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TOPIC: Random Dharma

Random Dharma 13 Sep 2017 06:47 #107707

Wow, you totally called it [his stink of enlightenment] a while ago! (He's a kinda scary thin. :( )
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Random Dharma 13 Sep 2017 23:07 #107717

every3rdthought wrote:
More on Jim Carrey's enlightenment... he's currently at the 'embarass yourself in public by talking about your spiritual awakening inappropriately' phase :)


2010 ... A&P ...

2017 ... Desire For Deliverance (Hopefully post 1st path??) ... see above
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Random Dharma 14 Sep 2017 00:56 #107718

He's reached the lesser known cousin of the 'roll up your mat' phase, 'shave off your guru beard'... :lol:
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Random Dharma 14 Sep 2017 07:09 #107722

Everything is so empty, including this beard. I'm shaving it off...
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Random Dharma 14 Sep 2017 19:01 #107724

Beard is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than beard... beard is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly beard
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Random Dharma 14 Sep 2017 19:13 #107725

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Random Dharma 16 Oct 2017 08:40 #107898

This is an interesting article about emotions. This research validates the meditative insight that emotions are objects:

BBC Article on Research into Emotion
Last Edit: 16 Oct 2017 19:35 by Chris Marti.
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Random Dharma 18 Oct 2017 13:24 #107909

Oddly enough, I was directed to this video by a member of an astronomy and telescope making group I am associated with. But I think you'll see why I posted it here:

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Random Dharma 18 Oct 2017 13:39 #107910


Thanks, Tom.
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Random Dharma 18 Oct 2017 19:40 #107914

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Random Dharma 19 Oct 2017 15:15 #107925

An Indiegogo project looking for funding: Carving the Divine

Carving the Divine offers a rare and intimate look into the life and artistic process of modern-day Būshi – practitioners of a 1400 year lineage of woodcarving that’s at the beating heart of Japanese, Mahayana Buddhism.
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Random Dharma 31 Oct 2017 06:39 #107959

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Random Dharma 12 Nov 2017 18:42 #108042

The Bully and the Buddhist

"A former schoolyard bully, Jeff Zlotnik found a new identity through Buddhism. A classmate wonders why he changed—and if he remembers the pain he caused."

As someone who got bullied a lot at school I found this article really interesting.
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Random Dharma 12 Nov 2017 18:46 #108043

Funny timing - I just read that article on a flight today!
Last Edit: 12 Nov 2017 18:46 by Chris Marti.
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Random Dharma 05 Jan 2018 08:55 #108290

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Random Dharma 09 Jan 2018 09:34 #108310

Wondermark seems to be on a dharma roll:

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Random Dharma 09 Jan 2018 17:14 #108313

There's a totally fascinating interview on the Deconstructing Yourself podcast--Michael Taft interviews Thomas Metzinger.

They talk a fair amount about VR and it's relationship to emptiness, and Thomas comes up with a really nifty way to describe emptiness in VR terms. Also, he describes how some of the visuals people experience during low-dose psychedelics are actually caused by access to earlier stages of visual processing. There's a good amount about Douglas Harding and how his 'headless' exercises are a shortcut way to get a glimpse of the world without a self in the middle. There's way too much there to summarize.

"Thomas Metzinger and I discuss having moral integrity with yourself, intellectual honesty in the pursuit of spirituality, the overlapping goals of science and spirituality, the possibility of a fully secularized spirituality, neurofeedback and virtual reality, mortality denial, the simulation hypothesis, and a whole bunch more."

