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TOPIC: WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief

WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 14 May 2020 07:56 #112550

I am having a lot of trouble with practice right now, and have really fallen off the WUTYL wagon. I cannot seem to find the time to get this chapter's discussion started, because it is such a pivotal chapter and I can't get it read again. Would someone like to take up the mantle and start that discussion?

For me, the chapter is pivotal because it is all about pattern recognition and deconstruction. A lot of what was discussed really resonated the first time through. But then it goes into some really deep and/or off-putting practices, and so this will be a long discussion, if it can ever get it started. I came to the book because of the Six Realms (on my therapist's advice). The Dakinis, on the other hand, were so off the wall for me that I am not sure what to say, until I read it again.

Anyhow, if someone can start it, I'll jump in on your cue.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 14 May 2020 11:05 #112552

Thanks for your post, even just that helps it get kicked off! I'm going to do some reading..
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 16 May 2020 08:42 #112559

In a way, this is the heart of the book... about 80 pages on dismantling beliefs.

Why dismantle beliefs? Most people are blind to how they are living in an intellectualized worldview that is actually an abstraction. Worldviews aren't inherently wrong, but not recognizing them as abstractions leads to all sorts of problems... because they are always a simplification of the complexity of lived experience. Humans simply cannot help but "explain away" complexity by adopting and believing worldviews. We prefer the shelter and security of worldviews and avoid living with the full intensity and implications of lived experience.

If this was going to be a polemic diatribe Ken would start lashing out on non-buddhist worldviews/beliefs. Instead he focuses first on how a core buddhist belief --- karma --- can easily be corrupted into one of these "safe and secure" worldviews. He points out that karma can often be oversimplified into a belief that there is cosmic justice in the world. Very quickly, he notes, to somehow make this model work -- because every day we experience a lack of justice in the world -- we need to imagine past and future lives to keep the view from conflicting with our actual lived experience. And furthermore, it then can be used to explain away inequities in a culture and discourage questioning of established norms. It can lead to us relying on "authorities" instead of our own conscience, and it can create a psychology where we resist strongly/violently any presentation of events that would call our beliefs into question. So "karma" can be used to create a completely passive worldview dominated by blindness/denial --- pretty much the exact opposite of something that promotes awakening.

The point of practice is to learn to see and know things as they are, not as we would like them to be. To do that, we need to see how habituated patterns rule most of our lives.

He makes an interesting distinction. In the previous section which had to do with meditations on death, the dominant reaction/resistance is fear. In practices that reveal unconscious worldviews and habituated patterns, the dominant reaction/resistance is anxiety and ultimately NAUSEA. We are initially nervous when our belief structures have been covering up our perceptions and things are not as we had thought... but the nausea happens when we realize that we have been emotionally attached to a fiction. "How could I have been so blind, it makes me wanna puke..." Those are my words, not his! :)

A key practice guidance, worth typing in full:

"As you hold different parts of your life in attention, you will observe a range of reactions -- distraction, daydreaming, dullness, sleep, agitation, fear, anxiety, and anger, to name a few. These reactions are also habituated patterns that work to absorb energy from attention.so attention cannot penetrate to what lies underneath. Remember, all the distractions and difficulties you experience in mediation are the result of patterns operating. Hold the reactions in attention, too. Let them be there. Do not try to prevent them from arising. Do not get lost in their operation.

For both the [memories/thoughts] and the [emotional] reactions, let your attention rest on the breath, and then include as much of the material and reactions as you can without losing attention. Initially, you will only be able to include only a little because the feelings triggered are so strong that you will fall asleep or into distraction. Your ability will increase with consistent practice."


Next section: 6 realms
Last Edit: 16 May 2020 10:26 by shargrol.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 16 May 2020 19:23 #112563

I was, and still am, confused by why he brings karma into this, since the bulk of this chapter is about patterns and pattern recognition. Yes, he makes the useful clarification that karma is not about "universal justice" or what-goes-around-comes-around, but how does it relate to the patterns?

Anyhow, I got a good part of this re-listened while doing yard work, so am looking forward to your take on the Six Realms, which remain to me a very useful model of behaviours.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 17 May 2020 06:21 #112564

Yeah -- I think the problem relates back to our earlier discussion of how he lards up the introductory chapters with a lot of ideas, too much too soon. And now I can see that the Karma section that appears on page 40 would be much better in this chapter.

