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TOPIC: The truth of dukkha

The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 12:27 #98522

In regard to this term "extinction", the question arises - extinction of what?

;-)
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 12:45 #98523

Laurel Carrington wrote:
I can't see how "no experiences" is nibbana, or otherwise we would all be advised to die ASAP.

It sounds like you are saying that the implications of nibbana-as-no-experience are scary. I agree. According to my values, human experience is precious and suicide is tragic. But I don't see how it follows that the early Buddhists could not have conceived of something that conflcts with my values. Why not?

In fact, there are references to suicide in early Buddhism. Here is my thumbnail interpretation of what I've learned so far: The Buddha did not condemn suicide. In fact, he at least tacitly affirmed it as a legitimate option for arahats, since they were not going to be reborn anyway. He did not recommend it for ordinary people, since it might lead to an unfortunate rebirth.

Does this mean we should all run out and commit suicide as soon as we get enlightened? Certainly not. As my mother used to say (liberally paraphrased), if the Buddha said to flush your head down the toilet, would you do it? (Laughing aloud, narcissistically delighted at my own irreverance, and knowing that you, Laurel, will appreciate the joke.)

In any case, just because we identify as Buddhists, that doesn't mean we have to rewrite the entire history of Buddhism in order to conform with our current views. We are allowed to have our views, and to see them evolve over time, even when they conflict with what the early Buddhists may have believed.
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 14:05 by Kenneth Folk.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 12:51 #98524

Chris Marti wrote:
In regard to this term "extinction", the question arises - extinction of what?

;-)

Extinction, extinguishing, blowing out, quenching. All of these English words have been used as literal translations of the word nibbana.

What is extinguished? Experience.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 13:03 #98525

This confirms my experience -- sans extinction of experience, there will be emotions. Human life. I can name a few short times when I have seemingly been without any experience:

1. Full anaesthesia
2. Cessation

I have not yet died.

In these cases there was neither happiness or unhappiness, no attention or awareness was present. There was nothing, apparently. The "coming out of" after these occurrences was like being born if only for a millisecond, although experience quickly returned and took on its usual aspects.

This leaves me with the same challenges and practice I've been doing for quite some time - understand what this thing we call experience is and how to deal with that in the most appropriate ways that I can for myself and all those around me.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 13:15 #98526

Elizabeth wrote:
Kenneth Folk wrote:

I like this simple formulation because it all hangs together. It assumes that the early Buddhists knew what they were talking about...
When I put all this together, it seems straightforward enough; dukkha and experience are inseparable. So the only way to be free of dukkha is to have no experience. Absence of experience is called nibbana.

Does it have to ‘hang together” and make sense to the logical, rational part of our minds?

What if they deeply and intimately knew exactly what they were talking about but that something was difficult, even for them, to put into words that made sense? Hence a list that doesn’t quite hang together so that there are gaps to slip through into the experience they can point to but not describe?

Reading between the lines, it sounds like you value experiences that are pre-verbal, where the mind is quiet and there is no need to place this against that. I value that too.

I also value the ability to make meaning of experience, to think clearly about it and to express it to others. So I don't want to make the category mistake of saying that because pre-verbal experience is wonderful, verbal experience is something we only settle for when we can't make our minds quiet. Both are good within their realms, IMHO.

Here in the world of discussion threads, I like to acknowledge the immense value of integrating our meaning-making structures all up and down the stack; if my belief system can coexist with my observed experience, I can breathe more easily. It takes a lot of energy to cordon off my rational mind from my beliefs. The more integrated they get, the more I can feel the muscles of my jaw unclenching.

As we interpret the Four Noble Truths, I might turn your question around: why interpret them in a way that does not hang together, when we can just as easily interpret them in a way that does? It looks to me as though the ancient Indians who wrote the Pali texts were among the most orderly thinkers in the history of mankind. My first response is to simply take them at face value. When I read their work without overlaying my own cultural values, their intent seems straighforward. But as soon as I get into something like "they must not have meant that, because it is abhorrent" I have to do all kinds of dancing in order to divine the meaning of an otherwise self-evident claim. The self-evident claim of early Buddhism, I assert, is that experience is suffering, and therefore the end of suffering is the end of experience. One may not like the life-denying implications, but how can one not admire the elegance of the formulation?
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 13:19 #98527

Chris Marti wrote:
This confirms my experience -- sans extinction of experience, there will be emotions. Human life. I can name a few short times when I have seemingly been without any experience:

1. Full anaesthesia
2. Cessation

I have not yet died.

