The Three Characteristics

The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/9/08 9:49 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/9/08 11:07 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Nathan I S 4/9/08 11:53 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/9/08 12:28 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Daniel M. Ingram 4/9/08 2:00 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/9/08 3:06 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/9/08 7:12 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Phantom of the Opera 4/9/08 11:43 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 3:26 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Nathan I S 4/10/08 3:49 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/10/08 4:02 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Nathan I S 4/10/08 4:07 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/10/08 4:15 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 6:38 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 6:40 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 6:41 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 7:05 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 7:14 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/10/08 7:19 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/10/08 7:25 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Florian 4/10/08 7:29 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 7:44 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/10/08 8:04 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 8:24 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 8:36 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/10/08 10:15 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/10/08 11:49 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Florian 4/10/08 8:56 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Daniel M. Ingram 4/11/08 5:38 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/11/08 10:30 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/11/08 10:31 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/11/08 10:39 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/12/08 6:53 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Daniel M. Ingram 4/12/08 7:32 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/12/08 8:28 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/12/08 8:50 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/12/08 8:57 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/12/08 10:55 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 4:11 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 4:51 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 5:12 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/14/08 5:47 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 6:28 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 10:54 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/14/08 10:56 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/14/08 11:24 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Wet Paint 4/15/08 3:56 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/15/08 9:40 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/15/08 11:37 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/15/08 11:59 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/15/08 1:58 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/15/08 2:05 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/15/08 3:02 PM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/16/08 1:53 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/16/08 2:56 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chuck Kasmire 4/16/08 5:01 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/16/08 5:03 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/16/08 5:42 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/16/08 7:20 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Chris Marti 4/16/08 9:06 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Mike L 4/16/08 11:03 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Gozen M L 4/17/08 8:30 AM
RE: The Three Characteristics Hokai Sobol 4/17/08 10:41 AM
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 9:49 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 9:49 AM

The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

In order to observe / discover the three characteristics within every sensation I need at least a rudimentary conceptual understanding of what I am looking for. I am supposed to look for ‘impermanence’, ‘suffering’ ('unsatisfactoriness'), and ‘no-self’ ('emptiness'). It seems that many Buddhist take these terms for granted, but I have to admit that I find it very difficult to understand their theoretical nature and to apply them in meditative practice.

My confusion with regard to these terms is largely of a philosophical nature.

The human mind works in terms of binary distinctions. For example, ‘bright’ implies ‘dark’, ‘hot’ implies ‘cold’, ‘large’ implies ‘small’ etc.

Similarly, impermanence implies permanence, suffering implies bliss, and no-self implies self.

These terms do not have absolute meaning! In fact, if they had, I could not talk about them. For example, if everything was hot, I would not know that it is hot; if everything was suffering, I would not know that it is suffering. I can only know by means of binary distinctions! I can only know something (hot) in relation to something else (cold).

Therefore, I have to admit that do not really get the meaning of Three Characteristics.

I would not want to go so far as this Chinese Zen master who said, ‘Buddha made a big fuss about nothing’, but I really wonder how the Three Characteristics can lead to an insight of ultimate reality, when they are nothing but labels I give to my experiences?!

Am I here totally mistaken?!

To give an example: I could observe the sensation of my in-breath and call it ‘unsatisfactory’. But wouldn’t this be factitious?! Why would I want to call the sensation of my in-breath ‘unsatisfactory’?

*

I would like to ask:

Is the meaning of the Three Characteristics crystal-clear to everybody else here in this forum?!

Can you help me out?
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:07 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:07 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Tracy.

Abe,
Daniel Ingram's ebook has an entire chapter on how to observe the Three Characteristics. It's located here: http://web.mac.com/danielmingram/iWeb/Daniel%20Ingram%27s%20Dharma%20Blog/The%20Blook/28A35449-618D-4C9B-98EF-D6AF1659B26F.html

There is also a more concise explanation in his Insight Practice Instructions handout, including the following quote:

The Three Characteristics of Impermanence, Suffering and No-self, are the key to deep insights. Impermanence means that many sensations arise and vanish completely during every second of awareness. Suffering means that the illusion of a watcher, observer, or doer, commonly called the “self”, is inherently painful. No-self means that all sensations arise on their own in a natural causal fashion and are aware where they are, requiring no separate agent or observer at all.

Is that what you were looking for?
Tracy
Nathan I S, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:53 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:53 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
To me, the Three Characteristics are technical jargon. They aren't concepts or "meaning" to be understood. Does the presence of a coffee mug imply a "not-coffee-mug"? Rather, the Three Characteristics, if I undersand, are aspects of moment-to-moment experience (as well as in grosser phenomena, but not nearly as helpful to observe?). I for one don't note them, but rather, look for them moment-to-moment (i.e., very fast) in my objects (which, when I do noting practice, I do note, e.g., "in in in in in in in out out out out out" not "in suffering in no-self in impermanent")--if I understand the theory, the Three Chracteristics are always present so simply observing phenomena at a fine level will lead to seeing them. Maybe I am way out-of-line on that last bit about noting though--but since the three chracteristics should be noticeable using any technique... Is this helpful?
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 12:28 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 12:28 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Abe, what I think might work for you, just from my personal experience, is to pay very close, minute attention to what's going on in relation to one object, one sound, one feeling, one thought. By isolating that, and by watching what happens as it's experienced, you can "get it." What causes you to realize that object? How does it manifest itself to you? How long does that take. What's it like at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of your perceptive process? What happens after it's gone? What exactly is the nature of the "it" that you experience? Anyway, if you are looking for the three characteristics using any sort of concepts you won't find them. Run away from the concepts your mind constantly throws at you. Focus on the experiences you are having as non-conceptually as you can.

Daniel Ingram will probably show up in here and slap me around verbally over all this :-) but I don't "see" the three characteristics as three separate things but as completely inter-related parts of the same unalterable reality of how the world is created by mind.

My own Quest these days is all about how to actually pay attention *all the time* to the three characteristics and respond in a less reflexive way to my own experiences, especially with the other people in my life. I'm frustrated by my inability to integrate what I see on the cushion with my moment to moment living of life.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 2:00 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 2:00 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 3232 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Dear Cmarti,

I think that you all should try some good slapping. It's really better than most people think it is. ;)- I have been working hard to cultivate that snarling ogre thing, and my wife says my grunting and drooling has improved, not to mention that my large, spiked wooden club is coming along nicely. There has been a snafu with the skin toning, and so rather than a deep brown-green, I am currently a light shade of lime, but we're working on it. In other news...