On page 40 he says: Karma is a complex process, but every action conditions a similar action. Repeated patterns of behavior evoke similar reactions from others and give us prejudices on how we perceive and interpret the world. And here's the kicker: the nature of this conditioning process is such that reactive patterns has no inherent dynamic that leads to their dissolution.

(I think in a later chapter he compares it to erosion on a pile of dirt: after the first trickle of rain goes down the mound of dirt, all other erosion is going to follow that path. It's now the path of least resistance and that groove will keep getting worn into the pile of dirt. So basically our traumas and prejudices will continue to have a tendency for re-trauma and more entrenched prejudices, unless we face and fix them.)

With that additional material, I think he's trying to motivate practice by mentioning Karma in this chapter. Unfortunately, he only focuses on the aspect of "don't brush off the idea of karma by idealizing it as some benevolent force that maintains peace, justice, and the north american way" :) If that section on page 40 was added here, it would make much more sense and we would get the message clearly: karma is a MF-er. :) You won't naturally grow out of your reactive patterns. And if you don't apply attention to your reactive patterns, your doomed to suffer the consequences of your psychological baggage until the end of your lived days.
Last Edit: 17 May 2020 06:29 by shargrol.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 18 May 2020 07:55 #112568

Okay, six realms!

But first this message from our sponsor... actually just a bit of trivia: you know the story on p.133 where the guy is adept at attracting attention but he's not in control of it and so when things get slow at a dinner party he broaches a controversial topic and argues with everyone... Ken talks about it as "someone I know" but in one of his online recordings of a lecture... he admits that person was actually himself.

Okay Six Realms! I really find the format of this book confusing because this is just a short "teaser" of the realms without much context about practicing etc. I think the main point here is he is presenting the material to the reader to see if it "resonates". The practice is very self-directed: imagine you are in these realms using examples from your life and spend about two weeks on each realm.

I'm just going to touch on each Realm, using my own words. I'm curious how other people imagine them... To me, both the emotions and the dominant attitude of each realm is important. The emotion is the more visible and big manifestation of the world, when we really buy into "this is how things are". But it's also important to notice that each realm starts off with a prejudice or attitude -- we make an assumption about how things are and go into the situation with that attitude... and sure enough, that's what our relationship to the world becomes.

Hell Realm: The overt emotion in this realm is anger/hate. Either you have hot and explosive anger or cold seething hate. I had forgotten the "neighboring hells" which is basically a manifestation of "hating the hate", you keep fighting your own hate, trying to get away from it, but because you "hate your hate" you bring it with you wherever you go. The dominant attitude is "oppose". If you go into a situation assuming you will have to oppose things, hell is sure to come...

Hungry Ghost: The overt emotion is manifestations of greed, an intense greed that can never be satisfied due to the speed of the world. Either a poverty mentality where nothing is enough and anything needs to be horded, a petty feeling of pseudo-injustice where you can't enjoy what you have, or an intensity of greed that prevents any momentary satisfaction because you need to get the next thing. The dominate attitude is "take". If you go into a situation focused on what's there to take, you are already feeling poor and have an attiude that will blossom into greed.

The Animal Realm: This one is tricky because the reactivity in this world is not very "emotional" in the human sense. (And animals in real life are awesome, so the inherent prejudice against animals kinda rubs my fur the wrong way...) I even had to go online and read a list of 400 emotions to help me put this into my own words.... but here's the deal: the emotions in this realm are things like "obeying, following, nostalgia, resignation, numbness, or being stupefied" -- sort of non-emotion emotions. So an animal will follow it's instinct and often it's instinct is to obey/follow others. This is also the world of debilitating depression, being overwhelmed or confused. The dominate attitude is a very non-clever "just survive" mentality. Doing the least to get by, doing what has worked in the past, not developing as a person because "a leopard can't change it's spots."

The Human Realm: Ah, desire, what an interesting emotion. Ah, the world where there is never a time without a desire and where achieving the desire is so satisfying... for a while. But don't worry, another desire will overtake you soon enough! The form of desire in this world is one that is carefully considered, unlike the greed of the hungry ghost world, humans consider pros and cons, cost and benefit --- we shop for our desires! One way to think of the core human emotion is a bittersweet "frustrated enjoyment". The core attitude is basically idealism -- making things more simple and more better than the reality of the world through a slight bias in the way we conceptualize things. Without this idealism, we wouldn't get completely seduced by our desires. And if we go into a situation with some form of idealism, we'll search out ways to find confirming evidence that proves our ideals, evaluating things against the ideal. Of course, the desire for awakening from desire is the way out of this mess. Clever humans! Traditionally they say you can only awaken in the human realm.

