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TOPIC: what else is there

what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:25 #3739

One thing that meditation is supposed to do, I think, is help us distinguish what we are actually experiencing from the stories we tell about it. Of course to tell someone else about what we experienced, we have to tell a story, so it's a bit of a paradox.

But for example, you might be sitting and there is some pain in your knee. The only real fact is that there's some pain in your knee. But probably following right on top of that is "that damn knee surgery I had three years ago, it's always bothering me, why didn't they fix it; this makes it so hard to meditate; I should sit in a chair". That's a story. It's not a lie, but it's a story, and it's not what you just experienced, which was simply "pain". In that sense the mind is tricky, because it loves to narrate and talk and interpret and guess.

If we just pay attention to the moment, to the raw sensory data, there's just light and colors, noises, temperature, pressure, vibrations. There's not even "a car just drove by and the sun is shining on the trees and it's so hot in here and I can feel the cushion under my rear" - all that is already another story.

So part of the adventure of practice, I think, is to see how far under the stories we can look. I find it kind of fun, anyway.

(A swallow just flew into my house!!! It's dark out. It must have been confused by the lights. It went back out, thank goodness.)
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:51 #3740

Sure thing, Ona.

Until recently (maybe the last month or so) I had be going back and forth between two "views".

The first one borrowed from the Theravada commentaries, which teach that nibbana is an "unconditioned element" that supports a "supramundane consciousness", much in the same way that mundane elements are said to support mundane consciousness (eye, ear, nose, taste, touch, and intellect). The cessation moment occurring at end of the progress of insight cycle from this point of view could be interpreted as the mind's eye (consciousness) "turning" to cognize this unconditioned element, nibbana. This is a purely transcendent view, in that the goal seems to be to get there and stay there.

The second is the nondual view taught by the latter Buddhist schools, which we are all familiar with. The Ultimate reality is cognizant emptiness, which is present here and now, and all phenomenal appearances are but the expression of this reality. I grew familiar to this view and its practice for quite some time, finding it very worthwhile and fulfilling. And yet, something kept nagging me about the other view. Was this awareness supported by an unconditioned element, or was this awareness itself the unsupported unconditioned itself? That's what I felt I had to figure out.

In order to do so, I had to build up my concentration. I had to practice spending enough time in cessation to investigate what was going on there. I spent lots of time balancing relaxation with conscious alertness; basically witnessing while drifting into subtle and very subtle states of consciousness. From the state of formless cessation (deep dreamless sleep, but while awake - hard to explain), there had to be a recognition of which was lasting: awareness or the formless state. Basically, I waited for one of them to give way.

What became clear, in about as quick a moment as imaginable, was that if either subject or the object was the lasting unconditioned nature, it couldn't anything but the subject. The subject “knows” the object. That was part of the shift. Then, a funny question flashed in: "How can I be aware of what I am separate from? What I am not also?" I'm not sure of the relevance of the question, for that didn't seem to be what mattered, so much as the quality of mind from which the question as able to arise (“don’t know” mind). Awareness let go of the state, and the confusion lifted. By letting go of this last and most subtle object, I not only became none of them, but also clearly apprehended the not-two-ness of ALL of THIS. Awareness of the fullness of the realm of form returned, but the knowledge of the way things are remained in place. That's how I was able to taste and know.

Of course, this didn't turn me into the Buddha. It just cleared up a lot of confusion that had been troubling me. Practice has nothing to do with seeking anymore, and everything to do with bringing awareness into this lived experience so as to uproot the remaining conditionings that bring suffering to this life. That, I hear, can take a long time ;-)

Also, after reading this you can probably see why I liked the “Pointing the Staff” Dzogchen instructions I posted the other day. It “points” directly to This.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 21:57 #3741

In my legal work around vehicles I was surprised at one point to find out that there isn't one "thing," one object that you can hand to someone that is called a "brake." There is no "brake." There are shoes, rotors, cylinders, cables, pads, discs, calipers, hoses, etc. However, when all the conditions are right, all these things together will do something called "braking." And, braking is certainly a real thing that happens, fortunately.

Now, I can give you a car, I can hand you a pencil, or a book, even, but I can't give you a brake.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:03 #3742


In my legal work around vehicles I was surprised at one point to find out that there isn't one "thing," one object that you can hand to someone that is called a "brake." There is no "brake." There are shoes, rotors, cylinders, cables, pads, discs, calipers, hoses, etc. However, when all the conditions are right, all these things together will do something called "braking." And, braking is certainly a real thing that happens, fortunately.

