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Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations

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I have been thinking about the problem of misconceptions about the path and how to address them. Daniel talks about these topics pretty well in his articles and book but I thought it might be nice to start a thread to kind of open it up for discussion.

Part of the problem is that the 'weird stuff' that happens is so weird. We just don't have a culture (in the west) that really makes space for these kinds of experience beyond 'you may need some medication'.

But I think we all feel that not talking about this stuff isn't the answer. When we don't make space for these experiences as part the path and what it is to be human then they take on a sort of other worldly, mystical quality which can lead to all kinds of projections/expectations.

I think one reason why many 'experienced practitioners' have not 'come out' has to do with this issue.

I have just been reading an article on EnlightenNext called: 'A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being' – here is the link:
http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j35/haught.asp?ecp=ENX-ar4

“...Teilhard’s third alternative is not that we try to escape from nature but that we actually travel with nature into the infinite. You might say that nature is a fellow traveler rather than the ultimate context of our existence. The root of our restlessness is the whole evolution of the cosmos itself.”

Is there a big picture skillful model for modern culture (or at least for Dharma Overground) that can ground our experience?

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/14/09 9:30 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Good line of inquiry. As it turns out, there are quite a few big pictures, aka worldviews, or more precisely worldspaces we inhabit, even here at DhO. What is common to most here encompasses only one practical aspect of our spiritual call, namely meditation. Further from that, we would find that a lot separates us, from interpreting precisely what we find in meditation to giving a cosmic context to such findings that really makes consistent sense in our everyday lives (and not just as a subject for an entertaining conversation).

BTW, EnlightenNext (formerly "What is Enlightenment?") magazine is good at bringing out and sharpening these points. But most Western Buddhist don't care much for "big pictures" or "metanarratives", being as they are deeply influenced by postmodernism, especially poststructuralism. Indeed, most of us can't even present a fairly comprehensive Buddhist metanarrative, whether traditional or modern or postmodern (or, if you will, postpostmodern). Equating deconstructivism with emptiness, we like to believe that believing in nothing and holding no position is "the View".

But yes, we surely do need a big picture, namely the View, by which to vow and practice and realize our Condition, so that we may meaningfully interpret what we find and make use of it to truly benefit the world and help make it a better place by developing a more thoroughly awakened culture in both enlightened senses, "Western" and "Eastern". To do that we indeed need a big picture, one that will not have issues with authentic realization, and one that will understand the dynamic nature of an evolving universe.

What are your thoughts?

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/15/09 2:24 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
With respect to our experience along this path (I include our daily life and all that entails), I think such a view must provide context, value, and meaning to all aspects of our experience both pre and post awakening. Each part of our experience must have a place in the 'big picture', there is a point to our experience, it adds something important, something needed. Aspects that have not yet been directly experienced must be available in the form of 'skillful misconceptions' – I define this as a concept not supported by direct experience that when directly experienced one would reflect 'yes, that was a good way to put it' – the concept still works – now backed by experience.

Further, it must be open-ended and have room for different vocabularies.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/15/09 2:32 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
To get some thoughts on the table, here is an analogy. I can't imagine I am the first to make this one but it captures my sense of this:

If I have an idea and want to write a book about it, in a way, that idea combined with the thrust or intention to express it - is already a book (in an un-manifested form). But there is a big difference between an un-manifested book and an actual book. Once I start to write this book, it begins to take form as various threads of letters coming together to form words, paragraphs, sections, and chapters. Similarly, each piece of it takes form initially unconnected from other parts. Each part or topic introduced first slowly develops on its own – only overtime does its place in the whole become clear. Someone reading this book experiences the book at any moment as a string of letters – while also, as they progress through it, they are slowly building a greater understanding of the overall idea or thrust that the book is trying to explore.