In these cases there was neither happiness or unhappiness, no attention or awareness was present. There was nothing, apparently. The "coming out of" after these occurrences was like being born if only for a millisecond, although experience quickly returned and took on its usual aspects.

This leaves me with the same challenges and practice I've been doing for quite some time - understand what this thing we call experience is and how to deal with that in the most appropriate ways that I can for myself and all those around me.

This is beautifully said, Chris. Totally agree.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 13:20 #98528

"There is no change in my view about the definition of nibbana. This is the only definition of nibbana I ever learned from my Theravada Buddhist teachers, both Burmese and American. Nibbana means extinction. LIghts out. I know this is shocking to many people in modern times, but it's a fairly generic Theravada Buddhist understanding.

Take a look at Thanissaro Bikkhu's translation of several references to nibbana here. Without overlaying any preconceptions about what nibbana ought to be, just take it at face value. The simplest interpretation of nibbana is the end of experience. Any other interpretation requires some dancing."


Hmm-- I guess that neatly encapsulates why the Theravadan version of dharma has never appealed. (Plus, decades of arguments between Theravadans and Mahayanists-- all drearily reminiscent of Christian sectarian dogma struggles.) I don't feel disturbed by this clarification, for the same reason that Christian theology doesn't rile me: it's not my parameter, my standard of authenticity.

It does sound as if you are narrowing down the-- or at least your-- definition of "pragmatic dharma" in a way that may startle those who regard themselves as adherents.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 13:29 #98529

I think the issue in accepting the extinction version is that the debate over what is and is not "nibbana" is rendered moot as It simply does't matter in a practical sense. We become free thereby to practice as we see fit. So "pragmatic" seems to take on a new meaning. Still, as I have always thought, it means "what works" but with an understanding that the deeper philosophical issue "what is nibbana?" (assuming Kenneth's definition), where so many people get bogged down and tied up in knots, isn't something that is useful to us in this life.

All else remains - multitudes of practices that speak to enhancing our experience of the human condition.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 14:41 #98530

Chris Marti wrote:
I think the issue in accepting the extinction version is that the debate over what is and is not "nibbana" is rendered moot as It simply does't matter in a practical sense. We become free thereby to practice as we see fit. So "pragmatic" seems to take on a new meaning. Still, as I have always thought, it means "what works" but with an understanding that the deeper philosophical issue "what is nibbana?" (assuming Kenneth's definition), where so many people get bogged down and tied up in knots, isn't something that is useful to us in this life.

All else remains - multitudes of practices that speak to enhancing our experience of the human condition.

Yes, I agree that what is most relevant to us is how to deal with our lives while we are still breathing. This neatly circles back to the original post in which I claim that while we draw breath there is dukkha. Put another way, to live is to suffer. This, I believe, is the starting point for pragmatic dharma. Once we notice that there is no escape, everything changes. When we see through our own fantasies of deliverance from ordinary human suffering, our practice gets a turbo-boost.

Here is some practice guidance for everyone, including me:

You are well and truly fucked. Let it in. Take a deep breath. There is no escape.

You will suffer. Everyone you know will suffer. Then they will die. If you are unfortunate, they will die before you, and you will have to watch. Either way, you will also die. You will not live on after your death in a magical netherworld. You will just be over. (This is a best case scenario. Much worse if the Buddha was right about endless rebirths of suffering.)

Your challenge is not to figure out a way to escape suffering while you still live. That is a challenge you would fail while becoming ever more puerile and delusional. Best to let it go as soon as possible. Your challenge is to find a way to live with suffering. Your challenge is a life well-lived, where you behave decently and learn to care about the people and the world around you. Where you see that moments of joy and love are as fleeting as moments of pain and despair. Where the sense of an "I" to whom this is happening is just another momentarily arising phenomenon within the swirl of experience. Where you are able to find meaning in the inherently difficult situation of a human life, even as everything changes around and within you. Someday the swirl will stop, and experience will end.

