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The Siddhi of Morality

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The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/6/18 12:20 AM
Edit: As this is a 'mappy' post, I'm reminding myself & the reader to be mindful befoe, during & after reading this post emoticon

A siddha is a yogi who attains to supernormal powers (siddhis).  Maha means "great" in sanskrit.  A mahasiddha is one who has attained the greatest supernormal power: enlightenment (1).

Broadly in Buddhism, it is considered that the path to attaining the great-power (mahasiddhi) of enlightenment involves various transformations of body, speech & mind.  Specifically, the 4 stages of enlightenment & the various bhumi models delineate collections of defilements or afflictive emotions which fall away at each stage. 

Thus the nature of this transformation is one of the relative form of the human being's body-mind.  One sloppy explanation of the theory could be that layers of this mind are shed in order to make contact with nirvana in some form (void, pristine awareness or omniscience).  

As we know in post-traditional dharma, this is not the way it works.  Specifically, afflictive emotions do not permanently drop away through the process of insight or emptiness meditation (which is what leads to nirvana).  Of course, many, many wonderful transformations do occur in the process of uncovering the nature of Mind.  I am not saying that they don't; rather, I'm saying that they don't occur to the point of completion & in the exact order listed in the texts. 

We do know that it is possible to attain nirvana.  However, the experience of nirvana & it's lasting effects typically have more to do with the immediacy of the sensory field than improvements to the mind-body contained within the sensory field.  Therefore, the descriptions of getting there are unrealistic.  

In order reconcile this, many modern teachers underemphasize it's significance, highlight it's irrelevance or dismiss it entirely (or other attitudes, of course).  I think these approaches may be incomplete for the following reason; based on my studies, experience & teachings received (2), I do believe that someone could progress along the emotional perfection map under three conditions:

1) if they were already significantly grounded in nirvana in their daily experience
2) if they were able to have a partially (not fully) isolated/controlled & stable environment for many years
3) if they explicitly undertook a magickal practice optimizing for this goal.

If I were right, it would mean that the classical texts have things in reverse order.  The "maha siddhi" of enlightenment comes first.  Then the symptoms listed in the stages of enlightenment could be cultivated afterwards.  This would be a practice of cultivating the siddhi of morality.  A "silasiddhi", if you will.  


(1) http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Mahasiddha
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahasiddha
(2) One teaching received that is relevant here is the reordering of the 3 trainings to panna-sila-samadhi.  As I've been taught, the Buddhadasa lineage holds that the knowledge of emptiness allows one to choose their thoughts, speech & actions.  Out of the amalgamation of those patterns rises a deeper, synergistic harmony in one's life that could actually lead along the emotional perfection model (if that was optimized for).  Furthermore, the attainment of siddhis in Theravada is related to deep concentration.  In Vajrayana, it is related to sitting in Samadhi as a diety (not as one's egoic self).  The malleability of mind that comes with nirvana would therefore make one's magickal ability greater, allowing for this morality-sadhana, if that was the path chosen.

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/3/18 2:07 PM as a reply to Noah D.
I think this model is still kind of stuck in an idea that something is happening to someone and that it has some value.  In my experience, the waking up means seeing that this is nirvana, always has been and always will be.  In my experience, when I am awake, there are no emotions or changes or anything, it is just this.  A fully awake mind would never be so lost in self identification as to experience affilictive emotions any more than a tree would.  I guess, I am seeing what the texts describe pretty acurately. 

One key aspect of my former model of the self and the mind that is dropping away, but seems implicit in the model you are using here, is that there is some continous thing that exists over time and can get to nirvana or purify itself, etc.   That is not true.  I find thinking of a human as a complex system - more like a hurricaine - than as a being really helps me be rational and not project narrative on top of unchanging reality.

The process, for me, is more about letting go of delusions about self than it is about changing or perfecting the self.   Does that make any sense ?  

