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Was Gautama Buddha Enlightened?

 
SkyPanther
 
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04 March 2016 10:24
 
Niclynn - 03 March 2016 04:52 PM

Equanimity is a tough one. When I am in a peaceful mood in a tranquil atmosphere I’m like “Doing friggin awesome at equanimity!” but then I forget that the whole trick is that one’s mind state itself, along with stimuli, change with the environment. Which makes it doubly hard to work on, because often a difficult circumstance and a difficult mind state arise together (as opposed to during meditation, where you may be able to explore some difficult circumstance like a pain in the body in a more peaceful mind state). I was at work the other day, for example, and started to feel really sick from some medicine I had to take for bronchitis (I am a walking talking upper respiratory issue from December to early April). I was trying reeeeeeally hard to do equanimity practice, but I feel like the mind state that comes with ‘sickness’ - that weak, heavy, clammy feeling where your whole body is just like “We are not doing this, get down on the floor before you puke, right now” combined with embarrassment (“Am I going to throw up in front of a client! Aaaa! No!”) combined with trying to focus on my job combined with the physical pain itself was like way to much, so then I had to go back to mindfulness (“Sooooo, this is what a total equanimity fail feels like. I am here. Experiencing my wishing I had equanimity but do not.”).

With mindfulness you can sort of release the difficult mind states, when they arise; or just acknowledge they are there, but not get involved with them.

The best way I can put that is the quote by Shakespeare “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Only for people that meditate the “player” (you) should, over time, change to observers. Or at least that is how I feel.  So, say you are driving and someone cuts you off;  Anger comes up, if you are mindful, you see anger come up and either release it(bring up a wholesome mind state(metta or joy(smile)), or just do nothing with it.  Usually, it goes away within a few seconds if it is not engaged with.  Versus the way “worldlings” react: anger comes up the person gets wrapped up in it and carries out their part of reacting to it (the player).

Niclynn - 03 March 2016 04:52 PM

I think eventually the idea is that you reach a space where you can ‘hold’ all of that with awareness but not distress, but it’s definitely a place where I kinda have my edge and I know when I’m there. Joy sounds like a fun one to work on! Other than metta I haven’t worked a ton on cultivation of states but that’s an interesting idea. I haven’t read much about the Jhanas but I do notice sort of happy, bubbly, laughy states like that on retreat and soon after, where suddenly everything seems hilarious.

The Jhana’s should come up naturally if you are mindful for 10+ minutes. Which just means staying with whatever is your object (breath or metta (or the other brahmaviharas), tranquilizing your body, including any tightness in your brain/head, and keeping a wholesome mind when you stray and come back from a thought. (A smile)

There is a good “playbook” of how they occur in the “One By One as They Occurred” Sutta:

Taken from the “Mahjjhima Nikaya: The Middle Length Sayings” by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Nanamoli, this Sutta covers what was taught by the Buddha concerning the identification of what the student experiences while meditating in each of the Four Jhanas and the four Arupa Jhanas. It is to be read in its entirety out-loud.

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Anupada_Sutta.htm

I have only gotten to the 4th Jhana, and have been hitting the border between the 4th and 5th… so cannot speak for the 5th Jhana and up. They go up to 8 (4 Rupa Jhanas, and 4 Arupa Jhanas), where you experience cessation(at the 8th), after which you get the experience I have been talking about. (A paradigm shift, and you stay in either Sublime joy or equanimity as your default state, which can be brought up when you are in an upsetting situation really quickly))

The “base of Infinite Space” Jhana (the 5th) is really… uh… interesting, you feel your body start to fade out (you cannot feel it, and it gets “stiff”) and you cannot feel yourself breath, or if you can, it is really shallow, and at the same time your mind seems to expand. I have only been at its border and the “whoa!” and “I am not breathing!” part of it keeps kicking me back to the 4th because I lose my mindfulness.  But I have been getting deeper with every consecutive day, so hopefully I will enter it fully in the coming weeks.  Supposedly if you can enter the 5th, the others are easy, 4 to 5 is “harder” because you are going from material meditation (the body) to a mind (formless) meditation.  That “switch” I guess, takes some practice to perfect.

 

 

 

[ Edited: 04 March 2016 10:40 by SkyPanther]
 
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04 March 2016 11:57
 
SkyPanther - 04 March 2016 10:24 AM

With mindfulness you can sort of release the difficult mind states, when they arise; or just acknowledge they are there, but not get involved with them.


I agree with this, although I think it’s important to keep a realistic attitude - if not for oneself (if you have great equanimity after your experience, I mean,) then for other people. I was kind of laughing at myself because I tend to think my equanimity practice is going great when I bump up against small problems and then it’s humbling (but humanizing) to come up against something more substantial where, as one of my teachers would say “That is not available right now”. But I think that has its own value - I remember on the first retreat I went on, the teacher said something about not being able to overcome anger as an opportunity to feel connected to another group of people (those overcome by a difficult mind state) and I was like “Wow, what a cool different way of looking at it.” So if nothing else, it can be an opportunity for me to empathize with what is going on when someone else is angry or upset in some way and they seem like they’re being totally unreasonable - I can realize how that state feels from having been in it myself. So I can look at how very destabilizing it is to feel sick without access to respite even for a little while, and then reflect on the millions of people who somehow work and raise families without access to modern or even remotely adequate medical care - in that way even not having the equanimity can still be valuable for reflection, if that’s where a person is “at” in terms of practice.

 

The best way I can put that is the quote by Shakespeare “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Only for people that meditate the “player” (you) should, over time, change to observers. Or at least that is how I feel.  So, say you are driving and someone cuts you off;  Anger comes up, if you are mindful, you see anger come up and either release it(bring up a wholesome mind state(metta or joy(smile)), or just do nothing with it.  Usually, it goes away within a few seconds if it is not engaged with.  Versus the way “worldlings” react: anger comes up the person gets wrapped up in it and carries out their part of reacting to it (the player).