Aside from that, I agree with all three of the replies. The Three Characteristics are The Keys to the Kingdom, The Way the Game is Played, The Sine Qua Non (that without which, for those who don't speak Latin). They are as practical as it gets, as empowering as words can be, as much at the heart of the matter as anything, and work from the "what am I doing?" phase to the "I am teetering in the brink of arahatship" phase and beyond. I hope this is a long thread, as long as it takes for everyone to feel inspired to realize for themselves by their own direct inquiry what these are pointing to. Grrrrrrrrr.
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 3:06 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 3:06 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Forget the skin toning! Sprout fangs.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 7:12 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 7:12 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: woman_alone

I do some walking meditation daily, and I know what you mean about not being able to watch all the contact points. It changes as you go. In the beginning I started just with one foot (lifting, placing) until it was clear. Then I did it with the other foot, and then put them together. I walk at a normal pace, and after a while of keeping concentration there, as the awareness around each placement becomes very clear/focused, I add things. (toe, lift, heel, toe lift heel - and then eventually - toe, lift, swing, heel, ball, toe, etc) I use these shortened words so it doesn't take as long to say in my mind.

The catch for me has been NOT to slow it down, but instead to only add one more point of awareness on the foot, and let your mind bring it all two, three, then four, five parts into focus. I start from lifting placing everyday and work up. Just like when I sit down to meditate, wherever the meditation is going to take me, I still start with in-out. Also, I find that if the mind is getting compacent around the meditation, but the clarity hasn't formed, just try to add one more contact point to be aware of (maybe just on one foot, not both). This forces the awareness to sharpen up and keeps the mindfulness at the fore.

Hope that helps,

Tiara
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Phantom of the Opera, modified 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:43 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/9/08 11:43 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 24 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Abe,

- Another chapter of Daniel's book might help you: "Chapter 20 From Content to Insight" contains (fictional) accounts of insight sittings, from meditators of various skills. So there are examples of the 3 characteristics reported in everyday words:
“They were quick and seemed to also involve some mildly painful or disconcerting physical sensations in the region of my stomach. I could see these come and go and that they were observed. I could feel as they arose that there was something irritating about these quick sensations."

painful, (disconcerting?), something irritating: "unsatisfactoriness"
come and go, quick, arose etc.: impermanence.
observed: the self is not gone
(disconcerting: pointing to no self?)
http://web.mac.com/danielmingram/iWeb/Daniel%20Ingram%27s%20Dharma%20Blog/The%20Blook/B314BE97-0CEE-4588-9C8E-A05690F7B14B.html

- Less practical considerations:

"I could observe the sensation of my in-breath and call it ‘unsatisfactory’. But wouldn’t this be factitious?! Why would I want to call the sensation of my in-breath ‘unsatisfactory’?"

Is the sensation of your in-breath, say, "pure bliss" (or any other image that one may have of what the world should be )? If not, do you have anything against calling it "unsatisfactory"?
Sure, we can say that there is no absolute meaning in words, that language is a contextual game etc. and thus that it can not point to the ultimate reality that is beyond words, "That which we can not speak of, we should remain silent of" etc.
The fact remains that for thousands of years, there's been enlightened people saying that words can be a tool to reach enlightenment, that skillful means are not on the plane of ultimate truth, but that they nevertheless lead invariably to enlightenement.
This fact, of course, remains to be verified by each of us non enlightened beings...
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 3:26 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 3:26 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

First of all, I want to thank everybody for their generosity in sharing insight & help. Before I go and ask more embarassing questions, I will read what Daniel has to say in his book about the Three Characteristics (thanks Tracy and isshoni) .

*

It seems to me there is an abyss b/w what one could loosely term 'Buddhist philosophy' (concepts) and meditative practice (direct enquiry). I remember somebody advising against studying the I Ching and Buddhist philosophy, because both are mine fields. You can study them for ever and go nowhere.

*

Isshoni asked what objection I would have in labeling the sensation of my in-breath 'unsatsifactory'.

The problem is that if one learns a doctrine (in this case the Buddhist one) and applies it to label one's experiences, then this is just another form of INDOCTRINATION! The word 'unsatisfactory' implies 'bad, really bad', and the word 'bliss' implies 'good, really good'. One would recondition 'semantic reactions' (see Alfred Korzybski's work Science and Sanity). One would rewire one's nervous system to react differently towards words --- like in neuro-linguistic programming! This can be beneficial, but often it is not! Often it leads to insane beliefs (that's what religion is mostly concerned with)!

There is a fine line b/w observing how things really are and imposing a doctrine upon things and then rediscovering that doctrine and self-deceiving in thinking this is how things really are!!!

There is a feedback b/w words and sensual experience. Marketing experts have been exploiting this for a long time. It can be shown that for many people a wine tasts better when they are told it is a 'Chardonney'! How you label s.th. will shape the experience! This has to be understood and accounted for, otherwise one self-hypnotizes,

and this cannot be 'liberation'!

Many thanks again to all!
Nathan I S, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 3:49 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 3:49 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
That's funny, because I for one--while I respect much of Korzybski's project and have learned from it--consider that and everything that came out of it, from "neurolinguistic programming" to the half-assed, poorly-argued but inexplicably loved non-fiction writings of Robert Anton Wilson, to be a complete minefield. The end result, as I've witnessed, is mistaking the ability to consider multiple perspectives, and to avoid using forms of the word "to be", as the ultimate spiritual injuction.

Which in my mind simply stems from a lack of practice; the Korzybski-hypnotic model and its advocates really seem to believe that you can hypnotize your way to freedom. Aside from most likley being wrong, it casts a deep, long and frightening shadow: look at the Scientologists.

That said, it's been pointed out that self-hypnosis with all the terms of Buddhism can lead to reporting things that aren't in one's experience, or, worse, simply outright misreading them. I'm also not saying that hypnosis and paying attention to one's words are useless. What I am saying is that in comparision to practice, for some people of some temperments, they are just another trap--a shiny trap that promises control over things many people don't even realize exist, but a trap none the less.
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:02 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:02 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Regarding the abyss between practice and dotrine, there should be none. As a basis for practice, right concepts serve to minimize wrong concepts (at least the worst ones, such as being ignorant of our potential and the existence of a path to its realization), which may indeed present unsurmountable obstacles, i.e. obscurations and obfuscations. Having established a practice, right views serve as maps (not the territory). And after having attained the fruits of various stages and paths, right views (now mature, and fused with some direct, strong, 1st person ascertainment) serve to better formulate and express and collectively investigate the details of one's discovery, as well as to facilitate the instruction of others who may have interest in learning from such experience you have obtained. So, in short, in these many ways, there should be no abyss. However, often we find one.
Nathan I S, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:07 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:07 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
With regards to fears over self-hypnosis with a word like "unsatisfactory", I really have never worried about things like that. By the theory all sensations are either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral ("vedena" or "feeling-tone"), which corresponds to desire, aversion, or delusion (sometimes termed "fantasy"). And by theory the Three Characteristics lie beneath all that, all the time. I might ask, what is the problem with something being "unsatisfactory"? There's an assumption in the concern, and that's a valid question for inquiry. I remember my teacher grilling someone once: "Well, why would you want to cultivate a sense of ease?" "It just seems obvious to me." "What seems obvious? Why?"...The point being, at least I have found that for my practice, constantly questioning seemingly obvious actions, motivations and attitudes should be revealing, and possibly a little disturbing.
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:15 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 4:15 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
And the abyss we often find is equally real, but the way to heal it is not to avoid doctrine (inasmuch that doctrine is a product of legitimate philosophical inquiry and contemplative praxis, and not sheer speculation or traditional prejudice and myth) but instead to employ this doctrine in a healthy way, to support practice. The conceptual part of our selves and our cultures is not fictitious, and needs to be addressed. In this regard, doctrine needs to be refreshed and recontextualized, while concepts and contexts undergo their own evolution. Consequently, right view is right awakening thought through and expressed in no uncertain terms. Does this help?
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 6:38 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

