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TOPIC: what else is there

what else is there 15 Sep 2011 15:26 #3714

I swear this topic has come up half a dozen times before on this forum - whether there is "anything else" beyond conditioned phenomena. I didn't find one of the old threads to revive, so started a new one. I don't recall why exactly the subject was controversial, though perhaps it is, or maybe the discussion was more about what one has/has not (yet) perceived.

I stumbled on this article, via twitter, that seemed to address the subject usefully:

http://zennist.typepad.com/zenfiles/2009/04/beyond-the-three-marks.html

Thoughts?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 16:19 #3715

I like some of the new (to me) terminology: disturbance for dukkha; and also, perturbable.



Otherwise, the essay is somewhat odd to me. (what follows is me exploring but don't take it as what I am convinced is true) I don't see how the three marks are something that one sees or perceives and is thus burdened by. One realizes by watching things unfold that that there is something true about life that we decide to call the "three marks of existence" and seeing it might free things up. The three C's aren't objects that one sees, they are names for something we are thinking about. The more intimate one is with this truth the less one suffers. But even that process is subject to the three characteristics.



Now, this "other shore" he or she talks about isn't a place or a thing either, it is just that sometimes there can be a "synching up" of awareness and objects and stuff stops in a way. But the entity/person/body/thing is still there, still subject to the three marks.



Still, though, I'm fascinated and totally confused by all this and looking forward to reading other people's ideas.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 16:54 #3716

I liked "perturbable" too. :)

To an extent anytime we use words we are "thinking" and naming things, but we also have to communicate with each other, so that is a limiting thing. For me, the 3Cs are a concept, but also an experience. For example at a point after some time meditating I could say, yes I see a thought or sensation comes and then it goes, and it comes and goes by itself ("I" didn't make it happen, thus "not me, not mine"). And one can always look at this level - when some guy bumps you on the subway and you have a moment of annoyance, that just arises and passes away by itself; when you get cut off in traffic and your foot slams on the brake - that just happens by itself - reflex, instinct. The story telling we do to explain it (I was going to run into him but I decided to hit the brake, I was going to punch him in the nose but decided to let it go, etc.) is added a moment later, and is just thoughts, which also just arise and pass away by themselves.

Then at a deeper level, after much more meditating, it was not even thoughts or sensations at a gross level (a thought about making dinner, an itch on my leg) but like a level below that, a stream of pulsing vibrations each arising and passing away by itself, like an endless stream of stuff manifesting and vanishing, before it even coagulates enough to have a description (itch, dinner) attached to it. And that perception is tied to a very relaxed but close attention to the moment, to all the senses at once, allowing this sheer flow of sensation to just sort of wash along.

So that's how I experience them, and in that sense the 3Cs are not just names for things, but a description of actual experience, for me at least.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 16:55 #3717

I find that essay to contain a really critical POV in regard to the distinction of seeing ONLY the 3 characteristics, or seeing something else. A major point of the practice, end game-wise, is to see something else as described therein:

"... they observe the three marks of finite existence (trilaksana) but they also see, in a matter of speaking, a perfectly empty field devoid of everything but nevertheless substantial. And when an awakened one views this empty field, they know they are this—not the temporal body falling under the category of trilaksana."
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 17:07 #3718

I feel like my posts are going to start sounding like a broken record, but oh well.

It is my understanding that the Three Marks are not intended as Universal Truths to hold or be held to with regard to the totality of Reality. The early Buddhist scriptures make this abundantly clear.

The Three Marks are included in a strategy leading to release from suffering. The causes are explained in detail in the teachings of dependent co-arising, which describes the seemingly endless patterns of feedback loops within a very complex system of becoming. Using the a mode of awareness which turns back on the process of mind, rather than being anchored in them, is what allows this complex system to come into plain view. Once we can "see" it happening, recognizing any one of the "links" or "loops" and subsequently noticing that ignorance is what allows it to perpetuate, we can then apply a strategy for breaking the cycle.