"Thomas Metzinger is full professor and director of the theoretical philosophy group and the research group on neuroethics/neurophilosophy at the department of philosophy, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. He is the founder and director of the MIND group and Adjunct Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies, Germany. His research centers on analytic philosophy of mind, applied ethics, philosophy of cognitive science, and philosophy of mind. He is the editor of Neural Correlates of Consciousness and the author of Being No One and The Ego Tunnel.
Show Notes
0:25 – Introduction
2:53 – Interesting times in the world
4:12 – Summary of Thomas’ talk, “Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty”
7:46 – Impact and divided reactions to “Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty”
12:43 – Internal moral integrity: belief formation & authority
17:05 – Needing a teacher, master or guru
21:10 – Surrender, Western enlightenment and the “crazy corner”
24:13 – Getting science to say something interesting about human experience
26:08 – Neurofeedback glasses for walking meditation; taking meditation into life
30:00 – Virtuality and nothingness, consciousness as virtual reality
34:03 – Suchness; spirituality as de-immersion from conscious experience, meditating on artifacts
36:20 – The feeling of being real, transparently and opacity
38:55 – Hyperreality & derealization: hallucinogens, religious ecstasy and seizures
40:42 – VR meditation, getting in touch with virtuality
42:28 – Reaching earlier brain processing stages through meditation or hallucinogens
45:43 – The Ruining Innocence podcast: a half-serious criticism of taxonomies and discussing meditation
49:33 – Thomas’ thoughts on the Arrow of Attention; correlates in neuroscience
53:20 – Mindfulness of inattention and avoidance, pitfalls of mindfulness
56:07 – Discussing Douglas Harding: the Headless Way and immersion; more discussion of the Arrow of Attention
1:00:14 – The self as a visual metaphor; the pre-3D lump of sensations and motor babbling
1:03:23 – Thomas’ recent studies of subjectivity: the epistemic agent model of self
1:09:48 – How it transpires that the Self is not conscious
1:11:34 – Questioning science’s value for practice; the moral imperative of trying to improve contemplative practice
1:15:12 – Thomas’ critique of the perennial philosophy; strategies of mortality denial
1:22:07 – The simulation hypothesis; thoughts in the mind of god
1:25:41 – Is suffering real, and how deep does reality go?
1:29:05 – A hypothetical merging of science and subjectivity
1:31:29 – Outro
Last Edit: 09 Jan 2018 17:25 by Andy. Reason: moar better werds
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Random Dharma 23 Jan 2018 09:06 #108383

"Get high now!? I was thinking of waiting till my husband & son where asleep." - medical marijuana customer

"Aw, honey. Cannabis isn't about withdrawing from your family, it's about altering your perception of them." - medical marijuana shop owner


From comedy show 'Disjointed'. Thought the same could be said about practice.
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Random Dharma 26 Jan 2018 16:00 #108399

Unanticipated and counterintuitive findings on the fear of death among Tibetan monastics:


Participants were told to complete a scale that assesses their fear of death, and results showed that Tibetan monastics significantly feared death more than any other group. They also had no less belief in an afterlife than other religious participants.

This was despite the fact that, as predicted, results showed Tibetan monastics had a lower connection to self than the other groups.
Last Edit: 26 Jan 2018 16:01 by Chris Marti.
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Random Dharma 02 Oct 2018 08:58 #109969

Science is slowly catching up with what all good meditators already know:


The study reveals “a new set of pathways that use gut cells to rapidly communicate with … the brain stem,” says Daniel Drucker, a clinician-scientist who studies gut disorders at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, who was not involved with the work. Although many questions remain before the clinical implications become clear, he says, “This is a cool new piece of the puzzle.”
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2018 08:58 by Chris Marti.
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Random Dharma 08 Oct 2018 09:05 #110001

Long post!

More interesting reading, this time from New Scientist about self-awareness:


The ‘me’ illusion: How your brain conjures up your sense of self

Self-awareness isn't the pinnacle of consciousness - it's just an accidental byproduct of evolution, and a figment of our minds

By Sofia Deleniv

LOOK into a mirror and you may see pimples, wrinkles or unruly facial hair, but beneath the superficial lies something far more interesting. Every time you lock eyes with your reflection, you know exactly who is looking back at you. The sense of self is unmistakable. It is so much a part of being human that we often fail to notice it. Yet self-awareness is one of the biggest mysteries of the mind. How did it arise and what is it for?

Looking at other animals suggests we are not alone in being able to recognise ourselves in a mirror. Admittedly, it’s a short list of species that seem capable of this feat, but it hints at a possible explanation. Self-awareness may have evolved in only the brightest animals with the biggest brains. If so, it represents the peak of mental complexity – the highest form of consciousness.

However, some people have started to question this idea. Now, an extraordinary finding lends weight to their scepticism: one monkey species that was previously deemed unable to recognise itself in a mirror can easily learn to do so. This isn’t simply another name to add to the echelons of the self-aware. The discovery suggests we need to fundamentally rethink our ideas about mirrors and minds.

The hunt for self-awareness among non-humans has been going on for decades. In the most widely used test – the so-called face-mark test – researchers stealthily apply a spot of odourless dye to an animal’s forehead or cheek and then observe its reaction when it is in front of a mirror. The underlying premise is that those with a firm sense of self can acknowledge their reflection and attempt to scrub off the dye.