You cannot win. You cannot break even. But you may not have another chance to play the game. So you play.

This is what I call pragmatic dharma.
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 14:45 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 15:25 #98532

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

So "I" am just a story that is generated by a process, and sooner or later it comes to an end. Actually, the story ends at each instant and is rewritten, only to end again and again and again. I never was, so I can never die. It's the story or illusion of I as a bundle of experiences held in memory that eventually dies.

I am as ephemeral as a mayfly. Up against that one truth, success or failure is nothing. Being rich or poor, fat or thin, having a nice house or not--just the same as a child's game. At death, we are nothing.

Hm. I'll roll that around in my thoughts for awhile.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 16:10 #98533

every3rdthought wrote:
I don't think the Theravada definition of nibbana is absence of experience, and I'd be interested in being pointed toward any Pali canon reference that would back up that interpretation. For example according to Lily Da Silva backed up by a thicket of canonical references, nibbana is characterized by "happiness, moral perfection, realization, and freedom" (reference here).

Thanks for the link. Although I would question some of Da Silva's conclusions, what I found most interesting were the parts where she simply referred to texts. This, for instance:

"Regarding the experience of the arahant, the Suttanipaata states that by the destruction of all feelings/sensations a monk lives desireless and at peace.[11] Once Saariputta was asked what happiness there can be when there is no feeling/sensation.[12] He explained that the absence of feeling/sensation itself is happiness."

How would you interpret the "absence of feeling/sensation?" Isn't that the absence of experience?

Have you read U Pandita's In This Very Life? It's good. He tells the story of the sleeping millionaire.

I highly recommend reading the few paragraphs of the story to anyone who wants to understand the orthodox view of nibbana as taught by the Mahasi Sayadaw school. It will be shocking to many to learn that they have been using the nibbana/nirvana word for years without having the slighest idea what it means to old-school Buddhists.

Here is the punch line:

"Supposing it were possible to have deep, sound sleep forever. Would you want it? If one does not like the kind of happiness that comes with sound sleep, it may be difficult to have a preference for nibbana. If one does not want the happiness of nonexperience, one is still attached to the pleasure of the senses..."

It would be difficult to find a more authoritative voice than Sayadaw U Pandita in Theravada Buddhism. He is arguably the most important teacher in Burmese Buddhism since his preceptor Mahasi Sayadaw died over 30 years ago. I point this out not to assert that U Pandita's view is the One Right Way to Think, but rather to counter the allegations that I am redefining nibbana in some revolutionary way. Quite the contrary, I'm just citing the orthodox view as a reference point for our discussion. For those who don't like the nibbana-as-nonexperience definition, I say take it up with the Buddhists! :) I'm just the messenger!
Last Edit: 27 Apr 2015 03:01 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 16:17 #98534

Still not understanding... I thought the Mahayana and Vajrayana believe they're continuing/evolving the work of the historical Buddha, Second and Third Turning etc etc. Does this extreme view of nibbana admit the Mahayana and Vajrayana as compatible or valid?

Seems to me this view is another self-referential situation with attendant (apparent) paradoxes.
Escape/Answer: "There is no Escape/Answer"

How, if at all, is this resolved experientially?
Here in the world of discussion threads, I like to acknowledge the immense value of integrating our meaning-making structures all up and down the stack; if my belief system can coexist with my observed experience, I can breathe more easily. It takes a lot of energy to cordon off my rational mind from my beliefs. The more integrated they get, the more I can feel the muscles of my jaw unclenching.
I'm under the impression that a major philosophical point of (at least) the Mahayana is that seeking this kind of consistency is a quintessential example of dukkha. I'm not big into Buddhist history or philosophy so I'm open to correction here.