Seeing any of these processes from a transpersonal point of view, seeing any one of them as anicca, dukkha, and/or anatta, works to introduce wisdom into the system as a means of counteracting the ignorance. Keep this up, and the system literally falls apart - which is what we know as "cessation".

Whatever reality exists for us outside of this system is not adequately described in terms of self or other, because it is brought about through a system that is utterly beyond the mundane view. Thus, the early Buddhist teachings refer to that which is left after the collapsing of the samsaric system of "nibbana" (i.e. unbinding, going out). It doesn't make sense to apply the Three Marks to the unconditioned, to experience-unbound... at least not within this particular teaching.

That's not to say that I think this particular way of describing the process is the only way out of the samsaric system. Nor do I think that anyone who describes the unconditioned as "True Self" or "Awareness" or whatever is wrong. But the Three Marks aren't really a part of their system, so it doesn't make sense to apply it to them; that is, unless we have firsthand experience working with the teachings of multiple paths, from their own point of view, all the way through to some kind of completion or fruition.

Roar. (haha)

-Jackson
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 17:14 #3719

"devoid of everything but nevertheless substantial" -- totally beyond me, makes no sense at all. But, there are people who I respect for whom it does make sense, so I am open to the idea that such a thing might be true and I just haven't gotten to the point of understanding or seeing it yet.

At this point I really think that perception/awareness is located in my brain and when my brain goes away (when I die) this Mike Monson thing will stop perceiving and being aware of stuff. However, the effects of my actions and thoughts will continue for a while and then eventually die out/fade away. The trick of all the stuff coming together moment to moment making me think I am me will no longer work.

I don't think there is anything behind the curtain.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 17:18 #3720


I feel like my posts are going to start sounding like a broken record, but oh well.
It is my understanding that the Three Marks are not intended as Universal Truths to hold or be held to with regard to the totality of Reality. The early Buddhist scriptures make this abundantly clear.
The Three Marks are included in a strategy leading to release from suffering. The causes are explained in detail in the teachings of dependent co-arising, which describes the seemingly endless patterns of feedback loops within a very complex system of becoming. Using the a mode of awareness which turns back on the process of mind, rather than being anchored in them, is what allows this complex system to come into plain view. Once we can "see" it happening, recognizing any one of the "links" or "loops" and subsequently noticing that ignorance is what allows it to perpetuate, we can then apply a strategy for breaking the cycle.
Seeing any of these processes from a transpersonal point of view, seeing any one of them as anicca, dukkha, and/or anatta, works to introduce wisdom into the system as a means of counteracting the ignorance. Keep this up, and the system literally falls apart - which is what we know as "cessation".
Whatever reality exists for us outside of this system is not adequately described in terms of self or other, because it is brought about through a system that is utterly beyond the mundane view. Thus, the early Buddhist teachings refer to that which is left after the collapsing of the samsaric system of "nibbana" (i.e. unbinding, going out). It doesn't make sense to apply the Three Marks to the unconditioned, to experience-unbound... at least not within this particular teaching.
That's not to say that I think this particular way of describing the process is the only way out of the samsaric system. Nor do I think that anyone who describes the unconditioned as "True Self" or "Awareness" or whatever is wrong. But the Three Marks aren't really a part of their system, so it doesn't make sense to apply it to them; that is, unless we have firsthand experience working with the teachings of multiple paths, from their own point of view, all the way through to some kind of completion or fruition.
Roar. (haha)
-Jackson

-awouldbehipster

That's weird, I must either be missing a lot of your posts or misreading them because I haven't seen you as saying the same things over and over.

But, anyway, thanks for this post -- especially the second paragrah. that was very clearly stated.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 17:33 #3721

Thanks, Mike.

What I hear myself continually saying is, "Not-self is more of a strategy than a doctrine!"

Basically, my position has long been that looking for a separate self is counter productive in terms of the supramundane view; i.e. the Four Noble Truths. The mode of awareness developed and applied to noticing the workings of the mind is not concerned with self or other. It's capable of recognizing unwise views as the cause for the arising of suffering. It is itself beyond "self" to begin with.