Is that what you’re seeing in your practice? Sounds like a positive experience.

 

The Jhana’s should come up naturally if you are mindful for 10+ minutes. Which just means staying with whatever is your object (breath or metta (or the other brahmaviharas), tranquilizing your body, including any tightness in your brain/head, and keeping a wholesome mind when you stray and come back from a thought. (A smile)

There is a good “playbook” of how they occur in the “One By One as They Occurred” Sutta:

Taken from the “Mahjjhima Nikaya: The Middle Length Sayings” by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhikkhu Nanamoli, this Sutta covers what was taught by the Buddha concerning the identification of what the student experiences while meditating in each of the Four Jhanas and the four Arupa Jhanas. It is to be read in its entirety out-loud.

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Anupada_Sutta.htm

I have only gotten to the 4th Jhana, and have been hitting the border between the 4th and 5th… so cannot speak for the 5th Jhana and up. They go up to 8 (4 Rupa Jhanas, and 4 Arupa Jhanas), where you experience cessation(at the 8th), after which you get the experience I have been talking about. (A paradigm shift, and you stay in either Sublime joy or equanimity as your default state, which can be brought up when you are in an upsetting situation really quickly))

The “base of Infinite Space” Jhana (the 5th) is really… uh… interesting, you feel your body start to fade out (you cannot feel it, and it gets “stiff”) and you cannot feel yourself breath, or if you can, it is really shallow, and at the same time your mind seems to expand. I have only been at its border and the “whoa!” and “I am not breathing!” part of it keeps kicking me back to the 4th because I lose my mindfulness.  But I have been getting deeper with every consecutive day, so hopefully I will enter it fully in the coming weeks.  Supposedly if you can enter the 5th, the others are easy, 4 to 5 is “harder” because you are going from material meditation (the body) to a mind (formless) meditation.  That “switch” I guess, takes some practice to perfect.


That’s an interesting perspective. In the way I’ve practiced, I’ve never learned things like that in a formal way, although parts of what you are saying sound familiar. At the last retreat I went to, for example, I had the sudden thought during meditation that I could see and feel the boundaries of myself and things in the room but I couldn’t perceive the boundaries or edges of awareness. I don’t know if that was awareness expanding so much as it had always been that way and it never occurred to me before, but I did a sort of exercise of trying to feel where awareness ‘stops’ and realizing it doesn’t really have a boundary, it just goes out and out. The practice of Jhanas sounds a little more formalized than what I’m used to but I think it’s good to have different approaches for different temperaments (I take a wandering, meandering approach to most things so I would probably have a hard time keeping a more formal structure in mind, but it sounds like it’s a good fit for you).

 
 
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04 March 2016 14:06
 
Niclynn - 04 March 2016 11:57 AM

I agree with this, although I think it’s important to keep a realistic attitude - if not for oneself (if you have great equanimity after your experience, I mean,) then for other people. I was kind of laughing at myself because I tend to think my equanimity practice is going great when I bump up against small problems and then it’s humbling (but humanizing) to come up against something more substantial where, as one of my teachers would say “That is not available right now”. But I think that has its own value - I remember on the first retreat I went on, the teacher said something about not being able to overcome anger as an opportunity to feel connected to another group of people (those overcome by a difficult mind state) and I was like “Wow, what a cool different way of looking at it.” So if nothing else, it can be an opportunity for me to empathize with what is going on when someone else is angry or upset in some way and they seem like they’re being totally unreasonable - I can realize how that state feels from having been in it myself. So I can look at how very destabilizing it is to feel sick without access to respite even for a little while, and then reflect on the millions of people who somehow work and raise families without access to modern or even remotely adequate medical care - in that way even not having the equanimity can still be valuable for reflection, if that’s where a person is “at” in terms of practice.

Yeah, I still know how to react “normally”, and can sympathize, etc…  equanimity is just more “level headed”... not “indifferent”, I know a lot of people see the two as the same thing.  You are still engaged in life when you are in equanimity, but you can chose not to be engaged… both are “fine” states, that is you feel happy doing either. Indifference is more about total disinterest because you do not “care”.  Equanimity is neither care or not care. Things are what they are, everything can or might not be interesting.

A good way of explaining it would be to use the Pali words:

Upekkha “to look over” or “to see with patience”.

The other word that is translated to equanimity:  Tatramajjhattata, “being in the middle”.

Niclynn - 04 March 2016 11:57 AM

Is that what you’re seeing in your practice? Sounds like a positive experience.

Kind of.  When I first had that shift, I did not know what happened, but I did notice (afterwards) what I would call a “two second divide” between an event and my reaction.  I could see anger coming up, and for a few seconds I was disassociated from the anger, and then if I engaged with it, I would act just like I used to (that is I was the “player”).  After I started learning about mindfulness, and started meditating, that two seconds got longer, and now, depending on the situation, things that would normally make me angry, do not.  It is just an impersonal event.  Other times, I can see anger coming up, and I just let it be, or release it (bring up metta, or joy) and the anger melts away.

The first 18 minutes of this talk with Joseph Goldstein is close to what I experienced:

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-path-and-the-goal

It took about a week for my euphoria to wear off.