Alternatives to integrating meaning-making structures for consistency and relief have been cooked up by several people for several purposes. Lilly's metaprogramming, paraconsistent logic, extreme agnosticism, Pyrrhonism's epoche, Korzybski's delaying evaluations, etc. So while there can be relief in having consistent belief systems there's also relief in giving up trying to make symbols fit reality, and/or purposefully adopting different belief system, etc. I'm under the impression tthat giving up trying to make symbols fit reality accords well with Buddhist philosophy. Most of these don't altogether swear away language, symbols, or logic.
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 16:22 by Deklan.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 17:24 #98536

Deklan wrote:
Still not understanding... I thought the Mahayana and Vajrayana believe they're continuing/evolving the work of the historical Buddha, Second and Third Turning etc etc. Does this extreme view of nibbana admit the Mahayana and Vajrayana as compatible or valid?

One way to frame it is to think through the likely evolution of Buddhism through the millennia. The Mahayana and Vajrayana both gained credibility through their association with the historical and legendary Buddha even as they turned the original doctrine on its head. And the philosophies and practices of Buddhism were influenced and transformed by existing cultures as Buddhism spread around the world. One classic example is the uncanny similarity between Taoism and some popular schools of Chan/Zen. This is no coincidence, of course; Buddhism became Taoistic when it moved into China. In any case, painting with a broad brush, I think it's fair to say that to many people brought up within Theravada Buddhist cultures, Mahayana and Vajrayana are unrecognizable as Buddhism.

It can be tempting for Western Buddhist converts to mash it all up and imagine that Buddhism is best understood as an anything-goes synthesis of every nominally Buddhist idea ever put forth across two and a half millenia. But to a cultural Mahayanist, old school (Hinayana/Theravada) Buddhists probably look like kooks. And to an old school Buddhist, Mahayana is likely to be completely incomprehensible. By the time Vajrayana rolls around, so little of original Buddhism remains that it almost seems the merest happenstance that it is called Buddhism instead of something else.

By the time you get to us, with our mahasyncretism (just made that up) and our fully internalized postmodern mashup impulse, you have completely opposing ideas existing side by side within an individual's belief structure, all neatly explained away by mumbled references to paradox along with the occasional nod and wink. (I'm laughing to myself again, having a wonderful time with this rant, so I hope everyone else is taking it in the spirit of good fun in which I intend it. I don't know the answers either. Just playin' with ideas in real time, hoping something interesting or useful will emerge.)
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 19:52 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 17:39 #98538

Deklan wrote:
I'm under the impression that a major philosophical point of (at least) the Mahayana is that seeking this kind of consistency is a quintessential example of dukkha.

Yes! A thousand time yes! Seeking consistency is dukkha. Seeking to avoid dukkha by not seeking consistency is also dukkha.

Dukkha is our starting point and the water we swim in. Understanding this, what should we do next?

Another way to phrase it: what is awakening if eradicating dukkha is not an option?
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 17:40 #98539

Take a look at Thanissaro Bikkhu's translation of several references to nibbana here. Without overlaying any preconceptions about what nibbana ought to be, just take it at face value. The simplest interpretation of nibbana is the end of experience. Any other interpretation requires some dancing.

Hi Kenneth,

Long time, no see/know/hear/read/write to.

Your link to Thansisaro's translations of nibbana seems to point to the "resolution of fabrications" as nibbana. Are you saying fabrications cannot "be resolved" while being alive? If so, what is your current definition of "fabrication"?

Also to add that I am not so sure Thanissaro would agree with your interpretation of nibbana. The following quote was taken from the following recorded talk here.
("Reading - continued (Part 3)" about 1 hour 19 or 20 min in (or 5 min from the end) -- just 2 or 3 minutes long)
QS "… this term stream-entry, sotapana, people talk about it, but in different ways,… would you tell us what you think about that?"
ANS: "What I think about that? (chuckling) (QS: Yes, would you define it for us…) It's bascially… stream-entry happens when you've got the mind as quiet as possible that you can through your concentration practice. And you start asking the question – is there still some stress here? And you look for it. And this is one of the reasons that you look for inconstancy, because you want to see the rise and the fall of the level of stress experienced by the mind. (We're not talking about the body now.) And you begin to notice that there's certain things that you do that are going to raise the stress level, just minor things at this point in your concentration. And you say 'I going to stop doing that.' And then you stop doing that, and that will take you to another level of concentration. So you go through the levels of concentration this way. Finally you get as far as you can go in concentration, and you begin to realize, you know, if I make…, once you get that question comes up -- there's stress if I stay here, but there's going to be stress if I move. And this is where is gets kind of paradoxical, because you neither stay nor move. There's no intention either way. Because you realize whichever way you intend, there's going to be stress. And it's in that moment of non-intention that things open up. And it's very impressive – it's not one of these things you say "Gee, I had stream-entry and I didn't know it." (audience laughter) I mean it's earth-shattering
."