I have to admit I feel fooled by the Buddhist literature; the literature is full of ill-conceived moral philosophy. The Three Characteristics tend to be presented as if they were prescriptive terms; but Daniel uses them differently in his book, - he uses them as descriptively!

So no amount of observing the flickering of things should actually make somebody to adopt certain (psychological) attitudes and not others; yet moral philosophy is all about behaviour modification and attitude change. The doctrine of impermanence can be easily used to inflict psychological pain in the sense of ‘don’t enjoy yourself, everything changes; your good luck won’t last.’ (Ideal tool in the hand of jealous people.)

Santideva writes in A Guide to the Boddhisattva Way of Life:

‘My enemies will not remain, nor will my friends remain. I shall not remain. Nothing will remain.’

The doctrine of impermanence has been used as a tool of inducing behavior modifications in all traditions. In Judaeo-Christianity they talk about ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity' (Eccl. 1:2) and ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’ (Eccl. 12:13) In Medieval times philosophers had a skull on their working place as a ‘memento mori’, a remembrance of death! In Islam exactly the same (see al-Ghazali on The Remembrance of Death):

‘Where are the men of fine, clear faces? Those who were delighted with their youth? Where are the kings that built the cities and fortified them with walls? Where are they that used to receive victory on the fields of battle? Time has swept them away, and they have gone on to the shadows of the graves. So make haste! Make haste! And be saved! Be saved.’

Compare with Buddha’s last words quoted by Daniel:

‘All phenomena are impermanent! Work out your salvation with diligence!’

It is all the same!
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 6:40 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

The question is what do you do with your mortality-salience?

The Sages [social engineers] tended to remind people of their mortality. This would lead to an expected /predictable psychological reaction of fear. After people would have made afraid (which is not too difficult), they were offered the remedy: a particular kind of salvation based on 'good behavior'! These time-tested principles are still applied today: first inflict fear and then offer the remedy! People will follow! The Bush’s administration’s ‘War on Terror’ is a recent example!

The problem only with modern man is that if you remind him of mortality, s/he tends to get stuck there, because s/he is not naïve enough to believe whole-heartedly in the salvation-doctrine! All s/he is left with is a high degree of mortality-salience, --- and that tends to be very unhealthy!

That’s the reason why many people end up in despair! They are told life is impermanent, everything is suffering, there is no immortal soul etc. No wonder they show little interest in meditative practice, and if they do, all their neurotic stuff comes up as Daniel points out in his book!

For more see: Terror-Management-Theory

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 6:41 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

My impression in studying Buddhism is that it tends to be closely related with nihilism and existentialism in the West. A religion for atheists, so to speak!

Joseph Loizzo, ‘a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and Columbia-trained Buddhist scholar with over thirty years’ experience of meditation on healing and learning’ (we are told on his website) concludes the forward to his recent translation of Nagarjuna’s Reason Sixty (published in the Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences series in 2007) with the following uplifting words:

“Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti, like their modern peers, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, take as the ultimate refinement of non-egocentrist philosophy a method which shows that

*** human life has no reality beyond empty conventions of language, ***

and that the living fiction of our evolution hangs on nothing more than the magnanimous use of such convention.”

And such insights are called ‘therapeutic’ nowadays!!! (And we saw how fine this worked out for Nietzsche.) I mean, if you are not suicidal these fine people like Loizzo will get you there with their version of Buddhism!
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:05 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

I totally agree with that one!

I once met a psychotherapeut who told me that most of his patients are people who used NLP and were brought to a complete nerve-breakdown.

*

One great thing about Korzybski was that he was one of the first who had realized that people tended not to be able to report their observations in a descriptive manner; they would add valuation into the observation, and to that extent he called man 'insane'. His methods were designed to remedify this tendency to collapse observation with valuation. But later ill-spirited people (see Scientology) used his methods to do the excact opposite of what they initially had been designed for!
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:14 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Hokai,

after reading your posting something dawned in me; there is no doctrine without practice and vice versa. And in a vital way the doctrine is subordinated to practice. Up to recently, all I was exposed to was doctrine. I wrote somewhere else that I had to discover for myself that there is a contemplative tradition within Buddhism, and that I was very happy to have found this forum, because the Buddhists I know would be among the last people I could talk to about contemplative practice. (They are all devotional types.)

I slowly get a perception shift about the whole business!
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:19 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:19 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
" ... they would add valuation into the observation..."

That is a valuable insight, Abe.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:25 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:25 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Great topic.

With regard to the 3 characteristics: I think it helps to cultivate more the attitude of a dog tearing apart a chew toy as opposed to an academic or intellectual approach. And I am speaking more of how a terrier goes at it than say a golden retriever. You need to doggedly :-) tear into it and really try to taste the bits and pieces.

Looking through another 'window' of the teaching, we are cultivating the first three factors of awakening (Mindfulness, Investigation, Persistence ). These lead to what is called 'access concentration' or the ability to stay with the object of meditation. Something like learning how to keep holding on to a bucking bronco (at least with one hand). Once we get the bronco tamed a bit, we can ride it somewhere.

It helps allot to cultivate this practice as much as possible. Not just in ones formal sitting but whenever we become aware of having a particular sensation or feeling. For example: If I start feeling angry or frustrated over the current state of Buddhism (or whatever), then I can start looking into how I feel that mental quality in the body as physical sensations. This takes me away from the mental component (which I can easily get lost in) and focus on body sensations (the first of the four frames of reference) in and of themselves.
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Florian, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:29 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:29 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Abe,

You bring up a lot of points!