Niclynn - 04 March 2016 11:57 AM

That’s an interesting perspective. In the way I’ve practiced, I’ve never learned things like that in a formal way, although parts of what you are saying sound familiar. At the last retreat I went to, for example, I had the sudden thought during meditation that I could see and feel the boundaries of myself and things in the room but I couldn’t perceive the boundaries or edges of awareness. I don’t know if that was awareness expanding so much as it had always been that way and it never occurred to me before, but I did a sort of exercise of trying to feel where awareness ‘stops’ and realizing it doesn’t really have a boundary, it just goes out and out. The practice of Jhanas sounds a little more formalized than what I’m used to but I think it’s good to have different approaches for different temperaments (I take a wandering, meandering approach to most things so I would probably have a hard time keeping a more formal structure in mind, but it sounds like it’s a good fit for you).

Yeah, being a software engineer, metrics, data, etc, have kind of been ingrained in me, so having a discrete “measure” of the progress is kind of in my nature. And the Buddha actually made it really systematic, where you could do exactly that (if that appeals to you).

[ Edited: 04 March 2016 14:25 by SkyPanther]
 
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04 March 2016 17:07
 
SkyPanther - 04 March 2016 02:06 PM

Yeah, I still know how to react “normally”, and can sympathize, etc…  equanimity is just more “level headed”... not “indifferent”, I know a lot of people see the two as the same thing.  You are still engaged in life when you are in equanimity, but you can chose not to be engaged… both are “fine” states, that is you feel happy doing either. Indifference is more about total disinterest because you do not “care”.  Equanimity is neither care or not care. Things are what they are, everything can or might not be interesting.


Well, relistened to the portion of the Sam / Goldstein talk you mentioned, and that would make sense if your experience is of not having a center of self within an experience.

Kind of.  When I first had that shift, I did not know what happened, but I did notice (afterwards) what I would call a “two second divide” between an event and my reaction.  I could see anger coming up, and for a few seconds I was disassociated from the anger, and then if I engaged with it, I would act just like I used to (that is I was the “player”).  After I started learning about mindfulness, and started meditating, that two seconds got longer, and now, depending on the situation, things that would normally make me angry, do not.  It is just an impersonal event.  Other times, I can see anger coming up, and I just let it be, or release it (bring up metta, or joy) and the anger melts away.


That’s cool - kind of like how they tell you to move slowly on retreat in reverse - your mind just did the slow moving part for you! smile

The first 18 minutes of this talk with Joseph Goldstein is close to what I experienced:

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-path-and-the-goal


Side note, I love that Joseph Goldstein invited people over to his house to watch him meditate after that, ha ha! Slowest. Dinner. Party. Ever. But it shows the level of enthusiasm, I think.

 

Yeah, being a software engineer, metrics, data, etc, have kind of been ingrained in me, so having a discrete “measure” of the progress is kind of in my nature. And the Buddha actually made it really systematic, where you could do exactly that (if that appeals to you).


I think when they talk about the “two wings” of Buddhism, I am way more drawn to the ‘love / compassion’ side. Which probably isn’t the best thing, because I realize that rather than a majestic eagle or soaring dove, my practice is probably more like a drunken looking seagull careening around flapping one wing wildly and the other every once in awhile and trying to avoid smashing into a rock. Teh graceful. I do not haz it. But the ‘wisdom’ side is hard for me - not in the more colloquial sense, maybe, as I will happily read theoretical books on Buddhism, but in the kind of fine-grade attention it requires to phenomenon when used in the more Buddhist sense. I would liken the ‘love’ side as being able to move around in the space we call reality, and the ‘wisdom’ side as being able to see and understand it for what it is. I think compassion without wisdom always retains a dualistic quality, and wisdom without compassion is a bit like lifeless knowledge on a page, if that makes any sense.

 
 
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04 March 2016 18:39
 
Niclynn - 04 March 2016 05:07 PM

I think when they talk about the “two wings” of Buddhism, I am way more drawn to the ‘love / compassion’ side. Which probably isn’t the best thing, because I realize that rather than a majestic eagle or soaring dove, my practice is probably more like a drunken looking seagull careening around flapping one wing wildly and the other every once in awhile and trying to avoid smashing into a rock. Teh graceful. I do not haz it. But the ‘wisdom’ side is hard for me - not in the more colloquial sense, maybe, as I will happily read theoretical books on Buddhism, but in the kind of fine-grade attention it requires to phenomenon when used in the more Buddhist sense. I would liken the ‘love’ side as being able to move around in the space we call reality, and the ‘wisdom’ side as being able to see and understand it for what it is. I think compassion without wisdom always retains a dualistic quality, and wisdom without compassion is a bit like lifeless knowledge on a page, if that makes any sense.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

One thing I kind of wanted to bring up though, and please take this with a grain of salt, because I only have my own experience and Goldstein’s to go by, when you get that “insight”, of the “not-self”, disenchantment and dispassion follow.

What he described is essentially the “Sotapanna” stage. You become a sotapanna when:

The three fetters which the sotapanna eradicates are:

Self-view — The view of substance, or that what is compounded (sankhata) could be eternal in the five aggregates (form, feelings, perception, intentions, cognizance), and thus possessed or owned as ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘mine’. A sot?panna doesn’t actually have a view about self (sakk?ya-ditthi), as that doctrine is proclaimed to be a subtle form of clinging.

Clinging to rites and rituals - Eradication of the view that one becomes pure simply through performing rituals (animal sacrifices, ablutions, chanting, etc.) or adhering to rigid moralism or relying on a god for non-causal delivery (issara nimm?na). Rites and rituals now function more to obscure, than to support the right view of the sot?panna’s now opened dharma eye. The sot?panna realizes that deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is the elimination of the notion that there are miracles, or shortcuts.

Skeptical doubt - Doubt about the Buddha, his teaching (Dharma), and his community (Sangha) is eradicated because the sot?panna personally experiences the true nature of reality through insight, and this insight confirms the accuracy of the Buddha’s teaching. Seeing removes doubt, because the sight is a form of vision (dassana), that allows one to know (ñ??a).

