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TOPIC: Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas

Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 03 Dec 2015 16:50 #101490

Hello Kenneth, and all:

I have had a lot of fun and insight encountering the neat Bill Hamilton one-liners that were either exact quotes or paraphrases that I have ran into over the years. Kenneth also has many good one liners and teaching metaphors of his own, which we are fortunate to have access to in the form of forum archives, the book in progress etc. Bill's are a bit more scattered/only contained in the memories of those who knew him. Some of the one's I have read, which may be paraphrases, are:

-suffering less, noticing it more
-could get better, could get worse, could stay the same
-its a mushroom factory: keep 'em in the dark and feed 'em shit

Does anyone have more contributions to the list?
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 10:58 #101507

Bill Hamilton in response to question about what it's like to be enlightened:

"Highly recommended. Can't tell you why."
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2015 11:53 by Kenneth Folk.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 10:59 #101508

Bill, when I asked him where are all the arahats?

"Hiding in plain sight."
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2015 11:52 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo (Sorry, posted before my morning coffee.)
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 13:00 #101509

During my teacher-training with Bill circa '92, Bill said something that made me pause. I asked for clarification:

Me: Oh! Hang on a minute... are you saying that I don't have to correct every misconception a student has?

Bill: The whole thing is a misconception!
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2015 19:11 by Kenneth Folk. Reason: typo
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 13:34 #101510

Here's how the mushroom idea first came up in the context of Western dharma. The mushroom metaphor itself is, of course, an old standard. But this exchange with Bill is why we now talk about the "mushroom culture."

After my 1991 three month retreat at Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, I returned home to California and gave Bill my report. It took a couple of hours. Bill sat through it patiently, listening carefully, and only occasionally falling asleep. When I was finished, Bill went through it again quickly, identifying the stages of the progress of insight. I was amazed that he could so easily map my experiences onto the ancient model of development, and annoyed that I was hearing this for the first time. Surely my interview teachers at IMS had also known where I was on the map and had withheld the information from me. I complained about it to Bill. Why did they withhold information that could have been useful to me?

Bill said, "They treated you like a mushroom."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Kept you in the dark and fed you shit," Bill said.

The mushroom metaphor became my personal shorthand symbol for the secrecy and paternalism that was the de facto code of conduct for many mainstream Western dharma teachers at the time. I was angry about it, at times enraged, often indignant. All through the early and mid 90s, I ranted about the mushroom effect to anyone who would listen. One of my closest friends and confidants was Daniel Ingram. I told him about the secrecy, the taboos, the paternalism and the withholding of information, and my view that this culture of willful ignorance was holding students back. Daniel and I laughed about Bill's off-the-cuff mushroom comment. Daniel was not yet a regular meditator, and had not yet met Bill Hamilton or any of the other celebrated meditation teachers, but he was a good listener and was fascinated by this odd culture of secrecy that seemed to fly in the face of otherwise well known and accepted methods of pedagogy. A few years later, Daniel encountered the same taboos when he began meditating intensively and sat his first retreats. Now he and I had even more fuel to complain to one another about the asinine secrecy and paternalism of mainstream Western dharma and together we further developed the idea of the mushroom culture, mushroom factor, and mushroom effect, etc. Daniel wrote about the mushroom culture in MCTB. The public response was electric. The mushroom metaphor struck a nerve with a whole new generation of meditators who shared our distaste for paternalism, secrecy, and creepy, outdated religious taboos.
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2015 19:13 by Kenneth Folk.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 15:05 #101511

Thanks so much Kenneth! Loving it. Definitely will return to these quotes (or stories, or whatever else) again and again.

By the way, I ate dinner with Shinzen Young and Abre Chen (and other yogis, including a couple NYC dharma punx teachers) after a three day Shinzen retreat in NYC over the summer (date?). I got a chance to ask him about Bill because I knew they were friends. Shinzen said he died young which is why he didn't get famous. He also said that they were best buddies and when Bill's girlfriend broke up with him, Shinzen stayed over at his house for moral support. He described how Bill had the mind of an engineer which was what gave him great understanding of this stuff. Finally, that they balanced each other out because Shinzen had good, general academic knowledge, and Bill had so much raw, practice-related knowledge.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 16:22 #101512

Thanks, Noah. Yes, Bill considered Shinzen his best friend, and spoke of him often. They would occasionally meet for sushi lunch and the next time I saw Bill, he would get this big grin on his face and tell me about how much fun they'd had. They talked dharma together, of course; they were both completely obsessed with it, consumed by it, in love with it.