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/3/18 10:04 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Hi Noah,

As @seth points out, nirvana means that there is not any thing there of value, just sensations and activity happening. At I high level, what you seem to me to be describing roughly corresponds to Bodhisattva training, which is a completely different path than the Pratyekabuddha/Sravaka path that leads to Arhathood. In terms of the traditional Dharma teachings, it would correspond to the Mahayana rather than Therevada.

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/4/18 6:15 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
 I do believe that someone could progress along the emotional perfection map under three conditions:

1) if they were already significantly grounded in nirvana in their daily experience
2) if they were able to have a partially (not fully) isolated/controlled & stable environment for many years
3) if they explicitly undertook a magickal practice optimizing for this goal.



Ok, so let's do this hypothetical experiment. Some questions:

1. How do you define "emotional perfection" in modern, everyday terms?
2. How would you test this hypothetical practitioner to see if emotional perfection had really been permanently attained?
3. How would this actually translate into desireable moral behavior in the real world? How would we test this? If it doesn't really translate, then what's the point?

I personally tend to think of morality as primarily being about how we love one another (in a nutshell, anyway). And because there is such a diversity of beings out there, that requires not just a lot of self-knowledge but other-knowledge as well, including a lot of conventional knowledge about how the world works, and we can't learn that in isolation. We learn about others by getting to know them, being curious and asking questions rather than making assumptions. I just read a great article by a Ugandan in the development field about how problematic it is for well-intentioned but ignorant rich, white Westerners to go on "voluntourism" trips to Africa. When we don't continually learn from others and do a lot of reality-testing of what we think we know, our efforts at morality will inevitably fall short or even go horribly awry.

When it comes to morality, I have benefited the most from getting out there and trying to help people in a secular environment, especially people who are experiencing difficulty and maybe aren't at their best. People who challenge my assumptions about them and myself and the situation, who require me to cultivate both patience and tolerance and who stir up difficult emotions in me. To me, those emotions are valuable data about what is a complex moral landscape and I have no wish to be free of them. They are part and parcel of being a human animal, a fundamental component of our shared world. 

That's just my 2 cents, though. emoticon

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/6/18 12:20 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I think this model is still kind of stuck in an idea that something is happening to someone and that it has some value.  In my experience, the waking up means seeing that this is nirvana, always has been and always will be.  In my experience, when I am awake, there are no emotions or changes or anything, it is just this.  A fully awake mind would never be so lost in self identification as to experience affilictive emotions any more than a tree would.  I guess, I am seeing what the texts describe pretty acurately. 

One key aspect of my former model of the self and the mind that is dropping away, but seems implicit in the model you are using here, is that there is some continous thing that exists over time and can get to nirvana or purify itself, etc.   That is not true.  I find thinking of a human as a complex system - more like a hurricaine - than as a being really helps me be rational and not project narrative on top of unchanging reality.

The process, for me, is more about letting go of delusions about self than it is about changing or perfecting the self.   Does that make any sense ?  
Hi Seth -

I'm hearing that you are claiming to be free of afflictive emotions.  Is that correct?

Also that you understand the spiritual path to be about letting go of delusions.  That is the same as what I am referencing regarding the ancient texts.  Which is that certain afflictions fall away at each stage as a result of seeing through delusion.  Regarding theory then, we are in agreement.  


Edit: As this is a 'mappy' post, I'm reminding myself & the reader to be mindful befoe, during & after reading this post emoticon

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/6/18 12:20 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
Hi Noah,

As @seth points out, nirvana means that there is not any thing there of value, just sensations and activity happening. At I high level, what you seem to me to be describing roughly corresponds to Bodhisattva training, which is a completely different path than the Pratyekabuddha/Sravaka path that leads to Arhathood. In terms of the traditional Dharma teachings, it would correspond to the Mahayana rather than Therevada.
Hi svmonk - 

Actually what I am describing would be identical in all of the "hero archetypes": arahant, solitary realizer, bodhisattva & siddha.  Which is that theoretically, the process of understanding emptiness involves the dropping of negative emotion, intentional action, etc.  These theoretical paths do not differ with regards to the realization of emptiness & it's supposed side effects; the difference comes with the placement of compassion on the map.  Specifically - the intention to attain omniscience (bodhicitta) in Mahayana is what makes it different from Theravada.  