More about that here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/into_the_stream.html#fetters

I lost the self-view; as soon as I started reading the Dhamma, I was like “OMG! this is it!”, and being an Atheist/Agnostic I never believed in Rites and Rituals.

However when you see this, you start getting disenchanted with “stuff” because you can see that it is not-self, impermanent, and unsatisfactory.  You will still be “moral” but because you realize that doing unskillful things are all rooted in Greed, Hatred, or Delusion, which all stem from Selfishness or the notion of self, which you now lack.  And the “cool” thing is, you do not mind it.  Infact you feel free/liberated.  There is a short Sutta that kind of points this out:

K??igodha Sutta: Bhaddiya K??igodha
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.2.10.than.html

So I guess the question is, how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?  If you enter any of the Jhanas, (even the first), you have a (small) chance of getting that “insight” randomly. (You blink out of consciousness, and then come back essentially with the “self” gone.)  wink


I bring this up, because it kind of changes the focus in a weird way. Love and compassion are still there, but from a different point of view.  More from the “wisdom” side, than the “emotional”.

 

[ Edited: 04 March 2016 18:56 by SkyPanther]
 
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04 March 2016 20:01
 

I’m not sure it even really matters if he was enlightened or not, or what that really even means.  I would consider myself to be a “western Buddhist”, surely more so than anything else at least.  The thing about the teachings, from my understanding, is that he never said “this is the way things are and you should have faith in my words because I am enlightened”. He taught a path to enlightenment and urged students to not take what he said on faith alone, but suggested they try that shit out to see for themselves.  Whether he actually said these things or not is also besides the point.  the only faith that is required is from ones direct experience and not blind faith of anything from anyone.  I can subscribe to this.  So i maintain that it doesn’t matter if he was enlightened or not, but from my experience this far, what he said works and rings true. Have I experienced all there is to experience in Biddhism or in life, not in the slightest, I claim no authority on anything, but I can say that i have followed this to the best of my ability and continue to research, lean and experience, and my life has changed for the positive since then.

 
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05 March 2016 10:12
 
SkyPanther - 04 March 2016 06:39 PM

Yeah, I know what you mean.

One thing I kind of wanted to bring up though, and please take this with a grain of salt, because I only have my own experience and Goldstein’s to go by, when you get that “insight”, of the “not-self”, disenchantment and dispassion follow.

What he described is essentially the “Sotapanna” stage.


I’m not sure if that quite describes what I’m talking about. I just mean that I think I’ve developed sort of unevenly when it comes to love / compassion vs. a view of emptiness. Which no doubt seems counterintuitive since I’m so shy - I definitely have an attraction / aversion relationship with that side of things - it interests me the most but then I’m also really shy in that area - but I guess it just holds my interest more than the ‘emptiness’ side. 

 

However when you see this, you start getting disenchanted with “stuff” because you can see that it is not-self, impermanent, and unsatisfactory.  You will still be “moral” but because you realize that doing unskillful things are all rooted in Greed, Hatred, or Delusion, which all stem from Selfishness or the notion of self, which you now lack.  And the “cool” thing is, you do not mind it.  Infact you feel free/liberated.  There is a short Sutta that kind of points this out:

K??igodha Sutta: Bhaddiya K??igodha
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.2.10.than.html

So I guess the question is, how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?  If you enter any of the Jhanas, (even the first), you have a (small) chance of getting that “insight” randomly. (You blink out of consciousness, and then come back essentially with the “self” gone.)  wink

I bring this up, because it kind of changes the focus in a weird way. Love and compassion are still there, but from a different point of view.  More from the “wisdom” side, than the “emotional”.


I think this raises an interesting question in Buddhist practice. I tend to kind of hedge my bets when it comes to going in one direction or the other with either fully ‘secular’ (by which I mean more or less, at least hypothetically, compatible with dualism and / or materialistic philosophies) vs. traditionally metaphysical Buddhism. And this is one area where I kind of leave it as “well, let’s just practice and see what happens”. In traditionally religious Buddhism, some kind of omniscience or unification of minds or perfect wisdom is often posited at the end of the ‘path’ - that would certainly solve a lot of logistical problems, but it is a big empirical proposition. On the other hand, if you believe in entirely secular means of human understanding, then you have to experience things in a way that is commensurate with the way that others experience them to really ‘get’ their experience. Same with the ultimate nature of reality - if you think it is all illusory and all suffering is illusory and the greatest ‘good’ one can possibly do is to enlighten oneself - and this kinda extreme libertarian version of Buddhism is certainly one I’ve heard a good bit, so I assume it’s at least one school of thought - then yes, one wouldn’t want to focus on ‘the relative world’, illusory or not, so much. If this is not the case, though, then one would want to keep some understanding of what it feels like to be a relative being, held within the stability of a larger framework, in order to be more effectively compassionate. So I have mixed feelings on this one, although I certainly respect what you are saying in the framework of the more traditional Buddhist path, at least some of them.

 
 
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05 March 2016 19:36
 
Niclynn - 05 March 2016 10:12 AM

I’m not sure if that quite describes what I’m talking about. I just mean that I think I’ve developed sort of unevenly when it comes to love / compassion vs. a view of emptiness. Which no doubt seems counterintuitive since I’m so shy - I definitely have an attraction / aversion relationship with that side of things - it interests me the most but then I’m also really shy in that area - but I guess it just holds my interest more than the ‘emptiness’ side.

*nod*  I could be wrong, but the “emptiness” insight (realization, opposed to an intellectual understanding) is the thing that does the “paradigm shift”.  I think most people do not “get it” until one day, with enough practice or “hearing the Dhamma” you just “get it” and it becomes evident.