Now, at some point in time for the reader there is something like a background shift that occurs. At first, with any particular part of the book, they are thinking in terms of that particular topic or thread. But at some point, as the overall thrust of the book becomes clear, they start experiencing any particular topic or thread not as something separate but as a dimension or aspect of the book (as they are beginning to comprehend it) as a whole.

Each part of the book – down to each letter – is an essential aspect of the whole – while also unique in and of itself. To truly explore or give full expression to the initial thrust or intention – each element must be thoroughly developed, explored, and integrated into the whole. As long as there are unexplored connections – there is a sort of tension of incompleteness and the book – as an effort to fully express the initial intention – remains incomplete.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 5:01 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
The book analogy provides a sense of context but I think it fails in other respects:

-It doesn't capture the beauty and richness of the experience as it unfolds. It is kind of flat or shallow in this respect.
-Neither does it capture a sense of mystery or wonderment
-It would be dumb luck if it captures any sense of the path beyond my own level of understanding

Perhaps a big picture has to have several overlays - kind of like what was used with the old overhead projectors when I went to school. In any case, with my current understanding, I am in a position to say a View is needed but not in a position to offer one that is sufficiently comprehensive.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 6:40 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
@CheleK

thanks for bringing this up. godspeed on manifesting that "unmanifest" book emoticon

now allow me to channel my inner integral-geek and let you know that this effort of "Big picture framework" has already been done and still being worked on by Ken Wilber. to me, his work is unparalleled when it comes this. he's been working at it for more than three decades now. i've been reading him for more than 10 years now. and so far, i haven't found anyone who could articulate the big picture better than him. and i say that in a matter-of-factness way, not as deluded fan emoticon

you don't have to take my word for it. go check out, AQAL, and some of his writings and his latter essays. here's one example:

Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies
http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/books/kosmos/excerptG/part1.cfm/

but just a warning: Wilber's writing could be too intellectual for some. and it has lots of jargons. also, he moves in a fast pace and the breadth of his work is so vast that it's almost impossible to grasp everything that he's saying.

however, for me, once you get the concept of AQAL, you're good to go. and you can use this map to avoid getting lost and confused in the spiritual marketplace and scientific flatland.

my two cents.

~C

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 8:45 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Thanks c4chaos. I also like Ken Wilbers work and have read a number of his books over the years. The problem, if I can call it that, is as you say: “his work is so vast that it's almost impossible to grasp everything that he's saying”. Most people are probably not going to take the time to really dig into it. As you are an IT person, maybe I can explain in these terms: To me, Kens work is like a procedural program. In order to understand it you have to follow it through - up and down through different levels – and try to keep all this detail in your head. What I am looking for is more of an object-oriented approach. Where you can view it at different levels of abstraction without having to understand how things work at a different level (not to be confused with Kens terms of lines and levels) – sort of fractal in a sense. I am not sure if Kens approach lends itself to that kind of abstraction. For all I know, he may have already done this – he is a profuse writer and I haven't really kept up with him.

We once had a governor that, as the story goes, required that all proposals sent to him had to be able to be summarized on one page (and still be understood) – if you couldn't do that then you had more work to do. This is another way of looking at it. Or you could call it: big picture for the non-brainiacs :-)

I'm not really interested in trying to explain everything so much as provide a way of understanding our experiences along this path in a way that does not lead to faulty expectations (unskillful misconceptions).

Thanks for the encouragement and links!

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 9:16 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I'm a fan of Wilber's work. Also, Robert Kegan and his "In Over Our Heads" is a good framework not trying to do everything at once.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kegan

However, a Buddhist view for the 21st century is yet to be formulated, and in each of three great vehicles. But we are standing at the threshold of such a formulation. What we must do now is be aware of and enact in our lives its main components or elements and modules that will make it a comprehensive and balanced way of big picture thinking.