The Buddha's teachings were misunderstood as nihilism from the beginning. There are many discorses where again and again the Buddha patiently pointed out that he taught neither nihilism nor eternalism, but instead the four noble truths, or dependent arising, and so on. Have you noticed this, too?

Secondly, as you observe, the liberating teachings of the Buddha have been and continue to be used to dominate people. That tells me a lot about humanity. I would not draw any conclusions about the Buddha's teachings from just this, however.

Thirdly, awareness of one's mortality is simply the prudent way to proceed, and is not limited, as you yourself write, to Buddhism. It's the one thing we're absolutely certain will happen to us. We make preparations for all kinds of eventualities, but death we (as a culture) tend to push aside. What's unhealthy about being prepared for the one event we really can be certain of happening to us? Also, I myself find the idea of an immortal soul rather disheartening emoticon

Four, the "life has no reality ..." quote you criticise as being insufficiently uplifting. The thing with being uplifted to a peak is that the peak moments are so rare, and descent invariably follows: to demand only peak moments is just not realistic.

Five: the existentialists, especially Camus (who did not label himself existentialist, BTW) have "independently verified" a lot of the things the Buddha described. The Absurd fits in nicely with the three characteristics, in my opinion. I'm not sure how you want the "religioin for atheists" remark understood, but atheism and nihilism are completely distinct concepts.

Cheers,
Florian
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 7:44 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Nathan,

it is not a fear; it is a (legitimate) concern. I wonder why you would 'never worry about things like that'. The dark night of the soul is a real risk! It is great for you if are clued up, but I can tell you I was far too often naive in my life, and I know people who have been burnt, burnt, burnt.

Daniel wrote:

"I realize that most people go into meditation looking for stability, happiness, and comfort in the face of their own existence. I have just said that I have spent many years cultivating extreme experiential instability, careful awareness of the minutia of my suffering and the clear perception that I don’t even exist as a separate entity."

*

The assumption in my concern is the following:

Words are not neutral to most people (including myself); words carry an affective (emotional) load, so to speak. As long as you have an affective life (emotions), words will effect you, because their meaning will trigger off affective reactions (moods)!

Let's assume you bought a lottery ticket and you were told: "You are the winner of USD 50,000." Now, these words would have an effect upon your affective and nervous system. You may scream out loud. Jump in the air. Hug the person next to you. Adrenaline would pump through your veins etc. A similar but inverse reaction could be provoked by somebody telling you something very terrible (about yourself or somebody else).

So calling ALL sensations 'unsatisfactory' could very easily lead to very bad psychological side effects.

*

Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching. (Nanavira Thera)

That does not sound too uplifting, or does it?
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:04 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:04 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Abe, what do you want get from your own practice?
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:24 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:24 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Monkeymind,

my understanding is that Buddha used the term 'nihilism' as the opposite of 'absolutism', at least in Madhyamika Mahayana Buddhism: everything is an illusion vs. everything is intrinsically real, --- and offered a middle way b/w these two extremes. So the Buddhist term 'nihilism' is very different from the Western philosophy of nihilism, which means there is no meaning, no purpose, no values etc.

Nihilism in the Western sense of the word was easily avoided by introducing a salvation-doctrine; if you want you can save people forever as a Boddhisattva. A modern nihilist with interest in Buddhism would not buy into the Buddhist salvation-doctrine and cosmology; he would only be left with the bare facts of existence --- which as we know now are 'unsatisfactory'!

The idea of an immortal soul may be disheartening to some, but fact is that the idea of a reincarnating something has served the same purpose as the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Also, within the Bodhisattva doctrine we can clearly see the idea of paradise --- eventually everybody will be liberated and everything will turn out just fine for everybody! In fact, this is an incredibly optimistic doctrine, if you look at it backwards! In Christianity for example, not everybody will be saved! Some are eternally damned. But then Samsara comes as close as it can get to eternal damnation, because most will be caught up in it for eternities! So hell is already always now!

Demanding only peak moments is unrelated to my Loizzo quote.

Nietzsche a peer of Nagarjuna! Is Buddha the 'Ubermensch', perhaps?!

Think about the implications of "Human life

*** has no reality ***

beyond empty conventions of language."

Life as a mere language game!

Denial of sensual reality!

I am wondering: does Loizzo have a sex life or does he only talk?
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:36 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:36 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

That's interesting. This is what I was doing last night in my meditation. My mind would wander to all these philosophical concepts and I was able to kill them off by looking into their 'origin', from where they would arise in the body, and then just stay there as long as I could. There is a kind of miserable feeling 'at the heart of my being', to use poetical phrase, from where all these concepts arise. They are certainly a form of suffering, because these comcepts are a kind of nebula, they are never really clear! So, there is this need for clarification and re-clarification, indefinitely...
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 10:15 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 10:15 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Marti,

insight into the nature of (ultimate) reality, and possibly end of mental and emotional afflictions, and possibly gaining insights into what can be done about improving the 'human condition'.

With regard to the last point: It could well be that the world may become even worse in still unknown ways with numerous groups of really liberated people! It may be a sign of mental and emotional afflictions that I am sceptical whether 'liberation' brings the end to suffering as advertised by the Buddha (as we know now it does not enable Arahats to fly around in the air ,-))).

A long time ago (in my early 20s, I am now in my late 30s) I naively supposed that the possession of knowledge of the nature of ultimate reality would make me omnipotent. (In Mahayana Bhuddhism they advertise that Bodhisattvas are omniscient, which is also not bad ,-))).

Today, I see it as something in which there is no choice, not something glorious.

Daniel said in one of the potcasts that the people who would have to go for it are the one's who are already in the dark night. To requote Nanavira Thera: "Only a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation is prepared to listen to the Buddha's Teaching."

I am certainly there! Uncertainty is the last word in all questions. So, in a way, once one has the existential perception one must go for it, because there is nothing outside of oneself that provides 'consolation' or 'distraction' from that very perception!

Thanks for asking,

Abe
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 11:49 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 11:49 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Exactly, as you turn the mind from the mental 'thought world' back to the body, the mind is no longer wrapped up in the thought world – it can only focus on one thing at a time. If you become aware of a 'miserable feeling' then dig into those sensations (not the mental stuff) as best you can – really investigate them. Like where are they? (arms, face, chest, etc), what is the sensation like? (sore, tense, prickly, hot, cold, etc). Look for spacial qualities like 'how far down my arm can I feel it?'. Another one could be 'how big an area of this sensation is required for me to give the label of 'miserable feeling'? Break it into pieces and focus on one small part – is it still a 'miserable feeling' or is it just a sensation? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? If it is a pleasant feeling you can try staying with that – see if you can expand it, knead it into other parts, etc. Like that. Try to develop a sense of curiosity and interest toward it (not intellectually but experientially). It can be most entertaining!
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Florian, modified 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:56 PM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/10/08 8:56 PM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Abe,

I've only studied Theravada in any detail so far. In the Theravada suttas, discussions between the other spiritual groups and the Buddha's group are reproduced in very stylized ways, for sure, but certain positions in Indian philosophical tought of the time show up again and again. Two frequently mentioned ideas are often translated as "eternalism" and "nihilism", or "survivalism" and "destructionism": two positions about the (non-)existence of an undying soul or eternal self. And yes, the ancient Indian "Nihilism" or "Destructionism" is not the same as the modern-day western Nihilism - but it belongs to the same family of philosophies, I think.