Taking his description of Stream Entry, what he depicts could be considered a specific happening, not the absence or "experience".

Note: I currently sit on the fence concerning standing behind any specific definitions of nibbana as for myself this 'not taking a stance' aids in my current practice. Though i can see Kenneth's stance on dukkha can trigger a letting go and opening up. I've used this "stance" before in my practice to trigger a "giving up" which always led to a release of some kind. I have also used the other "stance" that dukkha was "escapable" to trigger further experimentation/exploration and yes, some kind of 'release'. I now sit on the fence as I see taking either stance eventually, post beginner's luck, just leads to "having a stance". Currently, holding any prominent "stance" as loosely as possible and/or seeing it drop away upon questioning it, wins out concerning practice results.

P.S. I personally have not "escaped dukkha". Try having a baby. That's some inescapable wonder/dukkha right there.
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 17:42 by Nikolai Stephen Halay.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 17:55 #98540

I understand the drive to believe one has found the true, original, authentic Buddhism; and to conclude that other versions miss the mark in some important way. I also understand those who say, "Ah, to Hell with it-- call me Buddhish (or spiritual but not religious)!"

But how can ANY Buddhism, of even the earliest vintage (some centuries subsequent to the death of Gautama) in a language necessarily different from the one in which the original discourses were given) be other than "syncretic?" I don't think the syncretism of Southern India and Sri Lanka has better claims to validity than the syncretism of Nepal and points northeast and northwest.

Given that my interest is not scholarly, as to the letter of the teachings, but their usefulness in understanding my own life 2500 years after they were given-- it is going to be in whatever timeless essential wisdom they convey. On that point, I suspect, we approximate each other.
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 17:55 by Kate Gowen. Reason: missing word
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 18:04 #98541

It can be tempting for Western Buddhist converts to mash it all up and imagine that Buddhism is best understood as an anything-goes synthesis of every nominally Buddhist idea ever put forth across two and a half millenia. But to a cultural Mahayanist, old school (Hinayana/Theravada) Buddhists probably look like kooks. And to an old school Buddhist, Mahayana is likely to be completely incomprehensible. By the time Vajrayana rolls around, so little of original Buddhism remains that it almost seems the merest happenstance that it is called Buddhism instead of something else.
Since there's never been one Buddhism, isn't it natural the West should have several of its own mashups? Then, the results can be reviewed. Natural dharma selection.
By the time you get to us, with our mahasyncretism (just made that up) and our fully internalized postmodern mashup impulse, you have completely opposing ideas existing side by side within an individual's belief structure, all neatly explained away by mumbled references to paradox along with the occasional nod and wink. (I'm laughing to myself again, having a wonderful time with this rant, so I hope everyone else is taking it in the spirit of good fun in which I intend it. I don't know the answers either. Just playin' with ideas in real time, hoping something interesting or useful will emerge.)
The examples I listed are obviously more complex than waving away paradoxes :silly: . Adopting different sides and then finding out the pragmatic results of the adoption is one method. This seems similar to me to part of what Nikolai posted.
Yes! A thousand time yes! Seeking consistency is dukkha. Seeking to avoid dukkha by not seeking consistency is also dukkha.

Dukkha is our starting point and the water we swim in. Understanding this, what should we do next?

Another way to phrase it: what is awakening if eradicating dukkha is not an option?

I don't see myself accepting as 'true' or 'false' "eradicating dukkha is possible". I can only operate under different assumptions about that possibility and see the results. I can test different practices that have been used in the past and see the results. I can work with a community to collect more results. I can try to glean results from books and the internet. Etc.

