not be your actual personal limit). I am sorry, but i do not really understand what answer you want with your question. If you experience trouble in your practise then i guess the best way is to continue to practise as usual. If you want to become better at focusing, then i guess practising it will make you better at it. I do not think the notion "you cannot become what you already are" helps you with being focused. It is more being related to trust without object (a trust/no-fear that is totally unattached to anything and therefore timeless and cannot be effected by any internal or external events).

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/24/08 12:47 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
To add a page, click the "add page" link in the box in the upper left hand corner. I'd suggest putting it under the "big issues" heading, or perhaps the "practical Dharma", if you want to explore the position of your progress, explain how the maps don't fit etc.

You say, "If being goal-oriented blocks the goal for a person, then it is rational for the time being to drop the notion of a goal and maps". This might be true, but in my experience, it more often means that it's time to think hard about my goals, find a good, clear one, and work on that, instead of dropping goals for good.

I may start sounding like a broken record in these discussions, but the "clear goal" chapter of Dan's book is a really good piece of advice:

http://tinyurl.com/2ovmlb

Cheers,
Florian

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/24/08 1:37 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

Thanks!

I've done some more thinking and think i can explain why many people are against goal-oriented practise. They are acually not against goals such as "becoming better at focusing" or any other very technical aspect of meditation.

Their goal is to reach the state of non-desire/trust/no-fear/unity/oneness. To reach this they have found out that to not want to reach it is the only possible way. Why? Well, let us try to make some structure of it:

The goal = No fear/non-duality
Beliving that you are not already at that goal = fear/duality

So if you sit and want to reach no-fear through fear you wont get anywhere. You need to have an attitude of no-fear to reach no-fear which means trusting that you are not separate from the goal: that there is no duality between you and the goal and between you and the rest of existance. So beliving there is no goal should not be seen as an intellectual position that makes practise pointless. It should be seen as the attitude of non-duality and unattached trust.

When you then reach the goal, the goal itself becomes the motivating force. Then you are motivated by this no-fear/non-duality.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/24/08 2:35 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Now you're being clear.:-) However, the binary approach you offer does no justice to the irreducible paradoxical nature of reaching and realizing what is already the case. You say, "To reach this they have found out that to not want to reach it is the only possible way." Well, that's where your good intentions become contradictory, not paradoxical.

The thing is, both is true to some extent simultaneously (duality and nonduality, the two truths), and we need both in our practice (resulting in both effort AND letting be), and also in our conceptual understanding and map-making. It's not either/or, it's both/and instead. But that's quite clear all along, right?

What I'm insisting on is that no amount of your having the "correct attitude", which is basically the right view plus right intention in the traditional 8-fold structure, will be sufficient in itself. Granted, wrong view and wrong intention will block your progress, or even make things worse would you encounter actual depth and transparency. The remaining elements of practice remain crucial to transformation and consequently awakening. "Accepting the whole reality" is the last thing an unrealized person is about to do. Having faith, yes, but assuming a stable attitude of non-duality and no-fear? C'mon. You can't really think self-deception is that easily discarded.

Seems you can't bring yourself to ask the question. Making further pronouncements on the nonduality of duality won't help. Sure you're welcome to disagree with points made in the article, but if you won't leave it at that, you must have some sort of question. That is, this thread is not about my questions to you.:-)

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/24/08 3:12 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Are you familiar with the "one fortunate attachment" sutta, MN 131? I think it is mentioned in the original thread on buddhistgeeks. And while I don't like to throw around quotes of ancient books, and don't like having them thrown at me, well, the passage is such a good integration of "good goals" and "good practice" and "skillful means" and "urgency" and so on, that I'll do it anyway (Ven. Thanissaro's translation):

You shouldn't chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
is left behind.
The future
is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
right there.
Not taken in,
unshaken,
that's how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing
what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
death.
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.

Whoever lives thus ardently,
relentlessly
both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.

Another tangent is the raft simile - we have to use a raft, a cobbled-together, wobbly thing, to get to the solid, firm ground of the other shore, and we don't want to let go of the raft until we are there. The way to the unconditioned is itself a conditioned thing.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/25/08 2:52 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I am glad to see this debate happening here, as I think that getting clear on this is really important. Thanks for the lucid posts: they warm my heart..

Basically, the progressive paths assume that no amount of simply trying to pretend to not want something you want is going to do it. This is mere conceptual delusion at its worst.

Instead, using practices that progressively build up the clarity of mind to see things as they are, practices that are grounded in the right here, right now, as it is, staying present to things regardless of anything, seeing thoughts of future happen now, seeing thoughts of past happen now, seeing the process of identity construction happen now, seeing all this being so insubstantial as to obviously not be a self or refuge, perceiving all this clearly again and again, causally, naturally, moment after moment, narrowing the gap between the tyranny of dualistic content and the stark fact of immediate, integrated experience, moving through the stages that gradually integrate this awareness into one's natural way of perceiving the world, so that in the first vipassana jhana one can actually stay with an object, in the second jhana one can do this more naturally without all the effort and see the truth of it, widening this out to begin to include the background in the third jhana, and then finally including everything else, space, consciousness, effort, intention, inquiry, and all the other objects that would seem to support a notion of a self, until, having now gotten to a place of profound clarity and made this one's natural baseline, suddenly without effort, without striving, without goal, the mind naturally knows things as they, and enlightenment is attained. Those who simply as an intellectual exercise try shutting off desire just become neurotic. Those who practice well attain realization and more. Mastery based on present-focused techniques is the practical, effective fusion of the apparent duality.