It's a path of clearing up delusion, not of finding or not finding a self. Anyone developed to the stage of formal operational cognition (which can begin as early as age 11, but develops much further than that) can train their capacity to "look within" - to observe the contents of consiousness, to think about thinking, meta-cognitive awareness - and see that they don't exist somewhere in there. That first act of looking may start someone on the path, but it is in no way to be considered the path's end.

We look at the way the mind work, and how deeply rooted patters of bodily and mental habits spins our experience into turmoil. We then learn how to introduce wisdom into this system of chaotic ingnorance, until the system can no longer hold itself together.

We observe the system. We recognize habitual ignorance, and we intentionally introduce wisdom as an alternative, which become new habits, leading to system collapse. This all necessary happens from a perspective outside of any sort of enduring "self-view", even if only temporarily.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:09 #3722

This is mostly @Jackson... does it seem to you that there are two basic strategies in different meditative/dharma traditions? One is to pay attention to all the "stuff" - sensations, thoughts, perceptions closely until they start to unravel, revealing their insubstantiality; the other is to try to pay attention to the "not stuff" - finding that peace, awake awareness, gap, whatever it might be referred to, which is in the interstices between stuff, and keep paying attention to "that" until it becomes clear that the "stuff" is just dirt on the window?

I'm not sure about this, just exploring. It seems some methods focus more on one side of the coin, some more on the other (to the extent such a division is even useful - though perhaps it is for the sake of practice).
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:31 #3723

That strikes me as the core difference between the Theravada and Mahayana.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:38 #3724

Yo, that's some TF shit!
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:39 #3725

@mike - ""devoid of everything but nevertheless substantial" -- totally beyond me, makes no sense at all."

I once did a workshop with a Tibetan lama. As they commonly do we had to do a complicated visualization of a deity on a lotus and so on, which she described in detail. Then after a long while we had to "disassemble" the visualization until only a little letter or dot of light was left (I don't remember exactly) and then let that shrink and shrink until it disappeared.

"But where does it go when it disappear?" I asked.

She grinned. "Primordial Awareness."

Though a larger part of the exercise was a metta practice using the deity as a source/focus for compassion, part of the purpose of the exercise is noticing this moment of the cessation of the image... its disappearance... when a thought passes away, or a sensation vanishes, what's left? Even if "nothing" is left, what a strange nothing, that things can appear from it, stay a moment, and then vanish back into it. It is a nothing that contains the potential to manifest things - thoughts, phenomena, sensations - and reabsorb them? A nothing that must be everywhere, underlying everything? That's the idea the exercise points to, and in a way I think that's what Jackson's phrase points to also, as I understand it.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:49 #3726

Ona, yes. Those are probably the two most common "flavors" of insight practice. The particular surface features of these approaches can be very different. But, what seems to be occurring on a deep level - at least the way I understand it - is this:

1. A differentiation of awareness/subject and objects/processes.
2. An integration/stabilization of the "new" awareness (perspective) with more recently revealed objects/processes.

This process repeats itself many times, but eventually and inevitably runs itself out.

So, whether we take turn attention to subject or object, we're looking at one side of a coin, which of course has two sides at each level. Because language is such a slippery little system, relying on contexts within contexts within contexts, ad infinitum, terms like "self" and "not self", or "permanence" and "impermanence" will mean different things to different people. For this reason, it doesn't really make sense to try and reconcile the traditions without first having practice one of them and achieved some relevant landmark. Until then, it's probably best to stick with one system long enough to gain momentum and see a result... keeping mind that all paths are necessarily conditioned (i.e. not-absolute).

There may be different paths leading up the mountain, but they all pass over much of the same territory along the way.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:52 #3727


Yo, that's some TF shit!