EDIT:
In my last post I put "fit symbols to reality" which seems an awful error. More like, "make symbols fit already partially symbolic representations of experience"
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2015 18:09 by Deklan.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 18:12 #98542

Kate Gowen wrote:
But how can ANY Buddhism, of even the earliest vintage (some centuries subsequent to the death of Gautama) in a language necessarily different from the one in which the original discourses were given) be other than "syncretic?"

Totally agree. Even the Buddhism of the Buddha was a mashup. We don't know what the Buddhism of the Buddha was, because as you say, none of it was written down for centuries. But all teachings are mashups. The historical Buddha took the influences of his time, kept the stuff he liked, tossed out what he didn't like, and presumably added a few twists of his own. It couldn't have been any other way.

This isn't quite the same as our own postmodern mashup, though. The Pali Buddhist teachings are very specific in their rejection of certain doctrines, e.g., the existence of atman. The default postmodern New Age mashup, by contrast, is voraciously inclusive. Atman, anatman, it's all the same thing, man. :P

By the way, did you think I was saying that Pali Buddhism is the real deal and other Buddhisms are bogus? I wasn't saying that.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 18:33 #98544

Hi Nikolai,

Thanks for the partial transcript. I don't see anything there that contradicts the understanding of nibbana as absence of experience. Not sure what you mean.

It is important to point out, though, that according to the Mahasi school (and other schools of Theravada), nibbana can happen for brief periods throughout one's life. It is always characterized as a lack of experience, although in the case of someone who continues to live, temporary. It's only after death (parinibbana) of an arahat that one is said to never again regain consciousness. The first time nibbana is experienced in a lifetime, even if for only a brief moment, it is said to bring about stream entry, a recognizable developmental landmark for an individual meditator.

The temporary attainment of nibbana is one of the skills taught by Mahasi teachers, so the question of what nibbana refers to is a practical matter rather than an abstract one, at least with regard to the temporary version. By definition, no one can report on the permanent version.

In the passage you quoted, Thanissaro does not describe the moment of nibbana, only the lead-up to it and its result, which is stream entry.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 19:07 #98545

If I understand this right, Kenneth, you intend a long open-eyed look at the First Noble Truth. And I am in complete agreement that that is the foundation for Buddhist practice, and that the Buddhist-self-help-Advaita mashup that dominates current pop culture is extremely derelict in that regard.

But you do seem to be rather painting yourself into a corner with regard to the other three Noble Truths. Maybe I should stand by and watch for the sequels?
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 21:02 #98546

Kenneth Folk wrote:
It is important to point out, though, that according to the Mahasi school (and other schools of Theravada), nibbana can happen for brief periods throughout one's life. It is always characterized as a lack of experience, although in the case of someone who continues to live, temporary. It's only after death (parinibbana) of an arahat that one is said to never again regain consciousness. The first time nibbana is experienced in a lifetime, even if for only a brief moment, it is said to bring about stream entry, a recognizable developmental landmark for an individual meditator.

The temporary attainment of nibbana is one of the skills taught by Mahasi teachers, so the question of what nibbana refers to is a practical matter rather than an abstract one, at least with regard to the temporary version. By definition, no one can report on the permanent version.

Regarding absence of experience = absence of sensation/feeling, here's a passage from Jeffery Martin's research article, in which he describes the results from interviews with individuals who experience "persistent non-symbolic experience."

"Similar to thoughts, participants reported a significant reduction in both the range and overall experience of emotion, which differed depending upon where they were on the continuum. Those at the early end of the continuum reported a range of positive and negative emotions. Participants reported being much less subject to being ‘grabbed’ by emotions as they arose. Emotional duration was reported as being in the same range as durations cited relating to the underlying physiological processes that create the sensation of emotion in the body (Pert, 1999). It was as if emotional triggers were arising, but a key aspect of their psychological makeup that had formerly extended these emotional experiences was missing. On the far end, participants reported no experience of emotion."