Nagarjuna and other philosophical developments are historically more recent than the Pali canon, and I've not studied them closely so far. That said, I've had a glance at the Mulamadhyamakakaria once, and the (hasty) conclusion I drew was that it's like a diary of someone practicing at what later on came to be called Koan practice. But I'm probably wrong.

I don't know about Loizzo, but the quote you posted about human life having no reality beyond empty conventions of language - I think you draw the wrong conclusion when you say "life is a mere language game", because he's specifically talking about *human* life. Take the language away, and you've taken away a large chunk of what we think makes us human - but sensual reality remains. At least, that's what I read out of it.

I get the impression (I may be wrong) that you're trying to *think* your way through Buddhism - that can't ever work. The noble eightfold path is not a brain teaser, some sort of rubics cube to be solved once and for all. You know the metaphors, discussing a beautiful map will not get you to the places on the map. You really have to walk the path, do the exercises, learn skills...

Cheers,
Florian
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 5:38 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 5:38 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Enough philosophy!

Here's the deal: when people try to apply teachings about insight practice and the microscopic to other fields of life and the macroscopic, the result is this kind of madness, which some have tried to counter in their way.

When on the cushion trying to get enlightened or more enlightened: look into the Three Characteristics of each and every little sensation at the level of bare experience. Impermanence means that endless fresh, completely transient, complete discrete sensations arise and vanish many times per second and this applies to all sensations. Suffering means the strange tension created by the false illusion/habit of the way the mind has to work and try to hold itself when trying to manufacture an observing, controlling center point out of a world of self-luminous, causal, impermanent sensations. No-self means that there is no observer, all things arise on their own in a natural, causal fashion, including everything we think is us, a watcher, subject, doer, perceiver, etc. These are not philosophy, they are exceedingly good practice advice and point directly to the doors to ultimate reality. They manifest in every single sensation regardless of whether or not this is clearly known.

When dealing with the macroscopic, reflections on death and all that are true and sometimes motivating, but the teachings about leading a good, useful, healthy life that assumes you can make good choices and make a difference in the world are far more helpful than a teaching designed for insight meditation.

Imagine trying to describe your relationship with some person in terms of particle physics, or imagine trying to describe the workings of a car using the language of psychology. It would be the same type of insanity going on here. Thanks to all who are helping to ground this, but ditch the absurd fascination with impractical, abstract philosophy: it should occur somewhere else.

Practical only, please!
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:30 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:30 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Hi Abe,
You have raised some very good points. In fact, I think you are closer to the truth than you may think. But the fact that you do not think so is part of the reason why you have not quite got it yet.

You wrote:
"…impermanence implies permanence, suffering implies bliss, and no-self implies self."

Just so! What is impermanent, unsatisfactory and empty of self is every thing that is created, made, born or conditioned. That accounts for almost everything, doesn't it? What it does not account for is quite literally "no thing" which is usually termed "nothing."

But you can't really appreciate this nothing until you have begun to see how much we tend to over-appreciate the "somethings" in our lives. All the good stuff comes to an end, even life itself. And even while the good stuff is here, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that it's not all so good anyway. There are plenty of flies in the ointment. Even the self that we imagine to be our true identity is not any great shakes, since it is an ego construct or misguided identity process shivering in constant fear of its own annihilation. That's no fun at all! [continued]
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:31 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:31 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Part 2
Hi Abe,

Seeing through to the core truth is what we need to do. This begins with seeing that the Three Characteristics are true of all phenomena, including every instant of experience. Then, at some point, after all the ups and downs that eventuate from truly recognizing this, from seeing just what a pit we are in, we may begin to notice that neither "we" as we conceive ourselves nor the "pit" which seems to be our circumstance are actually real. Your true Identity (I'm using the renegade Zen "True Self" teachings here) is not the body nor the mind, was never born nor can it ever die.

Philosophical speculation, you may say. Yes, right now it may seem that way. But when you Awaken to it, it becomes the most obvious thing in the world, and totally undeniable.

May all beings come to see Who they truly are.

Regards,
Gozen
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:39 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/11/08 10:39 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Hi Daniel,
Sorry if I jumped the gun by replying to Abe before going to the end (last post) in the thread and seeing your post. I hope my response is not too impractical emoticon

Regards,
Gozen
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 6:53 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 6:53 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
May I try to re-boot this thread?

The very hardest thing to do, at least for me, was to get past the inclination to THINK my way through practice. Until I read Daniel's e-book everything I had read or heard pointed to some nebulous, ill-defined set of rules that I couldn't quite fathom. So it's not a mystery that many of us struggle with just what it is we're supposed to do on the cushion. After I read Daniel's stuff it still took me a while, and a lot of experimentation, to figure out what he was talking about.

So, Abe, you're no worse off than the rest of us. It's really not your fault that philosophy and concepts were what you thought you should doing. But now that you know this one very important fact - that no concepts will get you to the three characteristics - sit and promise yourself that you will do your best to focus on what's happening RIGHT NOW, on the sensory input and mind objects that are immediately in front of you. Dig into them, as one person so rightly said, like a dog worrying a bone.

Anyone recall their very first insight into one or more of the three characteristics? Maybe that will help, too. What should a meditator be looking for? (A question Abe asked at the very top of this topic.) My first insights after starting to practice were more less like this:

- my mind yammers at me incessantly all the time. I can't stop it
- what it's yammering about is really silly, crazy stuff - selfish, angry, elation, obsessive, self-preserving, random
- it's really hard to ignore all that crap - which is truly, unbelievably depressing
- wait --- I'm supposed to pay attention to immediately occurring sensory input?
- wow, that's surely not what I expected!
- so fast... so inconstant, buzzing, fluttering, flashing.... it's there, it's not there
- is THAT how it really is???

That took three years.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 7:32 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 7:32 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Ah! There we go! Good stuff, cmarti! (Is that pronounced "smarty?")
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:28 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:28 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 379 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
Many people I know believe it should be pronounced that way ;-)
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:50 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:50 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Hi cmarti,
Good to get back to the particularities of actual practice. Your list with my comments below:

- my mind yammers at me incessantly all the time. I can't stop it
Gozen: We all start with the big "Supposed To" hanging over us. Believing that we are "supposed to" stop the mind only feeds it. When I began practicing, it took me quite a while to stop "watching myself" to see if I was doing it right. When I gave up on stopping the mind and began observing it instead, everything changed in my practice. Mind chatter decreased and observation of sensations increased.

