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TOPIC: "Seeing through" and "what matters?"

"Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 06:16 #6988

Duncan Barford, on his blog, recently posted a very nice dialogue. Go, read it!

I posted the following comment on his blog:
Florian wrote:
Duncan wrote:
After the awakening experience, everything that arises can be seen through. So it really doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter how you react. Whatever that reaction is, it’s seen through.
I'd like to take this out of context, because it is so interesting on its own. By taking it out of context, I am deliberately not commenting on the excellent dialogue presented above. Instead, I'd like to describe something fairly unrelated to the dialogue, which been becoming clearer to me in the recent past.

So much for my disclaimer :)

On it's own, this statement leaves open two things: how long does it take to see through the reaction, and in what respect does it not matter how I react.

In a way the "how long until transparency" question is a special case of the "it doesn't matter how you react", because the transparency is also a reaction. This understanding of "seeing through" was a bit surprising to me, but I think it really is the case.

That leaves the reaction. On a certain level, it doesn't matter how I think or react. Does it then matter if I choose that particular level as a baseline?

It doesn't matter from the point of view from that particular level

It matters hugely from many other points of view.

It is my understanding that "everything" not only includes the miserable states (in addition to the blissful ones), but also all those points of view from which my reactions really matter.

In other words, I can include everything, miserable states and all, into a perspective where they are all included and seen through. That's a nice thing to be able to do. It's even nicer and even more complete to be able to include all those other points of view, the ones where it really matters how I react to what arises, because I can then see how it matters to be able to see through what arises, and also I can see through how it matters.

In other words, enlightenment plus my decent reactions will get me a more decent universe.

Because, otherwise: Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, et al.

Cheers,
Florian
Last Edit: 10 Aug 2012 06:18 by Florian Weps.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 08:08 #6989

I was listening to a talk yesterday between Alan Wallace and Laurence Freeman. I think it was Freeman (I lost track of whose voice was whose) who was saying at one point that awakening never happens to "us" in an individual, private way. It's not about "me me me." Because awakening is (among other things) the moment of recognizing the utter interconnectedness and inclusion of all things. And that recognition of inclusion and joining-together means compassion simply *is*... and in its practical expression, compassion is about doing the right thing, generosity, love for one another, supporting and helping those in need, etc. etc. Oh dear, yes, all those ooshy gooshy, new agey, girly nice things.

(eta: your post reminded me of that; it is a strange thing, though, because there's a tendency (or phase?) of practice when one is so focused interiorly that it seems impossible to even think about the rest of the world. thus perhaps why some traditions have concepts or practices like metta practice, alms giving, work practice, "returning to the marketplace" and so on...)
Last Edit: 10 Aug 2012 08:28 by Ona Kiser.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 10:31 #6990

Ona Kiser wrote:
awakening never happens to "us" in an individual, private way. It's not about "me me me." Because awakening is (among other things) the moment of recognizing the utter interconnectedness and inclusion of all things. And that recognition of inclusion and joining-together means compassion simply *is*... and in its practical expression, compassion is about doing the right thing, generosity, love for one another, supporting and helping those in need, etc. etc. Oh dear, yes, all those ooshy gooshy, new agey, girly nice things.

I don't buy it. And there are enough counter-examples (I mentioned two), so I'm not idly speculating either.

The thing is, practical expressions of compassion are reactions (to compassion), just like every other reaction - it doesn't matter what the reactions are, and they are seen through...

Which is why I think that the other perspectives are just as applicable to enlightenment, and restricting one's awakening to the perspective that sees through everything that happens, is incomplete.

Those two guys I mention have or had deep realization, I hear. They also deeply hurt many people, I hear. Spin it how you will, there is only one perspective which will let you reconcile these two facts. That's not good enough by a long shot - that's a very rickety enlightenment if it's only enlightenment when viewed from a particular perspective. A kind of Hollywood movie-set enlightenment: you have to stand exactly here or you'll see there is nothing beyond the face of the buildings.

If it's not also about me, me, me, and you, you, you, and them, them, them, but only about god having a good time with itself, it's shoddy work. Recognizable, but severely lacking, incomplete.