Edit: As this is a 'mappy' post, I'm reminding myself & the reader to be mindful befoe, during & after reading this post emoticon

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/4/18 3:03 PM as a reply to Noah D.
What is happening in my mind isnt really important, I would be happy to dig in if you are interested.  I know that a mind can abide beyond the pretty basic delusion- it isnt even a spirtual thing, just irrational thinking and clinging - that causes a stream of sensation and thoughts to be read as an afflictive emotion. 

I am trying to point to how much more radical and empty things are than I understood the model you proposed suggested.  Aint nothing really happening to no one, really, so a model that points at a better way to live ones life I think may miss the fundamental insight that liberates. 

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/6/18 12:21 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
1. How do you define "emotional perfection" in modern, everyday terms?

Any basic definition will do.  There are plenty of descriptions in the texts, no need to add to the word jumble emoticon

That said, in modern, everyday terms I would be talking about someone with nondual perception in every sense door, throughout waking hours.  They would have done a full course of psychotherapy involving the healing of the attachment system, intimacy issues, coping mechanisms, etc.  They would have solid life skills in the main areas of relationships, the handling of food, shelter, clothing & medicine, basic intellect, etc.  They would be able to adapt to changing life conditions & reprogram their personality & value system as needed.  Working with the breath, visualization, movement & other means, they would train themselves to experience positive emotions most of the time.
2. How would you test this hypothetical practitioner to see if emotional perfection had really been permanently attained? 

The texts say that only a Buddha can know due to omniscience.  However, I have thought about this a lot.  I think following someone around with a camera, every moment of their life, for years, could prove it.  

3. How would this actually translate into desireable moral behavior in the real world?

Prosocial behavior which is trained in my answer to queston 1.  
How would we test this?

Answer to question 2.
If it doesn't really translate, then what's the point?

Of course, there would be no point if it had no practical bearing in the world of form.  

And because there is such a diversity of beings out there, that requires not just a lot of self-knowledge but other-knowledge as well, including a lot of conventional knowledge about how the world works, and we can't learn that in isolation. 

Agreed.  I don't think someone could attain this in isolation.  There needs to be a mixing in with the factors of life to expand the realization into these areas.

 I just read a great article by a Ugandan in the development field about how problematic it is for well-intentioned but ignorant rich, white Westerners to go on "voluntourism" trips to Africa. When we don't continually learn from others and do a lot of reality-testing of what we think we know, our efforts at morality will inevitably fall short or even go horribly awry.

Interesting, I'm going to check this article out.  I'm interested in this sort of discussion even outside of dharmic pursuit.  Within the context of this thread, I am explicitly working within the container of the Buddhadharma & not claiming that this is something people should try to do, but rather how the saint-outcome could be possible.  

When it comes to morality, I have benefited the most from getting out there and trying to help people in a secular environment, especially people who are experiencing difficulty and maybe aren't at their best. People who challenge my assumptions about them and myself and the situation, who require me to cultivate both patience and tolerance and who stir up difficult emotions in me. To me, those emotions are valuable data about what is a complex moral landscape and I have no wish to be free of them. They are part and parcel of being a human animal, a fundamental component of our shared world. 

This sounds very wise & how I understand the 10 fetter path progressing.  I have not learned these lessons.  I am sure that if you trained in this way for long enough, with the intention to optimize in a certain way, you could experience a slice of the classic version if you wanted.  


Edit: As this is a 'mappy' post, I'm reminding myself & the reader to be mindful befoe, during & after reading this post emoticon

RE: The Siddhi of Morality
Answer
6/8/18 12:00 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:

We do know that it is possible to attain nirvana.  However, the experience of nirvana & it's lasting effects typically have more to do with the immediacy of the sensory field than improvements to the mind-body contained within the sensory field.  Therefore, the descriptions of getting there are unrealistic.  

