Dzogchen/Emptiness criticism of Waking Up

 
Hamza
 
Avatar
 
 
Hamza
Total Posts:  1
Joined  08-04-2018
 
 
 
08 April 2018 19:44
 

Hi,

I’ve read Waking Up and genuinely found it life-changing. However, I only started meditating 3 years ago so I’m somewhat unfamiliar with the experiential concepts of the self and just came across a short review of Waking Up where the author (a Dzogchen teacher) praised the book but criticized Sam’s lack of connecting “I-based and I-less modes”. First of all, what is the author talking about here exactly, and is he correct? If so, how can one bring the I-based and I-less modes together?

Here is part of his review:
“As quoted, Harris quite well explains both I-based and I-less modes. However, he never brings these two together. He sort of leaves the rope untied which, I think, leaves the message half way. Therefore, I believe that this book will make people consider the message, that if waking up, but they will have hard time in actually coming to this breakthrough. This is one of the most interesting books available though.”
from: http://openheartopenheart.blogspot.ca/2016/02/waking-up-by-sam-harris.html

 
NL.
 
Avatar
 
 
NL.
Total Posts:  5791
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
08 April 2018 20:50
 

Honestly, anyone who claims to have The Answers to questions like this is claiming a messiah-like status that I would advise you to be wary of. I think everyone has to resolve these questions for themselves in their own way, experientially, through practice.


As a fellow mediator, I can commiserate a bit that the seemingly endless paradoxes of eastern traditions can be frustrating at times. One conflict I have found between feeling relatively more “selfish” (not in a pathological sense, more in an introverted, self-improvement oriented sense,) and relatively more ‘selfless’ is that the former - I think - encourages me towards more and better ‘practice’ - but then, that very practice leads to being relatively more ‘selfless’. This is a good thing in its own right and in a way the ‘fruit’ of practice that I like to see - and yet it leads me to neglect my own practice! Other people’s plans and concerns come to the forefront much more. Eventually when I start to feel some burnout I feel a bit more ‘selfish’ again and get back into the ‘self-oriented’ practice side - and so it goes, with a sort of natural ebb and flow. I don’t think anyone other than a handful of enlightened beings throughout history have truly overcome this, so in the meantime, I think it’s about being mindful and paying attention and finding a path that’s right for you.

 
 
Twissel
 
Avatar
 
 
Twissel
Total Posts:  2379
Joined  19-01-2015
 
 
 
09 April 2018 06:10
 

So far, no one has ever convinced me that having such a “breakthrough” has Harris (and plenty others) described is of any practical use or value whatsoever.

Meditation can definitely improve ones life, but I doubt the use of it as a neurological or metaphysical discovery method.

[ Edited: 09 April 2018 06:12 by Twissel]
 
 
NL.
 
Avatar
 
 
NL.
Total Posts:  5791
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
09 April 2018 22:22
 
Twissel - 09 April 2018 06:10 AM

So far, no one has ever convinced me that having such a “breakthrough” has Harris (and plenty others) described is of any practical use or value whatsoever.

Meditation can definitely improve ones life, but I doubt the use of it as a neurological or metaphysical discovery method.


Having never been there, I can’t speak from experience, but if I remember correctly Harris describes the feeling of selflessness as so fantastic that it made him an overall more expansive person, or something along those lines.


I feel my more ‘out there’ meditative moments have value, my worry is more that I don’t know if it’s true value or delusional value. I think for me such moments are mostly imbued with a sense of loving kinship. A couple of weeks ago I slowly awoke from a dream (for better or for worse, I find 80% of my more ‘whoa!’ meditative experiences surround sleep states of some sort,) and felt like I was floating in a pleasant state of blackness - I guess it might have lined up with the concept of ‘neither conscious nor unconscious’, at least to an extent. And then I became aware that I was waking up, and someone said to me something like “As soon as there is contact, there is consciousness”, and I felt contact and consciousness sort of fly in and coalesce as I awoke.


Whether or not there was any deep truth to the ‘contact equals consciousness’ part, I don’t know - that’s certainly a concept that has been reiterated to me repeatedly via eastern philosophy, so if I were having a kind of wish-fullfilement dream of making spiritual ‘progress’, it would be no surprise that this would play a part. But emotionally, what always strikes me in such dreams and meditative scenarios is a deep sense of familiarity with whoever it is that’s ‘telling’ me these things - like “Oh yeah, you! We’re like eternal besties, it’s weird that I sometimes forget you exist! Crazy mental world we live in, huh?”. I suppose you could call that sense of familiarity wish fulfillment thinking as well, but it seems qualitatively different in that it’s deeply felt, not thought.


So, I dunno… my conundrum, again, is that I would say this is beneficial… it feels grounding, for want of a better word - but I’m not sure if it’s a beneficial delusion or actually beneficial. In my more cynical, skeptical moments I think such thoughts are childish fairytale-esque dreams. In my more hopeful ones, I think they are sort of like the effect you get when you briefly turn on a light to illuminate a room (As a night owl - posting this after 1 am having just finished organizing my tax paperwork in one of my typical nocturnal spurts of energy, this is a common thing for me. When you are stumbling around in the darkness and don’t want to wake others, turning on a hall light even momentarily is surprisingly helpful, even after you turn the light back off and are plunged into complete darkness again. In that one moment of illumination your mind can form a quick imprint of the landscape in front of you, the chair not to stub your toe on, the wall not to walk into, the planter not to trip on, and suddenly walking in the darkness is much easier with that mental map in mind.)


What meditative experience ‘really’ is, however, seems like a fairly irresolvable question, so I do think it’s best to enjoy the pleasantness of pleasant moments and focus more on the practical. I think happy, pleasant moments can be quite beneficial for people, but become harmful when prescriptive narratives are created around them.