Shinzen's teaching was influential for Bill, and I've heard Shinzen say that Bill was influential for him as well, although they each had their unique influences and styles. I know they taught at least one retreat together in the late 80s. Wish I'd been at that retreat, but that was before I met either of them. They must have been an amazing team. Two of the greatest dharma minds I've ever known.
Last Edit: 04 Dec 2015 16:23 by Kenneth Folk.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 16:28 #101514

More detail on this one that Noah already mentioned in the original post:

From time to time I would go to Bill with a fresh insight that I was sure was the Right One. I'd gush enthusiastically about whatever it was. Bill would listen intently, without interruption or comment. Once I'd gotten it all out and he was sure I'd finished, he'd get this big smile on his face and say, "Three possibilities: could get better, could get worse, could stay the same."
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 16:32 #101515

And more detail on this one:

I always wanted to know what it felt like to be enlightened. It seemed so important to be able to imagine it in advance. I would ask Bill questions. Was there no more suffering? No more pain? Was he happy all the time? Sometimes he would attempt to describe his experience in detail, but most often he would say, "suffering less, noticing it more."
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 04 Dec 2015 16:45 #101516

Bill was a compulsive model builder. He loved the Progress of Insight, the four vipassana jhanas (a developmental model he learned from Sayadaw U Pandita, paralleling the 16 Insight Knowledges model and only loosely related to samatha jhanas), and the Four Paths of Enlightenment. He was forever talking about models and maps of development, tweaking them, exploring his own experience and adding to the models. He never tired of them. But he did realize their limitations, as summed up by this comment:

In 1999, a few days before Bill died of pancreatic cancer, I was visiting with him as he lay in a hospital bed in Seattle. As usual, we talked about dharma. I told him I didn't believe we would ever create a perfect model of enlightenment, because the reality of the experience was so much more complex than our ability to create concepts about it. Bill paused for just a moment, pondering. Then he said, "All models eventually break down."
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 09 Dec 2015 16:36 #101582

I love reading about Bill Hamilton. He seems to be so incredibly influential in the modern pragamatic dharma movement, and yet I never really hear anything about him (or his awesome one-liners). I wish that those who knew whom would put together a little book about Bill's life, one-liners, and understanding of the Dharma.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 10 Dec 2015 02:50 #101584

www.amazon.com/Saints-Psychopaths-Willia...milton/dp/0964490404

HIs book is called 'Saints and Psychopaths.' Its really very good, featuring both his story, as well as instructions/the model of the path.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 01 Jan 2016 01:39 #101886

"It's as though I have a treasure of infinite value... that I'm willing to give away for free... and very few people want it." -Bill Hamilton
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 16 Jan 2016 21:33 #102143

"The Buddha's enlightenment solved his problems. It didn't solve yours." -Bill Hamilton
Last Edit: 17 Jan 2016 01:20 by Kenneth Folk.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 20 Sep 2016 17:23 #104426

Interesting thread and interesting history! As far as a lineage is concerned, it's interesting to know that Bill Hamilton, as the 'lineage founder' for Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk was so closely connected to Shizen. BiIl may not be famous, but through his students he has had a pervasive impact!
Last Edit: 20 Sep 2016 17:23 by Tim C.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 20 Sep 2016 23:31 #104429

Really wish I could have known him. I consider myself his dharma granddaughter.
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Bill Hamilton One-Liners/Ideas 08 Oct 2016 02:15 #104553

Laurel Carrington wrote:
Really wish I could have known him. I consider myself his dharma granddaughter.

Yes, Laurel, you are Bill Hamilton's dharma granddaughter. It feels good to me to see that and to say it.
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