Most of the animals that have passed this test are considered to be intelligent. They include chimps, bonobos, orangutans, Asian elephants and Eurasian magpies (a member of the notoriously clever corvid family). Killer whales and bottlenose dolphins also seem to recognise themselves in a mirror, although their anatomy means they can’t remove a face mark. This apparent correlation with smarts means that self-awareness has become a sort of proxy for mental complexity. But there are some puzzling evolutionary gaps. Gorillas, for instance, usually fail the test – with the notable exception of the recently deceased Koko – yet our more distant primate relatives, the orangutans, pass it. Also, the self-aware elite contains some bizarre anomalies such as pigeons, manta rays, ants and even a robot.

Some of these findings – particularly with ants and pigeons – are contested. Researchers have tried to explain away others, arguing, for example, that gorillas have mentally regressed since their split from the other ape lineages because they face fewer pressures in their environment. But the recent discovery in monkeys is harder to dismiss.

Last year, Liangtang Chang and colleagues at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, China, released video footage of a small group of rhesus macaques interacting with a mirror. It shows the monkeys contorting their bodies, tugging at their facial hair, inspecting their fingertips and making flashy displays of their genitals, all the while keeping their eyes on their reflections. They are captivated, leaving little doubt they recognise themselves. Yet, rhesus macaques have consistently failed the mirror test. And just a few weeks earlier, the ones studied by Chang’s team had shown no signs that they understood their reflections. What changed?

In fact, there is anecdotal evidence of macaques in the lab showing a sudden interest in mirrors after being fitted with bulky neural recording devices that protrude from their heads. Chang’s team wondered whether the monkeys genuinely lacked self-awareness, or whether they were being held back by a lack of coordination – an inability to link what they saw with internal signals generated by their muscle movements. To test this, they taught the monkeys to link vision and movement by giving them a food reward for touching a projected laser dot. At first, the researchers shone the laser where the monkeys could easily see it, then gradually worked up to shining it in places only visible in the mirror. Fast-forward a few weeks of practice, and they passed the face-mark test with flying colours.

At the least, this indicates that the way we test for self-awareness is flawed (see “Mirror, mirror”). That, in turn, raises the possibility that self-awareness is much more widespread than we think. So, what do we know about the evolution of this prized trait?

Levels of consciousness

Many psychologists and anthropologists hold that there is a hierarchy of consciousness that corresponds with increasing brain complexity. At its base is the minimal consciousness attributed to animals with simple nervous systems. These minds are thought to be permanently adrift in a sea of raw sensory experiences, tossed around between perceptions such as colour, hunger, warmth and fear, with little awareness of their meaning. Few minds are sophisticated enough to experience the world differently – through an introspective lens. Even then, they may have a limited sense of self. Only at the peak of mental complexity do we find minds able to construct a lifelong narrative of experiences centred around an abstract concept of “self” – these are the elite.

What is the evidence for this hierarchy? After all, mental complexity is a slippery concept and, besides, none of us has insight into even the mind of another human, let alone a bat or a beetle. Well, there’s no question that some brains are much bigger and more structurally complicated than others. This disparity is mainly the result of the differing evolutionary demands that animals must meet to survive. For example, the nervous system of a sedentary, filter-feeding oyster consists of just two cell clusters. These allow it to do exactly what an oyster needs to do – control its digestion, and transmit signals from light-sensing tentacles to the muscle that snaps it shut when a predator looms. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, there is one particular demand that seems to have led to the evolution of complex brains and could also have created the conditions for a sense of self to arise. That challenge is dealing with the minds of others – be they prey, competitors or other members of your social group.

According to the social brain hypothesis, developed by Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford, life in tight-knit communities is especially challenging because close relationships hinge on being able to understand what is going on in another individual’s mind. To achieve this, brains needed to evolve from being simply things that experience sensations and thoughts to becoming their observer. To do this, they needed to build a model of a mind, according to neuroscientist Michael Graziano at Princeton University. And once the biological machinery for such model-building evolved, it could be used to represent not only the minds of others, but also one’s own mind.

A model – be it for mind reading, weather forecasting or whatever – usually starts with some assumptions about the factors that contribute to the system in question and their relative importance. It then runs a simulation and, depending on how much the result diverges from physical observations, modifies the assumptions. The model thus acquires an accurate representation of the forces at work, allowing it to make reasonable predictions about the future. “The brain is a model-builder,” says Graziano. “You can’t move your arm properly if your motor system doesn’t know where it is, can’t predict where it will be in the next few seconds, and can’t run simulations about what will happen if it sends out this or that command to the muscles.” And, he argues, the brain uses exactly the same strategy to model minds so that it can interact socially. If he is correct, then what you consciously experience is the simulation.