As to "faulty expectations" specifically, there will always be some, hopefully the classically awakened ones, influential figures, and organized forms of Buddhist spirituality will do less and less in advancing and championing such misconceptions, which boil down to deficient, unrealistic, and impossible models of ground, path and fruition.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 10:19 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
CheleK,

i understand your concern. and yes, that's one "weakness" (if we want to call it that) of Wilber's approach. however, he does try to summarize his work to make it appeal to more mainstream. "Integral Vision" is his latest attempt. check it out if you haven't read it yet. i think it's as simple as we can get without watering down Wilber's integral approach.

as for "Buddhist view of 21st century" that Hokai mentioned, IMHO, Shinzen Young is doing an awesome job of integrating the core of Buddhist technology. here's one example of how he's doing it:

see: 5 Ways to Know Yourself
ttp://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/5%20Ways%20To%20Know%20Yourself.pdf

notice that each of the 5 ways represent a tradition within Buddhism (as well as other mystical traditions).

one thing i like about Shinzen's approach is that he is *secularizing* the dharma by making the vocabulary more palatable to different people from different religious background, and especially for the scientific community.

see: Getting the Lingo
http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/Getting%20the%20Lingo.pdf

from my point of view Wilber and Shinzen represent a complementary approach at integration. Wilber gives the *very* big picture, Shinzen integrates the technology for awakening.

that said, i guess it will depend on people's temperament. i like big pictures and i also like detailed and systematic approach. that's why i groove with both of them emoticon

~C

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 11:13 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Both Shinzen Young and Wilber provide very nice models. But they are basically intellectual models and what I am looking for is a model that takes you out of your head and into your experience. It is more like poetry in that sense. We really get caught up in our heads so a big picture must, when it really works, draw us into a deeper level of experience.

Christopher Alexander is a good example of what I am getting at. Most people think of him as an architect. His most famous work is 'A Pattern Language' which was picked up by software developers but in my opinion, his most important work is 'The Timeless Way of Building'. I know, sounds like a book on architecture. But after you spend some time with it you will find yourself saying: 'Chris, I know this isn't about architecture and I know that you know!'

Some quotes:
“A building or a town will only be alive to the extent that it is governed by the timeless way”

“To seek the timeless way we must first know the quality without a name”

“To reach the quality without a name we must then build a living pattern language as a gate”

“Once we have built the gate, we can pass through it to the practice of the timeless way”

“And yet the timeless way is not complete, and will not fully generate the quality without a name, until we leave the gate behind”

“Indeed this ageless character has nothing, in the end, to do with languages. The language, and the processes which stem from it, merely release the fundamental order which is native to us. They do not teach us, they only remind us of what we know already, and of what we shall discover time and time again, when we give up our ideas and opinions, and do exactly what emerges from ourselves”

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 11:16 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
love those Christopher Alexander quotes. i haven't read his works yet. but now that you mentioned it. will check them out emoticon thanks for the heads up.

~C

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/16/09 12:25 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Alexander is a great example of Emergent thinking. He is, however, very much an intellectual model - one for co-creative and deeply fulfilling architecture. To say that his systems are less "intellectual maps" than Wilber or Young is a bit off the mark to me. Same with saying that neither Young or Wilber address being, which I think both go out of there way to directly incorporate in trainings as well as to effectively communicate the importance of experience in their models.

I find Wilber's latest model of Horizontal (capacity for experience) and Vertical (cognitive models) developments very exciting, and see the driving need for both. No matter what experiences one is capable of having, you have to have a model to interpret the experience later, and you also need the conceptual framework to meaningfully communicate. Also, in relation to Hokai's comment that we are formulating the newest view, the leading edge is accessing experience and refining the models that truly reflect them cognitively and morally.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/17/09 2:46 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
I am quite confused about narratives and metanarratives.

First off, I've read some of Ken Wilber's work. The more distance I have from it the less impressed I am with it. His 1st-person/3rd-person and interior-exterior graph I think is quite helpful. What I don't think, however, is that it has much historical explanatory power. And likewise I disagree with a lot of Wilber. He might be an intellectual and in-depth thinker, but much of what he speaks about (particularly, politics) he does so using a "closed system."