In order reconcile this, many modern teachers underemphasize it's significance, highlight it's irrelevance or dismiss it entirely (or other attitudes, of course).  I think these approaches may be incomplete for the following reason; based on my studies, experience & teachings received (2), I do believe that someone could progress along the emotional perfection map under three conditions:

1) if they were already significantly grounded in nirvana in their daily experience
2) if they were able to have a partially (not fully) isolated/controlled & stable environment for many years
3) if they explicitly undertook a magickal practice optimizing for this goal.

If I were right, it would mean that the classical texts have things in reverse order.  The "maha siddhi" of enlightenment comes first.  Then the symptoms listed in the stages of enlightenment could be cultivated afterwards.  This would be a practice of cultivating the siddhi of morality.  A "silasiddhi", if you will.  



Hi Noah!  Interesting post!  Much of it alligns with my experience, but I would add some notes.

The track for developing ultimate morality, or emotional perfection you have laid out here brings to mind other ideas common to this forum involving different axes of potential development that become accessible post awakening (4th path, Enlightenment...).  The common theme I see is that following a certain awakening event, meditators can then choose their direction of development.

Personally, I think this line of thinking gives us, as individual practitioners a little too much credit - the path as I have experienced it, on a grand scale, was less determined by personal direction than by certain ultimate 'laws' of progression.  Certainly, our experience on the path will be shaped by our own particular direction and approach to practice.  However, I see the path less as building or creating, and more about uncovering.  We do not create the grand state of enlightenment, rather we uncover it by stripping away our obscuring, neurotic factors of mind - as such, the path is less 'chose your own' than a set track.

Enlightenment itself is a universal phenomena, the attainment of which occurs in stages with more or less universal cohesion.  This thread of same-type attainment experience allows for the mappability of the path.  The path beyond enlightenment, although notably more esoteric, is much more cohesive - all practitoners are likely to experience the post enlightenment stages in the same manner.  Regarding the development of ultimate morality, what I would call 'emotional balance' - there are several stages post enlightenment through which this is achieved: 

0.  We achive enlightenment gradually and progressively in moments of discrete attainment.  Attainment moments have the result of descreasing mental neurosis and conceptual fixation, ultimately resulting in a state of complete non-dual perception upon the achievement of full enlightenment (nirvana).  Emotional experience is clarified through this process but not ultimately 'fixed' (as alluded to in OP).

1.  Following the achievement of enlightenment, a stream of gross conceptual-thought remains in our mind.  Through continued meditation, we progressively exhaust this stream until it ends.  Here upon we experience total mental quiet - not an absence of thinking ability, but an absence of inborn, unbidden thought.

2a.  Following the end of the gross conceptual thought stream, we have the option (aka ability) now to correct any emotional imbalances.  Ultimately, disturbed emotional (read personality) problems result from imbalances in our three major energy centers - our third eye, our heart center, and our lower dantien (aka root/sacral chakra).  Not all indivuals are imbalanced, or to the same degree - should an individual be imbalanced, energetic practices focused on energy center reallignment can help to push us toward allignment until, in a moment of discrete energetic attainment, it is achieved.

2b.  Upon exhausting our gross conceptual thought stream, we discover another, more subtle layer of mental obscuration.  These subtle obstacles cannot be corrected by strict meditation alone - here an energetic approach to progression is necessary and highly efficacious.  Balancing our energy centers also assists in progression through this final subtle obstacle.  Here, although energetic balance has been achieved and we are now relatively functional (read functional in the world) to a full capacity, our remaining subtle obstacles cause residual emotional pain and discomfort.

3.  Finally, our subtle mental obstacle layer is overcome.  Our awareness is perfected (perfectly clear) - we have reached the end of the path.  We now experience no attatchment of any kind to any precocieved situational outsome; we are no longer self limited in any sense - where once we struggled with ourselves, now we struggle no longer.  Here, we live our lives to the fullest capacity, however that may manifest.  

I hope that provides interesting and helpful, any comments welome!