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TOPIC: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model

Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:23 #7831

" If I wanted one line pat answers to every musing, i wouldn't bother..." -- Ona

Hopefully, I don't give you "pat" answers. But you have to let me know. I do try to be concise. In my professional world that is a major contributor of value.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 13:33 #7832

Chris Marti wrote:
" If I wanted one line pat answers to every musing, i wouldn't bother..." -- Ona

Hopefully, I don't give you "pat" answers. But you have to let me know. I do try to be concise. In my professional world that is a major contributor of value.

In my world that kind of concise tends to indicate "end of conversation," but I know you in person and know that's your style, so I keep that in mind. Be yourself. :)
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 14:58 #7833

One thing on the subject of models and methods and such that I've been thinking about: we might look at people who are struggling or suffering and are using a particular model/method, and assume that the method is contributing to the problem.

But I sometimes wonder if that individual is simply prone to that particular sticky spot, and is going to stick there no matter what kind of teaching they receive?

Thoughts?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 14 Nov 2012 20:41 #7836

Ona Kiser wrote:
One thing on the subject of models and methods and such that I've been thinking about: we might look at people who are struggling or suffering and are using a particular model/method, and assume that the method is contributing to the problem.

But I sometimes wonder if that individual is simply prone to that particular sticky spot, and is going to stick there no matter what kind of teaching they receive?

I think that's the case, and I also think that some methods and models work better for certain people than others - that point of view is consistent with both traditional Buddhist psychology and my own experience.

Models are like tools - it's always better to have more than one, and at the end of the day, they are heuristics.

I tend to see this in terms of psychotherapy - certain kinds of models are best for different individuals and they help in creating a formulation for that individual that guides the course of your therapy.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 15 Nov 2012 10:34 #7847

David wrote:
I think that's the case, and I also think that some methods and models work better for certain people than others - that point of view is consistent with both traditional Buddhist psychology and my own experience.

Models are like tools - it's always better to have more than one, and at the end of the day, they are heuristics.

I tend to see this in terms of psychotherapy - certain kinds of models are best for different individuals and they help in creating a formulation for that individual that guides the course of your therapy.
Yes to all of that.

What you wrote fits into a pragmatic, non-theoretical (or trans-theoretical, if you prefer) approach to dharma view and practice. That's mostly how I characterize my own approach.

[Time for some honest, and very public, self-reflection...]
I suspect that many of my arguments are aimed at those whose approach is more modern (as opposed to post-modern) and theory-based. Much of the time I'm arguing against a projected image of my former self, who bought into that way of thinking and being, wholesale. This is not unlike when I first left the church. My personal exodus was accompanied by a strong distaste for most things "Christian." Psychologically, my rejection of others was likely a way of rejecting my old self. Today, I don't have the same aversion to Christian doctrine. I don't agree with most of it, but I don't get upset about it, either.

I guess what I'm getting at is that, for me, what first comes out as anger or frustration toward others may initially stem from a sense of shame (or even humiliation), and the resulting pain, associated with realizing that many of the views I used to hold so strongly, and so dearly, are just plain old WRONG. "How could I have believed such nonsense? How could I be so stupid? What's wrong with me?"

Looking into this, a much softer, more tender space opens up. Instead of being frustrated with myself masked as others, I feel compassion for who I actually was. From here, letting go is that much easier.

_/|\_

P.S. Today is my 30th birthday. Maybe that's why I'm all sentimental and stuff :blush:
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 15 Nov 2012 13:47 #7851

Happy birthday!!!
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 15 Nov 2012 15:59 #7852

Happy Birthday Jackson!
Can't remember who first said it but, "It's always good to be on at least nodding terms with previous selves."
And "Buddhism is the art of making friends with your Self" Thich Naht Hahn

Time for the insight I promised: I got interested in Jackson's idea of the mind's state producing function. While it's certainly true that stages of absorption are similar regardless of the object, the true "jhana" experiences are created by taking Mind itself as the object. To do that, one focuses on subtle sensations that one associates with "Mind" - in a certain sense these sensations become more rarefied as one concentrates more deeply on them and deconstructs them - but they are still, like the Witness, a way of representing something to "ourselves" - as Najarjuna claimed, Mind doesn't exist either... and in fact, all internal experience (including and especially formations) is a way of representing something to ourselves.

"Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness none other than Form" Duh...

Now why we have to do this representing stuff, I have no idea...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 15 Nov 2012 16:59 #7856

David wrote:
Happy Birthday Jackson!


Now why we have to do this representing stuff, I have no idea...

It's weird, because if we can represent something, it's already presencing, already apparent. Sometimes it feels as if representing expresses a distrust or discomfort with the openness of things in their primal appearance. It is quite possible to go about my business without that mediation occurring, but those moments are few and far between. When representation is writ large in the form of ambitious models it's easier for me to see it as an expression of insecurity being compensated for by a desire to 'know' in a definitive (rather than open-ended) way. It's much subtler to see how representation functions in daily life situations.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 16 Nov 2012 17:20 #7891

jake wrote:
David wrote:

It's weird, because if we can represent something, it's already presencing, already apparent.

That's actually not the case with the Witness... and I wondered if it were possibly not the case with our experience of Mind either...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 17 Nov 2012 10:03 #7902

Ah, I think I see what you mean-- that it is possible to represent stuff that isn't actually there? In my experience that goes for the whole spectrum of 'self'-representations from instinctual through personal through transpersonal. That's the funny thing about representation, it's just as true that it doesn't represent *anything*, not just self-representations, but things too. For instance, a representation of my laptop screen, vs. the raw phenomenal presence of it. The (reified) representation of anything seems to have a built-in degree of 'substantiality' to it that is not true to the raw phenomenal presence of things. This seems to be the point of the twofold emptiness of Mahayana. In other words, it's not just that there is no self in or out of the aggregates, it's also that sensing, perceiving, feeling etc. are mere representations. Even arising and passing are concepts in a sense.

But the actual act of representing, imagining, thinking, is just as open in its presencing as any other phenomena. Another way of putting it: the "five skhandas" is just a fabricated formation, artifacts of the 'fourth skhanda'. The eight consciousnesses are just a notion in the sixth consciousness. These are useful descriptions but when reified they become blockages in the flow of experience, and eclipse the openness of not-knowing.

What I meant by saying representation takes an actual presencing as its basis can be well explained in the case of the witness. There are actually present qualities of experience that become represented, but represented as existing in a way that they don't actually exist. For instance, a quality of cognitive alertness, or openness, some formless jhanna qualities, are presencing and then are represented *as if* they constituted a transpersonal self. Likewise, actual thoughts and feelings that arise and pass, containing biographical information and anchored in various body sensations, can become the object of a reifying representation which then gives off the impression of a *personal* self. The latter sort of experience characterized life for me before stream entry. After stream entry I had a mean case of the former kind of identity, as if elements of fifth and sixth jhannas coalesced into a solid, separate, transcendental 'self' that thoughts, feelings and sensations arose and passed 'in'. Later I became fascinated with the instinctual, pre-personal identitifications around raw reactivity. And so on.... I guess I would now characterize the whole spectrum of identifications as arising in a similar way, by taking authentic phenomena and representing them in terms of qualities of solidity/substantiality/separateness which aren't authentic.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 17 Nov 2012 10:20 #7903

Tying this back to the thread topic, I am skeptical of spiritual practice systems that recommend a shifting-exclusive-identity model of transformation, in which identity shifts across a spectrum from coarse to subtle, because it can create a lot of opportunities for complacency. My impression is that this system works that way-- the very language of dis or de-embedding points to this model, because you can only de-embed from one identity by backing into another one. Eventually if lucky and well-guided folks seem to get sick and tired of this process and make an orthogonal shift in a completely different direction 'off' the ride. I think personally I prefer a system that is about engaging directly in current experience, but cultivating an appreciation for the openness of experience. Rather than fabricating more and more subtle identities, just directly appreciating the openness of experience and the various dimensions of experience. I think the strength of this approach is that it never runs the risk of trying to eliminate parts of experience, like instincts, emotions, or thoughts. The 20-strata model, IMO, still exists within a very transcendental anti-world Theravada cultural context which assumes a duality between the unconditioned and conditions, and maybe implies the necessity of re-engineering experience according to some ideal.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 17 Nov 2012 20:54 #7909

Jake, I think you grasped my insight well.