Cheers,
Florian
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 12:04 #6991

Florian, do you think there are any antidotes to enlightenment pathologies?

Funny, I'm almost adult enough to accept the likely truth that awakening can create higher and deeper levels of pathology and so the same old variety of unawakened dynamics happen in different clothing.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 12:45 #6992

shargrol wrote:
Florian, do you think there are any antidotes to enlightenment pathologies?

Funny, I'm almost adult enough to accept the likely truth that awakening can create higher and deeper levels of pathology and so the same old variety of unawakened dynamics happen in different clothing.

Perhaps it's as simple as that. We all bring our personalities, predilections, dysfunctions, etc to awakening. No one suddenly becomes a manipulative ass after, nor was before and suddenly isn't. The manipulative ass can change (maybe) into a thoughtful and kind person, but that is its own process and has to be undertaken as a project of its own? No idea.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 12:51 #6993

Florian Weps wrote:
...

In other words, I can include everything, miserable states and all, into a perspective where they are all included and seen through. That's a nice thing to be able to do. It's even nicer and even more complete to be able to include all those other points of view, the ones where it really matters how I react to what arises, because I can then see how it matters to be able to see through what arises, and also I can see through how it matters.....
[/quote]

But Florian, do you not think of the above (considering the needs and feelings of others) to be "compassion" or "empathy" or some similar term? Feeling-with? That's what I would call it.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 13:37 #6994

Yes, I'd call that compassion. Your Freeman quote seems to imply that compassionate action automatically arises from awakening, which it evidently doesn't.

I'm going on about different perspectives, which will highlight the actions of an awake being in different ways. Actions arising from compassion, i.e. reactions to compassion, will exhibit huge differences when viewed from the different perspectives.

Limiting the perspective on compassion to a narrow, everything-is-equally-seen-through one, is, well, very limited. It is also the only perspective on compassion available to enlightened narcissism or whatever you want to call it.

Cheers,
Florian
Last Edit: 10 Aug 2012 13:43 by Florian Weps. Reason: clarification
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 10 Aug 2012 13:55 #6995

Okay. I can see that, for sure. That one may "feel compassion" but act in a wide variety of ways in response. There are so many moving parts (from our own past experiences to the specifics of the circumstances and all the players in it... it seems impossible to say "when someone does/says this you must do/say this" - is that what you are getting at?

But I don't think I really get what you are working through. (Which if fine! You don't need to continue on the subject if you are not interested.) What I'm getting is it seems like you are trying to work out a discomfort in yourself with a real world reaction or response to a challenging situation, or trying to understand why someone else wouldn't do the same thing you thought was right in a given situation? And people like Adi Da represent for you examples of this kind of complex and difficult situation, or remind you of the circumstances you are dealing with?

Hugs.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 11 Aug 2012 09:55 #6996

Ona Kiser wrote:
Okay. I can see that, for sure. That one may "feel compassion" but act in a wide variety of ways in response. There are so many moving parts (from our own past experiences to the specifics of the circumstances and all the players in it... it seems impossible to say "when someone does/says this you must do/say this" - is that what you are getting at?

I'm getting at how those actions look from various perspectives. They always look the same from the "see through everything" perspective. They look quite different from other perspectives.
But I don't think I really get what you are working through. (Which if fine! You don't need to continue on the subject if you are not interested.) What I'm getting is it seems like you are trying to work out a discomfort in yourself with a real world reaction or response to a challenging situation, or trying to understand why someone else wouldn't do the same thing you thought was right in a given situation? And people like Adi Da represent for you examples of this kind of complex and difficult situation, or remind you of the circumstances you are dealing with?

Yeah, there's a real-world situation which has plenty of moral dilemmas associated with it, and that's why I'm so interested in this subject matter. I see the "see through everything" perspective advertised all over the place, when I'm against preferring it over every other perspective.

The real-world situation involves abusive in-laws and the severing of all ties to them in order to protect those I love.
Hugs.

Much appreciated, thanks!

Cheers,
Florian
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 11 Aug 2012 10:58 #6997

I think I get you.

