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TOPIC: Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book?

Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 08:04 #104489

The title is the question. I'm curious about your ideas, both from the practicing crowd and the post-awakening crowd.

Some background... I was searching around yesterday, visiting all the practical dharma pages on this page:
thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.ee/2011/...-dharma-on-rise.html

I see a bit of a trend... There is a bunch of activity and new sites that many folks created after basic awakening... but then they have a fairly steep drop off in activity and many have been without updates for years. Several folks (ha, no pun intended, but Kenneth is definitely in this group) have started working on books or guides, but many of them seem to be in limbo. I have high hopes for Ron, hopefully the silence on his website means he's busy writing his book.

Perhaps I'm seeing a trend because I'm projecting it. :P My confession is I've tried writing about practice from a bunch of different angles, but I don't quite have a vision for what the tone/content of what a stand-alone book would include. Lots of ideas, but nothing quite is "it". I can see my own motivation for writing a big book slowly waning...

I've noticed that at various times Ken McLeod has hit a wall like this. For a while, he didn't want to write, and most of his output was in the form of recorded conversations from his retreats. Then he simply didn't want to teach. (Which sounds like it is without compassion, but he explains it as he reached a point where talking "about" it felt more like distracting people from their actual experience, so he felt teaching was making it worse for students.) Now his answer was to translate and write commentaries on existing texts.

When I look at the total number of words I've written, it's clear that I'm most drawn to commenting on practice journals. In those cases, the balance between giving "advice" and getting out of the way of the yogi is naturally balanced, because the person is actually practicing. Imagine that! :) The problem with a book is ultimately there isn't a specific path, but rather people benefit from being nudged left or right sometimes... it's not like anyone gets guided down a specific path, but rather they create it through practice, and a spiritual friend can just help them recognize when they are a bit too much toward the extremes on any particular view/attitude/approach.

Lately I've been thinking that "spiritual friend" makes a lot more sense than "teacher". Spiritual friend doesn't take power away from the practitioner the way that teacher-student relationships do. Frankly, I kinda think that's what the buddha actually meant when he said the next buddha would be Maitreya, Metteyya, Maithri. I think the guy was being clever. He didn't appoint a successor and he was saying that in the future "awake teachings" would come from spiritual friends. I'm not sure what implications that has for writing a book, but it seems tangled up in the question.

Hmm... does this give a good context for my question? I'm hoping that people won't be afraid to take this general question and run with it. Please come at it from whatever angle you want!
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2016 08:05 by shargrol.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 09:35 #104490

I think this activity, this practice to awakening process, is by nature one that generates huge energy, first to practice and "get somewhere" and then to excitedly share what we got. The funny thing is that after we get what we got all the enthusiasm passes quickly. That's the story arc of my own experience, anyway. That's why my edited practice journal is here on this site (created in the passion of the hunt during practice) and then nothing else outside of commenting on message boards.

The second thing that comes to mind is, basically, what the heck is it that we're gonna write about doing and getting that hasn't been said before? I feel like if I were to write something it would be the same sort of personal development and awakening story that has been told by countless others. Not to sound mean, or negative, but when I hear "so and so is writing a book" I generally think, here comes another one.

These are my initial thoughts without doing much thinking about the topic, shargrol. I may come back and say more...
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2016 11:02 by Chris Marti.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 14:18 #104493

Shargrol:
The problem with a book is ultimately there isn't a specific path, but rather people benefit from being nudged left or right sometimes... it's not like anyone gets guided down a specific path, but rather they create it through practice, and a spiritual friend can just help them recognize when they are a bit too much toward the extremes on any particular view/attitude/approach.

This topic is sort of like Patrick Bateman's speech about how to simultaneously fix all world issues in American Psycho. Here's my go at it :P

I think the above quote is a core insight for writing a standalone dharma book. A book would have to include enough possible patterns and underlying themes to encompass most of what modern humans experience. It also has to include enough about deep/hardcore practice to acknowledge the fact that awakening is real, and can be objectively measured in degrees. This must be balanced with an understanding of how integration with all the other levels occurs when the mind is understood. From, there the seemingly differing maps of awakening can be (at least partially) reconciled: some measure integration, some isolate certain slices of the spectrum, etc. In this way, differing methods, maps and traditions could be included, without sacrificing the precision required to understand that awakening is real and achievable.

In terms of providing specific methods, a standalone dharma book could summarize different options from preexisting books and list their pros and cons. Dry Mahasi noting works quickly to trigger the Nanas, but causes terrible side effects. Culadasa's 10 Stages are very reliable and stabilizing, but work relatively slowly. Non-dualist or Awareness-based traditions address certain issues with effort and linearity, but may lack technical rigor, or if they have it, their methods may not be appropriate until later stages of awakening. Giving someone the spread of options can help empower them to make their own choice. As Shargrol mentioned, this empowerment would necessarily be a heavy emphasis in a good dharma book.