 

Niclynn - 05 March 2016 10:12 AM

I think this raises an interesting question in Buddhist practice. I tend to kind of hedge my bets when it comes to going in one direction or the other with either fully ‘secular’ (by which I mean more or less, at least hypothetically, compatible with dualism and / or materialistic philosophies) vs. traditionally metaphysical Buddhism. And this is one area where I kind of leave it as “well, let’s just practice and see what happens”. In traditionally religious Buddhism, some kind of omniscience or unification of minds or perfect wisdom is often posited at the end of the ‘path’ - that would certainly solve a lot of logistical problems, but it is a big empirical proposition. On the other hand, if you believe in entirely secular means of human understanding, then you have to experience things in a way that is commensurate with the way that others experience them to really ‘get’ their experience. Same with the ultimate nature of reality - if you think it is all illusory and all suffering is illusory and the greatest ‘good’ one can possibly do is to enlighten oneself - and this kinda extreme libertarian version of Buddhism is certainly one I’ve heard a good bit, so I assume it’s at least one school of thought - then yes, one wouldn’t want to focus on ‘the relative world’, illusory or not, so much. If this is not the case, though, then one would want to keep some understanding of what it feels like to be a relative being, held within the stability of a larger framework, in order to be more effectively compassionate. So I have mixed feelings on this one, although I certainly respect what you are saying in the framework of the more traditional Buddhist path, at least some of them.

This is perfectly understandable, and preferable.  The Buddha made it clear a bunch of times that his teachings should not be taken on faith alone, but should be realized and seen for oneself.

If someone told me I would be seriously meditating and a “Buddhist” a year ago, I would think they were joking.  I was apprehensive of death, and was into the whole life extension stuff being researched now.  After that experience that “fear” goes away. And the hole some people (and I) had in the middle of the chest, the thing you try to fill with stuff, or satisfy with whatever else, got “filled” with a permanent sense of contentment.

I know its kind of a counter materialist view, but it is the only way I know to explain it. And I used to be a pure materialist. (Well, an Agnostic/Atheist)

 
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06 March 2016 08:35
 
SkyPanther - 05 March 2016 07:36 PM

*nod*  I could be wrong, but the “emptiness” insight (realization, opposed to an intellectual understanding) is the thing that does the “paradigm shift”.  I think most people do not “get it” until one day, with enough practice or “hearing the Dhamma” you just “get it” and it becomes evident.


I think a lot of meditation on emptiness is mindfulness meditation with a specific focus - the constantly changing nature of moment to moment experience. Noticing how a physical sensation, the contents of consciousness, etc., are constantly shifting. I will get a sense of this when I am specifically meditating on it but in day-to-day life objects still pretty much seem like concrete ‘things’ that exist ‘from their own side’, as Buddhists tend to phrase it. Moments that I associate with “spiritual” feelings, on the other hand, tend to center more on subjective feelings of love and being in the moment. I’ve come to appreciate nature so much more since meditating, for example, but for me it inspires feelings of awe, beauty, and unity, I don’t know if the “emptiness” part features all that much in it. Or the other day I did some side walking with a horse, and I was like “WOW, this is amazing, I get why nature lovers tend to get so googly eyed over horses now.” Something about the experience of just moving in sync with such a beautiful animal (and horses, to my surprise, are very attentive creatures, it’s very much a two-way feedback loop in trying to coordinate with them - they have such a calm attention to the task at hand).

This is perfectly understandable, and preferable.  The Buddha made it clear a bunch of times that his teachings should not be taken on faith alone, but should be realized and seen for oneself.

If someone told me I would be seriously meditating and a “Buddhist” a year ago, I would think they were joking.  I was apprehensive of death, and was into the whole life extension stuff being researched now.  After that experience that “fear” goes away. And the hole some people (and I) had in the middle of the chest, the thing you try to fill with stuff, or satisfy with whatever else, got “filled” with a permanent sense of contentment.

I know its kind of a counter materialist view, but it is the only way I know to explain it. And I used to be a pure materialist. (Well, an Agnostic/Atheist)


It’s funny because having been raised as a Christian (and funnily, I have now reconnected with parts of Christianity in a more abstract, metaphorical if not 100% literal way) I think I come at this from the opposite angle, so it sounds as if in a lot of ways we kind of approached practice from opposite sides of the equation. I don’t personally relate as much to what you’re saying but it’s interesting to hear about it.

 
 
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07 March 2016 09:37
 
Niclynn - 06 March 2016 08:35 AM

I think a lot of meditation on emptiness is mindfulness meditation with a specific focus - the constantly changing nature of moment to moment experience. Noticing how a physical sensation, the contents of consciousness, etc., are constantly shifting. I will get a sense of this when I am specifically meditating on it but in day-to-day life objects still pretty much seem like concrete ‘things’ that exist ‘from their own side’, as Buddhists tend to phrase it. Moments that I associate with “spiritual” feelings, on the other hand, tend to center more on subjective feelings of love and being in the moment. I’ve come to appreciate nature so much more since meditating, for example, but for me it inspires feelings of awe, beauty, and unity, I don’t know if the “emptiness” part features all that much in it. Or the other day I did some side walking with a horse, and I was like “WOW, this is amazing, I get why nature lovers tend to get so googly eyed over horses now.” Something about the experience of just moving in sync with such a beautiful animal (and horses, to my surprise, are very attentive creatures, it’s very much a two-way feedback loop in trying to coordinate with them - they have such a calm attention to the task at hand).

*nod*, I feel the same way about nature.  Here in San Diego, the mountains/desert/ocean are all within an hours drive away.  I like to visit the mountains/desert because they are pretty much empty (of people) most of the time.  Being surrounded by plants, trees, and animals, and not so much people everywhere, is really “spiritual” (in that I feel less perturbed) for me. 