-cruxdestruct

I feel daft. What does "TF" mean?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:53 #3728

Thai Forest?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:56 #3729

This subject seems to have boundless popularity. ;)
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:58 #3730

I should add that even the Buddha of the Pali canon taught that the path leads to something lasting; that which, being timeless, is not subject to the Three Marks:

_____

“When this was said, I said to him, ‘Once, monk, some sea-faring merchants
took a shore-sighting bird and set sail in their ship. When they could not see the
shore, they released the shore-sighting bird. It flew to the east, south, west,
north, straight up, and to all the intermediate points of the compass. If it saw the
shore in any direction, it flew there. If it did not see the shore in any direction, it
returned right back to the ship. In the same way, monk, having gone as far as
the Brahma world in search of an answer to your question, you have come right
back to my presence.

“‘Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four
great elements—the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and
the wind property—cease without remainder? Instead, it should be phrased like
this:

“‘Where do water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing?
Where are long & short,
coarse & fine,
fair & foul,
name & form
brought to an end?

“‘And the answer to that is:

“‘Consciousness without surface,
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of consciousness
each is here brought to an end.’” -DN 11
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 19:58 #3731

It's infinitely interesting ;-)
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 20:37 #3732


@mike - ""devoid of everything but nevertheless substantial" -- totally beyond me, makes no sense at all."

I once did a workshop with a Tibetan lama. As they commonly do we had to do a complicated visualization of a deity on a lotus and so on, which she described in detail. Then after a long while we had to "disassemble" the visualization until only a little letter or dot of light was left (I don't remember exactly) and then let that shrink and shrink until it disappeared.

"But where does it go when it disappear?" I asked.

She grinned. "Primordial Awareness."

Though a larger part of the exercise was a metta practice using the deity as a source/focus for compassion, part of the purpose of the exercise is noticing this moment of the cessation of the image... its disappearance... when a thought passes away, or a sensation vanishes, what's left? Even if "nothing" is left, what a strange nothing, that things can appear from it, stay a moment, and then vanish back into it. It is a nothing that contains the potential to manifest things - thoughts, phenomena, sensations - and reabsorb them? A nothing that must be everywhere, underlying everything? That's the idea the exercise points to, and in a way I think that's what Jackson's phrase points to also, as I understand it.

-ona

The quote I quoted above was something that Chris took from the "zennist" blog that you used to start the thread, right? It's not something that Jackson said.

Anyway, Primordial Awareness (PA) is the thing that I don't get, for sure. If it's "nothing" then, sure, I guess I believe in that, of course -- I'm a great believer in nothing. But if it is, nothing, why give it a name or any significance? So, I think that many people, like the grinning lama probably, think that PA is some kind of something. Right?

Now, that said, it kind of sometimes feels to me when everything has stopped when all seems silent, still, empty, that there is something bigger than me, right there, breathing and it is everything and everybody. But, so far, that just seems like a trick of the mind. So far.

I've had a lot of experiences lately with Rebecca (my Jesus loving wife) in which I've been struck by the power of her faith and the power of her prayers. I asked her last night -- "So, Jesus to you, is a real thing, right? A real entity that exists, named Jesus? Not some symbol, or name that you use to call God, or Love, or whatever?"

She said, "Right. My Jesus is really ... Jesus." This is clear and true and real to her. She has no doubt. What a thing.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 20:48 #3733


The quote I quoted above was something that Chris took from the "zennist" blog that you used to start the thread, right? It's not something that Jackson said.

-michaelmonson
Yes - sorry, I forgot to double check the quote.

Anyway, Primordial Awareness (PA) is the thing that I don't get, for sure. If it's "nothing" then, sure, I guess I believe in that, of course -- I'm a great believer in nothing. But if it is, nothing, why give it a name or any significance? So, I think that many people, like the grinning lama probably, think that PA is some kind of something. Right?

-michaelmonson
Yes.

Now, that said, it kind of sometimes feels to me when everything has stopped when all seems silent, still, empty, that there is something bigger than me, right there, breathing and it is everything and everybody.