I hope you have the strength to remain firm in your convictions in this case, and keep steadfastly to the boundaries you need to put in place.

Cheers, Ona
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 11 Aug 2012 11:29 #6998

Hmm, I wonder if I am understanding your use of terms Florian?

My experience is that the transparency of experiences and reactions means, in the moment of transparency, that arising intentions to act have no 'weight' to compel or inhibit behavior. Behavior can occur on many levels-- mind, in the form of proliferating thoughts on a topic, communicative behavior in terms of expressing ideas and energy socially with all the motivations behind that, physical gestures and movements.... But the 'no weight', the twofold lightning of content in translucency, means no struggle. No automatic reactions. 'Following' this transparency as a practice seems to lead to less and less activity. On the other hand, distinctions and differences of all arisings are clearly evident even in that transparency. 'following' that nonduality of transparency and myriad differences of beings and perspectives leads, for me, to a place of active engagement based on emptiness in which for lack of better word compassion becomes the guiding intent. It is a much more challenging practice than disappearing into openness.

This goes to your fine point about 'how long till full transparency in a given moment?'. Just because we have had profound insight into transparency, or shifted our baseline of experience to a point where transparency is virtually always available as a perspective on arisings, doesn't mean it is in fact always equally available (at least in my case). Which points the direction for deeper inquiry and cultivation, the use of resolving deeper into the dimension of openness-- to extend that lightness to more and more of 'my' reaction patterns.

But again, precisely what seems most valuable about the lightening of content (it's transparency *and* weightlessness) is that in that openness, there is plenty of room to consider carefully various perspectives, and how various responses of mine to situations may affect those other participants. It is much easier to listen to someone's concerns without defensiveness, to take into account my own blindness to my own blind spots, and to value communication, as well as to share my own perspective in a non threatening (because non coercive) way, when that transparency is fully or even partially evident.

Personally I find that in authentic lightening there most definitely IS a natural caring, kindness, or positive regard of other beings-- human and non human, animate and inanimate. But it is very subtle, more subtle than the transparency itself. Yet it is there; if I am willing to let it inform my activity, then taking other perspectives into account is natural. It is spontaneous and co-arising with openness, but not in the sense of perfect activity guaranteed to arise (which view can easily become a pathological excuse for spiritual narcissism), just in the sense of a taking-into-account the various natures of other beings. The shared nature of transparency reveals the infinite different natures, including different perspectives of perspective-taking beings. Activity born of spontaneous care feels very different to me than either activity born of impulse and compulsion, or activity born of restraint and deliberateness. Yet this doesn't preclude spontaneous mental activity of taking multiple perspectives into account before acting overtly with word and deed.

I don't know if any of that makes any sense or is pertinent, but it is what came up in response to what you wrote.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 13 Aug 2012 05:02 #7002

Hi Jake

your post makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks!

The "how long..." fine point is actually just about that: tuning into the openness is a reaction like every other reaction, it is not the openness itself. The Tao that can be nailed down is not the real tao, and all that.

"Spiritual nacissism" is an interesting term. How would it differ from plain old profane narcissism?

Cheers,
Florian
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 13 Aug 2012 11:31 #7003

"Spiritual narcissism" is an interesting term. How would it differ from plain old profane narcissism?"--

Costume, vocabulary, conviction that the reality of what's going on/being done is "spiritual" or transcendent of the ordinary, worldly muck and mire; that the spiritual narcissist has access to a higher wisdom and acts from higher motives than "worldly" folk and therefore is not accountable in ordinary terms. I think anyone who has spent much time in the 'scene' has encountered such people, behavior, rationales.

[if I may be so bold as to break into the conversation...]
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 13 Aug 2012 15:52 #7004

You're not breaking into the conversation, Kate! Thanks for your answer.

So spiritual narcissists are not that different from the worldly kind.

Does it have any bearing on their degree of spiritual realization? Enlightened spiritual narcissists?

Cheers,
Florian
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 13 Aug 2012 17:10 #7005

Yes Kate, exactly! I meant the comment specifically in the context of justifying harmful behavior with a spiritual rationale. And Florian, I do think it relates to the authenticity of awakening, but not so much the degree.