Of course, every dharma book will be shaped by the personal experience and outlook of the author, which addresses Chris's concern that they can get a bit repetitive. I consider it a good thing that no dharma book can be completely objective or impersonal.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 15:01 #104494

Here's my second thought: what the heck is "ideal" anyway?

When it comes to dharma, due to the infinite variety of human beings and what their personality, habits, psychology and history might be, I doubt there is actually such a thing as ideal. Let alone the changing needs of every individual as the practice develops over time. So.... ideal is, I suspect, a chimera. An unattainable.
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2016 15:02 by Chris Marti.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 18:09 #104496

Ive been discussing this with Jenny who is writing a book. We don't agree on everything. I'm a bit more radical.
I've been working on a framework and its evolving still. As I progress I continue to modify it but its getting there slowly. I need to add a bunch of diagrams but they are still in the process.
A Framework of Awakening

What I want to communicate to others is that there is a way to understand awakening outside any tradition. This is mostly a psychological style approach. The three main things I want to convey is -
1) General theory that covers every step of awakening.
2) Direct explanation of the level specific problem to work on (path or shift)
3) Specific practices that addresses that level of problem
4) Post shift explanation and effects from fixing problem
5) Lots of diagrams, cause I like diagrams.

Hopefully I can be inclusive of most peoples experiences of permanent shifts and can map them accurately enough to allow faster progress.
This is mighty ambitious of me so wish me luck. I also see criticism as a sign that I'm on the right track... ;)
~D
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2016 18:30 by DreamWalker.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 18:24 #104497

Chris Marti wrote:
Here's my second thought: what the heck is "ideal" anyway?

When it comes to dharma, due to the infinite variety of human beings and what their personality, habits, psychology and history might be, I doubt there is actually such a thing as ideal. Let alone the changing needs of every individual as the practice develops over time. So.... ideal is, I suspect, a chimera. An unattainable.
Ideal for everyone, perhaps. There are many books out there.
Your ideals are the interesting part of the question.
Care to share?
~D
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 19:59 #104498

Chris Marti wrote:
Here's my second thought: what the heck is "ideal" anyway?

When it comes to dharma, due to the infinite variety of human beings and what their personality, habits, psychology and history might be, I doubt there is actually such a thing as ideal. Let alone the changing needs of every individual as the practice develops over time. So.... ideal is, I suspect, a chimera. An unattainable.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

-The Buddha
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 01 Oct 2016 23:44 #104499

I feel the thing most lacking in anyones dharma/meditation journey is the first step. Most people have not taken it yet, right? So I think that the best dharma book would be one that takes someone from "I have no idea why anyone would meditate" to "wow, this is some interesting stuff!".

Well, this is not answering your question, I guess it's just my own assessment.
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2016 23:46 by matthew sexton.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 07:45 #104502

My impression is that you want to write, to share your understanding and experience of the dharma, (and you're good at it, so why shouldn't you!) but you're torn between the various media available. I think I might be stating the obvious but a book would potentially have a wider reach and it might prove useful to a spectrum of yogis, from those who've not begun to those well and truly on the path. It would speak to some but not to others. It may or may not be misunderstood. It might just be the thing that someone out there is looking for. Alternatively, a forum based outlet targets a much smaller audience but is able to hone in on the specifics of individual yogi's practices. I'm sure this has all already crossed your mind, but just in case it hasn't...

Books and websites have been very helpful for me but nowhere near as helpful as my spiritual friends here at AN. Then again, MCTB was the catalyst that got me into a disciplined practice.
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 08:02 by Shaun Elstob.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 08:06 #104503

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate your quick replies. You know how sometimes you have a thought/quesiton that has been swirling around your head for a long time and finally you just have to say/ask it out loud? This was definitely one of those times. :)

I think it was really triggered by Shinzen's book. I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of new material... about 97% of the info was the same as his CD book series, which I have listened to many many times. But then the question popped into my head, "what was the book you were hoping for?", and I really didn't have a good question.

Meanwhile, I do have about 3 or 4 half-written long essays on different aspects of meditation...

Here's some of the thoughts I have about an "ideal" book -- while recognizing that's just the way I tend to think about things. I tend to design for perfection and then be resolved that perfection is unattainable and watch all the limitations pile up re-design things as I actually do a project...

So thought one...People rarely talk about the first few practices that really exposed me to meditation, which was laying in bed and doing the exercise where you tighten the muscles in your toes and release, then your arch, then your calf, etc. etc. Basically awareness of body and relaxation. These kind of mind/body practice seem to be a gateway, but I don't really here the meditation connection made. It's just talked about as stress release/relaxation.