-michaelmonson

And then there's the Heart Sutra version:

In emptiness there are no shoes, no rotors, no cylinders, no cables, no pads, no discs, no calipers, no hoses, and no "breaking".

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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:04 #3743

@mike - i had no idea. good one.

@jackson - does that explain the ponderings you used to post about whether the language people use to describe practice and views affected how they experienced enlightenment? I was always under the impression there must be some underlying motive for that ponder, because it just confused me. It makes more sense given the story you just told. I have to say I don't understand the first perspective very well, as it is not very familiar, but I hear what you are saying and understand how exploring these perspectives could be quite a mindful to grok.

Thanks.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:05 #3744

Would you all excuse me if I have a girly outburst of group-hugginess: I totally love you guys! Hugs!!!

:)
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:16 #3745

Ona, girly outbursts and group hugs are totally welcome! Right back atcha.

And yes, this has to due with my belaboring of the point that language reall does affect experience. Sometimes the affects are somewhat insignificant, such as when it's just about minor differences due to peculiarities that do not detract from the deep features. But, sometimes language can, and DOES, act as a sticking point.

Not everyone will seek out different ideals of awakening and put them to the test. A lot of people just seem to know what they're after. For whatever reason I heard a lot of people saying a lot of different things about all of their various ideals, and I just had to test the ones that seemed significant. I still do this. Though, it would seem that the biggest issue for me has been resolved at a very deep level. On to more productive things!
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:24 #3746

Allow me to post this appropos quote from Roaring Silence:

Enlightenment is possible at any moment. The intrinsic spaciousness of being is continually reminding us of enlightenment. However, from the disconnected perspective of individuation (divorced from oceanic experience), this reminder is interpreted as a threat to our existence. This could be called divorced individuation. Divorced individuation creates the unsteady illusion that fixed definitions are viable. The illusion flickers like an old motion picture. It is possible to catch glimpses of the white screen, but they are conveniently blurred, and the flickering frames melt into each other. There is an unspoken agreement not to suspect that the images seen are not really there. The idea is that we forget that we are watching an intangible that is being projected onto a screen. There is an illusion of solidity, permanence, separation, continuity, and definition, and we relate to that as being real. When watching a film, we have to pretend it is real in order to enjoy it. We have to enter into what is known as ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’ With regard to our sense of being, however, we engage in actively determined and continuously prolonged withdrawal of disbelief.

Because of our dualized reactions to the sheer naked presence of being, extraordinary games play themselves out as the texture of our life experience. We act as if there were no connection between what we are and where we are—as if there were no connection between ‘I’ and what this ‘I’ has come to describe as the external world. This samsaric speculation propounds a philosophy in which connections are made or broken on the basis of choice—as if we were completely free to insulate ourselves from whatever we regarded as uncomfortable. In terms of the experience of existence, this samsaric philosophy often collides painfully with the natural philosophy of reality. Within this natural, free condition of reality, everything subtly affects and changes everything else—it is not possible to set up a private reality within that without creating a staggering array of complexities.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:26 #3747

Is it possible for me to try the opposite experiment? How would it work?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:34 #3748


Allow me to post this appropos quote from Roaring Silence:

Enlightenment is possible at any moment. The intrinsic spaciousness of being is continually reminding us of enlightenment. However, from the disconnected perspective of individuation (divorced from oceanic experience), this reminder is interpreted as a threat to our existence. This could be called divorced individuation. Divorced individuation creates the unsteady illusion that fixed definitions are viable. The illusion flickers like an old motion picture. It is possible to catch glimpses of the white screen, but they are conveniently blurred, and the flickering frames melt into each other. There is an unspoken agreement not to suspect that the images seen are not really there. The idea is that we forget that we are watching an intangible that is being projected onto a screen. There is an illusion of solidity, permanence, separation, continuity, and definition, and we relate to that as being real. When watching a film, we have to pretend it is real in order to enjoy it. We have to enter into what is known as ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’ With regard to our sense of being, however, we engage in actively determined and continuously prolonged withdrawal of disbelief.
Because of our dualized reactions to the sheer naked presence of being, extraordinary games play themselves out as the texture of our life experience. We act as if there were no connection between what we are and where we are—as if there were no connection between ‘I’ and what this ‘I’ has come to describe as the external world. This samsaric speculation propounds a philosophy in which connections are made or broken on the basis of choice—as if we were completely free to insulate ourselves from whatever we regarded as uncomfortable. In terms of the experience of existence, this samsaric philosophy often collides painfully with the natural philosophy of reality. Within this natural, free condition of reality, everything subtly affects and changes everything else—it is not possible to set up a private reality within that without creating a staggering array of complexities.