In regards to the 20 strata model - I agree with you about the practice that engages openess to experience in regards to someone who has completed the process, and I've never felt that ascending and descending the strata was sufficient to do the trick.

One of my main concerns is related to the Bodhisattva vow - that is, how I can help other people to awaken as quickly and with as little effort as possible - which I don't want to reduce to brain changes alone, but which I think are involved. After that it's best to shift to a mode of practice that allows one to integrate the insight(s) deeply, like the one you suggest. The major insight of the model is that concentration and insight leverage each other, and that when the yogi is stuck, one looks to see which one the the yogi is weak in and has them practice in that mode. Does anyone disagree with that basic idea?

Certainly there seems to be room for improvement - I don't see why devotional practices like metta couldn't be included as a third component...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 17 Nov 2012 21:31 #7912

David wrote:
The major insight of the model is that concentration and insight leverage each other, and that when the yogi is stuck, one looks to see which one the the yogi is weak in and has them practice in that mode. Does anyone disagree with that basic idea?

Certainly there seems to be room for improvement - I don't see why devotional practices like metta couldn't be included as a third component...

I like where you're headed with this, David. I think that other aspects could be brought in on the ground floor so to speak alongside concentration/investigation. From a pragmatic perspective in terms of guiding others, typology may have an important role to play in determining the most bang for your buck on a case by case basis too.

I also think that one thing often overlooked in the Prag Dharma scene is the importance of View. Methods (both spiritual and mundane) are deployed within a basic View about human nature, reality, relationships, and the nature of practice. Avoiding this issue means we will supply a lot of unreflective View, stuff internalized during socialization, or half baked speculation, and our practice will reflect it. I think the openness-to-experience and primordial awakeness views are just as good for beginners as for more advanced practitioners, they just need to be an existential pointing out, not intellectual. On an intellectual level those teachings can undercut the value of practice and of developing capacity. On an existential level, it is just about pointing out the inherent limits of representation and the inherent open-ended completeness of actual experience, which can free the process of developing capacity from being hampered by ego trips of pride, insecurity, impatience, etc. caused by evaluating current experience in light of an imaginary standard. It's a lot easier in my experience to develop capacities from the ground of basic satisfaction with open-ended experience, rather than from a ground of inadequacy and competition.
Last Edit: 17 Nov 2012 21:34 by Jake St. Onge.
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 18 Nov 2012 13:58 #7927

jake wrote:
I like where you're headed with this, David. I think that other aspects could be brought in on the ground floor so to speak alongside concentration/investigation. From a pragmatic perspective in terms of guiding others, typology may have an important role to play in determining the most bang for your buck on a case by case basis too.

I also think that one thing often overlooked in the Prag Dharma scene is the importance of View. Methods (both spiritual and mundane) are deployed within a basic View about human nature, reality, relationships, and the nature of practice. Avoiding this issue means we will supply a lot of unreflective View, stuff internalized during socialization, or half baked speculation, and our practice will reflect it. I think the openness-to-experience and primordial awakeness views are just as good for beginners as for more advanced practitioners, they just need to be an existential pointing out, not intellectual.

Hmnn... It's hard for me to *know* that I have the right View (about reality, nature, relationships, and the nature of practice), and I have a bias against anything that seems like dogma... I can say that I'm decent at the existential pointing though - seems like that contact with me and support on my behalf helped my friend George as much as the technical pointers I provided...
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 18 Nov 2012 18:35 #7937

Yeah, I'm not sure what standard one would judge 'right' view by ;) But I do think bringing views into consciousness is better than leaving them in background. One way to describe awakening could be bringing pre-conscious views into the light, and testing them against experience, no?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 19 Nov 2012 10:03 #7947

jake wrote:
Yeah, I'm not sure what standard one would judge 'right' view by ;) But I do think bringing views into consciousness is better than leaving them in background. One way to describe awakening could be bringing pre-conscious views into the light, and testing them against experience, no?