Niclynn - 06 March 2016 08:35 AM

It’s funny because having been raised as a Christian (and funnily, I have now reconnected with parts of Christianity in a more abstract, metaphorical if not 100% literal way) I think I come at this from the opposite angle, so it sounds as if in a lot of ways we kind of approached practice from opposite sides of the equation. I don’t personally relate as much to what you’re saying but it’s interesting to hear about it.

Heh, yeah, after I wrote the above I realized I was pretty much saying stuff a Christian would say, when talking about being filled with grace. (Or the Holy Spirit).  I remember Alan Watts once saying that the “goal” in Christianity was to kill your ego and replace it with Christ. And Christ seemed like a hippy to me, peaceful, compassionate, etc… that is not very different from Buddhism… but of course organized religion has kind of changed the message.

Being gay I have never had a good impression of Christians(or Muslims), for obvious reasons (the God Hates Fags people, etc)  But I am friends with, and have met some really good people that are Christians(and Muslims), so my attitude shifted from getting to know them, and then shifted again (more positively) after I had my experiance.  I came to understand that the faith, and how some people practice it are not the same.  The message (in all religions) has been corrupted over time. And most people do not read the actual holy books but get the digested versions from priests/imams/monks, that have their own agenda.


Kind of a side topic, this guy is describing the same realization:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U555f9RryII
He went to a retreat, and has the same point of view you get…  once whatever happens, happens.

 

[ Edited: 07 March 2016 13:22 by SkyPanther]
 
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08 March 2016 21:20
 
SkyPanther - 07 March 2016 09:37 AM

Heh, yeah, after I wrote the above I realized I was pretty much saying stuff a Christian would say, when talking about being filled with grace. (Or the Holy Spirit).  I remember Alan Watts once saying that the “goal” in Christianity was to kill your ego and replace it with Christ. And Christ seemed like a hippy to me, peaceful, compassionate, etc… that is not very different from Buddhism… but of course organized religion has kind of changed the message.

Being gay I have never had a good impression of Christians(or Muslims), for obvious reasons (the God Hates Fags people, etc)  But I am friends with, and have met some really good people that are Christians(and Muslims), so my attitude shifted from getting to know them, and then shifted again (more positively) after I had my experiance.  I came to understand that the faith, and how some people practice it are not the same.  The message (in all religions) has been corrupted over time. And most people do not read the actual holy books but get the digested versions from priests/imams/monks, that have their own agenda.


Yes, there is just no way to take religious texts literally, and so I think that people who take out a few lines about homosexuality (which really doesn’t feature prominently in the Bible) don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If you wanted to take the whole Bible literally in 2016 you would be institutionalized or jailed very quickly, so anyone who defers to some fleeting reference somewhere in there is already cherry picking what they want to ‘use’. But literal interpretations aside, I think the figure of Christ is valuable and still relevant today.

 

Kind of a side topic, this guy is describing the same realization:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U555f9RryII
He went to a retreat, and has the same point of view you get…  once whatever happens, happens.


Wasn’t able to watch the whole video, but what I saw was really interesting. The more I get into meditation the more I see that it is really multi-faceted and not the sort of “straight linear path towards seeing a bright white light” concept that I initially had in mind. There is cultivation, analyzation, skillfulness in the material world, direction realization of ‘ultimate reality’, and on and on, perhaps into infinity - so it’s not just one ‘thing’, I guess. I think that student had some really cool insights in terms of analyzation, although I kinda wonder about the ‘direct experience’ part there (he spoke of being sort of ‘detached’ from emotions, and I notice he often referred to his experience in the second, not first, person). I feel like that’s a good thing to do - I probably spent my first few years of practice mostly focused on that, and I think it laid a lot of groundwork for me. But it was funny because at this last retreat for the first time I was like “Am I getting more enlightened? Am I ‘progressing’ on my path? You know what’s weird - I actually don’t care.” I mean not in a snotty ‘blah, I don’t care about that’ kind of way, just in that I was like “Wow, I’m actually where I need to be. There’s nothing I need to add to this moment, including making ‘progress’ in meditation.” To use a cheesy cliche, I understood the idea of ‘there’s nowhere else I’d rather be’. And it’s funny because that didn’t jive with how I’ve heard people describe ‘mystic’ states - like when Sam Harris describes them as being hard to describe and the most important states people have ever experienced and such - it was nothing earthshaking like that. Just a sense of “there is nowhere else to go from here, or if there is, I really don’t care, because there’s nothing ‘over there’ that I need”. That wasn’t the whole time, of course, only in bits and pieces - and I find I can recreate that feeling now but only in the solitude of meditation and, weirdly enough, only if I meditate on that particular retreat. So I’m not sure if that’s good or bad - my practice seems to be consistently haphazard - but I am a bit more interested in the side of meditation that can be ‘felt but not talked about’ at this point. Another landmark on an infinite road, I guess. smile

 
 
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09 March 2016 10:05
 
Niclynn - 08 March 2016 09:20 PM

Yes, there is just no way to take religious texts literally, and so I think that people who take out a few lines about homosexuality (which really doesn’t feature prominently in the Bible) don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If you wanted to take the whole Bible literally in 2016 you would be institutionalized or jailed very quickly, so anyone who defers to some fleeting reference somewhere in there is already cherry picking what they want to ‘use’. But literal interpretations aside, I think the figure of Christ is valuable and still relevant today.

I agree;  and, thankfully, most Christians understand that you cannot take religion 1) Seriously, and 2) Literally.

You can be a sincere Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan, etc but as soon as you become a “serious” version of those things, delusion seeps in.

