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TOPIC: Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous

Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous 24 May 2018 09:25 #109028

I ran across this Twitter thread by Vinay Gupta this morning: https://twitter.com/leashless/status/994730696425070592

I think this is a worthwhile read and worth a discussion assuming anyone here agrees.

Some of the commentary:
Let me say this very clearly: the last stages of the approach towards enlightenment are lethally dangerous. People go mad, people die, people break in ways which ruin the remainder of their lives and stay just subclinical. Even with skilled instructors, this stuff is COMMONPLACE.
Here, there's this "we can have it all in one life" myth: spiritual and financial and personal life success all at the same time, with no trade-offs - a sort of LEAN IN philosophy. Yeah, let me tell you: not if you're going for enlightenment. It'll rip your life off your bones.
My advice to everybody doing meditation or anything vaguely similar: do *the least you can* and still get some benefits, or (if you want to see it through) be prepared to dedicate 5 to 8 years to it full time, and lose almost everyone in your life and most of your material assets

Is Gupta over-reaching here? Is this really the case? I know people can get into scary territory but it is the common experience that most people have THAT bad?
Last Edit: 24 May 2018 09:27 by Chris Marti.
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Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous 24 May 2018 21:08 #109035

I suspect that awakening is really hard and dangerous when life is really hard and dangerous. But beyond that trite tautology :) here's what I see as the danger points:

When enthusiasm for practice becomes indulgent and can become mania,

When concentration starts getting strong and begins to turn back inward and objectifies emotions and thoughts and can create depersonalization.

When the non-tangibility of thoughts and emotions start becoming obvious (dark night) and can create depression/nihilism.

When the "manipulation" aspect of applying a method becomes evident, which can create a profound sense of disillusionment with practice... and ending practice too soon.

When the motivating fantasies of enlightenment itself start falling away, which can lead to a profound sense of anger and despair... and more depression.

None of these will really make you go mad, but they can be pretty tough. Having a teacher (like I had with Hokai) and senior peers (like you were for me Chris) really does help. I think I recounted the story that when Hokai was helping through the last bit of work he basically said, "I'm sorry but this last part can really suck, basically you're going to see that everything you thought this practice was going to give you is just a need you have due to your own woundedness" (those are my words, not quite how Hokai would say it). Anyway, that sort of heads-up can probably make the different between going bat-shit crazy and just enduring the discomfort of dealing with some difficult stuff.


p.s. I chucked at his statement about people being "garbage bags of negative entropy"... mostly because a while ago I was trying to capture the common theme of what I spend most of my time thinking about and it was: the philosophical ramifications of the entropy of this universe.:D
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Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous 25 May 2018 07:22 #109038

I'm going to comment, though my knowledge on enlightement is very limited. :) But a few things came to mind about the post.

You do hear a lot of teachers warning about different stages of meditation and that it isn't what you think you'll be getting. For example, I remember Ken McLeod talking about how spiritual practice hadn't made his life any easier, but actually more difficult. I’ve also had many warnings from my own teacher about the nature and fruits of this path.

For me spiritual practice has been maybe the most beneficial thing I've done in my life. I'm not sure if it has made life easier, but is an easy life a happy life, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure there are difficult times ahead as there have been this far. Some stages of practice have brought emotional imbalance and unskillful action, but I think those kind of things would arise without spiritual practice too as a part of being human.

What Gupta is saying sounds a bit nihilistic to me. I think that spiritual practice will make you re-evaluate your relationship to material possessions and close relationships, but why it would have to ruin your life (that’s what ripping life off your bones sounds to me) is a mystery. I think the concept of emptiness in Mahayana buddhism is very useful for non-monastic practicioners. You don’t need to get rid of things in order to see them as empty. I wonder if that's what Vinay Gupta is referring to talking about Tibetan buddhist propaganda.
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Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous 25 May 2018 08:20 #109043

This thing Gupta brings up seems to me to be an individualized experience. If you had rough awakening experiences that were raw and difficult then you will more than likely think awakening is a raw, difficult process, not for the faint of heart. If your awakening experiences were not so rough, or maybe even smooth and more or less seamless, then you will probably think awakening is relatively easy. This is more or less like everything else in our practice, right?
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Awakening is Really Hard and Dangerous 25 May 2018 09:18 #109045

Yup. And based on his life, no doubt there was all sorts of non-verbal trauma knots that made his particular path volatile, understandably so.
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