- what it's yammering about is really silly, crazy stuff - selfish, angry, elation, obsessive, self-preserving, random
Gozen: At first we tend to feel guilty about this. Simply admitting that this is what we really think and feel is the beginning of wisdom.

- it's really hard to ignore all that crap - which is truly, unbelievably depressing
Gozen: The truth will set you free. Nobody ever said it would also make you proud or happy about your own little self.

- wait --- I'm supposed to pay attention to immediately occurring sensory input?

- wow, that's surely not what I expected!
- so fast... so inconstant, buzzing, fluttering, flashing.... it's there, it's not there
- is THAT how it really is???
Gozen: I remember starting out looking for stability and finding only flux. Quite disturbing. A lot to observe. But it's not totally random. There is causality and connectedness to be found. Most fundamentally, there is also something like a Ground State, or realization of THAT which is continually being modified in the form of all phenomena but which is never itself affected in any way. Stay tuned.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:57 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 8:57 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Very nice summary cmarti. I can offer an example from before I started a formal practice which might be helpful (Daniel could probably provide the clinical term for this kind of event). I think it will show the value of adopting a formal practice (note the missing “wait I am supposed to...” part and the “so fast... so inconstant” part):
1) my mind is driving me crazy – these thoughts just wont stop.
2) These thoughts are pathetic and relentless, is this all I am?
3) I look inside and all I find are these thoughts! Behind them? Between them? Nothing! (is That how it really is???)

I think most run-of-the-mill folks upon experiencing #1 will immediately turn on the tv or some sort of diversion. If they get to #2 they might turn to drugs or some other more serious form of diversion. If they get to #3 they are like us: Hardcore Dharma Warriors.

"The lone Dharma Warrior, Manjushri's sword in hand, charges the countless legions of Maras armies!"
(God, I love that stuff!)
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 10:55 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/12/08 10:55 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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My next set of insights went sort of like this:

- ear, sound, chirp, bird, poof! ear, sound, chirp, bird, poof! ear sound, chirp, bird, poof! (fast)
- I don't see the bird with my eyes but I do perceive a set of vibrations in my ear and then very quickly my mind presents me with.... image of a bird
- Holy Crap! That's what a bird is! That's what "arising" means!
- vibration, feeling, itch, hand, poof! vibration, feeling, itch, hand, poof! vibration, feeling, itch, hand, poof!
- and that's what my hand is, too
- that must be what everything is... so...
- Damn! -- everything is being created and is disappearing like that. That really IS how "it" really is!
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 4:11 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 4:11 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Ok, practical only! --- What Daniel writes on impermanence makes complete sense to me; but with regard to suffering I will have to observe this in meditation, because I cannot follow here. I understand suffering as a term that can refer to two different things (a) physical pain (for example, tooth ache) and (b) affective pain (emotional suffering, like for example, fear or sadness).

Daniel seems to be talking about a third kind of suffering, which I am (still) unaware of. I cannot see ALL phenomena being either physically or emotionally painful. So I assume there is a third kind (more fundamental) suffering he is refering to, and which I will have to observe in meditation.

With regard to no-self --- I can understand the words 'There is no observer', but my mind is certainly still deluded to believe there is one ,-))) --- Sure things arise, but they still happen to 'me', so it feels. They arise like on a movie screen, but there is still the 'me' watching (or witnessing) the movie, and later it is a 'me' who remembers the movie, talks about it, compares notes etc.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 4:51 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Gozen, good stuff! Thanks!
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 5:12 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Chris,

funny enough, I was already doing this (pay attention to sensory input) for some time (more than a year) every night before falling asleep; but until quite recently I was not aware that this was also the way to go in meditative practice. I spent several 1000s of dollars on books --- and reading them drove me nuts! Most of these books are not even logically coherent. And everybody tends to contradict each other! These authors - I don't care whether they are Rinpoche's or Lama's or top-notch scholoars from Harvard - should be all shot! Having tried to make sense out of Buddhist (and other tradition's) literature I can understand U.G.Krishnamurti's rantings about the business of spirituality!

*

This article I came across was also helpful in de-supposing the knower:

http://larval-subjects.blogspot.com/2006/07/forgetting-transference-and-subject.html

"... the tendency is to assume that the master knows what he's talking about, ..."

"This is one of the hallmarks of neurotic thought structure: rather than face the lack in the Other, the neurotic instead assumes this lack himself. "

"Thus, Lacan suggests that it is precisely in de-supposing someone from knowledge that good readings become possible."

"And why not? Why not, if it turns out that that must be the condition for what I call reading? After all, what can I presume Aristotle knew? Perhaps the less I assume he has knowledge, the better I read him."
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 5:47 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 5:47 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Abe, thanks for your practical input. And, here's an example of how concepts do sometimes (often enough, fortunately for us) arise from direct verification. As to "suffering", the distinction you make correlates with the three types of "suffering" the Buddha himself distinguished. These are (1) obvious suffering, (2) impermanence, and (3) conditioned nature of experience, in order of increasing subtlety. Sometimes, these are applied to the three feelings, so that (1) refers to painful feeling, (2) to pleasant feeling, and (3) to that which is neither. What Daniel emphasizes is absolutely in line with this line of insightful reasoning. There are those who claim - quite rightly, in my view - that "suffering" is an unfortunate rendering of "duhkha/dukkha", an emotionally and affectively loaded term that does not do justice to the existential character of what the Buddha pointed to. Just as the original meaning of "sin" is to "miss the mark", so "suffering" originally points to a pervasive feature of our human predicament.

As to self, the "non-self" terminology is also a half-solution (as this expression refers to what we are not), and it's better to spend 5 hours investigating the separate observer, than spend 5 days analyzing the word refering to it, though I tend to do both:-) Of course, there is a relative, effective, operational "me", but the way "I" actually exist is radically different from the way the "me" appears to an unattentive mind. At first, at the micro-level, this "me" is actually an undetected object in awareness, a tension of sorts. And, at the macro-level, this "me" is held in special esteem as body and public persona in opposition to others. These two levels reinforce mutually to produce a veritable self-referential reality. Therefore, training the unattentive mind is the most important step to make.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 6:28 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 6:28 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

Hi Hokai,

yes, yes, I think I know (have observed experientially in my meditation) what you're describing here! That's why I came up with the work 'relax', when you asked for 'One Word' to express the core practice at this point. With 'relax' I didn't simply mean to relax the body; I rather meant to relax the 'tension of sorts' (to borrow your terminology) that gives rise to the 'me' (object in awareness). This kind of relaxation has also set free an enormous amount of wind (chi, prana) movements within my body, and I can activate it even while I am doing other things during the day like writing this email, independently of any formal meditation.