Now I like that idea a lot! Tell me more!

The other idea I had concerning a better model was that this model addresses two of the "spiritual faculties" and "seven factors of enlightenment" and shows their relationship (concentration and insight) - what about working the other factors and faculties in somehow?
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Re: Pros and Cons of the 20 Strata of Mind Model 19 Nov 2012 17:57 #7959

Yeah, exactly, we are definitely re-inventing the wheel here-- I had the same thought r.e. the five / seven factors and other traditional lists. I guess it would be cool to look at how to existentially point out what is meant by those factors.

Let me tie this in with the description of awakening as unearthing implicit views and testing them against real-time experience. I'll elaborate a bit on that. First let's say we have implicit and explicit views, right? We already have an 'understanding' of how all this stuff (life, the universe and everything) works before we are developmentally able to reflect on these questions. Right? This pre-reflective understanding is deeply embodied in how we live our lives. These root views-- some are supplied by socialization, some are genetically coded in our species. But they share this quality of being operative before they are conscious.

Now, I say, at the very same time alongside these deeply conditioned but implicit dualistic conceptual views, we also have an implicit non-dual, non-conceptual View (buddha nature). All of our teachings like the 'factors of awakening' point at facets of this natural state that, on some level, already informs how we move in the world. Many people can, with a good pointing out, even have a really profound sudden insight into that natural state-- so why doesn't it stick? My own experience was one of having regular spontaneous 'hits' of that natural state, of various facets of it. This question of "why doesn't it stick?" became very compelling for me personally. As I began to see that I had, alongside this implicit awakening-nature, at a shallower level all these ignorant views that lived implicitly but informed my way of being, I eventually came to a regular intensive practice.

I became very motivated to examining my experience and checking these basic dualistic views against experience in my daily life and entered a pretty intense A&P phase through this daily life inquiry. Once the dark night hit in earnest after a few months of this, I started to sit intensively for the first time in my life with consistency, and within a few short months I had entered the stream irrevocably. Sitting was then and still is for me basically about unearthing these implicit dualistic views and checking them against experience.

Because I was already intellectually clear on the nature of some of these core views about identity and their relationship to the existential felt-sense of the natural state unencumbered by them, it was pretty straightforward to just sit through the energetic transformations (4th nana, dn, eq) which arose as a result of continually checking these views against real time 'live feed' experience. I was not surprised or disoriented by the profound shift in identity that occurred after stream entry, and only spent a few weeks after that stuck in transpersonal states. Examining *that* dynamic led to unearthing deeper implicit views about identity and further energetic adjustments to letting them go, and so on. At this point I'm fascinated by the way even deeper instinctual views condition energy-flow-patterns in the subtle body and from there affect thought, speech and behavior. But it's just a deeper iteration of the same process; 'checking' the way mind-activity grasps at experience according to models and standards, thereby distorting energy-flow, thereby affecting body, speech and mind in a negative way, in contrast to mind's natural state in which it is wide open and body speech mind and energy flow naturally, like weather, self-organizing and unimpeded by superimposed conceptual views.

Oh, and also this admittedly conceptual model of how this awakening business functions also offers a description of how different approaches to awakening can both work. On the one hand, 'You' as an ego can employ things like 'investigation' and 'concentration' to 'your' experience to deconstruct it, eventually leading to a point where one's path needs to diverge orthoganally at right angles to how it has proceeded up to that point, since along that path there has always been an unquestioned 'practitioner' doing the practice. Other modes of practice rely on pointing out primordial 'insight' and 'concentration' and all these things as simply facets of the natural state. Merely appreciating them accelerates the unfolding of the path in this case; the path practices the practitioner in this case, rather than the other way around. Both modes work, with the caveat that as far as one goes as a 'practitioner', eventually 'the practitioner' has to become the object of the practice. There's no escaping that it seems :)
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