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Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights

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I've been grappling with a concept lately and this is due to how I approach meditation but also see how meditation is discussed. I'd like to see what other people have to say. Basically, a summation of the post below is that we can't think ourselves to enlightenment (if that were the case, many more people would be awakened), but I'm still wondering what the interplay between psychological/intellectual and fundamental insights is. How do perceptual shifts cause intellectual insights?  

For some background, during a meditation session, I watch sensate reality (in the 6 sense doors) arise and vanish. I do this through noting with labels when concentration is low or just silent noticing to speed up the rate at which I "sample" reality when I get into a groove. I'm always looking out for the one or two of the 3 characteristics of each sensation. I also try to bring this practice into my daily life as much as possible: when showering, doing dishes, exercising, cooking, driving, at work, talking to people, etc. Looking for "flickering" as described in MCTB is a foundational daily practice. My belief is that, through practicing this way, I'll rewire the brain (neuroplasticity?) and eventually get to the point of "seeing just the seen, hearing just the heard, etc." To me (from what I've read) meditation is a mental exercise that makes the brain function differently and with that come the various perceptual shifts (luminosity, agencyless, centerlessness, etc.) that eventually lead to the process of fundamental ignorance coming to an end. In this case, "ignorance" as the Buddha describes it, seems to be more about some mental process that creates a (sense of) self out of transient sensations. Ignorance isn't about not knowing anything in the sense of not knowing key information in an intellectual context. 

So when discussing insights, it seems many people also discuss intellectual insights. This is starting to make less sense to me. Like, I can see that my mind creates a lot of noise (intellectual insight) but that doesn't lessen my suffering or ignorance since there are no perceptual shifts involved (fundamental insight) to quiet down that crazy noise. I've seen an article/post or two about pondering cessations, but what is there to ponder? My understanding is that cessations happen at a certain point once you "prime the pump" through practice. After that, your baseline of suffering might shift and the cycle continues. What is there to ponder? Pondering what happens when reality vanishes and reappears doesn't seem to make a differnce. It seems that after stream entry, the mind is just naturally less attached. It seems useless to try to come to some conclusion about what it means and therefore I should now suffer less. The suffering just lessens of its own accord. 

A good analogy would be going to the gym: you can ponder all you'd like about good form, diet, etc (spinning in content). To actually gain muscle/strength/weight, you need to put in the work doing very simple techniques. Beyond setting up the practice and diet and such, there isn't much to ponder. Maybe you get to the point where you can now bench press 200 pounds (call it weight lifting stream entry), but is there anything to ponder at that point? You trained your body to be stronger and now you have a different baseline of strength. Am I wrong in considering awakening to be a similar process? Once you have a few techniques, it comes down to just practicing and not really trying to intellectualize anything. Even the different nanas on the path of insight are just different qualities to explore. There doesn't seem to be anything to ponder or intellectualize. 

What would some key non-intellectual insights be on the path? Or are these insights just perceptual shifts (perceptual shifts = insights)? Are there any intellectual insights worth having? Maybe, I just have an issue with the word "insight" lol.

Thank you for your responses!  

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/9/18 9:11 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
From my perspective, I would change your analogy a bit.  For me, stream entry was like having two massive pecs appear out of the blue, allowing you to lift 200 lbs.  And they're constantly doing that weird alternating flex and release boob dance that some muscle men do.  The correct form and work done lifting weights just sets the ideal conditions where those pecs are more likely to pop into being.

Insight is damned strange.  It's possible to know things directly based on experience, but the experience comes first, and then the knowledge just kind of bubbles up into consciousness.  You can believe the self is impermanent all you want, but it won't make any real difference until you know it directly based on your own experience.  And when you do, stuff/perception just changes automatically on its own.  It's the strangest thing I have ever encountered.

Intellectualizing things is seemingly inevitable, but probably not very helpful.  It does seem irresistable, though.

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 12:20 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
"What would some key non-intellectual insights be on the path?" 

Early one (for me) "I am not my thoughts". "Insights" are just like other sights, you see there is a tree, there is a road, there's thoughts going on by themselves and something other-or-rather is watching this.

Practice is paying attention to things as they are and not looking for anything in particular (delusion / pre-existing perceptual bias changes what you see). (And there are many footnotes to this).

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 5:29 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
some easily understandable examples of non-intellectual developmental insight are the stages of cognitive development. These are insights we all went through as kids/young adults. Lots of fun to go on youtube and see all the examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYI_kIFyMd4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnArvcWaH6I 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQgY2DmEEGI

Meditation creates similar insights but for adults.

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 11:27 AM as a reply to shargrol.
The path, for me at least, has been a combination of intellectual understanding (insight, if you will) and deeply grokked insights. I think that's true for most people. The mind is going to want to "understand" what's happening no matter what because that's what our minds do. It has been helpful many times along the way to get an intellectual understanding of what to expect, what to look for in specific places along the way, what types of practice to do, etc., and then the insights followed. The reverse has also happened, is it did with my first cessation/fruition. So, of course, I think having both "modes" in operation makes a lot of sense.

Caveat: My comment assumes that you can stop intellectualizing while you are sitting in meditation.

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 10:31 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
(Not as a reply to Chris, just adding more fodder for discussion...)

This might work for an examples of an Adult insight:

Intellectual "there is a difference between pain/discomfort and the reaction of aversion"
Non-intellectual "oh! that's what the sensation of pain/discomfort feels like without a reaction of aversion. It's just pain/discomfort."


Intellectual "there is a difference between actively thinking and being aware of having thoughts"
Non-intellectual "wow! it's possible to watch thoughts happening! they just happen on their own."

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 4:19 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Just adding to the above...

Check out the classic rabbit/duck illusion after reading this post. The image in the picture is both a rabbit and a duck--I just told you this, so you have the intellectual knowledge. But when you look at the image, you will only see one of them at first. Then you will see the other, and once you do there's no going back--the image flips back and forth easily, it can't be unknown. That's the fundamental insight.

...or maybe that's just a totally unhelpful analogy. I tried!

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/10/18 4:24 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
That's actually a very good analogy for insight. There's a similar one that either appears to be a vase or two faces.

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/11/18 5:11 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Oh yeah, I know that one. 

I think illusions like that kinda work as an analogy because they let you experience a similar perceptual shift. Some sort of cognitive restructuring occurs when you see through the illusion to the second image. The image doesn't change, but you do.

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/20/18 9:02 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hello everyone,

Thank you for your responses! Some of you have mentioned that the path is partly fundamental and intellectual and this interplay makes some sense now.

If intellectual insights come before fundamental insights, this ususally points to a way we should practice. We should try to look for some aspect about reality (with this understanding/framework being intellectual and given to us by some source outside ourselves) and the fundamental wisdom comes later once we practice and rewire our brains to see this aspect of reality (in real time) in the afore-mentioned way. 

Also, the fundamental insights lead to intellectual understandings. The mind will always try to create descriptions of basically everything which can't be understood fully without experience. Once an experience is had, or awakening is reached, people will take it upon themselves to try and describe it to people who are curious and ask about it. It seems like trying to explain fundamental insights to unawakened individuals is similar to trying to describe colors to someone who has been blind since birth. This seems to be inline with the analogy about spiritual teachers pointing at the moon (the hand pointing is not awakening itself but trying to describe it or guide the individual there; the moon itself is awakening).

There is definitely some wiggle room with these analogies and such, but this cleared up my confusion. Thank you to everyone! 

RE: Intellectual vs. Fundamental Insights
Answer
8/21/18 11:27 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Good thread, didn´t even knew what could be considered an insight.

With your examples now i know.

thanks