*

As a side note:

I noticed that in order to 'relax' it is not necessarily necessary not to think anything, because I still can write this email while 'relaxing', but this (neurotic) tension ('me') is not there while I am relaxing and the wind starts to move within the body.

So, I think there are two processes going on simultaneously: writing the email on the one hand, and on the other hand focusing on the bodily formation /sensation (what I call 'relaxing'), which triggers off chi movements and dissolve (as long as one relaxes) the 'me'-tension. Of course, within formal meditation one can give undivided attention to the bodily sensation and reach a higher degree of purity of awareness.

So, thinking per se is not the problem, as it is sometimes made out within the literature, because enlightened beings still think. The problem, as you pointed out, is this 'tension of sort', the undetected object in awareness, which, once detected, can be 'dissolved' by meditative practice.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 10:54 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 10:54 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: transcolin

Hey all,
This forum - and this thread in the last few days, specifically - has got to be the best thing I've stumbled onto in years. Seriously.

cmarti, this is fantastic: <i>
- my mind yammers at me incessantly all the time. I can't stop it
- what it's yammering about is really silly, crazy stuff - selfish, angry, elation, obsessive, self-preserving, random
- it's really hard to ignore all that crap - which is truly, unbelievably depressing
- wait --- I'm supposed to pay attention to immediately occurring sensory input?
- wow, that's surely not what I expected!
- so fast... so inconstant, buzzing, fluttering, flashing.... it's there, it's not there
- is THAT how it really is??? </i>

I was first introduced to meditation as an undergrad over a decade ago and I thought the point was to still my mind. Of course, I failed spectacularly at that and I gave up after my course was over. I started meditating again over two years ago and have made some progress that puts me at about the point that you end on. To say that it's destabilizing is one of the biggest understatements I've ever encountered.

I am in a position right now of having to maintain a job that I can no longer stand and deal with a chronic pain issue that is exacerbated by it. The destabilization is more than I feel I can handle, so what have I done? Stopped actively sitting. The catch is that the "watching" of the crazy impermanance still happens nearly every day, throughout the day, though the frequency is decreasing. I seem to have progressed enough that it won't simply stop, though I'm guessing it will.

Q: Is this common? Trying to jump off the awareness ship due to needing to maintain consensus reality? I've got a mortgage, blah blah. Luckily, I only have to maintain this job another 14 weeks. But then it's off to San Fran for grad school, so that's another issue.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 10:56 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 10:56 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: transcolin

Clarification: I am choosing to keep the job so that I can maintain my status as a homeowner. Just wanted to state that I am aware - recently - that this is a choice I have made, instead of a condition that I am trapped by.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 11:24 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/14/08 11:24 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Other translations of dukkha I have seen are:
mental anguish, agitation, stress, unsatisfactoriness

Abe,
I think the difference in Daniels description (of suffering) is simply that he is describing it in terms of how it arises (with respect to its underlying causes) where as we usually describe it by how it appears to us (like stress, anguish, etc) which tends to solidify it. Buddha points out that as long as we have a body, we can't do anything about 'old age, sickness, and death' – they're a done deal. The other kind – the mental/emotional torment type stuff – we can let go of once we see into its nature. That's my take on it anyway.
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Wet Paint, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 3:56 AM
Created 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 3:56 AM

RE: The Three Characteristics

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

CheleK,

I do think I agree with you!

*

With regard to the question of seeing the nature of emotional turmoil and letting go of it:

The Christian contemplative Bernadette Roberts writes in The Experience of No-Self (1993) that the false sense of self that gives rise to suffering *is* the affective system; see p. 181ff.:

"As I see it, the affective system is not only the cause of every psychological illness, it is the cause of all of man's suffering. An organic problem without this system could not give way to psychological or mental suffering, because there would be no fears, anxieties, or all the rest that so easily erupt from emotional disturbances."

"In fact, a sure sign self is gone is the absence of these affective symptoms."

"With no problems in the affective domain, few people would be in need of a psychiatriist or analyst, indeed, without an affective system, or without a self, this whole school of thought would be out of business."

"What life is like without [self / affective system] --- it is a dynamic, intense state of taking care of whatever arises in the now-moment. It is a continuous waking state in which the physical organism remains sensitive, responsive, and totally unimpaired."

"Few people realize the full extent of what the affective system really is. Some people think of it as the loving heart of man, when actually this is only one side of the continuum. Its opposite, anger and hate, is responsible for the only diabloic force in existence, for I can think of no evil for which man is not responsible."

"It occured to me that the falling away of the affective life might be a piece of esoteric knowledge not given to the outsider, or even to the proficient. Since he could not understand it ahead of time, as a future prospect, it could prove only too frightening."
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 9:40 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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Living solely in the present moment is what dogs and cats do... but it's not what human beings do. Human beings have the ability to imagine the future and remember the past as well as to experience the present. We can use those abilities to extrapolate from the past and better plan the future. I seriously doubt that realization of any depth whatever removes the human ability to feel, to think, to analyze, to plan, and to use those mental qualities that separate us from animals. My own experience points to a different form of realization, where all the human emotions we all have and know, and our other mental capabilities, are seen for what they truly are as they are experienced: formed and conditioned points of reference to be used to form an appropriate response to any moment that occurs right now. This means, I think, that the self is always experienced but not taken for anything neyond another conditioned part of reality. That's why it's so critical to get to the point where the three characteristics are apparent and experienced from moment to moment. This is why, I think, it's nice to think of the Buddha's method as the middle way. We live in the world of the dual *and* the world of the non-dual. They are BOTH true for human beings in different ways, and seeing that truth, that truly Middle Way, is the real path, nuanced and tricky, but the real path none-the-less.

When we tell people unrealistic things about realization they expect unrealistic things -- or they hear them and know them to be unrealistic and not useful and give up any hope of attaining the path. So what am I saying here? To bring it home from my POV -- seeing the three characteristics is confirmation that soon leads to a profound confidence in the practice, but SEEING THE THREE CHARACTERISTICS for what they are is required, not optional.

But that's just me extrapolating from my own experience. YMMV, but I doubt it.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 11:37 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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I'll buy that!