 

 

Niclynn - 08 March 2016 09:20 PM

Wasn’t able to watch the whole video, but what I saw was really interesting. The more I get into meditation the more I see that it is really multi-faceted and not the sort of “straight linear path towards seeing a bright white light” concept that I initially had in mind. There is cultivation, analyzation, skillfulness in the material world, direction realization of ‘ultimate reality’, and on and on, perhaps into infinity - so it’s not just one ‘thing’, I guess. I think that student had some really cool insights in terms of analyzation, although I kinda wonder about the ‘direct experience’ part there (he spoke of being sort of ‘detached’ from emotions, and I notice he often referred to his experience in the second, not first, person). I feel like that’s a good thing to do - I probably spent my first few years of practice mostly focused on that, and I think it laid a lot of groundwork for me. But it was funny because at this last retreat for the first time I was like “Am I getting more enlightened? Am I ‘progressing’ on my path? You know what’s weird - I actually don’t care.” I mean not in a snotty ‘blah, I don’t care about that’ kind of way, just in that I was like “Wow, I’m actually where I need to be. There’s nothing I need to add to this moment, including making ‘progress’ in meditation.” To use a cheesy cliche, I understood the idea of ‘there’s nowhere else I’d rather be’. And it’s funny because that didn’t jive with how I’ve heard people describe ‘mystic’ states - like when Sam Harris describes them as being hard to describe and the most important states people have ever experienced and such - it was nothing earthshaking like that. Just a sense of “there is nowhere else to go from here, or if there is, I really don’t care, because there’s nothing ‘over there’ that I need”. That wasn’t the whole time, of course, only in bits and pieces - and I find I can recreate that feeling now but only in the solitude of meditation and, weirdly enough, only if I meditate on that particular retreat. So I’m not sure if that’s good or bad - my practice seems to be consistently haphazard - but I am a bit more interested in the side of meditation that can be ‘felt but not talked about’ at this point. Another landmark on an infinite road, I guess. smile

That’s cool; I have not meditated for long, so not sure what will happen with my practice in the long run.  But I do “like” meditating, I think Equanimity is my favorite (of the fist 4).  Lets you sit for hours without being bothered (and time seems to go faster).

I hope to go to a retreat soon, I have not been to one, and I want to do at least a 7+ day retreat.  I found good ones here:
http://www.awakeninsightretreats.org/

However the ones with Bhante Vimalaramsi in CA are now full, so I am either going to go next year, or trek out to his Monastery in Missouri, where there is a daily retreat that you can go to for a week+.

Kind of a side note, I have been reading:
Right Concentration : A Practical Guide to the Jhanas

It is a really good book thus far, and Joseph Goldstein had good things to say about it:

“Leigh Brasington presents a clear map of jhana practice as he learned it from his teacher, Ayya Khema. As with many aspects of the Buddha’s teachings, different traditions and lineages have different views on what constitutes these deeper states of concentration. Leigh offers many examples from his own experience and from his reading of the Buddhist texts in providing a valuable guide to this particular way of understanding and practicing them.”—Joseph Goldstein, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening

Recommend it, if you have room in your reading queue. (I know mine is pretty much always full, lol)

 

 
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09 March 2016 11:50
 
SkyPanther - 09 March 2016 10:05 AM

That’s cool; I have not meditated for long, so not sure what will happen with my practice in the long run.  But I do “like” meditating, I think Equanimity is my favorite (of the fist 4).  Lets you sit for hours without being bothered (and time seems to go faster).


Whoa, good for you, equanimity is usually my least favorite thing! Probably because I only think about it when something is wrong, ha ha, like “Ok, this sucks, let’s see if I can have some equanimity about it…” I actually replaced equanimity with self-inquiry (who has a headache, whose feelings are hurt, can I find the “I” in this situation, etc.) for awhile because I just couldn’t “do” equanimity. But I think the beautiful thing about practice is that it’s so unique and individual to every person, and everyone’s needs vary so much. At this last retreat I went to, the teacher was just so doting. I wish I could think of a better word than that because it doesn’t sound very spiritual, but that was pretty much it - I mean towards everything, not me in particular. It kind of made me realize how seldom, as adults, we feel cared for in that particular way (I mean we may experience care in a romantic relationship or even from a healthcare provider, but those have a different overall quality), once we reach the age where we’re expected to do all the caring - to just sit in practice for a week and feel kind of, again, genuinely doted on, was such a cool experience. And I think that for better or for worse, that kind of sent me in a new direction with practice. It’s funny because I have been doing more volunteer work but then I get mad because I’m like “Darn it, this is all fun stuff, I’m not gonna make any progress if I like helping people this much”, ha ha! It really feels like it’s more for me than for whoever I’m volunteering with. And I don’t know - I don’t know if that’s the way I should practice or if there’s a specific way one should practice or if the place I’m ‘at’ right now is right or wrong or if I should be more focused on other things, but it kind of is what it is, you know?

I hope to go to a retreat soon, I have not been to one, and I want to do at least a 7+ day retreat.  I found good ones here:
http://www.awakeninsightretreats.org/


I want to go “Aaaaa, you are going to love it and flip out it will be amazing!!”, but at the same time I feel like that might set up an expectation that’s not good. I am happy for you though. And just an fyi, don’t worry if nothing profound seems to happen during the retreat - I’ve noticed a lot that during retreat, whatever you’re experiencing just seems totally normal, and it’s not until you get back into the world and juxtapose that state with day-to-day life that you’re kind of like “Whoa, that was really different than my usual experience!”.

Recommend it, if you have room in your reading queue. (I know mine is pretty much always full, lol)


Thanks! I’ll be totally honest here and say if I read it, it won’t likely be this year, ha ha, as I am way behind on reading already, but I appreciate you thinking of me.