Q.E.D.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/31/08 12:33 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
"My position is that it can be very misleading to tell people that there is no goal. And it can also be very misleading to tell people there is a goal. I do not see any necessary conflict between those positions. Some teachers seem to stress both at different times. It all depends on the context."

I appreciate the nuance but I also think motivation implies that there's a goal - something worth attaining. My own experience says you really have to truly WANT this. You have to have a certain hunger to achieve some success. Sounds very non-buddhist, doesn't it? But success on this path is not easy, so motivation is critical. Most people will give up if the objective they've set for themselves is difficult to reach. That's what happens to 90+% of folks who start on the path, and I suspect that's why about the same percentage end up compromising on their objective or just bailing out. Once you do sit in practice it becomes clear that you need fortitude to practice well. You need motivation to keep going. You find immediately that just achieving just a minimal level of concentration over your very noisy mind is difficult. How could motivation *not* be necessary to overcome that?

As I read Daniel's last comment here it's very obvious - he's saying that...

"... and then finally including everything else, space, consciousness, effort, intention, inquiry, and all the other objects that would seem to support a notion of a self, until, having now gotten to a place of profound clarity and made this one's natural baseline, suddenly without effort, without striving, without goal, the mind naturally knows things as they, and enlightenment is attained."

What is that but the goal of my practice?

So... why do some teachers reject a practice that has a goal?

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/31/08 12:48 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Actually, Chris, there's nothing "non-buddhist" about it. Even in Mahayana, with all it's talk of emptiness and paradox of attaining through non-attaining, and then discarding even That, there is the Great Vow as the basis for it all. The trick, if you will, is not to fixate a rigid dualistic notion of goal, but also not to indulge in over-conceptualizing the whole business. With due diligence and proper practice, the dualistic mindset wears off soon enough. In eightfold path, proper effort is there. In five spiritual faculties, perseverance (virya) is there, and same in six perfections. Having a goal, and striving for it, is very Buddhist, and knowing also that the source of that effort is not an inner poverty, but actual potential of this human opportunity. The goal is contained in the instruction to practice itself. Consequently, the purpose becomes to practice.

Then, there may be a host of reasons why some teachers reject a practice with a goal. Now, how many students actually benefit from such instruction, that seems to be the question.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
3/31/08 3:06 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Benefit from which instruction, Hokai? If you mean the kind that denies a goal as the result of all this effort then I think it's obvious -- students are simply led astray by the instructions or get frustrated by the obvious contradictions they find. The latter is where you would have found my mind-set a number of years ago. If you mean the more direct (honest?) teachers (rare, but not impossible to find) then I think the responsibility for success, achieving the objective, is properly reflected back to where it belongs -- on the student.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
4/1/08 1:13 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Exactly.:-)

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
4/8/08 7:05 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

I agree with Daniel’s essay.

*

I would like to add one point:

It seems to me people have a hard time to understand ‚reflexivity’.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexivity_(social_theory)

They tend to think in static binary terms [something either is or is not], but reflexivity blurs clear distinctions, because the observer is not objectively detached, but changes through the observation (here: meditative practice).

Every learning situation is, by definition, reflexive, therefore

“I can become in actual fact, what I am – potentially – already are!”

One can even read a moral imperative into the slogan, because I would have to consider myself a failure by not becoming what I am – potentially – already are!

It is like the seed of a sunflower. Although the seed of a sunflower is potentially (already) a sunflower, it must turn into one, it must REALIZE its potential, before you can call it a sunflower.

People who have these mistaken notions of ‘everything is perfect’ and ‘nothing has to be done’ try to fit a dynamic (learning) situation into a static truism.

The doctrine of non-dualism has done nothing but the worst harm, because people are psychologically not ready for it; they become fatalistic, lethargic, and pathological, and confuse this with great wisdom, but it is clinical insanity. It comes all down to a confusion of the two levels of truth, relative (commonsense) and absolute, or, if you like, temporal and a-temporal (eternal).

Is this not the reason why there was a Buddha in the first place? To end the non-dualistic nonsense of Brahmanism?

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
4/8/08 8:45 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I agree with you until the last line. The point of Buddhism, from my point of view, is that it is so powerful in getting people to understand for themselves through powerful and time-tested techniques what is, in modern times, termed non-dualism, which, actually, is a great way to describe the final thing, implying not one, not two, not zero, something that is Middle Way between these extremes.

Non-dualism is not nonsense to those who have taken Buddhist and other great insight tradition's practices far enough: it contains within it the perfect balance of negation and balanced paradox to try to shake fixed views of the final goal. Agreed: it causes massive problems in those who don't understand the term well, and these misunderstood extremes are pervasive and must be fought, and on this I think we are on the same page.

RE: You Cannot Become What You Already Are - Bullshit?
Answer
4/9/08 10:26 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Daniel,

I agree with what you write above.

*

Independently, my impression was that the Buddha had broken with the past, that is, with the particular version of non-dualism of Brahmanism. I didn't mean to say that non-dualism was nonsense per se, but that the version of non-dualism of Brahmanism is highly problematic (politically, psychologically, sociologically. etc.), because it imposes a static frame of reference upon a dynamic process (life).

The distinction between the doctrine of atman and anatman became blurred over time - see for example: Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism (1997) - but I would think the Buddha was more radical than just saying the same as his predecessors with different words.

How do you see this?