"the affective system is not only the cause of every psychological illness, it is the cause of all of man's suffering"

I won't buy that! As cmarti is saying, it's not the affective system that is the problem - it's that we cling to it as 'self' (me or mine).
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 11:59 AM
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Another aspect of this that occurs to me is that:
Once we no longer identify with feelings as 'self' that does change our affective system in a sense. For example: If I feel that 'I am angry' then that ownership effectively feeds the anger back in and amplifies it. If I don't identify with those feelings then there is no feedback and they tend to die out with their original cause. The affective system is still there but we have sort of 'unplugged' the feedback system to it (which functions as a sustaining cause).
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 1:58 PM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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cmarti, all good points, every one of them. Personally, I find the point on redeeming all human faculties crucial to an emerging expression of Dharma. It's indeed crucial to reach the point where the threshold of the doors to liberation is crossed and the features of conditioned existence are revealed in realtime, so that one can begin to embody what has been revealed bringing about the "revolution at the basis" - as yogacarins would say, refering to this very body of ours. To do so, Direct Seeing is not optional, but requisite.
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 2:05 PM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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CheleK, as to your not buying the point on the affective system, you're right on. In addition, Dharma is not about "causality", but instead about "conditionality". However, even in that sense, the affective system must also be a condition for the arising of many awakened attributes in a realized individuals experience, inasmuch the very concepts - once a major contributor to the perpretuation of confusion and self-centered myopia - become the tools of insight and compassion. In essence, this organism is built for threading the path, and then some.
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/15/08 3:02 PM
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Further to my point from earlier today-- and if you pay attention you can see the truth of this -- as you experience a sensation watch carefully what happens and how that object manifests or arises. Next, watch closely and pay attention to that feeling of "me" that we all have. It's the same process taking place! One as one object arises, the next as the other object arises. YOU are arising and passing away. YOU are conditioned. YOU are being created by the same mental processes that give rise to everythind else in your experience.
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 1:53 AM
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Here's where careful wording and interpretation pays off, even as just a matter of mere consistency. First you point to the "feeling of me" which is clearly an object in awareness, one that - for all practical purposes - remains undetected in fragmented, constricted awareness. Next, you change that "feeling of me" to ME, and conclude that I AM being conditioned and created by the same mental processes that give rise to everything else in experience. There are at least two fallacies being made here. First, the "feeling of me" and the awareness which remains a source of bare, natural subjectivity are definitely not the same layer of selfhood. Treating the self in monolithic way does no justice to its dynamic complexity. Second, there are no mental processes that give rise to "everything in experience", because the domain of experience always extends beyond the scope of the process, itself becoming an object of investigation to be found radically transparent and open to yet other conditioning ad infinitum. To clearly investigate this matter, we need to establish a demarcation for what arises on this side, i.e. the actual mind-perspective or awareness itself, and what arises on that side, i.e. the content or object or event-perspective, and further to reflect any slide or shift of that demarcation when some of the mind-perspective is objectified/recognized, becoming part of the event-perspective. Our categories should take care to reflect these distinctions, simultaneously discouraging any mere speculation, since recognition and competency in this matter can only arise from first-hand experience. Does this make sense?
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 2:56 AM
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Yes, Hokai, that makes sense. I got carried away - it happens a lot. It's always tempting to babble and sound pompous and authoritative.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 5:01 AM
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Hi Hokai,
You make a good point and I appreciate the value of clear and concise language. That being said, as a hardcore dharma site, should not readers be expected to have a basic understanding of topics such as dependent origination, no-self vs not-self, etc? Taken to an extreme, very concise language can lead to a discussion sounding more like a submission to a scientific journal then a member forum. Having to read such stilted language is in itself a form of true suffering in my opinion :-)
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 5:03 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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Hokai, your post responding to cmarti was most excellent. Our language is indeed very slippery and can often be confusing when speaking about subjectivity and notions of self. Our task is to see clearly how we identify (or misidentify) with clusters of sensations, perceptions and conceptions as being "me." In one sense, we must take ownership of these because, on what Daniel calls the "macroscale," we are responsible for these as parts of our manifestation in the world. But on what Dan calls the "microscale" we engage a practice of progressive investigation into the non-self or empty nature of all these phenomena. There is no self in that "me." But at the same time, as you indicated, it would be as false to state "I AM being conditioned" as it would be to say "I do not exist." The fundamental awarness which is the root of identity most certainly exists without conditions. How we disentangle our tendency to associate the superficial "not me" phenomena from that pure root consciousness is the great work. But, again, language can be slippery. For example, when I say "I am not implicated in my own experience" I am not speaking from the position of the conditioned "I" but from the root or Heart of consciousness, while at the same time indicating responsibility or ownership of that experience as "my own." The distinction is subtle but crucial.
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 5:42 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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That all sounds good to me, folks, but honestly, I really wasn't very careful in using language when I posted that message. I agree with Hokai AND I agree with CheleK and Gozen. There is clearly a middle way here, too: use language that has clarity while using language that is also efficient without too many words. I could have done that and chose not to.
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 7:20 AM
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My goodness, this quickly turns into an either/or thing, doesn't it? cmarti, your point taken, and no, I didn't think you commited that horrible mistake.:-) Gozen, we're clearly stepping into the vacuum space of fundamental awareness here, wherein both/and language proves insufficient along with either/or phrasing we rejected a moment ago. To try and separate the awareness at the most subtle level from anything arising, is the temptation of formless, sheer emptiness approach, intent to find the ground of everything arising. I believe "at the same time" is crucial in your distinction, that being the both/and element. Sometimes we just renounce it all to neither/nor and hurry back to the cushion, at other times we simply relax with the mystery of Just This. Whichever, here we are, back to three characteristics.
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Chris Marti, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 9:06 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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Nuance!

I love that word.
Mike L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/16/08 11:03 AM
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RE: The Three Characteristics

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So, is the upshot of this that a good meditation would be to regard everything in awareness --- including/especially most usual notions of self --- as object, yes? If so, could anyone comment on if/how that relates to the practice of awareness watching awareness? Seems to me that the former works at directly detaching identification and the latter at detaching via redirection (sleight of mind, so to speak).
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Gozen M L, modified 14 Years ago at 4/17/08 8:30 AM
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Hokai, thanks for your response. Yes, I confess my own tendency toward the "formless, sheer emptiness approach [of] stepping into the vaccum of fundamental awarness...intent to find the ground of everything arising." This is essential Zen, part 1.

Yet "at the same time" in some mysterious way, and despite identifying most fundamentally with universal awareness, we manifest as one and only one body-mind in ordinary terms of life. As you say, "we simply relax with the mystery of Just This." Essential Zen, part 2.

Living the paradox of part 1 and part 2 simultaneously is "the daily challenge," a sort of compassionate madness wherein numberless beings need our aid and yet nothing needs to be accomplished.

Who'da thunk? (Apologies for my warped sense of humor emoticon
Hokai Sobol, modified 14 Years ago at 4/17/08 10:41 AM
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Gozen, it's eye to eye.