-cmarti

Now, here is where I am stubborn (maybe just for now of course): I don't think we are pretending the movie is real. I think the movie is a real thing made up of lots of little things. Each little thing is real, and the experience of all the little things projected onto the screen as a "movie" is also real. We aren't pretending to see a creation of sights, sounds, story, etc. to make the movie thing. Just because it has small separate parts doesn't mean it's not happening. I know this sounds heretical and completely unenlightened.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:41 #3749

When you drive down a desert highway you often see water on the road ahead of you. You really do see the water! And then you get up close to where it was and... where did it go?
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:45 #3750


When you drive down a desert highway you often see water on the road ahead of you. You really do see the water! And then you get up close to where it was and... where did it go?

-cmarti

Sure, but if I saw I sign that said, "Lake Tahoe" ahead, and then eventually I saw Lake Tahoe and got closer and closer it would seem bigger and bigger and bluer and bluer and then I would jump in and swim in it. And, even though you could break down the parts of the sign, the words Lake Tahoe, the images in my brain, the molecules and the atoms of the lake all into their separate parts - I'd still get wet.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:47 #3751

Very wet, yes.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:48 #3752

Soaked, even.
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 22:57 #3753

"the images in my brain" ~Mike

Is that where those are? Funny, I'm never looking into my brain when images arise... (?)

Ah, philosophy ;-)
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what else is there 15 Sep 2011 23:21 #3754


"the images in my brain" ~Mike
Is that where those are? Funny, I'm never looking into my brain when images arise... (?)
Ah, philosophy ;-)

-awouldbehipster

Again, I thiink I may be over my head here (pun intended) but, doesn't it all occur in your brain? Light hits your eyes and then your brain perceives it as an image?
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 01:51 #3755


Again, I thiink I may be over my head here (pun intended) but, doesn't it all occur in your brain? Light hits your eyes and then your brain perceives it as an image?

-michaelmonson

That may be scientifically true, but is that what you actually feel? When I see the computer screen, it seems to be out in front of me; when I see the sofa, it appears to be off to the right, just at the edge of my vision. ;)
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 12:59 #3756

I don't think we can say that light hits the eyes and then the brain perceives an image, Mike. I think that's a category error. We can talk about the physical systems involved and only see physical interactions and processes. So light hits the eye from the TV screen, the rods and cones translate those light vibrations into electro-chemical impulses which travel through the brain to specific processeing centers, maybe some of those electro-chemical impulses get shunted down different nerve pathways triggering bodily movement and the hand clicks the remote to change the channel.

There simply is no room in that description for "experience", for thoughts, feelings, sensations or perceptions-- that description is entirely in terms of physical and physiological systems interacting. Since we obviously have experiences and only know about light waves and brains because of sensations, thoughts, feelings and perceptions, I'd say that there is here a pretty big clue that the materialist descriptive system we use to understand brains and the rest of Universe has a glitch built into it. With our current mainstream descriptions it seems like we can either talk about material processes, or experiential processes, or correlations between the two (like when this area of the brain activates, it seems to be correlated with this type of experience).

And if we start from experience, there's likewise no need to talk about brains and other material processes: we just see something there and do something in response to it.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 14:44 #3757

This is the dictionary definition of "sight" and the one that I was referring to:

the process, power, or function of seeing; specifically : the physical sense by which light stimuli received by the eye are interpreted by the brain and constructed into a representation of the position, shape, brightness, and usually color of objects in space



More:

The retina, which is the size of your thumbnail, is filled with approximately 150 million light-sensitive cells called rods and cones. Rods identify shapes and work best in dim light. Cones on the other hand, identify color and work best in bright light. Both of these types of cells then send the information to the brain by way of the optic nerve. The amazing thing is, when they send the image to the brain, the image is upside down! It is the brain's job to turn the image rightside up and then tell you what you are looking at. The brain does this in a specific place called the visual cortex.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 14:54 #3758