-michaelmonson
THAT is the kind of thing we're talking about.

But, so far, that just seems like a trick of the mind. So far.

-michaelmonson
"Doubt" :D But, I always did like the Buddha's encouragement to investigate, experience, and figure it out for yourself.

I've had a lot of experiences lately with Rebecca (my Jesus loving wife) in which I've been struck by the power of her faith and the power of her prayers. I asked her last night -- "So, Jesus to you, is a real thing, right? A real entity that exists, named Jesus? Not some symbol, or name that you use to call God, or Love, or whatever?" She said, "Right. My Jesus is really ... Jesus." This is clear and true and real to her. She has no doubt. What a thing.

-michaelmonson
Been there. I remember a particular time when I just had no faith at all that my practice was worth the effort. What a stupid waste of time. What's this bullshit enlightenment anyway. Some delusion a bunch of people are suffering. Waste of my f-in time. One of those phases you go through. And the same day I went and did an offering to Ganesha, and I thought, how on earth do I have faith in some crazy idea of a god with an elephant's head talking to me, but no faith that there's any point in meditating? Part of the adventure. PS - it's fun to have you back in the conversation.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 20:51 #3734

Mike, your lack of certainty about primordial nondual awareness is commendable. I say this because it is purely, simply honest.

I teetered back and forth on this subject for a while; two years or so, I think. Only recently have I pushed my experience and understanding to the point where I have much more confidence in nondual awareness than I do in its hypothetical non-existence.

I went the "taste and know" route. I really went for it. I tasted, and now I know.

When you really know, doubt may arise but is apprehended clearly. Recognizing this, the doubt dissolves like a drop of honey in boiling water; burnt up like a photo of an ex-lover tossed into a blazing fire.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 20:55 #3735

Hey, thanks, Ona.

I'm kind of in an "anti-practice" phase in which not practicing is my practice, but I can't stop being excited about thinking and talking about all this stuff.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:05 #3736


Recognizing this, the doubt dissolves like a drop of honey in boiling water; burnt up like a photo of an ex-lover tossed into a blazing fire.

-awouldbehipster

Random analogies ftw! :D You cracked me up.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:07 #3737


I teetered back and forth on this subject for a while; two years or so, I think. Only recently have I pushed my experience and understanding to the point where I have much more confidence in nondual awareness than I do in its hypothetical non-existence.

-awouldbehipster

Jackson, can you say more about what experiences changed your perspective, if you feel comfortable sharing that?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:13 #3738


Mike, your lack of certainty about primordial nondual awareness is commendable. I say this because it is purely, simply honest.

I teetered back and forth on this subject for a while; two years or so, I think. Only recently have I pushed my experience and understanding to the point where I have much more confidence in nondual awareness than I do in its hypothetical non-existence.

I went the "taste and know" route. I really went for it. I tasted, and now I know.

When you really know, doubt may arise but is apprehended clearly. Recognizing this, the doubt dissolves like a drop of honey in boiling water; burnt up like a photo of an ex-lover tossed into a blazing fire.

-awouldbehipster

thanks for that Jackson.

Right, I don't "know." Not even a little bit. I think our brains are powerful, tricky things (but they aren't infinite which might mean that some of you know the whole thing and are no longer tricked like I am?). I think life is a constant beginning and ending of stuff, a living and a dying of separate/connected things big and little that our brains give an invented meaning to through self-centered perception as long as there is a functioning brain to do so. So, sometimes, in a relative way, our brains give the meaning "primordial awareness" to some stuff. This is how it seems to me right now. Could be wrong.

Now, this might sound kind of yucky, negative, dry, materialist? But, to me if means on one level (the totally false level of the relative self actually existing somehow) there is really no problem and there never was one so, dude, chill. However, on an organic level, there are still lots of real problems because I am here, I exist and I got needs and wants and instincts and people I love and air to breath and food to eat and skin to keep warm and people to have sex with and a self I love and have a need to nuture, love and protect as well.
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