I guess I'm making a kind of a bold claim which, now that I've read the article you reference in the OP, I think may be controversial. Nevertheless it speaks to my experience, which is that the kind of transparency being referred to in the article is maybe different from what I'm talking about.

At least, things seem to clarify when we make the strong and clear distinction between a kind of practice (with the implicit practitioner identity that would DO the practice) which is aimed at openness and the openness itself. Because my experience is that when there is a 'practitioner' who can do the practice of recognizing openness (after the fact of a klesha having been activated), then things can easily go very haywire. It's quite possible for this recognition to take a distorted form which preserves certain elements of the realization or authentic insight, while eclipsing others. This seems to be why 'view' is stressed so much in Dzogchen for instance.

For instance in the case of spiritual narcissism or inauthentic realization, it is possible for 'recognition' to preserve the sense of freedom and clarity of the natural state yet failing to appreciate the innate caring nature in regards to others which in my experience is a hallmark of that nature. In this case any words or deeds could feel from the inside totally equal, even though their effect on others' is evidently quite different (some harmful, some helpful). From here, it is perhaps easy to make the leap to rationalizing harmful behaviors as some kind of special transmission designed to awaken the other by challenging their boundaries in some way.

Based on my experience of the difference between the authentic nature and the virtually infinite variety of ways in which it can be appropriated by a spiritualized 'me', I could see how a given individual could become profoundly habituated to experiencing a subtle distortion of that natural state and misunderstanding this 'practice' as spiritually significant when they are really habituating their mind to having a certain kind of equanimity with regards to their own experiences, including their own angry words and hurtful actions. Luckily I've always been too lazy to try to cultivate any of my many partial understandings of "view" and as time goes on and more is let go of naturally, the more the natural (unconceptualized but not necessarily no-concepts-arising) view shines through, and I choose to make my behavior and motivation especially in objectively difficult circumstances the signposts I look to for testing my understanding rather than to special experiences or practices.

After all we are always practicing, always cultivating, something-- in any moment in which there is the appearance of a 'me' and 'mine' of any kind, instinctual, personal, spiritual. I think it is the case that all our ordinary states of mind, even very disturbed ones, are in a very real sense distortions of the natural state. Any time we have bought into a description of life and identity and meaning. Just some of those distortions are more pleasant than others! And we do well to cultivate well rounded, considerate, balanced, nuanced identities.

But there is the difference between 'practice' and the methodless approach of non-doing, which emphasizes a dropping away of the practice of relating to experiences as reference points to prove the existence of an experiencer, right? Whether that alleged experiencer is spiritual or personal, human or animal or divine? Ultimately the naked simplicity of primordial realization is the most profound practice, in this sense, because it undercuts our whole game of trying to manipulate experience. As long as we can be honest when and why we are doing the latter instead, then there seems to me to be a valid path of trending in the direction of awakeness and liberation. But when there is little trust of the natural state, and a lot of 'practice' happening, there is a great danger that we can cultivate a simulacrum of the natural state that merely insulates us from suffering.

But the long and the short of it is, I suspect there are folks.. maybe such as Andrew Cohen, for example.. who have succeeded in cultivating a sense of themselves and life in which it has become extremely easy to justify harmful behavior while perhaps enjoying an inner state of seemingly profound spiritual significance. They may not be faking it, strictly speaking; they may not be "enlightened one moment and not the next" and just covering up or pretending to be awake all the time. They may have simply trained their mind/brain to produce an experience that looks something, maybe even a lot, like awakening from the inside out... but which from the outside looks a lot more pathological.

Because I truly find that authentic openness to be automatically, spontaneously caring about other beings human and non, animate and innanimate, natural and manufactured.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 13 Aug 2012 20:29 #7006

I think you're exactly right, Jake-- and maybe that's why the Zen masters came down like a ton of bricks on people claiming enlightenment experiences, or that they were now enlightened. As if to say, "Enlightened is, as enlightened DOES-- show me!"