“Perhaps self-awareness isn’t even a simulation but just a hall of mirrors”

By extension, self-awareness is the conscious state of running that simulation on your own mind. Graziano believes we have no reason to put it on a pedestal. “Self-awareness is not higher-order, or intrinsically more complicated, than consciousness,” he says. “It is another example of consciousness.” A mind is just an object that some brains can model, and so become aware of. Moreover, it is hard to establish whether this ability is associated with uniquely complex biological machinery. After all, we are still struggling to pin down what consciousness looks like in the brain.

Most researchers agree that the brain operates at least partly by generating simulations. However, many disagree that consciousness is a functional piece of the modelling machinery. Instead, a widely held view sees it as the unintended by-product of information rushing through the closed loop of connections that is the brain. Consciousness can’t help existing despite serving no particular purpose, just like the noise emitted by a running engine, which has no bearing on the workings of the engine itself. By this way of thinking, self-awareness isn’t even a simulation; it is just a hall of mirrors.

Such emergent phenomena are common in nature. They give the mesmerising impression of complexity and intentionality, despite stemming from a system whose components operate with no regard for the phenomenon itself. One notable example is the collective behaviour of flocks of birds, which can be modelled using individuals driven by just two opposing forces – an instinct to follow their nearest few neighbours, and to back off if they get too close. Apparent complexity emerges even in Petri-dish-bound bacterial colonies, where individual bacteria automatically respond to chemical signals secreted by their neighbours to regulate their proximity. The structure that emerges has no agency or purpose – it is purely an indicator of the forces at work in each individual.

Similarly, self awareness may be an apparently complex phenomenon that emerges from the brain. However, unlike with birds or bacteria, a mind cannot observe its individual components. It can only glean the echo of billions of neurons responding to each other with electrical signals. The flow of signals is dynamic, rushing along a different set of connections every moment. But some paths are more well trodden than others. In humans, the predominant connections seem to be those used to contemplate the minds of others – the same connections used to contemplate ourselves. What emerges from this is a pattern that seems constant. To you, that is your sense of self, confined inside the Petri dish of your brain.

In other animals, the well-trodden paths in the brain will be different. In bats, for example, it might be those transmitting information from the echolocation clicks used to construct a 3D model of the world. There will be a huge diversity of emergent mental patterns that serve the various survival needs of different species. Looked at this way, there is no clear hierarchy of consciousness corresponding to mental complexity.

Consider the octopus

In fact, some of nature’s most sophisticated minds probably lack a sense of self as we know it. In mammals, those with bigger social groups generally have bigger brains, implying that a sense of self goes hand in hand with intelligence. But some other animals seem to have evolved to be highly intelligent without having had to understand the minds of others.

Take cephalopods – a group of marine animals that includes cuttlefish and octopuses. Having spent years collaborating with marine biologists, philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith at the University of Sydney believes that the particularly large brain of the common octopus is shaped mainly by the unique demands on a soft-bodied animal inhabiting an environment dominated by vertebrates. This challenge might have triggered the evolution of a bodily self-awareness akin to that of primates, but Godfrey-Smith sees a clear distinction between the two. “When one watches an octopus squeeze through a tiny space, it certainly looks [different],” he says. Either way, we can rest assured that if an octopus has a sense of self, it will have very little in common with the “self” that inhabits our brains. It is even less likely to be something we can measure with a mirror.

Indeed, all this makes clear that the best we can hope for with mirrors is an imperfect glimpse into minds like our own. What’s more, if we proceed under the assumption that such minds are the true pinnacles of complexity, then we will miss out on the most beautiful thing about minds – that they are biological machines for adaptation, with contents that can be sophisticated in so many ways.
Last Edit: 08 Oct 2018 09:43 by Chris Marti.
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Random Dharma 09 Oct 2018 13:50 #110002

And while on the topic of self, there is this:

"But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."

Chris became surprisingly introspective. "I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."
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Random Dharma 09 Oct 2018 17:31 #110003

Immediately following that quote from Chris, it was funny to me that the author's reaction was, "That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild." Seems like a pretty important insight about "life" and "the human condition" to me.
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Random Dharma 16 Nov 2018 08:03 #110095

This is a long Vice/Tonic article that hits at the core of what we do here. It focuses quite a bit on Willoughby Britton and her work and mentions books by people we know well. It's about the downsides of serious meditation practice. Nothing new in it, but worth a read:


David had a hunch about what had caused his panic attack: his meditation practice.

He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. He took to it easily. In the first week, he could meditate for about 30 minutes a day, and a month later had a regular practice of two 60-minute sits a day—once in the morning, and once in the evening.
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Random Dharma 20 Nov 2018 20:01 #110105

I've been on a mini Ajahn Viradhammo binge...

Two good videos/talks:

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