Thought two... Rarely do I hear about "bubbling up" meditation. Which is before anyone can even do a method, there needs to be a long time where just the mind reels off stuff. Endless daydreaming, philosophizing, etc. but recognizing it's automatic nature. Seems like most beginners are taught the breath counting 1 to 10 but they aren't encouraged to let what is happening and notice it. Always seemed strange to me.

Those two are kinda along Matthew's thinking.

Thought three... I definitely do not want to write the "theory of everything" book/map. I almost want to go in the other direction, similar to what Noah said, that talks about different methods, different results.

Thought four... I was really stuck by Dreamwalker's suggestion about diagrams. Frankly, I tend to think in terms of cells in a spreadsheet, but dang you are right, diagrams are great. I like them too.

Thought five... It seems like most of my comments on people's practice is "oh that's normal, no big deal". Somehow I'd like to be able to convey that for the practice methods. Something about the kind of stuff that comes up that isn't a problem, but is something to be seen and integrated. I think this relates to Noah's comment about integration. Regardless of method or path or whatever, the real sanity comes from a kind of re-integration with very human shadowy urges, seeing the confused nature of them, seeing the utility of them. In a way, this is similar to how Daniel talked about the shadow sides of the progress of insight, but perhaps less extreme and for more methods of meditation.

Ultimately, I think I was hoping that Shinzen's book would talk about the experiential aspects of his decades of practice and those of his students. What does it feel like to be a beginning, intermediate, and advanced meditator? Not quite gossip, but definitely more mundane and gritty stuff. I guess that's what I'm curious about these days. How do people feel when they do their practice?

For what it's worth!
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 11:11 #104506

Your ideals are the interesting part of the question.
Care to share?

I can only say that I've given up thinking in terms of universal ideals, which I see now as another way of thinking in terms of "should." This is just my personal take on the topic that shargrol raised. I bow to anyone willing to take on the task of documenting the universal dharma story, the fully common communication, the over-arching set of procedures capable of awakening everyone.


What I want to communicate to others is that there is a way to understand awakening outside any tradition. This is mostly a psychological style approach.

With all due respect, that (psychology) is a tradition, too. It's our western tradition, the lens through which we try to understand ourselves and so maybe, for us, seeing that as a possible limitation is a bit like trying to be consciously aware of the air we breathe.
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 11:35 by Chris Marti.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 11:34 #104507

It just struck me that the body-relaxation and the thought-bubble-up practices that I mentioned are pretty much perfect for realizing the first nana -- mind and body. Hmm...
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 11:35 #104508

I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of new material... about 97% of the info was the same as his CD book series, which I have listened to many many times. But then the question popped into my head, "what was the book you were hoping for?", and I really didn't have a good question.

Shargrol, is it fair to say you were hoping for a book that suits you? I do that all the time, not just with dharma materials but with movies, television shows, other books, even people. Objects of all kinds. Isn't the desire for the "ideal" dharma book just another form of dissatisfaction? I assume you've thought of that...
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 12:17 by Chris Marti.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 15:20 #104510

Quickie thought along the just-starting lines: so much dharma and instruction that someone might run into was written a long time ago, or far away, so the meaning and value of that stuff is clouded by passage of time, language changing, culture evolving, etc. That's a huge barrier between the dharma and the sufferer.

What about a project that collects modern experiences and framing for many different kinds of people, such that anyone can to go this website and find out, say, how did this 25 year old college engineer graduate experience suffering? What first practice was helpful for her? What early practices were not helpful?

I know that Danial's voice worked perfectly for me. DhO connected me with buddhist geeks, then the 2014 conference and my relationships started there pushed me faster and faster along. All the Tibetan mumbo jumbo stuff delayed my 'lock-on' by decades. I've got a friend that is driven away by Danial's lightening bolt chapters.

So this is two points: what are the *various* experiences of 'suffering' in the modern context, for*various* personality types? What is the beginners practice that bests appeals to a given personality type?
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 15:39 #104511

Matthew:
What about a project that collects modern experiences and framing for many different kinds of people, such that anyone can to go this website and find out, say, how did this 25 year old college engineer graduate experience suffering? What first practice was helpful for her? What early practices were not helpful?

This idea is really good IMO. I wish I had thought of it :P
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 15:49 #104512

Noah wrote:
Matthew:
What about a project that collects modern experiences and framing for many different kinds of people, such that anyone can to go this website and find out, say, how did this 25 year old college engineer graduate experience suffering? What first practice was helpful for her? What early practices were not helpful?

This idea is really good IMO. I wish I had thought of it :P

I bequeath this idea to anyone that wants it. :)
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 15:49 #104513

Shargrol:
Thought three... I definitely do not want to write the "theory of everything" book/map. I almost want to go in the other direction, similar to what Noah said, that talks about different methods, different results. [...] Regardless of method or path or whatever, the real sanity comes from a kind of re-integration with very human shadowy urges, seeing the confused nature of them, seeing the utility of them.