 
 
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09 March 2016 12:26
 
Niclynn - 09 March 2016 11:50 AM

Whoa, good for you, equanimity is usually my least favorite thing! Probably because I only think about it when something is wrong, ha ha, like “Ok, this sucks, let’s see if I can have some equanimity about it…” I actually replaced equanimity with self-inquiry (who has a headache, whose feelings are hurt, can I find the “I” in this situation, etc.) for awhile because I just couldn’t “do” equanimity. But I think the beautiful thing about practice is that it’s so unique and individual to every person, and everyone’s needs vary so much. At this last retreat I went to, the teacher was just so doting. I wish I could think of a better word than that because it doesn’t sound very spiritual, but that was pretty much it - I mean towards everything, not me in particular. It kind of made me realize how seldom, as adults, we feel cared for in that particular way (I mean we may experience care in a romantic relationship or even from a healthcare provider, but those have a different overall quality), once we reach the age where we’re expected to do all the caring - to just sit in practice for a week and feel kind of, again, genuinely doted on, was such a cool experience. And I think that for better or for worse, that kind of sent me in a new direction with practice. It’s funny because I have been doing more volunteer work but then I get mad because I’m like “Darn it, this is all fun stuff, I’m not gonna make any progress if I like helping people this much”, ha ha! It really feels like it’s more for me than for whoever I’m volunteering with. And I don’t know - I don’t know if that’s the way I should practice or if there’s a specific way one should practice or if the place I’m ‘at’ right now is right or wrong or if I should be more focused on other things, but it kind of is what it is, you know?

Yeah, my “partner” is not religious, and not into Buddhism, so when I explain clinging and craving, and how these are “bad” things, his head goes to how that plays out in love, and relationships.

Joseph Goldstein says that most people intertwine “clinging” and “love” into one thing, but really, if you “love” someone you can let them go.  I suppose the same could be said for what you are talking about?  I heard a Buddhist Nun talking about how she has volunteered in Prisons, and Hospices.  Her main point was that love, and compassion should be freely given irrespective of outcome.  So if someone is going to die, for instance, still show them love/compassion, etc.  Even though for most, that will be hard.  You get your heart broken over and over.

She has a Ted Talks talking about it:

Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy
https://www.ted.com/talks/joan_halifax?language=en

That is hard for me as well, my empathy seems to be on overdrive. All the other (negative) emotions are cooling down… that particular one has not really changed.

 

Niclynn - 09 March 2016 11:50 AM

I want to go “Aaaaa, you are going to love it and flip out it will be amazing!!”, but at the same time I feel like that might set up an expectation that’s not good. I am happy for you though. And just an fyi, don’t worry if nothing profound seems to happen during the retreat - I’ve noticed a lot that during retreat, whatever you’re experiencing just seems totally normal, and it’s not until you get back into the world and juxtapose that state with day-to-day life that you’re kind of like “Whoa, that was really different than my usual experience!”.

LOL, that seems really interesting, I hope to attend one soon.

[ Edited: 09 March 2016 13:17 by SkyPanther]
 
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09 March 2016 16:11
 
SkyPanther - 09 March 2016 12:26 PM

Yeah, my “partner” is not religious, and not into Buddhism, so when I explain clinging and craving, and how these are “bad” things, his head goes to how that plays out in love, and relationships.

Joseph Goldstein says that most people intertwine “clinging” and “love” into one thing, but really, if you “love” someone you can let them go.  I suppose the same could be said for what you are talking about?  I heard a Buddhist Nun talking about how she has volunteered in Prisons, and Hospices.  Her main point was that love, and compassion should be freely given irrespective of outcome.  So if someone is going to die, for instance, still show them love/compassion, etc.  Even though for most, that will be hard.  You get your heart broken over and over.


Yes, I think the delineation is very difficult and there are shadow / light sides to be parsed on both sides here. In my mind, I compare encountering a sentient being in two ways: 1. Meeting someone you are interested in - as a friend, business contact, date if you’re single, etc., in a social setting and 2. “Meeting” an infant who is lost


For me, that highlights that there are concepts there that could be positive or negative depending on subtle differences. For example, when you say you can let someone go - if someone has the wrong perception of that, it could quickly turn into a source of “Hmph. I don’t need you!” kind of disconnection and pride. In the infant scenario, though, it’s obvious that this is not quite the right way to hold this concept, because it’s so intuitively absurd in that case (To heck with you baby! I don’t care if you don’t want to friend me on Facebook!). Of course while you would not expect something from them, you also wouldn’t be like “Whatev’s, I’ll stay, I’ll go, we’re all free spirits here.” There is a level of commitment in caring for another. Then again, when one thinks of “attachment” or clinging, it’s easy to see how fast that could play out in the second scenario. They didn’t call, they didn’t invite me to that party, I don’t like what they said, I want them to have a certain impression of me, etc., etc., etc. Whereas if the baby screamed, cried, and threw up on you, you’d hardly take it personally. And if you found their parent, it’s not like you’d go “Thank goodness,” hurl the kid at them like a football and never think about them again - but neither would you be like “Why didn’t they call?!”.


Maybe a weird analogy, but that’s how it makes the most sense to me. 

 

That is hard for me as well, my empathy seems to be on overdrive. All the other (negative) emotions are cooling down… that particular one has not really changed.


Yeah, that’s what I’ve had a really tough time with. It’s like some days even making eye contact feels too intense for me now. I think I said before, I’m kind of disappointed that this is not a part of the ‘path’ that I’ve heard people talk about, not one of those “Oh yeah, we can all relate to that!” experiences. I don’t know if this is an old pattern that was kinda covered up by ‘strategies’ that are no longer there, or if meditation has made me hypersensitive to other people’s moods and attitudes, but it’s been rather difficult to work with.

[ Edited: 09 March 2016 16:13 by sojourner]
 
 
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