Titans - Wanting to be great!! The dominant emotions are quiet feelings of inadequacy to more obvious forms of jealosy. This is an important world for over-achievers to ponder. Especially the tragic downfall that always occurs. A titan will always fail... because they never stop. They always go past their abilities and lose their investments, health, status, reputation. The dominant attitude is "Achieve". If you go into a situation thinking about what you can achieve by being there... then you are already on your way to being born as a titan in that situation.

Gods/Devas - I am great! The dominant emotions are superiority and pride. The dominant attitude is actually "maintain" -- which is a how the gods always are isolating subtle dukka and trying to push it away. They shop in different stores, sit in sky boxes at sporting events, live in gated communities. The fall of gods is ironic -- they really have no friends because as soon as trouble hits (even in the slightest way) their "friends" isolate them and push them away!

That's it for now....
Last Edit: 18 May 2020 07:56 by shargrol.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 18 May 2020 08:03 #112569

Awesome, thanks Shargrol!
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 22 May 2020 20:32 #112587

When I first heard about "realms", "gods", "titans", and "hungry ghosts", my woo radar really went off. But when I came to understand that these are archetypes, models for how every one of us behaves at one point or another, it made a lot of sense. I think we have have our one or two default modes, that show up more often than not. But it is useful to know them all, and keep an eye out for them

Personally, I was pointed to this because of my "god realm" tendencies, specifically around the "I am right" posture that I take, often. But it is very helpful to be aware of the others, because I can see them too in myself and others I am close to.

That said, I am not sure about the meditations. There is very little guidance here, and maybe that is ok. Maybe you just need to sit with each of these for "a while" and explore how it resonates with you. But really, it that all there is? In his email newsletter, he actually discusses deeper practices around the realms, like literally spending a whole day as though you were a god or titan or whatever. And then spend the next day being the exact opposite. And repeating that for a week. I honestly can't see doing that without being strangled in the process, so maybe it is just as simple as sitting with it.

I find the hungry ghost imagery very provocative: always hungry but with a mouth too small to consume anything. I picture Dementors, for some reason.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 23 May 2020 06:57 #112591

Here's the main "key" to 6 realms (and 5 elements practice) --- you have to do whatever is necessary to "feel" the realm/element. In WUTYL there are additional chapters with practices, but what they have in common is that we have to fully and viscerally feel the realms. It can be really good to waaaaay over-exaggerate the experience of the realm, so that every details is multiplied by 10.

Like REALLY FUCKING HATING AND WANTING TO RIP SOMEONE"S THROAT OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!! in the hell realm. :) etc.

Otherwise, it's simply intellectual. People with an intellectual approach will just have shallow training and will always be "back-analyzing": looking backward at what just happened and quickly trying to diagnose and figure the fix. They can describe the practice in great detail, explain all the insights one should have, etc etc.

But people who work on fully embodying and feeling the realms will have a certain "radar" built into their body and so they intelligently know when the smarmy, entitled, prideful god mode starts taking over their body and they will have experienced many times what happens to a god (the subtle denial of dukka, the pervasive avoidance, the separation from the real human world, the superficial relationships, how the god's ignoring blindness leads to a tragic downfall, and how the so-called "friends" of the god realm will abandon you when times get tough so the whole thing was a joke because here you are with no god realm and no friends either, at least humans will sorta keep their friends in bad times...)... and so when the "superior" attitude starts creeping into the body, the body-mind has been rewired and automatically knows "LOOK OUT!" "BE CAREFUL!" and doesn't fall into the trap. So there is much less tendency to be fully born in the realm.

Obviously the same thing is true for all the realms, the first body feeling of pre-anger, pre-greed, pre-resignation, pre-clinging, pre-ambition...

Again, the intellectual will be slow on the draw. They will only wake up when they are completely born in a realm, feeling things go wrong, and then will search their memory for what it could be... and then will need to fight their way completely out of it. So, even though it seems contrived in a way, this kind of mental rehearsing and visualization is really effective. Just like an grand salom ski athlete that visualizes each turn of the course and evokes how they lean, power into the legs, carve around each pole...

Does that make sense? We're training our body to not be reborn within a second or two.
Last Edit: 23 May 2020 08:17 by shargrol.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 23 May 2020 15:23 #112593

Yes, it does make sense.
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WUTYL: Karma and Dismantling Belief 26 May 2020 15:51 #112603

Just thought I'd mention I'm quite enjoying this book on Spotify. Thanks fo the suggestion!
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