You already wrote really well about integration & differing methods: awakenetwork.org/magazine/shargrol/253. The goal seems to be the offering of a meta-systemic view which will allow willing explorers to discover their own methods of awakening and integration. In terms of "different methods, different results," I will say that I believe this an intermediate stage, and that "full purification of consciousness" (to quote Shinzen) would necessarily look similar in different examples.
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 15:50 by Noah.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 15:53 #104514

matthew sexton wrote:
Noah wrote:
Matthew:
What about a project that collects modern experiences and framing for many different kinds of people, such that anyone can to go this website and find out, say, how did this 25 year old college engineer graduate experience suffering? What first practice was helpful for her? What early practices were not helpful?

This idea is really good IMO. I wish I had thought of it :P

I bequeath this idea to anyone that wants it. :)

I may have to take you up on this, someday. I have this dream project of a sort of advocacy organization whose sole purpose is to spread the word that therapy+meds+MBSR<therapy+meds+awakening. The idea being that there are people struggling with mental illness who are capable of deep practice and trudging through the dukkha nanas and that they have a right to know about this option. Anyways, having varying testimonies that include personal choices of method would be helpful for this "Dharma Advocates" idea.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 17:37 #104515

Chris Marti wrote:
I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of new material... about 97% of the info was the same as his CD book series, which I have listened to many many times. But then the question popped into my head, "what was the book you were hoping for?", and I really didn't have a good question.

Shargrol, is it fair to say you were hoping for a book that suits you? I do that all the time, not just with dharma materials but with movies, television shows, other books, even people. Objects of all kinds. Isn't the desire for the "ideal" dharma book just another form of dissatisfaction? I assume you've thought of that...

It's funny... even though I obviously understand what you are saying, I feel like I'm understanding only superficially.

I was hoping for the best possible experience in the entire universe to be contained within those two covers... but I don't need my hopes. :)
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 17:39 by shargrol.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 17:49 #104516

I think it's interesting that theories and thoughts about dharma aren't usually subject to the same analysis and insight as other objects :P
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 17:49 by Chris Marti.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 20:36 #104517

In attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread, yet still there are flowers and weeds and dharma books. :)
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 21:58 #104519

Yeah--absolutely nothing knocked the anger and chronic anxiety out of me until technical 4th. I thought first path would do it, but it took the other three.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 22:00 #104520

Same here. Daniel is my benefactor. I am an academic whose life has revolved around books, yet if someone asked me which was my most influential book, nothing else comes close.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 02 Oct 2016 22:11 #104521

Well imagine that! I wandered over here on the chance of finding a topic like this one. I am, unfortunately, one of those people who do a certain amount and then quasi disappear. But here's what I would appreciate: an annotated bibliography looking at our segment of the spiritual marketplace and giving readers a chance to read one person's view of a spectrum of practice approaches. There are several problems, one of which has already been mentioned: the fact that any such compiler would have a point of view, which means no one could act as a neutral commentator. The other major difficulty is that a lot of the time, you're looking at a moving target in attempting to describe anyone's work or P.O.V. The Internet is a great medium for dealing with that issue, as it allows for updating without a reprinting. And the first problem could be partially addressed with multiple perspectives, i.e., a variety of authors, each of whom would need to reveal his or her own perspective (which of course will inevitably be a moving target).

What I'm saying is that I can't imagine a dharma book along the lines of what Shargrol is asking with the classical approach of a single, coherent authorial voice. On the other hand, we want more coherence than we'll likely find just reading through stuff on this website, for instance.

Edit: I just noticed me contradicting myself, starting with the notion of one person's POV and ending by saying we'd need to have multiple perspectives. Never mind.
Last Edit: 02 Oct 2016 22:14 by Laurel Carrington.
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Imaging the ideal Practical Dharma website/book? 03 Oct 2016 18:48 #104528

From a newbie practitioner - I don't think there's an ideal dharma book - unless it's a sort of encyclopedia dhamatica.

But there is a role for a cut and dried beginners book that explains what awakening is, what techniques you can use to achieve it and what sort of rocks you'll trip over on the path. Sort of buddhism for the .NET generation. The sort of thing I'd have appreciated six months ago. Objectives, terms, explanation of dukkha nanas, all the technical jargon.

MCTB is all well and good if you're able and willing to read, practice, re-read and so on. But I think there needs to be something less - weird. - Ron Crouch's website is a good example of it cut down to basics - but there'd be more room in a book to expand on the ideas. And the consequences.

Also, I think there's a role for a dialogues book - some of the stuff on here where the big hitters are riffing on ideas of the path and what awakening means is amazing.

I'd better shut up now, if only because I may have broken the fifth precept...
Metta to you all
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