And that's the only sense I understand a "narrative," really.

E.g., My Buddhist narrative: A young prince abandons his latest wife and newest son, and becomes a yogi and an ascetic in hopes of finding satisfaction. He realizes that the goal of yoga, samadhi, is incomplete, and likewise, that certain yogic and ascetic practices are in superfluous, and, quite possible, unrealistic. (Can you eat if you're permanently in the 8th Jhana?) He strips down the yogic teachings, awakens, and preaches a simplified technique and corrected "Right View" as a framework; he likewise espouses a monastic and a lay morality to facilitiate the realization of this framework. People spread what he said, and experiment with and alter it through trial and error.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/17/09 3:05 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
And like I said, the politics of the situation.

I've read some of Evola and Guenon, and while they are dead-accurate with many things, Evola (at least) saw his spiritual practice through a political lens. And both of them were all about the timeless. It's been remarked that there's an anti-democratic tendency in some mysticism, but Evola was a life-long fellow-traveller with the fascist and neo-nazi movements, and it shows in his writing. Partly because spiritual practice is a skill, and inherently hierachal: unless youre paccebuddha material, you've got to learn from someone else who is better at it than you, and he learned from someone else who was better etc.

Even something like the crazy Theosophist narratives have some deeply confused elements (e.g., the racism you see in Blatavsky's "Aryan" history).

So I am inherently distrustful of spiritual narratives and meta-narratives: all those of which I'm aware are either myopic or megalomaniacal.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/17/09 3:29 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
@ nathan28: "I am quite confused about narratives and metanarratives.... So I am inherently distrustful of spiritual narratives and meta-narratives."

Ok, fair enough. But you can't really confess distrust and confusion at the same time. Unless you trust your confusion.:-) Because, "myopic" and "megalomaniacal" are usually given as inherent qualities of confusion, but only when we deny it.

So, let us be constructive: what are you NOT distrustful of? Would you be so kind to offer that as your contribution to the Big Picture, and as an antidote to faulty expectations?

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/17/09 4:16 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Fair enough. I am not a fan of any evolutionary model, and I remain distrustful of them.

I'm without an exciting big picture. Mine would go something like this: There is a background or ground to existence, and just like a picture, the figures are not separate from it. For some reason, our experience in its natural state is processed poorly and cannot readily apprehend this ground. Some individuals will notice this, either with or without conscious intention, and some of them will correct the flaw, either with or without the understanding that they are developing a harmony with the already-realized. Others will live just fine, and claim to be quite happy, without ever addressing it.

That resolves faulty expectations, because it permits the existence of the people without lots of wisdom. It likewise has a ends--the "fixing" of experience--that should provide a solid enough goal, if you will, for people who do seek to resolve the absolute problem. But the relative world is just that, relative. Parts get better and parts get worse. Concentration, Insight and Morality may help improve one's (and others') relative existence, but so can delusion, narcissism and government subsidies.

The problem with my model is it isn't a narrative. It's a set of conditions that recur loosely over time, a loose cosmology.

RE: Big picture frameworks and Faulty Expectations
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2/17/09 4:46 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
@ nathan28

Thanks, nathan. What you call "my model" is necessarily based on a narrative and also a metanarrative, whether you're aware of it or not, because it must rely on dozens of sets of notions and whole systems of meaning making to even make any sense at all. Holding it loosely won't change the fact. But there's nothing bad about it, unless you're a staunch deconstructivist fanatic (that itself is an oxymoron, surely). The problem arises only when meta/narratives are imposed on reality, which is just the opposite to believing objective (i.e. relative and relational) reality does/can/should exist without a narrative whatsoever. Namely, every such proposition is already relying on a narrative, and so on.:-)

In short, there is no problem with your model, unless you think there is. And you don't need to embrace or even consider a "big picture framework" if you're uncomfortable with such. Some, however, find the prospect exciting and promising.