And why the teachers I find most plausible all say that enlightenment is not a state and not an experience, do not talk about their own experiences, and do not claim to be enlightened. Once Ming was talking about the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn; every dialog, he said, ended with the student being reduced to "I don't know" and SS saying-- "Keep 'I don't know'; go straight!"

"Knowing" that you are enlightened, and maintaining that conviction and reputation, requires a hell of a lot of effort, better used for other purposes.
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Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 15 Aug 2012 19:56 #7010

Kate Gowen wrote:

"Knowing" that you are enlightened, and maintaining that conviction and reputation, requires a hell of a lot of effort, better used for other purposes.

This hits it on the head for me. I think speaking openly about experiences, insights and baseline shifts in what Steven Tainer calls 'ways of being' are very important in the culture of awakening, because without them there would be no 'culture of awakening' so to speak. But this cuts to the heart of: what is communication?

Is it an occasion to socially establish a group consensus about 'my' identity as 'the enlightened guy' in the room? I mean, Ming and Steven so fucking clearly do not do this! Well, I have not heard a whole lot of back and forth in Ming's free podcasts, but I suspect he is similar to Steven given their relationship-- and Steven is extremely cautious about empowering people who are dialoguing with him to have their own way of articulating their experiences and insights. But he definitely talks about his experiences and insights, although he certainly doesn't claim to be enlightened, which I agree is highly problematic in many many ways.

This to me suggests that communication is an element or dimension of the natural state. It can happen on a spectrum between constrained (fettered?) by various processes of identification-- and communicative manipulations designed to coerce social reflection of identifications-- or on the other end of the spectrum, by a non-possessive non-manipulative intent to authentically share experience and insight about ways of being and their consequences.

Steven's talks of the last year (media.berkeleymonastery.org/steven/, fall 2011 and spring 2012) are very directly aimed at 'Great Change', profound transformations in ways of being, or what is spoken of in the Prag Dharma scene as 'enlightenment' of various depths and varieties. But I guess for me the biggest difference between Steven's approach and the prag dharma approach is that in the former, the high regard for extreme states and intensive meditation regimens, as well as the general Theravada flavor of renunciation and transcendentalism, is totally absent.

Steven's presentation is different, to me, in that: 1) he is not identifying with the natural state and claiming possession of it, as he clearly understands the difference between the natural state and identification processes, even subtle ones which take the natural state for their basis (spiritual identities) and 2) although he is open about the kinds of experiences one can have and the wealth of methods one may employ in 'cultivation' he is extremely honest about the essential pointlessness of 'cultivation' given the natural presence of perfection in experience, as well as being extremely honest about the need for some kind of disciplined approach to becoming familar with all the myriad ways we habitually make things more complicated for ourselves-- i.e, dwell in samsaric modes of identified being. I think the latter is particularly relevant to the Vajrayana or Chan critique of the Burmese Theravada dominated mainstream of Pragmatic Dharma. Because point well taken: the mushroom culture does indeed indulge many many peculiarly Western takes on why the dharma gives me an excuse to continue with all my self-indulgent non-sense, or else seek a kind of salvation from original sin that would purify me and elevate me into one of the elect... And yet, there are better ways of approaching lay life in the modern West as deep practitioners than those ways of life oriented to monastic, celibate modes of practice on the one hand or the cynical rejection of emotional transformation and ethical spontaneity on the other (early prag dharma, i.e., so quick to embrace the notion of 'enlightened assholes').
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Kate Gowen

Re: "Seeing through" and "what matters?" 16 Aug 2012 01:13 #7011

This conversation [about "enlightened assholes"] was what began our online acquaintance, eh, Jake? The only thing I'd add about Ming and Steven both-- Ngak'chang Rinpoche and his junior Lamas-in-development, as well-- is that my entire understanding of what "transmission" is, is based on having spent time in conversation with them. It is both palpable, unmistakeable-- and ordinary, "non-woo" as David Chapman says. It's not magic; it's not charisma.

It's in the obviousness that I am being heard, and the teacher is responding, with the entirety of what the teacher IS. No attempt to prove anything about the teacher's knowledge or status is being made; somehow we all know that "being dazzling" would constitute a great failure.
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