So, at the far end of Martin's continuum were individuals who experienced no emotion. I work regularly with Gary Weber, who participated in the study and who is situated at this far end. From my conversations with Gary, it does appear that he does not experience emotional reactions, or if he does they are extremely fleeting. Gary says that 95%+ of the time, his experience is of deep stillness,, "now, now, now" timelessness, and oneness. So, it appears that he is more or less permanently in a state that at least closely resembles nibbana.
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The truth of dukkha 26 Apr 2015 21:50 #98547

I must say again to all of you - abandon this useless thrashing over how many emotions can fit on the head of a pin!

:P
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The truth of dukkha 27 Apr 2015 00:41 #98548

Jake Yeager wrote:
So, it appears that he [Gary Weber] is more or less permanently in a state that at least closely resembles nibbana.

Hi Jake, thanks for this post. Lots to say about the many interesting points you raised, but let's start here: no one is walking around and talking in the state of nibbana or anything resembling it, if you accept the Mahasi Theravada understanding of what nibbana is. (See Sayadaw U Pandita's sleeping millionaire story.) Nibbana is not just the absence of emotions and/or thoughts, it is the absence of any experience whatsoever. So no, Gary Weber is not spending the majority of his time in anything resembling nibbana by the Mahasi Theravada definition. Neither is anyone else. This doesn't have to be controversial, it simply follows from the definition.
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The truth of dukkha 27 Apr 2015 01:09 #98549

Deklan wrote:
I don't see myself accepting as 'true' or 'false' "eradicating dukkha is possible". I can only operate under different assumptions about that possibility and see the results. I can test different practices that have been used in the past and see the results. I can work with a community to collect more results. I can try to glean results from books and the internet. Etc.

Awesome. Reminds me of the most famous line in Pali Buddhism: ehipassiko. Come and see for yourself.

Don't believe anybody. Check it out for yourself and see what you see.
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The truth of dukkha 27 Apr 2015 02:11 #98550

Jake Yeager wrote:
Regarding absence of experience = absence of sensation/feeling, here's a passage from Jeffery Martin's research article, in which he describes the results from interviews with individuals who experience "persistent non-symbolic experience."

"Similar to thoughts, participants reported a significant reduction in both the range and overall experience of emotion, which differed depending upon where they were on the continuum. Those at the early end of the continuum reported a range of positive and negative emotions. Participants reported being much less subject to being ‘grabbed’ by emotions as they arose. Emotional duration was reported as being in the same range as durations cited relating to the underlying physiological processes that create the sensation of emotion in the body (Pert, 1999). It was as if emotional triggers were arising, but a key aspect of their psychological makeup that had formerly extended these emotional experiences was missing. On the far end, participants reported no experience of emotion."

So, at the far end of Martin's continuum were individuals who experienced no emotion. I work regularly with Gary Weber, who participated in the study and who is situated at this far end. From my conversations with Gary, it does appear that he does not experience emotional reactions, or if he does they are extremely fleeting. Gary says that 95%+ of the time, his experience is of deep stillness,, "now, now, now" timelessness, and oneness.

So glad you brought this up, Jake, because I know Jeffery Martin's views are influential in our community. Here is one man's opinion (mine):

Jeffery's model and Gary's experience go hand in hand. If you believe that Gary is an examplar of the highest level of awakening that a human can attain, then you can accept Jeffery's model of development. Similarly, if you believe Jeffery's model is accurate, you can believe Gary is the exemplar of human contemplative development. This is not a coincidence; Jeffery's model is built on Gary's reports. Gary's claims to special status and Jeffery's model are a package and they stand or fall together.

Gary Weber and I are friends. We have spent time together in New York, San Francisco, and State College, PA. He has been to my home for visits. We've spent many hours together on Skype. I like Gary very much. He is delightful to be around much of the time as well as highly knowledgable, insightful, and intelligent. I've learned a lot from him. He and I have disagreed at length about what awakening is, both privately and publicly. Like everyone I know, Gary has his strengths and weaknesses. If he were to claim to be without suffering, I would not believe him.

Jeffery Martin and I are also friends. We have spent time together in New York, San Francisco, and Switzerland. He has been to my home for visits. I am familiar with his model of contemplative development. He is one of the most intelligent people I know, with a special gift for strategic thinking. I think his model is deeply flawed, and have told him so at length.
Last Edit: 27 Apr 2015 02:12 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo
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