Mike, that's true, but it's not the same as how we experience sight. Same with a mosquito bite - whatever the mechanism and function of the mosquito's life cycle and biting technique, all I feel is a pinching sensation followed by an itching sensation. The explanation of it doesn't really matter, in terms of describing what I am *experiencing* at a given moment.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 15:39 #3759


Mike, that's true, but it's not the same as how we experience sight. Same with a mosquito bite - whatever the mechanism and function of the mosquito's life cycle and biting technique, all I feel is a pinching sensation followed by an itching sensation. The explanation of it doesn't really matter, in terms of describing what I am *experiencing* at a given moment.

-ona

I'm not sure how the experience of sight became a point of discussion. I really don't know anything about that. I just mentioned that when I look at Lake Tahoe there are images in my brain of Lake Tahoe and I still think that is true.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 15:55 #3760


I'm not sure how the experience of sight became a point of discussion. I really don't know anything about that. I just mentioned that when I look at Lake Tahoe there are images in my brain of Lake Tahoe and I still think that is true.

-michaelmonson

I was a little bit snarky with my first response to your opinion that images are "in my brain".

In my understanding, and image is an experience of consciousness. It is the interior correlate to exterior processes. Since the image is interior, and the brain is exterior, images are found nowhere "in" the brain. The neurological correlates are "out there" - in the brain. The image is "in here" - within individual subject experience. You cannot equate the interior or the exterior either qualitatively or quantitatively. But, you also cannot say that they are dissociated from one another completely.

Thus, in my understanding, the neurological correlates to an image and the image itself (said it whatever order you like) - exteriors and interiors - mutually co-arise. If it isn't understood in this way, we get stuck in the whole "chicken or the egg" debate. And the answer to the question will differ depending on one's perspective and their particular biases.

So, I continue to contend that images are not found in the brain, because images the interior of a correlated exterior reality, very much "located" in the complex brain. Collapsing interiors into exteriors, or exteriors into interiors, is a HUGE mistake, IMHO, as it fractures and devalues an inseparable aspect of Reality either way.

I'm not saying you have to agree with me. But, I hope this at least makes some sense.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 16:11 #3761

It does make sense. Meditation is about our experience of the world, not the anatomical, chemical or physical science of our experience. Keeping those two things separate, as you say, will serve to keep confusion to a minimum.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 16:28 #3762



I was a little bit snarky with my first response to your opinion that images are "in my brain".

In my understanding, and image is an experience of consciousness. It is the interior correlate to exterior processes. Since the image is interior, and the brain is exterior, images are found nowhere "in" the brain. The neurological correlates are "out there" - in the brain. The image is "in here" - within individual subject experience. You cannot equate the interior or the exterior either qualitatively or quantitatively. But, you also cannot say that they are dissociated from one another completely.

Thus, in my understanding, the neurological correlates to an image and the image itself (said it whatever order you like) - exteriors and interiors - mutually co-arise. If it isn't understood in this way, we get stuck in the whole "chicken or the egg" debate. And the answer to the question will differ depending on one's perspective and their particular biases.

So, I continue to contend that images are not found in the brain, because images the interior of a correlated exterior reality, very much "located" in the complex brain. Collapsing interiors into exteriors, or exteriors into interiors, is a HUGE mistake, IMHO, as it fractures and devalues an inseparable aspect of Reality either way.

I'm not saying you have to agree with me. But, I hope this at least makes some sense.

-awouldbehipster

No, it makes no sense to me. You guys must be operating at some other level either scientifically or insightwise. Like this -- "because images the interior of a correlated exterior reality, very much 'located' in the complex brain." -- I have no idea what that means. There is a thing inside my head called a brain. In that brain light is processed into images that make up what we call "sight," plus, there are all kinds of other images conjured up in that grey place by imagination, by dreams, in that moment described by Mahasi Sayadaw just after a sensation. The brain is where it all happens, right?

Well, I think you are saying ... WRONG, and this does surprise and shock me quite a bit. But I'm open to finding out more about this.
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what else is there 16 Sep 2011 16:41 #3763

@jackson - I was following the discussion until your post, I'm afraid. so I'll have to raise a hand here and say... What????? Can you repeat that in tinier words? :D
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